§2. Conceptualism 1)
27. Many philosophers call their variety of nominalism, »conceptualism"; but it is essentially the same thing; and their not seeing that it is so is but another example of that loose and slapdash style of thinking that has made it possible for them to remain nominalists. Their calling their »conceptualism« a middle term between realism and nominalism is itself an example in the very matter to which nominalism relates. For while the question between nominalism and realism is, in its nature, susceptible of but two answers: yes and no, they make an idle and irrelevant point which had been thoroughly considered by all the great realists; and instead of drawing a valid distinction, as they suppose, only repeat the very same confusion of thought which made them nominalists. The question was whether all properties, laws of nature, and predicates of more than an actually existent subject are, without exception, mere figments or not.P1) The conceptualists seek to wedge in a third position conflicting with the principle of excluded middle. They say, »Those universals are real, indeed; but they are only real thoughts.« So much may be said of the philosopher's stone. To give that answer constitutes a man a nominalist. Are the laws of nature, and that property of gold by which it will yield the purple of Cassius, no more real than the philosopher's stone? No, the conceptualists admit that there is a difference; but they say that the laws of nature and the properties of chemical species are results of thinking. The great realists had brought out all the truth there is in that much more distinctly long before modern conceptualism appeared in the world. They showed that the general is not capable of full actualization in the world of action and reaction but is of the nature of what is thought, but that our thinking only apprehends and does not create thought, and that that thought may and does as much govern outward things as it does our thinking. But those realists did not fall into any confusion between the real fact of having a dream and the illusory object dreamed. The conceptualist doctrine is an undisputed truism about thinking, while the question between nominalists and realists relates to thoughts, that is, to the objects which thinking enables us to know.