Nominalism (from Lat. nomen, "a name") is the doctrine that general notions, such as the notion of a tree, have no realities corresponding to them, and have no existence but as names or words, and nothing more (flatus vocis). Sir William Hamilton says, "The doctrine of nominalism, as it is called, maintains that very notion, considered in itself, is singular, but become, as it were, general, through the intention of the mind to make it represent every other resembling notion, ov notion of the same class. Take, for example, the term man. Here we can call up no notion, no idea, corresponding to the universality of the class or term. This is manifestly impossible; for as man involves contradictory attributes, and as contradictions cannot coexist in one representation, an idea or notion adequate to nidan cannot be realized in thought. The class man includes individuals, male and female, white and black, and copper-colored, tall and short, fat and thin, straight and crooked, whole and mutilated, etc.; and the notion of the class must, therefore, at once represent all and none of these. It is therefore evident, though the absurdity was maintained by Locke, that we cannot accomplish this; and this being impossible, we cannot represent to ourselves the class man by any equivalent notion or idea. All that we can do is to call up some individual image, and consider it as representing, though inadequately representing, the generality. This we easily do; for as we can call into imagination any individual, so we can make that individual image stand for any or for every other which it resembles, in those essential points which constitute the identity of the class. This opinion, which, after Hobbes, has been in modern times maintained, among others, by Berkeley, Hume, Adam Smith, Campbell, and Stewart, appears to me not only true, but self-evident."' The doctrine directly opposed to nominalism is denominated realism (q.v.), and must be traced back to Plato's system of ideas, SEE IDEALISM, or the eternal and independent existence of general attributes, from which the concrete embodiments were derived. There existed in the divine mind, according to Plato, patterns, models, or archetypes, after which individuals were formed. The archetype circle was the origin of all actual round things. Aristotle denied the separate existence of these general forms, and held that they existed only in connection with matter, or with objects in the concrete. The Stoics repudiated universals in both senses. The Aristotelian views constituted the scholastic realism, and prevailed until the 11th century, when a reaction took place in favor of the Stoical doctrine, headed by Roscelin of Compiegne and John the Sophist, and thus gave a vigorous life to the doctrine of nominalism. The doctrine naturally excited great consternation among the schoolmen (q.v.), with whom hitherto all that was real in nature was conceived to depend on these general notions or essences. The leading object of the schoolmen was at first not so much to stimulate a spirit of inquiry as to write in defense of the ancient dogmas of the Church. In this capacity they undertook to show (1) that faith and reason are not inconsistent; or, in other words, that all the supernatural elements of revelation are most truly rational; they labored (2) to draw together all the several points of Christian doctrine, and construct them into one consistent scheme; and (3) they attempted, the more rigorous definition of each single dogma, pointed out the rationale of it, and investigated its relation to the rest. This method of discussion was extended even to the most inscrutable of all the mysteries of faith-the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity; and some of the scholastics did not hesitate to argue that the truth of it is capable of rigorous demonstration (comp. Klee, Gesch. d. christl. Lehre, pt. ii, ch. 2:§ 11). The promulgator of nominalism, who was a churchman at Compibgne, underwent much persecution for his opinions, and was even ultimately compelled to retract them as inconsistent with the doctrine of the Trinity, as it was then stated, and all who accepted the nominalistic notions were subject to much suspicion for heresy for touching so serious a question as the Trinity. The realistic notions came to be regarded as synonymous with religious orthodoxy, and nominalism with unbelief. The controversy raged with great violence all through the 12th century. Roscelin argued boldly that if, according to the current language of the Church, the essence of the Godhead might be spoken of as one reality (una res), the personal distinctness of the three divine hypostases would be constructively denied. To view the Godhead thus was (in Roscelin's eye) to violate the Christian faith; it was equivalent to saying that the persons of the Trinity were not three distinct subsistences (non tres res), but names, and nothing more, without a counterpart in fact. He urged, accordingly, that, to avoid Sabellianism (q.v.), the doctors of the Church were bound to call the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost three real Beings (tres res) of equal majesty and will. A council held (1092) at Soissons instantly denounced the author of these speculations, on the ground that they were nothing else than tritheism (q.v.); while Anselm, as the champion of realism, took up his pen to write in its behalf (comp. Schrockh, Kirchengesch. 28:376-384). According to this great Realist, the genus has a true subsistence prior to and independent of the individuals numbered in the class it represents; particulars arise from universals, being fashioned after these (the universalia ante rem), or modelled on a general archetype that comprehends the properties of all (comp. Milman, Hist. Lat. Christ. 3:247 sq.).
But, though for a time suppressed, the Nominalists soon replaced their loss of Roscelin by a man of far more extraordinary power, the learned Abelard, who induced large numbers to desert the realistic standard I by his dialectical skill and eloquence; and, with his followers, whom he led in a body to Paris, was the occasion of founding the celebrated university of that city. After his death, the ancient realism was, however, restored to its former supremacy. Thomas Aquinas (q.v.) and Duns Scotus (q.v.) then gave their adhesion to it. Indeed we do not meet with a prominent Nominalist until the 14th century, when William Occam, an English Franciscan friar, and a pupil of Scotus, revived the advocacy I of nominalism, which was once more maintained by i number of eminent men, in spite of the hostility of the Church, which went as far as persecution. The controversy assumed in this 14th century a theological character; the principal point of difference between the two parties being "the nature of the divine cooperation with the human will," and "the measure of divine grace necessary to salvation." The dispute was so rancorous at one time that the disputants accused each other of having committed the sin' of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, and the public peace was seriously disturbed. An edict of Louis II of France prohibited all disputation on such subjects. The Reformation put an end to the controversy on ecclesiastical ground, and it has since been a question simply in philosophy (q.v.). A middle view between nominalism and realism was held by a few persons when the contest was at its height; which was that, although general properties have no separate existence in nature, they can be conceived in the mind apart from any concrete embodiment. Thus we may form an idea of a circle irrespective of any individual round body. This view is specious, and is tacitly implied in many opinions that have never ceased to be held. To the intermediate doctrine of conceptualism, nominalism is closely allied. It may be called the envelope of conceptualism, while conceptualism is the letter or substance of nominalism. "If nominalism sets out from conceptualism, conceptualism should terminate in nominalism," says M. Cousin (Introd. aux ouvrages inedits d'Abeilard [Paris, 1836, 4to], p. 181). "Universalia ante rem," is the watchword of the Realists; "Universalia in re," of the Coniceptualists; "Universalia post rem," of the Nominalists. The Nominalists were called Terminists about the time of the Reformation (Ballantyne, Exam. of the Human Mind, ch. 3, § 4). SEE TERMINISTS. It should be borne in mind, too, that of nominalism itself there are manifest in the history of philosophy two varieties, according as stress is laid on the subjective nature of the concept (see above allusion to conceptualism), or on the identity of the word employed to denote the objects comprehended under the concept (extreme nominalism, or nominalism in the narrower sense of the term). All these leading types of doctrine appear, either in embryo or with a certain degree of development, in the 9th and 10th centuries; but the more complete expansion, and the dialectical demonstration of them, as well as the sharpest contests of their several supporters, and also the development of the various possible modifications and combinations of them, belong to the period next succeeding. With the appearance of Occam as the leader of Nominalists they may be recognized as the school of progress, inquiry, and criticism, out of which the Reformation arose: a school which, however, so far tended towards skepticism that it overvalued the truth which it arrived at by reasoning, and undervalued that which it received by revelation; thus being disposed to believe only after demonstration. In later times the Nominalistic theory was, as has been stated above in the' extract from Sir W. Hamilton, adopted by Hobbes (q.v.), Hume (q.v.), and Dugald Stewart (q.v.). See Thomasius, Oratio de Secta Nominalium (Leips. 1682-1686); Meiners, De Nominalium ac Realiuin initiis ("Commentatt. Soc. Gott." 12:12); Baumgarten-Crusius, Progr. de vero Scholasti-' corum Realium et Nominalium discrimine et sententia Theologica (Jena, 1821, 4to); Chladenius, Diss. (res. Jo. Theod. Kunneth) de vita et hceresi Roscellini (Erlang. 1756, 4to). See also Thesaurus Biog. et Bibliographicus of Geo. Etr. Waldau (Chemnitz, 1792, 8vo); Erner, Ueber Nominalismus u. Realismus (Prague, 1842); Kihler, Realismus u. Nominalismus in ihrem Einflusse auf die dogmat. Systemne des Mittelalters (Gotha. 1858); Barach, Zur Gesch. d. Nomin. von Roscelin (Vienna, 1866); Lewes, Hist. of Philos. (see Index in vol. ii); Ueberweg, lHist. of Philos. vol. i, especially § 91; Haag, Hist. des Dogmes, 1:209 sq.; Hagenbach, Hist. of Doctr. 1:391, 457, 46C; 2:51; Mercersb. Rev. April, 1869; Bapt. Qu. Jan. 1868, p. 31 sq.; Moeth. Qu. Rev. April, 1871, p. 315; Jour. Spec. Philippians No. i, art. ix; Stud. w. Krit. 1871, No. ii, p. 297 sq.; and other literature under SEE REALISM and SEE SCHOLASTICISM.