Theory and History of Ontology

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  • "History Logic" and "Bibliographia" are my other websites. "Table of Contents" gives the list of the pages, for other indexes see the "Sitemap". "Modern Ontologists" contains a table with links to the pages on the most important philosophers of the 19th and 20th centuries who have written on ontology. The "Search" function can be used to find a particular author or subject.


Selected Bibliography on the Problem of Universals in Antiquity and Middle Ages


  1. "Twelfth-Century Nominalism Bibliography." 1992. Vivarium no. 30:211-215.

  2. Adams, Marilyn McCord. 1977. "Ockham's Nominalism and Unreal Entities." Philosophical Review no. 76:144-176.

  3. Amerini, Fabrizio. 2005. "What Is Real: A Reply to Ockham's Ontological Program." Vivarium no. 43:187-212.

    "When Ockham's logic arrives in Italy, some Dominican philosophers bring into question Ockham's ontological reductionist program. Among them, Franciscus de Prato and Stephanus de Reate pay a great attention to refute Ockham's claim that no universal exists in the extra-mental world. In order to reject Ockham's program, they start by reconsidering the notion of "real", then the range of application of the rational and the real distinction. Generally, their strategy consists in re-addressing against Ockham some arguments extracted from Hervaeus Natalis's works. Franciscus's and Stephanus's basic idea is that some universals are not acts of cognition, but extra-mental, predicable things. Such things are not separable from singulars, nonetheless they are not the same as those singulars. Consequently, it is not necessary to allow, as Ockham does, that if two things are not really identical, they are really different and hence really separable. According to them, it is possible to hold that two things are not really identical without holding that they are also really non-identical and hence really different. Basically, their reply relies on a different notion of the relation of identity. Identity is regarded as an intersection of classes of things, so that it is possible to say that two things are really identical without saying that they also are the same thing. Franciscus and Stephanus, however, do not seem to achieve completely their aim."

  4. Beal, M.W. 1973. "Universality without Universals: A Deleted Argument from Berkeley's Introduction to the 'Principles'." Modern Schoolman no. 50:301-310.

  5. Benson, H. 1988. "Universals as Sortals in the Categories." Pacific Philosophical Quarterly no. 69:282-306.

    "In this essay I argue that Aristotle is committed to a sortal analysis of the universal. According to this analysis something is a universal ("to katholou") just in case it is predicated "essentially" of a plurality of entities. I find evidence for such an analysis in the Categories, Posterior analytics, and Metaphysics Gamma. Finally, I suggest that an appeal to this analysis may help resolve a longstanding difficulty in Metaphysics Zeta, viz., Aristotle's commitment to (a) substances are not universals; (b) forms ("eide") are substances; and (c) forms ("eide") are predicated of a plurality of entities."

  6. Boler, John. 1963. "Abailard and the Problem of Universals." Journal of the History of Philosophy no. 1:37-51.

  7. ———. 1985. "Ockham's Clever." Franciscan Studies no. 45:119-144.

  8. Bonino, Guido. 2008. Universali / Particolari. Bologna: Il Mulino.

  9. Bosley, Richard. 1985. "What Revision of Realism Could Meet Ockham's Critique." Franciscan Studies no. 45:111-118.

  10. Boulnois, Olivier. 1992. "Réelles Intentions: Nature Commune Et Universaux Selon Duns Scot." Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale no. 87:3-34.

  11. Brakas, George. 1988. Aristotle's Concept of the Universal. Hildesheim: Georg Olms.

  12. Caruso, Ester. 1979. Pedro Hurtado De Mendoza E La Rinascita Del Nominalismo Nella Scolastica Del Seicento. Firenze: La Nuova Italia.

  13. Caston, Victor. 1999. "Something and Nothing: The Stoics on Concepts and Universals." Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy no. 17:145-213.

    "The Stoics did not have a single, unified account of concepts and universals, but with respect to Platonic Forms they were eliminativist rather than reductionist. According to virtually all Stoic accounts, Platonic Forms are literally nothing."

  14. Chiaradonna, Riccardo. 2004. "Plotino E La Teoria Degli Universali. Enn. Vi 3 [44], 9." In Aristotele E I Suoi Esegeti Neoplatonici. Logica E Ontologia Nelle Interpretazioni Greche E Arabe, edited by Celluprica, Vincenza and D'Ancona, Cristina, 1-35. Napoli: Bibliopolis.

    Atti del Convegno Internazionale Roma, 19-20 ottobre 2001.

  15. Chiaradonna, Riccardo, and Galluzzo, Gabriele, eds. 2013. Universals in Ancient Philosophy. Pisa: Edizioni della Normale.



    Riccardo Chiaradonna, Gabriele Galluzzo: Introduction 1; Mauro Bonazzi: Universals before Universals: Some Remarks on Plato in His Context 23; Francesco Ademollo: Plato's Conception of the Forms: Some Remarks 41; Marwan Rashed: Plato's Five Worlds Hypothesis ( Ti. 55cd), Mathematics and Universals 87; David Sedley: Plato and the One-over-Many Principle 113; Laura M. Castelli :Universals, Particulars and Aristotle's Criticism of Plato's Forms 139; Mauro Mariani: Universals in Aristotle's Logical Works 185; Gabriele Galluzzo: Universals in Aristotle's Metaphysics 209; Ada Bronowski: Epicureans and Stoics on Universals 255; Riccardo Chiaradonna: Alexander, Boethus and the Other Peripatetics: The Theory of Universals in the Aristotelian Commentators 299; Peter Adamson: One of a Kind: Plotinus and Porphyry on Unique Instantiation 329; Michael Griffin: Universals, Education, and Philosophical Methodology in Later Neoplatonism 353; Riccardo Chiaradonna: Universals in Ancient Medicine 381; Johannes Zachhuber: Universals in the Greek Church Fathers 425; Bibliography 471; Index locorum 509; Index of names 537.

  16. Conti, Alessandro. 1982. "Teoria Degli Universali E Teoria Della Predicazione Nel Trattato 'De Universalibus' Di William Penbygull: Discussione E Difesa Della Posizione Di Wyclif." Medioevo no. 8:137-203.

  17. ———. 1983. "A Short Scotist Handbook on Universals: The 'Compendium Super Quinque Universalia' of William Russell, O.F.M." Cahiers del l'Institut du Moyen-Âge Grec et Latin no. 44:39-60.

  18. Courtenay, William J. 1972. "Nominalism and Late Medieval Thought: A Bibliographical Essay." Theological Studies no. 33:716-734.

    Reprinted as Essay 12 in: W. J. Courtenay, Covenant and Causality in Medieval Thought. Studies in Philosophy, Theology and Economic Practice, London, Variorum Reprints, 1984.

  19. ———. 1983. "Late Medieval Nominalism Revisited: 1972-1982." Journal of the History of Ideas no. 44:159-164.

    Reprinted as Essay 13 in: W. J. Courtenay, Covenant and Causality in Medieval Thought. Studies in Philosophy, Theology and Economic Practice, London, Variorum Reprints, 1984.

  20. ———. 1991. "In Search of Nominalism: Two Centuries of Historical Debate." In Gli Studi Di Filosofia Medievale Tra Otto E Novecento: Contributi a Un Bilancio Storiografico. Atti Del Convegno Internazionale, Roma, 21-23 Settembre 1989, edited by Maierù, Alfonso and Imbach, Ruedi, 214-233. Roma: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura.

    Reprinted as Chapter One in: W. J. Courtenay, Ockham and Ockhamism. Studies in the Dissemination and Impact of His Thought, Leiden, Brilll, 2008, pp. 1-19.

  21. ———. 1991. "Nominales and Nominalism in the Twelfth Century." In Lectionum Varietates. Hommage À Paul Vignaux (1904-1987), edited by Jolivet, Jean, Kaluza, Zénon and Libera, Alain de, 11-48. Paris: Vrin.

    Reprinted as Chapter Four in: W. J. Courtenay, Ockham and Ockhamism. Studies in the Dissemination and Impact of His Thought, Leiden, Brilll, 2008, pp. 39-80.

  22. Cresswell, Max J. 1975. "What Is Aristotle's Theory of Universals?" Australasian Journal of Philosophy no. 53:238-247.

    "Aristotle's theory of universals is expounded by contrast with Plato's. Where Plato had said that X is F iff X participates in the form of F, Aristotle has two analyses. If F is a substance predicate then X is F iff X is specifically identical with an F. If F is an accidental predicate then X is F iff there is a Y in X which is specifically identical with an individual in the appropriate category for F."

  23. Cross, Richard. 2007. "Aristotelian Substance and Supposits: Relations, Universals, and the Abuse of Tropes." Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society.Supplementary Volume no. 79:53-72.

    " Scotus's belief that any created substance can depend on the divine essence and/or divine persons as a subject requires him to abandon the plausible Aristotelian principle that there is no merely relational change. I argue that Scotus's various counterexamples to the principle can be rebutted. For reasons related to those that arise in Scotus's ailed attempt to refute the principle, the principle also entails that properties cannot be universals."

  24. Da Gama Cerqueira, Hugo. 2003. "Ockham E O Problema Dos Universais: Um Comentário Ao Argumento Da Summa Logicae." Veritas.Revista de Filosofia no. 48:441-454.

    "In this article, the author tries to explain the central aspects of Ockham's arguments on the nature of universals, giving attention to the analysis of the semantic properties of signification and supposition as they were exposed by Ockham in the first part of his Summa logicae. After presenting the doctrine of intuitive and abstractive knowledge, the author discusses Ockham's critics to realism and his specific way of conceiving universals."

  25. Dafonte, César Raña. 2007. "El Tema De Los Universales En Juan De Salisbury." Revista Española de Filosofia Medieval no. 6:233-239.

    "This work presents the information that John of Salisbury provides us in his Metalogicon about the problem of the universals in the 12th century. He is especially careful when he treats Aristotle's solution, philosopher for whom he shows great admiration."

  26. Dahlstrom, Daniel. 1980. "Signification and Logic: Scotus on Universals from a Logical Point of View." Vivarium no. 18:81-111.

  27. Devereux, Daniel. 1998. "Aristotle's "Categories" 3b 10-21: A Reply to Sharma." Ancient Philosophy no. 18:341-352.

  28. Ebbesen, Sten. 1986. "The Chimera's Diary. Edited by Sten Ebbesen." In The Logic of Being, edited by Knuuttila, Simo and Hintikka, Jaakko, 115-143. Dordrecht: Reidel.

  29. Erismann, Christophe. 2011. " Non Est Natura Sine Persona. The Issue of Uninstantiated Universals from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages." In Methods and Methodologies. Aristotelian Logic East and West, 500-1500, edited by Cameron, Margaret and Marenbon, John, 75-91. Leiden: Brill.

  30. ———. 2011. L'homme Commun. La Genèse Du Réalisme Ontologique Durant Le Haut Moyen Âge. Paris: Vrin.

    "Le présent livre propose l'étude de la constitution, durant le haut Moyen Âge latin, d'une position philosophique: le réalisme de l'immanence à propos des universaux. Cette position est fondée sur la conviction qu'il existe, dans le monde qui nous entoure, certes des individus particuliers -- ce tilleul, cette tortue --, mais aussi des entités universelles. Ces entités n'existent pas séparées des individus, mais intégralement réalisées en eux, sans variation ni degré. Cet engagement philosophique résulte d'une exégèse des Catégories d'Aristote, réinterprétées selon des philosophèmes issus de la pensée de Porphyre. La généalogie de cette position est ici retracée en abordant successivement ses sources tant grecques que latines et ses ancêtres patristiques (avant tout Grégoire de Nysse), puis son élaboration conceptuelle durant les premiers siècles du Moyen Âge latin jusqu'à la critique qu'en donnera Pierre Abélard, et ce, par l'analyse de l'ontologie des quatre philosophes qui l'ont soutenue: Jean Scot Érigène, Anselme de Canterbury, Odon de Cambrai et Guillaume de Champeaux. Ce parcours permet de dessiner les contours d'un projet philosophique: comprendre, analyser et décrire le monde sensible au moyen des concepts issus de la logique aristotélicienne."

  31. Gentile, Luigi. 1975. Roscellino Di Compiègne Ed Il Problema Degli Universali. Lanciano: Editrice Itinerari.

  32. Gerson, Lloyd P. 2004. "Platonism and the Invention of the Problem of Universals." Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie no. 86:233-256.

    "In this paper, I explore the origins of the 'problem of universals'. I argue that the problem has come to be badly formulated and that consideration of it has been impeded by falsely supposing that Platonic Forms were ever intended as an alternative to Aristotelian universals. In fact, the role that Forms are supposed by Plato to fulfill is independent of the function of a universal. I briefly consider the gradual mutation of the problem in the Academy, in Alexander of Aphrodisias, and among some of the major Neoplatonic commentators on Aristotle, including Porphyry and Boethius."

  33. Gill, Mary Louise. 2001. "Aristotle's Attack on Universals." Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy no. 20:235-260.

  34. Henry, Desmond Paul. 1986. "Universals and Particulars." History and Philosophy of Logic no. 7:177-183.

    "The medieval version of the Problem of Universals centers around propositions such as '"man" is a species' and '"animals" is a genus'. One of C. Lejewski's analyses of such propositions shows that semantic status of their terms by means of Ajdukiewicz-style categorical indices having participial or infinitive forms as their natural-language counterparts. Some medievals certainly used such forms in their corresponding analyses, thus avoiding the alleged referential demands generated by nominally-termed propositions. Boethius exemplifies the confusion which may still arise from the traditional definition of "universal" in terms of predication "of many". Unnecessary adherence to nominally-termed analyses not only grounded a tendency towards Nominalism and Platonism, but also towards the moderns' 'way of ideas'."

  35. Hönigswald, Richard. 1961. Abstraktion Und Analysis. Ein Beitrag Zur Problemgeschichte Des Universalienstreites in Der Philosophie Des Mittelalters. Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer.

    Edited by Karl Barthlein

  36. Hull, Gordon. 2006. "Hobbes's Radical Nominalism." Epoché.A Journal for the History of Philosophy no. 11:201-223.

    "This paper analyzes Hobbes's understanding of signification, the process whereby words come to have meaning. Most generally, Hobbes develops and extends the nominalist critique of universals as it is found in Ockham and subsequently carried forward by early moderns such as Descartes. Hobbes's radicality emerges in comparison with Ockham and Descartes, as, unlike them, Hobbes also reduces the intellectual faculty entirely to imagination. According to Hobbes, we have nothing in which a stabilizing, prediscursive mental language could inhere.

    Hobbes thus concludes that all thinking is affective and semiotic, and depends on the regulation of conventionally established regimes of signs. Establishing this regulation is one of the central functions of the Hobbesian commonwealth."

  37. Iten, Richard J.van, ed. 1970. The Problem of Universals. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

  38. Jolivet, Jean. 1975. "Vues Médiévales Sur Les Paronymes." Revue Internationale de Philosophie no. 113:222-242.

  39. ———. 1992. "Trois Variations Médiévales Sur L'universel Et L'individu: Roscelin, Abélard, Gilbert De La Porrée." Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale no. 97:111-158.

  40. Kaluza, Zénon. 1988. Les Querelles Doctrinales À Paris : Nominalistes Et Réalistes Aux Confins Du Xive Et Du Xve Siècles. Bergamo: Lubrina.

  41. Karger, Elizabeth. 1999. "Walter Burley's Realism." Vivarium no. 37:24-40.

  42. King, Peter. 1982. Peter Abailard and the Problem of Universals in the Twelfth Century.

    Ph. D. Dissertation, Princeton University.

  43. ———. 2001. "John Buridan's Solution to the Problem of Universals." In The Metaphysics and Natural Philosophy of John Buridan, edited by Thijssen, Johannes M.M.H. and Zupko, Jack, 29-48. Leiden: Brill.

  44. Klima, Gyula. 2003. "Natures: The Problem of Universals." In The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Philosophy, edited by McGrade, Arthur Stephen, 196-207. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    "Aristotelian science seeks to define the essential nature of a thing and then to demonstrate the features the thing must have because of that nature. A philosophically inevitable question thus arises for Aristotelians: what is a nature? Is it a reality over and above (or perhaps "in" the things whose nature it is? Is it a mental construction, existing only in our understanding of things, if so, on what basis is it constructed? This is the medieval problem of universals, or at least one way of thinking about the problem. In a classic formulation, Boethius states the problem in terms of the reality of genera and species, two main types of universals involved in an Aristotelian definition of essential nature (as in "a human being is a reasoning / speaking animal," which places us in the genus of animals and marks off our species by reference to our "difference" from other animals in reasoning or using language): "Plato thinks that genera and species and the rest are not only understood as universals, but also exist and subsist apart from bodies. Aristotle, however, thinks that they are understood as incorporeal and universal, but subsist in sensibles."' A rigorous tradition of, mainly Aristotelian, discussion originates from Boethius's tentative exploration of the problem thus stated. But a more Platonic solution had been put into play about a century before Boethius by Augustine, and this, too, would have a rich development."

  45. Kneepkens, Corneille Henri. 1992. "Nominalism and Grammatical Theory in the Late Eleventh and Early Twelfth Centuries. An Explorative Study." Vivarium no. 30:34-50.

  46. Lafleur, Claude, Piché, David, and Carrier, Joanne. 2004. "Porphyre Et Les Universaux Dans Les Communia Logice Du Ms. Paris, Bnf, Lat. 16617." Laval Théologique et Philosophique no. 60:477-516.

    "This article offers the first edition of the beginning of the Communia logice ( et grammatice), a substantial didascalical compilation emanating from the Arts faculty of the University of Paris during the first half of the thirteenth century and preserved in a manuscript bequeathed by master Peter of Limoges (d. 1306) to the old library of the Sorbonne. After a general presentation (section I) and before some clarifications on the Ratio edendi (section III), the doctrinal study (section II) which precedes this edition (section IV) shows how the author-compiler of the Communia logice answers - while reformulating it - to the well known porphyrian set of questions about the universals."

  47. Lahey, Stephen. 1998. "William Ockham and Trope Nominalism." Franciscan Studies no. 56:105-120.

    "William Ockham's ontology as outlined in Summa Logicae and elsewhere is sufficiently like the trope nominalism described in D.M. Armstrong's Universals: An Opinionated Introduction to warrant the attention of contemporary metaphysicians, so long as one bears in mind (a) Ockham's fundamentally theological presuppositions, and (b) his Aristotelian logic and philosophy of language."

  48. Landini, Gregory. 1991. "The Persistence of Counterexample: Re-Examining the Debate over Leibniz Law." Nous no. 25:43-61.

  49. Largeault, Jean. 1971. Enquête Sur Le Nominalisme. Louvain: Éditions Nauwelaerts.

  50. Libera, Alain de. 1981. "Théorie Des Universaux Et Réalisme Logique Chez Albert Le Grand." Revue des Science Philosophiques et Théologiques no. 113:1-24.

  51. ———. 1982. "The Oxford and Paris Traditions in Logic." In The Cambrdige History of Later Mediaeval Philosophy, edited by Kretzmann, Norman, Kenny, Anthony P. and Pinborg, Jan, 174-187. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  52. ———. 1992. "Questions De Réalisme. Sur Deux Arguments Anti-Ockhamistes De John Sharpe." Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale no. 97:83-110.

  53. ———. 1996. La Querelle Des Universaux. De Platon À La Fin Du Moyen Age. Paris: Éditions du Seuil.

  54. ———. 1999. L'art Des Généralités. Théories De L'abstraction. Aubier: Paris.

  55. Mackey, Louis. 1979. "Singular and Universal: A Franciscan Perspective." Franciscan Studies no. 39:130-164.

  56. Maioli, Bruno. 1973. Gli Universali. Alle Origini Del Problema. Roma: Bulzoni.

  57. ———. 1974. Gli Universali. Storia Antologica Del Problema Da Socrate Al Xii Secolo. Roma: Bulzoni.

    Chapters about: Boethius, John Scot Erigene, Roscelin of Compiègne, William of Champeaux, Adelard of Bath, Abelard, John of Salisbury.

  58. Marciszewski, Witold. 1991. "Kazimierz Ajdukiewicz and the Polish Debate on Universals." Quaderni del Centro per la Filosofia Mitteleuropea no. 3:7-16.

  59. Martin, Christopher. 1983. "The Compendium Logicae Porretanum: A Survey of Philosophical Logic from the School of Gilbert of Poitiers." Cahiers del l'Institut du Moyen-Âge Grec et Latin no. 46:1XVIII-XLVI.

  60. Matteo, Anthony M. 1985. "Scotus and Ockham: A Dialogue on Universals." Franciscan Studies no. 45:83-96.

  61. McInerny, Ralph. 1980. "Albert on Universals." In Albert the Great. Commemorative Essays, edited by Kovach, Francis J. and Shahan, Robert W., 3-18. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

  62. Moody, Ernest A. 1965. "Buridan and a Dilemma of Nominalism." In Harry Austryn Wolfson Jubilee Volume on the Occasion of His Seventy-Fifth Birthday. English Section - Vol. Ii, 577-596. Jerusalem: American Academy for Jewish Research.

    Reprinted in E. A. Moody - Studies in medieval philosophy, science, and logic. Collected papers 1933-1969 - Berkeley, University of California Press, 1975, pp. 353-370

  63. Nolan, Lawrence. 1997. "The Ontological Status of Cartesian Natures." Pacific Philosophical Quarterly no. 78:169-194.

    "In the Fifth Meditation, Descartes makes a remarkable claim about the ontological status of geometrical figures. He asserts that an object such as a triangle has a 'true and immutable nature' that does not depend on the mind, yet has being even if there are no triangles existing in the world. This statement has led many commentators to assume that Descartes is a Platonist regarding essences and in the philosophy of mathematics. One problem with this seemingly natural reading is that it contradicts the conceptualist account of universals that one finds in the Principles of Philosophy and elsewhere. In this paper, I offer a novel interpretation of the notion of a true and immutable nature which reconciles the Fifth Meditation with the conceptualism of Descartes's other work. Specifically, I argue that Descartes takes natures to be innate ideas considered in terms of their so-called 'objective being'."

  64. ———. 1998. "Descartes' Theory of Universals." Philosophical Studies.An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition no. 89:161-180.

    "I argue that Descartes holds a conceptualist account of both the ontology and the origin of universals. Universal mathematical objects, such as the number two, are merely innate ideas that are made occurrent by a process of abstraction. Although Descartes's conceptualism is fairly explicit textually, the details of his theory are not. I recover this theory by linking it to his account of attributes--an attribute being something which we distinguish from a substance within our thought where there is no distinction in real.

    This approach uncovers Descartes's diagnosis of how the realist goes wrong in positing universals outside thought."

  65. Norena, Carlos P. 1981. "Ockham and Suarez on the Ontological Status of Universal Concepts." New Scholasticism no. 55:348-362.

  66. Normore, Calvin G. 1987. "The Tradition of Mediaeval Nominalism." In Studies in Medieval Philosophy, edited by Wippel, John F., 201-217. Washington: Catholic University of America Press.

  67. Nuchelmans, Gabriel. 1973. Theories of the Proposition. Ancient and Mediaeval Conceptions of the Bearers of Truth and Falsity. Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing Company.

  68. Panaccio, Claude. 1992. "Intuition, Abstraction Et Langage Mental Dans La Théorie Occamiste De La Connaissance." Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale no. 97:61-82.

  69. ———. 1999. "Le Nominalisme Au Xiie Siècle." In Signs and Signification. Vol. I, edited by Gill, Harjeet Singh and Manetti, Giovanni, 17-33. New Delhi: Bahri Publications.

  70. Pannier, Russell, and Sullivan, Thomas D. 1994. "Aquinas's Solution to the Problem of Universals in "De Ente Et Essentia"." American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly no. 68:159-172.

  71. Piché, David. 2005. Le Problème Des Universaux À La Faculté Des Arts De Paris Entre 1230 Et 1260. Édition Critique Sélective, Traduction Française, Analyses Structurelle Et Formelle Et Étude Historico-Philosophique. Paris: Vrin.

  72. Pinborg, Jan. 1972. Logik Und Semantik Im Mittelalter. Ein Ueberblick. Stuttgart: Frommann-Holzboog.

  73. Resnick, Irven M. 1997. "Odo of Tournai, the Phoenix, and the Problem of Universals." Journal of the History of Philosophy no. 35:355-374.

  74. Rijk, Lambertus Marie de. 1992. "John Buridan on Universals." Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale no. 97:35-60.

  75. Rubenstein, Eric M. 2002. "Nominalism and the Disappearance of the Problem of Individuation." Logical Analysis and History of Philosophy no. 5:193-204.

    "While the medievals spilled much ink over the 'problem of individuation', the moderns scarcely mention it. My aim here is to explore what philosophical reasons, as opposed to historical or sociological ones, might lie behind the disappearance of a philosophical problem that vexed minds for centuries. I argue that Ockham clearly saw that a commitment to nominalism removes the need to take seriously the problem of individuation. Suarez, who did take seriously the problem, but who also advocated nominalism, will be shown to be subject to important Ockham-inspired arguments. To the extent, then, that Ockham's nominalism carried the day into the moderns, it is understandable, philosophically, that the moderns should turn a deaf ear to the problem of individuation."

  76. Sacksteder, William. 1986. "Some Words Aristotle Never Uses: Attributes, Essences, and Universals." New Scholasticism no. 60:427-453.

  77. Scaltsas, Theodore. 1994. Substances and Universals in Aristotle's Metaphysics. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

  78. Schoedinger, Andrew B., ed. 1992. The Problem of Universals. Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press.

  79. Sedley, David. 1985. "The Stoic Theory of Universals." Southern Journal of Philosophy no. 23:87-92.

    Supplementary volume.

  80. Sharma, Ravi K. 1997. "A New Defense of Tropes? On "Categories" 3b10-18." Ancient Philosophy no. 17:309-315.

    "Daniel Devereux has argued that "Categories" 3b10-18 provides evidence for the view that Aristotle's first-order accidents are tropes. However, the passage should be interpreted differently than as Devereux proposes and the proper interpretation is neutral as between a tropes-view and a universals-view."

  81. Sharples, Robert. 2005. "Alexander of Aphrodisias on Universals: Two Problematic Texts." Phronesis.A Journal for Ancient Philosophy no. 50:43-55.

    "Two texts that raise problems for Alexander of Aphrodisias' theory of universals are examined. De anima 90.2-8 appears to suggest that universals are dependent on thought for their existence; this raises questions about the status both of universals and of forms. It is suggested that the passage is best interpreted as indicating that universals are dependent on thought only for their being recognised as universals. The last sentence of Quaestio 1.11 seems to assert that if the universal did not exist no individual would exist, thereby contradicting Alexander's position elsewhere. This seems to be a slip resulting from the fact that species with only one member are the exception rather than the rule."

  82. Sorabji, Richard. 2006. "Universals Transformed: The First Thousand Years after Plato." In Universals, Concepts and Qualities. New Essays on the Meaning of Predicates, edited by Strawson, Peter Frederick and Chakrabarti, Arindam, 105-126. Aldershot: Ashgate.

  83. South, James B. 2002. "Singular and Universal in Suárez's Account of Cognition." Review of Metaphysics no. 55:785-823.

    "In this essay, I argue that the typical way of thinking about the problem of universals and the cognition of them (realism vs. nominalism, abstraction) is inapplicable to the account Suárez gives in his Commentary on the De anima. I show how he justifies objective universal concepts while rejecting the notion of a common nature, as well as the typical nominalist appeal to intuitive cognition. His proposal, I conclude, provides an interesting contrast to the traditional nominalist account of cognition, while retaining the emphasis on the primacy of the singular in intellectual cognition."

  84. Spade, Paul Vincent, ed. 1994. Five Texts on the Mediaeval Problem of Universals: Porphyry, Boethius, Abelard, Duns Scotus, Ockham. Indianapolis: Hackett.

    Contents: Introduction VII; Note on the text XVI; Porphyry the Phoenician: Isagoge 1; Boethius: From his Second Commentary on Porphyry's Isagoge 20; Peter Abelard: From the " Glosses on Porphyry" in His Logica 'ingredientibus' 26; John Duns Scotus: Six questions on individuation from his Ordinatio II. d. 3, part 1, qq. 1-6 57; William of Ockham: Five questions on universals from his Ordinatio d. 2, qq. 4-8 114; Glossary 232; Bibliography 235-238.

    "It is well known that the problem of universals was widely discussed in mediaeval philosophy --indeed, some would say it was discussed then with a level of insight and rigor it has never enjoyed since. The five texts translated in this volume include the most influential and some of the most sophisticated treatments of the problem in the whole Middle Ages.

    The first text is Porphyry's Isagoge, translated here in its entirety. Porphyry was a third-century Greek neo-Platonist, a pupil and the biographer of Plotinus, and the one who arranged Plotinus's writings into six groups of nine essays (the " Enneads").


    Despite its importance in this respect, perhaps the main influence of the Isagoge lies not in what it says, about the predicables or anything else, but in what it does not say. For in his introductory remarks, Porphyry raises but then modestly refuses to answer three questions about the metaphysical status of universals, saying only that they belong to "another, greater investigation". [ Isagoge, 2] It is this brief passage that raised the problem of universals in the form in which it was first discussed in the Middle Ages. It contains some of the most consequential lines in the entire history of philosophy.

    Porphyry's silence means that there really is no detailed theory of universals in the Isagoge -- or for that matter in his other writings. Taken by himself, therefore, Porphyry would not have been a very important figure in the history of our problem. But he cannot be taken by himself. His importance lies in the fact that his Isagoge was translated into Latin in the early Middle Ages and used as the occasion for discussing the problem of universals directly and in detail. It was as though commentators found his silence intolerable and were irresistibly drawn into the very questions Porphyry himself had declined to discuss.

    The most important of these early mediaeval discussions is undoubtedly Boethius's.


    In addition to works of Aristotle, Boethius also translated Porphyry's Isagoge and wrote two commentaries on it. (His first commentary was based on an earlier translation by Marius Victorinus, who is known to readers of Augustine's Confessions VIII. 2 & 4.) Although Boethius addressed the problem of universals in several places, the discussion in his Second Commentary on Porphyry was the longest and probably the most inIluential. The relevant portion of that commentary is translated below.


    Abelard wrote on the problem of universals in several places. The most well known of them is in the " Glosses on Porphyry" in his Logica 'ingredientibus'. Once again the relevant passage is a discussion of Porphyry's three unanswered questions.


    By the time of the last two authors represented below, John Duns Scotus (c. 1265-1308) and William of Ockham (c. 1285-1347), philosophy had become a specialized and highly technical academic discipline, carried on almost exclusively in a university context. These last two texts are here translated into English for the first time, and are by far the longest and most intricate in this volume. " pp. VII-XI.

  85. ———. 2005. "The Problem of Universals and Wyclif's Alleged "Ultrarealism"." Vivarium no. 43:111-123.

    "John Wyclif has been described as "ultrarealist" in his theory of universals. This paper attempts a preliminary assessment of that judgment and argues that, pending further study, we have no reason to accept it. It is certainly true that Wyclif is extremely vocal and insistent about his realism, but it is not obvious that the actual content of his view is especially extreme. The paper distinguishes two common medieval notions of a universal, the Aristotelian/Porphyrian one in terms of predication and the Boethian one in terms of being metaphysically common to many. On neither approach does Wyclif 's theory of universals postulate new and non-standard entities besides those recognized by more usual versions of realism. Again pending further study, neither do Wyclif 's views appear to assign philosophically extreme or novel roles to the entities he does recognize as universal. On the contrary, by at least one measure, his theory of universals is less extreme than Walter Burley's, as Wyclif himself observes. For Wyclif, the universal is numerically identical with its singulars, but numerical identity is governed by something weaker than the Indiscernibility of identicals."

  86. Spruyt, Joke. 1996. "Gerardus Odonis on the Universal." Archives d'Histoire Doctrinale et Littéraire du Moyen Âge no. 63:171-208.

  87. Thompson, Augustine. 1995. "The Debate on Universals before Peter Abelard." Journal of the History of Philosophy no. 33:409-429.

  88. Trentman, John. 1968. "Predication and Universals in Vincent Ferrer's Logic." Franciscan Studies no. 28:47-62.

  89. Tweedale, Martin. 1976. Abailard on Universals. Amsterdam: North-Holland.

    "This work shows how Abailard elaborated and defended the view that universals are words, avoided the pitfalls of an image theory of thinking, and propounded a theory of "status" and "dicta" as objects of thought without treating them as subjects of predication. His defense of these views is shown to depend on certain fundamental departures from the Aristotelian term logic of his day, including a proposal for subjectless propositions, the treatment of copula plus predicate noun as equivalent to a simple verb, and a transformation of the 'is' of existence into the 'is' of predication."

  90. ———. 1984. "Alexander of Aphrodisias Views on Universals." Phronesis.A Journal for Ancient Philosophy no. 29:279-303.

  91. ———. 1987. "Aristotle's Universals." Australasian Journal of Philosophy no. 65 (4):412-426.

    "This paper is devoted in the main to arguing for certain negative theses of the general form: Aristotle did not himself hold such and such a view of universals; but in the course of the discussion some points about Aristotle's own positive conception of universals, to the limited extent that he had one, will emerge. In fact, Aristotle's negative remarks about universals, e.g. that they are not substances, not separate, not in addition to the particulars, etc., are much clearer and less tentative than any of his positive ones, and it is little wonder that interpreters through the ages have attributed to him radically different and opposed positive theories. The words they found in their authority could not easily be used to decide the issue between their competing interpretations.

    In order to clarify the aim of this essay I want first of all to distinguish with regard to any topic Aristotle treats the question of what view he himself held, if any, from the question of what view he should have held given the basic tenets and thrust of his whole philosophy. The views which are definitely not, as I shall claim, ones Aristotle himself held, i.e. not defensible answers to the first question, may well be tenable answers to the second. Indeed, I am rather inclined to think there are several mutually incompatible theories that will answer as well as any the question of what view Aristotle should have taken of universals. On that whole matter I shall have nothing more to say in this place.

    The two interpretations I shall discuss see Aristotle as a nominalist and a conceptualist respectively. By `nominalism' I mean any theory which says that what is universal is universal only in so far as it is a certain sort of sign. In other words, being a sign is necessary to being a universal, although the converse is not true. Just what the things are which serve as universal signs is left entirely open on this definition of nominalism. Signs may be spoken sounds, written marks, mental images, mental states or any thing you please. Also the definition is non-committal on just what sort of a sign it is that is universal; theories about this will vary with the semantic theory the nominalist adopts. There is perhaps a place for a narrower sense of `nominalism' in which the nominalist must maintain that universals are all certain expressions of a written or spoken language. In this narrower sense Ockham, for example was not a nominalist since the signs he thought of as universal were primarily those of a mental language, although he was certainly a nominalist in the broader sense I first proposed.

    By `conceptualism' I mean the view that nothing could be a universal unless there were in existence thought and cognition of an intellectual sort. In this broad sense all nominalists are conceptualists, since presumably there could not be signs unless there were thought. But there is a narrower sense of `conceptualism' too, in which the conceptualist must maintain that universality applies only to mind-dependent entities, e.g. concepts, mental images, etc. (Even words when they are conceived as not identifiable with their physical manifestations are things that cannot exist unless there are minds and so are mind-dependent in my sense.)

    The difference between the broad and narrow senses has this noteworthy consequence: someone can be a conceptualist in the broad sense and believe that what is universal is some entity independently existing outside the mind as long as they also accept that it is a universal only when it is thought of or conceived in some way. But such a person is not a conceptualist in the narrow sense. Also nominalists need not be conceptualists in the narrow sense since they can hold that the things which are signs are mind-independent objects with a wholly physical existence, for example sounds or marks.

    My task will be to convince the reader that Aristotle was neither a nominalist nor a conceptualist in any of these senses. I shall begin with the nominalist proposal, but to some extent my refutation of it will be incomplete until I have finished with conceptualism. From the fact that Aristotle was not a conceptualist in the broad sense it will follow that he was not a nominalist, so the evidence against broad conceptualism argues against nominalism as well." pp. 412-413.

  92. ———. 1993. "Duns Scotus' Doctrine on Universals and the Aphrodisian Tradition." American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly no. 67:77-93.

  93. ———. 1999. Scotus Vs. Ockham - a Medieval Dispute over Universals. Vol. I: Texts. Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press.

    Texts translated into English with commentary.

  94. ———. 1999. Scotus Vs. Ockham - a Medieval Dispute over Universals. Vol. Ii: Commentary. Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press.

  95. Vanni Rovighi, Sofia. 1978. Studi Di Filosofia Medievale. Milano: Vita e Pensiero.

    I. Da sant'Agostino al XII secolo; II. Secoli XIII e XIV.

  96. Vignaux, Paul. 1930. "Nominalisme." In Dictionnaire De Théologie Catholique: Contenant L'exposé Des Doctrines De Théologie Catholique, Leurs Preuves Et Leur Histoire. Vol. 11, edited by Vacant, Alfred and Mangenot, Alfred-Eugène, 717-784. Paris: Librairie Letouzey et Ané.

  97. ———. 1977. "La Problématique Du Nominalisme Médiéval Peut-Elle Éclairer Des Problèmes Philosophiques Actuels?" Revue Philosophique de Louvain no. 75:293-331.

  98. Wagner, Michael F. 1981. "Supposition Theory and the Problem of Universals." Franciscan Studies no. 41:385-414.

  99. Woods, Michael. 1991. "Universals and Particulars Forms in Aristotle's Metaphysics." Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy no. Supplementary volume:41-56.

  100. Zonta, Mauro. 2000. "Una Disputa Sugli Universali Nella Logica Ebraica Del Trecento. Shemuel Di Marsiglia Contro Gersonide Nel "Supercommentario" All' "Isagoge" Di Yehudah Ben Yishaq Cohen." Documenti e Studi sulla Tradizione Filosofica Medievale no. 11:409-458.


On the website "Theory and History of Ontology" (

Universals in Antiquity and Middle Ages

The Problem of Universals: the Contemporary Debate


On the website "History of Logic" (

Medieval Latin Logic from Boethius to 1400 ca.

Annotated bibliography of L. M. de Rijk