2010 | 20(33) | 49-64
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The concept of universals at the beginning of Jesuit philosophy

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The issue of universals seemed to appear in almost all ages as a basic philosophical subject on the epistemiological as well as methaphysical plane. It was definitely that way in medieval period when it was placed in the foreground and was considered as the main criterion of divisions and differences between philosophers and currents. Along with revivalof scholasticism in the 16th century, the dispute over nature of universals became again the subject of polemics between antiqui and moderni, that is between supporters of different variants of realism and nominalism. From the wide range of taken stands in that matter tendencies for realistic and reistic points of view were dominant. Will one of them be presented by philosophers of the newly established at that time Jesuit order? Answers to that question was searched on the example of Peter Fonseca’s doctrine – leading Jesuit philosopher in the early scientific phase of the order’s activity. Completed analyses do not allow to count Fonseca explicitly among followers of one of two leading positions at that time, namely – either extreme realism or nominalist reism. As far as logic universals are concerned, which were the effects of intellect’s abstraction, Fonseca’s doctrine is not different from the doctrines of the previous scholastics. Another way it is with the issue of universals existing before the thing. The very specific concept of Fonseca, in which he ascribes only potential not current way of existing to universals. It defends him from accusation of the extreme realism. He doesn’t say anything about universals being the subject of learning God. Fonseca emphasizes that universals live in such a way that it is impossible to bring them either to existence typical for concretum or to the way of existence of intentional being. Such a presentation induces the conclusion that Fonseca is inspired by Avicenna’s theory of the third nature and Scot’s theory of common nature. It is not extreme Platonic solution but less radical, indirect one which aspired to moderate realism. More generally speaking, it is noticed that in the early period of Jesuit philosophy Fonseca and later Suarez, being in opposition to extreme – as it was commonly believed – realism of Scot and Ockham’s nominalism, in fact is closer to Scot’s solutions while Suarez more into Ockham’s.
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  • Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw
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