[4.3.1] William of Champeaux’s First Theory of Universals

William of Champeaux (Guillaume de Champeaux, ca. 1070-1122 AD), in his work Sententiae presented a theory of universals called material essence realism, responding to Porphyry’s questions (see [2.5]):

Porphyry’s questionsUniversals according to William
(a) whether genera and species are real or are situated in bare thoughts aloneare real; “There is a real universal thing corresponding to our universal concepts. It is this principle of a single universal substance individuated by accidents.”
(b) whether as real they are bodies or incorporealsare incorporeals
(c) whether they are separated or in sensibles and have their reality in connection with themare in sensibles

William’s first model of universals is presented in the following OntoUML diagram:

William’s material essence realism
ClassDescriptionRelations
Essence“Material essence realism proposes that there are ten most general things or essences: one most general thing corresponding to each of Aristotle’s ten categories (see also [1.3.2]). These essences are universal things: “It should be seen that there are ten common things which are the foundations of all other things and are called the most general things – as for example this common thing, substance, which is dispersed through all substances, and this thing, quantity, which is dispersed in all quantities and so on. And just as there are ten common things which are the foundations of all other things, so also there are ten words which, thanks to the things they signify, are said to be the foundations of all other words (C8; Marenbon 1997: 38).”contained and dispersed in Genus
Genus“These ten genera [genus] exist and are to some degree unformed. They are formed into subalternate genera and species by the addition of differentia [difference].”is in a recursive association with itself; each level splits the superior level in 2 or more, based on the attributes marked in Difference
Difference“These ten genera exist and are to some degree unformed. They are formed into subalternate genera and species by the addition of differentia [difference].” forms {characterizes} Genus and Species
Species“These ten genera exist and are to some degree unformed. They are formed into subalternate genera and species by the addition of differentia [difference].”subkind of Genus
Individual“Species are formed into individuals by the addition of accidental forms: “a species is nothing other than a formed genus, an individual nothing other than a formed species”subkind of Species
Accident“Everything in the created world is an accidentally differentiated individual, but this is an incidental feature of the created world, and by no means a commitment to concretism. Universal essences exist; they are simply never found except as accidentally differentiated, qua individuals.
In actuality genera and species have their being in individual things. I can, however, consider by reason the same thing which is individuated with its accidents removed from its make-up, and consider the pure simple thing, and the thing considered in this way is the same as that which is in the individual. And so I understand it as a universal. For it does not go against nature for it to be a pure thing if it were to happen that all its accidents were removed. But because it will never happen in actuality that any thing exists without accidents, so neither in actuality will that pure universal thing be found. (P3; Marenbon 2004: 33)”
forms {characterizes} Individual

Related posts in theory of Universals: [1.2.1], [1.3.1], [1.3.2], [2.5], [2.7.3], [4.3.1], [4.3.2]

Sources

  • All citations from: Guilfoy, Kevin, “William of Champeaux”The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
  • Spade, Paul Vincent, “History of the Problem of Universals in the Middle Ages”, Indiana University 2009

First published: 11/06/2020

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