torstai 31. joulukuuta 2015

Baumgarten: Metaphysics – Elements of the world

Just like with ontology, in cosmology Baumgarten appears to be rather close on Wolff's ideas, but a more careful study reveals important differences. One interesting point of distinction concerns the question what belongs in a world. With Wolff, it appears that souls do not exist within deterministic universe, but follow their own causal series. With Baumgarten, on the other hand, souls appear to be just as much part of the world as material objects. Thus, while for Wolff, egoism is a statement on what there exists in general (nothing but one soul), for Baumgarten it is a cosmological proposition (world consists of one soul or is simple).

Reason for Baumgarten's inclusion of souls in world might be his commitment to Leibnizian notion of monads. True, even Wolff had said that monads do correspond to what he called elements, but this admission was a bit halfhearted. Baumgarten, instead, is quite insistent on using the term monad. He even endorses the notion that these monads have some soul-like properties, by stating that materialists must deny monads, either in general or at least as parts of the world – because Baumgarten, like Wolff, believes that all complex substances consist of simple substances, which he identifies with monads, he can then simply deny materialism as contradictory.

While it is difficult to say what is the relation of elements and space in Wolff's philosophy – and even more difficult to say what is the relation of souls and space – Baumgarten states at once that monads are located at some point in space. They are still not mere points in space, because they also represent the world around them, some darkly, others clearly (idealism is then defined as the idea that all monads represent world clearly or are spirits).

Wolff was almost silent on how his elements combined into, first corpuscles, then visible material bodies – for instance, should we need an infinity of them? Baumgarten does not provide a full explanation either, but he at least has a more detailed story to tell. First of all, monads are spatially located, that is, they must be in some sense positioned in relation to one another. Now, this positionality was reduced in Baumgarten's philosophy to interactions – being near another thing meant just affecting it.

Now, Baumgarten held that monads in some sense affect one another. In fact, when one monad acts one another, this other monad must also react on the other monad. Such interlocking combinations of monads form them more stable connections. Their interaction forms their contact, and if no external reason makes them lose their contact, the monads stay together, forming a relatively stable material body.

Just like in Wolffian philosophy, with Baumgarten the activities of monads explain all phenomena on the level of bodies. Indeed, Baumgarten even says that because all monads are active and e.g. change constantly their relative positions (that is, start and cancel interactions with one another), bodies also must be in constant movement.

Although Baumgarten thus uses the language of monads interacting one another, it is still unclear how seriously this statement is to be taken. Does Baumgarten, like Wolff, admit interactions only with some primary elements, but deny it between spiritual and other monads? Or does he accept or deny all monadic interactions? These questions, along with the problematic of a perfection of the world, will be dealt next time.

perjantai 25. joulukuuta 2015

Baumgarten: Metaphysics – World in general

A central part of Wolffian cosmology was the notion of a possible world – an alternative to the actual world. The notion appears also in Baumgarten's cosmology, but the nature of these worlds is necessarily quite different. In Wolff, it seems that these worlds are meant to be individual entities, although not actual – they are thoughts flying in God's mind, but infinitely detailed and thus completely determinate. With Baumgarten, on the other hand, there are no non-actual individuals, thus, merely possible worlds can be nothing but universals.

Indeed, what we are dealing with in Baumgarten's cosmology is more like a notion or concept of world – Baumgarten starts from the actual world and abstracts certain features that belong to the world. One could then add more features to these features of ”world in general” and these combinations might even be non-contradictory and therefore possible – yet, these combinations would still have an extension of at most one individual thing, that is, they would be predicates of actual world or no world at all.

World, for Baumgarten, is then such a series of actual finite entities, which is not a part of any other series. Without further ado, Baumgarten simply accepts that there is such a totality of actual finite entities, although nothing speaks against the possibility that we might have only a series of ever larger collections of finite entities.

World is not just a combination of finite entities, but an ordering of them, for Baumgarten. Indeed, there are several nexuses holding worldly entities together – causal chains and series of ends, for instance. It is then an important part of the very concept of a world that is must have some regularity and coherence – otherwise, it wouldn't even be unified. By this statement, Baumgarten denies that fables or faery tales could form any possible world.

Because world consists of finities, it cannot be completely good, but must contain some badness or imperfection. In particular, Baumgarten says, world cannot be completely necessary. Thus, Baumgarten can deny Spinoza's theory that world would be necessary. Then again, the existence of the world works also against an acosmicist interpretation of Spinoza – there is something else beyond God.

So much for the general notion of world, next time we shall see what Baumgarten has to say about the elements of the world.

tiistai 15. joulukuuta 2015

Baumgarten: Metaphysics – Relational predicates

The rest of Baumgarten's ontology is perhaps not as original as the earlier sections, but it is at least interesting, because Baumgarten rearranges topics and includes in general relational predicates some issues that Wolff did not consider under relations. The first of these topics is identity and the related notions of diversity and similarity. Here we find Baumgarten, for instance, endorsing the Leibnizian principle of the identity of indiscirnibles: two different things cannot be completely similar.

Space and time or simultaneity and succession are also dealt by Baumgarten in the chapter on relations. Although Wolff had also endorsed the idea that space and time are nothing but relations, Baumgarten is making this notion even more explicit by this simple choice of how to present the topic.

Just like with Wolff, the central relational notion in Baumgarten's ontology is obviously causality. Cause is for Baumgarten, just like it was for Wolff, a more special modification of ground or reason. For Baumgarten, cause is specifically a ground for the existence of something. Just like Wolff before him, Baumgarten defines several notions important to causal considerations – some causes might coordinate with other causes in producing some effect, while others may be called more proximate, when compared with more immediate causes of something.

The most important type of cause for Baumgarten is probably the efficient cause, which has actively produced some reality or positive characteristics in something else (Baumgarten also invents the notion of deficient cause for those actions, which produce some negative characteristics). A number of other causal notions can then be defined in terms of whether they help an efficient cause to do something or whether they hinder it.

In addition to efficient cause, Baumgarten does also, just like Wolff before him, consider the other three Aristotelian causes: form, matter and final cause. This part of Baumgarten's ontology seems rather quaint, like a remnant of a past long gone.

The final relation Baumgarten considers is that between signs and what the signs express. Although Wolff did briefly consider this topic, Baumgarten somewhat expands Wolff's writing. For instance, he considers several sciences, in which one should either make up more signs (heuristics) or help us recognise past signs (mnemonics), and also tries to explain the genesis of human language.

So much for Baumgarten's ontology. Next time I'll look at his cosmology

perjantai 11. joulukuuta 2015

Baumgarten: Metaphysics – Kinds of substances

The primary classification of things in metaphysical treatises has long been that of substances and accidences and Baumgarten's Metaphysics makes no exception. Substances are things that can exist without being attached to something else, while accidences have to exist in something else, namely, in substances. Furthermore, Baumgarten adds, accidences are not just something externally connected to a substance, but a substance must contain some reason why such accidences exist within it. In other words, substance is a force that in a sense causes its accidences – if completely, they are its essentials and attributes, if partially, they are its modes.

Now, substances with modes are variable or they have states, which can change into other states. Like all things in Baumgarten's system, these changes also require grounding in some forces. Changes effected by forces are then activities of substances having these forces. Such activities might be connected with changes in the active substance itself, but they might also link to changes in other things: these other things then have a passion. In latter case, the forces might act alone to produce a certain effect and then we speak of real actions and passions, or then the passive substance also has some activity at the same time as it has passions, and then we speak of ideal actions and passions. The division of real and ideal actions and passions is of importance in relation to Baumgarten's thoughts about causality.

Because all substances have forces, all of them have also activities – if nothing else, then at least activities towards themselves. Furthermore, activity does not define just the essence of substances, but also their mutual presence – substances are present to one another, Baumgarten says, when they happen to interact with one another.

Baumgarten divides substances, in quite a Wolffian manner, into complex and simple substances (Baumgarten does admit that we can also have complexes of accidences, but these are of secondary importance in comparison with complexes of substances). Not so Wolffian is Baumgarten's endorsement of Leibnizian term ”monad” as the name of the ultimate simple substances. Rounding up the division of substances is the division of simple substances into finite and infinite substances, in which infinite substance has all the positive properties in highest grade and thus exists necessarily and immutably – this is something we will return to in Baumgarten's theology – while finite substances change their states and have restrictions.

This concludes Baumgarten's account of the substances or primary entities of the world, and like with Wolff, we can already discern the outlines of the three concrete metaphysical disciples. But before moving away from ontology, we still have to discuss Baumgarten's account of basic relations of entities.

keskiviikko 2. joulukuuta 2015

Baumgarten: Metaphysics – this or that

In Baumgarten's sketch of ontology we have progressed into the section on internal disjunctive predicates, that is, to the most general classification of all things. We have actually witnessed already one of these classifications, namely, the division of things into singular or universal, which with Baumgarten can be roughly identified with the division into actual and merely possible things.

Another important distinction for Baumgarten is the one between necessary and contingent matters, which is actually a somewhat dual classification in Baumgarten's philosophy. Firstly, there is the classification of necessary and contingent features of all things. Transcendental characteristics, which belong to all things whatsoever, are clearly necessary. In particular, all essences and attributes are necessary – this means only that the realm of possibilities is inevitably fixed and what is possible, must also be possible. Modes, on the other hand, are contingent, because one and the same thing can have different modes at different times.

This classification of features leads then to a similar classification in relation to things. Necessary things are such that have only necessary features, that is, which have only an essence and attributes, but no modes. Contingent things, on the other hands, have modes and are thus not necessary. We might also describe this differentiation in terms of mutability. Modes are such things that can change, that is, a thing might have this mode now, but something else later. In other words, modes are features that can vary, and things with such features can change them. Thus, contingent things are mutable. Necessary things, on the other hand, have no features that could change and are therefore immutable.

Another distinction having a close connection with the distinction of necessary and contingent is that between reality and negation. Actually, these terms form more like a scale, at the other end of which would be found complete negation, that is, a thing which cannot be described through any positive predicates. Baumgarten notes that such a thing would be actually nothingness, that is, such an entity doesn't actually exist, but all possible things are real or positive in some measure.

The scale of reality is then formed by noting how much negation is added to realities in a thing. At the other end of the scale, there is a completely positive thing with nothing negative in it, in other words, which is not limited by anything (this means obviously God). Other things, then, are sort of mixtures of positive and negative features.

Now, these negative features are either necessary to the thing having them or not. Necessary negations concern the essence or attributes of something – for instance, human beings have necessary negation of mortality. Baumgarten notes that the contingent negations or privations must then concern modes – for instance, if a certain person is blind, this is just a privation, because it doesn't belong to the essence of humanity to be blind. While all negations are bad things or evil, necessary negations are what Baumgarten calls metaphysical – they are inherent in the nature of things and thus something of which we cannot complain. Privations, on the other hand, are true defects, because they are defects that things ought not to have.

The idea of a scale going from absolute negation to absolute reality is no mere figure of speech for Baumgarten, because he truly thinks that one could quantify such intensive notions like reality and negation. This is part of Baumgarten's Wolffian heritage, in which mathematics is seen as a key point in all properly scientific research. Indeed, Baumgarten goes even farther than Wolff and with every metaphysical topic provides explanations what would be a unit of quantity for that notion and what meaning the ”greater-lesser” -relation would have with it. Thus, for instance, in a minimal ordering a minimal reality is grounded on another minimal reality and adding both units of reality and grounding relations will make for a more complex order (unfortunately, Baumgarten does not consider the question what to do in cases where the comparison of structures is not so easy – if order A has more units of reality than B, but C has more grounding relations than either, while still less realities than A, how should we compare quantities of A and C?).

Next time I'll continue with the division of substances.