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Encyclopedia > Nominalism

In philosophy, nominalism is the theory that abstract terms, general terms, or universals do not represent objective real existents, but are merely names, words, or vocal utterances (flatus vocis). In this view, it is only actual physical particulars that can be said to be real and universals exist only post res, that is, subsequent to particular things. (Feibleman 1962). Philosopher in Meditation (detail), by Rembrandt. ... Universals (used as a noun) are either properties, relations, or types, but not classes. ...

Nominalism is best understood in contrast to realism. Philosophical realism holds that when we use descriptive terms such as "green" or "tree," the Forms of those concepts really exist, independently of the world in an abstract realm. Such thought is associated with Plato, for instance. Nominalism, by contrast, holds that ideas represented by words have no real existence beyond our imaginations. Philosophical realism refers to various philosophically unrelated positions, in some cases diametrically opposed ones, which are termed realism. ... For other uses, see Plato (disambiguation). ...


The problem of universals

Nominalism arose in reaction to the problem of universals. Specifically, accounting for the fact that some things are of the same type. For example, Fluffy and Kitzler are both cats, or, the fact that certain properties are repeatable, such as: the grass, the shirt, and Kermit the Frog are green. One wants to know in virtue of what are Fluffy and Kitzler both cats, and what makes the grass, the shirt, and Kermit green. The problem of universals is a phrase used to refer to a nest of intertwined problems about universals within the philosophy of language, cognitive psychology, epistemology, and ontology. ... CATS The Musical is a musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber (ALW) in 1981 based on Old Possums Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot. ... Business shirt Look up Shirt in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Kermit has a TV star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 6801 Hollywood Blvd. ...

The realist answer is that all the green things are green in virtue of the existence of a universal; a single abstract thing, in this case, that is a part of all the green things. With respect to the colour of the grass, the shirt and Kermit, one of their parts is identical. In this respect, the three parts are literally one. Greenness is repeatable because there is one thing that manifests itself wherever there are green things. Realism is commonly defined as a concern for fact or reality and rejection of the impractical and visionary. ... There is no universally accepted theory of what the word existence means. ... Abstraction is the process of reducing the information content of a concept, typically in order to retain only information which is relevant for a particular purpose. ... As a noun, a part is a section of a greater whole. ... Exemplification is a mode of symbolization characterized by the relation between a sample and what it refers to. ...

Nominalism denies the existence of universals. The motivation to deny universals flows from several concerns. The first one concerns where they exist. Plato famously held that there is a realm of abstract forms or universals apart from the physical world. Particular physical objects merely exemplify or instantiate the universal. But this raises the question: Where is this universal realm? One possibility is that it is outside of space and time. However, some assert that nothing is outside of space and time. To complicate things, what is the nature of the instantiation or exemplification relation? For other uses, see Plato (disambiguation). ... In computer science, the object lifetime (or life cycle) of an object in object-oriented programming is the time between an objects creation (also known as instantiation or construction) till the object is no longer used, and is destructed or freed. ... Exemplification is a mode of symbolization characterized by the relation between a sample and what it refers to. ... Look up Relation in Wiktionary, the free dictionary In mathematics, a relation is a generalization of arithmetic relations, such as = and <, which occur in statements, such as 5 < 6 or 2 + 2 = 4. See relation (mathematics), binary relation (of set theory and logic) and relational algebra. ...

Moderate realists hold that there is no realm in which universals exist, but rather universals are located in space and time wherever they are manifest. Now, recall that a universal, like greenness, is supposed to be a single thing. Nominalists consider it unusual that there could be a single thing that exists in multiple places simultaneously. The realist maintains that all the instances of greenness are held together by the exemplification relation, but this relation cannot be explained.

Finally, many philosophers prefer simpler ontologies populated with only the bare minimum of types of entities, or as W. V. Quine said "They have a taste for 'desert landscapes'". They attempt to express everything that they want to explain without using universals such as "catness" or "chairness". In philosophy, ontology (from the Greek , genitive : of being (part. ... W. V. Quine Willard Van Orman Quine (June 25, 1908 - December 25, 2000) was one of the most influential American philosophers and logicians of the 20th century. ...

Nominalism in Islamic philosophy

Some modern Arabic philosophers have claimed in their studies about the History of Islamic philosophy that realist universals and the Metaphysics related to this Realism school of Philosophy has formed problem to be compatible with the Islamic worldview, and through trying to solve this problem they develop the concept of nominalist universal.

The frank Expression for Nominalism in Medieval Philosophy has been made by two of the late-aged Islamic philosophers, Ibn Khaldoun and Ibn Taymiya. Ibn Khaldun, full name Abu Zayd Abd al-Rahman ibn Muhammad ibn Khaldun al-Hadrami (عبد الرحمن بن محمد بن خلدون الحضرمي), May 27, 1332/ah732 to March 19, 1406/ah808) was a famous North African historiographer and historian, and is widely acclaimed as a forerunner of modern historiography, sociology... Abu al-Abbas Taqi al-Din Ahmad ibn Abd al-Salaam ibn Abdullah ibn Taymiya al-Harrani (Arabic: أبو عباس تقي الدين أحمد بن عبد السلام بن عبد الله ابن تيمية الحراني) (January 22, 1263 - 1328), was an Islamic scholar born in Harran, located in what is now Turkey, close to the Syrian border. ...

Varieties of nominalism

There are various forms of nominalism ranging from extreme to almost-realist. One extreme is "predicate" nominalism. Fluffy and Kitzler are both cats simply because the predicate 'cat' applies to both of them. However, the realist will object as to what the predicate applies to.

Resemblance nominalists believe that 'cat' applies to both cats because Fluffy and Kitzler resemble an exemplar cat closely enough to be classed together with it as members of its kind, or that they differ from each other (and other cats) quite less than they differ from other things, and this warrants classing them together. Some resemblance nominalists will concede that the resemblance relation is itself a universal, but is the only universal necessary. This betrays the spirit of nominalism. Others argue that each resemblance relation is a particular, and is a resemblance relation simply in virtue of its resemblance to other resemblance relations. This generates an infinite regress, but many agree that it is not vicious. Exemplar, in the sense developed by philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn, is a well known usage of a scientific theory. ... Membership can refer to: Set membership - comprising part of a set in mathematics Social group membership - in sociology, the process of socialisation aims/results in achieving membership of a social group This is a disambiguation page — a list of articles associated with the same title. ... In philosophy a natural kind is a family of entities possessing properties bound by natural law; we know of natural kinds in the form of categories of minerals, plants, or animals, and we know that different human cultures classify natural realities that surround them in a completely analogous fashion (Molino...

Another form of nominalist is one that attempts to build a theory of resemblance nominalism on a theory of tropes. A trope is a particular instance of a property, like the specific greenness of a shirt. One might argue that there is a primitive, objective resemblance relation that holds among like tropes. Another route is to argue that all apparent tropes are constructed out of more primitive tropes and that the most primitive tropes are the entities of complete physics. Primitive trope resemblance may thus be accounted for in terms of causal indiscernibility. Two tropes are exactly resembling if substituting one for the other would make no difference to the events in which they are taking part. Varying degrees of resemblance at the macro level can be explained by varying degrees of resemblance at the micro level, and micro-level resemblance is explained in terms of something no less robustly physical than causal power. Armstrong, perhaps the most prominent contemporary realist, argues that such a trope-based variant of nominalism has promise, but holds that it is unable to account for the laws of nature in the way his theory of universals can. A trope is a rhetorical figure of speech that consists of a play on words, i. ... Look up Primitive in Wiktionary, the free dictionary The word primitive can refer to: for the art movement, see primitive art and primitivism (art) for the anarchist philosophy, see Anarcho-primitivism for the communist concept, see primitive communism for the baptist church, see primitive baptist primitive (biology) primitive (computer science... Template:Wiktionarypar objective Objective may be: Objective lens, an optical element in a camera or microscope. ... The first few hydrogen atom electron orbitals shown as cross-sections with color-coded probability density. ... People Armstrong is or was a surname or second name of several people: Billie Joe Armstrong, American pop/punk musician (born 1972) B.J. Armstrong, former NBA guard, most notably with the Chicago Bulls Craig Armstrong, a Scottish composer (born 1958) Edwin Armstrong, American electrical engineer and inventor of FM...

Ian Hacking has also argued that much of what is called social constructionism of science in contemporary times is actually motivated by an unstated nominalist metaphysical view. For this reason, he claims, scientists and constructionists tend to "shout past each other." Ian Hacking, CC (born 1936) in Vancouver is a philosopher operating in the fields of philosophy of science and philosophy of language. ... Social constructionism is a sociological theory of knowledge developed by Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann with their 1966 book, The Social Construction of Reality. ...

Strong proponents of this school of thought include John Locke and George Berkeley. John Locke (August 29, 1632 – October 28, 1704) was an influential English philosopher. ... Bishop George Berkeley George Berkeley (British English://; Irish English: //) (12 March 1685 – 14 January 1753), also known as Bishop Berkeley, was an influential Irish philosopher whose primary philosophical achievement is the advancement of what has come to be called subjective idealism, summed up in his dictum, Esse est percipi (To...


  • Feibleman, James K. (1962), "Nominalism", p. 211 in Runes (1962).
  • Runes, Dagobert D. (ed., 1962), Dictionary of Philosophy, Littlefield, Adams, and Company, Totowa, NJ.

External links

  Results from FactBites:
Nominalism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1089 words)
In philosophy, nominalism is the theory that abstract terms, general terms, or universals do not represent objective real existents, but are merely names, words, or vocal utterances (flatus vocis).
Nominalism arose in reaction to the problem of universals.
Another form of nominalist is one that attempts to build a theory of resemblance nominalism on a theory of tropes.
Nominalism, Realism, Conceptualism (3007 words)
Nominalism, on the contrary, models the concept on the external object, which it holds to be individual and particular.
Nominalism consequently denies the existence of abstract and universal concepts, and refuses to admit that the intellect has the power of engendering them.
Nominalism, which is irreconcilable with a spiritualistic philosophy and for that very reason with scholasticism as well, presupposes the ideological theory that the abstract concept does not differ essentially from sensation, of which it is only a transformation.
  More results at FactBites »



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