Avoiding Ad Hoc Ontology
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The so-called problem of universals (or the problem of ‘One over Many’, depending on one’s labelling preference) might be generally characterized as the problem of accounting for naturally occurring similarities among distinct things. By ‘naturally occurring similarities’, I mean to indicate the apparent fact that there are objective ways that things are grouped together in nature: these things are of such-and-such kind, while those are of such-and-such (other) kind. 1 The most basic debate over this problem, then, might be characterized as a debate between (a) those who hold that there is some entity (typically called a universal ) that is ‘common’ to naturally similar things in virtue of which they are similar (call such theorists realists about universals , or just realists for short), and (b) those who deny this (call them nominalists ). 2 This characterization might need to be qualifi ed in various ways, 3 but it is suffi cient as it stands to allow me to introduce the topic of this essay.