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Albertus Magnus

Albertus Magnus (or, Albert the Great) a saint and doctor of the Catholic, or Universal, Church, was instrumental in the development of the theory of universals. Built upon Plato's theory of ideals, the theory of universals held that there are ideal ideas of things, and that these ideal ideas are in the mind of God. This theory formalizes a fundamental ground of Aristotle's logic, formalizes it and gives it a theological underpinning. This theory contrasts with its opposite, which philosophers call nominalism. Nominalism holds that there are no ideal ideas. All ideas are fundamentally arbitrary, albeit based upon (also, ultimately arbitrary) sequences of inductions from experience. Taken to the extreme, this theory destroys deduction, in the same way that Hume's theory of causation destroys physical science. Nominalism would not seem to be a very apt way to view the world, yet it undergirds relativism, the theory that each person decides what is true and what is false -- not "discovers", but "decides." If there are no true ideas, there are no truths, thus, truth is anything we think it is. (For a fuller discussion, click here.)