Collective Singulars: A Reinterpretation

The article proposes a semantic theory of collective singulars, or singular collective names, designating basic historical concepts, which came into being in the period of the Enlightenment. Their logical structure seems to be internally contradictory, for they refer at the same time to universal values and ideas and to concrete historical occurrences. They also entail two different principles of category-formation—the logic of general names and that of proper names. The two logics are equally rooted in our cognitive makeup; however, different cultures favor either one or the other. The article examines the transformation of the balance of the two logics in European thought from the Middle Ages to the present. The formation of the idea of universal history has brought about an equilibrium of the two logics, while the contemporary "crisis of the future" is accompanied by the rise of the logic of proper names.
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