Particular and General

Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 215)


There are three fundamentally different ways of conceiving of reality. They all presuppose the world is composed of particular elements. As it would be too complex to be known as such, its variety must be regimented. In order to achieve this, Plato invented his Pure Forms: though everything that we perceive is particular, it corresponds to an ideal model. The ideas form a world apart, which is exemplar and more real than the shifting world of ordinary perception. The Aristotelean conception of reality is that all concrete independent elements of reality are particular and general at the same time. They are particular in their accidental properties, general in their essential properties; in other words there are properties different individuals have in common. Thereby the general is present in the particular and thus it is real to a certain degree, though it has no independent existence. The third conception represented by Ockham is that in as far as we can know reality, the transcendent being exclusively a matter of belief, it is composed of particular elements. We must order these elements using general concepts, but these are only products of the mind, expedients that have no independent reality whatsoever.


Facial Expression General Term Relative Clause Singular Term Colour Word 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Belgium

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