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Universals

name, twins, universal, jane, john, nominalism, realism, particular and twin

UNIVERSALS, logical entities which may be exemplified by instances. Universals com prise attributes, which may be embodied in a situation into which hut one individual thing enters, and relations, which require for their exemplification a situation wherein at least two distinct things are found. Ever since Plato regarded his universals as real existing arche types of the corresponding particulars, the attribute-universals have assumed an undue pre ponderance over the relation-universals. The real Ideas of Plato made way for the less autonomous forms of Aristotle, which turn the potentiality of matter into actuality. However, these were not clearly defined as to the precise measure of their autonomy. This uncertainty of the Aristotelian philosophy engendered the cardinal problem of the earlier epoch in scholasticism : Are universals but a mere name used to limit a group of particular things, or are they real entities existing prior to and apart from their exemplifications? The former of these positions in known as nominalism; the latter, which was that of Plato, as realism. Realism adopted as its motto €Universalia ante rem" ; nominalism, *Universalia post rem' The synthesis of this dilemma is due to Abelard whose position is summarized as in re" — the universals in the thing. The universals, that is, are far more than mere names, but their mode of being is not that of a higher world of things — as is that of the Platonic Ideas— but just precisely the mode of which consists in subsuming particular situations. Nominalism and realism did not cease to exist as separate views after Abelard had thus synthetized them into what is known as conceptualism. In the great epistemological dichotomy of the Enlightenment, the British empiricists manifested a strong nominalistic tendency, while the rationalism of the continent was more inclind toward realism, though their attention was less directed toward the problem of universals than that of their colleagues across the Channel. Thus Hume denied the existence of general ideas, and held that every universal is carried by some partic ular idea which functions as a symbol for all its fellows. Descartes and Spinoza, on the other hand, assigned to matter and soul a position logically and epistemologically antecedent to that of particular things, and certainly soul and body are universals in the sense that they respectively subsume all mental and material phenomena.

At the present time the extreme nominalistic and realistic views both find their most vigorous discussion in psychology. Realism dominates the older faculty-psychology, which regards thought and feeling and will as active forces, instead of mere aggregates of cognitive and emotional and voluntary phenomena. Opposing

this is that nominalism which traces its ancestry back to Hume through associationism. The nominalism of experimental psychology finds in the mind but a mere aggregate — not a system—of mental states, and the various mental faculties are simply names for various sub-aggregates of these states, so that the task of the observer is done when he has given an exhaustive inventory of his atomic experience. White he may grudgingly admit one or two fundamental psychical attributes, he is partic ularly unwilling to attribute to the mind any thing like a relational organization. The psychologist's reluctance to recognize order, system and structure in the mind is due to the fact that orders and systems and structures are universals of the relational type, and that the experimental psychologist has no very clear idea of the existence of universals anywhere.

The opinion of the present day, on the part of those who have brought themselves to logical self-consciousness, is strongly in favor of some sort of conceptualism. A universal is plainly more than a name. This is shown by such a statement as. "John and Jane are twins.' "Twins" is a universal; of what is it the ;lame? It is clearly not the name of John and Jane separately, for it is not enough that John should be a twin — the twin of Mary— and that Jane should be a twin, the twin of Paul. The thing that is twins is the couple consisting of John and Jane. Now, a couple is clearly a universal, subsuming its two mem bers as particular instances. According to the nominalistic theory, then, it is simply the name, °John and Jane./' But this name is not twins — the only way in which it could conceivably be called twins is in reference to the twins themselves. As this reference is again a universal, and, therefore, but a name to the nominalist, it is clear that we become involved in an infinite regress, at no stage of which has the original statement a meaning. The only alternative is that the twin-couple of John and Jane is something more than a name em bracing the two persons in question. This is not by any means, however, to attribute to the couple an existence on the same level of being as that of its terms—otherwise we fall into the difficulty incurred by the ancient Chinese philosopher who said that a bay horse and a dun cow were three— the horse, the cow and the two of them together. Bertrand Russell has shown many inextricable contradictions into which such an opinion must inevitably lead us. A universal, then, is a pefectly genuine, real thing, but its mode of genuineness and reality is precisely that of being embodied in concrete instances. See CONCEPTUALISM ;