Stout on the nature of universals and propositions

Stout on the nature of universals and propositions - Stout...

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10/29/2007 08:48 AM Stout on the nature of universals and propositions Page 1 of 33 This essay first appeared in Proceedings of the British Academy , Vol. X (1921-1922). The Nature of Universals and Propositions By G. F. Stout There are various types or forms of unity which may all be regarded as partial phrases of the unity of the universe. There is unity of the complex of qualities qualifying the same thing or concrete individual. There is the unity of space of time or space-time. There is the teleological unity, exemplified in a living organism. And there are others which I need not enumerate. It is only with one of these that I am here directly concerned - the unity of a class or kind as including its members or instances. What I am going to mean by the term "universal" is either this unity itself, if it is taken as ultimate, or if it is not taken as ultimate, whatever principle is supposed to account for it. I mean what Mr. Bosanquet names the abstract universal in distinction from other forms of unity which he names concrete universals. The so-called abstract universal is, no doubt, when considered by itself, relatively superficial and shallow. None the less, it is actually important inasmuch as it is presupposed in all other forms of unity, so that without
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10/29/2007 08:48 AM Stout on the nature of universals and propositions Page 2 of 33 it there can be no thought. Hence the view taken of it by a philosopher essentially contributes to determine his whole philosophical position. I hold myself that the unity of a class or kind is quite ultimate, and that any attempt to analyse it leads to a vicious circle. But this is not the traditional view, and it is not the view taken by leading philosophers of the present day such as Mr. Bradley, Mr. Bosanquet, Mr. Bertrand Russell, Mr. M'Taggart, and Mr. W. E. Johnson in his recent admirable work on logic. According to these writers, qualities and relations, as such, are universals. They are inasmuch as the same relation may severally and separately relate distinct sets of terms, and the same qualities may be common to many distinct particular things. A plurality of particular things, sharing a common character, is a logical class, signified by a general term. The diverse particulars are the denotation, and the common character is the connotation of the general or distributive term applicable to each member of the class. Thus, the unity of a class or kind is regarded as derivative, not ultimate. It is constituted by the identity of some character, simple or complex, characterising the thing denoted by the general name. The identity of the character is interpreted strictly and literally.
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