Revised Ontological Interpretation of the Determinations ('Accidents') of a Substance [ Part Two ]

back to homepage

back to Part One

Deciding between the two Interpretations

In the foregoing we established two possible interpretations, a physical and metaphysical interpretation. But one could demand that a decision must be made in favor of one of them. That sounds reasonable.
Earlier we found out that a Totality consists of : The only item from this list that is actually visible is the first one. This item consists of determinations. In fact we do NOT actually SEE things or parts at all. The only items we see are determinations, and we conceptually add : OF A THING (or, OF A PART). So a " thing " (and also a " part ") are already metaphysical constructions ! Everybody interprets determinations always as determinations-of-someTHING . With respect to these determinations only quantity and quality are intrinsic determinations of such a something. Quantity and quality interpenetrate each other thoroughly. Quantity, to be visible, presupposes quality, and quality to be visible implies delimitation and thus quantity (See for quantity and quality the Essay on Substance and Accident, from subsection Quantity onwards). The only phenomenon which causes us to speak of things is the PATTERNING of determinations. And a determination of ' higher order ' is a PATTERN of determinations of ' lower order '. So when we see quantities-and-qualities interweaved into patterns, then we interpret this as seeing a thing or an aggregate of things, depending on the distribution (pattern) of the determinations.
When we encounter such a pattern of determinations and interpret this accordingly as a thing , let us call this thing T, it is possible that we find within this overall pattern a number of sub-patterns. Are these sub-patterns things? Are they parts of the thing T ? If so then T is not one thing, but many. Or are these sub-patterns just patterned determinations of the thing T, and thus not disturbing the unity of T ? These are the two interpretations, and we like to know which one is correct.
When we observe different types of Totalities we can note different degrees of integration of the sub-patterns into the whole ( T ). Expressed physically, we can observe a different degree of integration of the elements within the thing. The higher the degree of integration, the greater the loss of identity of the elements. When we examine for example a Diamond crystal -- A Diamond crystal consists of Carbon atoms only -- we will find that the Carbon atoms are connected with each other by strong chemical bonds. These bonds are causing changes in these atoms, mainly at the perifery of those atoms. Because of these changes and of the strenght of these bonds the individuality, and so the identity, of each of the atoms is significantly lowered.
But when we examine the crystal structure of Ice, we will notice a different state of affairs. An ice crystal is build up by Water molecules. These Water molecules attract each other by weak forces only : They are, as a consequence of these forces, connected by so-called hydrogen bonds. These are relatively weak bonds, consisting only of weak electrostatic forces, which do not result from any exchange of electrons, as is the case in ionic crystals, and which also do not result from any electron-sharing as is the case in covalent bonds, for example in a diamond crystal (both phenomena imply changes of the participating atoms). So the water molecules are almost entirely intact, and keep their identity almost fully.
So there exist different degrees of integration of sub-patterns (Atoms in Diamonds, Water molecules in Ice) into the whole.
How must we interpret this? Let's give it a try.
If we assume that in both cases mentioned, and in fact in all relevant cases, the whole in question (for example the Diamond crystal and the Ice crystal) is generated by ONE dynamical law (in the case of the crystals, a crystallization law), then we must consider such a whole as ONE thing. If so, then the (determinations of the) ' constituents ' are, not (determinations of the) constituents after all, but are determinations of that very whole (we recognize the metaphysical interpretation). And so those constituents -- of which, if indeed they were real constituents, we can see only their determinations -- exist only virtually, while as determinations of that whole they exist actually. As we explained earlier, this " virtual " means a potency for being a thing. This potency will be actuated when for example that whole disintegrates in a certain way. In fact " virtual " means near potency (for something), and now it is clear that a potency can be more or less near, and so also a virtuality -- which is already a near potency -- can itself in turn be more or less near. When the virtuality is nearer, i.e. when it is a near potency to (be) something (in our case : to be a thing), then it is ' almost ' that something, and so is less virtual with respect to that something. When the virtuality is not so near, i.e. when it is a more remote potency to (be) something, then the virtuality is present in a stronger degree, i.e. it is more virtual. Something being more virtually a thing (a concrete part) means that for actually becoming a thing it takes, as it were, more steps to achieve this. It is a remote potency for being a thing. So when for example atoms are strongly bonded in a crystal, it takes more to convert them into actually existing things (the conversion is from : determinations -- of the crystal -- TO freely existing atoms), than when they were only weakly bonded to each other. This is why a diamond crystal is much more stable than an ice crystal. And it is clear that this " less or more virtual " is equivalent to, respectively, a lower or higher degree of integration. So a low degree of integration (of the sub-patterns into the whole) corresponds with a low degree of virtuality, and consequently with a higher degree of identity of such a sub-pattern, and thus with a higher degree of thing-ness and so of ' part-ness '. A high degree of integration of elements causes a high degree of stability of the Totality. An analogous case is a nation's population.
From all this it is clear that we do not have to do with the question :

" Are the elements as such, i.e. as parts, only virtually existing in the whole, and so are just determinations of that whole, OR are the elements as such, i.e. as parts, actually existing in the whole? "


So when we contemplate the patternings of a Totality, these patternings are not parts, but determinations. This implies that we have decided for the metaphysical interpretation, but this interpretation did turn out not to be so absolute as some want it to be. This is why we do not abandon all our findings related to the physical interpretation.
In whatever degree (in the present context) something is virtual, it is a determination of a Totality. While virtuality shows degrees, being-a-determination does not. Something is a determination, or it is not. This is because it is a determination in both cases : it is either a determination of a concrete part of the Totality, or a determination of the Totality itself.

We spoke about crystals and chemical bonds. For a better understanding of the above discussion the reader should consult the Essay on Crystals and the Essay on The Chemical Bond.

Stadium-dependent Determinations

The stadium-dependent determinations of whatever Totality -- i.e. determinations which depend on the state of the Totality, itself dependent on the system state -- are, as has been said, not absolutely per accidens. In the case of Organisms they are of specific significance.
Stadium-dependent determinations occur in those cases in which a Totality -- whether it be an organism or otherwise -- after it has been formed, continues to change, in accordance with the succession of system states (i.e. the states of the dynamical system as a whole, and including the generated Totality).
For example in the development of a crystal, we see certain growth states. Not only the size of the crystal changes (it increases), but also its outer shape : some initially developed crystal faces dissappear again -- especially those faces of which the growth vector (being always in the direction perpendicular to a given face) is relatively large, i.e. if the growth in that direction is relatively fast -- resulting in a different shape of the crystal.
Also in the case of organisms we not only observe an increase in their size, but also observe the appearance of certain structures, internal and external, resulting in a succession of different forms or shapes during individual development. These changes can be very radical in the case of animals undergoing a metamorphosis, like certain Insects and Amphibians. An extreme case is exhibited by the Slime Mold. Recall that in this case the organism is represented by a multitude of individually existing amoebae, feeding on the forest floor. When food becomes scarce, they spontaneously aggregate and form one unified body that can move to a new location, and in which spores develop that will subsequently be strewn out over larger distances (See next Figure). All this gives rise to a host of stadium-dependent determinations.

Life-cycle of a Slime Mold
(After BRIGGS, J. & PEAT, F., Turbulent Mirror, 1990)

But, very prominent in all Organisms is the appearance of capacities, i.e. capacities to perform certain organic functions. These capacities appear during the development of the organism. To develop a particular capacity the organism must go through a certain number of stages (stadia), and having done so it now possesses that particular capacity. Some capacities disappear again and so are absent in subsequent stages, for example the capacity to eat and digest leaves is fully developed when a caterpillar hatches from the egg, but is lost again when the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis (pupa). In this adult stage other capacities have emerged, for example the capacity of feeding on nectar from flowers, by the butterfly. So in this case the capacity of eating and digesting leaves (and also the nectar-feeding capacity) is clearly a stadium-dependent capacity, and so a stadium-dependent determination. Many other capacities, on the other hand, are already developed very early on in the individual history and remain present during the rest of the individual's life. But despite of this they are not present in ALL stadia, because they weren't present in the very first stadia. This is the case for example with the capacity-to-think with respect to human beings.
Because such capacities are stadium-dependent, they are to be sure per accidens with respect to the dynamical law (which remains constant), but not in an absolute sense, because the succession of stages is itself dictated by the dynamical law.
But when, on the other hand, a caterpillar is actually eating leaves -- i.e. it is eating leaves at a certain moment or interval in time -- then this activity is per accidens in an absolute sense. The caterpillar eats because some appropriate leaves happened to be present at that moment in time. Also the act of thinking, i.e. thinking at a certain moment or interval in time, is per accidens in an absolute way, in contradistinction to the capacity-to-think.
Naturally there are also certain capacities which must be present from the very beginning of the individual development of the organism, and must moreover remain present during the entire lifetime of that organism, because these (capacities) relate to crucial organic functions, without which the organism cannot exist, and so these capacities are per se , because they are of necessity constantly present (they do not just happen to be constantly present). It must be realized however that it is generally very hard to determine the very beginning of the Totality, i.e. to determine which system state corresponds with the first appearance of the Totality.
It is possible to reduce all capacities to certain specific material structures, developed in the organism, i.e, to certain parts of the organism. So we are concerned with the assessment of the ontological status of these parts or structures , and this we have already done in the section Determination as Part. And the ' capacity ' to develop these structures in turn (i.e. the capacity to develop these capacities) IS the dynamical law itself.
So these parts are functional structures, embodying capacities, i.e. making the execution of certain functions, such as behavioral patterns, possible. And the development of such structures is typical for organisms. They are absent, or, at most, only present in an analogical way, in inorganic beings.

The Totality and its Determinations Revisited

Substance, in a stricter sense, and thus the Essence, ' receives ' determinations by way of
  1. The reaction of the Totality with external agents.
  2. The qualities (interweaved with quantities), exclusively generated by the Essence (dynamical law).
  3. The space-time position of the Totality.
By virtue of (1), (2) and (3) the Totality is (further) determined (it was already determined by the dynamical law, but this is a ' determination ' only on the genotypical level).

Remark: Within the context of the Totality in question, the dynamical law is not generated. This dynamical law, genotypically representing the Totality is further determined by its products, the determinations. It is further determined because the dynamical law, although it is inherent in the elements of the initial condition (initial state), does not imply a specific initial condition : the dynamical law is inherent in a multitude of possible initial conditions. And because often different initial conditions result in different dynamics (for instance implying a trajectory leading to another attractor ), given the dynamical law, the ensuing dynamics is not totally laid down, not totally determined, by that dynamical law. So when the dynamical law starts to operate the outcome will be codependent on the initial condition actually present, and thus the dynamical law will then be further determined.

Not until the Totality (or the dynamical law for that matter, i.e. the Essence) is thus further determined, it is able to exist in the Real World, and not until then it IS a Totality. The Essence, (taken) all by itself (and thus equivalent to a ' Totality '-without-further-determinations, and consequently as such not a Totality after all) cannot, consequently, exist in the Real World. It can only have a real existence in the form of one or more concrete Totalities, and every such Totality implies a complete set of all the types of determination. Such Totalities are there, i.e. must be present, either in the form of system elements, i.e. as initial condition, or in the form of one or more Totalities (just) generated by that system. The upshot of all this is that the only really and truly existing things are fully determined Totalities, i.e. having a complete type set of determinations. The state of affairs, just described, is NOT a physical process, but the description of an ontological dependency. Which determinations (of each type) should be actually present in order for a Totality to exist (i.e. in order TO BE a Totality) is not of direct importance. It just concerns the possession of one or another complete set of determinations. This means that the Totality should be fully quantitatively determined, fully qualitatively determined, it should moreover stand in relation to other Totalities, and be associated with a certain point in time, and be located at a certain definite place, etc.
This view is similar to the classical one. And according to the latter the Essence of a concrete, real, individual being is conceptually -- in order to assess its ontological 'location ' -- ' traced backward as it were, along the metaphysical ' ex-structure ' ( " ex " meaning : originating from ) of that particular being. So the Essence, the (specific) Identity, is NOT identical to that particular being (Nominalism says it is), but is an intrinsic and immanent (i.e. residing in that being) principle that is still ' located ' before the determinations, i.e. prior according to nature (" according to nature ", in contrast with according to our knowledge ) to the determinations. It is accordingly ontologically prior to the determinations, because these are caused by the Essence. This Essence remains the same during all the changes in determination.
This conforms with the view presented here where the Essence is identified with the dynamical law (of that dynamical system that generated the Totality in question). During the alternation (succession) of system states, and with it the succession of stages of the Totality, the dynamical law remains the same, even during such strong alternations as can be seen for example in the case of certain Insects an Amphibians.

Remark: In the case of a Totality-generating dynamical system, a Totality is generated within the broader confines of that dynamical system. This Totality is a part of the relevant system states within which that Totality is formed and within which it is developed. When we confine our consideration to the Totality only, then it can always be interpreted as a stadium corresponding to the System state of which it is a part. And not until a Totality has been formed can the dynamical law be interpreted as the Essence of that Totality. So when the Totality has not yet been formed, we only have the dynamical law, governing the dynamical system, and that law will only subsequently going to figure as the Essence (of the Totality).

Also during alterations of environmental conditions and the corresponding alternations of determinations (of the Totality in question), the dynamical law figuring as the Essence of the Totality, remains the same, as long as the Totality itself remains in existence. The dynamical law is ontologically prior to the determinations of the Totality, because the determinations are generated by the (concrete) dynamical law, from an initial state (which itself is not (yet) the Totality, and in which the configuration of elements is per accidens with respect to the dynamical law). And the extrinsic determinations (and also the intrinsic determinations ) presuppose the Totality and with it the dynamical law.
The intrinsic as well as the extrinsic determinations cannot, as has been said, exist on their own, but are nevertheless real and existing. They are consequently just auxiliary beings, secondary beings, with respect to the Totality (which does exist fully). The existence of such an auxiliary being is rooted in that something of which it is a determination. And the total collection of all determinations of one or another uniform thing (one or another being) is the expression of the dynamical law. In this way we can discriminate between the genotypic domain and and the phenotypic domain. Along these lines the " analogy of being " of Classical Metaphysics -- which here concerns the relationship of determinations, as auxiliary beings, towards the full being having these determinations -- is valid. We obtain the corresponding Scheme of Categories when we maximally generalize every determination. See for details concerning this Scheme, the Essay on Substance and Accident, section The System of Categories. We then will end up with a small number of so-called Upper Genera, like Quantity, Quality, Relation, etc. These, and also the lower genera, can be predicated as principles, like LENGTH, COLOR, KINSHIP, etc. Only the first Category of that Scheme of Categories is not a determination, it is the Essence of the individual thing, its dynamical law.

The Philosophy of Being, here presented, limits Genuine Beings to intrinsic Totalities. All other ontologically independent, i.e. non-auxiliary, beings are Aggregates, they are extrinsic collections of beings. In Classical Metaphysics this distinction is not always rigorously observed. On the basis of the concept of the-essence-as-dynamical-law it is now possible to discriminate clearly and unambiguously.

Remark: We can discriminate clearly and unambiguously in spite of the fact that, in almost all concrete instances, we cannot explicitly point to the dynamical law , i.e. we cannot, in most cases, explicitly and completely formulate the dynamical law. This "not being able to explicitly formulate the law " is not a metaphysical limitation, but a problem in Natural Science. Within Natural Science this problem is not a problem of principle, but relates to the state of advancement, i.e. of development, of Natural Science, and so its current state of aquired knowledge.

By restricting real beings to intrinsic Totalities, more determinations (i.e. more than in Classical Metaphysics) will have a per se nature. Let us illustrate this with the determination LENGTH (from the category of quantity), or, more generally, the determination SIZE(S).
A given aggregate possesses, at a certain point in time, a LENGTH of say, 5cm (as one aspect of its size). But its length is variable, because it is, mainly, dictated by external factors that happen to be present (in such and such a strength). When we nevertheless consider such an aggregate as a real being, then its actual length is per accidens. This will be the case with many determinations of the aggregate in question.
When, on the other hand, we investigate a real being, an intrinsic Totality (of totality elements), then most of its determinations will always show some (albeit limited) per se nature.
So its LENGTH (in the sense of : THE lenght, thus having a determined length, say 60 cm).
Generally, LENGTH -- with respect to a real being -- is stadium-dependent (Still more generally taken : the sizes (among them, length) of, say, a crystal or an organism are dependent on the system state in which such a crystal or organism finds itself). In this case the length is dependent on the moment in time of an actual or conceptual observation, and so is per accidens with respect to the dynamical law. But because the succession of the stadia is dictated by the dynamical law it follows that in this case LENGTH is not per accidens in an absolute sense. It enjoys a certain per se nature, while in Aggregates this is not so.
There is still another per se aspect of, say, the determination LENGTH in genuine Totalities. Almost all organismic species, especially animal species (including man) will, when they develop (ontogenetically), reach a length (and, generally, a size) within certain limits set by the given species. This is clearly visible in all mammals, and, generally all vertebrates, and also in all insects, etc. Not their precise length is so determined, but a certain small, but definite, range of possible lengths. This is certainly a per se feature of the given species. Moreover, many Totalities, like molecules, are determined to a specific and precise length (if we do not consider the stretching-contracting vibrations of certain bonds between some of their atoms), and so these lengths are wholly per se.
But the length can also depend on fluctuating environmental influences. For example in the case of growing crystals enjoying a supply of system elements (going to build up the crystal), when this supply is in its intensity biased with respect to direction (of coming from). This (environmental influence) can then lead to extra long or flat crystals. Also in the case of many organisms we can see that the length can be dependent on the intensity of supply of system elements, and here this means : food supply. And insofar as it is so dependent, the actual length is per accidens in an absolute sense with respect to the dynamical law.
In order for a Totality to exist, all its determinations, be they per se or per accidens, must be completely specified.

For the continuation of this Essay (Part Three), click HERE

back to the beginning of this Part

back to Part One

back to homepage