Part II Chapt II Sect VI

We can now, in a preliminary way, summarize some of the agreements and disagreements between the philosophy of organism and the seventeenth-century founders of the modern philosophic and scientific traditions.

It is the basis of any realistic philosophy, that in perception there is a disclosure of objectified data, which are known as having a community with the immediate experience for which they are data. This 'community' is a community of common activity involving mutual implication. This premise is asserted as a primary fact, implicitly assumed in every detail of our organization of life. It is implicitly asserted by Locke in his statement (II, XXIII, 7, heading), "Power, a great part of our complex ideas of substances." The philosophy of organism extends the Cartesian subjectivism by affirming the 'ontological principle' and by construing it as the definition of 'actuality' This amounts to the assumption that each actual entity is a locus for the universe. Accordingly Descartes' other statement, that every attribute requires a substance, is merely a special, limited example of this more general principle.

Newton, in his treatment of space, transforms potentiality into actual fact, that is to say, into a creature, instead of a datum for creatures. According to the philosophy of organism, the extensive space-time continuum is the fundamental aspect of the limitation laid upon abstract potentiality by the actual world. A more complete rendering of this limited, 'real' potentiality is the 'physical field/ A new creation has to arise from the actual world as much as from pure potentiality: it arises from the total universe and not solely from its mere abstract elements. It also adds to that universe. Thus [124] every actual entity springs from that universe which there is for it. Causation is nothing else than one outcome of the principle that every actual entity has to house its actual world.

According to Newton, a portion of space cannot move. We have to ask how this truth, obvious from Newton's point of view, takes shape in the organic theory. Instead of a region of space, we should consider a bit of the physical field. This bit, expressing one way in which the actual world involves the potentiality for a new creation, acquires the unity of an actual entity. The physical field is, in this way, atomized with definite divisions: it becomes a 'nexus' f of actualities. Such a quantum (i.e., each actual division) of the extensive continuum is the primary phase of a creature. This quantum is constituted by its totality of relationships and cannot move. Also the creature cannot have any external adventures, but only the internal adventure of becoming. Its birth is its end.

This is a theory of monads; but it differs from Leibniz's in that his monads change. In the organic theory, they merely become. Each monadic creature is a mode of the process of 'feeling' the world, of housing the world in one unit of complex feeling, in every way determinate. Such a unit is an 'actual occasion'; it is the ultimate creature derivative from the creative process.

The term 'event' is used in a more genera] sense. An event is a nexus of actual occasions inter-related in some determinate fashion in some extensive quantum: it is either a nexus in its formal completeness, or it is an objectified nexus. One actual occasion is a limiting type of event. The most general sense of the meaning of change is 'the differences between actual occasions in one event.' For example, a molecule is a historic route of actual occasions; and such a route is an 'event.' Now the motion of the molecule is nothing else than the differences between the successive occasions of its life-history in respect to the extensive quanta from which they arise; \12S] and the changes in the molecule are the consequential differences in the actual occasions.

The organic doctrine is closer to Descartes than to Newton. Also it is close to Spinoza; but Spinoza bases his philosophy upon the monistic substance, of which the actual occasions are inferior modes. The philosophy of organism inverts this point of view.

As to the direct knowledge of the actual world as a datum for the immediacy of feeling, we first refer to Descartes in Meditation J, 'These hands and this body are mine' 7 ; also to Hume in his many assertions of the type, we see with our eyes. Such statements witness to direct knowledge of the antecedent functioning of the body in sense-perception. Both agreethough Hume more explicitly— that sense-perception of the contemporary world is accompanied by perception of the 'withness' of the body. It is this withness that makes the body the starting point for our knowledge of the circumambient world. We find here our direct knowledge of 'causal efficacy/ Hume and Descartes in their theory of direct perceptive knowledge dropped out this withness of the body; and thus confined perception to presentational immediacy. Santayana, in his doctrine of 'animal faith/ practically agrees with Hume and Descartes as to this withness of the actual world, including the body. Santayana also excludes our knowledge of it from givenness. Descartes calls it a certain kind of 'understanding'; Santayana calls it 'animal faith' provoked by 'shock'; and Hume calls it "practice. 7

But we must— to avoid 'solipsism of the present moment' — include in direct perception something more than presentational immediacy. For the organic theory, the most primitive perception is 'feeling the body as functioning/ This is a feeling of the world in the past; it is the inheritance of the world as a complex of feeling; namely, it is the feeling of derived feelings. The later, sophisticated perception is 'feeling the contemporary world/ Even this presentational immediacy begins with [126] sense-presentation of the contemporary body. The body, however, is only a peculiarly intimate bit of the world. Just as Descartes said, 'this body is mine'; so he should have said, 'this actual world is mine/ My process of 'being myself is my origination from my possession of the world.

It is obvious that there arise the questions of comparative relevance and of comparative vagueness, which constitute the perspective of the world. For example, the body is that portion of the world where, in causal perception, there is some distinct separation of regions. There is not, in causal perception, this distinctness for the past world external to the body. We eke out our knowledge by 'symbolic transference 7 from causal perception to sense-presentation, and vice versa.

Those realists, who base themselves upon the notion of substance, do not get away from the notion of actual entities which move and change. From the point of view of the philosophy of organism, there is great merit in Newton's immovable receptacles. But for Newton they are eternal. Locke's notion of time hits the mark better: time is 'perpetually perishing.' In the organic philosophy an actual entity has 'perished* when it is

complete. The pragmatic use of the actual entity, constituting its static life, lies in the future. The creature perishes and is immortal. The actual entities beyond it can say, 'It is mine/ But the possession imposes conformation.

This conception of an actual entity in the fluent world is little more than an expansion of a sentence in the Timaeus: 9 "But that which is conceived by opinion with the help of sensation and without reason, is always in af process of becoming and perishing and never really is." Bergson, in his protest against "spatialization," is only echoing Plato's phrase 'and never really is/

9 28A;f Jowett's translation. Professor A. E. Taylor in his Commentary On Plato's Timaeus renders the word 8o£ a by 'belief or 'judgment' in the place of Jowett's word 'opinion/ Taylor's translation brings out the Platonic influence in Descartes' Meditations, namely Plato's 8o£ a is the Cartesian judicium.