HyC Adventures
The Poetics of Perception
A Logic of Ultimate Contrasts





A Logic of Ultimate Contrasts


Charles Hartshorne


The conceptual structure of the neoclassical philosophy can be partly indicated by a rather simple yet comprehensive table. The aim is less to demonstrate than to explicate, and I shall not conceal certain puzzles that trouble me. The point is to show the interconnections between concepts and thereby to exhibit the philosophy as a system.


In every experience, if it is sufficiently reflective, certain abstract contrasts may be noted as somehow relevant, e.g., complex-simple, effect-cause. These contrasts are the ultimate or metaphysical contrarieties. A basic doctrine of this book is that the two poles of each contrast stand or fall together; neither is simply to be denied or explained away, or called ‘unreal’. For if either pole is real the contrast itself, including both poles, is so. The unique contrast, real-unreal, may seem to violate this rule. But in the first place this contrast need not be taken as relevant to every reflective experience. Divine experience would consider the unreal either as the really possible (9a) or as the mistaken but themselves really occurrent fancies of lesser modes of experience. In the second place, even we can see that acts of fancying or mistakenly believing are real occurrences, so that the unreal is also a form of reality.


Though polarities are ultimate, it does not follow that the two poles are in every sense on an equal status. As mere abstract concepts they are indeed correlatives, each requiring the other for its own meaning. But if not the concepts but their examples or instances are considered, on one side are the dependent, inclusive entities, on the other the independent, included ones. One side forms, in the given context, the total reality, the other consists of mere though independent constituents or aspects. Thus the admission of ultimate dualities is one doctrine, dualism is quite another. The concept expressing the total reality is the entire truth, not because the correlative contrary concept can be dismissed or negated, but because the referents of the latter are included in those of the former, while the converse inclusion does not obtain. Thus a basic asymmetry is involved. Here is the essential difference between my philosophy and that of Weiss.


Taking into account the threefold distinction of concept X, contrary concept Y and Z, the inclusive member in the given set of examples, we see that our dualities are enclosed in triadicities. Thus we meet Peirce’s requirements: think in trichotomies not mere dichotomies, the latter being crude and misleading by themselves. To contrast, say, concreteness and abstractness, the two concepts or universals, is blind unless one bears in mind that concreteness is itself an extreme abstraction (to adapt a precious remark of Russell’s) and that an instance of concreteness is by no means the concept over again, but something incomparably richer. As Plato and even Aristotle never quite saw, concrete actualities are the whole of what is (pace Weiss). There is also a deep truth in Peirce’s contention that triads are incomparably more adequate than dyads and in a sense than tetrads, as intellectual instruments. Weiss’s fourfold system, dualistically interpreted with respect to each pair, seems a brilliant illustration, as such a stroke of genius, of how not to build a metaphysical system. It is a regression from Aristotle, Bergson, Peirce, James, Dewey, and Whitehead, none of whom is finally or in intention a dualist even with respect to a single pair of basic concepts.


Metaphysical Contraries




1r  relative, dependent, internally related

1a  absolute, independent, externally related

2r  experience, subject

2a  things experienced, objects

3r  whole, inclusive

3a  constituents, included

4r  effect, conditioned

4a  cause, condition (sine qua non)

5r  later, successor       

5a  earlier, predecessor

6r  becoming, nascent, being created

6a  in being, already created

7r  temporal, succeeding some, preceding others

7a  nontemporal as (i) primordial and (ii) everlasting*

8r  concrete, definite, particular

8a  abstract, indefinite, universal

9r  actual         

9a  potential

10r  contingent

10a  necessary

11r  a portion, P, of process as past           

11a  earlier futuristic outline of P

12r  finite

12a  infinite

13r  discrete    

13a  continuous

14r  complex, with constituents

14a  simple, without (or with fewer) constituents

15r  singular, member (“mind”)

15a  composite, group, mass (“matter”)

16r  singular event, so and so now, individual state or actuality

16a  so and so through change, individual being or existent

17r  individual  

17a  specific character

18r  specific character 

18a  generic character

19r  generic character

19a  metaphysical category

20r  God now, divine state or actuality

20a  God as primordial and everlasting, divine essence and existence

21r  God now

21a  God and the world as they just have been


* i. preceding every occasion, ii. succeeding every occasion


Rules of Interpretation


I. Proportionality: as an r-item in a specified context is to its a-correlate (say, 1r to 1a), so (mutatis mutandis) is any other r-item to its a-correlate (say, 2r to 2a). Thus (no. 2) an experience depends upon the things expe­rienced, a subject upon things given to it, but these latter are independent of the subject.


II. Two-way, yet asymmetrical necessity: an r-item necessitates (l0a) its particular contextual a-correlates; an a-item necessitates only that a class of suitable r-correlates be nonempty, the particular members of the class being (10r) contingent (others might have existed in their place). (In the case—19a—of metaphysical categories, the class of suitable r-correlates is the widest class of particular actualities; in the case of generic or spe­cific characters, the r-correlate may be merely that the idea of the character is imagined in some actual experience.)




Rule I tells us that experiences or subjects depend upon their objects (nos. 1, 2), though these objects do not depend upon the subjects; however, by rule II we know that a thing experienced could not have been or remained entirely unexperienced by some suitable subject or other. Thus to be is to be experienced, but if S experiences O, O could have existed without being experienced by S. Berkeley’s proposition is either correct, ambiguous, or erroneous, according to how we take it.


Using both rules (and nos. 4, 1, 10) we see that a given effect depends upon conditions that did not depend upon and did not necessitate it; but yet the conditions did necessitate that some effect in the ‘suitable class’ should become actual (9r). How narrow or wide the suitable class is defines the question at issue in intelligent discussions of ‘determinism’, discussions that seek to explicate rather than explain away the asymmetry characterizing our intuition of causality, and therefore avoid taking with entire literalness the symmetrical or biconditional necessity implied by ‘necessary and sufficient condition’. If fully concrete or definite effects are in question (8r), there are no such conditions. The phrase is only a first approximation to an explication of the causal principle.


Since an r-item always expresses the total reality being considered (3r), the scope of the a-items is to be determined by the scope assigned their r-correlates. This is especially important in certain cases. For instance, 5a and 9a together say that the possibility of a certain actuality is earlier than that actuality. What is possible for today is determined by what happened yesterday. In this sense possibility precedes actuality. True enough, what is actual today determines the possibilities for tomorrow; in this sense the actual precedes the possible. But the possibility we are talking about must, by the principle of scope mentioned above, be determined by considering a given actuality, say something that happened this morning, and asking about its possibility. And this will be found in its antecedent causes, i.e., earlier events (4a, 5a). Similarly, a cause or condition is a sine qua non (4a), necessary (l0a) for a given later event, which (in its full actuality or concreteness) is contingent rather than necessary, given the condition (even all the antecedent conditions). Again ‘independent’ (la) does not mean independent of everything but only of the dependent factor taken as instance of 1r; nor does ‘dependent’ entail dependence upon everything, but only upon whatever the r-case in question does depend upon. Thus an event may depend upon antecedent events but be independent of subsequent ones. Indeed this follows from nos. 1, 5, and 10.


Dependence simply means the impossibility of existing without the thing depended upon—i.e., sine qua non possible. From this we see the perversity of using the term ‘absolute’ to mean the all-inclusive reality. A thing cannot exist lacking any of its constituents (even though something very similar might exist lacking some of these), hence nothing is quite so dependent or relative as the inclusive or total reality. That the all-inclusive cannot depend upon something ‘outside itself’, something it does not include, is mere tautology; it will still depend upon all there is, and will be the most completely relative of all things.


Although given a definite pair of r- and a-items, the first will be contingent granted the second, and the second necessary granted the first, yet there is always (rule II) a generic necessity running in the other direction. Thus, an independent factor must have been or become constituent in some whole or other, things experienced (2a) or objects must have had or have this status for some experience or subject, universals (8a) must be embodied, or at least entertained as ideas, in some concrete actualities (8r, 9r), causes must produce some suitable effects. The necessity of an a-correlate is particular and definite, given an r-item, but that of the r-correlate, given an a-item, is generic or indefinite. This is a basic asymmetry. From an a-item to its r-correlate is a creative step, one that must come somehow but not in any fully predetermined manner; while that from an r-item to its a-correlate or correlates is a mere matter of analysis, of finding what is already there. Prospective freedom, which cannot he simply unexercised and is always within limits, and retrospective necessity form the directionality of creativity as at once preservative and enriching of reality, adding to, never diminishing, its determinateness.


Using rule I, we see that wholes (3r), metaphysically regarded, are not ‘organic’, since their constituents are independent of them. The constituents may be themselves wholes dependent upon their constituents. ‘Absolute’, i.e., nonrelative, of course means ‘in the specified context’, not necessarily in every context. The context is the particular whole, or class of wholes taken as instance of 3r. The limitation of the rules to a context is a principle of relativity, and thus an example of 1r. Like most metaphysical categories, this one is so general that it even applies in some appropriate fashion to categories themselves.


Since ‘absolute’ is merely the negative of relative, it is clear that the basic principle of the entire table is relativity. The idolatry of absoluteness which disfigures the history of metaphysics needs to be unmasked and if possible done away with. The real absolute is relativity itself, since its limitations are provided by its own reflexivity, or self-applicability, together with negation. And negation is a subordinate principle in the sense that finally we must affirm the conjunction of true positive and true negative propositions to state the whole truth. (Denying a conjunction leaves the truth of the elementary propositions indeterminate.)


Proportionality and nos. 2, 4, 5 tell us that experiences follow (rather than being simultaneous with) their given objects and are their effects; also (no. 3) that they include the objects, which yet (la) are not dependent upon them. Thus, idealists who hold that objects are ‘in’ the mind and realists who hold that objects are ‘independent of’ (particular) subjects are both in that sense entirely right. Both erred grievously, however, in equating ‘included in’ with ‘depends upon’, an equation that obtains only if all wholes are taken as strictly organic. Since it is a certain brand of idealism rather than its critics who have held this doctrine, one can only marvel that the realists should have shared the belief (unwittingly, it seems) in this special application.


A curiously similar confusion occurred in the Aristotelian tradition. States of an individual were taken as accidental predicates ‘in’, and therefore dependent upon, the individual for their existence.


But this ‘therefore’ presupposes that a constituent depends upon its whole. Quite the contrary. Constituents may have to be in some whole, but the particular whole is accidental or contingent. It is true that a person’s state depends upon the prior existence of the same individual person, but not because the state is in the person; rather, because, as ordinary language with profound justice has it, the person is ‘in a state’. A whole depends upon its constituents, and one’s past individuality is a constituent of one’s present wholeness. States are more than identical individualities and contain them, not vice versa.


From 3r, 3a and 5r, 5a we deduce that process is cumulative, as Bergson said, the later including the earlier. From 1r, 1a and 4r, 4a we see that causal dependence, taken strictly, runs backward only (a cause can be ‘necessary’, but it cannot be ‘sufficient’ to guarantee what concretely happens later). This does not mean that nothing can be predicted, but only that prediction is in principle abstract and incomplete and causal determinacy likewise. That details of the future are hidden from us is not solely a result of our being, as animal knowers, limited in perceptual and reasoning capacities, but expresses a metaphysical principle. That we do not fully know the past, on the contrary, is merely our human-animal limitation.


There is, it must be admitted, an element of idealization in the relations symbolized by the second and third rows. Ordinary subjects, at least, do not without qualification include the things they experience; but then they do not without qualification experience them. In memory I experience my past, but how inadequately, with what loss of vivid detail, accessible to introspection! One might argue, in spite of 14r, 14a, that the world we experience is much more complex than our experience of it. But again, we experience, yet do not experience, this world. If there is an ineradicable paradox in this philosophy, here it may be. But the defense is that divine experiences can fulfill the principle in question in that they can adequately experience and hence adequately include their objects, and that even our experiences include objects in proportion as they adequately experience what they experience.


It is to be understood that by experienced objects is not meant intentional objects. Thus, if I think of ‘my future’, my given object is not any concrete event later than the present. Givenness, in this philosophy, is one thing, intentionality or symbolic reference is another. That we lack absolute power to distinguish these introspectively is not surprising. Such power would be divine. But we can with relative success make the distinction. Even in illusions and dreams just prior bodily states are felt, states which must be there and be genuinely given. Intentionality adds more or less correct or incorrect beliefs about the external environment and the future, these additions being more or less at our risk.


The common objection to a ‘causal theory’ of perception that if experiences are effects then the real objects are unknown causes hidden behind the effects, is a confusion. The given things are not effects upon the experience, as a kind of stuff molded by hidden influences; instead, the given things are the real things, and the effect is simply the experience itself as experience of those very things. To infer that not the things, but the effects which they cause, are the data is to assume that an experience has itself as object, i.e., that the subject-object relation is an identity. The causal theory is not responsible for this blunder. Givenness is a genuine relation, and it requires at least two terms. So does the causal relation. The experience of O (for object) is conditioned by O as antecedently there. And O itself is thus given. The experience as effect intuits its own causes, it does not have, as datum, itself the effect of those causes. How could this confusion ever have arisen? Is Kant free from it? Was Hume? I think not.


Since in memory we have as datum not just one previous experience but (a) an entire sequence of experiences, each experience in the past having its own memories, and since also (b) these past experiences included perceptions, in each of which its own causes were given, then not merely the causes of present experience are now given, but the causes of those causes indefinitely far back. We have a genuine sample of cause-effect relations. What we have to do to know the approximate state of the contemporary world and its probable future is to extrapolate the lines of causality already accessible to us.


By contrast, if the data of experience were simultaneous, we should have a cross section of process but no insight into its derivations and hence into its destiny. Symmetrical relations, such as those of simultaneity, are never the key to directional order, which is what we need to know. The strictly simultaneous with us is the last thing we have to worry about, for by the time we could think about it, it must already have become past. We deal with the future by interpreting the past, the absolutely present being for our knowledge the same as the nearest part of the future.


All theories of the mind-body relation, such as parallelism, which take this relation to be one of simultaneity, are uneconomical of principles, since they cannot use the temporal cause-effect relation we employ in all other explanations of dependence. Thus we get the mysteries of the two-aspect view, or the identity theory, or epiphenomenalism, or what not. Whitehead’s proposal here is that we take human experiences causally to ‘inherit’ directly from some bodily processes, and these to inherit directly from our experiences, inheriting in each case implying temporal ‘following’, rather than sheer ‘accompanying’. Thus, the general principle of causality is all we need. And since individual genetic identity (16a) is explicable as a distinctive special case of the way in which concrete actualities are caused by, follow, and include others, sharing abstract factors in common, the concept of ‘substance’ is shown to be no absolute addition. Causality, substance, memory, perception, temporal succession, modality are all but modulations of one principle of creative synthetic experiencing, feeding entirely upon its own prior products. This I regard as the most powerful metaphysical generalization ever accomplished. It has many of genius back of it, including Bergson, perhaps Alexander, the Buddhists, and many others. But Whitehead is its greatest single creator.


A striking lesson of the table is the unreliability of certain traditional value judgments. Thus, the following terms have been taken as honorific: absolute, cause, earlier (first cause), nontemporal or eternal, universal, necessary, infinite, simple. All have been used to designate deity, in contrast with inferior beings. But if the table is not utterly misleading, this value judgment entailed the exaltation of objects rather than subjects, the abstract rather than the concrete, and the possible rather than the actual. It also implied that progress from earlier to later, or causes to effects, is a descent from better to worse, from more to less, which makes pessimism a metaphysical axiom! On the contrary, on my principle the dependent is more and better than the merely independent, effects than mere causes, results than conditions, the complex than the simple. Note that the a-items are more or less plainly negative or privative: not relative, not temporal, not definite, merely possible, not finite, not complex.


It is notorious that negation presupposes something to negate. Hence, unless one is indeed bemused by the ‘negative theology’, one would not expect absoluteness or infinity to explain relativity or finitude, but the contrary. And certainly the idea of whole gives meaning to that of constituent. Even to say that items taken together constitute a whole is to forget that ‘together’ is just another way to say ‘forming a whole’. Nor is it really true that the idea of number is generated by the notion of unit. On the contrary, only the idea of number in the sense of ‘several’ gives meaning to ‘one’ or ‘zero’ in the numerical senses. Hence, the Greeks did not speak of either one or zero as ‘numbers’. And they are indeed very special cases, and derivative ones. To be aware of one thing we must contrast it with at least one other, so that there is always the idea of a whole, however little stressed it may be.


Obviously it is subjectivity that gives meaning to objectivity, not vice versa. Intersubjectivity and the notion of other subjects independent of the subject in question, are the only identifiable positive meanings for objectivity. The object is either merely an object, a constituent in subjects, an abstraction, or it is an antecedently real subject, or set of subjects. The endless controversies over phenomenalism and realism arise from the belief that there is some further meaning for objectivity. All over the world for thousands of years men have seen through this illusion, but have failed to make fully clear the compatibility of its avoidance with the full admission of independently real objects of our experiences. There is no contradiction at all, if one is careful to make the proper distinction between particular and generic necessity as posited by rule II.


That subjects are later (2r, 5r) and objects earlier (2a, 5a) will surprise many. It enshrines the doctrine that, both in memory and in perception, the given entities are antecedent events. As Peirce said, perhaps as the first, “It is the past which is actual,” there to be experienced. The present is nascent, it is coming into being, rather than in being, and there is no definite entity to prehend. Whitehead, so far as I know, is the first thinker in all the world to take the position with full explicitness that experiencing is never simultaneous with its concrete objects but always subsequent. Perception may then be called ‘impersonal memory’, intuition not of our own past experiences, but of past events in and around the body. The scientific facts and the metaphysical requirements fit effortlessly together, if we take this view. That we seem to perceive what is happening absolutely ‘now’ is a harmless exaggeration of the truth that the time lapse for near events is negligible and that the causal stability of much of the world guarantees that what has just been happening is close to what is still happening.


Moreover, if there is an illusion of simultaneity in perceiving, there is a nicely parallel illusion in remembering. For, as Ryle says, ‘introspection’ is very short-run memory utilized to tell us what we are approximately now thinking and feeling. That we are always a trifle behind ourselves in this is not only harmless but the only way to note our mental processes without interfering with them. We do not inspect our mental processes simultaneously with their occurrence. This is nonsense. But through immediate memory, we can keep noticing what they have just been.


Nos. 3, 6, and 7 tell us that becoming includes being, whether in the form of the uncreated or primordial (7a[i]) or in the form of what has already become. This is the revolution first announced clearly by Bergson. Anything which does not now become is an abstraction (8a) from what does now become. Process, as including its own past and abstract aspects, is the reality itself (la réalité même). Or as Whitehead puts it: What an actuality is cannot be abstracted from how it becomes; also, ‘to be is to be a potential (9a), for every (subsequent) becoming’ or every subsequent actuality (9r). Any subject which follows a temporal actuality will include it as object (not necessarily accessible to introspection) and will also include any nontemporal factor.


Nos. 5-14 tell us that an actuality (or the concrete or definite) becomes, is temporal, contingent, finite, discrete, and complex (or—no. 3—a whole with independent constituents). Recalling 2r, we see that subjects are actual, and objects are ‘potentials’ (9a) for subsequent experiencing. What actual subjects may ever experience them they are indifferent to; but they must (rule II) be experienced by some suitable subjects, where suitable means ‘able to experience them’. The historical idealisms and realisms are almost equally far from meeting the requirements of our table, as I hope is obvious.


The table does not directly say so, but since, as we all know, experiences can temporally follow experiences, they can depend (5r, 7r) upon the prior experiences causally, and have them as objects. Thus, being an experience does not conflict with being an object (for other subjects). Objectivity is not a different kind of stuff from subjectivity, but a relation into which subjectivity, by virtue of further subjectivity, can pass. Subjectivity, which (8r) is the concrete form of relativity, is thus the inclusive principle. Objectivity in all senses, including the scientific sense of intersubjective validity, is a function of multiple subjectivity. It refers to one of the following: (i) subjects prior to and independent of the subject under consideration, (ii) potential or future subjects, (iii) elements shared among subjects, i.e., common constituents (3a), objects (2a), or abstractions (8a) from subjective actualities. The ‘subject which can never become object’ haunting some thinkers must, it seems, be either the ever-changing class of ‘latest subjects’ that have not yet been objectified though they are about to be so, or it is subjectivity in general and as such, which is indeed an object, though a very abstract one. True, ‘latest subjects’ includes deity as eminent instance, and this is no obvious object, even subsequently. Here is mystery enough, perhaps.


Objectivity as a special kind of stuff is the result of a very natural illusion, the key to the removal of which is no. 15. But we must first deal with a puzzle which this pair presents.


No. 15, with no. 3, seems to say that a member of a group contains the group; but not vice versa. Are not members constituents, as in no. 3? Also, is not the group more complex than any single member (no. 14)? But the question is, what makes a group a whole, a single entity? If members are enduring individuals (nos. 5, 16a, 17r), they interact, unless spatially remote relative to their duration, and therefore groups (insofar as composed of individuals) tend to be organic wholes rather than metaphysical ones (composed of states). This means that each member, in its own way, sums up the group, and so the complexity of the group tends to reappear in its members. However, the group must be considered either as subject or as object, for there is no third possibility in this system. As object, as something given and insofar as it is given to someone, the group possesses the full complexity of the members only when God is the subject. Otherwise there will be partiality, abstraction, failure to fully experience and include the members. As objects for God, the group will, indeed, exceed the members distributively in complexity. But hold—not quite. For God is the supreme member. And the subject in principle exceeds the object in complexity, insofar as the subject adequately experiences the object. Thus, the group, even as including God, taken as object is simpler than God as the not yet objectified singular subject objectifying the group. And the group can only be taken as object, for no mere group is a subject. Groups do not literally experience; saying that they do is mere shorthand for saying that the members do. I hope that this reconciles nos. 3, 14, 15.


The importance of distinguishing singulars and groups is chiefly in two contexts. One is the context of valuation. Groups are real and important only because their members are. All the happiness and intrinsic value in the cosmos is in singulars, for they alone enjoy and suffer and find or fail to find satisfaction. One would be as important as billions, if no one objectified the billions in a single experience. The other context is that in which the duality ‘mind-matter’ is under consideration. This duality is not, as such, metaphysically ultimate. Subjects must have objects, but these can be other subjects. Mere objects, or merely ‘physical’ things, are unnecessary, save in two senses: abstract aspects of subjects and groups of subjects whose members are not distinctly given or attended to and which therefore do not appear as groups but as ‘masses’ of stuff. The fact that one can speak of a mass of wax, say, but also of ‘the masses’, meaning groups or classes of people taken indiscriminately or ‘in the lump’, is an ordinary language indication pointing to the greatest of Leibnizian discoveries, the real difference between ‘mind’ and ‘matter’. It is not an absolute difference in kind of singulars, but (a) a relative difference in kind (between high and low forms) of experiencing singulars, this difference falling within mind in the broadest sense, plus (b) a difference in kind, not between singular and singular but between singular and inadequately apprehended group, the latter being irreducibly object rather than subject, and irreducibly abstract, since what makes it a single entity is its being objectified by subjects which in principle are richer in determinations than any of their objects, singular or compound.


Materialism, dualism, and some forms of idealism take as an absolute difference of level (sentient vs. insentient) what is a merely relative difference of level (inferior vs. superior forms of experiencing) with a resulting difficulty of distinguishing singulars from groups. This latter distinction is metaphysical or categorial, the other is empirical and a matter of degree. The social dimension of experience, that it always deals with other experiences, or of mind, that it deals with ‘other mind’, fulfills the metaphysical requirement that subjects must have objects, with no necessary help from ‘matter’.


True enough, human subjects could not deal with one another as they do without something like flesh, sticks, stones, metals, gases, and liquids. But what is required is not that these consist of mere inert, insentient matter: but rather, that any sentience composing them, anything like impulse or will, must be on such a primitive level that human impulse and will can approximately control them (and foresee their behavior) as we, in fact, control and foresee flesh, sticks, stones, and the rest. And the Leibnizian distinction between active singulars and seemingly inactive composites whose active singulars escape our sensory detection, taken in conjunction with modem physics and biology, is showing ever more clearly that the concept of mere insentient matter plays no role in explaining the world. We can indeed abstract from whatever sentience may be there, but the denial that it is there adds nothing to the explanatory power of our science. On the other hand, admitting that some sort of sentience must be there explains a number of things, including the sense in which physics is an abstract science. If there is anything a philosopher should wish to be clear about, it is what scientific abstraction omits.


No future discovery can change the essential situation just discussed. Inertness cannot explain the processes of nature, and it was inertness in the apparent singulars of the macroscopic environment which gave what justification there was for materialism and dualism. The Platonic and Aristotelian definitions of soul imply this.


True, one must explain ‘extension’, spatiality. But spatial order is the order of coexistence (Leibniz, Merleau-Ponty, not to mention relativity physics), or, in other words, symmetrical existential relations. And existential relations are causal. To exist is to act upon other existing things. If minds can influence minds, they can have causal relations to them and can constitute a spatio-temporal order. And if they can become objects for other minds, they can influence them. If they could not become objects, we should not be talking about them. And in memory, past experience, past subjectivity is given. In a pain, I share the suffering of some bodily members of mine. Leibniz’s discovery, made in vain for most people, is that extension and matter are not metaphysical ultimates, save in the sense that subjects may be present in such multitudes of similars, that to vastly higher types of subjects the active singulars in the masses are imperceptible, being too trivial to notice one by one. A mere body’ is a composite object for a subject unable or unwilling to discriminate its individual members.


There are, in fact, two meanings of ‘extension’ in its spatial aspect. Given many entities, perceived en masse rather than individually, each entity of course in a slightly different place, the mass of entities will appear as extended and, indeed, will be extended. This is the only way in which we can physically perceive singular entities. (An animal body, it is true, discloses an in a sense singular entity, but it is a collective one, a society of cells.) This is one meaning of ‘extended’. The other meaning cannot be exhibited to physical perception, but only to self-awareness, analogically applied to other creatures. Even a true singular, e.g., my present self or experience, is extended. It is not confined to a point, it is not ubiquitous, nor is it nowhere. There only remains that it is in a region that is extended but as one, not as many. Since no such unity is datum of sight, hearing, or touch, we can have no sensory image of this mode of extension. But we are aware of our experiences as by no means punctiform, but rather with internal heres and theres and elsewheres, with betweens and next tos, and so forth. How could it be otherwise, since we directly respond to bodily processes whose parts are in different places, and since our experience directly controls or influences these bodily processes? A thing is where it acts and is acted upon!


How is an electron or even an atom extended? Physicists agree that no sensory image will do here. Does it follow that these entities are nowhere, or ubiquitous, or punctiform? Spatial extension has more forms than the obvious ones we see or touch. How is light extended? The mystery of extended singular human minds is merely one high-level, and very special, case of the general mystery of how singulars, none of which is directly perceivable by vision or touch, are extended. But unless they are, aggregates cannot be extended either. (Here I depart somewhat from Leibniz.) Each singular enjoys, suffers, and influences the world in a certain perspective. The ‘origin’ of this perspective is not a point but a volume.


There is an analogous problem for time. A temporally singular event is not instantaneous, but has a finite time length, yet this does not mean that it has temporal parts succeeding one another, any more than the voluminous origin of my perspective on the world means that I am an aggregate of momentary selves or experiences.


It is meaningless to ask what a singular is ‘in itself’, if this is taken to mean, ‘supposing it were alone in existence’. It would then have no character whatever, extension or any other. To be is to be in relation; to be a subject or experience is to have other subjects as objects, forming a world system of such subjects. This system is the space-time world. The mere term ‘matter’ adds nothing but six letters to a problem exactly as mysterious or intelligible without that term. Only entities intrinsically relative to other like entities can constitute a spatiotemporal or temporo-spatial system. And experiences are indeed intrinsically relative to other experiences, as we learn in memory, and less obviously in perception, as when we feel a bodily pain or pleasure. Two great geometricians, Peirce and Whitehead, agree that this is all we need to explain spatiality.


The reader may have noted that, although temporal relations of before and after are covered by the table, as well as relations of the temporal to the nontemporal, relations of contemporaries, i.e., spatial relations, are not directly accounted for. It is apparently chiefly these relations which Weiss has in mind in his doctrine of ‘Existence’ as irreducible to Actuality, Possibility, or Deity. I have some feeling for his problem, though I find his solution merely verbal, except so far as it seems to involve a doctrine of complete interdependence between contemporaries, each influencing and being influenced by all the others. Relativity physics is brushed aside here as in some sense incorrect. I once held this doctrine of absolute simultaneous interaction myself. I cannot now believe it. But there does seem to be a puzzle. Contemporaries apparently form a whole which is actual or concrete, and yet this whole is not a subject, contrary to 2r. True, the whole will eventually be in a subject, but not until a long time has passed, unless one conceives deity as somehow escaping relativity principles. (As ubiquitous, God must somehow be an in principle unique case.) However, I should deny interaction between God, as in a certain state, and any other individual in a strictly simultaneous state. On the most concrete level, that of states, there is action, not interaction. And if there could be mutual interaction of actualities, this would mean that this ‘mode of being’ took care of the problem, and there would be no need of Existence to solve it. What I am sure of is that the concept of mere matter is no help at this point.


Aristotle appealed to matter partly to account for possibility as well as determinate form. But the notion that the psychical is on one side only of the contrast ‘actual-possible’ is so arbitrary that it seems a miracle it could ever have been believed. Possibility is experienced as the dimension of futurity. It is mind that looks to the future, that freely creates ever new values because any sum of actual values could always be increased. The concept—or word— ‘matter’ throws not one scintilla of light on why experience can reach no final maximum of beauty, but always faces a future. It is mind’s ideal of beauty which implies this.


Nor does ‘matter’ help to explain (Plato and Plotinus show this) why even definite or limited ideals cannot be fully realized. What a flood of light is shed on Plato’s notion of the hampering ‘necessity’, or better, ‘hindrance’, ‘constraint’, which impedes the demiurge in its effort to conform the world, or the contents of the ‘receptacle’, to the ideal, if we reflect that ‘self-moving soul’ is really, if intelligible at all, Whitehead’s or Bergson’s cosmic ‘creativity’, which necessarily, for the value of contrast and richness, exists in pluralized form and on various levels. For then the recalcitrance of the ‘material’ any world architect must be molding (it makes no difference if the material is said to be created or merely found) is just the familiar difficulty of eliciting harmony among a plurality of creatures, each having its own freedom which is never fully determined by anything antecedent, including its own past nature.


Social order cannot but have elements of anarchy in it. And social order is the order, the principle of all good as well as of all evil. Such order cannot be entirely imposed by any designer, however exalted. The difficulty is logical. And the concept of matter adds nothing, bares nothing, to the problem. If each atom must at every moment have something like will or free synthesis of its own origination, then, of course, no perfect order can result. Multiple, many-level freedom is all the ‘stuff’ a demiurge, or any creator you wish to conceive, can use in forming a world.


Plato’s handicap was not that he had never heard of creatio ex nihilo (which leaves the freedom problem unchanged), but that he lacked a clear idea of what ‘self-moving’, self-determining implies, and that he did not succeed in imagining how what seems mere matter could consist of multitudinous ‘souls’ of extremely subhuman kinds. He did have a glimmering that the multiplicity of souls is what made absolute order impossible. But he entirely lacked the insight that no definite order whatever could be the one right everlasting aesthetic pattern for a cosmos. Rather, the basic ideal has a dimension of inexhaustible infinity. The Christians (except for Leibniz) realized that no pattern for the world could be exclusively right, but somehow persuaded themselves that God, in total independence of the world, could actualize a maximum of value. The implication is that the creatures are valueless.


Whereas Aristotle and others thought that later events inherit some sort of stuff from earlier events, Bergson, Peirce, and Whitehead hold that what is inherited is simply the earlier events themselves. As the earnest poet has it, “Our todays and yesterdays are the blocks with which we build.”


Strange that Longfellow saw the point so long before the philosophers did! The constraint of the past upon the present is simply that an experience cannot generate its own data, but must find them in what has already occurred. The experience is free to make its own ‘decision’ as to how to accommodate, utilize, or enjoy the data, the previous happenings, but accommodate them it must. If neural activity is a causal condition of human or vertebrate experience, this simply means that just-antecedent neural happenings are among the indispensable data of this type of experience. That introspection cannot discover much about these happenings is of a piece with the general feebleness of man’s introspective and inspective powers. (Much of Wittgenstein consists in exploiting and perhaps overexploiting this very feebleness.) There is vastly more given in our experience than we can discover there by mere inspection. Antecedent bodily activities are one part of this “more.” Nos. 3, 5 tell us that the primary wholes (by which all wholes can be explained) are formed out of temporally prior and (therefore) independent (1a) constituents, and nos. 2, 16 imply that these wholes are singular experient-events (note that ‘singular’ does not contradict ‘complex’ or imply mere simplicity—14a) whose prior and independent constituents are their objects. Thus, an actuality is a subjective synthesis, a single experiencing, of objective factors (which may consist of other instances of subjective synthesis).


Is there any other equally definite, equally economical theory of concreteness or actuality to compete with this? That ‘actual’ process is past process (9r, 11r) rather than strictly present process (6r) will trouble or offend some readers, I fear. But I hold with Bergson that actuality is pastness, since presentness is a becoming actual rather than a being actual. Whitehead calls all past events “actual entities,” or “actual occasions,” and this in spite of his saying that actualities “perish,” a metaphor which has sadly misled many (unless something else has sadly misled me). They “perish yet live for evermore” is the final word of Process and Reality, and to this I adhere, whether or not Whitehead did. The perishing, taken anything like literally, is an illusion occasioned by the hiddenness of deity from us. But, as Whitehead at least sometimes explicates the term, it has nothing to do with an internal change from vital actuality to a corpse or skeleton, but is merely the fact that the definite actual subject is now also object for further subjects. No longer is it the latest verge of actuality, since there is now a richer reality, including the once latest one. This has nothing to do, at least in my theory, with an inner shrinkage or impoverishment. Peirce’s “the past is the sum of accomplished facts” is not to be taken to refer to a mere propositional outline of the once concrete. This would imply that some facts, having been accomplished, had been dropped out. For our knowledge, yes, but not for the cosmos or for deity.


Bradley and McTaggart argue against the reality of becoming by subtly assuming their conclusion; they neglect the indeterminacy of the future as such, or fail to see that a stage of process (no. 11) does not consist of definite events until it is all in the past, so that the survey of definite events definitely related is entirely retrospective. In effect, they are imagining all events as though all were in the past. But, as Peirce insisted, they could not possibly all be in the past. ‘Reality’ means ‘as of now’, and the ‘now’ acquires new reference each moment. Events can be surveyed only from within some event or sequence of events. Sub specie aeternitatis only eternal abstractions could be contemplated.


Since r-terms are inclusive and express the overall truth, the entire table tells us that we can find the absolute only in the relative, objects (or anything other than subjects) only in subjects, causes only in effects (any knowledge of a cause is already an effect of it), earlier events only in later, being only in becoming, the eternal only in the temporal, the abstract only in the concrete, the potential only in the actual, the necessary only in the contingent, the future as such only in the past (every past has faced a future), the infinite only in the finite, the simple only in the complex, the individual only in the state, the specific only in the individual, the generic only in the specific, the metaphysical only in the generic, God in the necessary, and eternal essence only in divine contingent, temporal states. (Heidegger once wrote that not timelessness but infinite temporality distinguishes God.) If one wants to understand an a-term, one should locate it in its r-correlate. There are not subjects and objects but only objects in subjects, not causes and effects but only causes in effects, not earlier and later but earlier in later, not necessary things and contingent things but necessary constituents of contingent wholes (though the class of such wholes could not be empty), not God and the world but the world in God (no. 21).


The old dictum that the supreme understanding was of cause as implying its effect is erroneous. It was a naive preformationism. Understanding of the actual or concrete is retrospective, not prospective. (Our business with the future is more than understanding, it is deciding, creating.) He who adequately knows an effect thereby knows its causes, but the converse is not true. Similarly, it is false that he who knows the universal, the form, knows all that is worth knowing. The concrete is the richest, the most worth knowing. History is the cognitive paradigm, not mathematics, which is chiefly a tool for investigating historical sequences in humanity and nature. The abstractions of metaphysics are not chiefly ends in themselves, but means to wisdom and goodness in the enjoyment and creation of the concrete.


All through intellectual and religious history there has been a bias towards a-terms and a notion that r-terms are opprobrious. But staring at the essence of ‘rational animality’, or even at a set of psychological laws, is a poor substitute for knowing actual human beings. Yet, the latter are incomparably more relative, changeable, dependent, finite, conditioned, contingent, and discontinuous. Abstractions are objects, not subjects; but in comparison to concrete entities, they have most of the characters often supposed to define deity. Such definitions turn God into a mere object or abstraction. Of course God is no mere object, yet, of course, God is object, for anything mentionable is so. But only the dead or the abstract are mere objects. And for the same reason, only the dead or the abstract can be (henceforth) absolute, immune to further influence. Like everyone, God is both subject and object, but God alone (through divine states) is universal subject, inheriting everything as object; and God alone is universal object, object for every subject. The divine creator is alone universal creative power; the divine lover alone is universal lover, sensitive to influence not by some only but by all; the divine beloved is alone universally beloved.


‘Universal’ is an a-term, and it is true that the ‘defining characteristic’ of deity, what makes God God and no one else, must be extremely abstract and thus absolute; but no abstraction whatever is anything except thanks to something concrete. And the concrete is precisely the most completely particularized, the contrary of universal, and the contrary of absolute. It takes the entire table to describe God, not just the absolute column alone. This is what I call the principle of dual transcendence. It is the only logical way to combine a negative with a positive theology.


If there is anything abstract and independent in every comparison, Peirce’s “absolute first,” it must be 20a, the mere eternal essence of deity. (This includes 19a as ‘eternal object’ for God.) And if there is anything concrete in every comparison, it must be 20-21r, the concrete divine state. But this, too, will be abstract, less rich in definite determinations, by comparison with subsequent divine states. Relatively, positive and negative, instances of the first including those of the second, is the absolute (i.e., the nonrelative) principle. For twenty-five centuries philosophers seemed to have missed this as if by magic.


The key to the idea of independent constituent is the idea of dependent whole; to the idea of necessity, that of contingency or the concrete; to the infinite, the finite; to the simple, the complex. It is comic to watch Plotinus, say, trying to prove the opposite. Without unity, simplicity, he says we cannot understand the multiple, the complex. Apart from unity, there is no plurality and no beauty, goodness, value, or reality. How true! And apart from plurality, contrast, complexity, there is also no unity, beauty, goodness, value, or reality. Moreover, while it is obvious that although the complex can without the slightest inconsistency contain the simple, the converse inclusion is glaringly impossible. Similarly, ‘the contingent truth that p is necessarily and q contingently true’ is allowable in anyone’s modal logic, but ‘the necessary truth that p is necessarily and q contingently true’ is allowed in no such logic. Contingency is the inclusive category. For all these centuries, metaphysicians have been defying elementary logical truisms. Why? This is quite a question.


There is no need to defy these truisms in order to have a metaphysics, at least as intelligible as any produced in this strange fashion.


Concerning 7a(ii): it may seem impossible that what is successor to every (event) should be included (3a) in what is predecessor to some (7r). However, there is an ambiguity in the definition of “everlasting.” An actual event cannot literally succeed every (other) event: for there can be no last event, creativity being inexhaustibly fertile. Only something less concrete than an event, an individual being, can be everlasting and only by endlessly having new states, each of which, of course, inherits from the world antecedent to that state. If one accepts personal immortality, then some beings would be everlasting but not primordial. In Asia the belief has often been held that individual creatures are primordial but not everlasting; for they may be ‘absorbed’ into the One which is timeless. In this book, the view is favored that only the primordial being can be everlasting. However, every event is everlasting ‘by proxy’ as it were, in that it is bound to be inherited as antecedent condition or datum by every subsequent event, and hence also any everlasting being that there may be. This is Whitehead’s “objective immortality,” which seems a significant counter to the negativity of death only if we assume an everlasting being able ever afterwards fully to appreciate our lives.


Things more abstract than events or individuals may be primordial and everlasting by proxy in being always found embodied in inherited events. Whitehead’s eternal objects are such; in my view only the most abstract universals, the metaphysical principles themselves, are eternal in this sense. They precede every event, but not all events, because every event has predecessors and any event must instance the metaphysical universals. This is a sort of version of Plato’s doctrine that forms are known by reminiscence. Memory is an ingredient in thought as such. But this is an unplatonic Platonism.


The implication of 9r, 9a, together with 3r, 3a, that actuality includes possibility, has often been denied. Is not the actual world but one among possible worlds? Is not the possible more complex (14r) than the actual? By no means. As process philosophers (in this, including Weiss) agree, the possible is always less definite than the actual. There is no such thing as a possible particular (cf. 8r and 8a). Not even God can fully define a world without creating it. Possibilities are irreducibly nonparticular. Rather, determinate particulars are what have a horizon of futurity and indeterminacy. The definite can include the indefinite as the richer can include the poorer, but not conversely. The definite past in outlines implies its own successors, but when these are definite or actual, there will be in them that which their mere possibility failed to embrace, namely determinates corresponding to the antecedent determinables or universals. The fulfillment of a plan, which is always an outline only, implies the plan, but the latter, being more meager in definiteness, cannot imply the fulfillment. That Weiss admits all this yet makes possibility coordinate with actuality, I can only view as an almost tragic mistake.


That continuity (13a) belongs with the abstract, indefinite, possible, infinite, not with the concrete, definite, actual, finite, is the truth missed by Bergson, Peirce, and Dewey, but seen by James and Whitehead (anticipated by Buddhists and some Islamic thinkers). It seems to be the real bearing of the Zeno paradoxes. A continuum either has no parts, or indefinite or infinite but merely possible parts; definite multiple actuality must be discrete, and, at least for any finite portion of space-time, finite in its actual constituents. Peirce saw that possibilities form continua, thus, all possible hues, shades, and tints of red. But it seems obvious that an actual array of colors does not present all of these: there are always gaps. Similarly, between any shape and any other there is a continuum of possible intermediate shapes; but in an actual part of nature only discrete, finitely different shapes occur. It could not be otherwise. Actuality as such implies arbitrary breaking of a continuum, as Peirce himself in some contexts pointed out. Quantum mechanics was in principle metaphysically inevitable (apart from special features). Peirce should have anticipated the basic idea. He ardently desired to be prophetic of the future of microphysics, but largely failed in this. His bias towards continuity, which made him blur the distinction between discrete actuality and continuous possibility in favor of a belief in actually continuous becoming and motion, was responsible. It led him to his extraordinary doctrine that a human experience has neither finite nor zero but infinitesimal duration so that in a single second, say, we have an infinite number of successive experiences, each drawing inferences from the previous, and, thus, we are always infinitely far from identifying a definite experience with definite direct unmediated data. Bergson does no better. He replies to Zeno by citing a finite movement as a single not further analyzable unit, but fails to refer to unit experiences, with finite temporal spread, yet without internal actual succession, which is the basic point.


James, with his strange flair for (often) reaching the right conclusion though ‘only God knows how he got there’ (C. I. Lewis), decided that experience comes in finite “drops.” Whether this led Whitehead to his own doctrine of quanta of becoming I do not know. Doubtless quantum mechanics helped. But the Buddhists seem—long ago—to have reached about the same conclusion as James—both independently of physics.


A paradox, though I hope not a contradiction, obtains with respect to 20r, taking relativity physics into account. What can be meant by ‘God now’? Is this a cosmic simultaneity? Any process philosopher who is serious about the relations of metaphysics and physics must deal with this question.


Because God is universal or ubiquitous, not exclusively localized, and because according to relativity physics there is no cosmic now, it seems that, unless—as Howard Stein (in a letter) puts it—physics fails to give us “the deep truth about time,” we should express 20r as “God here-now.” That is, Stein suggests, God as perceiving us now is a divine state or event; God as perceiving a state of some inhabitant of another planet is another divine event. The two events will be embraced in later divine events in which God perceives remote descendants both of us and of our far-off contemporaries. All terms and relations thus become divinely known, and are immortalized beyond possibility of corruption. But the analogy between divine states and states of localized individuals is by this assumption rendered much more complex and difficult to conceive than if one could dismiss relativity considerations. It is a little like the mysteries of the trinity, only incomparably more complex.


Is the foregoing an empirical issue? I doubt it. For relativity, like the quantum principle, is a categorical question on the highest level of abstractness. And it could not, so far as I can see, be observationally falsified. Einstein’s formulae could be falsified; but the degree of relativity is one thing, the question of relativity or no relativity is another. Zero relativity would mean that velocities of messages were infinite or at least had no upper limit. And how could this be known?


There is a teleological fitness in relativity as such. For it means that creatures in one part of space are without responsibility for what happens in other, far-off parts. By the time we can know what is happening light years away, it is too late to send advice as to what should be done there; still more, to try to go there and do something about it ourselves. The velocity of light and radio waves is fast enough; because of it, we have to be concerned about events in China or India. But to have immediate communications with, hence, possible responsibilities in, other galaxies would be too much! I strongly suspect that there should not, and, indeed, could not, be absolute simultaneity, at least not such as would be detectable by localized observers.


If God here now is not the same concrete unit of reality as God somewhere else ‘now’, then the simple analogy with human consciousness as a single linear succession of states collapses. I have mixed feelings about this. It seems, on the one hand, that the idea of God as an individual, though cosmic, being is thus compromised; but, on the other hand, I wonder if this is not rather what we might expect when an analogy is extended to include deity. Maybe divine individuality is not threatened but rather only the assumption that this individuality should be simple and easy for us to grasp. However, there is the haunting question, can physics judging reality from the standpoint of localized observers give us the deep truth about time as it would appear to a nonlocalized observer?


Repeatedly, interpreters of relativity physics (d’Abro, Putnam) have asserted that this theory rules out any contrast between determinate past and indeterminate future. Repeatedly, other interpreters (Stein, Capek) deny this. I find myself sadly handicapped in trying to think about this question. But the concept of creativity is for me more convincing than any argument which assumes that physics, by one disputed interpretation, can give us the final truth about the relations of being and becoming, or settle the Parmenidean question.


Taking Stein’s view of God complicates and perhaps fatally weakens one of the chief merits of a theistic philosophy, that it can explain the outlines of the world order, the laws of nature as divine decrees. “The rule of one is best,” but Stein’s view seems a kind of oligarchy, since God here now and God there now are not in a single linear or ‘personally ordered’ sequence. How do these gods make the same decision? It may be absurd, but I wonder if the ‘big bang’ theory of cosmic development could be relevant here. The relativity problem arises because of the spatial expanse of the world process; but the laws of nature may have been decided at a moment in the cosmic process when there was no such expanse. This is a possibly wild suggestion.


No. 12 is rather puzzling. That actuality is finite in space, I readily believe. It is certainly finite in some respects; for to say otherwise would be to say that everything thinkable was also actual, and this is absurd. But the serious question concerns the past of the creative process. Is there an actually infinite regress of past stages—if nowhere else, then at least in the divine becoming? If not, how can a first stage be either avoided or made intelligible, if every experience must have antecedent objects (nos. 1, 6)? So Kant’s first antinomy, his most potent argument, stares us in the face. All I can see to do is to reject his disproof of the possibility of an actual infinity. But then, am I not compromising item 1? This question I cannot at present answer to my own complete satisfaction.


G. E. Moore argued that while there is no need to conceive actuality as spatially infinite, there is need to conceive the past as an actual infinity of realized events.1 For a first event seems to be unintelligible. Finitists hold that an actual infinity is also unintelligible. Counting to infinity is an incompletable process. Of course, this is true if the process has a beginning. But that is the question at issue. Must it have a beginning? And must it be a question of counting? Suppose God is in every new divine state aware of an infinity of prior states, but that the additional set of items then received from the world is always finite. Such an addition does not change the numerical order of the totality. This is still just infinity. But it does add new qualities, and thus aesthetically enriches the whole. (Russell once told me that he found this logically admissible.) And note that God never has had, and never will have, to make an infinite, worldly addition to the divine life, but always only a finite addition. Moreover, the infinity of prior states is not a mere infinity of mutually independent items; for the just preceding state will have included all earlier ones in its own unity. So in a sense, God is combining finites, not an infinite and a finite. The numerical infinity of the previous multiplicity is entirely embraced in the aesthetic unity of an experience. The numerical aspect is a mere aspect of this unity. At least some of the paradoxes which bother finitists are removed by this view. There is no “hotel with an infinite number of rooms, all occupied, into which new occupants can nevertheless without difficulty be introduced.” There is no infinity of coexisting objects, but only of successively realized events. Nor can anything be inserted into a past event that is not already there.


The foregoing depends upon taking spatial plurality as finite. I strongly incline to this form of finitism. I think we should assume that the number of stars is finite. And of course I am rejecting Kant’s phenomenalism, for which his first antinomy is, in my opinion, the strongest argument.


It should be apparent that the continuous (13a) is simple and the discontinuous is complex. Continuity is a single idea; but the sum of discrete items in the world is as far from that as possible. Similarly, infinity in the absolute sense is simpler and is less than the finite, not more; for definiteness is required for actuality, or value in a more than minimal sense. The finite or actual includes the infinite as an idea or potentiality.


As we have seen, a-terms are negative or privative by comparison with r-terms. For example, the data of an experience are what is left when one sets aside everything which a particular experience of x, y, z, . . . adds to x, y, z. A person is now what he or she is always plus what is peculiar to his or her present reality. Always the r-terms affirm more than their correlates. If traditional philosophies understood this, they failed to express their insight.


It is clear that negative or privative properties of constituents or aspects need not apply in the same sense to wholes containing them. Thus, a house can be large though some part of it is not; it can be very valuable though some part is not. Positive properties accrue from parts to wholes. A whole can be more than its constituents, but it cannot be less. Since, as modal logic shows, the contingent contains the necessary, but not vice versa, it is plain that whatever terms belong with contingency are the inclusive characters of reality, and whatever terms belong with necessity are noninclusive or privative. But then the exaltation of ‘the absolute’ or ‘the infinite’ or ‘the necessary’ is simply a preference for something which in principle is less than the relative or the finite or the contingent. In worshiping the independent, people really worshiped the abstract, and preferred the less to the more valuable. I venture to regard this as a species of idolatry.


That an effect (7, 9) is more concrete, rich in definiteness, than a cause would hardly have occurred to one in the main European tradition, which was afflicted with ‘etiolatry’ (worship of causes). That causation is creation, enrichment of reality as a whole, was the last thing clearly envisaged. Origins, the philosophy of creativity holds, are inferior to what comes out of them, and the de facto supreme reality must be the de facto supreme effect, which must include its cause or causes. Nothing, just in itself, is cause of anything fully particular, but effects just in themselves are caused by whatever did cause them. This is the secret of memory and perception. Only from the standpoint of the effect is the causal relation definite at both ends. God merely as cause of all would know indeterminate possibilities for worlds, nothing more. As causes, we never know just what we are causing; as effects, we always at least subconsciously know what caused us.


From no. 20 one sees that God must be successor of every becoming as well as its predecessor; as the former, influenced by and aware of each event; as the latter, its supreme causal condition.


Nothing of this could be seen while etiolatry held minds under its spell. Nor could the greater concreteness of becoming be seen while ‘ontolatry’ or being-worship prevailed. Alas, Heidegger used ‘Being’ for the basic principle, thus verbally negating his own insight into the primacy of process!


The philosophies hopelessly incompatible with the table are those which take every whole to be ‘organic’ so that parts depend upon just the wholes they are in; or take wholly independent terms to be actual and concrete; or take things experienced to depend upon the particular experiences had of them; or take effects and causes mutually to imply each other, or to be equally concrete and rich in actuality (or effects as such to be inferior to causes as such); or take the simple to be in principle superior to the complex; or take becoming to be merely an aspect, or inferior kind, of being.


In Paul Weiss’s uniquely complicated system2 a table of concepts must, I suppose, be in four columns to cover his four modes of being, and there seems no simple formula illuminating their relationships, unless it is that there is interaction between each and every other. But thus symmetry would be enthroned as ultimate. Rather, experiences are inclusive, and divine experiences, all-inclusive. Everything else is abstraction. In this way we avoid any mere dualism of particulars and universals or mind and matter or God and world. We avoid even Whitehead’s eternal objects and actual entities. For the ‘pure potentials’ are not definite entities, they form a continuum (13a) which is without definite parts (8a). Only impure, noneternal, relatively independent potentials can exist in definite plurality. As Peirce put it, possibilities as such “have no identity.”


According to Stephen Pepper, a metaphysics is the exploitation of a “root metaphor.”3 Neoclassicism takes a momentary experience as the model or paradigm of concrete reality. But is this just a metaphor? Except in and through experiences there are no metaphors! What resembles no aspect of experience is “nothing, nothing, bare nothing.”


The basic decisions are not as to metaphors, but as to logical structure. What depends upon what, what includes what, what is necessary to or contingent upon what? Is symmetry or asymmetry basic in explanation? These are the crucial questions. That experience must somehow be central seems obvious, since the only possible answer to the question, ‘What illustrations of meaning do you have?’ seems to be, ‘Experience, in this or that aspect or datum’. In this sense, as Bergson said, “every philosophy that understands itself’ is, in a broad sense, idealistic, some form of psychicalism (or experientialism).


According to Richard McKeon, metaphysical systems may explain things in terms of the following: (1) the all-inclusive whole, (2) least parts, (3) the problems of our species (which is neither all-inclusive nor a least part), and (4) operations.4 In terms of diverse methods, and other factors, many subdivisions of these are suggested. It seems to me, however, that one must use ourselves as the model in any case, and work from there towards larger wholes and lesser parts. However, there is at least one ambiguity about ‘all-inclusive whole’: does it mean all that ever has been or will be in the future (assuming that the future is no less definite than the past), or is every cosmic whole merely the summation of what has happened, so that the next moment there will be a new whole, not fully determinate in advance? The first view implies (as the ‘absolute idealists’ insisted) that all wholes are organic and all relations internal to all their terms. The second view implies that there are both internal and external relations. Again, I think logical issues such as the one just mentioned should not be decided by some vague hunch like ‘the whole explains its parts’ or the like.


An adequate philosophy should clarify the question of whole and parts, provide a proper setting for human problems, and use operations in some broad sense to help explicate concepts. Both Pepper and McKeon seem to set somewhat artificial boundaries to speculation. One must, they suggest, think either in one of four speculative compartments or in one of four styles (Pepper: organicism, mechanism, formism, contextualism; McKeon: holoscopic, meroscopic, pragmatic, operational) or be a weak eclectic. Moreover, it is implied that the choice cannot be rationally demonstrated, but is personal and rather arbitrary. This is historically plausible, except that the great philosophers have always thought that they had rational arguments against one another. I think one must avoid both extremes of dismissing this as pure illusion and supposing that the refutations were as definitive as they were intended to be. When all hope of reasonable refutation dies, philosophy is not in very good health.




1. G.E. Moore, Some Main Problems of Philosophy (New York: Collier, 1962).


2. Paul Weiss, Modes of Being (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press,



3. Stephen Pepper, World Hypotheses: A Study in Evidence (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1942). Also, Concept and Quality (La Salle, Ill.: Open Court, 1969).


4. McKeon’s scheme is not readily learned from his published statements. But see Thought, Action, and Passion (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1954).



“A Logic of Ultimate Contrasts” is chapter 7, pp. 109-132, of The Zero Fallacy and Other Essays in Neoclassical Philosophy by Charles Hartshorne.









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