The Problem of Universals
The Ontological problem has occupied many philosophers and intellectuals since the very beginning of human thought. What seems to be a simple and rather ridiculous question to the average person, ‘what exists?’ or ‘what is there?’ serves as the general question for the ontological problem. Almost everyone accepts the existence of physical objects, to which I will now refer as ‘particulars’. Actual pencils, buildings, cats, humans and planets are all examples of particulars. In fact, any physical object that is perceivable by sense perception qualifies as a particular. A particular exists at one place at a given moment in time. For example, an individual such as President George W. Bush cannot be at two places (or more) at the same time. The problem starts when talking about abstract entities: they are non-physical objects that seem to exist not in space and time, but rather in a whole different realm. They are unperceivable by sense perception. Among them are: numbers, classes and universals. Numbers and classes are easy to understand, and acceptable by all. Universals, which are the subject of my paper, are: properties, or qualities of particulars, kinds or sorts of particulars, and relations between two or more particulars. For example: the ‘redness’ of an apple (property of an apple), and the relation between two apples, one bigger than the other, are both universals. The major debate arises when discussing about the nature of the existence of those universals. It is known as the problem of universals. While Realists claim that universals are actual entities that exist in space and time (although they can exist in more than one place at a given moment), nominalists deny this kind of existence, and argue that universals are mere names for descriptions attributed to particulars. Let’s examine universals as properties of particulars. By properties, I mean: colors, shapes, odors, human character traits, etc. for example,
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