Johannes Sharpe's ontology and semantics: Oxford realism revisited

Vivarium 43 (1):156-186 (2005)
Abstract
The German Johannes Sharpe is the most important and original author of the so called "Oxford Realists": his semantic and metaphysical theories are the end product of the two main medieval philosophical traditions, realism and nominalism, for he contributed to the new form of realism inaugurated by Wyclif, but was receptive to many nominalist criticisms. Starting from the main thesis of Wyclif's metaphysics, that the universal and individual are really identical but formally distinct, Oxford Realists introduced a new type of predication, based on a partial identity between the entities for which the subject and predicate stood, called predication by essence, and then redefined the traditional post-Aristotelian categories of essential and accidental predication in terms of this partial identity. Sharpe substantially shares the metaphysical view and principles of the other Oxford Realists, but he elaborates a completely different semantics, since he accepts the nominalist principle of the autonomy of thought in relation to the world, and Ockham's explanation for the universality of concepts. Unfortunately, this semantic approach partially undermines his defence of realism, since it deprives Sharpe of any compelling semantic and epistemological reasons to posit universalia in re. Therefore, Sharpe's main ontological theses certainly are sensible and reasonable, but, paradoxically, within his philosophical system they cannot in any way be considered as absolutely consistent.
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