Essay about Nominalism

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Nominalism

The great revival of philosophical and theological study which the thirteenth century witnessed was conditioned by the influence of Aristotle. The theory of the universe propounded by the Stagirite had to be reconciled with the traditional Platonic-Augustinian realism. This Thomas Aquinas undertook to do, following, Aristotle as closely as possible. Duns Scotus, on the other hand, attempted to maintain the ancient realism, while supporting it by modern or Aristotelian methods. Interests and tendencies, however, came up in his work which drove his disciples away from his position. The growth of empirical research and psychological analysis together with the new activity of the reason in the epistemological field on the
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In respect of the theory of cognition, where Duns Scotus had placed between the perceiving subject and the object perceived a "sensible species" and an "intelligible species," Ockham considers these as superfluous machinery. Objects call forth sense-impressions in us, which are transmuted by the active intellect into mental images. These images are thus a product of the intellect, not species which flow from the object into the intellectus possibilis. The reality of these images is thus, in the modern use of the terms, not objective but subjective. This is true not merely of the "terms of first intention" formed directly from sense-impression, but also of the "terms of second intention," i.e., the abstract terms which take note of common attributes, or universals. These latter correspond to a tendency of the human mind, which can not perceive individuals without at the same time attempting to form a general concept. A white object simultaneously suggests abstract whiteness; an extended, related, enduring object forces the conception of extension, relation, duration. The result of this line of reasoning is the absolute subjectivity of all concepts and universals and the limitation of knowledge to the mind and its concepts-although these are real entities because of their subjective existence in the mind, reproducing the actual according to the constitution of the mind. Thus Ockham is really the pioneer of modern epistemology. The
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