The Status of Status: Boethian Realism in Abelard

Carmina Philosophiae 18:127-135 (2009)
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Peter Abelard's claim that universals are only words is well known, yet its metaphysical bearing for Abelard's philosophy is much disputed. Peter King has recently suggested that Abelard's nominalism is only an element of his larger irrealist metaphysic. Against this interpretation, I argue that Abelard's view is better understood as a form of moderate realism and a development of the solution attempted by Boethius in his Second Commentary on Porphyry's Isagoge. Both Abelard and Boethius clearly deny the independent existence of universals, yet they should not be called irrealists, since they agree that universal words or concepts have a firm basis in real, individual things.

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Joel M. Potter
University of Alaska, Anchorage


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