• Daniel Smith
    One of the continuing debates in philosophy is the existence of universals- Are they real or imaginary? Do universal natures exist in an invisible realm of ideas, or are they merely names, or conceptions that we humans come up with to categorize particular substances with common features?

    After observing nature for some time, reading the medieval theologians and philosophers and trying to take into account radically distinct categories, I would like to propose a synthesis of BOTH Realism and Nominalism.

    How can this be? Well, here is what I posit-

    There are two basic categories in reality that are self-evident : to whit, the natural and the artificial.

    Regarding Nature, the first category of reality:

    Within nature itself we witness a single and common process- reproduction/ derivation either through multiplication/cleavage.

    We observe pine trees replicating themselves, we observe squirrels replicating themselves as well as humans via reproduciton.

    We also observe individual minerals derived in part from larger entire mineral substances.

    Therefore, in nature, the common and universal natures of things will simply be that which is communicated in the act of derivation, whether by reproduction or cleaving, and will be inherent in each particular of each nature.

    The consequences of this view are somewhat radical, but not implausible- those things which cannot replicate amongst themselves do not have the same natures. The dividing line between real universal natures is the ability for particulars to replicate themselves in one another, or to be divided from one another.

    Therefore, pine trees and oak trees are fundamentally and essentially different from one another and do not have a real common nature. Just the same as sharks and dolphins, or weasels and mongooses.

    Similarly, this rock and that rock will have the same real universal nature if both are derived from the same larger mineral. Again, this means minerals will also be radically distinct from one another. Quartz will be its own universal nature, as will be copper. They can both be CALLED minerals, but this is a category more general than nature itself, meaning the Universal "Mineral" is a purely nominal reality.

    So, in considering self-replicating substances in nature, the most accurate view of each particular universal common nature is a form of moderate realism.

    HOWEVER, when categorizing different substances under more general headings, these categorizations are merely nominal.

    For example, there is a common and universal nature of pine tree, for it is what is replicated in the multiplication of pine trees. The same for oak trees. But if we were to categorize both under the general heading of "Tree" this would not be a real universal nature, but a mere label.

    Therefore in categories that are MORE GENERAL than those found in nature (That is, more general than those self-replicating particular substances), we must be nominalists. For who could seriously hold to a real universal nature more general than naturally occurring categories delineated by reproduction? Where would the reality of such a universal nature exist extra-mentally? Here all the arguments of the nominalists would apply.

    Regarding the second category of reality, artificial objects:

    In addition, when considering artificial objects, we must be both moderate realists and nominalists.

    For example, some computer screens contain silica. When the constitutive parts of the screen are considered as an amalgam of natural resources, the screen is composed of multiple layers of universal natures. But when considered as a discrete unit, each computer screen is a totally unique individual substance, and any perceived commonality or universal nature is a purely nominal/conceptual reality.

    Consider also, this robot and that robot may both meet the specifications of what it means to be a Robot, but these specifications are artificial and merely mental realities, they do not exist objectively in the natural world, and therefore to speak of a "Robot Nature" is to speak of a purely mental concept.

    This is my theory of a reconciliation of Moderate Realism and Nominalism-

    For those things occurring in nature only and capable of reproduction/derivation let them be understood to posses real universal natures. Any natural categories more general than those occurring in natural propagation are merely nominal realities.

    All artificial objects, if they are grouped under common headings are also to be considered to posses merely nominal/conceptual universal realities.

    Forgive the crudity of expression, trying to find the best means of expressing this idea. Thoughts?
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