What is Nominalism? Nomenclature

What is Nominalism? Nomenclature

July 1, 2021 Off By Felso

Nominalism or nominalism is the doctrine that does not regard general concepts as real, but considers them as just names. According to the understanding of nominalism, general concepts (universals) are nothing but a set of sounds and they are only names that people ascribe to their way of thinking. Concepts have no reality other than names.


Nominalism is a system of philosophical thought developed by Roscelinus, the Priest of Compregne, at the end of the eleventh century. This movement greatly influenced the Church; because all religious concepts, especially God, are abstract and universal.

All religions are based on basic concepts such as the concept of God, and nominalism, rejecting basic concepts and seeing them as just names, shook the basic structure of religions and pushed the conceptual field on which they were founded out of reality.

The fact that general concepts are not considered true necessitates the conclusion that religion cannot be considered true either. In this context, nominalism was defined as religious heresy by the Church because it ignored the universals and moved the stones at the foundation of religion in the Middle Ages.

During the Middle Ages, there were fierce philosophical debates between nominalists who rejected concepts and “realists” who claimed that their concepts were real (See: What is the Debate of Universals?).

Universals for nominalism are just nouns.

Although nominalism explains thinking and speaking with symbols such as mental images or religious terms, the aspect of thought beyond the correct use of symbols leads nominalism to a kind of conceptualism. Therefore, the difference between conceptualism is not clear.


In Greek thought, the Stoics and Epicureans were nominalists. The Cynic thinker Antishenes said, “I see the horse very well; but I can’t see Atlik.”

The doctrine was revived again and stronger by the 14th century scholastic Aristotelians and interpreted in a way that separates world affairs from religion. Eighteenth-century sensationalists were also nominalists. The sensory Condillac says, “If universals were anything other than names, they would not be universals.”

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer Yıldırım