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sists in its approaching, as nearly as possible, in its nature, to the language of algebra. And hence the effects which long habits of philosophical speculation have, in weakening, by disuse, those faculties of the mind, which are necessary for the exertions of the poet and the orator; and of gradually forming a style of composition, which they who read merely for amusement, are apt to censure for a want of vivacity and of ornament.
Remarks on the Opinions of some modern Philosophers on the
Subjea of the foregoing Sedion.
, through lities and eloquence the feet of Nominalists had enjoyed, for a few years, a very splendid triumph, the system of the Realists began to revive ; and it was soon so completely re-established in the schools, as to prevail, with little or no opposition, till the fourteenth century. What the circumstances were, which led philosophers to abandon a doctrine, which seems so strongly to recommend itself by its fimplicity, it is not very easy to conceive. Probably the heretical opinions, which had subjected both Abelard and Roscelinus to the censure of the church, might create a pre. judice also against their philosophical principles; and probably too, the manner in which these principles were stated and defended, was not the clearest, nor the most satisfactory*. The principal cause, however, I am disposed to think, of the decline of the sect of Nominalists, was their want of some palpable exam. ple, by means of which they might illustrate their doc. trine. It is by the use which algebraists make of the letters of the alphabet in carrying on their operations, that Leibnitz and Berkeley have been most successful in explaining the use of language as an instrument of thought; and, as in the twelfth century, the algebraical art was entirely unknown, Roscelinus and Abelard must have been reduced to the necessity of conveying their leading idea by general circumlocutions ; and must have found confiderable difficulty in ftating it in a manner satisfactory to themselves : a confiderazion, by the way, which, if it accounts for the dow progress which this doctrine made in the world, places in the more striking light, the genius of those men whose fagacity led them, under so great disadvantages; to approach to a conclusion so just and philosophical in itself, and so opposite to the prevailing opinions of
In the fourteenth century, this fect seems to have been almost completely extinct ; their doctrine being equally reprobated by the two great parties which then divided the schools, the followers of Duns Scotus and of Thomas Aquinas. These, although they differed in their manner of explaining the nature of universals, and opposed each other's opinions with much asperity, yet united in rejecting the doctrine of the
* The great argument which the Nominalists employed against the existence of universals was: “ Entia non funt multiplicanda “præter ncceflitatem."
Nominalists, not only as abfurd, but as leading to the most dangerous consequences. At last, William Occam, a native of England, and a scholar of Duns Scotus, revived the antient controversy: and with equal ability and success vindicated the long-abandoned philosophy of Roscelinus. From this time the dispute was carried on with great warmth, in the universities of France, of Germany, and of England; more particularly in the two former countries, where the sovereigns were led, by some political views, to interest themselves deeply in the contest; and even to employ the civil power in supporting their favourite opinions. The emperor Lewis of Bavaria, in return for the affistance which, in his disputes with the Pope *, Occam had given to him by his writings, fided with the Nominalists. Lewis the Eleventh of France, on the other hand, attached himself to the Realists, and made their antagonists the objects of a cruel persecution t.
The Protestant Reformation, at length, involved men of learning in discussions of a more interesting nature ; but even the zeal of theological controversy could hardly exceed that with which the Nominalists and Realists had for some time before maintained their respective doctrines. “ Clamores primum ad ravim," (says an author who had himself been an eye-witness of these literary disputes,) “hinc improbitas, fanná, 6 minæ, convitia, dum luctantur, et uterque alterum “ tentat profternere ; consumtis verbis venitur ad pugnos, ad veram luctam ex fi&ta et fimulata. « Quin etiam, quæ contingunt in palæstra, illic non " defunt, colaphi, alapæ, consputio, calces, morsus, " etiam quæ jam supra leges palæstræ, fustes, ferrum, “ faucii multi, nonnunquam occisi *.” That this account is not exaggerated, we have the testimony of no less an author than Erasmus, who mentions it as a common occurrence: “Eos usque ad pallorem, usque " ad convitia, usque ad sputa, nonnunquam et usque “ ad pugnos invicem digladiari, alios ut Nominales, 56 alios ut Reales, loquit.”
* Occam, we are told, was accustomed to say to the Emperor : « Tu me defendas gladio, et ego te defendam calamo." BRUCKER, vol. iii.
11. p. 848. + Mosheim's Ecclefiaftical History,
pugnos, * LUDOVICUS Vives.
The dispute to which the foregoing observations relate, although for some time after the Reformation, interrupted by theological disquisitions, has been since occasionally revived by different writers ; and, fingular as it may appear, it has not yet been brought to a con. clusion in which all parties are agreed. The names, indeed, of Nominalists and Realists exist no longer ; but the point in dispute between these two celebrated sects, coincides precisely with a question which has been agitated in our own times, and which has led to one of the most beautiful speculations of modern philosophy.
Of the advocates who have appeared for the doctrine of the Nominalists, since the revival of letters, the most distinguished are, Hobbes, Berkeley, and Hume. The first has, in various parts of his works, reprobated the hypothesis of the Realists; and has ftated the opinions of their antagonists with that acute. ness, simplicity, and precision, which distinguish all his writings *. The second, considering (and, in my opinion, justly) the doctrines of the antients concerning universals, in support of which so much ingenuity had been employed by the Realists, as the great source of mystery and error in the abstract sciences, was at pains to overthrow it completely, by some very ingenious and original speculations of his own.
+ The Nominalists procured the death of John Huss, who was a Realist; and in their letter to Lewis King of France, do not pretend to deny that he fell a victim to the resentment of their feet. The Realists, on the other hand, obtained, in the year 1479, the condemnation of John de Wesalia, who was attached to the party of the Nominalists. These contending fects carried their fury so far as to charge each other with “the fin against the Holy Ghost.”
MOSHEIM's Ecclefiaftical History.
*" The universality of one name to many things, hath been the “ cause that men think the things themselves are universal ; and so
seriously contend, that besides Peter and John, and all the rest “ of the men that are, have been, or shall be, in the world, there is “ yet something else, that we call Man, viz. Man in general; de. “ ceiving themselves, by taking the universal, or general appella“ tion, for the thing it fignifieth: For if one should defire the “ painter to make him the picture of a man, which is as much as
to say, of a man in general; he meaneth no more, but that the “ painter should chuse what man he pleaseth to draw, which must “ needs be some of them that are, or have been, or may be ; none “ of which are universal. But when he would have him to draw “ the picture of the king, or any particular person, he limiteth the “ painter to that one person he chuseth. It is plain, therefore, “ that there is nothing universal but names; which are therefore o called indefinite, because we limit them not ourselves, but leave " them to be applied by the hearer : whereas a singular name is " limited and restrained to one of the many things it tignifieth; as “ when we say, this man, pointing to him, or giving him his pro" per name, or by some such other way.”
Hobbes's Tripos, chap. v.9 6.