2.14 Universals and Particulars

Category: Logic and Mathematics

Keywords: universals, particulars, predication, category, generic, predicates, plural, peirce, categories, predicate, strawson, gold, universal, sign, noun

Number of Articles: 416
Percentage of Total: 1.3%
Rank: 26th

Weighted Number of Articles: 422
Percentage of Total: 1.3%
Rank: 21st

Mean Publication Year: 1958.9
Weighted Mean Publication Year: 1961.3
Median Publication Year: 1962
Modal Publication Year: 1947

Topic with Most Overlap: Ordinary Language (0.0424)
Topic this Overlaps Most With: Definitions (0.0292)
Topic with Least Overlap: Crime and Punishment (0.00019)
Topic this Overlaps Least With: Population Ethics (0.00081)

A scatterplot showing which proportion of articles each year are in the universals and particularstopic. The x-axis shows the year, the y-axis measures the proportion of articles each year in this topic. There is one dot per year. The highest value is in 1933 when 3.6% of articles were in this topic. The lowest value is in 2012 when 0.4% of articles were in this topic. The full table that provides the data for this graph is available in Table A.14 in Appendix A.

Figure 2.39: Universals and particulars.

A set of twelve scatterplots showing the proportion of articles in each journal in each year that are in the Universals and Particularstopic. There is one scatterplot for each of the twelve journals that are the focus of this book. In each scatterplot, the x-axis is the year, and the y-axis is the proportion of articles in that year in that journal in this topic. Here are the average values for each of the twelve scatterplots - these tell you on average how much of the journal is dedicated to this topic. Mind - 1.7%. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society - 1.5%. Ethics - 0.2%. Philosophical Review - 1.5%. Analysis - 1.6%. Philosophy and Public Affairs - 0.1%. Journal of Philosophy - 1.4%. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research - 1.6%. Philosophy of Science - 1.0%. Noûs - 1.9%. The Philosophical Quarterly - 1.3%. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science - 0.6%. The topic reaches its zenith in year 1933 when it makes up, on average across the journals, 5.5% of the articles. And it hits a minimum in year 2008 when it makes up, on average across the journals, 0.4% of the articles.

Figure 2.40: Universals and particulars articles in each journal.

Table 2.35: Characteristic articles of the universals and particulars topic.
Table 2.36: Highly cited articles in the universals and particulars topic.


This is a large and long-lasting topic. And it is somewhat disjunctive.

It includes some metaphysics and, indeed some of the things I’d think of as paradigmatic to early analytic metaphysics, such as Russell’s “On the Relations of Universals and Particulars” and Ramsey’s “Universals”. And it includes their contemporary successors, such as Fraser MacBride’s “Could Armstrong Have Been a Universal?”.

It includes some philosophy of language, though surprisingly less than I would have guessed from the keywords. It includes, for example, Wilfrid Sellars’s “Naming and Saying”, and David Liebesman’s “Simple Generics”.

It includes a large amount of Peircean pragmatics. Here is a list just of the articles in the topic with “Peirce” in the title:

  1. Ernest Nagel, 1933, “Charles Peirce’s Guesses at the Riddle,” Journal of Philosophy 30:365–86.
  2. Charles W. Morris, 1938, “Peirce, Mead, and Pragmatism,” Philosophical Review 47:109–27.
  3. Justus Buchler, 1940, “The Accidents of Peirce’s System,” Journal of Philosophy 37:264–9.
  4. Paul Weiss and Arthur Burks, 1945, “Peirce’s Sixty-Six Signs,” Journal of Philosophy 42:383–8.
  5. George Gentry, 1946, “Peirce’s Early and Later Theory of Cognition and Meaning: Some Critical Comments,” Philosophical Review 55:634–50.
  6. John Dewey, 1946, “Peirce’s Theory of Linguistic Signs, Thought, and Meaning,” Journal of Philosophy 43:85–95.
  7. W. B. Gallie, 1947, “The Metaphysics of C. S. Peirce,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 47:27–62.
  8. Manley H. Thompson, Jr., 1949, “The Logical Paradoxes and Peirce’s Semiotic,” Journal of Philosophy 46:513–36.
  9. Edward C. Moore, 1952, “The Scholastic Realism of C. S. Peirce,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 12:406–17.
  10. Ralph J. Bastian, S.j., 1953, “The”Scholastic” Realism of C. S. Peirce,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 14:246–9.
  11. Edward C. Moore, 1953, “Professor Bastian’s Comments on Peirce’s Scholasticism,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 14:250–1.
  12. William P. Alston, 1956, “Pragmatism and the Theory of Signs in Peirce,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 17:79–88.
  13. Otto Bird, 1959, “Peirce’s Theory of Methodology,” Philosophy of Science 26:187–200.
  14. W. Donald Oliver, 1963, “Peirce on”The Ethics of Terminology”,” The Philosophical Quarterly 13:238–45.
  15. Joseph Ransdell, 1978, “A Misunderstanding of Peirce’s Phenomenology,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 38:550–3.
  16. Paul Tibbets, 1978, “Peirce’s Phenomenology: A Reply to Professor Ransdell,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 38:554–6.
  17. Ilona Kemp-Pritchard, 1981, “Peirce on Philosophical Hope and Logical Sentiment,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 42:75–90.
  18. Helmut Pape, 1990, “Charles S. Peirce on Objects of Thought and Representation,” Noûs 24:375–95.

And there are other articles too that are about Peirce, or Peircean thought, without including the string Peirce in the title.

But ultimately it is largely a topic about logic. It starts off with articles about Aristotelian logic, then moves into discussions of the role of subject and predicate in contemporary (broadly Fregean) logic. And that’s where the model places it.

And it’s not surprising, given the importance of debates about universals to philosophy from Plato, through Abelard and Ockham, through the present day, that it is one of the largest (and hardest to place) topics.