Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Coe, William||Myers, C. Mason

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Philosophy


Resemblance (Philosophy); Identity (Philosophical concept)


The position which has been taken in this thesis is that Ludwig Wittgenstein's answer to the problem of universals is an alternative view to both the Identity and Resemblance Theories. The problem of universals, which has been presented in this thesis, is: what is the sufficient explanation of the relationship between objects which justifies men's conventional classifications of such objects into general or universal groups? The use of general terms is justified by showing the connection or relationship between objects since any such relationship would explain why men consider individual objects to be of the same Universal class. Two traditional views concerning this problem, the theories of Identity and Resemblance have been examined in this thesis, and both have been found to be insufficient as answers to the problem. Both of these views have been historically important in the philosophical study of universals However, the Identity Theory, as expressed by Panayot Butchvarov, is inadequate to explain variations and orders of qualities in generically identical groups. Likewise, the other traditional view, the Resemblance Theory given by Berkeley and Hume, is also insufficient as an explanation because it fails to consider the ontological relation between objects apart from man's claim that there is or is not a similarity between certain objects. Wittgenstein's answer to the problem of universals is his theory of "family resemblance." In Wittgenstein's view, when a person investigates the use of general terms, he should examine the overall resemblance rather than attempting to find one quality which is identical in all objects designated in a universal class. The Wittgensteinian position is, therefore, that general terms not only distinguish a group of objects, but also call our attention to qualities which are not identical but which do exist by degrees and variations in entities classified in a common category.


Includes bibliographical references.


iv, 70 pages




Northern Illinois University

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