The Problem of Universals II: Nominalism
Loux (Michael)
Source: Loux - Metaphysics - A Contemporary Introduction, Second Edition, 2002, Chapter 2
Paper - Abstract

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  1. Nominalists deny that there are universals1: and the central motivation for their view is the belief that our metaphysics should exhibit simplicity of theory. They believe that given two theories with the same explanatory power, the theory that posits fewer irreducibly distinct kinds of things is preferable. And they believe that it is possible to provide fully satisfactory accounts of attribute agreement, subject-predicate discourse, and abstract reference that posit only particulars or individuals.
  2. There are, however, different forms of nominalism. The most extreme version endorses an ontology incorporating only concrete particulars and holds that all claims apparently about universals2 are just disguised ways of making claims about concrete particulars. There are serious difficulties with this extreme form of nominalism; and those difficulties have led some philosophers to endorse a metalinguistic form of nominalism. This view agrees that the only things that exist are concrete particulars, but holds that claims apparently about universals3 are really disguised ways of talking about linguistic expressions. Finally, there is the form of nominalism that has been called trope theory. On this view, there are such things as properties or qualities, but they are one and all particular: each can be found in just one object: and the claim is that talk apparently about universals4 is really just talk about these particular qualities or properties (called tropes; hence the name 'trope theory').

  1. The motivation for nominalism
  2. Austere nominalism
  3. Metalinguistic nominalism
  4. Trope theory


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