nominalism

nominalism

[nom-uh-nl-iz-uhm]
noun
(in medieval philosophy) the doctrine that general or abstract words do not stand for objectively existing entities and that universals are no more than names assigned to them. Compare conceptualism, realism ( def 5a ).

Origin:
1830–40; < French nominalisme. See nominal, -ism

nominalist, noun
nominalistic, adjective
nominalistically, adverb
nonnominalistic, adjective
unnominalistic, adjective
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World English Dictionary
nominalism (ˈnɒmɪnəˌlɪzəm)
 
n
conceptualism Compare realism the philosophical theory that the variety of objects to which a single general word, such as dog, applies have nothing in common but the name
 
'nominalist
 
n, —adj
 
nominal'istic
 
adj

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Encyclopedia Britannica
Encyclopedia

nominalism

in philosophy, position taken in the dispute over universals-words that can be applied to individual things having something in common-that flourished especially in late medieval times. Nominalism denied the real being of universals on the ground that the use of a general word (e.g., "humanity") does not imply the existence of a general thing named by it. The nominalist position did not necessarily deny, however, that there must be some similarity between the particular things to which the general word is applied. Thoroughgoing nominalists would withhold this concession, as Roscelin, a medieval nominalist, is said to have done. But unless such similarity is granted, the application of general words to particulars is made to appear entirely arbitrary. Such stricter forms of nominalism as existed in the Middle Ages can perhaps be viewed as reactions against Platonic realism, on which some enthusiasts, such as Guillaume de Champeaux, based the opinion that universals had real being. The realist position invited a defensive alliance between empiricism and nominalism; the most notable medieval example of such a synthesis was the work of William of Ockham.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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