Sunday, March 4, 2012

Reality of Generals vs. Universals

I ask those more steeped in classical metaphysics than I.  What are the distinctions between claiming the reality of universals vs. generals?  And how would one argue that universals are not merely merely generals?  By the latter, I mean general concepts created through a process of induction or what Locke called "abstraction," though I mean that loosely.  I think one contemporary term for it--I hear it most in cogsci--is "modelling."  By the former, I mean it in the classical way, i.e., that there exist predicates, especially certain qualities, that may be universally predicated of subjects; e.g., redness is not just a abstraction from particulars but an intuition/perception/etc. of a universal predicate.

I see some of my work going into this in more detail on the far horizon.  Where's a medieval logician when you need him or her?  They're always spot-on with these questions....


  1. Don't worry. Some Peirceans from the Peirce Society listserv came in to save the day.

  2. Hi, I am from Australia.
    Why do you need to appeal to a medieval logician to (dis)-solve your dilemma.
    Did the medieval Christian logicians really know anything more about Truth and Reality than us moderns?
    And what about the perspective of people such as Nagarjuna and Shankara, to say nothing of the "Philosopher" introduced here:

  3. Because medieval logicians took the nominalism vs. scholastic realism debate as a center-piece of their philosophy, and I find contemporary scholars of those debates to be particularly insightful on those issues. I am also not convinced that we know so much more about truth and reality than the medievals, especially when discussing metaphysics.

    I am familiar both with Nagarjuna and Shankara, especially the logic of the former's school, but do not wish to conceptually translate so much. The intellectual reserves of the west are sufficient for this task. Now that I think about it, I am not aware of either of them entering into this debate, though I might be able to find an analogue in Nagarjuna. Might.

  4. "Some Peirceans from the Peirce Society listserv came in to save the day." What did they say? Just curious.

    Also: I, too, am fascinated by medieval logicians and have a tremendous respect for medieval philosophy in its rigor and exactness. Because I am not familiar with the *logic* of Nagarjuna however, it would be interesting to approach an Asianist who could address how the problem of realism vs. nominalism plays out there, or in Asian thought in general. I am wondering how that conversation would translate if at all.

    There is a point, though. Are there resources in Eastern thought that are not available in Western thought which are required to think about the nominalism/realism debate?

  5. It was Cathy Legg to be exact, who forwarded her articles. She's bridging the contemporary analytic debates between nominalism and realism, and Peirce. I can forward the free-access links.

    Leon, my experience with that logic is limited, but I do not believe it can handle that sufficiently. Instead, it is focused on the logical implication of emptiness, non-substantiality, etc. It is worth looking into.

    No, not required. Informative? Perhaps. Much more informative for process and temporality.