Monday, February 11, 2013

individuated possibles and possibility as type (a general)

A typical charge against a philosopher who secures a transcendental basis for creative virtual conditions is that the philosopher undergirds creative activity with an ontological soup of would-be possibles; already individuated eternal objects or inverted Platonic forms or Ideas (e.g. Deleuze) that are eternal in their own nature and stand ready for their eventual instantiation.  This trancendental ground as it were is often called out as a "monistic soup" of would-be possibles.  Deleuze and Whitehead both have an ontology with this sort of transcendental basis, so it is claimed.

On other other hand, there are philosophers such as Quentin Meillassoux and Charles Hartshorne who state that the virtual does not "properly exist" - that there is a distinction to be made between the virtual and the concrete, and the concrete cannot said to "be" until *after* its actualization, whether possible or actual.  While possibles and their corresponding actualizations are discreta, units or objects of the world, all of these individuals are susceptible to the more basic conditions of change or temporality rendering them powers as such rather than specific discreta such as virtualities or eternal objects.  Surchaos, the eternal act of positive creative addition to the real, is no transcendental ground in the sense that it can be called out as a pre-individuated field of already fully formed individuals in tendency or specific generality (pace Deleuze's or Whitehead's ontology). The transcendental ground that Meillassoux or Hartshorne has in mind demands qualification with respect to this, however.

Pragmatically, one "refers" to this power of pre-individuation though it is never a "thing" itself proper, as "nature" any more is some "thing" to refer to beyond a pragmatic concept within ordinary language.  All individuals require this power for their actuality given the transcendental basis of creativity as ultimate category.  Paul Weiss referred to this power as Dunamis, Meillassoux as Surchaos, Hartshorne and Peirce (influenced by Whitehead, though disagreeing with him about the reality of eternal objects) as creativity - a kind of "inexistence" that makes *for* existence.

The question is not whether there *are* pre-individuated reals, nor whether any *individuated* real goes all the way down into the virtual realm (for example, it is "individuals all the way down" - a logical and ontological impossibility).  It is rather a question of whether and how the *act* of individuation itself is a power deserving to be called out as having an especial ontological integrity.  In essence, it is not the individuals which are interesting in metaphysical pluralism.  It is what individuals *do* which is crucial, and even more crucially, what power they draw from, a power responsible for any doing whatsoever, which seems to be the animating feature of the universe - thus deserving perhaps the character of "ultimate" or even "divine," if one were to follow the Presocratic nature ontologies in identifying as divine those ultimate categories or conditions which are responsible for the world's generative and dynamic activity.

Any so-called "powers ontology" must necessarily refer to this ground of creativity and positive creative addition for it is what animates pre-individuated (possible) reals as well as their actual counter parts.  Such is the nature of power as ultimate category hence making the ontology deserving of the name.

As a closing thought: Meinong's theory of possibles or Leibniz's particularism probably isn't the best way to go here.  Insistence on how individuals are collected, aggregated, and then set into union through the *act* of "functors" (category theory) is much more helpful.  Peirce, Hartshorne, but also at times Whitehead, point to this kind of thinking.  The below interview with Hartshorne draws out many of these contrasts. Note his example concerning Shakespeare.

Appearance, Reality, Mind
by Charles Hartshorne

This audiotape recording features Charles Hartshorne lecturing on the nature of perception and other topics. Date unknown.
Lecture: 55 min
Date Recorded: Unknown
Location: Unknown
Date Added: Unknown
Download Lecture: (MP3 - 50Mb)