This was the view of the nominalist philosophers of the late Middle Ages, who strongly opposed the then-called realists for maintaining that such entities as Mankind or Human Nature were real “substances” underlying the “accidents” of particular men and women. Every individual was therefore an example or case of the human “substance,” though the word as then used did not mean matter or stuff but a kind of essence standing (stance) under (sub) its particular manifestations. The nominalists maintained that this was nonsense. For them, Mankind was no more than the sum total of individual people. Mankind was not a substance but simply a name for a class of creatures; it was not real but merely nominal. Nominalism, as we know, became the dominant attitude of Western thought and especially of the philosophy of science. In the eighteenth century Rousseau went so far as to suggest that Society and the State had. originally been formed by a contract between individuals. Society was an association, like the Rotary Club, which individuals had at some time joined and thereby abandoned their original independence.

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A quote saved on Dec. 30, 2015.


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