Ontological Depth versus Improper Reduction

The specification string of a class can be finite. But the specification string of any actual is infinite (Rescher: “The number of true statements about any actual thing is infinite.”), for it must include specifications of its relations to all other things – and while the number of things is always definite, there is no upper bound to it. Thus a specification string such as we might derive from our scientific speculations and experiments can work to specify a class of things, but never any particular concrete thing.

When we reduce a thing to nothing but the mechanical operations of the natural laws that we have decided furnish a complete causal account for items of its type, then, we engage in improper reduction, even though these operations do indeed characterize it.

A particular cheetah is far, far more, and denser, and richer, than the class of cheetahs, or the string that completely specifies that class. So likewise with any actuality.

The specifications of any particular actuality being infinite, so likewise are the reasons sufficient to its actuality. The Sufficient Reasons of an actual are infinite. This is why finite beings cannot create, but rather only edit. It is also the reason that concrete becoming cannot but be free (even though it is usually regular): no finite procedure, however long, could ever finish specifying the infinite specification string of even the simplest concrete actual. The specification string of an actual can be completed only by itself, in virtue of its act of being. Only ex post can we pick out from it the reasons we deem sufficient to it, for our epistemological purposes; and none of those reasons are available to us in the first place except as aspects of its concrete whole, and as items on the infinite specification string of that whole.

Improper reduction commits Whitehead’s fallacy of misplaced concreteness. It finds that a completed procedure is ordered according to certain regularities. It then reduces the concrete procedure to nothing but those regularities, and treats them as exhaustive of its concreteness, rather than as abstractions from it.

Things all are delivered to us as fathomless ontological deeps. We abstract this or that from them, in order to think about them. We flatten them out mentally. But as God is not mocked by such impudence, but only we impudents, nor ever are his creatures. Reals stubbornly resist exhaustive analysis, transcend it utterly. Reality is not domesticable. It is surpassing wild. And we cannot but know this inmostly: life confronts us as a mystery, and the mystery of life looms the larger, the more we penetrate her depths.

Abstraction, ratiocination, formalization: such is theory. When we turn again to the datum – to what has been given us – and reckon her humbly in her concrete vast fullness, that is theoria.

9 thoughts on “Ontological Depth versus Improper Reduction

  1. Pingback: Ontological Depth versus Improper Reduction | Reaction Times

  2. Oh, brother, don’t even get me started about reductionism and the fallacy of misplaced concreteness. The human sciences being rife with this stuff, I had to answer it; in the course of doing so, I came to know it intimately- better than it knows itself, in fact; and I came to hate it with a hearty, almost morbid loathing.

    An ironic thing about reductionism is that its proponents like to style themselves as hard-headed scientific rationalists, often and even typically as atheists. But it leaves so many gaps in its hopeless logical inadequacy to its own domain of facts that its very proponents end up (and with absolutely no self-awareness) resorting to non-scientific stop-gaps drawn from what is rigorously termed superstition: magical causation and outright fetishism, naive philosophical anthropologies of the sort that gave the very idea of “human nature” a very bad name, etc. Theirs is the strange paper world in which men are the tools of their tools, where guns and not criminals kill, something called “the economy” as opposed to economic action is the true engine of social production, something called “structural racism” teleologically conspires to promote inequality outside of all human intentionality, and so on like that.

    In fairness, efforts to avoid the fallacy of misplaced concreteness can sometimes turn vicious. Trying to take sight of everything can lead to the loss of proper distinction between different orders of things, with an attending lapse into mystical thought that’s non-scientific at best and heretical at worst (i.e. seeing all Being as so many emanations of the One). Endless explicit qualifications to a thesis, attempts to tie up *every* loose end, and so on can result in writing that’s hopelessly awkward and inaccessible, in danger of never getting finished, or else of losing much of its own rightful explanatory force and scope. (One of the reasons people often do their best work when very young is that they simply don’t yet know enough about their subject to get hopelessly lost in its details; they grab ahold of a few general things and wring the most out of them).

  3. Absolute freedom on a finite playing field … This is the chaos of liberalism and it’s for all intents and purposes.

    “Improper reduction” should be branded “cuck-speak” at this point.

  4. So is any abstracting misplaced concreteness? It is a little frightening that we are forced to abstract by nature and it only drives us further and further away from reality.

    • No, fortunately. Abstraction is perfectly legit, so long as we remember that it is an abstraction, and recall ourselves often from our reveries to their concrete bases. It’s when we begin to think of our intellectual terms as themselves concrete that we get into trouble. Terms are concrete *only* qua properties of actuals. In the final analysis, the only way that terms can have meaning is if they do in fact terminate upon actuals. It behooves us then to make sure that our terms do thus terminate. If we don’t, we’ll soon be talking gibberish, and ordering our lives accordingly – or rather, disordering them.

      Take Lennon’s “Imagine.” If the vision of “Imagine” were implemented really, it would be a living Hell.

      We can imagine almost anything. Utopia is nifty in the mind. In reality, it’s a hell. In reality, i.e., it just isn’t, at all. Thus the original meaning of “utopia.” It is not derived from eu, good + topia, place. St. Thomas More derived it from ou, not + topia, place.

      Nowhere is the location of the nothingness that is evil implemented.

      Utopia implemented is the *opposite* of eutopia.

      This is what Thordaddy is getting at with his latest comment. Liberals want absolute freedom on a finite playing field. It’s a contradiction in terms. You can abstract from actuals and then manipulate your abstractions absolutely ad libitum, but you can’t by their enactions insert your concepts back into concrete life – finite, bounded life – unless they really do fit there. All that will happen if you try is that you’ll generate consequences you had not intended, by doing something other than you had supposed you were doing.

    • No… Because those most apt to abstract are too smart to be oblivious to their personally motivated imposition of a false concrete.

      We, in fact, operate on an infinite “playing field” which necessarily pushes our ability to abstract to its conceivable limit. So to the extent our most “intelligent” impose a finite playing field it is to the cost of reaching THEIR limit of abstraction. And as it goes, they forfeit the reality of being perceived as most “intelligent.”

      • Ah. I read you backwards.

        You write:

        … those most apt to abstract are too smart to be oblivious to their personally motivated imposition of a false concrete.

        There aren’t too many of that ilk! The problem is with the clever sillies who seem to constitute such a large swathe of the smarter than average.

  5. Pingback: Nations are Spiritual Entities First – The Orthosphere

  6. Pingback: This Week in Reaction (2016/05/22) - Social Matter


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