The Problem of Universals I: Metaphysical Realism
Loux (Michael)
Source: Loux - Metaphysics - A Contemporary Introduction, Second Edition, 2002, Chapter 1
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Overview

  1. The phenomenon of similarity or attribute agreement gives rise to the debate between realists and nominalists. Realists claim that where objects are similar or agree in attribute, there is some one thing that they share or have in common; nominalists deny this. Realists call these shared entities universals1: they say that universals2 are entities that can be simultaneously exemplified by several different objects; and they claim that universals3 encompass the properties things possess, the relations into which they enter, and the kinds to which they belong.
  2. Toward showing us that we must endorse the reality of universals4, realists point to the phenomena of subject predicate discourse and abstract reference. They claim that unless we posit universals5 as the referents of predicate expressions, we cannot explain how subject predicate sentences can be true, and they argue that we can explain the truth of sentences incorporating abstract referring terms only if we take universals6 to be the things identified by the use of those terms.
  3. Realists, however, frequently disagree about the generality of their accounts of predication and abstract reference. Some realists, for example, deny that their account of predication holds for sentences incorporating the term 'exemplifies.' Other realists insist that their account holds only for primitive or undefined predicates or abstract terms. Furthermore, some realists hold that there are universals7 corresponding only to predicates that are actually true of existing objects; whereas other realists believe that there are both exemplified and unexemplifled properties, kinds, and relations.

  1. Realism and nominalism
  2. The ontology of metaphysical realism
  3. Realism and predication
  4. Realism and abstract reference
  5. Restrictions on realism — exemplification
  6. Further restrictions — defined and undefined predicates
  7. Are there any unexemplified attributes?


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