The debate about universals: Plato vs. Ockham

1. Introduction:

Universals are one of the most central and hotly debated topics in philosophy, with a long history dating back to the ancient Greek philosophers. The debate about universals is important for epistemology and ontology, as it is intimately connected to questions about the nature of reality, knowledge, and conceptualization. In this paper, I will critically explore the plutonic universals, by explaining Platonism, which also is referred to as plutonic realism, and Ockham’s contradictory views on plutonic universals. I will argue that Ockham’s perspective is more convincing than Plato’s view of universals.

2. What are universals?

Universals are abstract entities that can be thought of or spoken about. They are often contrasted with particulars, which are concrete entities that exist in space and time. Some examples of universals include concepts like justice, equality, and beauty. Particulars would be objects like tables, chairs, and people. One of the key questions concerning universals is whether they exist in reality, or whether they are merely products of the human mind.

3. Plato’s view of universals:

Plato was a strong advocate for the existence of universals. He believed that universals were real entities that existed independently of the human mind. Plato thought that universals were perfect Forms that existed in a realm beyond the physical world (the realm of the Forms). For Plato, particulars were imperfect copies of these Forms. So, for example, when we see a beautiful person, we are only seeing a imperfect copy of the Form of Beauty. Plato thought that knowledge was possible because the human soul could access the realm of Forms and come to know truth directly.

4. Ockham’s perspective on universals:

Ockham was a medieval philosopher who argued against the existence of universals. He thought that universals were nothing more than mental constructs created by humans (he is often referred to as a nominalist). Ockham thought that human beings had the ability to create concepts through intuitive understanding and then apply these concepts to particular objects (this is known as concept formation). So, for example, when we see a beautiful person, we create the concept of beauty in our minds and then apply this concept to that particular person. Ockham believed that universals did not exist in reality; they were merely products of the human mind.

5. Conclusion:

In conclusion, I have critically evaluated the views of Plato and Ockham on universals. I have argued that Ockham’s perspective is more convincing than Plato’s view of universals. I believe that Ockham was correct in thinking that universals are nothing more than mental constructs created by humans; they do not exist in reality as independent entities. Rather, they are products of the human mind which help us to understand and categorize our experience of the world around us.


Plato believed in the existence of objective reality, or a realm of Forms that exists outside of the physical world. He also believed in the immortality of the soul and that knowledge is innate.

Plato's philosophy had a significant influence on medieval thought. Many medieval philosophers were influenced by Plato's idea of an objective reality, and his belief in the immortality of the soul. Aristotle's philosophy also influenced medieval thought, but to a lesser extent.

Some key differences between Plato's and Aristotle's philosophies include Plato's belief in an objective reality and the immortality of the soul, while Aristotle did not believe in either of these things. Additionally, Plato believed that knowledge is innate, while Aristotle believed that it must be learned through experience.

Neoplatonism was a revival of Plato's philosophy during the Middle Ages that reintroduced many of his ideas to medieval thinkers.