The problem of 'universals'- When you see a small feathered creature perched in a tree, how do you know it's a bird?
- When you see a fluffy long-eared creature vanishing down a hole, how do you know it's a rabbit?
- When you taste a cold, sweet vanilla-flavored food with a smooth texture, how do you know it's an ice-cream?
This is the philosophical problem of 'universals', of how our minds assign individual things to general categories, types or kinds.
These categories, types and kinds of things are known as 'universals', whereas the individual examples are known as 'instantiations' or 'particulars'. Thus Mungo Jerrie and Rumpelteazer are both instantiations of the universal form of cats.
|Is the universal of bunny formed by the exclusion of non-bunny?|
...There are two possible ways for the mind to assign a newly observed phenomenon to a category:
(i) Look through a mental catalog of everything that is known, and find the closest match.
(ii) Use a taxonomic or cladistic approach of following a decision tree and rejecting everything that is not relevant to identifying the unknown object. This is exemplified by the game of 'Twenty Questions', where every known object can be identified by a process of exclusion using twenty or so mental operations....
Full article at Rational Buddhism
- Sean Robsville