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German term for "Overman" or "Superman." Hence, in the philosophy of Nietzsche, an extraordinary individual who transcends the limits of traditional morality to live purely by the will to power.

Also see EB.

Unamuno, Miguel de (1864-1936)

Spanish philosopher. In Del sentimento trágico de la vida en los hombres y en los pueblos (The Tragic Sense of Life) (1913), Unamuno described human existence as torn between the irrational hope for immortality and the rational expectation of death. Since faith can never outweigh reason, Unamuno supposed, the best we can achieve is a life of authentic struggle with the human predicament.

Recommended Reading: Miguel De Unamuno, Three Exemplary Novels, tr. by Angel Flores (Grove, 1987) ; Victor Ouimette, Reason Aflame: Unamuno and the Heroic Will (Yale, 1986); and Gemma Roberts, Unamuno: afinidades y coincidencias kierkegaardianas (Colorado, 1986).

Also see EB.


Mental activity of which the person engaging in it is not aware; hence a presumed source of unknown internal influences over the conduct of human agent. Psychoanalysts like Freud, Jung, and Lacan supposed it possible to discover the content and significance of such influences with suitable methods of psychiatric investigation.

Recommended Reading: Alasdair C. McIntyre, The Unconscious: A Conceptual Analysis (St. Augustine, 1997); Cogito and the Unconscious, ed. by Slavoj Zizek (Duke, 1998); John Hanwell Riker, Ethics and the Discovery of the Unconscious (SUNY, 1997); and Donald Levy, Freud Among the Philosophers: The Psychoanalytic Unconscious and Its Philosophical Critics (Yale, 1996).

Also see DPM, Ralph Ellis, and EB.


The characteristic of rival hypotheses each of which is consistent with the available evidence. The possibility that every scientific theory must always remain undetermined raises significant doubt about the success of abductive reasoning.

Also see SEP.

understanding {Gk. διανοια [diánoia]; Lat. ingenium; Ger. Verstehen}

The human capacity for comprehending the nature of reality. In Plato's theory of knowledge, we comprehend the truths of mathematics through understanding. For modern philosophers following Descartes or Locke, the understanding is the intellectual faculty considered more broadly or generally.

Recommended Reading: Vincent G. Potter, On Understanding Understanding: A Philosophy of Knowledge (Fordham, 1994); John Carriero, Descartes and the Autonomy of the Human Understanding (Garland, 1990); Nicholas Rescher, Nature of Understanding: The Metaphysics and Method of Science (Oxford, 2001); and Michael Martin, Verstehen: The Uses of Understanding in the Social Sciences (Transaction, 2000).

undistributed middle

The formal fallacy committed in a categorical syllogism that is invalid because its middle term is not distributed in either premise.

Example: All dogs are mammals. Some mammals are whales. Therefore, some dogs are whales.

Also see FF and GLF.

uniformity of nature

Presumption that the future will be like the past; assumption that the world exhibits enough regularity to warrant inductive reasoning. Hume pointed out that such uniformity is presupposed by all of our belief in matters of fact, Mill identified several practical methods for recognizing its instances, but Goodman raised a significant paradox of induction.

Recommended Reading: Barry Stroud, Hume (Routledge, 1981); Nelson Goodman, Fact, Fiction, and Forecast (Harvard, 1954); and Grue!: The New Riddle of Induction, ed. by Douglas Stalker (Open Court, 1994).

Also see EB.

Universal Generalization (U.G.)

Inference from the features of a representative individual to a general truth about everything of the same sort; hence, a quantification rule of the form:


	(x)( Øx )

Example: "Any arbitrarily chosen spaniel must also be a dog. Therefore, all spaniels are dogs."

With appropriate qualifications, this pattern of reasoning provides an important basis for proofs in quantification theory.

Universal Instantiation (U.I.)

Inference from a general truth about everything to its application to an individual; hence, a quantification rule of the form:

	(x)( Øx )


Example: "All dogs are mammals. Therefore, if Chloë is a dog, then Chloë is a mammal."

This pattern of reasoning is one of the basic principles used by proofs in quantification theory.

universal proposition

A statement whose propositional quantity is determined by its assertion that all members of one class of things are either included or excluded from membership in some other class.

Examples: "All spaniels are dogs." and "No wristwatches are nuclear weapons." are both universal.

Although it is often difficult in practice to establish the truth of universal propositions, those that are accepted have extensive deductive consequences.

universals, problem of

Universals are features (e.g., redness or tallness) shared by many individuals, each of which is said to instantiate or exemplify the universal. Although it began with dispute over the status of Platonic Forms, the problem of universals became a central concern during the middle ages. The metaphysical issue is whether or not these features exist independently of the particular things that have them: realists hold that they do; nominalists hold that they do not; conceptualists hold that they do so only mentally.

Recommended Reading: Properties, ed. by D. H. Mellor and Alex Oliver (Oxford, 1997); Richard Ithamar Aaron, Our Knowledge of Universals (Haskell, 1975); The Problem of Universals, ed. by Andrew B. Schoedinger (Humanity, 1991); Five Texts on the Mediaeval Problem of Universals, ed. by Paul Vincent Spade (Hackett, 1994); and D. M. Armstrong, Universals: An Opinionated Introduction (Westview, 1989).

Also see SEP, IEP, David L. Thompson, EB, and CE.


The applicability of a moral rule to all similarly situated individuals. According to both Kant and Hare, universalizability is a distinguishing feature of moral judgments and a substantive guide to moral obligation: moral imperatives must be regarded as equally binding on everyone. The force of this principle, however, depends upon the generality of the judgments and the particularity of the situations to which they are applied.

Recommended Reading: Immanuel Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, tr. by James W. Ellington (Hackett, 1993); R. M. Hare, The Language of Morals (Clarendon, 1991); Marcus George Singer, Generalization in Ethics (Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1967); and Morality and Universality: Essays on Ethical Universalizability, ed. by Nelson Potter (Reidel, 1985).

Also see and Soshichi Uchii.

univocal / equivocal

Distinction among statements, expressions, and terms: those are univocal which have only one meaning; ambiguous terms are equivocal, having more than one meaning.


German term for cause.


German term for judgment.

use / mention

Distinction between two ways of employing a word or phrase: in order to refer to something else (use) or in order to draw attention its own features (mention).

Sarah does well in chemistry. uses the name "Sarah," but

"Sarah" is an anagram for "a rash." merely mentions it.

Thus, the first proposition expresses a truth about my daughter, while the second merely points out an odd feature of her name.


Normative theory that human conduct is right or wrong because of its tendency to produce favorable or unfavorable consequences for the people who are affected by it. The hedonistic utilitarianism of Bentham, Mill, and Sidgwick maintains that all moral judgments can be derived from the greatest happiness principle. The ideal utilitarianism espoused by G. E. Moore, on the other hand, regarded aesthetic enjoyment and friendship as the highest ethical values. Contemporary utilitarians differ about whether the theory should be applied primarily to acts or rules.

Recommended Reading: John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism and Other Essays, ed. by Alan Ryan (Viking, 1987); Ernest Albee, History of English Utilitarianism (Prometheus, 1957); M. D. Bayles, Contemporary Utilitarianism (Peter Smith, 1980); Anthony Quinton, Utilitarian Ethics (Open Court, 1989); Robert E. Goodin, Utilitarianism As a Public Philosophy (Cambridge, 1995); J. J. C. Smart and Bernard Williams, Utilitarianism: For and Against (Cambridge, 1973); and Amartya Sen and Bernard Williams, Utilitarianism and Beyond (Cambridge, 1982).

Also see R. N. Johnson, SEP, ISM, EB, and CE.


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