Flatus vocis  

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"The nominalists have been accused of holding "the absurd view that the universal is a mere vibration of the air, a mere sound of the voice, flatus vocis. But is it not most highly improbable that a school of philosophy would have formulated and defended for centuries such an empty, puerile doctrine?" [ Mercier, Critériologie générale] For our own part, we believe, in opposition to what has been the generally received teaching, that Nominalism, in the sense just defined, never existed in the Middle Ages." --[1], History of Mediaeval Philosophy, Maurice De Wulf

"Selbst die Behauptung, der Nominalismus sei so weit gegangen, die Universalen für blosse 'flatus vocis' zu erklären, dürfte kaum wortlich zu nebmen sein" (Wilhelm Windelband in Gustav Gröber's Grundriss der romanischen Philologie, ii.3, p. 559, n. 1.

"Illi utique dialectici, qui non nisi flatum vocis putant universalis esse substantias, et qui colorem non aliud queunt intellegere quam corpus, nec sapientiam hominis aliud quam animam, prorsus a spiritualium quaestionum disputatione sunt exsufflandi." --Anselmus, De Incarnatione Verbi, p. 285. Opera Omnia, vol. 1. Ed. F.S. Schmitt, 1938.

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Flatus vocis is Latin for "breath of the voice" or "voices of air". It is a term used in the problem of universals debate to describe the position of the nominalists who hold that universals do not "exist" at all; they are no more than words (flatus voci) we use to describe specific objects, they do not name anything. This particular dispute over realism is largely moot in contemporary philosophy, and has been for centuries.

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