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J.P. Moreland (McGill-Queens University Press: Sep. 2001), 184 pages.

Things are particulars and their qualities are universals, but do universals have an existence distinct from the particular things? And what must be their nature if they do? This book provides a careful and assured survey of the central issues of debate surrounding universals, in particular those issues that have been a crucial part of the emergence of contemporary analytic ontology. The book begins with a taxonomy of extreme nominalist, moderate nominalist, and realist positions on properties, and outlines the way each handles the phenomena of predication, resemblance, and abstract reference. The debate about properties and philosophical naturalism is also examined. Different forms of extreme nominalism, moderate nominalism, and minimalist realism are critiqued. Later chapters defend a traditional realist view of universals and examine the objections to realism from various infinite regresses, the difficulties in stating identity conditions for properties, and problems with realist accounts of knowledge of abstract objects. In addition the debate between Platonists and Aristotelians is examined alongside a discussion of the relationship between properties and an adequate theory of existence. The book’s final chapter explores the problem of individuating particulars. The book makes accessible for students a difficult topic without blunting the sophistication of argument required by a more advanced readership. Universals provides an authoritative treatment of the subject for both student and scholar alike.

From Chapter One

Along with the metaphysics of substance, the problem of universals is the paradigm case of a perennial issue in the history of philosophy. The problem of universals is actually a set of related issues involving the ontological status of properties. Prima facie, it would seem that properties exist. Indeed, one of the most obvious facts about the world is that it consists of individual things that have properties and that stand in relations to other things. It would also seem that several
objects can have the same property; for example, several things can possess the same shade of red. But both the existence and nature of properties have long been a matter of dispute and the problem of
universals is the name for the issues central to this debate.

Table of Contents

    • Preface and acknowledgements
    • 1    The problem(s) of universals    1
    • 2    Extreme nominalism and properties    23
    • 3    Moderate nominalism and properties    50
    • 4    Minimalist realism: Wolterstorff’s kinds and Armstrong’s properties    74
    • 5    Traditional realism: properties are abstract objects    97
    • 6    Traditional realism: issues and objections    114
    • 7    The individuation of particulars    140
    • Notes    158
    • Bibliography    170
    • Index    181