Abelard on Universals — страница 6

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label for any repudiation of abstract entities, whether universals or particulars…(O.C.P., p.624) In contrast to that, The Oxford Companion to Philosophy gives us the following on the term realism: ‘Real’ is often used with some opposite term in mind, such as ‘ideal’ or ‘fake’. To assert that something is somehow mind-independent is to move in the realist direction… (647) Abelard thinks that nouns can be real and fake, or empty. When we speak of genera and species “they signify by nomination things truly existent, to wit, the same things as singular nouns, and in no wise are they located in empty opinion”, when we speak of mere words and images “like the following words, chimera and goat-stag which do not give rise to a rational understanding” those are

located in empty opinion without the thing. So, if somebody would focus exclusively on the second kind of words in Abelard’s solution, it would seem to him that Peter is a nominalist. Which I believe is the case with Weinberg and Broadie. It is possible then to form the concept of universal fakes like unicorns, centaurs… and call them empty species. It would be fine if Abelard did not also emphasize the first kind of words, which in no wise are located in empty opinion. If we focus exclusively on this kind of words we could (with the same right!) call Abelard a realist, and his solution of the problem of the universal a realistic one. But the truth is that there are two and not only one type of words Abelard shows, that is why his solution must be called rather synthetic, and

the word is conceptualism. Abelard learned from both of his teachers and not just from one of them, and he was a very attentive student! J. Weinberg and A. Broadie: some account of the arguments they give for their claim. Broadie says: “In the dispute about the nature of the universals he [Abelard] was in the nominalist camp, holding that universals are utterances (voces) or mental terms, not things in the real world”. This is far from precision, as I already showed giving a much more inclusive Abelard’s quotations about universals. Once more, Abelard’s universals are mental terms (like all terms), but they are sometimes about real things in the real world. Broadie: “The universality of the universal derives from the fact that it is predicable of many things.

Nevertheless, unless a number of things are in the same state, the one universal term cannot be predicated of them”. Let’s read it as: unless many things are in the same state…we cannot call them by the name signifying that state. It is applicable, for instance, to the state of existing, and Abelard is saying: “we in no wise hold that universal nouns are, when, their things having been destroyed, they are not predicable of many things inasmuch as they are not common to any things, as for example the name of the rose when there are no longer roses, but it would still, nevertheless, be significative by the understanding, although it would lack nomination; otherwise there would not be the proposition: there is no rose”. Here the physical roses do not exist but the

meaningful concept of roses, the universal, does, but in the mind only. This is only one of the cases of universals, and even in this case the name roses is not empty. It is not exactly the same to say there is no rose in the vase as there is no unicorn in the room. Because we observe real roses in other times and places in the physical world, but nobody really observes unicorns in reality. Abelard shows the possibility to talk about real things, and then universals describing them have certain reality, he also shows the possibility to predicate unreal things only existing in the mind, in that case they will certainly not have real existence. Still, in both cases they will have the existence as mental concepts. So some concepts could signify real things of physics and others

could exist without physical referents. It is just when we talk about the second type of Abelard’s names we could consider him “in the nominalist camp”. But how in the world could we do that considering his other types? J. Weinberg says: “His [Abelard’s] nominalistic solution of the problem of universals requires him to deny that universals are things and to affirm that they are significant words or concepts merely, and he finds a problem in the existence of a significant term which has no normal extradiscursive referent” (79). I can answer that the terms merely and significant present a contradiction. If a word is merely a word it is empty. If the word signifies something it has certain physical reality, and not merely a word. Therefore the above attempt to identify