Size and Shape

  • Nelson Goodman
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 53)


The sum of two red patches is always red but the sum of two rectangular patches is often not rectangular. An individual and a proper part of it may have the same color but not the same size. As a result of such presy sterna tic differences between size and shape on the one hand and, for example, color and place on the other, we have not counted sizes and shapes among the atomic qualia of our system. In Chapter VI, I explained that the shape term “square”, for instance, would be construed otherwise than as naming an atom of our system because all our atoms are qualities of concreta and no concretum is square. More generally and technically, an atomic quale x of our system qualifies a compound y if and only if x qualifies some section of y, while the size or shape of a compound may obviously be quite different from the size and shape of any of the sections. For example, none of the sections of a square individual is square. Is “square”, then, rather a name for a compound quality made up of several atomic shape qualia some of which qualify sections of a square concrete individual? Clearly not. “Square” does not name a broad quality like a spatial region, which consists of several definite visual- field locations, or like red, which consists of many specific red colors; “square” is already a completely specific shape term and the shape of a section of a square individual is not a special kind of squareness. Nor is the shape of a section to be construed as an atomic quale according to our criterion; for the shape of the sections of a compound is rarely the shape of the compound itself. No shape term, then, is to be interpreted as naming an atom of our system.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nelson Goodman

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations