There is a view out there, made respectable by Nelson Goodman, that the world is made not found—or rather, worlds, plural. Worlds are versions, verbiage, visions (to parody Goodman’s alliterative style). They are not discovered, or uncovered; they are constructed, built. Is there any truth to this trope (merit to this meme)? Note that the view is not that our representations of the world are made; it is the view that the world itself is made. The world of nature is a mental production. Reality is reflection reified. Let us first observe that vast tracts of reality pre-date our existence, or that of any animal. There was a universe before there were reflective reifying beings, world-makers. How then could the world be made by us? Not by backwards causation, presumably, or time-travel. That pre-cognitive world had a nature, a way of being; it wasn’t just a formless blob in the void. It consisted of natural kinds of some sort. Moreover, it made us: we are the products of natural history, of pre-existing natural kinds. Indeed, our world-making is the result of the world, not its cause. More specifically, our bodies and minds are the outcome of genetic selection and environmental shaping—like all evolved organisms. And the made cannot make the maker: what made us is not made by us. Perhaps it is true that we make our representations of the world; they have their origins in us. Our language and way of seeing and conceptual scheme are features of us not antecedent reality, not the world that we try to represent. So, Goodman is quite wrong to suppose that the world consists of nothing but versions, a projection of our symbolizing tendencies. On the contrary, there had to be a world prior to our powers of description and depiction, because we came from somewhere somehow. History exists. On Goodman’s way of looking at things, we came into existence miraculously and proceeded to construct the world. Our brains are the source of all being, including our brains. But, of course, our brains are natural objects with a natural history; they are made by the world, not its maker. We are in the world; it is not in us. This is not to say that we are right in all our conceptions and perceptions of things: maybe we are mistaken about the world as it pre-existed our existence. Nor is it to say that our concepts are guaranteed to capture the natural kinds that pre-date our thinking about them. It is only to say that some sort of world had to exist in order to give rise to beings like us, capable of forming versions and viewpoints. In fact, we have a pretty good idea of what this world was like, but the claim that there had to be a ready-made world is not committed to the idea that our epistemological capacities are infallible guides to it, or even on the right track. Metaphysics is not epistemology. The point is that we are not world-makers; the world is a mind-maker. This will not be disputed in the case of other animals; they don’t create the world they live in by constructing versions of it. But Goodman is strangely silent on their world-making powers; it is the human animal that gets to make the world as it is. You would never guess from Goodman’s text that we evolved from earlier types of organism. Does he think that at one point in the distant past the world was the upshot of dinosaur world-making? Or is it that the world had to wait for human construction in order to spring into being? That is a pleasingly anthropocentric view of things but hardly historically realistic. For Goodman, we stand outside of time and arbitrate what goes on in time. He forgets that we are effects as well as causes. But is he completely wrong about world-making? He is not: much of what he says is perfectly reasonable, though exaggerated. We do construct worlds, impose categories, initiate realities. All of the arts are instances of world-making: literature, poetry, painting, music, theater, architecture, dance. These are human productions, though based on naturally given objects and laws. It is literally true that in literature we create fictional worlds. Art is made not found. It is also true that we impose our minds on the natural world: in our systems of measurement of time and space, in our classifications of things as edible or not edible, in our perceptual categories (color is plausibly seen as imposed not detected). We also construct social reality: money, marriage, social class, political systems. Our classifications are often interest-dependent not objectively determined. Our concepts are mainly species-relative. Truth is not the only measure of symbolic rightness or representational worth (what about painting?). The constellations are human choices not astronomical givens. Musical styles are not beholden to acoustic science. In all this we can agree with Goodman: not all aspects of the world are independent of the human perspective; we are inveterate world-makers. But notice that even these acts of making have their own inner reality: they have a nature of their own not created by human hand or eye. Thus, language itself is a natural phenomenon with an objective nature; we can’t just decide what language is, though we can decide how to use it to create fictional worlds. Language is factual not fictive (to employ a Goodmanian opposition). So is painting, music, etc. All symbols (in the broad sense favored by Goodman) are symbols in themselves not by fiat or fabrication. A tailor’s sample (Goodman’s example) is an item in the world not a figment or fancy. Figments and fancies in themselves have a psychological nature that can be investigated. Versions and visions have a reality that calls for objective study. We don’t make our own psychology as if from nothing. The laws of the mind are as real as the laws of physics, if less strict. The science of psychology is not an exercise in world-making, like imaginative literature. So, yes, there is a whole lot of world-making going in, but not all thinking is world-making, and what is has its own non-negotiable reality. In some cases, there can be genuine dispute as to whether we have a case of world-making or world-discovering—mathematics and morality are prime examples—but in other cases we are clearly under the thumb of nature not its architect. It’s not versions everywhere and all the way down. It’s not irrealism and relativism wherever you look—though certainly there is some of that (e.g., fiction and food preferences). Nature made us (we didn’t make nature), and we proceeded to construct our own worlds (I don’t disdain the term), and it is not always easy to see what belongs to what; but the idea that the entire world (including our psychology) is made by us is preposterous and demonstrably false. Moreover, all this is obvious, platitudinous, and banal. Denying it has all the attractions of novelty for its own sake and the excitement of intellectual daring, but it is not at all plausible.
 See Ways of WorldMaking (1978). The book is enjoyable to read, sometimes sharp and perceptive, but vague at crucial points, especially when it comes to distinguishing worlds from what is said about them. Goodman eschews merely possible worlds, on the grounds that he doesn’t believe in them, even though they are prime candidates for the thesis that worlds are made not found, fabricated not discerned, fabulous not factual. Goodman’s worlds are all actual, all parts of this world. I suspect his main motivation is to ensure a reputable place for art in the panoply of the respectable—to locate aesthetics in the space of metaphysics. It isn’t that art is disreputably merely imaginary while science is resolutely factual; rather, everything is really imaginary when you get right down to it. Everything is artifact, artifice, artistry. Truth is just one kind of creative achievement (his wife was an artist, he an art dealer). Art is not inferior to science or philosophy on account of its unreality, because these subjects too traffic in the unreal. Physics is not so different from cubism.
 So why are people tempted by such views? I suspect it is simply because it is easy to conflate worlds with views of worlds: the phrase “our world” is ambiguous between these two things—does it mean ‘the world-as-we-conceive-it” or does it mean “the world-as-it-actually-is”? Of course, our conception of the world is in us, but it doesn’t follow that the world itself is in us. Language is in us, but not what language is used to talk about. We can’t conceive the world without conceiving it, to be sure, but that doesn’t mean that the world is intrinsically constituted by our acts of conceiving. Does anyone believe that the world owes its existence to the conceptual resources of the armadillo (except a Goodman of the armadillo species)? A use-mention confusion lurks behind all such ideas and conceals their complete wackiness.