Incoherent Note on Universals, Particulars, and Existentials

The universal/particular distinction is fairly close to the universal/existential distinction. The latter constitutes a problem for empiricism – famously expressed by Russell’s problem of induction, where no existential statement can entail a universal statement.

The similarity comes when one realizes that universals are not given in experience (bracketing to the side for the moment the notion of the ‘given’). Universals do not follow from our experience of particulars in much the same way universal statements do not follow from existential statements.

To clarify what I take to be the similarity: just as no existential statement entails a universal statement, no universal follows from the experience of a particular.

But if all our experience is of particulars (we never experience a universal), how can we arrive at universal statements and universals? (I take a Gilson-ian view myself, where the intellect intuits or abstracts universals from the the experience of existing particulars).

The empiricists (Hume, for example) deny the existence of universals – which lands you with the problem of induction (as well as all the other sceptical problems which stem from the Humean tradition). All we have in experience or otherwise is particulars.Empiricism has the greatest problem with these issues, hence the focus on it.

 This seems to open up a host of age old issues: aside from whether or not universals exists, what kind of thing are they? Exactly what do we mean by existence? What exactly do we even mean by experience? Granting that universals aren’t given in experience, what exactly is given in experience?
I’m trying to get at something but can’t quite get there.
Advertisements

Another note on Hume, Chesterton and Causality

Hume’s denial of causal connections being a kind of objective feature of the world was made on the basis of his radical empiricism – we can’t experience causality in a sensuous way. But why agree with his empiricism? Empiricism has been all but abandoned, and in its more extreme form, logical positivism, actively rejected. Why assume that Hume’s empiricism is true? Sure, we can’t have knowledge of causal relations via empirical datum, but so what? While empirical sense data is essential for a lot of knowledge, it’s certainly not necessary for all knowledge – empiricism itself cannot be verified empirically. So Hume’s critique, while in my opinion correct, ends up losing some of its force once one no longer believes the myth of empiricism.