(with some religious terms)

A-C | D-F | G-L | J-M | N-Q | R-T | U-Z

UNIVERSAL - That which is common to all members of a class. The property predicated of all the individuals of a certain sort or class. Pertaining to all, especially all times, all places, and all things.

UNIVERSALS AND PARTICULARS - A universal is a general concept, or the idea of a thing, whereas a particular is literally the thing-in-itself. For instance, there is a man named Dave. Man is the universal; Dave is the particular. The particular (Dave) belongs to the category of universal (Man). Or, let's say that there is a rose. The specific rose flower itself is the particular, while the idea of flowers is the universal. Thus, the particular (rose) belongs to the category of the universal (flowers).

UNIVERSALS: The properties or attributes expressed (or kinds denoted) by abstract or general words or predicates in speech (or concepts in thought). Just as the words (or concepts) apply to many things, properties corresponding to the words (or concepts) inhere in many individuals; in just those same individuals to which the word (or concept) can be truly applied. The relation between the universal corresponding to the word and the things to which the word is applied in speech (or the concept in thought) is supposed to explain the truth of that application. If the universal the word expresses does belong to the thing to which the word is applied then the application (an assertion, or affirmative judgment) is true; if the universal does not belong to the thing, then the application is false. "Grass is green" is true because grass has the property of being green; "Grass is carnivorous" is false because grass hasn't the property of being carnivorous; etc. See nominalism and realism above.

UNIVOCAL - Having the same basic meaning in all instances of the use of a word; The specific and unambiguous meaning of a word in a particular context.

UTILITARIANISM - Perhaps the most widely held ethical doctrine in the Western world today, utilitarianism had its forerunners throughout philosophical history, but it came into concrete form during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806-73) said it best: "Utility or the Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness, is intended pleasure and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain and the privation of pleasureA moral theory originally advanced by Jeremy Bentham according to which the moral character of an act - whether it's good or bad or right or wrong - is entirely determined by its consequences, and likening moral reasoning to economic calculation  Utilitarians maintain the right course of action is always the one that has the most beneficial or least detrimental consequences overall, for all affected.  Bentham's hedonistic brand of utilitarianism identifies the benefits in question with pleasure and the costs with pain.  John Stuart Mill speaks, instead, of "happiness": according to Mill's greatest happiness principle, our moral aim should be "the greatest happiness for the greatest number."  Contemporary utilitarians, like Peter Singer, are more apt to speak of the benefits to be counted as "preference satisfactions" or "interest satisfactions," counting the corresponding dissatisfactions as costs.  Rule utilitarians hold that utilitarian calculation should be used to make rules rather than directly applied to evaluate actions.

UTILITY: For utilitarians, the measure of the moral character of an act or (or for Rule utilitarians a rule), of whether it's good (or right) or bad (or wrong).  The utility of an act (or rule) equals the sum of its beneficial consequences minus the sum of its detrimental consequences: the principle of utility says whatever course of action (or rule) has the most utility - the best overall benefit-cost outcome - is the morally right choice.

VAGUE Philosophers call a term "vague" when there's no sharp borderline between cases where the term applies and cases where it doesn't apply. So, for instance, it's a vague matter how few hairs on your head makes you bald, or how many dollars in your bank account makes you rich, or how many grains of sand it takes to make a heap. "Vague" does not mean "ambiguous." Nor does it mean "unclear" or "difficult to understand." Consider the following sentence: The point of this essay is to prove that human beings never perceive material objects themselves, but only the a priori interface between a phenomenal object and its conceptual content. This doesn't mean anything. It's just a bunch of words I put together in a way that doesn't make any clear sense. You can call such prose "opaque," or "difficult to understand," or "gibberish." Don't call it "vague."

VALID - In logic, the term used to indicate that the conclusion follows deductively and necessarily from the propositions of an argument, although the conclusion may not be true. A property of arguments: being such that the truth of the premises guarantees or necessitates the truth of the conclusion.

VERIFIABILITY - Testability; specifically used to refer to that which can be tested empirically (by the senses); often associated with the "scientific" method; often said to be one of the essential elements in adequately testing the truth or reality of a statement or substance.

VERIFICATION PRINCIPLE - According to the school of logical positivism (ca. 1920), the verification principle serves as the criterion of whether or not a statement is meaningful. Simply, any proposition which is not subject to empirical verification is meaningless. Thus, to make statements about God is to utter nonsense since God is not subject to empirical verification. However, the problem with the verification principle, a problem which was conceded by the logical positivists themselves, is that the verification principle itself cannot be empirically verified. Thus, it is self-refuting. see logical postivism.

VICE: Anundesirable or despicable personality trait, such as cruelty, or cowardice.  According to Aristotle vices are either of excess or defect: e.g., cowardice is is not facing up to danger enough (a vice of defect); rashness is facing up to danger too much (a vice of excess); while courage, the intermediate virtue,  is facing up to danger appropriately, at the right time, in the right place, for the right reasons.

VIRTUE: A desirable or admirable personality trait, such as kindness, or courage.  According to Aristotle every virtue is a mean between two vices: kindness a mean between cruelty and softness; courage a mean between cowardice and rashness; etc.

VOLUNTARISM - The theological theory that God is and/or promotes what he is and/or does because God wills it to be so, i.e., The Islamic God determines what are good acts and what are evil acts by his arbitrary will, not because good (as opposed to evil) is intrinsic to God's nature; also, the ontological theory that identifies "cosmic energy" with will (from the philosopher Schopenhauer).

VOODOO An unofficial religion derived from the ancestor worship and polytheism of primitive West Africa that emphasizes sorcery, spells and conjuring spirits of the dead. Voodoo also practices a syncretistic version of some Roman Catholic Christian rituals. Voodoo is principally practiced in the modern world on the Caribbean island of Haiti, and flourishes despite formal and informal opposition. 

WILL TO POWER - The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), who had a tremendous impact on the thought of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), believed that the fundamental instinct of man was the "will to live." Nietzsche, however, believed that even more fundamental than this "will to live" was the "will to power." "This world," wrote Nietzsche, "is the Will to Power - and nothing else! And you yourselves too are this Will to Power - and nothing else!"
Although on the surface, Nietzsche seems to be asserting a barbaric principle of "victory to the strongest," this is not what he is saying (he has been grossly misinterpreted and exploited here). What Nietzsche is insisting upon is a psychological principle that at the base of human behavior is an instinct or desire ( Will) to extend its influence or power, or to further its ability, for its own interests. For one person, conquest and excellence might reflect this will to power; for another person, submission or a glorious death might reflect this will to power (e.g. the power of martyrdom); for another person, self-discipline or self-mastery might reflect this will to power - so, the inference that Nietzsche's will to power is associated only with conquest or apparent greatness is a false inference. Nietzsche's concept of the will to power must be understood within the context of his existential idea that the human being strives to "Become . . .," rather than simply "to be." At the same time, however, Nietzsche's idea of the will to power would be fully attained when a human being reached the level of Ubermensch (i.e. Superman, Overman, hyperanthropos).

YOGA: A formal term describing spiritual disciplines followed for centuries by Hindus and Buddhists to attain higher consciousness and liberation from ignorance, suffering, and rebirth with the suppression of all activity of body, mind, and will. More broadly, it refers to any system of exercises for attaining bodily or mental control and well-being and is practiced by many in the West as a form of physical training. The emphasis on physical exercises is derived from a version known as hatha yoga.

ZEN:  A sect of Mahayanan Buddhism that teaches enlightenment through meditation on a non-rational koan that results in direct intuition. Zen greatly influenced social and political life in Japan after the 14th century, especially the work of Matsuo Basho, the 15th century artist considered Japan's foremost practitioner of haiku. It has grown popular in the West largely through the writings of D.T. Suzuki.

ZOMBIES: Humanoid beings that behave like us and may share our functional organizations and even, perhaps, our neurophysiological makeups, but without qualetative conscious experiences.

ZOROASTER, ZOROASTRIANISM: Zoroaster is the 6th century B.C.E. founder of Zoroastrianism and traditionally recognized author of the Avesta, the holy scriptures of this ancient religion. Zoroaster taught there is a war occurring between the spirits of good (ahuras) and the spirits of evil (daevas or divs) that will result in the ultimate triumph of the supreme spirit of good, the Ahura Mazdah. Zoroastrianism almost disappeared when 7th Century Persia fell to Islam. It is still practiced in some parts of Iran and India. The ancient Iranian name for Zoroaster is ZARATHUSTRA