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6/26/2016 12:12 pm  #1


Reading Group, Round 2: The Problem of Universals FAQ

This was originally posted to the reading group on June 3rd:

What is the Problem of Universals?

If I go outside, there are trees with same shaped leaves. If I go into my kitchen, there are bags of same coloured apples or potatoes. It's a Moorean fact—a pre-analytic datum—that many distinct things have identical properties. 

The problem of universals asks how to account for this datum.

What is the difference between a realist and a nominalist?

Remember the Categories tree from Lowe's A Survey of Metaphysics:

                        http://i611.photobucket.com/albums/tt196/johnwest8/Category%20Tree_zpsyuxwqb2o.png
                                                     
Given two identically red apples, the believer in universals would say that the red in each of the apples is the exact same entity wholly present in both apples; the nominalist denies that there are any such entities. The believer in universals says there are either universals, or universals and particulars in reality; the nominalist says that there are only particulars.

Can nominalists still believe in properties?

Yes. Although, given our two apples, they would say that apple1 and apple2 each have their own red property, red1 and red2 respectively. They would, in other words, make the properties into particulars. 

(This will come up more in Round 3.)

Wait, so I can believe in properties even if I'm not a “realist”?

Yes. There is a distinction between realism about universals (universals realism) and realism about properties (property realism). In work on the problem of universals, "realism" is usually used to mean realism about universals, but one shouldn't let this convention mislead them.

What about nominalists that don't believe in properties?

Nominalists that don't believe in properties try to give an analysis of our pre-analytic datum some other way (e.g. They say the two red objects just fall under the same words, or the same mental concepts).

What is the difference between Platonic and Aristotelian realism?

There is an important distinction between instantiated and uninstantiated properties. The property white is instantiated when there is at least one white object in the universe. It's uninstantiated when there are no white objects in the universe. 

Platonic realists say that, whether or not there are instantiated properties, there are uninstantiated properties in the world; Aristotelian realists say there are only instantiated properties.

 

6/26/2016 1:17 pm  #2


Re: Reading Group, Round 2: The Problem of Universals FAQ

So nominalists are atomists? Is this necessarily so?

Feser charges that Ockham, a nominalist, was also a voluntarist and that there's no way around it http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com.ee/2011/03/razor-boy.html

To me, atomism seems to lead inevitably to hyper-Calvinist determinism.

 

6/26/2016 3:20 pm  #3


Re: Reading Group, Round 2: The Problem of Universals FAQ

So nominalists are atomists? Is this necessarily so?

No. Some nominalists think there are tropes. They can have matter, states of affairs, natural kinds, essential properties, as long as those are all particulars. (Bill Vallicella seems to interpret Aquinas as a species of trope nominalist.) 

Even non-trope nominalists can have mereological wholes that divide infinitely. As long as everything is particular.

Feser charges that Ockham, a nominalist, was also a voluntarist and that there's no way around it

If you want to start an Ockham thread, I encourage it.

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