Indifference vs. Universality of Mental Representation in Ockham, Buridan, and Aquinas

This paper argues in the first place that nominalists are right in insisting against ontological realists that semantic universality does not require commitment to universal entities. However, Ockham, in his zeal to get rid of Scotus’s universal entities, swept under the carpet the issue of universal representational content of genuinely universal symbols, conflating it with the mere indifference of the information content of non-distinctive singular representations. Buridan did come up with an abstractionist theory of the formation of genuinely universal representational content to solve the resulting issues, however, the paper argues further, his solution is committed to attributing the sort of “aspectuality” to universal absolute concepts that his Ockhamist semantics denies to them. The conclusion of the paper suggests how Aquinas’s “moderate realism” can provide a consistent solution without the ontological extravaganza of ontological realists, without conflating the mere indifference of singular representation with genuine universality, and without having to deny aspectuality to our quidditative universal concepts formed by abstraction
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DOI 10.1484/J.QUAESTIO.1.102328
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