How Words Work: Comp Test
1) Why does Hobbes contend that “a common name is called a universal, because it is the name of a number of things taken individually, and not because it is the name of them all taken together collectively”?
A common name is a general name, a universal. Hobbes’ example of such a name is ‘human’, but what does this name, ‘human’, refer to? It refers to a category of all the things that contain the properties of human, a name “common to a number of things”#, a set of all the things we call human.
We encounter something and call it ‘human’. We do it again and again, building a class named ‘human’. This class is therefore the reference of the common name. We add together all the instances in which we have called something ‘human’ and we have a ‘human set’.
Hobbes provides us the example ‘hot’ things, e.g. radiator, fire, bath. These are all quite different things but we can move beyond the specifics to find a ‘pure’ property that unites them: in this instance - heat. If we take away every instance in the set Hobbes says we are left with nothing. This is to be contrasted with Plato who would claim that the radiator/fire/bath is hot because it ‘participates’ in heat, and if we take away every instance in the set we are left with heat. Hobbes sees this movement from concrete to abstraction as a mistake: it is a mistake to see our abstractions as real.
It is obviously convenient to arrange and order things for efficiency, but we must be careful about thinking that how we order things is how they actually are. For example, when we go to the record shop the records are arranged for ease of access, e.g. albums, singles, folk, hip hop, rock, pop. But just because we classify music this way it doesn’t mean that in the world there is a pure thing called hip hop. Hobbes wants to illustrate that whilst abstractions are useful, they are not how the world really is.
2) Why does Hobbes contend that “truth is...