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nominalism

nominalism, in philosophy, a theory of the relation between universals and particulars. Nominalism gained its name in the Middle Ages, when it was contrasted with realism. The problem arises because in order to perceive a particular object as being of a certain kind, say a table, we must have a prior notion of table. Does the kind "table," described by this prior notion, then have an existence independent of particular tables? Nominalism says that it does not, that it is just a name for a group of particular objects. Nominalism is appropriate to materialist and empirical philosophy and hence has been popular in modern thought.

See R. A. Eberle, Nominalistic Systems (1970).

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nominalism

nominalism Philosophical theory, opposed to realism, that denies the reality of universal concepts. Whereas realists claim that there are universal concepts, such as roundness or dog, that are referred to by the use of these terms, nominalists argue that such generalized concepts cannot be known, and that the terms refer only to specific qualities common to particular circles or dogs that have been encountered up to now. Nominalism was much discussed by philosophers of the Middle Ages.

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nominalism

nominalism in philosophy, the doctrine that universals or general ideas are mere names without any corresponding reality. Only particular objects exist, and properties, numbers, and sets are merely features of the way of considering the things that exist. Important in medieval scholastic thought, nominalism is associated particularly with William of Occam (see Occam's razor).

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