So Strong; yet so calm: Mary's Choice.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Problem of universals - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Problem of universals - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Plato believed there to be a sharp distinction between the world of perceivable objects and the world of universals or forms: one can only have mere opinions about the former, but one can have knowledge about the latter. For Plato it was not possible to have knowledge of anything that could change or was particular, since knowledge had to be forever unfailing and general. For that reason, the world of the forms is the real world, like sunlight, the sensible world is only imperfectly or partially real, like shadows. This Platonic realism, however, in denying that the eternal Forms are mental artifacts, differs sharply with modern forms of idealism.

Plato's student Aristotle disagreed with his tutor. Aristotle transformed Plato's forms into "formal causes", the blueprints or essences of individual things. Whereas Plato idealized geometry, Aristotle emphasized nature and related disciplines and therefore much of his thinking concerns living beings and their properties. The nature of universals in Aristotle's philosophy therefore hinges on his view of natural kinds.

Consider for example a particular oak tree. This is a member of a species and it has much in common with other oak trees, past, present and future. Its universal, its oakness, is a part of it. A biologist can study oak trees and learn about oakness and more generally the intelligible order within the sensible world. Accordingly, Aristotle was more confident than Plato about coming to know the sensible world; he was a prototypical empiricist and a founder of induction. Aristotle was a new, moderate sort of realist about universals.

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