International Philosophical Quarterly


published on April 5, 2022

Jorge J. E. Gracia, Jonathan Vajda

Individuation and the Realism/Nominalism Dilemma

After reviewing various formulations of the problems of universals and individuation, this essay considers the dialectic that informs the relationship between the two. This dialectic involves a distinction between a realist theory of universals that satisfies the requirements of science but fails to account for the non-instantiability of individuals and a nominalist theory of universals that fails to satisfy the requirements of science but accounts for the non-instantiability of individuals. Inadequacies found in one view tend to motivate movement to the other view. But, like a pendulum swing, this movement inevitably involves facing what motivated the original view. This dialectic is illustrated by a consideration of the views of five medieval authors: Boethius, Peter Abelard, Thomas Aquinas, John Duns Scotus, and William of Ockham.

Usage and Metrics