Philosophy 1020 Lecture Notes - Nominalism, Ellipse

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18. Nominalism
(November 10, 2011)
1. Some regrettable language: two directly contrary opposite meanings of "realism"
1
2
Universal are real things
Idealism
Realism
Concrete particulars are the
real things
Realism
Nominalism
2. Nominalism: the really real things are concrete particulars (this horse, that table,
that mountain….)
The idea that universal (dog, horse, tree) are not real existent thing, but just words
The real things are the concrete particulars, the individuals (this horse, that tree) that
patch
Nominalism challenges the idea that ideas, forms exist…
The idea that universal are real public objects
3. Hume's two propositions:
David hume
i) “The mind cannot form any notion of quantity or quality without
forming a precise notion of the degrees of each”
Three arguments for this proposition
a) any idea of a line is an idea of a line of a determinate length
o you just think of a line
o can’t have a mental image of a line
b) Any sense impression contains determinate quantity and quality
c) Everything in nature is individual
there is no idea of triangle that is indeterminate among these 3 types
any triangle you think of has got to be of one of these types
yet the universal triangle has to be indeterminate
ii) “[the] application of ideas beyond their nature proceeds from our
collecting all their possible degrees of quantity and quality in such an
imperfect manner as may serve the purposes of life”
The universal triangle is just the custom or habit of the mind to create a
disjunctive list of determinate types of triangles
Disjunctive list (a or b or c…)
Conjunctive list (a and b and c…)
The universal triangle is indeterminate only in the sense that it is a disjunctive list
of determinate triangles
4. Summary of Hume's view:
all that really exist are determinate particulars, and universals (aka “abstract ideas”), being
indeterminate, are nothing but disjunctive lists of determinate particulars
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Document Summary

Nominalism (november 10, 2011: some regrettable language: two directly contrary opposite meanings of realism Concrete particulars are the real things: nominalism: the really real things are concrete particulars (this horse, that table, that mountain . ) The idea that universal (dog, horse, tree) are not real existent thing, but just words. The real things are the concrete particulars, the individuals (this horse, that tree) that patch. Nominalism challenges the idea that ideas, forms exist . The idea that universal are real public objects: hume"s two propositions: The mind cannot form any notion of quantity or quality without forming a precise notion of the degrees of each . Any triangle you think of has got to be of one of these types. Yet the universal triangle has to be indeterminate. [the] application of ideas beyond their nature proceeds from our collecting all their possible degrees of quantity and quality in such an imperfect manner as may serve the purposes of life .

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