Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Varieties of Teleology and the One and the Many

Yesterday, I posted some metaphysical musings that  I would like to begin clarifying.

I divided "things-in-themselves" into an identity principle and and generative principle, i.e., into what a thing is and what a thing may become.  I called these the "in-itself" and the "for-itself."

varieties of teleology
The "for-itself" is really localized potentiality (capacity, activity, and entelechy), i.e., "teleology." The options discussed include: 1) Aristotelian teleology, where the for-itself depends essentially on the in-itself (potency on substance, where the possible inheres in the actual); 2) "unbound" teleology where the telos is not fixed, i.e., German-idealist style; and 3) "emergent" teleology where the telos is neither fixed nor essentially dependent on essence. There is a dependence, but it is now temporal and asymmetric.  The for-itself or telos of the purposive activity of nature varies as its constitutive conditions vary, which they are always doing.  Hence, the determinacy of the for-itself depends upon the *temporal* stability of its constituents.  Stressing that the stability is temporal is not just to reject stability due to essence or atemporal formal structure, but also to include history.  The temporal patterns of a duration or history are important; it's the distinction between mere change in events (synchronic) and the order, structure, and morphology of change (diachronic).  For example, a particualr for-itself may be really temporally unstable, but historically very stable, as the electrons of atoms are as they change orbitals but not whole energy patterns except through radioactive decay.

which came first: the one or the many?
One of the other problems was of genesis.  If we have identities and their change, the in-itself and for-itself, then how do we explain that there is something rather than nothing and that it was this something?  I ask not the question of why is there existence, but how can we account for cosmogenesis with a minimal amount of predetermination that would skew subsequent metaphysical analyses.  I aim for a minimal starting point first and only then explicit speculation.  This problem was noted in German idealism, especially Schelling.  If we begin with the one, identity before becoming, then we must posit a multiplicity of identities at the beginning.  By the way, I write "identities," because it doesn't matter that they're entities or of what kind-- only their determining structure matters.  Hence, I do not write "being(s) before becoming," which is another path that I'm rejecting.  Returning to the positing, it is unacceptable bruteness, and I hold the principle of sufficient reason in enough regard to reject this.  I then suppose that the many came first, becoming before identity.  Becoming becomes being, or force becomes matter.  In this case, we need not suppose what the forces were, but only that there were multiple and differing to produce difference.

who or what changes: dirempting the identity principle from the change principle
This is a topic that I will take up later that was inclusive of the teleology/change discussion.  In short, I supposed that both identity and change were "decentered" compared to the classic notion.  Identity is determinacy, but identity emerges not from "deep within the in-itself," but from the other.

For readers who are wondering, I am familiar with Buddhism, and knowledge of sunyata or emptiness is enlightening on these topics of radical interdependency.

1 comment:

  1. For those just tuning in, see my three-part "Causal Closure in Nature" series for related themes. There, I attack a correlate of the problem of the One and the Many, i.e., what minimal constraints must there be on cosmogenesis for there to be determinate order rather than chaos in the universe given the viewpoint of an evolutionary metaphysics where even the "laws of nature" evolve. This idea, that the laws as super-stable habits of nature must evolve, was implicit in that and this discussion. Otherwise, the classical answers are more than sufficient.