Nominalism, Empiricism and Universals - II
Pap (Arthur)
Source: Philosophical Quarterly (1950-), Vol. 10, No. 38 (Jan., 1960), pp. 44-60
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Conclusion

  1. I conclude that we can, indeed, avoid talking about Newtonian absolute places and times, in the spirit of relativity theory, and substitute empirically meaningful talk about measurable relations between events. But it is confusion to say that places and times are themselves relations. They are, not relations, but relational properties, defined-once the theoretical language is empirically interpreted-in terms of names which in turn must be defined by egocentric particulars. And such relational properties, as I have explained, are not universals1. The ideal of a purely realistic construction of the world by means of a language which does not contain names of particulars-the sort of names which are the only names a nominalist can countenance in good philosophical conscience-is an impossible ideal because we find, if only we push the analysis down to epistemological rock bottom, that egocentric particulars must be used in order to interpret co-ordinate descriptions in the observation language.
  2. An interesting result of our analysis is that the "principle of individuation" can be secured without postulating substrata of any kind, and consequently without violating the empiricists' cherished requirement of ontological economy ("Occam's razor"): it is none other than the medieval's haecceitas. It is all right to say that space-time, whether phenomenal or physical, is the principle of individuation provided one realizes that this means no more than that whatever zero-event is conventionally used as origin of the reference frame must in the final epistemological analysis be interpreted in terms of egocentric particulars.

Comment:

Conclusion of "Pap (Arthur) - Nominalism, Empiricism and Universals - I".

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