jeudi 7 décembre 2017

Dooyeweerd: 'This tree in front of my house' - Individuality structures, modal aspects, substance.

Photo: F. MacFhionnlaigh

(Also called Aspects/ Modes/ Modalities/ Meaning-sides) 

'This tree in front of my house' 
- Individuality structures, 
modal aspects, substance. 

Short extract from book 
‘Time, Law, and History: Selected Essays’

The individuality structures of reality, unlike the modal structures, do not relate to the how or the mode of being, but to the concrete what of reality.
As we noted earlier, individuality structures are time-structures of individual totalities such as things, concrete events or acts, societal forms (family, state, church, business enterprise), and so on.

[…] A concrete entity, such as this tree in front of my house, is more than the sum of its modal functions of number, space, movement, organic life, and so on. Before all else it is a temporal individual whole with a relative persistence that lies at the basis of all its modal functions. Traditional metaphysics used to speak in this context of a substance.

The Philosophy of the Cosmonomic Idea distanced itself on principle from the philosophical substance concept, and it did so on solid grounds.

The substance concept was meant to account for an undeniable given of naive [routine] experience, namely the relative endurance or persistence of an entity in spite of the exchange of its parts and its sensorially perceptible shapes and properties. Given its substance concept, however, metaphysics, misled by the immanence standpoint, in principle detached itself from what is actually given in naive [routine] experience and set out to find an abstract “essence” of things, supposedly accessible only to theoretical thought. In this way metaphysics arrived at its theoretical construction of a “substance “ as a self-contained “thing-in-itself”, which is then opposed by the subjective perception and apperception of human consciousness.

Although it does allow for the most diverse conceptions depending on further theoretical specifications of the immanence standpoint, the metaphysical substance concept in all its forms was therefore nothing but the absolutization of a theoretical abstraction. It was always predicated on the elimination of the cosmic horizon of time and a theoretical breaking apart of reality into a noumenon and a phenomenon.

The “thing-in-itself”, in whatever way it is conceived, is nothing but a theoretical abstraction from temporal reality which is reified into an independent substance.

[…] What then constitutes the basic difference between the individuality structures of temporal reality? Without a doubt it is found in the typical totality character of these structures. Ultimately this character remains inaccessible to scientific analysis, for the same reason that cosmic time in its continuity cannot be theoretically analyzed. The inner nature of an individual totality simply impinges itself upon our experience. The moment one attempts to enter into a theoretical analysis of such a totality one is dependent upon the modal aspects in which that totality functions but which can never exhaust its existence. In this analysis, the totality, just like cosmic time, remains that which is presupposed. In its totality it precedes theoretical analysis and one can never afterwards construct it from "elements".

A few examples of aspectual (law-sphere) structures, showing each nucleus with retrocipatory and anticipatory analogies. The irreducible nucleus reflects the aspect's sphere-sovereigntyThe analogies (to all fourteen remaining aspects) reflect each aspect's sphere-universality. As aspects of cosmic time the law-spheres manifest a fixed order, as is the case with the prismatic spectrum of refracted colours.
(Illustrations: FMF)

[…] What is striking in the first place is that the modal functions within an individuality structure are grouped in a typical way. This grouping does not affect the cosmic time-order of the aspects as such as we have discussed them earlier; this order maintains itself also within an individuality structure of reality. The latter structure also does not affect the modal irreducibility or sphere-sovereignty of the aspects. Also within the individuality structure of, say, a tree, the modal numerical function 
[law-sphere] is irreducible to the spatial function [law-sphere] and the movement function [law-sphere]. It is not possible to reduce any one of these three functions in a so-called “holistic” sense to mere modalities of the organic function [law-sphere] of life or to the (objective) psychical function [sensory law-sphere] of an entity.

However, when our theoretical analysis follows the cosmic time-order of the modal aspects [law-spheres] within the inner structure of the tree it strikes us that only with the biotic aspect [law-sphere] does it become meaningful to speak of this entity as a tree, and at the same time that the organic aspect [law-sphere] of life is the last modal aspect [law-sphere] in which the tree still functions as a subject. In all later aspects [law-spheres] it does not have subject-functions but only modal object-functions

The organic function of life [biotic law-sphere] is the typical destinational function [law-sphere] or the qualifying function [law-sphere] of the internal tree-structure. This qualifying function [law-sphere] within the individuality structure also unlocks or discloses its earlier modal functions [law-spheres] in the anticipatory direction towards its typical biotical destination. This enables us to detect within the aspect of movement internally directed motions, such as those of the metabolic and growth movements (which are different from the external motions of a tree, for example when it is struck by a gust of wind).

Yet this does not transform these internal movements into something intrinsically biotical. They merely deepened their biotic anticipations under the typical guidance of the qualifying function [law-sphere] of the tree.

It is the individuality structure of the tree and not the time-order of the modal aspects [law-spheres] which guarantees this typical grouping of the modal functions [law-spheres] within an individual whole.

The individuality structure is a typical structure of cosmic time. When the subjective biotic function [law-sphere] of the tree is harmed it can no longer exist as an individual whole. Yet it cannot be said that this biotic function is the essence of the tree, because the modal biotic function [law-sphere] does not constitute the totality principle of the tree. The opposite is much rather the case: the totality character determines that the biotic function is the directing and guiding function [law-sphere] of all the other functions [law-spheres]

In other words, the totality itself does have a modal [law-sphere] character but equally embraces all aspects [law-spheres] of the tree in their typical grouping. If any one of these aspects [law-spheres] were lacking, the tree would cease to exist as a tree. The individuality structure also fully accounts for the relatively persistent character of the tree as its parts and sensory [law-sphere] properties are replaced.

While functioning in its typical individuality structure the tree remains identical to itself. Loss of this structure, for example when it is felled and sawn into boards, will give rise to a number of other entities with radically different structures.

(Herman Dooyeweerd, ‘Time, Law, and History: Selected Essays’, Collected Works, Series B - Volume 14, Paideia Press 2017, pp 89-94)