Hobbes, Universal Names, and Nominalism

(Forthcoming in a volume on early modern theories of universals edited by Stefano Di Bella and Tad Schmaltz, which is under contract with Oxford University Press.) Thomas Hobbes was, rather famously, a nominalist. The core of that nominalism is the belief that the only universal things are universal names: there are no universal objects, or universal ideas. This paper looks at what Hobbes's views about universal names were, how they evolved over time, and how Hobbes argued for them. The remainder of the paper considers two objections to Hobbes's view: a criticism made by several of Hobbes's contemporaries, that Hobbes's view could not account for people saying the same thing in different languages; and a more recently popular criticism of Hobbes, that his nominalism's reliance on similarity implicitly (and inconsistently) involves reliance on a universal.
Keywords Hobbes  nominalism  Leibniz  Henry More  Descartes
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