Saturday, March 03, 2012

On defining nominalism

"According to Ockham, everything in external reality is singular".  This is not a good way of characterising Ockham's nominalism, for it could equally apply to some of the brands of realism which he criticises and caricatures.  For example, a realist who holds that a universal is a singular thing, inhering in some way in many things, also holds that everything (including universals) is singular. But they would clearly not be a nominalist.

A similar observation applies to the so-called  Ockham's razor.  "Do not multiply entities beyond what is necessary". Sure, but realists agree with that too. The disagreement is over what counts as necessary.  Realists would hold that universals are necessary, of course.


Scholipeta said...

So, what could be appropriate definition of (Ockham's) nominalism?

I'd suggest something like this: Nominalism is opinion proponing there are no extramental universals (and sensu stricto no universals at all) and that universality is based only on signification - universal is universal only be means of being sign of many things. Therefore, universal is always a sign; either natural (concept) or spoken/written term.

This definition is based on this passage in Ockham's Summa logicae:

"[…] quodlibet universale est una res singularis, et ideo non est universale nisi per significationem, quia est signum plurium [...] universale est una intentio singularis ipsius animae, nata praedicari de pluribus, ita quod propter hoc quod est nata praedicari de pluribus, non pro se sed pro illis pluribus, ipsa dicitur universalis [...]" (SL I, 14, OPh I, 48-49)

Edward Ockham said...

>>Therefore, universal is always a sign;

I award you a prize.

Scholipeta said...

Irony? Or porto ululas Athenas?

Khadimir said...

Greetings, I just found this blog and like what I see. I encourage you, entirely for my benefit ;P, to keep posting on medieval logic with contemporary applications. Oh please, do say more about nominalism, the reality of universals, generals, etc.

Edward Ockham said...

Greetings Jason

Edward Ockham said...

>>Irony? Or porto ululas Athenas?

No, your comment was appreciated.