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Neighbouring Aspects

An aspect seems to exhibit greater affinity to it neighbours than to those further away in the sequence. This means that, from one point of view, it is often difficult to tell if something is qualified by one aspect or the next, and each aspect anticipates those later than it, and especially its next neighbour. But also, there seem to be sharp differences between neighbouring aspects, which can help us distinguish them.

This page is an initial attempt to explore some of these affinities and differences. Affinities and differences will be presented in a table, which will be gradually more populated as time goes by. We are thinking, therefore, about the boundary between neighbouring aspects. In the table below, when there is a concept in the Affinity column, even though you, dear reader, might believe it to be unmistakeably of one aspect or the other, think about the interminable arguments that take place about which aspect it is, and you might see that others might take a different view, and do so validly.

Do not expect strict definition in this table; use it for reflection.

Aspect boundary Affinity
(Difficulty in distinguishing)
Length or distance feels very much like amount. Discrete v. continuous.
Irrational and transcendent numbers have no meaning in quantitative aspect.
What is a line: a spatial shape, or a kinematic path? Static v. dynamic.
The science of mechanics. Immaterial v. material.
Physical has persistence and uni-directional time; kinematic has neither.
It is only physical velocity and time that are altered by speeds near that of light, not kinematic. Kinematic speeds can exceed that of light, physical cannot.
Digestion could almost be chemical reactions in solution (though it's a biotic property). *
Is a virus living or not?
Field v. entity; non-living v. living.
1. Biotic: the organism is distinct from its environment (so that its equilibrium state is maintained and not determined by the environment);
Physical: the thing is part of its environment (so its equilibrium state is determined by environment).
2. Physical functioning/laws are those of fields; Biotic functioning is that of the organism. [Note on their irreducibility]
3. The more we use a physical thing, the more it wears out and the weaker it gets; the more we use a biotic thing, the more it builds and the stronger it gets.
Response to environment (plant bending towards light) and response to stimuli (animal turning towards light) can easily be thought to be the same. Body v. mind; 'physical' v. 'mental'.
In biotics, the influence on cells is that of the surrounding environment; N psychics (nerve cells), the influence on cells can be from a distance and not from the surrounding environment - Psychics escapes spatiality, while biotics cannot.
Pattern recognition. Both have a kind of discrimination; e.g. animals recognise their mates and distinguish them from all others, by psychic functioning. Fuzzy v. crisp mental activity.
Reflected in behaviourist v. cognitive psychology.
Psychic/sensitive relationship to world is proximal; Analytic relation to world is distal.
Analysis involves both, and both usually deal with discrete things. Deconstruction v. construction in thinking.
Analytically distinguished things have no relationship to others; with the formative aspect, things have relationship with others, which leads to structures.
Analytical thought separates and categorises, possibly into linear lists; formative thought relates and processes into complex structures.
Logical closure (set of all possible deductions from a set of propositions) is possible under analytic aspect, if infinite, but is impossible under formative, because of historical time.
Symbol structures feel like both formative and lingual.
Mechanical structures can 'give a message'.
Structure v. meaning; syntax v. semantics.
Concept structures (formative) are confined to the personal mind, and when the person dies, they cease to exist; but when signified as symbols (lingual) they are outwith the person, and when the person dies, they can persist.
?: When we modify a mechanical construction, we replace what was there before, so it is no longer apparent; when we modify a text, we can retain (and be able to see) what was there before (e.g. by crossing it out).
Communication and conversation: difficult to say whether it should be lingual or social. Is 'interpersonal' social? Personal v. social in our use of symbols.
Reflected in two styles of giving a talk: reading a paper in monotone voice without ever making contact with audience may be seen as purely lingual, but a good talk involves the social, treating the audience as true people.
Exchange - which is it? Relating v. managing in human relationships.
The economic has some notion of limits and resources while the social lacks this.
Elegance - which is it? Work v. leisure or play; necessity v. delight.
The economic focuses on work, on being parsimonious; the aesthetic aspect has some fun and leisure in it, on escaping the bounds of parsimony yet without extravagence.
Difference reflected in "Six days shall you labour, but the seventh is a sabbath ...".
Holism (taking the whole situation into account) - which is the more important: harmony of the whole, or doing justice to the whole? Recreation v. responsibility.
Reflected in Nero fiddling while Rome burned (aesthetic while completely ignoring justice and due); also in the affluent (us?) procuring pleasant lives for themselves (ourselves) at the expense of the poor and the planet.
Morality - which is it?
There is a close link between ethics and legality, such that it is very hard to be ethical while illegal.
Law v. love.
But it is indeed possible to be ethical while illegal (e.g. Robin Hood?).
Generosity (ethical) versus abstemious precision (juridical).
Focus on their rights v. my attitude.
In Christian theology, law (juridical) versus grace (ethical).
There is a close link between religion and ethics.
Self-sacrifice - which is it, agape love (ethical) or commitment (pistic)?
Contingent v. Ultimate.
1. Most genuine religions of the world support more-or-less the same type of deep Good (e.g. love, peace, humility, faithfulness, patience, kindness), which implies ethics has some independence of faith.
2. As Kierkegaard pointed out, reflecting on the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac, there is something in faith that transcends ethicality, which ethicality on its own can never fathom or understand.

On Reductions

Reductionism involves treating one aspect X as though it has no meaning or pertinence apart from another aspect Y, and usually the Y aspect is the one immediately before X. Properties etc. of X are reduced to those of Y in the sense of claiming to be fully explained in terms of them. Scientists and other thinkers who operate at the boundary between two aspects are often tempted to such reductionism. (Note: the Dooyeweerdian view is that each major science is centred on an aspect, but some specialised sciences operate at boundaries.)

Take, for example, the reduction of life to chemical reactions. Biotic functions depend foundationally on physical ones though not reducible to them, and the individually separated, component processes of life, such as digestion, depend in a relatively simple, one-to-one way. So it can be difficult to determine whether the phenomenon we are considering is of one aspect or the other. Biochemists operate at the boundary between physical and biotic aspects, and therefore are aware of functions, properties, laws and meaningful concepts in both. But, since they do not take account of life in all its fulness, but focus only on component processes of life, they display a tendency to reduce. (Occam's Razor - which we Western scientists tend to adopt without question - also helps drive them to do so.)

An effective shield against reductionism is to consider the full-orbed processes, properties, etc. of the aspect, rather than any of its components separately. For example, take life in all its fulness. For example, take the organism as a whole, rather than its internal or external processes.


On irreducibility of biotic to physical.

Von Bertalanffy [1973, 160-161 cited in Strauss [PDD, 111], argues that biotic entities (which he calls "self-maintaining systems") cannot be accounted for by physical laws:
"In contrast to this it should be pointed out that selection, competition and 'survival of the fittest' already presuppose the existence of self-maintaining systems; they therefore cannot be the result of selection. At present we know no physical law which would prescribe that, in a 'soup' of organic compounds, open systems, self-maintaining in a state of highest improbability, are formed. And even if such systems are accepted as being 'given', there is no law in physics stating that their evolution, on the whole, would proceed in the direction of increasing organization, i.e. improbability. Selection of genotypes with maximum offspring helps little in this respect. It is hard to understand why, owing to differential reproduction, evolution should have gone beyond rabbits, herring or even bacteria, which are unrivalled in their reproduction."

This is part of The Dooyeweerd Pages, which explain, explore and discuss Dooyeweerd's interesting philosophy. Questions or comments are very welcome.

Compiled by Andrew Basden. You may use this material subject to conditions.

Written on the Amiga with Protext.

Created: 19 March 2008. Last updated: 20 March 2008. 25 March 2008 comments added in response to Richard Gunton, to whom thanks. 5 May 2008 anal-fv logical closure. 7 March 2009 crisper pairs of difference. 19 June 2009 Fv-Lg mechanical structures. 11 October 2010 kin > speed of light. 4 October 2013 rights v attitude. 16 October 2013 VonBert irred bio to phys. 25 April 2014 anl-fv complex structures. 3 September 2015 corrected '../'; rid counter; new .nav, .end.