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Metaphysics (PHIL 101) Midterm - On Universals

Metaphysics (PHIL 101) Midterm - On Universals

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Published by JonWorrel
Philosophy: Metaphysics midterm on Universals - University of California, Merced
Philosophy: Metaphysics midterm on Universals - University of California, Merced

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Jonathan WorrelProfessor Rolf JohanssonPHIL 101
MetaphysicsMarch 8, 2012Metaphysics (PHIL 101) Midterm
On Universals
Russell’s “regress” argument for the existence of relations, and
argument for the non-mental nature of universals.
In his regress argument for the existence of relations, Bertrand Russell advocates a realistposition on universals by undermining the logical validity of the nominalist account of relations.Russell begins by introducing a thought experiment asking to suppose a world where there does not
exist a property of “redness,” but only red things. In this hypothetical world, for any object “X” tohave the property “red,” it
follows that the object must resemble other red things. Russell claims,however, that there
is a logical regress in a nominalist’s view of this thought experiment. For
asked “is resemblance itself a universal?” the nominalist would be forced to
admit that the concept
of “resemblance” itself is not a universal. As an expression of resemblance
relations, the nominalist
would say “A resembles B” resembles “B resembles C”
which leads to a non-vicious infinite regress.Russell concludes his argument by stating that the infinite regress is absurd and is somethingmetaphysicians cannot accept.
In his argument for the non-mental nature of universals, Russell introduces a thought experiment
that presupposes “Edinburgh is north of London” is true independently of huma
n conceptions of their two geographical locations in physical space. In this argument, it is assumed to be true thatnothing mental is presupposed by the fact that Edinburgh is north of London. But this fact involves
the relation “north of,” which
according to Russell, is a universal. In the second part of his argument,he claims that
if universals were purely mental, no two people could simultaneously think of thesame universal.
” (Russell p18)
Furthermore, no single person could think of the same universal onmore than one occasion. He concludes we must
admit “
the relation, like the terms it relates, is notdependent upon thought, but belongs to the independent world which thought apprehends butdoes not create
.” (p18)
In other words, Russell claims that universals are ultimately the non-mentalobjects of thought, not the mental thoughts themselves.
What does Price think is the relevance of the
of resemblance for adoptingresemblance nominalism rather than Aristotelian realism about universals?
In his quest to advocate resemblance nominalism over Aristotelian realism about universals, H.H.Price asserts that
by observation, has two dimensions of variation
.Aristotelian realism treats resemblances as if they
were “degreeless” –
either present in maximumdegree or not present
at all. Price insists that Aristotelian realists “avert their attention from the fact
that very few resemblances between particulars are exact, and resemblances of a lower degree are
neglected altogether.” (Price p28) He provides an example between
two pennies that are exactly alike intheir shape, both classified as having
He then compares the resemblance between these
Worrel 2two pennies with the resemblance between a penny and a sixpence, where the penny has a smoothedge and the sixpence has a milled edge.
He concludes that there is “no single characteristic present inthem both, upon which the resemblance could be dependent.”
(p28) The Aristotelian realist asserts thatresemblance is derivative, not ultimate, that when two objects resemble each other in a given respect, itis only because the very same universal is present in both. Price claims that resemblance nominalismsolves
the insufficiency behind “wholly present universals” versus “not wholly present universals” by
making room for
resemblances. Furthermore, Price concludes that in Aristotelian realism (the
Philosophy of Universals
), what holds a class together is a universal, something of a different ontologicaltype from its members. In resemblance nominalism (the
Philosophy of Resemblances
), there are justparticular objects without universals.
What are Armstrong’s reasons for taking states of affairs as the basic ontological category?
In Armstrong’s
theory of classifying the most basic constituents of reality, he asserts that
philosophers should treat the world as broken up into “facts” and “states of affairs” rather than
particulars and universals and the relations between them.
Armstrong asks us to “suppose that object
is F,” were F is a universal
. He claims tha
t “for object
to have the universal F,” there must exist a
state of affairs
such that “a is F.” (Armstrong p74)
He calls
this observation the “
making principle,” which states
“for every contingent truth, there must
be something in the world th
at makes it true.”
From this principle, he claims that
states of affairs
explain what may appear to be “multiple locations” for properties as well as the “absence of location” for relations.
 He goes on to illustrate that states of affairs may be plausible explanations for
causal relations
 among particulars. For instance
, the state of affairs of “
’s being F” may be the cause of “
’s being G,”
and so on. By this understanding, it is plausible to admit that in a Naturalist view of the world (where the
universe is a giant spatiotemporal manifold), there would be “an enormous plurality or c
onjunction of states of affairs in which all the particulars in those states of affairs are linked up together by
spatiotemporal relations.” (Armstrong p82)
When attempting to locate the presence of universals in thisspace-time manifold, however, Armstrong insists that
“universals are constituents of states of affairs”
and that it would be rather absurd to place them inside of the analogy of a space-time manifold box.Furthermore, he concludes that universals and particulars are the
of facts and states of affairs, which themselves are the most basic ontological category.
According to Grossman, what are the differences and similarities between nominalism, realism,and conceptualism with respect to the existence / subsistence of a) particulars, b) universals, and
c) the connecting “nexus” between particulars and universals? What is the main criterion or
reason for adopting each of these views?
Grossman begins his account of the differences between nominalism, realism and conceptualism byidentifying two underlying ontological criterion that separate the theories
namely, the

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