11.18.2010

Part 3 of 3: What Nominalism Did and Why You Should Care

The concept that universals were just conceptualizations in our heads, and therefore at some level real was a seismic shift in thinking, but that way of thinking was soon to be replaced, and once again shifted the way people thought about the world, this was nominalism, and it's still the predominant worldview today.

The shift is a slight one, but has drastic consequences!  The argument is that the conceptualizations and categories we make in our head are not real, but rather, they are just words that we use to group similar things together.  Therefore there truly are no Universals and our conception of things like 'chairness', 'redness' and humanity (or 'humanness') are based purely on similarity - nothing transcendent connects any of them.

Nominalism is not necessarily the denial of the transcendental, but it is the denial that there is a direct connection between us and the transcendental, if you think that this seemingly small shifts is insignificant to everyday action and though, you're wrong.  This has had far reaching consequences.

For instance, individualism becomes a key aspect of life because there is no overarching humanity, only individual people who are loosely connected only because of similarity.  In fact, the very image of God gets washed away in this thinking, for how can humans bear the image of God in a world that has cut its ties to the divine?! This ultimately has lead to a loss of meaning.  Nihilism (which gained traction in the late 19th century) is directly related to a denial of universals as there is nothing connecting life together, everything is seen as random encounters.

This also affects the church, if a nominalist view is going to be taken for granted then Christ's salvation to humanity has to be re-evaluated because Christ could no longer die for 'humanity', he could no longer take on common human nature (according to nominalism there can be no such thing) and could not reverse what Adam had set in motion - if Adam had set anything in motion to begin with (how is original sin going to be dealt with?).

Lastly, there can be no concept of the Universal Church, only individual churches connected by their similarity - Christ - which, remember, is only a word with no association with anything transcendental.