Thursday, January 12, 2012

On matters mereological

Balder started a new IPS thread on patterns of wholeness. My initial comments follow:

This SEP article on mereology is instructive relative to OOO's strange version. (Warning: math involved.) For example:

"Mereologically, an atom (or 'simple') is an entity with no proper parts, regardless of whether it is point-like or has spatial (and/or temporal) extension.... Are there any such entities? And if there are, is everything entirely made up of atoms? Does everything comprise at least some atoms? Or is everything made up of atomless 'gunk' (in the terminology of Lewis 1970)? These are deep and difficult questions, which have been the focus of philosophical investigation since the early days of philosophy."

Also of import is that a main premise of most mereology is the principle of identity, which premise is under question in OOO. "All the theories examined above...appear to assume that parthood is a perfectly determinate relation." Note the presuppositions of mereology in this statement: "These worries are of no little import, and it might be thought that some of the principles discussed above would have to be revisited accordingly...because of their classical, bivalent presuppositions."

This has to do with precise boundaries and the article explores how these can be fuzzy and indeterminate. Hence phrases like "unbounded wholeness" are contradictory (or complimentary, if you prefer) since it is a whole without a defining boundary and hence itself is not a "part" of anything. Unless of course each part of "it" retains this characteristic indeterminate openness (withdrawal), in which case things (processes, suobjects) aren't as tidy as we might suppose.

What "level" recognizes this? I agree somewhat with Tom in that the notion of levels itself comes under question at this point since it too is part and parcel (pun intended) of tidy boundaries.

 Quick comment on the Bortoft quotes (see thread). He recognizes that we cannot know the whole in the same way that we know the parts, for it is indeterminate. And that the whole can only be known through the parts. However he doesn't seem to acknowledge that this same indeterminacy of the whole is also in the parts in that we cannot know them fully either via identity, as they too are withdrawn from themselves.

From Mind and Nature, being discussed in this thread:

“Categories are wholes to their members, which become wholes to subsidiary members, and so on, in a progression that is bottomless....the continuum is a transition from a category (whole) to an instance (part) where the latter is the basis of another transition. The transition has the character of an emergence of whole-like parts from part-like wholes, where the wholes are not mere collections, and the parts are not definite elements but the potential to form subsequent wholes. The whole-part relation is a successive nesting that finally terminates in a concrete part, an actuality, that does not serve as a whole for a further transformation.... The relation of whole to part is that of a recursive embedding of potentialities” (7)

For Brown the Core is unbounded wholeness in potentia, which then informs the particular. Then lesser and greater (relative) wholes take shape, but all arising from the absolute assholon. I'm yet again reminded of the difference in “what 'is' the differance?”, which highlights another Yogacara doctrine.

Although it seems strange that particular instances are “the basis of another transition,” with transition being defined as a whole-to-part process. And yet when a part becomes a “concrete actuality” it no longer serves “as a whole for further transformation”? Have we arrived at the “atom” (object) with no further parts?


  1. Balder:

    Theurj: "This has to do with precise boundaries..."

    I appreciate this observation, which also reminds me of a kind of open question I've had re: the notion of withdrawal, which is, does withdrawal in OOO refer to indeterminate openness, or does it refer to a kind of untouchable particularity or definiteness (an impermeable boundedness). I ask because I've tended to see it in terms of the former, but in so doing, have related it in my mind to Bortoft's notion of the presencing or bodying forth of the whole in and through parts (or to related ideas in Joel's work), and have suspected this would be at odds with the OOO intent. But it is one way to conceive of withdrawal, as a kind of indefiniteness, a receding (and sliding) horizon.

    Theurj: "Quick comment on the Bortoft quotes."

    That's true -- he doesn't mention that in that passage, and I'm not sure what he'd think of it, but this extension of indeterminacy or ambiguity to the 'parts' makes sense to me. Is this at odds with what Brown is saying? Indeterminacy, at least as conceived in relation to Brown's whole-part transitioning, is a pre-actual state of affairs.

    Theurj: “And yet when a part becomes a 'concrete actuality' it no longer serves “as a whole for further transformation”? Have we arrived at the “atom” (object) with no further parts?"

    I'm curious what he means by this, and how/where he applies this. I read a bit more in the section you quoted and he gives some concrete examples from neuroscience -- where the whole-part transitioning terminates in an actual word, for instance. Reading his discussion of a bottomless holonic transitioning which terminates in an actual concrete part that stands 'outside' this holonic relationship, I was reminded of something Harman says. He suggests that objects may be bottomless, in terms of holonic relations, but there is an upper limit. Holonic patterning does not go forever up, but terminates in a bobbing sea of objects, above which is only sky. I'm not sure I buy this, and I also think Harman and Brown may be discussing different things, but I noticed at least a sort of parallel to their patterns of thought.

    1. I’m most familiar with Bryant, having invested some time into TDOO. Since he’s using Derrida to explicate withdrawal, and having spent much, much more time with Derrida, it seems to me Bryant’s interpretation (translation) of Derrida’s differance is more in line with an open indetermination with (near) infinite potential. But still “bounded” in that it is an infinite (whole) within a finite (part). Whereas it appears to me that the more Yogacara-influenced process monism of Brown, for example, starts with an assholon and works its way down (or up), sort of like Kennilingam’s Yogacara consciousness per se, the causal root of involution into form.

      Brown’s core is like Bryant’s substance in being “pre-actual,” but as I’ve said above in not the same way. I think this also relates to the way Brown has an “end” point in a concrete object. Bryant notes this too with the object being ontologically primary, and that the parts of an object are not other objects in a mereological way. But again, it seems Bryant’s is more of the infinitude within the finite instead of the infinite as causal source pouring into a concrete vessel. Brown's core (process) seems more like the logically necessary categorical extremes of a hierarchy residing in the more abstract and/or ideal.* One view seems metaphysical to me (in the specific way defined elsewhere as ontotheological), the other not so much.

      * Recall above about "classical, bivalent presuppositions."


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.