John Wyclif, Scriptural Logic, and the Parameters of Orthodoxy

Levy, Ian Christopher.  John Wyclif: Scriptural Logic, Real Presence, and the Parameters of Orthodoxy. Marquette University Press, 2003.

John Wyclif is best known for his Bible translation, but what is often overlooked is the strong metaphysical realism that undergirds his view of the Bible and will determine what conclusions he draws about the Eucharist.

Medieval Philosophical Background

In his response to the Neo-Pelagians Wyclif places himself in the conservative wing of the medieval church.  Most important is the distinction between potentia Dei absoluta and potentia Dei ordinata.  While it was never intended to speculate on what outrageous things God could or couldn’t do, it led in that direction.

The Metaphysics of John Wyclif

Wyclif was a strong realist.

Grosseteste: all knowledge found in the divine intellect (Levy 49-50).

Wyclif’s three-fold scheme:

1. Universal of causation (God). universale ante rem

2. Universal of communication (human nature; angelic, etc). They are communicated to a number of subjects. Universale in re

3. Universal of representation.  They represent real universals. Universale post rem.

Wyclif’s Theological Realism

God knows his creation primarily through universals and secondarily through individuals. God knows the creature’s essence even when it doesn’t yet have existence. We distinguish between the creature’s essence and the means by which it subsists through the divine exemplar (55).

Christ the Word is the principal of all creation.

Predication: all words of predication are grounded in the Word (57).  “All things are created in their effects from an eternal intellectual knowledge.”  To lose universals is to get lost in theories of signs (per Occam).  Levy doesn’t mention it, but that is the entire project of Derrida.

There is an immediate payoff in his eucharistic theology. No particle of the universe can be annihilated.  This means that the essence of bread can’t be destroyed as the Mass would require.

Medieval Eucharistic Theology

Ratramnus: relationship between truth and figure. Christ’s resurrected body is impassible and can’t be crunched on and decayed as in the Mass.

Berengar vs Lanfrac

The Confession of 1059.  Even though Berengar lost the debate, his “Confession” created more problems.  If the elements do not remain, then there is no subject to which the predicate (corpus meum) applies (139).

The elements undergo a conversion in dignity but not in substance.


The conversion is one of transition, not union.  A substance isn’t being added to another substance.

Thomas Aquinas

The Early Wyclif

Wyclif accepted transubstantial language early in his career. At the heart of his concern, though, was the intention of the Divine Author (217).  Doubts plagued him, though.  If the elements “disappear” or are annihilated, would this not call the integrity of God’s creation into question?

The annihilation of a substance requires the annihilation of its eternal form.  This part is tricky.  He isn’t saying that when a thing is temporally destroyed (a person’s dying; food eaten, etc) that its eternal form is also threatened.  What realist metaphysics demands is that the eternal Idea causes the form’s exemplar.  The eternal idea of x is found in the mind of God.  There is a correlation between its existence and the existence of the Idea.  Wyclif is saying that if the ectype of the bread ceases to exist, then the eternal idea of the bread no longer exists.  This needs some work.

Think of it this way.  Imagine that there is a string between the eternal exemplar in God’s mind (x) and its instantiation in the world (y).  Imagine that both are “attached” to their respective places (e.g., God’s mind and the world).  Wyclif’s argument seems to be that if you rip out y and throw it away, you rip out x as well, leaving holes in God’s mind.

Perhaps.  The argument is open to several rebuttals, namely that there might be an exemplar without its instantiation.

Wyclif’s Negative Argument

In the phrase “Hoc est corpus meum,” Wyclif argues that “Hoc” refers to a figural presence (though he does allow for some sort of bodily presence later on).  “If the pronoun demonstrates what is already Christ’s body, then nothing new is constituted; and if the pronoun connotes the body of Christ as that which is under the accidents without functioning as their subject, then that is just contrary to Scripture” (246).

Wyclif’s other main argument is that accidents can’t subsist without a subject.  If this holds, then it strikes at the heart of transubstantiation.


Levy does a fine job surveying the Latin sources.  Each page is about ⅔ English with ⅓ Latin text at the bottom.


JP Moreland (Universals)

  1. Attribute-Agreement
    1. Thesis: In what manner do two entities possess the same attribute?  If Socrates is white and Plato is white, how are they both “white?” (see 1.3.1).  Moreland writes, “Qualities are universals and not particulars and quality instances–like red are complex entities with at least three constituents in them–a universal, an individuator, and a tie of predication” (Moreland 192).
      1. Nominalism:  acknowledges the existence of qualities but denies they are universals.  Will use terms like trope, abstract particulars, perfect particulars, property-instances, etc.  
      2. realism: when an attribute-agreement obtains, it does so by universals.
    2. Nature of universals
      1. Kinds are universals to which instances belong.  They are similar to sets in that examples of a kind are members of a kind.
      2. intension: distributive unity (something each member of the universal has)
      3. extension:
    3. The relationship between redness and the abstract particular red:
      1. Realism: both the universality and particularity of an abstract entity must be given an ontological ground (Moreland 12; see 1.1)
      2. Nominalism: the relation between red and redness is the ∊ of set membership.
    4. An assay of the abstract particular
      1. trope: a simple entity that has no other constituent outside the infimae species that grounds its exact similarities with other tropes in the same set.
        1. it grounds exact similarity with other tropes.
        2. individuates them.
  2. Tropes
    1. Individuation of concrete particulars
      1. Identity of indiscernibles
        (Ф) (Фa    Фb ) (a=b)
        Ф ranges over pure properties, not impure ones
    2. A problem for the realist: how can Socrates’ redness and Plato’s redness be the same if they are in different locations, or if one is round and the other square.  The tropist assumes that phrases referring to the qualities-of-things must refer to the 
      1. Realist response:  we can hold that the “f-of-a” is a state of affairs.  This is the having of a quality by a particular.  It is a particular and a universal standing in a relation of exemplification.
      2. The universal is different from the having the universal.  
  3. Tropes and Individuation
    1. How do you account for grounding numerical differences between two entities that share all their pure properties in common?  What is it that grounds the “thisness” of Socrates and the “thatness” of Plato? If red₁ and red₂ are two exactly similar tropes, then how are they not the same thing?
    2. Suarez and Distinciton of Reason
      1. real distinction: two entities, A and B, are not the same thing and can be separated.
      2. distinction of reason (distictiones rationes): purely mental distinction.  God’s being and is simple, so we make a mental distinction between his mercy and justice.
      3. If A and B are distinguished by a distinguished by a distinction of reason, then A is identical to B.  
      4. modal distinction: obtains between quantity and inherence of quantity in a substance.  There is a distinction between six inches and the inherence of six inches in a pen.
    3. Hume’s distinction of reason
      1. shape and color of an impression are actually identical and are distinguished by a distinction of reason.
    4. Summary: trope view cannot account for individuation because its criterion of existence is independent existence. It makes the trope’s nature identical to a place. We have nothing then but bare particulars.
  4. The trope view and abstract reference
    Thesis: most people grant that certain sentences are true that appear to refer to universals (85).  “Red is a color.” This sentence accurately describes a state of affairs that obtains in this world. 

    1. a trope nominalist would say “the set composed of red” matches the set composed of color at instance a. 
      1. However, membership in a set of tropes is arbitrary (see previous chapter).
      2. Universal qualities are not sets.  Sets do not resemble the way colors resemble.
  5. The trope view and exact similarity
    argument:  trope nominalists use the argument of “exact similarity” to avoid the realist construction.  By contrast, the realist argues that cases of exact similarity (ES) are grounded in universals (110).

    1. Trope account of ES
      1. Two red balls (A and B) resemble each other because they have red₁ and red₂ constituents.
      2. The copula “is” in question is neither of predication or identity, but set membership.
      3. Rejoinder:  why red and not green?  Red tropes resemble each other in a different way than green tropes?  Why?
    2. If two tropes, Red and Sweet, are in the same location, how are they not identical on the Trope Nominalist view.
    3. Three Infinite Regress arguments
      1. The trope nominalist will try to avoid the universal red by introducing the universal “exact similarity.”  It is a relational universal that holds between all pairs of red tropes.
        1. potential infinite: something that can increase indefinitely but is always at every point finite in number.
        2. actual infinite: unattained, indefinite goal of a potential infinite.
          symbolized . It is a set such that each of its members can be put in a one to one correspondence with one of its parts.  
      2. If one accepts the existence of an actual infinite, certain paradoxes arise:
        1. “Imagine a library with an infinite number of books. Each book has a different natural number.  Further, there are an infinite number of red books and an infinite number of black books such that each even number is on a red book and each odd number is on a black book. 
          Problem: there could be no red or black book added to the library because there would be no natural number for its cover.  Further, if one took away all the red books, one would diminish the library by an actual number of infinite books. Yet one would still have the same number of books in the library.
      3. Medieval regresses
        1. per se regress: a causal regress like a’s being moved by b, and b’s being moved by c, and so on, cannot go on to infinity. The second cause depends on the first cause, the third on the second, and so on, precisely in its act of causation
          A causal series is per se iff it is of this form: w’s being F causes x to be G, x’s being G causes y to be H, and so on. 
          The relations between the members of a per se regress are transitive.  If x moves y, and y moves z, then x moves z.
        2. per accidens:  if x begets y, and y begets z, then x does not necessarily beget z.
  6. Realism and Quality Instances
    1. Wolterstorff: universals as kinds
      1. universals are kinds or types with examples or tokens as their instances.
      2. cases as simples: 
      3. Socrates is an exemplification of wisdom and the case “Socrates’ wisdom is an instance of wisdom.
  7. Seven Theses
    1. Universals are multiply exemplifiable entities.  They are ones-in-many (194). They are numerically identical constituents in non-identical entities.  Universals exist and the qualities of objects are universals.
  8. Concluding notes:
    1. Nominalists hold to a bundle-theory (Hume?).
  9. Terminology
    1. entity: any existent whatsoever (17).
    2. existent: anything that has properties or can be a property of another thing
    3. predication: primitive, intransitive, non-linguistic relation that obtains in cases like Socrates’ being white.
    4. universal: an entity that is capable of multiple exemplification.
    5. Third man argument (Plato): Let’s say that A, B, and C, partake of Largeness (L₁).  By self predication L₁ is also large. There is now a new plurality: A, B, C, and L₁.  Given the One-over-many principle, there is a form of largeness in which all of the above partake.  We will call it L₂.  
    6. impure property:  makes essential reference to a particular
    7. Pure property: makes no such reference
  10. Critique of Hume: 
    1. Hume sought to reduce the universal to an abstract idea. 
    2. Hume failed to note that words and ideas manifest type/token phenomena
      1. a type is a general sort of thing.  A type is close to a universal.
      2. a token is a particular instance

Eric Voegelin (Plato and Aristotle)

Voegelin’s account of Plato differs from the usual textbook accounts in that he goes beyond the facile claim that “Plato believed in the realm of Forms” to the reality that the soul manifests the idea through mythological symbols. Yes, Plato did believe in the realm of Forms, but that doesn’t say a whole lot. The more interesting problem is tying Plato’s use of forms to his use of myth.

And that’s what Voegelin does. He gives a remarkably lucid and sophisticated organization of Plato’s key works, especially The Republic, Timeaus, and Laws. Regarding the Republic he notes the primarily line of meaning in Plato’s work is between ascent and descent: Plato descends to speak with his friends and only with difficulty can he ascend to the order of the soul.

Which brings us to a key point: The Idea. The soul is the idea of the form of the cosmos instantiated in lesser souls. The idea is Plato’s reality and is embodied in the historically existing polis (272). The “Spirit” must manifest itself in the “visible, finite form of an organized society” (281; despite his hostility to Hegel Voegelin is starting to sound a lot like Hegel).

The Republic

“The Way Up and the way Down”

The drama begins with a movement down into the city, which movement symbolizes the “depth and descent” into the soul (107).

“The Resistance to Corrupt Society”

Plato wants to show us not so much the philosophy of right order, but the light that truth shines upon the struggle.

  1. Pairs of Concepts:
    1. Justice and Vice
    2. Justice and Much-Doing
    3. Alethia and pseudos
      1. A polis is in order when it is ruled by men with well-ordered souls.
  2. The Sophistic doxa of Justice
    1. The primary problem is not an error about justice, but a “shift of what we called ‘the accent of reality’ under social pressure” (133).

The Creation of Order

  1. The Zetema: conceptual illumination of the way up from the depth of existence (137).
    1. These symbols have “variegated structures” that correspond to the stage of clarification.

      Man = polis
      Daemon = ruler
      Paradigm of life = politea
  2. The Foundation Play
  3. The Cognitive Inquiry
    1. A polis always has a typical form
    2. “There is no knowledge of order in the soul except through the zetema in which the soul discovers it by growing into it” (149).
      1. Politea: the animating psyche in the polis
  4. The Poleogony: a mythological parable about the development of the polis
    1. “The polis has a genesis” (151).
    2. Attempt to make relations of forces in the psyche intelligible through a story of their genesis.
  5. Models of Soul and Society (163).

Myth for Plato draws from and upon the powers of unconsciousness. The symbols of the myth are not meant to be taken as wooden epistemological objects (241). They are the reality “broken in the medium of consciousness” (246).

Aristotle appears to get short shrift in this volume, but in many ways Voegelin handles Aristotle more lucidly than he does Plato–and Aristotle isn’t quite the deep thinker that Plato is. This book is very good but I got the impression that Voegelin deliberately “floated around” getting to the heart of the forms. Further, in some areas he sounds a lot like Hegel. That’s not a criticism; just an observation that should come into play when one reads Voegelin’s famous essay on Hegel the Sorcerer.

So is Plato a totalitarian? Not exactly, since his “totalitarian” views in the Republic probably never could come to fruition given his other view that only few men could “contain the Idea.”

Longer Outline


In the Timeaus Plato needs a new myth.  Myth for Plato draws from and upon the powers of unconsciousness.

  1. The  Egyptian Myth; the myth of nature has cosmic rhythms (228).  
    1. Socrates’ act of transmission symbolizes “the dimension of the unconscious in depth by tracing the myth through the levels of the collective soul of the people” (232).  
  2. The Plan of the Dialogues
  3. The Philosophy of the Myth
    1. In Timeaus man’s “psyche” has reached “critical consciousness of the methods by which it symbolizes its own experiences” (237).
    2. The Timeaus projects the soul on the larger canvas of the cosmos.
    3. The symbols of the myth are not meant to be taken as wooden epistemological objects (241).
    4. They are the reality “broken in the medium of consciousness” (246).  
  4. The Myth of the myth in Timeaus
    1. The descent to Egypt symbolizes the descent of the Soul.
    2. Cosmos belongs to realm of becoming yet it participates in Being.
    3. Eternal being is “embedded” in the cosmos.
      1. Psyche is the intermediate realm between disembodied form and shapeless matter.
  5. The Myth of the Incarnation in the Timeaus
    1. Being does not precede becoming in time.  It is eternally present (254).
    2. Substratum: has no qualities of its own.  Plato calls it “space” (chora). It is a female principle.
      1. Creation, therefore, is the imposition of form on space.
      2. The Demiurge corresponds to the Royal Ruler.
  6. The Critias
    1. Chaos has now become co-eternal with the Idea.
    2. “Atlantis is the component of becoming in historical order, so that the fall of Atlantis is the fall of Athens from true Being” (262).
      1. The dream of Utopia is black magic.


The chains of thought in Plato’s system are dependent on key symbols (270).

Nomos: deeply embedded in the myth of nature; includes, festivals, rites, and cosmic order. It is the “pull of the golden cord” (289).

Idea: the idea is Plato’s reality and is embodied in the historically existing polis (272).  The “Spirit” must manifest itself in the “visible, finite form of an organized society” (281; Voegelin is starting to sound a lot like Hegel).

Key Symbols

Sun motif: symbol of the turning points in cosmic rhythm.

Symbolism “contracts” throughout Plato’s dialogue.  The contraction is the Idea’s embodiment in the polis.

Nous: derives from nomoi.  The movement of the cycles has come to an end.

Plato contrasts noble and vile, not rulers and ruled (303).

David Hume: Concerning Human Understanding

Image result for david hume enquiry concerning human understanding

Agnosticism is bad, but not all agnosticisms are equally bad. Such is the case with David Hume. If one reads Karl Marx or Herbert Marcuse, one has to decode the dialectical system before you can even understand what they are saying. Further, Marx was probably demon-possessed and his economic system caused the deaths of hundreds of millions. Not so with Hume. Like many Anglo philosophers, his writing is fresh and clear. So when he is wrong, it’s easy to see where he is wrong. And in economics, he champions liberty (of a sorts).

Hume’s Argument: (1) all our ideas are copies of our impressions (VII.i.49). (2) There can never be an idea of a cause because there can never be a sense impression of a cause (Ibid sec. 50)

{A} Knower——->——-> Object–>Mind—>Idea—>knower

{A’} Knower——>—–>Object—> Mind —> Impression–>Idea—>knower

Our thought is a faithful mirror that copies objects truly. Perceptions of the Mind:

  • thoughts/ideas (weaker)
  • impressions (strong). Hume also means “sensations.”

Our ideas are always copied from some precedent (II.14). Ideas must follow from impressions. These impressions/sensations are always more vivid than the ideas.

Critique of Hume

Critics of Hume have to resist the temptation to read Berkeley back into Hume. I will assume, in the spirit of charity, that Hume believed in an external world. Further, we must also point out that Hume is not a modern atheist materialist: he believes in the existence of the mind and that the mind is not the brain.

[1] As Owen Barfield and others have pointed out, if all we can know are sense-impressions, then Hume’s three qualities of association fail the test: “resemblance, contiguity, and causation” are not sense-impressions, or did not originate as such (Barfield 25). Of course, this is the same criticism Hume offered of causality. But why stop at causality? Why not apply it to the other two?

[2] It is here that Hume’s nominalism becomes vicious. How are ideas “in the mind” held together? Hume says they are “bundled” together, but doesn’t bundling imply some sort of unity or association? If Hume’s criticism of causality holds, then it must also hold to any form of association. Thus examining the mental process, Hume is left with an array of facts that cannot relate to each other in any possible way. “All is flux.”

[3] This critique is not so much a refutation of Hume but points toward an ambiguity. During the mental act I perceive an object, we will say the sensory impression of touch, to which it comes back to my mind as the idea of touch. When I reflect upon the ideas “in my mind,” I do so in visual categories. But what does the visual category of “touch” even mean? [sidenote: As Wolterstorff pointed out, this is more a criticism of Locke than Hume].

[4] Hume cannot escape the reality of universals, as Bertrand Russell pointed out (Russell 96ff). If we deny, for example, the universals of “whiteness” and “triangularity,” we will still, in order to form an idea of a triangle, imagine a patch of whiteness and a three-sided figure and say that anything meeting these criteria is white and a triangle–we say that the resemblance must hold. We will also say that the resemblance must hold among many white 3-sided things. We will say that the resemblances must resemble each other. We have made “resemblance” a universal.

As Russell pointed out, Hume failed to note that not only are qualities universals, but so are relations.  The relation of “being north of” is also a universal

[5] Much has been made of Hume’s critique of miracles. I’ll give him credit on one point: if you define miracle as a violation of God’s law or nature’s law, then it’s hard to argue with Hume. But why must we accept Hume’s definition of miracle, or of reality in general? I can’t recall a good reason. There is no reason to view reality as as self-enclosed monads.

A theist could very well argue, as James K. A. Smith does, for an open ontology that allows the Spirit to move from within nature, rather than a miracle that is “tacked on” to nature from the outside. Miracles are not “add-ons.” They are not anti-nature, since “nature is not a discrete, autonomous entity” (Smith 104).

[6] Per Thomas Reid and N. Wolterstorff, Hume needs to explain how a physical sensation can cause a mental apprehension (Wolterstorff 2004).

[6.1] Hume’s analysis of perception and reflection seems to privilege visual ideas. Perhaps that can work. Such has been the tendency of philosophy since Plato. Yet when we move to the other senses Hume’s analysis breaks down. How does my idea (weakened sensation) of touch bear any resemblance to the apple I just touched? Even worse, doesn’t the phrase “mental idea” connote visuality? Could this possibly work on ideas like “touch”?

[7] As Thomas Reid pointed out, it seems Hume has lumped all mental reflection (sensation/though) under the label of “perception” in the mind. How does Hume make a distinction between the “idea” of sight and the “idea” of touch (Reid 301ff)?

Works Cited

Barfield, Owen. Poetic Diction: A Study in Meaning. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, reprint [1973]).

Reid, Thomas. The Works of Thomas Reid, ed. Sir William Hamilton. Edinburgh: McLachlan and Stewart, 1863.

Russell, Bertrand. The Problems of Philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press, reprint [1964]).

Smith, James K. A. Thinking in Tongues. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010.

Wolterstorff, Nicholas. Thomas Reid and the Story of Epistemology. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004

Notes on Plato’s Dialogues

I’ve reread these several times.  I am not a pure Platonist.  I do believe in universals, but I don’t think we need to get bogged down in Plato’s specifics.  In any case, did Plato believe that relations were universals?  I’m not sure, yet take the relation “north of.”  This seems to be a universal.  That’s Bertrand Russell’s example.


Does Love have an object?  Yes. Love has to love something (200c).  Unfortunately, this implies desire, which is a lack.  Necessarily, then, Love must love beautiful things.

“justified, true belief:”  “To have a right opinion without being able to give a reason is neither to understand nor is it ignorance” (202B).

The nature of spiritual: “for all the spiritual is between divine and mortal” 202c-204c.  Love is a great spirit which has causal power. God cannot mingle directly with man but goes through the Forms.  Beauty is simple and we partake of Beauty only by participation (209c-211c). Language of ascent in 211c.  


Book 1

Thrasymachus: Justice is whatever serves the advantage of the stronger.  However, he admits that sometimes the Stronger commands the weaker to do what is not in the stronger’s advantage (e.g., when the Stronger unwittingly makes a mistake).   Socrates then asks, “What is ‘advantage?’”

The practitioner of an art/scientia never seeks the advantage simply for the sake of the art (healing is not for the sake of healing, but for the body).

Beginning of a definition of justice: a kind of wisdom or virtue (350C-352A)

Book 2

Justice belongs to the noblest class, the soul.  Justice is a form which has causal power (358b-360c).  Socrates is rebutting the counterargument that no one is just willingly, but only under compulsion.  In responding, Socrates posits several analogues (369c):

  • Man = city
  • soul = justice


God, as good, could not be the cause of all things (i.e., he could not be the cause of evil).  

God is simple and good, so he is changeless (380a-381d).  Things in the best condition are least liable to change. If something undergoes change, then it is being changed by something else (and the lesser doesn’t change the greater).  

Book III

Educating to virtue, thus censorship. A good soul by its own virtues provides a body in the best possible condition (402d-404c). The better rulers are usually older men (408c).

There is an equivalence between concord–harmony–music–training.

  • The result of this concord is a soul that is both temperate and brave (410c. passim).
  • Remember that the individual soul is an analogue to the City.  

Plato suggests a communism in regard to the training of Guardians, but we are not yet to a full communism in society (415e).

Book IV

The guardians must guard against all extremes in wealth and poverty, for these lead to idleness (422b).   They must maintain the mean between wealth and poverty.

Temperance permeates all of society.  It “brings all the strings into concord” (432a).

Moves back to a definition of justice:

  • to do one’s business and not meddle in affairs (4323-434c).
  • justice is the presupposition (precondition?) of the other Greek virtues: temperance, courage, intelligence.
  • multiplicity makes finding justice difficult.
  • justice maintains the harmony between classes.
  • We can know justice for a city by looking at a man who maintains this harmony in his soul (435a).


Do we learn by one faculty, feel by another, etc.?

  • Are the faculties within man simply synonymous or are they distinct?
  • They are distinct.  There is something in the soul that moves towards Logos and another that moves towards the passions (438b-439e).
  • This is similar to Freud’s “divided mind” theory.  

Plato ends Book IV with a suggestion of the 5 faculties.  However, Book V is a detour

Book V

Book V is an intricate discussion on the particulars of a philosophical city.  Such a city must be unified. Thus,

“So that city is best managed in which the greatest number say “mine” and ‘not mine’ with the same meaning about the same things” (462a-463d)

This sounds a lot like Augustine’s Discussion in Book IXX City of God.  

Opposites and One

Since beautiful and ugly are opposites, they are two.  And since they are two, each is one. Even though each of these are one, they appear as many because each shows itself everywhere in community (476a).  This sounds like Maximus’s Logos/logoi. Collectively, the forms are one but they manifest themselves as many.

Discussions of Nominalism

Is there beauty in itself, or is beauty just a name? The knower knows something, not nothing.  If he knows something, he knows something that is. You can’t  know what is not. Further, there is a state between knowledge and ignorance

knowledge = things that are ignorance = things that are not

knowledge is a faculty (Plato calls it a power)

Opinion is between the two; it partakes of both being and non-being. This the realm of Becoming.

Book VI

The “mob mentality” probably can’t separate “The Beautiful” from beautiful things (493e).


“perfect model of the the Good, the use of which makes all just things” (505a-c).  

Arche-writing and Trace

The ideals/forms appeal to the mind (507b).  Hearing and sound inferior to seeing because they can work if the third term is absent.   The following triad

sigh—> light ←-color

The ectype is in relation to the archetype by analogy (508).  

We have noted that the forms have causal power.  Their effects are in the mind.

Hyper-ousia (509b)

The good is the cause that knowledge exists.  The Good is not a state of knowledge but something beyond it.  

Review: Russell, Problems of Philosophy

Not an easy read, but fun at times. How do we know what is real? There is a disjunct between appearance and reality. In other words, the “real” is not always the obvious. Russell’s main sparring partner is Bishop Berkeley, and so Russell treats us to a fine display of Idealism (with following refutations). Berkeley says that if things exist independently of us, they cannot be the immediate objects of sensation. Idealists, therefore, place the existence of objects within the mind (or rather, say such existence is mental). What is known in the senses is not the immediate object of the senses.

For Berkeley an idea is what is immediately known (sense-data). This means x is “in” the mind. This raises a problem. What does it mean to be “in” the mind? It’s better to say an object is “before” the mind. Berkeley equivocates on “in.” All he has a right to say is the thought of x is within the mind. Berkeley did not distinguish between the thought of something and the act of thinking that thought. The latter is certainly mental, but we are not justified in saying the former is.

Different Types of Knowledge

Knowledge by acquaintance is “foundational” knowledge. It is immediate and direct (Russell 48).


Russell correctly calls “universals” “ideas.” This way there is no confusion on what Plato meant by ideas and what Berkeley and Locke mean by ideas. We are aware of universals by “conceiving.” As conceived, the universals are now “concepts.”

A universal is the opposite of that which causes sensation. A universal is that which is shared by many particulars. Proper names stand for particulars, while other substantives stand for universals.

Other examples of universals are “qualities” and “relations.” Many relations do not exist in space or time, yet they are real and can be known to be real. Take the phrase, “North of London.” “North of” is not physical, yet it is a real something. The implications of this for Christianity, which presumably Russell didn’t explore, are staggering.

The Problem of Induction

When two things have been found to be associated together, and no instance is known of one occurring without the other, does the occurrence of one give me any ground for expecting the other?


Experience only tells us about past futures. It cannot tell us what to expect of future futures.


I think Russell does a successful job in showing that we can have legitimate knowledge that isn’t derived from sensations. Further, this work has a number of semi-legendary chapters along with a fine bibliography.

Appearance and Reality

What is the “real” object? If I am looking at the table, is the table’s appearing to me the real table? If I look at it under a microscope, I will see something different. Which, then, is the real table? Russell suggests the “real” is not what we see. It is inferred from what we see (Russell 11).

Russell suggests, rightly I think, that if we keep “reducing” matter all the way down we will end up with electrical forces (16). This is correct. But why stop there? Why not reduce the electrical forces even further? He gives no answer, but it’s not hard to fathom: any further reduction, to quote Matthew Raphael Johnson, will show that energy will have a non physical cause: Logos. In other words, Logos is the substrate of the energy. Objects within space and time can be reduced to forces, and these forces must be outside space and time. Russell later admits that real “somethings” can exist outside space and time (98).

The Existence of Matter

If an object is merely sense-data, then it will cease to exist once it is no longer perceived. But this is silly. If I throw a blanket over a table, does the table cease to exist? If so, then is the blanket floating in mid-air (!?).

Some brief notes on nominalism

Nominalism seeks the simplest explanation in ontology.  One of their confusions regarding realism, though, is that they think universals have spatial location.  But as B. Russell pointed out, the universal “being north of” is not spatial.

The austere nominalist is committed to just one ontological category, particulars.  Austere nominalism runs into problems when it gets to the category of abstract particulars, such as “courage is a virtue.”

Metalinguistic Nominalism

Not universals; just linguistic expressions about nonlinguistic objects.  One of the difficulties, though, is it is forced to rely on type/token distinctions, which start to look like universals. It’s not hard to see connections with postmodernism.

Trope Theory

By far the most interesting.  Concrete particulars have colors, etc., but those attributes are just particulars.  So, if two objects have the color “red,” does that mean they share the universal “redness”?  Not necessarily.  Rather, they have the set of resembling trope red.  But isn’t a set a universal?  Not exactly.  Sets have clear-cut identity conditions.  Universals do not.  Sets are identical just in case all members are identical.  Set, α, is identical with set ,β , when the members of each set are identical with one another.

So this appears to give the trope nominalist an edge over the realist, except for one problem.  Take the referents

“Being a unicorn”


“Being a griffin.”

Since there are no such things as unicorns or griffins, they must belong to the set, null.  As Loux points out, “given the identity conditions for sets, there is just one null set,” which would mean both propositions are in fact identical.  But this is clearly false (91-92), as any schoolchild knows.

Other problems with trope nominalism (cf Moreland):

  • membership in a set of tropes is arbitrary (Moreland doesn’t expound)
  • Two red balls (A and B) resemble each other because they have red₁ and red₂ constituents.
    • The copula “is” in question is neither of predication or identity, but set membership.
    • Rejoinder:  why red and not green?  Red tropes resemble each other in a different way than green tropes?  Why?
  • If two tropes, Red and Sweet, are in the same location, how are they not identical on the Trope Nominalist view.

Properties and Attributes

Why is this important?  Understanding that this is what “makes up” a human being is crucial in apologetics, evangelism, and the pro-life cause.

Older theologians made a distinction between property and attribute, the latter being a wider category than the former.  Modern philosophers haven’t held to that distinction.  I am going to list different writers’ takes on it and see what comes up.

JP Moreland (either works by Moreland or about Moreland) :

property: a universal (Moreland and Craig, 219), that which can be instantiated in more than one place at once.  It would still exist apart from the substance. A substance “owns” a property (215).  Properties always come together in groups.

Gould and Wallace clarify Moreland’s position by saying a property is an instantiation of an abstract object (Gould and Wallace 24).

substance: more basic than properties. Substances do the having, properties the “had.”  “A substance is a deep unity of properties, parts and capacities.”

Richard Muller:

attributum: the attributes identify what the thing is and are inseparable from its substance (Muller 50).

proprietas: pertaining to God, it is an incommunicable attribute.  More specifically, that which is uniquely predicated of the person.  Regarding the doctrine of man, what is predicated of an individual (250).

Alvin Plantinga:

property: Plantinga broadens the discussion to where he can say “God has a nature–a property he has essentially that includes each property essential to him” (Plantinga 7).  So, God has the property of having a nature.  Plantinga seems to have reversed the relation between property and attribute.


On one hand, properties are had by the person, attributes by the essence.  Or rather, attributes are predicated of the essence.  Yet J. P. Moreland says properties are had by the substance.  Is Moreland confusing substance and person?  Maybe not.  In the West substance wasn’t necessarily identical with “essence” or ousia.  Substance denotes a standing under, which points to the idea of person.

Yet it is also important to realize that properties are explanatorily prior to the things that have them (Gould and Wallace 25).  The easiest conclusion is that attributes are predicated of the essence, properties of the person, provided we also see properties functioning as universals.

Works Cited

Gould, Paul and Wallace, Stan.  “On what there is: theism, platonism, and explanation” in Eds. Gould, Paul and Davis, Richard Brian. Loving God with Your Mind: Essays in Honor of J.P. Moreland.  Chicago: Moody Press, 2010.

Moreland, J. P. and Craig, William Lane.   Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview.  Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press, 2003.

Muller, Richard A. Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, reprint [1995].