The Concrete-Abstract Distinction

  • George Duke
Part of the History of Analytic Philosophy book series (History of Analytic Philosophy)


Dummett’s early critique of nominalism is seriously compromised by his renunciation of the thesis that the context principle is sufficient to guarantee reference for abstract singular terms. Once he has abandoned a strong reading of the context principle, in fact, Dummett’s strategy to derive answers to traditional epistemological and metaphysical problems through the theory of meaning appears to be placed in question. By acknowledging that the identification of an extralinguistic referent is an essential component of the determination of the truth-conditions of a sentence containing a singular term, Dummett is led to ascribe a privileged status to the model of meaning for concrete singular terms and to place a greater emphasis on the problem of our epistemological access to concrete particulars. The question of the extent to which it is possible to provide an account of identifying knowledge of abstract objects modelled on the case of concrete objects, moreover, raises difficult questions concerning the metaphysical problem of the distinction between concrete and abstract entities. In this section I will explore these themes in the context of David Lewis’ account of the four ‘ways’ in which we can maintain the concrete abstract distinction.


Abstract Object Functional Expression Singular Term Concrete Object Abstract Entity 
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Copyright information

© George Duke 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • George Duke
    • 1
  1. 1.Deakin UniversityAustralia

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