The particular-universal distinction: a dogma of metaphysics?

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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 (inevitably) piecemeal investigation of this issue three interrelated conceptions of the particular?universal distinction are examined: (i) universals, by contrast to particulars, are unigrade; (ii) particulars are related to universals by an asymmetric tie of exemplification; (iii) 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)565-614
Number of pages50
Issue number455
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2005


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