The particular–universal distinction: A dogma of metaphysics?

Mind 114 (455):565-614 (2005)
Authors
Fraser MacBride
University of Manchester
Abstract
Is the assumption of a fundamental distinction between particulars and universals another unsupported dogma of metaphysics? F. P. Ramsey famously rejected the particular – universal distinction but neglected to consider the many different conceptions of the distinction that have been advanced. As a contribution to the piecemeal investigation of this issue three interrelated conceptions of the particular – universal distinction are examined: universals, by contrast to particulars, are unigrade; particulars are related to universals by an asymmetric tie of exemplification; universals are incomplete whereas particulars are complete. It is argued that these conceptions are wanting in several respects. Sometimes they fail to mark a significant division amongst entities. Sometimes they make substantial demands upon the shape of reality; once these demands are understood aright it is no longer obvious that the distinction merits our acceptance. The case is made via a discussion of the possibility of multigrade universals.
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DOI 10.1093/mind/fzi565
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