lauantai 13. tammikuuta 2018

Joachim Darjes: Elements of metaphysics 1 – Thinkable and possible

While philosophers of Wolffian school began metaphysics usually with ontology, Darjes starts with something called primary philosophy, which should be distinct from ontology. The main difference between the two disciplines is that only latter deals with entities (ens). I shall speak in a later post what Darjes meant by an entity, but for the moment I am concentrating on his primary philosophy.

Like all Wolffians thus far, Darjes begins his account of metaphysics with the principle of non-contradiction. It is not surprising that this principle delineates the realm of possible for Darjes. More interesting is that Darjes actually has an account of what is left outside this realm. Even Wolff did define nothing as what is impossible, but it was unclear what this nothing should be – something in our minds or something more ontologically robust. Now, Darjes notes that nothing and something or impossible and possible are simply kinds of cogitable or thinkable, while thinkable simply is what we can think. Thus, metaphysics is then forcibly defined in relation to our thought, which paves the way for a complete change of ontology into an analytic of principles, which will happen with Kant. It is also important that according to Darjes we can think even contradictions – something not admitted by all philosophers – and very telling about Darjesian attitude toward thinking, which seems then to be nothing more than mere combining words together.

Darjes notes that everything thinkable, whether it be possible or impossible, has something that makes it possible or impossible. This feature making something possible or impossible Darjes calls the essence of thinkable. Darjes thus actually has a definition for an essence, which is more than one could say of Wolff. Then again, Darjesian notion of essence is is another deviation from the usual Wolffian stand, where essences belong only to possible things. Darjes also calls essence a constitutive or adequate primary concept, implying that essences are nothing but thoughts.

Darjes also introduces at this point the primary division of complex and simple, although he extends this classification to all thinkables. His method is to introduce these notions through the idea of essence. Essence of something we can think might be resolvable into further thinkables. If it is, the corresponding thinkable is complex, while if it isn't, this thinkable is simple. Note that we still appear to be moving in the level of thoughts, since Darjes especially calls the parts of essences or essentials partial or inadequate concepts. Further evidence that we are here dealing with thought is provided by Darjes' statement that division of complex thinkables must inevitably end with something simple, because we simply cannot think a bottomless series of constitution. Furthermore, Darjes notes that all impossible thinkables – nothings – must be complex, since simplicities cannot contain contradictions (another assumption that Wolff never made).

Beyond essence and its constituents or essentials, what is thinkable has what Darjes calls affections or adjuncts, in relation to which the thinkable is a subject. Knowing a bit about Wolffian tradition, one might suspect that Darjes would mention attributes and modes at this point. He will mention them, but in a completely different place, because his division of characteristics of thinkable is much more fine-grained than with earlier Wolffians. Still, something similar is in Darjes' mind, when he mentions that affections can be divided into two sorts. Some of them the thinkable has absolutely – that is, they characterise the thinkable in any situation whatever, for instance, like triangle is characterised by certain sum of angles. Some affections, on the other hand, are hypothetical, that is, characterise the thinkable under some conditions, such as when a triangle could be characterised by a certain colour, if it happens to painted in some manner. While the former affections are stable, the latter could be changed without any contradiction.

Beyond essence, essentials, attributes and modes, Wolffians also mentioned relations and Darjes makes no exception. For him, relation or extrinsic determination is something external to a thinkable which it characterises, that is, even when we have assumed the existence of the thinkable, we still need to assume the existence of something else, before this determination could hold of the first thinkable (for instance, one cannot be a child without someone else, whose child one is).

An opposite of an extrinsic determination is, of course, an intrinsic determination, that is, a determination that characterises a thinkable, even if there were no other thing to relate it to. Darjes doesn't leave this class of characteristics here, but goes on to divide intrinsic characteristics further. At first sight the division appears to just repeat the division between extrinsic and intrinsic determinations- some intrinsic determinations can be conceived without other things, some cannot. Yet, it is the word ”conceive” which is obviously important here – a determination might ontologically not be dependent on relations with other things, but we might epistemically require such relations.

The first part of the division or qualities is an easy thing to understand, and for instance, essence and essentials are obviously qualities in this sense. But what belongs to the other category? Darjes suggests that at least quantities belong to this class of intrinsic determinations. Clearly, quantity is an intrinsic determination in the sense that a thing can be of certain size without any thing external to it. Yet, if thing has a size, it must, firstly, be a complex and contain other things as its constituents. These other things or parts are then what is required for conceiving that a thing has a certain quantity – for instance, to say that a field is four acres large, we must think of field as consisting of acre-sized parts.

A thinkable with a quantity should not just consist of parts, but of parts that are in some sense same – this if how we can say e.g. that a field is six acres in size or that there are six wolves in a pack. This sameness, Darjes defines, means that these thinkables can replace one another, at least in some respect (just like if wolves are required, one wolf is as good as another, and that's why we can determine the size of a wolf pack). Darjes goes into more details of various kinds of sameness – identity or sameness of all characteristics, equality or sameness of quantities, similarity or sameness of qualities etc. - but none of this is surprising.

The one final thing to discuss at this point is Darjesian notion of existence. Unlike Baumgarten, Darjes does not try to beat Wolff in finding a definition for existence, but like Wolff, he merely accepts it as a given notion, which is related in a certain manner to the notion of possibility – what exists is possible, but something might be possible, without existing. Thus, Darjes divides possible essences into two kinds – ideal or merely possible essences and real or actual essences. The ideal essences Darjes also takes as a kind of nothing. That is, they are not nothing, in the official Wolffian sense of the word of being impossible – in other words, they are not complete negations of all existence. Instead, Darjes calls them nothing in a privative sense – they could exist, but happen to not exist.

We've already seen how innovative Darjes is in his use of the absolute and hypothetical viewpoints on various notions, and possibility is not an exception – in addition to absolute or intrinsic possibility or non-contradictoriness, Darjes mentions hypothetical or extrinsic possibility, that is, potentiality in some specific conditions. Another and more interesting use of these viewpoints concerns Darjesian differentiation between possibles of first and second order – possibles of first order absolutely cannot fail to exist,while possibles of second order cannot fail to exist under some hypothetical condition. We are obviously already speaking here of absolute and hypothetical necessity, although the term necessity hasn't yet been introduced. Darjes also makes a quick interesting remark about absolute necessity. He notes that while a thing exists, we cannot really distinguish between the essence and the existence of the thing. We can do this separation only with things that at some point won't exist and with things that must exist essence and existence just cannot be distinguished.

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