Epicurus' View of Aristotle's "Theory of Universals"

  • From Wikipedia:

    Aristotle's Theory of Universals is a classical solution to the Problem of Universals. Universals are the characteristics or qualities that ordinary objects or things have in common. They can be identified in the types, properties, or relations observed in the world. For example, imagine there is a bowl of red apples resting on a table. Each apple in that bowl will have many similar qualities, such as their red coloring or "redness". They will share some degree of the quality of "ripeness" depending on their age. They may also be at varying degrees of age, which will affect their color, but they will all share a universal "appleness". These qualities are the universals that the apples hold in common.

    The Problem of Universals asks three questions. Do universals exist? If they exist, where do they exist? Also, if they exist, how do we obtain knowledge of them? In Aristotle's view, universals are incorporeal and universal, but only exist only where they are instantiated; they exist only in things.[1] Aristotle said that a universal is identical in each of its instances. All red things are similar in that there is the same universal, redness, in each thing. There is no Platonic Form of redness, standing apart from all red things; instead, each red thing has a copy of the same property, redness. For the Aristotelian, knowledge of the universals is not obtained from a supernatural source. It is obtained from experience by means of active intellect.[1]


    The purpose of this thread is to discuss whether Epicurus would have agreed or disagreed with this theory.

    References to consider Include:

    Epicurus' Letter to Herodotus:

    Lucretius On The Nate of Things, Book One (Munro)::

    Frances Wright, A Few Days In Athens, Chapter 15:

    Richard Dawkins 2014 Article from Edge.org: "What Scientific Idea Is Ready For Retirement?"



    Essentialism—what I’ve called "the tyranny of the discontinuous mind"—stems from Plato, with his characteristically Greek geometer’s view of things. For Plato, a circle, or a right triangle, were ideal forms, definable mathematically but never realised in practice. A circle drawn in the sand was an imperfect approximation to the ideal Platonic circle hanging in some abstract space. That works for geometric shapes like circles, but essentialism has been applied to living things and Ernst Mayr blamed this for humanity’s late discovery of evolution—as late as the nineteenth century. If, like Aristotle, you treat all flesh-and-blood rabbits as imperfect approximations to an ideal Platonic rabbit, it won’t occur to you that rabbits might have evolved from a non-rabbit ancestor, and might evolve into a non-rabbit descendant. If you think, following the dictionary definition of essentialism, that the essence of rabbitness is "prior to" the existence of rabbits (whatever "prior to" might mean, and that’s a nonsense in itself) evolution is not an idea that will spring readily to your mind, and you may resist when somebody else suggests it.