Claude Panaccio

in The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Philosophy

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780195379488
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks


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It seems that the medieval debate on universals has no direct relevance for current philosophical interests and that it must be seen, at best, as an intriguing patchwork of pre-modern curiosities. This article examines the matter, and defends the moderately “continuistic” idea that the appellation “the problem of universals” is not equivocal when applied to the set questions at issue under that name in medieval and in contemporary analytical philosophy. First, it presents the case for discontinuism, and then explains what might be the root of both the medieval and the contemporary “problem of universals.” The article also argues that the main dividing line with respect to this problem runs between realism and nominalism, taken in today's sense. Finally, it outlines one of the most salient medieval approaches to the problem of universals: William of Ockham's nominalism.

Keywords: problem of universals; nominalism; discontinuism; William of Ockham; realism

Article.  9042 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Metaphysics

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