Contra Res Sempiternas

The Monist 67 (3):376-394 (1984)


Whether it is preferable to live in X and work in Y or to work in X and live in Y is surely a relative question—relative to a number of practical circumstances and dependent on the person who has to make the choice. But this does not make the situation an illustration of relativism. Similarly, for my neighbour to suspect that abstract terms such as ‘Nation’, ‘Love’ and ‘Freedom’ are only words reveals at best a penchant to nominalism in his thinking, but, once again, this does not qualify my neighbour’s views as nominalism. Something more is required for an assertion, a viewpoint or a theory to qualify as or to be translated into a context called ‘nominalist’ or ‘relativist’. When nominalists throughout the ages denied that abstract terms had an intrinsic value in the explanation of things, they had to give an alternative account of the things to be explained, which did not turn, in any decisive manner, on the distinction between abstract and concrete terms. So it was not enough for a nominalist to reject, say, Rousseau’s distinction between La volonté générate and Les volontés particulières and it was not enough for Nietzsche to deride the bandying about of terms like ‘Truth’, ‘Love’, ‘Nation’, etc. In such cases the nominalist is called upon to replace the explanation which builds on abstract entities by one which is based on individuals.

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Nominalismus und Gesellschaft.Friedel Weinert - 1986 - Zeitschrift Für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 17 (2):322-345.

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