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The Problem of Universals in Early Modern Philosophy$
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Stefano Di Bella and Tad M. Schmaltz

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190608040

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190608040.001.0001

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Hobbes, Universal Names, and Nominalism

Hobbes, Universal Names, and Nominalism

(p.41) 3 Hobbes, Universal Names, and Nominalism
The Problem of Universals in Early Modern Philosophy

Stewart Duncan

Oxford University Press

This chapter addresses the nominalism of Thomas Hobbes. It begins by examining the ways in which Hobbes presented and argued for nominalist views in a series of works, including The Elements of Law (1641), Leviathan (1651), and De Corpore (1655). It then considers two prominent criticisms of Hobbes’s views. The first is a criticism from the seventeenth century, associated with the claim that Hobbes was an ultranominalist. This criticism, made by Descartes, More, and Leibniz, was that Hobbes’s view made it impossible for people speaking different languages to talk about the same thing. The second criticism, which has been prominent more recently, is that Hobbes fails to be a consistent nominalist, because his explanations appeal to similarity, and this appeal itself involves a universal.

Keywords:   Descartes, Hobbes, Leibniz, More, nominalism, ultranominalism, universals

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