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Nominalism, Realism, Conceptualism

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These terms are used to designate the theories that have been proposed as solutions of one of the most important questions in philosophy, often referred to as the problem of universals, which, while it was a favourite subject for discussion in ancient times, and especially in the Middle Ages, is still prominent in modern and contemporary philosophy. We propose to discuss in this article:

I. The Nature of the Problem and the Suggested Solutions;
II. The Principal Historic Forms of Nominalism, Realism, and Conceptualism;
III. The Claims of Moderate Realism.

I. THE PROBLEM AND THE SUGGESTED SOLUTIONS

The problem of universals is the problem of the correspondence of our intellectual concepts to things existing outside our intellect. Whereas external objects are determinate, individual, formally exclusive of all multiplicity, our concepts or mental representations offer us the realities independent of all particular determination; they are abstract and universal. The question, therefore, is to discover to what extent the concepts of the mind correspond to the things they represent; how the flower we conceive represents the flower existing in nature ; in a word, whether our ideas are faithful and have an objective reality.

Four solutions of the problem have been offered. It is necessary to describe them carefully, as writers do not always use the terms in the same sense.

A. Exaggerated Realism

Exaggerated Realism holds that there are universal concepts in the mind and universal things in nature. There is, therefore, a strict parallelism between the being in nature and the being in thought, since the external object is clothed with the same character of universality that we discover in the concept. This is a simple solution, but one that runs counter to the dictates of common sense.

B. Nominalism

Exaggerated Realism invents a world of reality corresponding exactly to the attributes of the world of thought. Nominalism, on the contrary, models the concept on the external object, which it holds to be individual and particular. Nominalism consequently denies the existence of abstract and universal concepts, and refuses to admit that the intellect has the power of engendering them. What are called general ideas are only names, mere verbal designations, serving as labels for a collection of things or a series of particular events. Hence the term Nominalism. Neither Exaggerated Realism nor Nominalism finds any difficulty in establishing a correspondence between the thing in thought and the thing existing in nature, since in different ways, they both postulate perfect harmony between the two. The real difficulty appears when we assign different attributes to the thing in nature and to the thing in thought; if we hold that the one is individual and the other universal. An antinomy then arises between the world of reality and world as represented in the mind, and we are led to inquire how the general notion of flower conceived by the mind is applicable to the particular and determinate flowers of nature.

C. Conceptualism

Conceptualism admits the existence within us of abstract and universal concepts (whence its name), but it holds that we do not know whether or not the mental objects have any foundation outside our minds or whether in nature the individual objects possess distributively and each by itself the realities which we conceive as realized in each of them. The concepts have an ideal value; they have no real value, or at least we do not know whether they have a real value.

D. Moderate Realism

Moderate Realism, finally, declares that there are universal concepts representing faithfully realities that are not universal.

How can there be harmony between the former and the latter? The latter are particular, but we have the power of representing them to ourselves abstractly. Now the abstract type, when the intellect considers it reflectively and contrasts it with the particular subjects in which it is realized or capable of being realized, is attributable indifferently to any and all of them. This applicability of the abstract type to the individuals is its universality. (Mercier, "Critériologie", Louvain, 1906, p. 343).

II. THE PRINCIPAL HISTORICAL FORMS OF NOMINALISM, REALISM, AND CONCEPTUALISM

A. In Greek Philosophy

The conciliation of the one and the many, the changing and the permanent, was a favourite problem with the Greeks; it leads to the problem of universals. The typical affirmation of Exaggerated Realism, the most outspoken ever made, appears in Plato's philosophy ; the real must possess the attributes of necessity, universality, unity, and immutability which are found in our intellectual representations. And as the sensible world contains only the contingent, the particular, the unstable, it follows that the real exists outside and above the sensible world. Plato calls it eîdos, idea. The idea is absolutely stable and exists by itself (óntos ón; autá kath' autá), isolated from the phenomenal world, distinct from the Divine and human intellect. Following logically the directive principles of his Realism, Plato makes an idea entity correspond to each of our abstract representations. Not only natural species (man, horse) but artificial products (bed), not only substances (man) but properties (white, just), relations (double, triple), and even negations and nothingness have a corresponding idea in the suprasensible world. "What makes one and one two, is a participation of the dyad (dúas), and what makes one one is a participation of monad (mónas) in unity" (Phædo, lxix). The exaggerated Realism of Plato, investing the real being with the attributes of the being in thought, is the principal doctrine of his metaphysics.

Aristotle broke away from these exaggerated views of his master and formulated the main doctrines of Moderate Realism. The real is not, as Plato says, some vague entity of which the sensible world is only the shadow; it dwells in the midst of the sensible world. Individual substance (this man, that horse) alone has reality; it alone can exist. The universal is not a thing in itself; it is immanent in individuals and is multiplied in all the representatives of a class. As to the form of universality of our concepts (man, just), it is a product of our subjective consideration. The objects of our generic and specific representations can certainly be called substances (ousíai) , when they designate the fundamental reality (man) with the accidental determinations (just, big); but these are deúterai ousíai (second substances), and by that Aristotle means precisely that this attribute of universality which affects the substance as in thought does not belong to the substance (thing in itself); it is the outcome of our subjective elaboration. This theorem of Aristotle, which completes the metaphysics of Heraclitus (denial of permanent) by means of that of Parmenides (denial of change), is the antithesis of Platonism, and may be considered one of the finest pronouncements of Peripateticism. It was through this wise doctrine that the Stagyrite exercised his ascendency over all later thought.

After Aristotle Greek philosophy formulated a third answer to the problem of universals, Conceptualism. This solution appears in the teaching of the Stoics, which, as is known, ranks with Platonism and Aristoteleanism among the three original systems of the great philosophic age of the Greeks. Sensation is the principle of all knowledge, and thought is only a collective sensation. Zeno compared sensation to an open hand with the fingers separated; experience or multiple sensation to the open hand with the fingers bent; the general concept born of experience to the closed fist. Now, concepts, reduced to general sensations, have as their object, not the corporeal and external thing reached by the senses (túgchanon) , but the lektóon or the reality conceived; whether this has any real value we do not know. The Aristotelean School adopted Aristotelean Realism, but the neo-Platonists subscribed to the Platonic theory of ideas which they transformed into an emanationistic and monistic concepton of the universe.

B. In the Philosophy of the Middle Ages

For a long time it was thought that the problem of universals monopolized the attention of the philosophers of the Middle Ages, and that the dispute of the Nominalists and Realists absorbed all their energies. In reality that question, although prominent in the Middle Ages, was far from being the only one dealt with by these philosophers.

(1) From the commencement of the Middle Ages till the end of the 12th century.--It is impossible to classify the philosophers of the beginning of the Middle Ages exactly as Nominalists, Moderate and Exaggerated Realists, or Conceptualists. And the reason is that the problem of the Universals is very complex. It not merely involves the metaphysics of the individual and of the universal, but also raises important questions in ideology--questions about the genesis and validity of knowledge. But the earlier Scholastics, unskilled in such delicate matters, did not perceive these various aspects of the problem. It did not grow up spontaneously in the Middle Ages ; it was bequeathed in a text of porphyry's "Isagoge", a text that seemed simple and innocent, though somewhat obscure, but one which force of circumstances made the necessary starting-point of the earliest medieval speculations about the Universals.

Porphyry divides the problem into three parts:

  • Do genera and species exist in nature, or do they consist in mere products of the intellect ?
  • If they are things apart from the mind, are they coporeal or incorporeal things?
  • Do they exist outside the (individual) things of sense, or are they realized in the latter?
"Mox de generibus et speciebus illud quidem sive subsistant sive in nudis intelluctibus posita sint, sive subsistentia corporalia sint an incorporalia, et utrum separata a senaibilibus an in sensibilibus posita er circa haec subsistentia, decere recusabo." Historically, the first of those questions was discussed prior to the others: the latter could have arisen only in the event of denying an exclusively subjective character to universal realities. Now the first question was whether genera and species are objective realities or not: sive subsistant, sive in nudis intellectibus posita sint? In other words, the sole point in debate was the absolute reality of the universals : their truth, their relation to the understanding, was not in question. The text from Porphyry, apart from the solution he elsewhere proposed in works unknown to the early Scholastics, is an inadequate statement of the question; for it takes account only of the objective aspect and neglects the psychological standpoint which alone can give the key to the true solution. Moreover, Porphyry, after proposing his triple interrogation in the "Isagoge", refuses to offer an answer (dicere recusabo) . Boëthius, in his two commentaries, gives replies that are vague and scarecely consistent. In the second comentary, which is the more important one, he holds that genera and species are both subsistentia and intellecta (1st question), the similarity of things being the basis (subjectum) both of their individuality in nature and their universality in the mind : that genera and species are incorporeal not by nature but by abstraction (2nd question), and that they exist both inside and outside the things of sense (3rd question).

This was not sufficiently clear for beginners, though we can see in it the basis of the Aristotlean solution of the problem. The early Scholastics faced the problem as proposed by Porphyry: limiting the controversy to genera and species , and its solutions to the altenatives suggested by the first question: Do objects of concepts (i.e., genera and species ) exist in nature (subsistentia), or are they mere abstractions (nuda intelecta) ? Are they, or are they not, things? Those who replied in the affirmative got the name of Reals or Realists; the others that of Nominals or Nominalists. The former or the Realist, more numerous in the early Middle Ages (Fredugisus, Rémy d'Auxerre, and John Scotus Eriugena in the ninth century, Gerbert and Odo of Tournai in the Tenth, and William of Chapeaux in the twelfth) attribute to each species a universal essence (subsistentia) , to which all the subordinate individuals are tributary.

The Nominalists, who should be called rather the anti-Realists, assert on the contrary that the individual alone exists, and that the universals are not things realized in the universal state in nature, or subsistentia. And as they adopt the alternative of Porphyry, they conclude that the universals are nuda intellecta (that is, purely intellectual representations).

It may be that Roscelin of Compiègne did not go beyond these energetic protest against Realism, and that he is not a Nominalist in the exact sense we have attributed to the word above, for we have to depend on others for an expression of his views, as there is extant no text of his which would justify us in saying that he denied the intellect the power of forming general concepts, distinct in their nature from sensation. Indeed, it is difficult to comprehend how Nominalism could exist at all in the Middle Ages, as it is possible only in a sensist philosophy that denies all natural distinction between sensation and the intellectual concept. Futhermore there is little evidence of Sensism in the Middle Ages, and, as Sensism and Scholasticism, so also Nominalism and Scholasticism are mutually exclusive. The different anti-Realist system anterior to the thirteenth century are in fact only more or less imperfect forms of the Moderate Realism towards which efforts of the first period were tending, phases through which the same idea passed in its organic evolution. These stages are numerous, and several have been studied in recent monograph (e.g. the doctrine of Adélard of Bath, of Gauthier de Mortagne, Indifferentism, and the theory of the collectio ). The decisive stage is marked by Abélard, (1079-1142), who points out clearly the role abstraction, and how we represent to ourselves elements common to different things, capable of realization in an indefinite number of individuals of the same species, while the individual alone exists. From that to Moderate Realism there is but a step; it was sufficient to show that a real fundamentum allows us to attribute the general represention to individual thing. It is impossibe to say who was the first in the twelfth century to develop the theory in its entirety. Moderate Realism appears fully in the writing of John of Salisbury.

C. From the thirteenth Century

In the thirteenth century all the great Scholastics solved the problem of the universals by the theory of Moderate Realism ( Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, Duns Scotus ), and are thus in accord with Averroes and Avicenna, the great Arab commentators of Aristotle, whose works hasd recently passed into circulation by means of tranlations. St. Thomas formulates the doctrine of Moderate Realism in precise language, and for that reason alone we can give the name of Thomistic Realism to this doctrine (see below). With William of Occam and the Terminist School appear the strictly conceptualist solution of the problem. The abstract and universal concept is a sign (signum), also called a term ( terminus; hence the name Terminism given to the system), but it has no real value, for the absract and the universl do not exist in any way in nature and have no fundamentum outside the mind. The universal concept ( intentio secunda ) has as it object internal representations, formed by the understanding, to which nothing external corresponding can be attributed. The role of the universals is to serve as a label, to hold the place ( supponere ) in the mind of multitude of things which it can be attributed. Occam's Conceptualism would be frankly subjectivistic, if, together with the abstract concepts which reach the individual thing, as it exists in nature.

D. In Modern and Contemporary Philosophy

We find an unequivocal affirmation of Nominalism in Positivism. For Hume, Stuart Mill, Spencer, and Taine there is strictly speaking no universal concept. The notion, to which we lend universality, is only a collection of individual perceptions, a collective sensation, "un nom compris" (Taine), "a term in habitual association with many other particular ideas " (Hume), "un savoir potentiel emmagasiné" (Ribot). The problem of the correspondence of the concept to reality is thus at once solved, or rather it is suppressed and replaced by the psycological question: What is the origin of the illusion that induces us to attribute a distinct nature to the general concept, though the latter is only an elaborated sensation? Kant distinctly affirms the existence within us of abstract and general notions and the distinction between them and sensations, but these doctrines are joined with a characteristic Phonmenalism which constitutes the most original form of modern Conceptualism. Universal and necessary representations have no contact with external things, sinct they are produced exclusively by the structual functions (a priori forms) of our mind. Time and space, in which we frame all sensible impressions,cannot be obtained from expierence, which is individual and contigent; they are schemata which arise from our mental organization. Consequently, we have no warrant for establishing a real correspondence between the world of reality. Science, which is only an elaboration of the data of sense in accordance with other structural determinations of the mind (the categories), becomes a subjective poem, which has value only for us and not for a world outside us. A modern form of Platonic or Exaggerated Realism is found in the ontologist doctrine defended by certain Catholic philosophers in the middle of the nineteenth century, and which consist in identifying the objects of universal ideas with the Divine ideas or the archetypes on which the world was fashioned. As to Moderate Realism, it remains the doctrine of all those who have returned to Aristotleanism or adopted the neo-Scholastic philosophy .

III. THE CLAIMS OF MODERATE REALISM

This system reconciles the characteristics of external objects (particularity) with those of our intellectual representations (universality), and explains why science, though made up of abstract notions, is valid for the world of reality. To understand this it suffices to grasp the real meaning of abstraction. When the mind apprehends the essence of a thing (quod quid est; tò tí en eînai ), the external object is perceived without the particular notes which attach to it in nature (esse in singularibus), and it is not yet marked with the attribute of generality which reflection will bestow on it (esse in intellectu) . The abstract reality is apprehended with perfect indifference as regards both the individual state without and the universal state within: abstrahit ab utroque esse, secundum quam considerationem considerattur natura lapidis vel cujus cumque alterius, quantum ad ea tantum quæ per se competunt illi naturæ (St Tomas, "Quodlibeta", Q. i, a. 1). Now, what is thus conceived in the absolute state (absolute considerando) is nothing else than the reality incarnate in any give individual : in truth, the reality, represented in my concept of man, is in Socrates or in Plato. There is nothing in the abstract concept that is not applicable to every individual ; if the abstract concept is inadequate, because it does not contain the singular notes of each being, it is none the less faithful, or at least its abstract character does not prevent it from corresponding faithfully to the objects existing in nature. As to the universal form of the concept, a moment's consideration shows that it is subsequent to the abstraction and is the fruit of reflection: "ratio speciei accidit naturæ humanæ". Whence it follows that the universality of the concept as such is the work purely of the intellect : "unde intellectus est qui facit universalitatem in rebus" (St. Thomas, "De ente et essentia," iv).

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Concerning Nominalism, Conceptualism, and Exaggerated Realism, a few general considerations must suffice. Nominalism, which is irreconcilable with a spiritualistic philosophy and for that very reason with scholasticism as well, presupposes the ideological theory that the abstract concept does not differ essentially from sensation, of which it is only a transformation. The Nominalism of Hume, Stuart Mill, Spencer, Huxley, and Taine is of no greater value than their ideology. The confound essentially distinct logical operations--the simple decomposition of sensible or empirical representations with abstraction properly so called and sensible analogy with the process of universalization. The Aristotleans recognize both of these mental operations, but they distinguish carefully between them. As to Kant, all the bounds that might connect the concept with the external world are destroyed in his Phenomenalism. Kant is unable to explain why one and the same sensible impression starts or sets in operation now this, now that category ; his a priori forms are unintelligible according to his own principles, since they are beyond experience. Moreover, he confuses real time and space, limited like the things they develop, with ideal or abstract time and space, which alone are general and without limit. For in truth we do not create wholesale the object of our knowledge, but we beget it within us under the causal influence of the object that reveals itself to us. Ontologism, which is akin to Platonic Realism, arbitrarily identifies the ideal types in our intellect, which come to us from the sensible world by means of abstraction, with the ideal types consubstantial with the essence of God. Now, when we form our first abstract ideas we do not yet know God. We are so ignorant of Him that we must employ these first ideas to prove a posteriori His existence. Ontologism has lived its life, and our age so enamoured of observation and experiment will scarcely return to the dreams of Plato.

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Neo-Platonism

Neo-Platonism

General survey A system of idealistic, spiritualistic philosophy, tending towards mysticism, ...
Neo-Pythagorean Philosophy

Neo-Pythagorean Philosophy

The ethico-religious society founded by Pythagoras, which flourished especially in Magna ...
Neo-Scholasticism

Neo-Scholasticism

Neo-Scholasticism is the development of the Scholasticism of the Middle Ages during the latter ...
Neocæsarea

Neocaesarea (Hierapolis)

A titular see, suffragan of Hierapolis in the Patriarchate of Antioch sometimes called ...
Neocæsarea

Neocaesarea

A titular see of Pontus Polemoniacus, at first called Cabira, one of the favourite residences ...
Neophyte

Neophyte

Neophyte ( neophytoi , the newly planted, i.e. incorporated with the mystic Body of Christ), a ...
Nephtali

Nephtali

(A.V., N APHTALI ) Sixth son of Jacob and Bala ( Genesis 30:8 ). The name is explained ...
Nepi and Sutri

Nepi and Sutri

Nepi and Sutri (Nepsin et Sutrin), united sees of the province of Rome, central Italy, in the ...
Nepveu, Francis

Francis Nepveu

Writer on ascetical subjects, b. at St. Malo, 29 April, 1639; entered the novitiate of the ...
Nereus and Achilleus, Domitilla and Pancratius, Saints

Sts. Nereus and Achilleus, Domitilla and Pancratius

The commemoration of these four Roman saints is made by the Church on 12 May, in common, and ...
Neri, Antonio

Antonio Neri

Florentine chemist, born in Florence ln the sixteenth century; died 1614, place unknown. We have ...
Neri, Saint Philip Romolo

St. Philip Romolo Neri

THE APOSTLE OF ROME. Born at Florence, Italy, 22 July, 1515; died 27 May, 1595. Philip's ...
Nerinckx, Charles

Charles Nerinckx

Missionary priest in Kentucky, founder of the Sisters of Loretto at the Foot of the Cross, born ...
Nero

Nero

Nero, the last Roman emperor (reigned 54-68) of the Julian-Claudian line, was the son of Domitius ...
Nerses I-IV

Nerses I-IV

Armenian patriarchs. Nerses I Surnamed "the Great". Died 373. Born of the royal stock, he ...
Nerses of Lambron

Nerses of Lambron

Born 1153 at Lambron, Cilicia; died 1198; son of Oschin II, prince of Lambron and nephew of the ...
Nestorius and Nestorianism

Nestorius and Nestorianism

I. THE HERESIARCH Nestorius, who gave his name to the Nestorian heresy, was born at Germanicia, ...
Netherlands, The

The Netherlands

( German Niederlande ; French Pays Bas ). The Netherlands, or Low Countries, as organized by ...
Netter, Thomas

Thomas Netter

Theologian and controversialist, b. at Saffron Waldon, Essex, England, about 1375; d. at Rouen, ...
Neugart, Trudpert

Trudpert Neugart

Benedictine historian, born at Villingen, Baden, 23 February, 1742; died at St Paul's ...
Neum

Neum

(Latin, neuma, pneuma, or neupma, from Greek pneûma, a nod). A term in medieval ...
Neumann, Johann Balthasar

Johann Balthasar Neumann

Born 1687 at Eger; died 1753 at Würzburg, master of the rococo style and one of the ...
Neumayr, Franz

Franz Neumayr

Preacher, writer on theological, controversial and ascetical subjects, and author of many ...
Neusohl

Neusohl

Diocese of Neusohl (Hung. Beszterczebànya; Lat. Neosoliensis), founded in 1776 by Maria ...
Neutra

Neutra

(Nitria; Nyitha) -- Diocese of Neutra (Nitriensis). Diocese in Western Hungary, a suffragan of ...
Nevada

Nevada

A Western state of the United States , bounded on the North by Oregon and Idaho, on the East ...
Neve

Neve

Titular see of Arabia, suffragan of Bostra. Two of its bishops are known: Petronius, who ...
Nevers

Nevers

(Nivernum) Diocese ; includes the Department of Nièvre, in France. Suppressed by the ...
Neville

Neville

(1) Edmund Neville ( alias Sales), a Jesuit, born at Hopcut, Lancashire, 1605; died in ...
New Abbey

New Abbey

The Abbey of Sweetheart, named New Abbey Pow, or New Abbey, in order to distinguish it, from ...
New Caledonia

New Caledonia

VICARIATE APOSTOLIC New Caledonia, one of the largest islands of Oceania, lies about 900 miles ...
New Guinea

New Guinea

The second largest island and one of the least known countries of the world, lies immediately ...
New Hampshire

New Hampshire

The most northerly of the thirteen original states of the United States, lying between 70°37' ...
New Jersey

New Jersey

One of the original thirteen states of the American Union. It ratified the Federal Constitution ...
New Mexico

New Mexico

A territory of the United States now (Jan., 1911) awaiting only the completion of its ...
New Norcia

New Norcia

A Benedictine abbey in Western Australia, founded on 1 March, 1846, by a Spanish Benedictine, ...
New Orleans

New Orleans

ARCHDIOCESE OF NEW ORLEANS (NOVÆ AURELIÆ). Erected 25 April, 1793, as the Diocese of ...
New Pomerania

New Pomerania

New Pomerania, the largest island of the Bismarck Archipelago, is separated from New Guinea by ...
New Testament

New Testament

I. Name ; II. Description ; III. Origin ; IV. Transmission of the Text ; V. Contents, History, ...
New Testament, Canon of the

Canon of the New Testament

The Catholic New Testament, as defined by the Council of Trent, does not differ, as regards the ...
New Year's Day

New Year's Day

The word year is etymologically the same as hour (Skeat), and signifies a going, movement ...
New York (Archdiocese)

New York

ARCHDIOCESE OF NEW YORK (NEO-EBORACENSIS). See erected 8 April, 1808; made archiepiscopal 19 ...
New York (State)

State of New York

One of the thirteen colonies of Great Britain, which on 4 July, 1776, adopted the Declaration of ...
New Zealand

New Zealand

New Zealand—formerly described as a colony—has, since September, 1907, by royal ...
Newark

Newark

(NOVARCENSIS) Diocese created in 1853, suffragan of New York and comprising Hudson, Passaic, ...
Newbattle

Newbattle

( Neubotle , i.e. new dwelling). Newbattle, in the ancient Diocese of St. Andrews, about ...
Newdigate, Blessed Sebastian

Blessed Sebastian Newdigate

Executed at Tyburn, 19 June, 1535. A younger son of John Newdigate of Harefield Place, Middlesex, ...
Newfoundland

Newfoundland

A British colony of North America (area 42,734 square miles), bounded on the north by the Strait ...
Newhouse, Abbey of

Abbey of Newhouse

The Abbey of Newhouse, near Brockelsby, Lincoln, the first Premonstratensian abbey in England, ...
Newman, John Henry

John Henry Newman

(1801-1890) Cardinal-Deacon of St. George in Velabro, divine, philosopher, man of letters, ...
Newport (England)

Newport (England)

(NEOPORTENSIS) This diocese takes its name from Newport, a town of about 70,000 inhabitants, ...
Newton, John

John Newton

A soldier and engineer, born at Norfolk, Virginia, 24 August, 1823; died in New York City, 1 May, ...
Niagara University

Niagara University

Niagara University, situated near Niagara Falls, New York, is conducted by the Vincentians. It ...
Nicéron, Jean-Pierre

Jean-Pierre Niceron

A French lexicographer, born in Paris, 11 March, 1685, died there, 8 July, 1738. After his ...
Nicaea

Nicaea

Titular see of Bithynia Secunda, situated on Lake Ascanius, in a fertile plain, but very ...
Nicaea, First Council of

First Council of Nicaea

First Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church, held in 325 on the occasion of the heresy of ...
Nicaea, Second Council of

Second Council of Nicaea

Seventh Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church, held in 787. (For an account of the ...
Nicaragua

Nicaragua

(REPUBLIC AND DIOCESE OF NICARAGUA; DE NICARAGUA) The diocese, suffragan of Guatemala, is ...
Nicastro

Nicastro

(NEOCASTRENSIS). A city of the Province of Catanzaro, in Calabria, southern Italy, situated ...
Niccola Pisano

Niccola Pisano

Architect and sculptor, b. at Pisa about 1205-07; d. there, 1278. He was the father of modern ...
Nice

Nice

(NICIENSIS) Nice comprises the Department of Alpes-Maritimes. It was re-established by the ...
Nicene Creed

Nicene Creed

As approved in amplified form at the Council of Constantinople (381), it is the profession of the ...
Nicephorus, Saint

St. Nicephorus

Patriarch of Constantinople, 806-815, b. about 758; d. 2 June, 829. This champion of the orthodox ...
Nicetas

Nicetas

(NICETA) A Bishop of Remesiana (Romatiana) in what is now Servia, born about 335; died ...
Nicetius, Saint

St. Nicetius

A Bishop of Trier, born in the latter part of the fifth century, exact date unknown; died in ...
Niche

Niche

A recess for the reception of a statue, so designed as to give it emphasis, frame it effectively, ...
Nicholas Garlick, Venerable

Ven. Nicholas Garlick

Priest and martyr, born at Dinting, Derbyshire, c. 1555; died at Derby, 24 July, 1588. He ...
Nicholas I, Saint, Pope

Pope Saint Nicholas I

Born at Rome, date unknown; died 13 November, 867. One of the great popes of the Middle ...
Nicholas II, Pope

Pope Nicholas II

(GERHARD OF BURGUNDY) Nicholas was born at Chevron, in what is now Savoy ; elected at Siena, ...
Nicholas III, Pope

Pope Nicholas III

(GIOVANNI GAETANI ORSINI) Born at Rome, c. 1216; elected at Viterbo, 25 November, 1277; died ...
Nicholas IV, Pope

Pope Nicholas IV

(GIROLAMO MASCI) Born at Ascoli in the Rome, 4 April, 1292. He was of humble extraction, ...
Nicholas Justiniani

Nicholas Justiniani

Date of birth unknown, became monk in the Benedictine monastery of San Niccoló del Lido ...
Nicholas of Cusa

Nicholas of Cusa

German cardinal, philosopher, and administrator, b. at Cues on the Moselle, in the Archdiocese ...
Nicholas of Flüe, Blessed

Blessed Nicholas of Flue

(D E R UPE ). Born 21 March, 1417, on the Flüeli, a fertile plateau near Sachseln, ...
Nicholas of Gorran

Nicholas of Gorran

(Or GORRAIN) Medieval preacher, and scriptural commentator; b. in 1232 at Gorron, France ; ...
Nicholas of Lyra

Nicholas of Lyra

( Doctor planus et utilis ) Exegete, b. at Lyra in Normandy, 1270; d. at Paris, 1340. The ...
Nicholas of Myra, Saint

St. Nicholas of Myra

( Also called NICHOLAS OF BARI). Bishop of Myra in Lycia; died 6 December, 345 or 352. ...
Nicholas of Osimo

Nicholas of Osimo

(AUXIMANUS). A celebrated preacher and author, b. at Osimo, Italy, in the second half of the ...
Nicholas of Strasburg

Nicholas of Strasburg

Mystic ; flourished early in the fourteenth century. Educated at Paris, he was later on lector ...
Nicholas of Tolentino, Saint

St. Nicholas of Tolentino

Born at Sant' Angelo, near Fermo, in the Hermits of St. Augustine -- a star above him or on his ...
Nicholas Owen, Saint

St. Nicholas Owen

A Jesuit lay-brother, martyred in 1606. There is no record of his parentage, birthplace, date ...
Nicholas Pieck, Saint

St. Nicholas Pieck

(Also spelled PICK). Friar Minor and martyr, b. at Gorkum, Holland, 29 August, 1534; d. at ...
Nicholas V, Pope

Pope Nicholas V

(TOMMASO PARENTUCELLI) A name never to be mentioned without reverence by every lover of ...
Nichols, Venerable George

Ven. George Nichols

(Or NICOLLS). English martyr, born at Oxford about 1550; executed at Oxford, 19 October, ...
Nicholson, Francis

Francis Nicholson

A controversial writer; b. at Manchester, 1650 ( baptized 27 Oct.); d. at Lisbon, 13 Aug., 1731. ...
Nicodemus

Nicodemus

A prominent Jew of the time of Christ, mentioned only in the Fourth Gospel . The name is of ...
Nicodemus, Gospel of

Acta Pilati

(Or the Gospel of Nicodemus.) This work does not assume to have written by Pilate, but to have ...
Nicolò de' Tudeschi

Nicolo De' Tudeschi

("abbas modernus" or "recentior", "abbas Panormitanus" or "Siculus") A Benedictine canonist, ...
Nicolaï, Jean

Jean Nicolai

Celebrated Dominican theologian and controversialist, b. in 1594 at Mouzay in the Diocese of ...
Nicolaites

Nicolaites Or Nicolaitans

(Also called Nicolaitans), a sect mentioned in the Apocalypse (ii,6,15) as existing in ...
Nicolas, Armella

Armella Nicolas

Popularly known as "La bonne Armelle", a saintly French serving-maid held in high veneration among ...
Nicolas, Auguste

Auguste Nicolas

French apologist, b. at Bordeaux, 6 Jan., 1807; d. at Versailles 18 Jan., 1888. He first studied ...
Nicolaus Germanus

Nicolaus Germanus

(Often called "Donis" from a misapprehension of the title "Donnus" or "Donus" an abbreviated form ...
Nicole, Pierre

Pierre Nicole

Theologian and controversialist, b. 19 October, 1625, at Chartres, d. 16 November, 1695, at ...
Nicolet

Nicolet

(NICOLETANA) Diocese in the Province of Quebec, Canada, suffragan of Quebec. It comprises the ...
Nicomedes, Saint

Saint Nicomedes

Martyr of unknown era, whose feast is observed 15 September. The Roman Martyrologium and the ...
Nicomedia

Nicomedia

Titular see of Bithynia Prima, founded by King Zipoetes. About 264 B.C. his son Nicodemes I ...
Nicopolis

Nicopolis (Armenia Prima)

A titular see, suffragan of Sebasteia, in Armenia Prima. Founded by Pompey after his decisive ...
Nicopolis

Nicopolis

(NICOPOLITANA) Diocese in Bulgaria. The city of Nicopolis (Thrace or Moesia), situated at the ...
Nicopolis

Nicopolis

A titular see and metropolis in ancient Epirus. Augustus founded the city (B.C. 31) on a ...
Nicosia

Nicosia (Sicily)

A city of the Province of Catania, in Sicily situated at a height of about 2800 feet above the ...
Nicosia

Nicosia (Cyprus)

Titular archdiocese in the Province of Cyprus. It is now agreed (Oberhummer' "Aus Cypern" in ...
Nicotera and Tropea

Nicotera and Tropea

(NICOTERENSIS ET TROPEIENSIS) Suffragan diocese of Reggio di Calabria. Nicotera, the ancient ...
Nider, John

John Nider

Theologian, b. 1380 in Swabia; d. 13 August, 1438, at Colmar. He entered the Order of Preachers ...
Nieremberg y Otin, Juan Eusebio

Juan Eusebio Nieremberg y Otin

Noted theologian and polygraphist, b. of German parents at Madrid, 1595; d. there, 1658. ...
Niessenberger, Hans

Hans Niessenberger

An architect of the latter part of the Middle Ages, whose name is mentioned with comparative ...
Niger, Peter George

Peter George Niger

(NIGRI, German SCHWARTZ) Dominican theologian, preacher and controversialist, b. 1434 at ...
Nigeria

Upper and Lower Nigeria

A colony of British East Africa extending from the Gulf of Guinea to Lake Chad (from 4° 30' ...
Nihilism

Nihilism

The term was first used by Turgeniev in his novel, "Fathers and Sons" (in "Russkij Vestnik", Feb., ...
Nihus, Barthold

Barthold Nihus

Convert and controversialist, b. at Holtorf in Hanover, 7 February, 1590 (according to other ...
Nikolaus von Dinkelsbühl

Nikolaus von Dinkelsbuhl

Theologian, b. c. 1360, at Dinkelsbühl; d. 17 March, 1433, at Mariazell in Styria. He ...
Nikon

Nikon

Patriarch of Moscow (1652-1658; d. 1681). He was of peasant origin, born in the district of ...
Nilles, Nikolaus

Nikolaus Nilles

Born 21 June, 1828, of a wealthy peasant family of Rippweiler, Luxemburg ; died 31 January, ...
Nilopolis

Nilopolis

A titular see and a suffragan of Oxyrynchos, in Egypt. According to Ptolemy (IV, v, 26) the ...
Nilus the Younger

Nilus the Younger

Of Rossano, in Calabria; born in 910, died 27 December, 1005. For a time he was married (or ...
Nilus, Saint

St. Nilus

( Neilos ) Nilus the elder, of Sinai (died c. 430), was one of the many disciples and ...
Nimbus

Nimbus

(Latin, related to Nebula, nephele , properly vapour, cloud), in art and archaeology signifies ...
Nimrod

Nemrod

Also N IMROD ( nmrd of uncertain signification, Septuagint Nebród ). The name of ...
Ninian, Saint

Saint Ninian

(NINIAS, NINUS, DINAN, RINGAN, RINGEN) Bishop and confessor ; date of birth unknown; died ...
Nirschl, Joseph

Joseph Nirschl

Theologian and writer, b. at Durchfurth, Lower Bavaria, 24 February, 1823; d. at ...
Nisibis

Nisibis

A titular Archdiocese of Mesopotamia, situated on the Mygdonius at the foot of Mt. Masius. It is ...
Nithard

Nithard

Frankish historian, son of Angilbert and Bertha, daughter of Charlemagne ; died about 843 or ...
Noah

Noah

[Hebrew Nôah , "rest"; Greek Noah ; Latin Noah ]. The ninth patriarch of the ...
Noah's Ark

Noah's Ark

The Hebrew name to designate Noah's Ark, the one which occurs again in the history of Moses' ...
Noailles, Louis-Antoine de

Louis-Antoine de Noailles

Cardinal and bishop, b. at the Château of Teyssiére in Auvergne, France, 27 May, ...
Nobili, Robert de'

Robert De' Nobili

Born at Montepulciano, Tuscany, September, 1577; died at Mylapore, India, in 1656. He entered the ...
Noble, Daniel

Daniel Noble

Physician, b. 14 Jan., 1810; d. at Manchester, 12 Jan, 1885. He was the son of Mary Dewhurst and ...
Nocera

Nocera

DIOCESE OF NOCERA (NUCERINENSIS) Diocese in Perugia, Umbria, Italy, near the sources of the ...
Nocera dei Pagani

Nocera Dei Pagani

(NUCERIN PAGANORUM; dei Pagani ="of the Pagans") Diocese in Salermo, Italy, at the foot of ...
Nocturns

Nocturns

( Nocturni or Nocturna ). A very old term applied to night Offices. Tertullian speaks of ...
Nogaret, Guillaume de

Guillaume de Nogaret

Born about the middle of the thirteenth century at St. Felix-en-Lauragais; died 1314; he was one ...
Nola

Nola

(NOLANA) Diocese ; suffragan of Naples. The city of Nola in the Italian Province of Caserta, ...
Nola, Giovanni Marliano da

Giovanni Marliano da Nola

Sculptor and architect, b., it is said, of a leather merchant named Giuseppe, at Nola, near ...
Nolasco, Saint Peter

St. Peter Nolasco

Born at Mas-des-Saintes-Puelles, near Castelnaudary, France, in 1189 (or 1182); died at ...
Nollet, Jean-Antoine

Jean-Antoine Nollet

Physicist, b. at Pimpré, Oise, France, 19 November, 1700; d. at Paris, 25 April, 1770. His ...
Nominalism, Realism, Conceptualism

Nominalism, Realism, Conceptualism

These terms are used to designate the theories that have been proposed as solutions of one of the ...
Nomination

Nomination

The various methods of designating persons for ecclesiastical benefices or offices have been ...
Nomocanon

Nomocanon

(From the Greek nomos , law, and kanon , a rule) A collection of ecclesiastical law, the ...
Non Expedit

Non Expedit

("It is not expedient"). Words with which the Holy See enjoined upon Italian Catholics the ...
Non-Jurors

Non-Jurors

The name given to the Anglican Churchmen who in 1689 refused to take the oath of allegiance to ...
Nonantola

Nonantola

A former Benedictine monastery and prelature nullius , six miles north-east of Modena ...
Nonconformists

Nonconformists

A name which, in its most general acceptation, denotes those refusing to conform with the ...
None

None

This subject will be treated under the following heads: I. Origin of None; II. None from the ...
Nonnotte, Claude-Adrien

Claude-Adrien Nonnotte

Controversialist; b. in Besançon, 29 July, 1711; d. there, 3 September, 1793. At nineteen ...
Nonnus

Nonnus

Nonnus, of Panopolis in Upper Egypt (c. 400), the reputed author of two poems in hexameters; ...
Norbert, Saint

St. Norbert

Born at Kanten on the left bank of the Rhine, near Wesel, c. 1080; died at Magdeburg, 6 June, ...
Norbertines

Premonstratensian Canons

(C ANONICI R EGULARES P RÆMONSTRATENSES ). Founded in 1120 by St. Norbert at ...
Norcia

Norcia

(NORSIN). A diocese and city in Perugia, Italy, often mentioned in Roman history. In the ...
Norfolk, Catholic Dukes of

Post-Reformation Catholic Dukes of Norfolk

(Since the Reformation) Under this title are accounts only of the prominent Catholic Dukes of ...
Noris, Henry

Henry Noris

Cardinal, b. at Verona, 29 August, 1631, of English ancestry; d. at Rome, 23 Feb., 1704. He ...
Normandy

Normandy

An ancient French province, from which five "departments" were formed in 1790: ...
Norris, Sylvester

Sylvester Norris

( Alias SMITH, NEWTON). Controversial writer and English missionary priest ; b. 1570 or ...
Norsemen

Northmen (Vikings)

The Scandinavians who, in the ninth and tenth centuries, first ravaged the coasts of Western ...
North Carolina

North Carolina

One of the original thirteen States of the United States, is situated between 33° 53' and ...
North Dakota

North Dakota

One of the United States of America , originally included in the Louisiana Purchase. Little was ...
Northampton

Northampton

(NORTANTONIENSIS) Diocese in England, comprises the Counties of Northampton, Bedford, ...
Northcote, James Spencer

James Spencer Northcote

Born at Feniton Court, Devonshire, 26 May, 1821; d. at Stoke-upon-Trent, Staffordshire, 3 March, ...
Northern Territory

Northern Territory

(Prefecture Apostolic) The Northern Territory, formerly Alexander Land, is that part of ...
Northmen

Northmen (Vikings)

The Scandinavians who, in the ninth and tenth centuries, first ravaged the coasts of Western ...
Norton, Christopher

Christopher Norton

Martyr ; executed at Tyburn, 27 May, 1570. His father was Richard Norton of Norton Conyers, ...
Norway

Norway

Norway, comprising the smaller division of the Scandinavian peninsula, is bounded on the east by ...
Norwich, Ancient Diocese of

Ancient Diocese of Norwich

(NORDOVICUM; NORVICUM). Though this see took its present name only in the eleventh century, ...
Notaries

Notaries

( Latin notarius ). Persons appointed by competent authority to draw up official or authentic ...
Notburga

Jean-Baptiste Nothomb

Jean-Baptiste Belgian statesman, b. 3 July, 1805, at Messancy, Luxemburg ; d. at Berlin, 16 ...
Notburga, Saint

St. Notburga

Patroness of servants and peasants, b. c. 1265 at Rattenberg on the Inn; d. c. 16 September, 1313. ...
Nothomb, Jean-Baptiste

Jean-Baptiste Nothomb

Jean-Baptiste Belgian statesman, b. 3 July, 1805, at Messancy, Luxemburg ; d. at Berlin, 16 ...
Notitia Dignitatum

Notitia Dignitatum

(Register of Offices). The official handbook of the civil and military officials in the later ...
Notitia Provinciarum et Civitatum Africae

Notitia Provinciarum Et Civitatum Africae

(List of the Provinces and Cities of Africa). A list of the bishops and their sees in the ...
Notitiae Episcopatuum

Notitiae Episcopatuum

The name given to official documents that furnish for Eastern countries the list and hierarchical ...
Notker

Notker

Among the various monks of St. Gall who bore this name, the following are the most important: ...
Noto

Noto

(NETEN). Noto, the ancient Netum and after the Saracen conquest the capital of one of the ...
Notoriety, Notorious

Notoriety

( Latin Notorietas, notorium , from notus , known). Notoriety is the quality or the ...
Notre Dame de Montreal, Congregation of

Congregation of Notre Dame de Montreal

Marguerite Bourgeoys, the foundress, was born at Troyes, France, 17 April, 1620. She was the ...
Notre Dame, School Sisters of

School Sisters of Notre Dame

A religious community devoted to education. In the United Sates they have conducted parish ...
Notre Dame, Sisters of (of Cleveland, Ohio)

Sisters of Notre Dame (Cleveland, Ohio)

A branch of the congregation founded by Blessed Julie Billiart. In 1850, Father Elting of ...
Notre Dame, University of

University of Notre Dame

(Full name is the University of Notre Dame du Lac ). Notre Dame is located in Northern ...
Notre-Dame de Namur, Institute of

Institute of Notre-Dame de Namur

Founded in 1803 at Amiens, France, by Bl. Julie Billiart (b. 1751 d. 1816) and ...
Notre-Dame de Sion, Congregation of

Congregation of Notre-Dame de Sion

Religious institute of women, founded at Paris in May 1843, by Marie-Théodore and ...
Nottingham

Nottingham

(NOTTINGHAMIEN) One of the original twelve English dioceses created at the time of the ...
Nourrisson, Jean-Felix

Jean-Felix Nourrisson

Philosopher, b. at Thiers, Department of Puy-de-Dôme, 18 July, 1825; d. at Paris, 13 June, ...
Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia

I. GEOGRAPHY Nova Scotia is one of the maritime provinces of Canada. It forms part of what was ...
Novara

Novara

(NOVARIENSIS). A diocese and the capital of the province of Novara, Piedmont, Italy, noted ...
Novatianism

Novatian and Novatianism

Novatian was a schismatic of the third century, and founder of the sect of the Novatians; he ...
Novatus, Saint

St. Novatus

St. Novatus, who is mentioned on 20 June with his brother, the martyr Timotheus, was the son of ...
Novello, Blessed Agostino

Bl. Agostino Novello

(Matteo Di Termini), born in the first half of the thirteenth century, at Termini, a village of ...
Novena

Novena

(From novem , nine.) A nine days' private or public devotion in the Catholic Church to ...
Novice

Novice

I. DEFINITION AND REQUIREMENTS The word novice , which among the Romans meant a newly acquired ...
Nubia

Nubia

Located in North-eastern Africa, extending from Sennar south to beyond Khartoum and including the ...
Nueva Cáceres

Nueva Caceres

(NOVA CACERES) Diocese created in 1595 by Clement VIII ; it is one of the four suffragan ...
Nueva Pamplona

Nueva Pamplona

(NEO-PAMPILONENSIS). Diocese in Colombia, South America, founded in 1549 and a see erected by ...
Nueva Segovia

Nueva Segovia

(NOVAE SEGOBIAE) Diocese in the Philippines, so called from Segovia, a town in Spain. The town ...
Nugent, Francis

Francis Nugent

Priest of the Franciscan Capuchin Order, founder of the Irish and the Rhenish Provinces of said ...
Nugent, James

James Nugent

Philanthropist, temperance advocate and social reformer b. 3 March, 1822 at Liverpool ; d. 27 ...
Numbers, Use of, in the Church

Use of Numbers in the Church

No attentive reader of the Old Testament can fail to notice that a certain sacredness seems to ...
Numismatics

Numismatics

(From the Greek nomisma , "legal currency") Numismatics is the science of coins and of ...
Nun of Kent

Elizabeth Barton

Born probably in 1506; executed at Tyburn, 20 April, 1534; called the "Nun of Kent." The career of ...
Nunc Dimittis

Nunc Dimittis

(The Canticle of Simeon). Found in St. Luke's Gospel (2:29-32) , is the last in historical ...
Nuncio

Nuncio

An ordinary and permanent representative of the pope, vested with both political and ...
Nunez, Pedro

Pedro Nunez (Nonius)

(Pedro Nonius). Mathematician and astronomer, b. at Alcacer-do-Sol, 1492; d. at Coimbra, ...
Nuns

Nuns

I. ORIGIN AND HISTORY The institution of nuns and sisters, who devote themselves in various ...
Nuptial Mass

Nuptial Mass

"Missa pro sponso et sponsa", the last among the votive Masses in the Missal. It is composed of ...
Nuremberg

Nuremberg

(NÜRNBERG) The second largest city in Bavaria, situated in a plain on both sides of the ...
Nusco

Nusco

(N USCANA ) Diocese in the province of Avellino, Italy, suffragan of Salerno ; dates from ...
Nussbaum, Johannn Nepomuk von

Johann Nepomuk von Nussbaum

German surgeon, b. at Munich 2 Sept., 1829; d. there 31 Oct., 1890. He made his studies in the ...
Nutter, Robert, Ven.

Ven. Robert Nutter

English martyr ; b. at Burnley, Lancashire, c. 1550; executed at Lancaster, 26 July, 1600. He ...
Nuyens, Wilhelmus

Wilhelmus Nuyens

Historian, b. 18 August, 1823, at Avenhorn in Holland ; d. 10 December, 1894, at Westwoud near ...
Nyassa

Nyassa

Vicariate Apostolic in Central Africa, bounded north by the Anglo-German frontier, east by Lake ...
Nympha, Tryphon, and Respicius

Tryphon, Respicius, and Nympha

Martyrs whose feast is observed in the Latin Church on 10 November. Tryphon is said to have ...
Nyssa

Nyassa

Vicariate Apostolic in Central Africa, bounded north by the Anglo-German frontier, east by Lake ...
Nyssa

Nyssa (Cappadocia Prima)

A titular see in Cappadocia Prima, suffragan of Caesarea. It is mentioned by Ptolemy (V, vii, ...

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