- (Lat., belonging to a name) The view that things denominated by the same term share nothing except that fact: what all chairs have in common is that they are called ‘chairs’. The doctrine is usually associated with the thought that everything that exists is a particular individual, and therefore there are no such things as universals . Our common classifications are merely the flatus vocis or breath of the voice. Nominalism was suggested by Boethius, and is one of the most important elements in the philosophy of Ockham . It is not, however, easy to state the doctrine in a stable way, since if chairs can share the feature of being called ‘chairs’, then they ought to be able to share other features as well; the issue ought to be not how many cases of shared features there are, but what it is to share a feature, and whether language plays some fundamental role in creating the phenomenon. Nominalism is an extreme version of the permanently attractive idea that the common features of things are some kind of creation of human responses and ideas. See also conceptualism.
Philosophy dictionary. Academic. 2011.