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This entry is not helpful at all. I thought it might be a better idea to at least begin with the definition of the term in semi-official language, as the "definition" previously offered seems to me to already prefigure critiques of nominalism, and the realist position. I don't really think of nominalism as being "anti-realism," but I am not as well versed in the field as some others. I recognize that the intro is partly redundant now, and look forward to someone else helping to address the problem this article presents. Sorry. --May23rd2007 09:49, 6 August 2006 (UTC)

I believe a good link would be to Prototype Theory, because I believe it may be the opposite of this theory. -summer9081 6/5/06

I think all the references to "realism" should be replaced with "Platonism". The opposition today is between realism and idealism. This article is talking about nominalism versus Platonism. Check the Wikipedia entry on "Realism", and you'll see that only one of the several varieties of realism described there, Platonic realism, is opposed to nominalism. Philgoetz (talk) 23:46, 22 October 2015 (UTC)


There are numerous grammatical errors on this page... 12 March 2006

And editorial errors. For example, this:
"Some modern Arabic philosophers have claimed in their studies about the History of Islamic philosophy that realist universals and the Metaphysics related to this Realism school of Philosophy has formed problem to be compatible with the Islamic worldview, and through trying to solve this problem they develop the concept of nominalist universal."
has formed problem Joaquin 6 May 6


This article should give a more thorough explaination of nominalism as an actual system rather than as small pieces with immediate objections from realist thinkers. Objections should be set aside perhaps until the entire view complete with supporting reasons of its historical proponents has been established. As it is, the article has considerable bias against the nominalist position and makes a strawman out of it. (Would truth need such considerable defense if what wasn't true was expounded upon so clearly that it's contraditions were manifest?) Also, I think the use of technical language is taken too far here without adequate introduction to it. Instead of sounding academic, it has the opposite effect. --Antireconciler 22 January 2006

1 query on the "Moderate Realist" position. Could anyone please inform me of examples of thinkers who have published on this? Is this view simply property realism (as opposed to substance realism)? Thanks. --TableUser 01:54, 7 August 2005 (UTC)
Under Varieties of Nominalism: What is the meaning or intended meaning of the sentence... "However, the realist will object that what the predicate applies to." --ELApro 13 April 2005


I too am unhappy with this article. I would frame my unhappiness as being with the article's exclusive focus on nominalism as a debate within analytic metaphysics, rather than treating its long history going back to the Greeks. I think this article would be an excellent section of an article on nominalism, but at present totally misrepresents the term.--XmarkX 16:06, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)


Zenter writes: I'm concerned that this article (1) has no sources and (2) compares nominalism only with realism. For the first point, I have no solution. For the second, I think it is important to ALSO compare with nihilism, which denies universals and also the instantiation. Nominalism is a middle path because all things are defined "in relation to," rather than on their own (nihilism) or in reference to a universal (realism). Which leads to point (3) Nominalism is also derided (unjustly, I think) because of its "in realtion to" -ness, and is pejoratively called "relativism" as in "moral relativism." Before I add anything to the article, I would first love a discussion, and second would want to compile some sources. Thanks! -Zenter 01:44, 25 Jan 2005 (UTC)


To whom it may concern: I'm in the middle of a complete re-write of the problem of universals article. The new approach will be almost entirely historical, beginning with Heraclitus and moving forward to Roger Penrose's revival of platonism as to mathematical entity. I expect there won't be much of an overlap with the ahistorical analytical discussion here. A link to that discussion will be appreciated, but the "overlap" notice won't be necessary. Feel free to check it out and see if you like what I've been doing. Christofurio 12:36, Sep 1, 2004 (UTC)


I think the intro just needs to make clear, as the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry does, that nominalism really comes in two forms: one denying the existence of universals, the other abstract objects. These are often conflated and should be flagged early on. After all, one can hold that numbers don't exist because they are abstract objects, but this doesn't say anything about universals. One could simply hold an Aristotelian view of universals according to which they exist in particulars in space and time. This would alleviate worries about abstract objects while maintaining universals. - Jaymay (talk) 18:55, 28 June 2008 (UTC)


Needs to be greatly expanded upon. I don't even know where one would start.

One place to start would be to point out that nominalism usually refers to a position in Medieval Scholastic debates and is much less frequently used in contemporary philosophy (which refers to a similar position as 'anti-realism'). Reading this article - which is frankly in need of much work - one gets the impression that nominalism is mostly a position in contemporary philosophy. The person usually credited with starting the nominalist line of thought is Ockham in the late 14th century (dates to be verified) but Abelard in the 1200's had already presented many positions that could be fairly characterized as nominalist. The (more or less) contemporary philosopher who probably would have described himself as a nominalist is WVO Quine (he in any case characterized a theory of universals that he characterized as nominalist).

Opening with a dictionary definition[edit]

Aaaargh! Don't! Adambisset 14:02, 8 September 2006 (UTC) Bold text

In the section on resemblance nominalism, the article states: "This betrays the spirit of nominalism." This statement seems highly biased and should be justified or removed.


Can someone include some examples? I think that would be helpful to illustrate the point.--Shadowdrak 10:31, 17 June 2007 (UTC)

Dennett query[edit]

Philosophers who delve deeply into the workings of the human brain, such as Daniel Dennett, reject the idea that there is some "greenness" in the real world, only circumstances that cause the brain to react with the judgment "green."

IIRC Dennett's objection is specifcially to phenomenal properties or qualia. I don't think he doubts the mind-independent existence of massiveness or acidity. 1Z (talk) 23:14, 19 March 2008 (UTC)

According to Nominalists, Universals don't exist[edit]

They don't exist "as" particulars. They don't exist "dependently" upon particulars. They don't exist "as" names. For the Nominalist, they simply don't exist at all. (The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on "Universals" actually says, "Those who believe in universals are called Realists, those who DO NOT are called Nominalists" (my caps).) I've changed the lead sentence to reflect this, and supplied sources to back it up. Please don't add original research. Check my sources, and if you can find some authority who disagrees, then cite it. Isokrates (talk) 14:05, 27 June 2008 (UTC)

You'll find citations for what you're claiming and what I'm claiming. The fact is that some professional philosophers define "universal" in a neutral way such that the dispute between realists and nominalists is on the nature of universals. Other philosophers define "universal" to mean what realists believe exist and nominalists don't (as you say). Take, for example, H. H. Price. In the first chapter of his book Thinking and Experience (1953), called "Universals and Resemblances", which is a famous paper included in major metaphysics anthologies, he says: "these recurrent characteristics have been called by some philosohpers universals". So he defines universals (and takes philosophers to be defining them) as simply recurring characteristics or qualities. So, being female is a universal, and no sane person would deny that there is such a thing as being female. That's one reason why I put what I put. It's not original research. But whatev. - Jaymay (talk) 22:56, 28 June 2008 (UTC)
Of course it's no use denying that being female is a universal. But I suggest not only (i) that there is no evidence to support your claim that "no sane person would deny that there is such a thing as being female" (I doubt that anything that Price says implies this), but also (ii) that this is the very thing that nominalists generally do deny. Nominalists will admit that many things are female, but will say that there is nothing besides females to which the linguistic expression "being female" corresponds. They would say that we may be fooled by our language into thinking that it's appropriate to speak of such a thing. You may call that an "insane" position. But it's actually the very position advocated by most or all nominalists. In fact, I would say that it's virtually the whole point of nominalism to reject the view that there really are such things as being female etc. Your claim that some (or most or all) nominalists admit that there is such a thing as being female is indeed original research. You have yet to cite a source that supports the claim. Your quote from Price doesn't support it. Maybe you can find another quote, but I have to say that I doubt it. Isokrates (talk) 17:00, 29 June 2008 (UTC)
Isokrates, you miss my point, and in what seems to be an effort to promote confrontation. My point is that there is a sense in which everyone ought to believe that there is such a thing as being female. I take it that you are thinking that the "there is" part of my statement makes some strong existential claim about an ontological category. But, if we think about what my statement means in ordinary English, I think it is clear that there is a sense in which it is obvious that it would be foolish to deny that there is such a thing as being female. In that sense, my Price quote supports that claim. But it's pointless to argue about these minor details. You should admit that there is a legitimate and ordinary way to cash out the debate between realists and nominalists according to which both agree that there is e.g. femalehood, but differ on the nature of that thing (realists think its a thing distinct from the particulars that instantiate it; nominalists think it's nothing over and above some set of particulars or something). However, I equally admit that there is a way to cash out the debate between realists and nominalists according to which nominalists deny that there is such a thing as being female. But you must understand how crazy that sounds in ordinary English. After all, who will deny that the sentence "There is such a thing as being female" expresses a truth? Prior to theorizing about philosophy, that is an obvious truth. What the nominalist tries to do is explain that while this is true, we shouldn't be mislead into thinking that being female is something over and above the particulars that instantiate it. I was only trying to make nominalism sound less crazy. But, in effect, I take your point. I think we both understand the debate between realists and nominalists. I was only trying to worry about how best to explain it in an encyclopedia entry. But ultimately I don't much care which way it's formulated. - Jaymay (talk) 17:29, 30 June 2008 (UTC)
Understood. As to how intuitive or "pre-philosophical" is the belief that there's such a thing as being female: We have of course no statistics to consult, but I don't know that you're right about its being an "obvious truth" in this sense. It may well be obvious to students of philosophy (thanks ultimately to Plato); I know I think it is and I too have a hard time even understanding how anyone could not accept it. But I wonder whether it's so obvious "pre-philosophically" to everybody. Consider the "lovers of sights and sounds" that Plato discusses at Republic 475e-480a; evidently they didn't accept this "obvious truth". We may well imagine that Plato is describing here a view that he actually encountered and felt obliged to answer. Some evidence, anyway, for thinking there is no "pre-philosophically" obvious answer. But our discussion has digressed.... Thanks for explaining the reasoning behind your edits. Isokrates (talk) 21:52, 30 June 2008 (UTC)

More Ockham![edit]

Plato refered to a thinking related to nominalism as a counterexample of his realism, but William of Ockham actually developed a nominalism believing the idea to be non-absurd, so he could preferrably be referred to some little more than just a "see also". I think Ochkam is more central for the current Western nominalism. ... said: Rursus (bork²) 10:44, 16 April 2009 (UTC)

Or maybe not... The article on conceptualism presents another view: that he is used as a symbol for modern nominalism, while what he actually proponed was conceptualism ... Confusing, but a general state of the art in modern philosophy. ... said: Rursus (bork²) 06:27, 17 April 2009 (UTC)


As a layman, I find the current version [1] of this page somewhat confusing. For example, the dual definition of the topic in the first two paragraphs of the lead (i.e. Nominalism refers to either of two..." / Nominalism is...") seems to me confusing. There also seems to be something of a mismatch/overlap between the History / Criticisms sections (maybe some sort of a history of the term would be in order before moving on to the "criticisms"?). (talk) 12:12, 14 March 2014 (UTC)