The Substance-Accident Metaphysics

and the

Totally Dynamic World

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The Substance-Accidens Scheme from Classical Metaphysics presupposes "natures" that can remain constant despite certain changes. These changes are then interpreted (within that Metaphysics) as, so-called, "accidental changes". They occur as it were just at the periphery of such a nature, which remains the same, as has been said.
But is this really the case? Are there really such "natures" present in Reality, such determinants? Is there any determination at all present in the World? Where can we find such a definiteness in a Universe that is constantly changing?

Our experience of the world surrounding us seems to teach that everything is "on the move", that everything is changing all the time. Organisms, so it turned out, have evolved from more simple life-forms all the way up to the appearance of man. But also the latter, and his society changes unremittingly. The physical universe too has, according to modern theories, evolved from almost nothing, and is still evolving. There are hypotheses that view the whole world as a giant recursive computation, which never ends. Some researchers believe that the concrete world is an explicated (unfolded) order, that "floats" as it were on an implicated (enfolded) substrate (the "holostream"). And according to this latter hypothesis the World is also totally dynamic (See, for instance, BOHM, D., 1988, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, who, has, based on a certain interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, developed a theory of a totally dynamic world).

This theory -- which is an example of a vision of the total wholeness of Reality, not according to the usual ideas on wholeness (holism), but on a new idea of how this wholeness should be imagined -- has extensively been treated and explained on the Third Part of our website, as an alternative, but highly viable theory of Reality. It is accessible by the following LINK :
HERE (to Third Part of Website).
At a low level everything seems to be directly connected with every other thing, without there being subsistent discrete entities, and this Whole flows in a continuous way from one condition (state) to the next. Only some quantities would remain constant or quasi-constant, allowing the erection of something like natural laws. But also these natural laws are just descriptions-after-the-fact of observed patterns. The latter could perhaps turn out not to be eternal or repeatable patterns, but at most "habits" of Nature to react in this or that way, and habits could change, implying that the after-the-fact descriptions should be changed too.
If such a continual change would indeed be the case, then everywhere we will find just a one-offness, i.e. every event would be unique, nothing would remain constant, and the fact that we can set up models that possess a certain ability to predict, would not be based on a strict repetition of qualities over individual cases, but only on an approximate repetition over those cases.
Moreover, Chaos theory, applied to the concrete world, shows that in many cases prediction is not possible because of the very high sensitivity of such "chaotic" systems with respect to initial conditions, despite the fact that they are assumed to be (and as mathematical models they indeed are) deterministic. As long as we don't know this initial condition (or a condition that can be considered like one) with infinite precision, we cannot give any long term prediction.
Heraclitus is back again.

A world view as described above, i.e. a thoroughly dynamic world view, depicts this world as a strongly indefinite one, implying that only approximate knowledge is possible. In this respect it contrasts sharply with most world views from Antiquity and Middle Ages, which seem to be much more static, and in which definiteness certainly has a place.

But in all this I suddenly realize that categories like "indefiniteness", "thoroughly dynamic", and "only approximate knowledge" can never occur alone. They are only meaningful against a background of their opposites. If we, to give an example, would pose that everything is RED, then the concept "red" would not have any positive (and assertive) meaning, in that sense that things are so, and not so. We could just like that call it GREEN.

The Substance-Accident Metaphysics is indeed searching for definiteness, and assumes abstract, but objectively existing entities, either existing on their own, i.e. as subsistent entities, or existing in something else :   immaterial substances (subsistent), essences (humanity, etc., existing in an ultimate substrate), and qualities (redness, etc., existing in a penultimate substrate).
But is she perhaps searching in vain?
Maybe a further elaboration of a theme, just hinted at, which I will call "Motif and Background", can help us :

Every named particular state of affairs, S, within the universe can only be such a state of affairs if it is in some way contrasted with its negation, non-S. Expressed in another way, every Motif is embedded within a Background, or, again expressed in an other way, every Motif presupposes a Background. If this was NOT the case, then an indication of such a state of affairs, for example in a proposition, would lack any assertive nature. If, to cite the aforementioned example, everything would be RED, implying that there would not exist any negation of it, i.e. no background, then the term RED (applied to something) would not mean anything, because we could just as well denote everything as (being) GREEN, or any other NON-RED.
RED and GREEN would then just be different words or concepts (mental signs) signifying the same (state of affairs).
In the same way BEING presupposes NON-BEING, because not EVERYTHING can BE, for example something that IS its negation cannot BE. We also can speak about things which are not there anymore, or about things that do not yet exist. So BEING (assigned to things) has assertive meaning, because not everything IS.
In fact the co-existence of Motif and Background follows from the Principle of Contradiction, probably the most fundamental principle. If EVERYTHING were RED, it could just as well at the same time be NON-RED. This is a contradiction, so we must conclude : Not everything is RED.
On the basis of this Principle of the co-existence of Motif and Background we can expect all possible kinds of states of affairs (existing) in Reality, which relate to each other as Motif and Background, like :

The first two pairs are more or less similar, and are very important in Metaphysics.
Concrete state of affairs are governed by non-concrete principles.

The indefinite thus presupposes the definite (and vice versa), and the dynamic the static. Approximate knowledge presupposes exact and certain knowledge. Hence the assertion, that "all knowledge is only approximate", is itself meant to be exact knowledge about the world, namely the knowledge that the world is such (namely totally dynamic, etc.), that exact knowledge of it is never possible.
The argument just given, that not everything can be indefinite, dynamic, etc., refers to everything, I mean literally everything, hence also to principles, ontological parts, (natural) laws, and the like, and not only to everything concrete. The motive-background argument refers to the whole of Reality. If we let "totally dynamic", "indefinite", etc., first of all refer to the concrete world, then we can supplement this world (in order to make the world as such complete) with non-concrete entities like principles, ontological parts, (natural) laws, etc., which can then legitimately be (and indeed are) static and definite. We can supplement the concrete world in this way, because, in so doing, we then have set a background to the dynamic and the indefinite.
Indeed Natural Science assumes the presence of invariances, like for instance natural laws and natural constants. But natural laws -- as figuring in Natural Science -- are just descriptions-after-the-fact which should always be tested, and, if necessary, adjusted, on the basis of observations and experiments. Why should these laws always remain valid?
This would be possible only if everything, every being whatsoever, behaves according to its own NATURE under whatever circumstances (implying -- and not contradicting -- that it can behave differently under different circumstances). This is in fact presupposed by Natural Science when it is doing experiments, and its method, induction, is based on this supposition.
Hence, current Natural Science assumes that each thing -- whether this is an ant individual or a quantum field -- possesses a certain "nature" according to which it behaves so and so. In other words, each thing possesses a certain definiteness within it (like a 'part'), and this 'part' is in itself (i.e. as such) unchangeable :   The thing can change, it is true, but not that part itself. So, (an indicated version of) RED cannot change, RED can never become GREEN. Only a red thing can change into a green thing. In this way we refer to a principle, in the latter case a principle (a nature) in virtue of which something is red. If the thing itself remains what it is, despite changing its color, we attribute this to another kind of principle :   the intrinsic nature of the thing, called the Essence of the thing. If the thing intrinsically changes, it will become another thing with a different nature. Also in this case the nature itself does not change, only the thing changes. Natures themselves cannot change, they are themselves definite and confer definiteness on things. This definiteness must have something to do with Being (because the thing IS so and so) in the sense that it 'provides' Being to the thing, while in a world, which finds itself in a continual flux, no Being can be found, only Becoming. Hence definiteness is coexistent with Being (The Medievals would say :   definiteness is interchangeable with Being), and indefiniteness (in Nature, i.e. in objective Reality, and not only for us) with Becoming.

And while reasoning in this way, we come, after all, close again to certain world views from Antiquity and the Middle Ages, insofar as, however, we're not relating to their natural science, but to their theories of definiteness and hence their theories of Being :   Classical Metaphysics, which treats of Being insofar as Being (and consequently of definite insofar as definite [ = definiteness as such ]). That Metaphysics indeed treated of the "what is it?" (as "what is it?") of whatever thing, considered as a subsisting individual (particular) thing, a "what is it?", not in terms of something else (hence not in terms of elements or extrinsic causes), but in terms of itself, i.e. in terms of intrinsic causes. Of course in Antiquity as well as in the Middle Ages other views were also present, like those of Heraclitus and Ockham respectively. These matters have been debated intensively, as the traditional texts witness.
Because we should, in virtue of the reasons mentioned, have to accept instances of definiteness, even in an admittedly thoroughly dynamic world, it is perhaps interesting to reproduce the discussions, performed by the scholars of Antiquity and Middle Ages, about the Definite and Beingness-as-such, once again, in order to re-evaluate, critically investigate (according to modern standards) and to further develop them into a modern Theory of Definiteness and Beingness (We have done this in the Non-Classical Series of Essays, but also in the Classical Series).

In addition to what has been said, there are also a number of other reasons to vindicate the view of the Metaphysics of Being, in our case one which starts from things, each supplied with a (fixed) "nature" :
We cannot just reason away those subsistent things by means of theoretical considerations, because they, as it were, reappear everytime. For despite the dynamical nature of the concrete world -- this is certain, at issue is, however, whether this world is thoroughly, i.e. totally, dynamic -- we observe a large number of clear patterns within this concrete world, especially in the case of living beings, but also in the inorganic world. In the latter we encounter for example crystals, and also ordered aggregates of them (snowflakes, respectively iceflowers). Further, all kinds of wave movements and other rithmic phenomena. Symmetric objects abound, and despite their often being somewhat marred, they are strikingly present [ The symmetry of crystals is studied by Crystallography, while the symmetry of organisms is studied by Promorphology (Both are treated of on this website) ].
That's why we can -- with Van MELSEN, 1955, Natuurfilosofie -- say, that Nature appears to have an inclination to generate more or less fixed patterns. Of course this would still be possible in a thoroughly Heraclitean, i.e. dynamic, world, because all the time the patterns melt away again. But although this observed inclination to form patterns does not prove that the world contains genuinely static aspects ('parts'), I would like to consider this inclination nevertheless as an indication of the existence of such static parts, because this inclination is overwhelming. If the world would be thoroughly and totally dynamic, then patterns -- existing long enough to be observable -- would be an exception, which they are certainly not.
Such patterns, especially those present among living beings, indeed were the source of inspiration for Aristotle's doctrine of the "eidos", i.e. the specific identity.
Even patterns that find themselves within a strongly dynamical context of evolutionary adaptations and re-adaptations, are often amazingly constant.
So for example the wing venation in Insects.
The insect wing can serve different functions. At first with repect to flight, but also protection, camouflage and ornament (relating to sexual reproduction). Further there is, with respect to flight, a large variety of flight regimes in different insect species, in which (by some insect species) is made use, either of the 'parachute effect' of the wings (and other appendages), or of (in other species) the ability of the wing to 'imitate' an air screw (NOTE 1).
Despite these diverse functions and flight regimes (NOTE 2), all winged insects, including all known fossil forms of them (NOTE 3), show the same basic plan of their wing venation (NOTE 4). Hence this basic plan (basic pattern) first of all spans some 1 to 1.5 million recent insect species, and then, moreover, a geological time of about 350 million years (The oldest winged insects are found in the Namurian [ = lower part of the Upper Carboniferous ]).
This tenacious stability of definite patterns is found in all other organisms, and in virtue of this a science like Paleontology is possible.
Moreover physical matter itself anyhow shows a strong inclination to self-organization, even in relatively simple systems, as we can see in the famous Belousov-Zhabotinski Reaction (See in the Essay on non-living dissipative structures the section, devoted to this Reaction).
The propensity for pattern formation thus appears to be inherent in physical matter and with it in the concrete world.

Despite the fact that this does not prove that the concrete world with all its temporal patterns must have some connection with 'eternal patterns', this phenomenon of pattern formation -- also in cases where, as has been said, the context is strongly dynamic -- is, according to me, sufficient evidence to assume that the concrete world has indeed something to do with 'eternal patterns' -- these patterns are at least implicitly present in the concrete world -- even if these eternal patterns themselves possibly would lie outside this concrete world. In this case they should relate causally in some way to the concrete world, causing its observable patterns. And this would imply that that non-concrete world, harboring those eternal patterns, will form one world with the concrete world after all.
We were with Heraclitus and David BOHM,.... yet, we returned to Aristotle and Van MELSEN. ----

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