When you look through the glitter of the words, your "spirit of beauty" simply means certain shapes and colours which please you in beautiful things and in beautiful people. 'Vile nominalist! renegade from the ideal and all its glories! said Claude, laughing. 'I don't care sixpence now for the ideal! I want not beauty, but some beautiful thing a woman perhaps, and he sighed.
The first champion William in this instance assumed that the universal was a real thing; and for that reason he was called a realist. His opponent Abélard held that the universal was only nominally real; and on that account he was called a nominalist. Truth, virtue, humanity, exist as units and realities, said William.
If you believe that there are only individual instances and illustrations of various classified emotions and desires and acts, and that abstractions are only the inevitable categories of thought, you would in the Middle Ages have been called a "nominalist".
The nominalist or positivist or voluntarist position of Scotus that which maintains that law and truth depend, not so much upon the essence as upon the free and inscrutable will of God by accentuating its supreme irrationality, placed religion in danger among the majority of believers endowed with mature reason and not mere coalheavers. Hence the triumph of the Thomist theological rationalism.
There is a moral in the "Nominalist and Realist" that will prove all sums. It runs something like this: No matter how sincere and confidential men are in trying to know or assuming that they do know each other's mood and habits of thought, the net result leaves a feeling that all is left unsaid; for the reason of their incapacity to know each other, though they use the same words.
It was the attempt to combine the nominalist view of the signification of general terms with the retention of the dictum as the basis of all reasoning, that led to the self-contradictory theories disguised under the ultra-nominalism of Hobbes and Condillac, the ontology of the later Kantians, and (in a less degree) the abstract ideas of Locke. It was fancied that the process of inferring new truths was only the substitution of one arbitrary sign for another; and Condillac even described science as une langue bien faite. But language merely enables us to remember and impart our thoughts; it strengthens, like an artificial memory, our power of thought, and is thought's powerful instrument, but not its exclusive subject. If, indeed, propositions in a syllogism did nothing but refer something to or exclude it from a class, then certainly syllogisms might have the dictum for their basis, and import only that the classification is consistent with itself. But such is not the primary object of propositions (and it is on this account, as well as because men will never be persuaded in common discourse to quantify the predicate, that Mr. De Morgan's or Sir William Hamilton's quantification of the predicate is a device of little value). What is asserted in every proposition which conveys real knowledge, is a fact dependent, not on artificial classification, but on the laws of nature; and as ratiocination is a mode of gaining real knowledge, the principle or law of all syllogisms, with propositions not purely verbal, must be, for affirmative syllogisms, that; Things coexisting with the same thing coexist with one another; and for negative, that; A thing coexisting with another, with which a third thing does not coexist, does not coexist with that third thing. But if (see supr
When a philosopher adopted fully the Nominalist view of the signification of general language, retaining along with it the dictum de omni as the foundation of all reasoning, two such premisses fairly put together were likely, if he was a consistent thinker, to land him in rather startling conclusions.
There are, therefore, only two classes of words, nouns and verbs; all others, prepositions, conjunctions, and so forth, being abbreviations, a kind of mental shorthand to save the trouble of enumerating the separate items. Tooke, in short, is a thoroughgoing nominalist. The realities, according to him, are sticks, stones, and material objects, or the 'ideas' which 'represent' them.
For it is an open question, and will be one, as long as the nominalist and the realist schools of thought keep up their controversy which they will do to the world's end whether this seeming hideousness be a real fact: whether we do not attribute to the snake the same passions which we should expect to find and to abhor in a human countenance of somewhat the same shape, and then justify our assumption to ourselves by the creature's bites, which are actually no more the result of craft and malevolence than the bite of a frightened mouse or squirrel.
For first, what we want to know is, the meaning of the words what means "living"? what "union"? what "heart"? They are terms common to the Mystic and to the popular religionist, only differently interpreted; and in the meanings attributed to them lies nothing less than the whole world-old dispute between Nominalist and Realist not yet to be settled in two lines by two gentlemen over their wine, much less ignored as a thing settled beyond all dispute already.
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