Universal, Particular, and Individual

  • S. Alexander


Existence is identity of place and time, or numerical identity, and distinct from other such identities. Universality is identity of kind. It is the existence or subsistence of a universal or concept which unites its particulars, which they imitate or in which they participate, or however else we may provisionally and traditionally describe the relation between the universal and its particulars—the transaction in which they are engaged. An individual is a particular as determined by its universal. Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a particular or a universal. All things are individuals. But every individual possesses particularity which separates it from others of the same kind, or under the same universal; and it possesses universality which converts its bare particularity into individuality. Universality is thus a categorial character of all things. Such a thing need not be a thing with continued existence in time. It may be a sensory object, a flash of colour, or of sweetness, which is momentary and yet as being of a certain kind, red or sweet, is individual.


Constant Curvature Empirical Condition Numerical Identity Bare Repetition Mental Disposition 
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  1. 1.
    This phrase, as I have had occasion to remark before, is inaccurate (see D. M. Y. Sommerville, The Elements of Non-Euclidean Geometry, London, 1914, ch. vi.). It is of course not used here with the assumption which the author imputes to many philosophers that three-dimensional geometry implies Space of four dimensions. That has been seen (Bk. L ch. v.) in the first place not to be Space at all, in the next place to owe what reality it possesses to the work of thought. But the phrase is a convenient one. For the most part, however, I shall speak of the uniformity of Space. This is to be distinguished carefully from the supposed homogeneity or indifference of Space, which is declared to be characteristic of ‘conceptual’ in contrast with ‘perceptual’ Space. See before, Bk. I. ch. v. p. 152, and below, p. 216 n.Google Scholar
  2. 1.
    Cp. T. P. Nunn, The Teaching of Algebra, London, 1914, p. 542.Google Scholar
  3. 1.
    Mr. Bosanquet’s Distinction of Mind from its Objects, p. 36, Manchester, 1913.Google Scholar

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© Macmillan & Co. Ltd. and Dover Publications, Inc. 1966

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  • S. Alexander

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