Michael F. Goodman

Professor of Philosophy
Humboldt State University
Ph.D. Michigan State University

Areas of Interest:    Logic, Philosophy of Science, Epistemology

Web sites for:

Epistemology &
Seminar on
Thomas Kuhn
of Science
and Philosophy
Quote of
the Month
Hours, etc.
Essays in Philosophy
A Biannual Journal
Reductio Proofs as a Method

Courses Taught:


Courses Prospectuses

of Science
& Metaphysics
Through the Rationalists
to Philosophy
of Ethics

Publications: Books

  • First Logic, 3/e, University Press of America, 2012. ISBN: 0-7618-0501-X.
  • Contemporary Readings in Epistemology, (with R.A. Snyder), Prentice-Hall, 1993. ISBN: 0-13-17454-0.
  • What is a Person?, The Humana Press, Inc., Clifton, New Jersey, 1988. ISBN: 0-89603-117-9.
  • Decision and Practice, (with P.L.Drew, Jr.) February 1987, Humboldt Journal of Social Relations, Humboldt State University, Arcata, California. ISBN: 0-934209-00-6.

Publications: Papers

  • "A Simplified System of Sentential Logic", Annales Philosophici, Vol. 2 (June 2011)
  • "Paradigm", in American Philosophy: An Encyclopedia (Taylor & Francis, 2007)
  • "Persons", in Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition (Thompson Learning, 2005)
  • "Concept of Person", in Philosophy of Education: An Encyclopedia, (Garland Publishing, Inc., 1996).
  • "A Sufficient Condition for Personhood", The Personalist Forum, Vol. VIII. No. 1, Spring 1992 Supplement.
  • "What Is a Program?", Contemporary Philosophy, Vol. 12, No. 4, June 1988.
  • "Rorty, Personhood, and Relativism", Praxis International, Vol. 6, No. 4, January 1987.
  • "Ayer and Austin: On Sense-Data", Dialogue, Vol. 29, No. 2/3, May 1986.
  • "Applying a Test for Consistency", Contemporary Philosophy, Vol. 10, No. 4, 15 June 1984.
  • "Surrogate Mothers and Parental Rights", The Hastings Center Report, Vol. 14, No. 3, June 1984. (Letter)
  • "Categorizing Propositional Attitudes", Michigan Academician, Vol. 16, No. 2, Winter 1984.

Publications: Book Reviews:

  • An Introduction to Logical Theory by Alladin Yaqub ( 2013 Broadview Press) in Teaching Philosophy, March 2014.
  • The Nature of Truth, edited by Michael Lynch ( 2001 by MIT Press) in Essays in Philosophy, Vol. 8, No. 1, January 2007.
  • Quintessence: Basic Readings From the Philosophy of W.V. Quine, edited by Roger F. Gibson, Jr. ( 2004 by Harvard) in Essays in Philosophy, Vol. 5, No. 2, June 2004.
  • Nature and Understanding, by Nicholas Rescher ( 2000 by Oxford) in Mind, Vol. 111, No. 441, January 2002.
  • Logic Primer, by Colin Allen & Michael Hand ( 2001 by MIT Press) in Essays in Philosophy, Vol. 2, No. 2, June 2001.
  • Child versus Childmaker, by Melinda Roberts. ( 1999 by Rowman & Littlefield.) in Ethics, Vol 110 No. 3, April 2000.
  • Institutional Ethics Committees, R.E. Cranford and A.E. Doudera, eds., 1984, and Defining Human Life, M.W. Shaw and A.E. Doudera, eds., 1983 (Health Administration Press, University of Michigan), in Humboldt Journal of Social Relations, Vol. 12, No. 1, Fall/Winter 1984-85.

A Note on Disjunctions

Consider the disjunctive sentence "We will go to the beach or the zoo." One way to interpret the meaning of this sentence is to say that the utterer means that "we will go either to the beach or the zoo but we won't go to both". This, then, would be the exclusive sense of the sentence. The inclusive sense would be something such as "we will go either to the beach or the zoo and maybe both". Inclusive disjunctions cannot be adequately translated into sentential (propositional, statement) logic, because of the word "maybe" in the sentence. 'Maybe' means "perhaps" or "it is possible that." There is no symbol in sentential logic for such words/phrases. Rather, we need a modal logic for that. This is the reason that, in sentential logic, we take disjunctions that are not specific in their inclusive/exclusive meaning to be inclusive. This plays out in a practical way when we consider the form of argument of the Stoics. The form of this argument is this:

Premise 1: We will go either to the beach or the zoo.
Premise 2: We will go to the beach
Conclusion: We will not go to the zoo.

The Stoics considered the first premise an exclusive disjunction. So, they saw this argument as valid. And, on this interpretation of the first premise, the argument is valid, because if the premises were true, the conclusion could not be false. However, if one interprets the first premise inclusively, then the argument is not valid; that is, even if the premises were true, the conclusion could well be false.

A very good "real life" example of the care that must be taken with interpreting disjunctions is when your insurance policy includes the following sentence: "This policy covers you when you are ill or unemployed." One must ask: Is this an inclusive or an exclusive 'or'. It will turn out that if the sentence is inclusive, then the policy statement needs to be rewritten so that the sentence says that the policy covers you if it should be the case that you are ill and unemployed. If, on the other hand, the policy statement is interpreted as an exclusive 'or,' then I would say that you should find another insurance company.

Current projects:

1. Working on a paper attempting to discover the correct way to translate inclusive disjunctions. My suspician is that inclusive disjunctions, where you leave the possibility open that both disjuncts are true (e.g., "This policy covers you when you are either ill or unemployed"), involve a modal operator. If so, then perfect translations of inclusive disjunctions are not possible in either sentential or predicate logic. Only a suitably nimble system of modal logic will capture the real meaning of these sorts of sentences.

2. Almost finished with a paper about the nature of deductive arguments. There seems to be some disagreement about just what consitutes a deductive argument, with some logicians arguing for an arguer-centered approach, with various forms. I think this is an indefensible approach. The arguer-centered approach would allow any argument to count as deductive. The other, perhaps more important, aspect of the paper is to define 'deductive argument' in such a way that we can give specific examples of invalid deductive arguments.

3. Working on a paper in modal logic attempting to show that using the "necessity elimination" rule can lead to a paradox (or possibly a contradiction). The necessity elimination rule is one that all logicians working in modal logic accept. It is, as C.I. Lewis puts it, that "What is necessary is true." Logicians refer to this idea in multiple ways: as an axiom in modal logic, as a theorem, as primitive in the system, and so on. I have not found one serious treatment of modal logic that does not cite this inference/axiom... If it should prove paradoxical...

4. Still working on the paper attempting to answer the following question: What are the implications for the meaning of '=', and the concept of logical identity, of not being able to show that '(x)x=x' is a logical truth? My intuition at present is that the answer turns on a double use of the identity sign; that is, it is used as a predicate in some systems (e.g., where 'Iwa' might be translated as "Woody Allen is identical with Alan Konigsburg") and as a sign in others (e.g. where 'w' = 'Woody Allen' and 'a' = 'Alan Konigsburg' yields 'w = a'). What difference this makes is part of what I'm investigating.

Past university service.

Chair of the Department of Philosophy, Member of School of Business Personnel Committee, College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences Subcommittee on Curriculum, Member of the Department of Native American Studies Search Committee, University Ombudsman, Chair of the Academic Senate, Member and Chair of Educational Policies Committee, Member of Dean Search Committee in Arts & Humanities, Chair of Student Grievance Committee, Chair of the Religious Studies Department, Chair of the Department of Music, Chair of the Department of Theatre, Film & Dance, Chair of the Department of History, member of the Faculty Affairs Committee, member of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Budget Committee, member of the College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences Personnel Committee, member of the University Senate Academic Policies Committee.


Surfing, playing music (guitars), listening to rock 'n roll (especially Neil Young and a group listed below), racquetball, woodworking, summer slow-pitch softball, fishing.

Favorite novel: There are two, actually,

Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett, and Interview With the Vampire, by Anne Rice. Other novels: Magister Ludi by Hermann Hesse, The Waves and To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, Tale of Two Cities and Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, Hawai'i and The Source and Chesapeake by James Michener, The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, Emma by Jane Austin, The Tommyknockers by Stephen King, Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence, Wolf Hall, by Hillary Mantel, World Without End, by Ken Follett, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.

Favorite philosopher:

David Hume (Clear writer who made significant contributions to many areas of philosophy).

Favorite Philosophical Problem:

The problem of knowledge. It appears intractable if we attempt discovery and arbitrary if we simply decide knowledge will be what we say it is. Also, the search for the nature of knowledge seems one of the most heinous crimes a person can commit, if you ask the public. Nonphilosophers by and large see it as a waste of time because it \ is obvious to them what is known (pretty much) and what counts as knowledge (the scientific, usually). Arguments from illusion are unconvincing, confusing, and "just stupid", while the skeptic is taken for a fool. One of the most enjoyable activities in my life is the attempt to get students to take the epistemologist seriously. While it may not, in the end, put them in a higher tax bracket, it can make one's cognitive life much more interesting (not to mention making the work of T.S. Elliot more enjoyable).

Favorite cartoon character:     

Popeye's modus operandi seems to be at once profoundly philosophical and common; He's just trying to mind his own business. His under-the-breath comments are as witty and pointed as they \ are subtle. One eye closed, corn-cob pipe and forearms every goon can envy.

Favorite rock 'n roll band:     

The Beatles. Then, Neil Young. Some other musicians I dig are Crosby/Stills/Nash/[Young], Michael Hedges (who was perhaps the most innovative guitar player in history), Victor Wooten, Ani DiFranco (Ani in concert is a sight to behold), Pink Floyd, Electric Light Orchestra, Dave Matthews Band, Joni Mitchell (there is a lot more in Mitchell's music that she seems to get credit for), Sam Cooke, Bruce Cockburn, Chris Isaak, Pet Shop Boys, Dennis Kamakahi, J.J. Cale, Van Morrison, My Morning Jacket, Mark Knopfler, Manhatten Transfer, Keola Beamer, Sade, k.d. lang, Paul Simon, Michael Franks, The Rolling Stones, Lyle Lovett (but I don't dig country music), Randy Newman, Beach Boys, Laura Nyro, America, Santana, Sting, Leo Kottke, The Chiffons, Band of Bees (the album Sunshine Hit Me is just excellent and different), Josh Rouse, Buffalo Springfield, Bing Crosby, Pete Fountain, Buddy Holly, Traveling Wilburys, Andy McKee, Jack Johnson, Bruce Springsteen, Little Anthony & the Imperials, The American Analog Set, John Mayer, Bob Dylan, Moody Blues, The Autumn Defense, Rufus Wainwright (something is going on with this cat that can't be defined), David Byrne, Stevie Wonder,... oh man, somebody stop me...


My friend Don Bale introduced the game of racquetball to me in 1976. I ended up playing a lot, signing a player contract with Ektelon, and making many friends at various clubs. Of all the matches (singles, doubles, and cutthroat) I've played, none have been as consistently enjoyable as the matches I presently play with the guys whose pictures are here. We play early and do a lot of laughing. Some good RB going down.

An Umpire At Work:

Click here

The photographs:

The photograph at the top of the page is an example of one sort of wave I like to ride. I've been surfing since 1962 (shortboards and longboards) and the sea is such a big part of my consciousness that I wanted to have some representation of it on my webpage. A recent picture with my "best board" -- a Takayama Noserider is here

Below: The first was taken recently at our house in Arcata; the second is one in a series of about 5 and was taken in 1966, in Vista, California, by a friend of mine, Gary Privetts, who had an assignment in his photo class to get shots which show extreme presence and absence of light (original is black & white); the third was taken in the early 50's sometime, complete with cowlicks (I don't think I'm that happy anymore). Right below that is a picture of Caleb, my grandson. Flawless. A few other family-type pictures are here.

Click to enlarge

Caleb Michael Angeles Pitlock

Click here to send a message to me.

Buy the kid a decent bat, wouldya?