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.