ABSTRACT

Few discussions in philosophy have shown such longevity as the argument concerning the status of what are called “universals”, which began with Plato, and is still in full swing at the present day. There has been, from time to time, a change in the way of formulating the problem and in the kind of analysis used in discussing it, but the essential core of the problem has changed little since Aristotle. For my part – although I may be accused of foolish optimism – I think it is almost ripe for definitive solution. Some things are already clear. The solution must be technical, and dependent upon considerations derived from modern logic; and it will have no bearing whatever upon the large problems of religious philosophy with which, ever since Plato, the discussion has been connected. Plato thought that his “ideas” afforded a proof of immortality; Leibniz deduced the existence of God from the “eternal truths”; Hume thought it essential to his empiricism to deny “abstract ideas”. In these respects these men seem to me to have been mistaken. The acceptance or rejection of universals has, in my opinion, no bearing on religious belief or on the truth or falsehood of the empiricist philosophy. If the subject is to be discussed scientifically, these wider issues must be ignored during the discussion.