Aquinas on Attributes

Aquinas on Attributes

Leftow, Brian (Oriel College, Oxford)

Medieval Philosophy and Theology 11 (2003)


Aquinas’ theory of attributes is one of the most obscure, controversial parts of his thought. There is no agreement even on so basic a matter as where he falls in the standard scheme of classifying such theories: to Copleston, he is a resemblance-nominalist; to Armstrong, a “concept nominalist”; to Edwards and Spade, “almost as strong a realist as Duns Scotus”; to Gracia, Pannier, and Sullivan, neither realist nor nominalist; to Hamlyn, the Middle Ages’ “prime exponent of realism,” although his theory adds elements of nominalism and “conceptualism”; to Wolterstorff, just inconsistent. I now set out Aquinas’ view and try to answer the vexed question of how to classify it.

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