Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Plato might have been a "nominalist"

I was reading the SEP entry on nominalism by Rodriguez-Pereyra. Rodriguez-Pereyra sees nominalism as basically the rejection of causally inert non-spatiotemporal entities. If so, then Plato might have been a nominalist. It seems that Plato did not think the Form of the Good was causally inert--it caused the good arrangement of things in the universe. I don't know if Plato generalized from that case, but he might well have--he might have taken all of the Forms to be capable of causing things to be like them. So, for all I know, Plato was a nominalist.

And Leibniz might have been was a nominalist despite going on and on about abstract objects, because he thought of them as ideas guiding God's deliberation, and hence perhaps we should say that on his view they had a causal role in creation.

This isn't a big deal. Rodriguez-Pereyra's account nicely captures a rejection of modern forms of Platonist.

I wonder, too, whether a belief in Newtonian space is compatible with nominalism by this definition. Newtonian space seems to be causally inert (perhaps unlike the Riemannian manifold of General Relativity). And it may be a category mistake to say that space is spatiotemporal. Though maybe it's fine to say that space is spatiotemporal in some trivial sense.

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