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Meditation XII

FUNCTIONING ACTS OF THE MOMENTS OF THE DIALECTIC IN CONTACT WITH MATTER: The Object must be grasped through the Whole Movement of the Dialectic as a One Movement—This is impossible except through the parts—Hence the necessity for the prior moments of Percipience and Concipience. The Functionings of Percipience and Concipience are inadequate to the Object as being merely preliminary steps. The Object is grasped in the One dialectic movement.

WITHOUT emphasising minor moments, we now see that the presentate or attuit is taken up and dialectically affirmed as a willed and mediated concrete fulfilment of End or idea. Having gained for ourselves this universal Notion (which is the subjective dialectic in its most general expression) under which, and in terms of which, we must think the concrete individual and the concrete whole, we ought, so far as philosophic interpretation of experience is concerned, to be content; but we would further desire to see the process of the moments of dialectic in contact with “matter” and the bearing of this on certain problems.

The presentation is always a complex; and accordingly, if I am to comprehend the mediating ground and possibility of the fulfilled concrete End of the dialectic movement in any object of investigation, it is necessary to discriminate the parts of the complex: for only through its parts can I know a whole as an explained and grounded whole. In fact, it is only through the ordering of subordinate elements in a whole that there can be a whole which is a one. Accordingly, in attacking the presented complex, the method, just because the object is a complex, is analytico-synthetic. I must look for the parts in the total which, as a mere synopsis, is already a presumed “one in many” or “many in one”; and I find that each moment of the Dialectic discharges its own specific function in dealing with this problem.

(a) Will as a dividing force separates and isolates the elements in the complex, reducing each to the self-conscious subject, and eo actu perceiving and affirming each in close relation to the synoptic total which it is taking to pieces. In other words, Will functions Percipience. It, further, functions Concipience, for this is a crude act of Will holding together (as constituting the Whole of presentation) the parts which it has discriminated in a series of judgments. The synoptic single whole is now a rational synthesis; but only of a mechanical kind. There is no inner relation of parts perceptible.

Just as a sensate is constantly confounded with a percept, so we often find characters assigned to Percipience of the single total which belong (I think) only to the act of Concipience.

(b) Meanwhile mere sense-attuition has been accumulating (unselfconsciously) sentient or image-universals of a vague kind, and these suffice for the practical purposes of the animal and of infant man. Although they are inaccurate, they yet contain certain elements which are a true reflex of reality. (A dog, e.g., sees a figure approaching and senses that it is a man, and, under an unregulated and purely dynamical psychical compulsion, acts accordingly.) The Dialectic as Will (with form of End), in seeking to exhaust the implicit predicates of the complex object, and having, of set purpose, corrected, extended, and named these vague sentient universals, which are now general concepts, finds in them an abbreviation of its work. Under the Law of Identity (which guarantees the syllogism) Reason can affirm of the particular complex whole before it many predicates through the said general concept. It is this Law of Identity which enables it thus to accept mediate perceptions and predications as valid of an individual, no less than immediate perceptions. In this way these artificial constructions of Will-reason shorten the road to the terminus of explanation.

And they do so, not merely by yielding a number of predicative judgments in bulk, so to speak; for the natural history of the General Concept reveals that the aggregate percepts which constitute it are, as aggregates, true of that series of real things to which the object of our investigation belongs, and of no others; thus gathering together and affirming what is “essential” (logically speaking) to that series. The General Concept is, accordingly, a distinct step on the way to the discovery of the real distinguishing, or (as they are called) essential, characteristics of the particular object in presentation. Thus the Socratic “eidos” becomes the Platonic “idea”.1

The above functioning acts of the Will-moment of the Dialectic in contact with matter are merely preliminary, and result only in a quasi-mechanical synthesis of experience. They are preliminary to the fulfilment of the dialectic movement—the Telos. This End is immanent in Will from its first initiation, and to arrest ourselves at any moment short of the fulfilled movement cannot give truth.

(c) The functioning act of the second prime moment of the Dialectic—the mediating ground and sufficient reason of the fulfilled idea (End)—is, in the sphere of the phenomenal Space and Time series, called Cause; and many difficult questions have arisen round this notion. As Ground is logical antecedent of End, so Cause is both real and time antecedent of effect. “Negation or Formal Cause,” “Determining-so” or formative cause, and “End” are only logically distinguishable as moments: that is to say, as Thought, the former are in the last. So it is of the whole dialectic movement, it is a One which breaks itself up into moments. As functioning “Cause” in the realitas-phenomenon, the dialectic necessarily carries the fundamental identity of moments with it, and involves itself in difficulties from not recognising that it is now in a sphere where the logical prius must be also a time and space prius; and where the dialectic identity of “negation,” “determining-so” and “end” is not predicable in the same way, inasmuch as we are dealing with parts in space and time-sequence. That which affects the status quo of B is A, and A is Cause: B as affected, is the Effect: B as changed is now A B. There is thus an identity in the notion Cause-Effect. And this identity is the ultimate ground of the “necessary nexus,” although it does not fully explain it as a subjective necessity.2

(d) What now is the functioning act of the last moment of the Dialectic, viz., End, Telos, the fulfilment of the idea in the concrete whole of movement? It must be the affirmation of the attained resultant of the whole Dialectic movement: the complex presentate is not now merely an attuited synopsis; nor yet a mere percept of a single whole differing from other wholes as a whole; nor yet a mere conceptual aggregate of elements (predicative judgments) held together as a synthesis by the sheer force of Will (which has always kept before itself the complex synopsis or attuit from which it started its attempt to “know”); but a grounded necessitated whole—grounded in the negation of all else and necessitated by the “determining-so,” which “determining-so” is Essence, Idea, Form of the object. This resultant then is an affirmation of the “thing” as now a “many in the One of idea or end”—a fulfilled thought as a reason-synthesis and, therefore, a fulfilled and explained actuality.

Such are the moments of knowing—the steps of the Dialectic in contact with “matter,” whether the “matter” be a particular complex or the cosmic total. The synoptic single becomes a quasi-dynamical synthesis or “unity,” and then passes into a “one” in many, a many in “one”: not a mere numerical “one”.

Thus it is that the Dialectic movement grasps, and must grasp, Experience, and that not merely formally but really; for this Dialectic is the universal dialectic of Absolute Being determining itself into a universe, permeating and forming all things, and rising to clearer and higher grades of explicitness till it shines forth in Man in all its purity as “essence” or “idea” of the man-creature and constitutive of Ego.

It is now, also, that Thought, turned back on itself, sees that its predicative judgments were all the while implicit in the synoptic presentate, belonging to it of right as the modal expression of the idea or essence in it, and by virtue of which modality it was an existent. All these predicates are held in the thought-grip of the one dialectic process from the first, although not explicitly realised in the earlier and preliminary stages of dialectic interpretation. The preliminary acts of separation were a logical violence done to the single synoptic whole in order that it might be truly known as a reasoned synthetic “one”: and each of them can by itself give only a partial and inadequate and contradictory knowledge of the object, and of experience generally.

The man-plane is the Dialectic; and we err in complaining of contradictions which are due to our wilful ignoring of the insistence of the dialectic that objects shall be subsumed in the one whole movement.

Note.—The General Concept. A history of the discussions that have centred round the General Concept or Notion would form a great part of the history of Philosophy. There is a stability for knowledge about the Concept, as contrasted with the flux of particulars; and in the midst of sophistic pretensions, the Socratic seized on it like a drowning man on a life-belt. But this should not hide from us that it rests for its truth and significance on percepts of the real, which it summarises.

The question of “Essence” arose in connection with it, because the Concept holds together the totality of qualities in which a series of individuals are like each other, and unlike, as a totality, all else. The colligation of abstracts is symbolised in the sign P; which then is the essence of the series or class as a series or class. But this colligation as so symbolised cannot give the quiddity of any one individual in the class, and, consequently, is a “logical” essence of the class as such alone. It differentiates a class of reals from other classes of reals. At the same time, it is a step towards the ascertainment of the essence of the individual—its ground difference from all other individuals. Hence it was not surprising that the eidos should gradually come to be regarded as idea; and P, the essence of the “class,” come to be regarded as the essence of each particular p.

  • 1.

    See Note at end of this Meditation.

  • 2.

    See Metaphysica Nova et Vetusta, chapter on “Cause”.