Authored by: Simo Knuuttila

The Routledge Companion to Medieval Philosophy

Print publication date:  January  2021
Online publication date:  January  2021

Print ISBN: 9780415658270
eBook ISBN: 9781315709604
Adobe ISBN:


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In this chapter, I shall address the role of abstraction in the medieval theories of acquiring concepts from experience. After some introductory remarks on the medieval discussion of universals, I describe in the section “Illumination vs. Abstraction” the non-abstractive accounts of concept acquisition through divine illumination and influence from higher separate intellects. The section “Abstraction in Early Medieval Philosophy” deals with the Aristotelian ideas of abstraction as idealization and selective attention in early medieval thought, and the section “Abstraction in Thirteenth-Century Aristotelianism” with the notion of abstraction in the speculative psychology of thirteenth-century Aristotelians. Finally, a very different approach to abstraction in late medieval nominalism is discussed in the last section.

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