§1 Negative Transcendence

The theory of negative transcendence is a crossroads where, in a general theory of reality, each direction would be of great intrinsic interest. Here it will be sufficient to look down each of the branching ways only far enough to gauge its significance for the subsequent theory of positive transcendence. The branching ways are 1) the theory of space, 2) the theory of natural causation, and 3) the theory of will, which leads on to the theory of purpose in positive transcendence. The wealth of topics here provides much of the ontological background and foundation for the theory of value. Value is more an internal than an external phenomenon, and it is here that the implications of the distinction between internal and external are addressed as such. The theory of value is also a theory of change by means of will and purpose, and it is here that we must provide a general theory of change in time and a means of distinguishing free change through will and purpose from change determined by natural causation or chance.

The fundamental meaning of negative transcendence may be approached in different ways. We might first of all note with Locke that colors, textures, etc. do not really belong to objects because they are phantasmata of perception -- subjective causal products dependent on the organs of sense. The real external objects are then left with the "primary" attributes, which are the Cartesian substantial properties of extension, number, etc. It later occurred to Kant that those properties also were contributed by the subject. This leaves the external Cartesian objects or things in themselves removed from our knowledge or, as has already been argued here, simply removes from what is intrinsically external both formal and material attributes. What is left, in any case, is a curious emptiness, since we have abstracted every features by which we know and identify objects.

A more direct and sweeping formulation of negative transcendence comes from a consideration of the form of intentionality. We may say that the very notion of the distinction between an object and its attributes, between what a thing is and the fact that it is, is itself a condition imposed by the form of intentionality. The object/attribute distinction enables us to contrast external things in so far as they are substantially independent of me with the external things in so far as they are known by me through the representations that are sustained by my existence. The attribute that is known means nothing outside the relation of intentionality that connects my existence with that of the things I perceive. Their existence is distinct from mine, but my existence comes to be known to me as a reflective derivative of my intuition of the existence of those other things. And so that attribute, which is the essence of the immanent, and which I immediately ascribe to external things yet reflectively return to myself, is distinct on both sides from the actual existence of objects and subject. This existence, however, is left as a void. The problem is much the same as that posed from Parmenides to Heidegger: we are ordinarily faced with things which, in the relation of intentionality, have being -- the ónta, "being things" -- but we then wish to ask what this is then that makes all such things "beings," what it is that constitutes tò eînai, the "to be," existence as such.

These ways of approaching negative transcendence might lead us to characterize it as "private" rather than "negative" transcendence, since we have merely deprived existence of its phenomenal attributes. As we proceed, however, it should become clearer that this part of the overall theory stands as the negation of Being or even as the theory of Not Being, which, as the Atomists said, exists as much as Being [110]. The Atomist paradox, indeed, of the void and the plenum, is the essence of negative transcendence. The similarity and the connection that Hegel described between Being and Not Being [111] is also very germane, although the motivation and explanation here will be different from his.

At the same time it may be helpful to remark specifically on the use of the term "transcendent." The basic significance of both this and the corresponding "immanent" should be no more than their meaning in Latin: to "pass over" or "climb across" and to "remain within" [112] What we "remain within" is sensible and phenomenal objectivity. The only thing that we might "climb across" to from this is pure existence. Older versions of transcendence should be kept in mind: 1) the Platonic, where the eternal Forms of things are substantially independent and separate from the phenomenal universe; 2) the Theistic, where God and various eschatological locations are similarly separate; 3) the Cartesian, where physical objects are present in the same immanent space as we are but are not immediately, or even certainly, known; and 4) the Kantian, which is like the Cartesian except that the objects are unknown, space is only a form of sensibility, and knowledge is restricted to internal, phenomenal, and intersubjective representations. With respect to the first two versions, it is meaningful to speak of immanent existence as opposed to transcendent existence, where two qualitatively different kinds of Being are involved. Interpretations of both, however, may hold that immanent existence is an epiphenomenon of the transcendent and cannot exist without it. In those terms we might add (5) a Deistic version of transcendence in which immanent existence is fully able to continue even if transcendent existence were to vanish. Obviously it is also possible to combine Cartesian or Kantian transcendence with the others.

§2 Internal and External

The paradox of the dual nature of representation and of ontological undecidability belongs peculiarly to negative transcendence. We have two perspectives on existence, the one given us by the fact that each of us exists and so is already in a relation of identity to being, and the other given us by the relation of immediate intentionality to other entities whose existence is distinct and separate from us. The personal existence or transcendence each of us possesses, which sustains consciousness and representation, is called here "internal" existence and representation, while that of all objects immediately intended in representation, including the body, is called "external" existence or transcendence. Although these represent profoundly different perspectives, it is especially noteworthy that the internal and the external are the same existence, with internal existence doubtlessly corresponding to the body or some fragment thereof in external existence. Although the world is very different for internal and external existence, it should never be forgotten that they are two complementary sides of the same coin or, in the previously simile of the hologram, the two sides of the plate holding the holographic image. This dual perspective on the same existence may be taken as the special theory of mind offered here.

The emptiness that is characteristic of negative transcendence is to be regarded differently depending on whether we consider it the emptiness of external or of internal transcendence. The external emptiness may be metaphorically called "hiddenness" and the internal "transparency." External existence is hidden behind the appearance. The intuition that presents external reality to us reveals it but must also continue to conceal it in so far as it is substantially separable. We are therefore in a relation to external transcendence, but it is hidden as such in the bare thatness with which external objects are posited. We can't think, however, that there is going to be an emptiness associated with internal existence in just the same way. Immediate knowledge does not present internal transcendence along with external objects, and so the internal is not going to be hidden by the same relation as the external is. Instead, we will say that internal existence is in its turn devoid of content because of its "transparency" (to borrow a term from Sartre [113]) as the window of knowledge whose contents, in the form of intentionality, are immediately attributed to external existence. Those contents, even when examined in light of the fact that their reality is dependent on internal existence, do not yield up knowledge of internal being, but only of the relation between internal and external that constitutes immediate knowledge. By reflecting on our inner states, we reflect on immediate cognitive acts and their immanent contents, leaving the pure subject and its pure internal existence as always a present pole of the relation -- but always frustratingly inaccessible. The subject is thus the unknown knower which figures so fundamentally in Schopenhauer yet which seems to have few consequences for him, unlike its role in the Upanishads where Schopenhauer had found it [114].

By the term "ego" what I will mean specifically here is the internal existence of each of us individually. This is more than Kant's "abiding and unchanging 'I'," [115] which only referred to the structure of formal unity of the contents of consciousness. That structure of unity belongs, after all, to the content of the relation of intentionality, not to the pure poles of the relation. Such formal unity and internal existence are certainly to be profoundly associated with one another, however, since it is the relation with its unified contents that separates internal existence from external existence. But formal unity is not enough: internal existence is not an abstract unity; it is a fragment of existence, specifically my fragment, unique and individual in a way that the abstract universality of terms such an "I" and "my" (indexicals) cannot equal.

Besides the association of internal existence and formal unity, which is common to all persons, there is a further, more common and comfortable, meaning for "ego," which is that idiosyncratic coherence and unity to be found in the contents of each individual personality, a structure of mind and experience peculiar to each identity. The use of the term "ego" to denote this structure is now common (it is essentially the Freudian ego), so here the term will be used underlined to denote a special meaning of signifying internal existence or formal unity. What may be taken to most clearly distinguish the ego as a psychological structure and the ego in the technical use here is the familiar daily phenomenon of the loss of consciousness in sleep: the ego literally vanishes; in dreamless sleep there is no internal existence. But the material structure of the ego carries over in sleep and fills each newly arisen morning consciousness with the abiding, or at least slowly changing, attributes of self-identity.

The significance of the internal/external distinction will be further developed in the following sections.

§3 Space

The issue of space is of the greatest intrinsic interest yet the most quickly leads into problems that are far afield from our inquiry. What is relevant is the role of space in the ontology we are providing to positive transcendence, and that role is central and important in a way that has been seldom seen since the Eleatics and Atomists.

Having adopted the term "transparency" in reference to the ego, this suggests the transparent emptiness of space in perception. This suggestion can be meaningfully elaborated, for an internal/external distinction can be applied to space as well as to negative transcendence in an abstract sense. Thus we should note that the space that we perceive between ourselves and the objects of our perception, the truly transparent space, is as much a projection and, as we might be tempted to thin, an artificial construct of perception as is the fact that we perceive the sensible phantasmata of visual perception as belonging to external objects. There is no space between the image on the retina of the eye and the retina, yet we perceive the image in a stereoscopic projection. This transparent projection may then be contrasted with the "true" external space which in fact lies between the perceived object and its retinal image. With true realist confidence, we usually take it for granted that the external space is just the same as we perceive the internal space to be. The problem with this now is more likely to focus on whether real space is Euclidean or non-Euclidean; but, from our introspective point of view, what is of greater interest is that in the history of thought this "just the same" used to be literally true in the most naive and charming, yet culturally and conceptually distinctive, ways. Thus the void of space for the Egyptians, Babylonians, and Greek was limited and bounded [116] -- below by the firmament of the earth, above by the firmament of the heavens. The Biblical idea of a "firmament" in the heavens is very strange to modern ears, but it was natural enough to think that all we perceive in the sky is something solid, just as everything else we look at here below is solid. The notion that space might stretch on beyond these firmaments doesn't seem to have occurred to anyone for a long time -- the physical reality of space was sensibly bound to the void as actually perceived. External space is an object for conception and imagination, and not until the Greeks did conception begin to break through the perceptual barriers of internal space.

The emptiness of space has always been a troublesome notion. Early thought could avoid the nasty alternative of nothingness by resting with the thought that the void was, after all, filled with air, demonstrably substantial albeit invisible. The Greeks, vaulting to larger conceptions, still felt easiest by filling the volume of the heavens with fire or aithêr. The Atomists, by affirming the existence of both being and nothingness, atoms and the void, squarely formulated one of the most profound paradoxes of Greek philosophy. Until this very century aether and the plenum of being still had their place in serious science. Now we act as though what the Atomists did was obvious; and not only is the nothingness of the void insensibly accepted as self-evident, but the course of science seems to have shown that matter is mostly, or even entirely (in the form of Dirac point particles), empty space. And so we curiously are untroubled by the nothingness of something so physically fundamental, even while at the same time in Einstein's Relativity, space is spoken of as so substantial a thing as to be "curved" and space-time may be taken to flow much as water.

For Parmenides space and being are closely associated. His was the first abstract conception of pure existence, but all the same he could not avoid giving the plenum of Being a spatial extension. This now could easily seem to be little more than a curious artifact of early thought. However, no contemporaries criticized this association; and when notions of space were becoming more sophisticated, the Eleatic Melissos of Samos simply made the extension of Being infinite [117]. The Atomists, in turn, together with many other post-Parmenidean philosophers such as Empedocles, explicitly retained the extended plenum of Being. The Atomists added an affirmation of the reality of Not Being, but the only reason that affirmation made any sense at all to them was because it was an affirmation of the reality of empty space. Without space, Not Being would be just as empty and meaningless a conception as Parmenides thought; and we might easily supply for Parmenides his certain reply to the Atomists: that for space to be conceived as real, it must actually be already conceived as Being. The ambiguity of such a response is of interest to us; for is it that space is simply a being, an object among objects, or, after Parmendies, does the emptiness of space signify that it is the Being, the transcendence of immanent objects?

In any case, amid the debate over the void, the Eleatic plenum remained and has been passed down to the present age as the conception of material substance. Thus what may seem to be a naive association of existence with space, when flatly stated as such, has survived unchanged into periods that would consider themselves far from naive. The only times that this association has really not been followed, apart from those denying the reality of perceptual objects, have come with Islamic Atomists [118] and Leibniz, who held that objective substance was without extension. Now, in the quantum mechanical theory of Dirac, the electron and other leptons are assumed to be dimensionless; and this assumption has so far been born out by the failure of any experiment to detect a measurable size for such particles. At the same time quarks have also come in for consideration as point particles. Between quarks and leptons, all matter would be without extension, and so for the first time science seems to be in a position to dispense with the Eleatic-Atomist plenum of Being. It is in contrast to the absolute emptiness of this matter that the seeming substantiality of Einstein's space become even more interesting; and one of the most interesting aspects of this is what happened to the "ether" with which Maxwell had filled space as the substratum for the propagation of electromagnetic radiation. It is often supposed that Einstein disproved the existence of ether, but the effect of Relativity is to assert that no experiment can be constructed to detect ether even if it does exist. Any observable effects that ether might be thought to have as the medium of electromagnetic radiation (or of any other field quanta, to generalize) are negated by the requirement that the speed of light remain a constant and by the attendant Relativistic changes of length in space and of the rate of passage of time. And in science undetectability is usually the same as non-existence

Here I will conclude that the ontological reality of space, regardless of its geometrical structure, is as the Parmenidean plenum of Being or the Atomist matter. To space we always ordinarily tend to attribute a certain ontological priority. The emptiness of space gains from that a spurious and illegitimate priority also. Removing all the objects from spaced leaves nothing. If that were all there were to it, there would be no problem; for obviously removing all Being leaves Not Being. The problem is that removing all objects from space still leaves space. The apparently gives to Not Being, as the Atomists thought, a reality equal to or even greater than Being. The reality of space, however, is already the reality of Being, and its emptiness, its apparent Not Being, and the whole paradox of the void, is an accident of perspective, an artifact of our being the cognitive pole of the ego in the relation of intentionality. The ether is there after all, invisible, undiscoverable, and irrelevant to science.

For the purpose here, this is basically what is relevant about space. Much more may be said elsewhere. I have obviously discarded the subjectivism of Kant's view; and an independent consideration of that is not necessary after the extended treatment of Kant's epistemological subjectivism in the theory of consciousness. At the same time I would agree with Wolff that Kant "decisively refuted" Leibniz's relativistic conception of space [119]. This leaves us to the paradox of realist conceptions; but the force and the economy of this theory is that it assimilates the paradoxical emptiness of space to the coherent theory of the emptiness of negative transcendence. This is a theory simultaneously of emptiness and of plenum; for both the atoms and the void, the Being and the Not Being, of the Atomists are equally conceptions of negative transcendence. An Eleatic critique of the Atomists would be just: they can't coherently have it both ways, with a little bit of Being here, a little bit of Not Being there. It must be all one or all the other. But we can have it both ways; for the uniform plenum of Being appears to us as Not Being because of the empty way in which Being appears as negative transcendence.

Thus the materialism of the Atomists has been subtly restored. It is no longer a scientific materialism, however, and it is just because science has abandoned it that this turn is possible. Nor is it part of the scientific conception of space, for it exists only on the blind side of scientific space. Where the ether of Maxwell has gone is where this theory makes its affirmations. The emptiness of space in the hiddenness of external transcendence is truly a needed reminder that the solidity of the Newtonian billiard ball is a conception that owes more to Parmenides than it does to Newton. As Being vanishes from us into the scientifically dark domain of ether, it is also a needed reminder that the dull uniformity of the Eleatic One or of Atomist matter is also a conception. That conception we now say is due to the nothingness of negative transcendence; and that nothingness as the hiddenness of external transcendence could easily conceal just the sort of kaleidoscopic wealth and variety that Plato attributed to his World of Forms.

It is sad to imagine any thinker resting satisfied with the insipid stuff of traditional matter. This effect of the appeal of the perspective of negative transcendence is like going to look at the Taj Mahal on a dark and cloudy, starless and moonless night. We know it is there, but we would be pathetically mistaken to think that the dismal uniformity of nothingness evident to us had anything to do with the reality or the beauty of the object. The sun will come out only with positive transcendence, when we will be able to return back before Eleaticism to the sensible concreteness and perceptual solidity with which the Egyptians and the other naive ancients endowed the firmaments of heaven and earth.

§4 Time and Causation

Space is really no more than the junior partner of the theory of negative transcendence. It is through the consideration of time that we begin to lay out the dynamic structure of positive transcendence. In this section the topic will be first the general ontology of change and then its specific form for external transcendence. This will address the ontological foundation of scientific knowledge and will also provide the framework for the theory of pleasure and pain as instances of positive transcendence.

The essential characteristic of time is that it is the place of change in existence. The perfect material of experience, which appears intuitively in space, represents that aspect of fixity in reality whereby something, having been, will never have been otherwise. The imperfect aspect of power and possibility represents no fixity and actually extends into the emptiness of the future. That emptiness is the nothingness of negative transcendence. The character of reality is found in the perfect material, but the occasion of reality, the presence and the power by which it continued to exist, is found in the empty poles of existence in the reality of intentionality. The past for all its fixity still exists in one sense only at the mercy of the future, for its is always new existence that suffers continuing perfect material to reflect, or not, past states of existence. The geologist reads out of the record of the rocks, as we, presumably, read out of the record of the brain, the story of the past. As events erase those records the past loses its only ground in continuing reality.

Where for space I have drawn on the precedent of the Eleatics, it is Aristotle who now becomes interesting for time. If we take the imperfect aspect to depend on an ontological aspect of existence, as here with negative transcendence, then the parallel with the Aristotelian distinction between form and matter, act and potential naturally suggests itself. The Aristotelian form of primary substance, which is concrete and individual, the total actuality of the thing, is equivalent to immanent, perfect material here. Where most kinds of matter for Aristotle, like clay, are actual to some degree, we must go forward to the logical extreme of matter from the Aristotelian definition, prime matter, to find the equivalent of imperfect material -- the pure potential that now makes all the differences of the future possible. The future is not a dark corridor extending off into some dim distance; it is the power of the present to generate new events. This power is not the inert availability of a lump of clay, furthermore; it is the inner dynamism of a growing thing.

The relation between immanence and transcendence (only the empty form of negative transcendence, so far) or between perfect and imperfect is the ontological basis for all change and all novelty. The emptiness of existence is thus not some remote mystery to which we may be indifferent; it is a very present mystery, one that drives the events all around us. And within us. The relation of the transcendent to us, however, is not a causal relation: the transcendent does not cause the immanent; the imperfect does not cause the perfect. Causation can only be described in immanent terms, as holding between objects which have transcendence but which are differentiated and identified by virtue of their immanent content. It is objects that cause change in objects, not transcendence in immanence. The view is virtually identical to Schopenhauer's, wherein the transcendent Will, which in every way provides the impetus of change and the contents of possible novelty in the world, is wholly separate from the workings of Schopenhauer's "Principle of Sufficient Reason," namely causation, etc [120]. Causation figures in the occasion of change, and each occasion is dependent for its reality on the existence of particular antecedent conditions. The transcendent may contain the range of all possibility and the range of all individual causal laws, but the occasion of change is determined by what already exists immanently. Those antecedent existents are what we call "causes," and so in the first instance causation is to be seen as a relation between immanent objects across time. The well of possibility for all changes, however, within which all causal rules and restrictions are eternally articulated, lies with the transcendent.

Causality will be for us only one of two perspectives on change in time: the one given by regard for events rising out of external existence, the other by that for events issuing from internal existence. Both internal and external are alike imperfect material of experience. If it happens that we are merely spectators to changes in existence, then it is external existence that should be said to be the ground of change. If it happens that we seem to initiate the changes ourselves, in which case the change occurs by virtue of our own existence, then internal existence should be said to be the ground of the change. Events do not simply bubble up out of external or internal existence. There is an occasion for change for each, and these are to be called "cause" and "purpose" respectively.

Here "cause" is used in a narrow, sufficient, and efficient sense. What an efficient cause presupposes are necessary conditions, principally the natural laws governing such changes. In this we are obliged to recognize the de facto procedures of science. The clarity, precision, and success of modern science stand or fall with the use of the formal, mathematical law. Such a law is formulated hypothetically, and we are at liberty to wonder if such formulations, even if practically successful, bear any relation to whatever it is in nature that directs events to follow the patterns that they do. The consequences of this situation will remain of interest as we continue. A law itself is merely necessary and of itself occasions no changes, though of course causes are causes just by the law-like way in which they effect change. It is the essence of causation that the occasion of change is ontologically in the perfect aspect -- i.e. actual conditions are causes. In a realm of physics where the directionality of time may be open to doubt or, at least, discussion, it is conceivable that causes could work backwards as well as forwards in time. While that has not become any part of serious science, it is possible. But in this treatment it is taken to be impossible. The temporal inverse of cause is purpose, which will be handled in its own way in the theory of positive transcendence.

Cause can only explain the determinate aspect of events, not the indeterminate. Chance novelties, which cannot be predicted given the character of antecedent events, are accepted by common sense; but of course the progress of science has amply demonstrated that what appears to be indeterminate in events now sometimes turns out to be thoroughly explained by some new theory later. As the scientist or philosopher contemplates a future of ever expanding and increasingly comprehensive scientific laws, this extrapolation from the progress of the past can become the claim of Determinism that every aspect of events will eventually be shown to be determinate. The flaw in this right now is that quantum mechanics has embraced chance as an essential factor in the most fundamental physical interactions in the universe; but whether quantum mechanics is discarded tomorrow or not, we can already see that it is the special power of the concept of causation that we seek to assimilate to it as much as possible, whether there be indigestible fragments of chance or not, or whether the vastness of inexplicable events renders it obviously unlikely that even something so mundane as the weather will be fully understood in the foreseeable future. Causation is an article of faith that within its proper sphere is really unchallenged, even by the great historic "sceptics," such as Hume or al-Ghazz˙aml˙im, whose scepticism really consisted of merely pointing out the faith-like character of our certainty in causation [121]. Chance, after all, explains nothing: it is the very essence of instances of chance that there should be no reason why one thing should occur rather than another.

It is a most significant fact about the world that what it is in nature that scientific causal rules are meant to describe is hidden. It is no part of immediate knowledge. It took thousands of years just for someone to notice that heavy objects do not fall faster than lighter ones of the same shape. The determined sceptic is free to wonder whether indeed in Aristotle's day heavy objects did fall faster than lighter ones. Instead of any sort of proof about the constancy of nature, science has simply come to a method of suggesting hypotheses which are sufficient to the observational facts and which are productive of critical predictions. No ontological commitments are made. Confirmation to any degree often must be rooted out, sometimes with only the most difficult and tortuous stratagems and techniques. The objective laws of nature that successful hypotheses might seem to describe are themselves somehow directly inaccessible, and this circumstance leads to debates about whether the vaunted "laws of nature" may not be after all mere human contrivances that correspond to nothing in the vast maelstrom of the universe.

What is at question is the objective ground of causal necessity. Such a necessity would be an unvarying restraint on physical coming-to-be. Each time we look for a natural explanation of an event or expect that certain things will occur because certain conditions have come to pass, our confidence and our certainty that such an explanation is to be found reflect our implicit confidence that a ground of causal necessity exists in the world; and whether it exists in just the form that our hypotheses of formal mathematical laws do is inessential. If our confidence in the ground of causal necessity really left us, then any attempt to continue with science would be meaningless; for in science, even if we believe that laws of nature can change, we have to at least believe that they change in a way that a further, higher order, law can describe -- otherwise we must simply contemplate in dumb wonder changes that are beyond our reckoning. In this respect, to take science seriously we must take seriously our faith-like desire for causal explanations. The hiddenness of the causal ground, however, does leave open to us an avenue for the extensive belief and theory that has always existed about exceptions to laws of nature -- namely, religious beliefs about miracles. These will be considered at the appropriate place in the theory of positive transcendence.

As previously a posteriore contingency was considered to break down into perfect necessity and imperfect contingency, now the notion of causal necessity can provide the basis for a further division. Where before the division between perfect and imperfect was between what was fixed by having been and what was unfixed by coming to be, the division now is within that realm of possible coming to be, where causal necessity renders the occurrence of some events necessary and others impossible -- with a residue unaffected by causal restrictions. In tribute to the Kantian precedent, the ontological division in this can be said to be between the conditioned and the unconditioned. The "condition" in this case refers to the antecedent states of affairs that occasion the operation or applications of a particular form of causal necessity -- with such a feature in mind Kant referred to scientific laws as "hypothetical imperatives" [122] The "unconditioned" in this sense refers to the element of chance and random variation that occurs -- within which, as well, any further modes of necessity might operate. The "unconditioned" is thus indifferent to any "hypothetical" antecedent.

While in a study of science our attention is focused on what is determined and so on the laws and formulae that dictate causal necessity, this preoccupation gives us a distorted perception of reality; for there is nothing in causal necessity that dictates that the planet earth, or a redwood, or human beings, or own selves should exist. All these are products of chance, essentially -- a chance shaped, indeed, by natural law but chance none the less. The flow of possibility that is the imperfect aspect is merely channeled by causal necessity; nothing in particular is required to come into being. It is not so much the necessity of natural law that is the most disturbing to many, but the residue of chance; and while the chance in quantum mechanics may be what is of interest to philosophers, it is a far more macroscopic element of chance that creates the greatest controversy: where in biology the notion of "random variation" has become a technical term in the theory of evolution by natural selection. There is some irony in the fear of evolution that possesses the very people who wish to preserve a religious mystery at the heart of existence. To them chance is a dead end, mere opaque, meaningless randomness. But to us, from the vantage point of this theory, it is causal necessity that is the dead end; and it is the flow of chance possibility that is the river of escape from the blindness of natural events. By our escape we give to science its due but at the same time dismiss it with its limitations.

The full dialectical characterization of causal necessity is as synthetic a posteriore imperfect conditioned necessity -- with a corresponding unconditioned contingency. In this it is the conditioned/unconditioned distinction that refers to the ontological ground that is the basis of this particular necessity/contingency distinction. Thus, while we may speak of logical necessity as opposed to logical contingency, or even of scientific necessity as opposed to scientific contingency, we do not speak of "conditioned necessity" as opposed to "conditioned contingency"; for "conditioned" refers uniquely to that conditioning ground of necessity which has been divided off from what remains of imperfect possibility. If causal necessity did not exist, then the unconditioned would be coextensive with the imperfect and there would be no reason to speak of anything as "conditioned." And so the unconditioned is what remains from a logically exhaustive division, and it retains the character of a contingent ground from what has originally been divided -- the imperfect aspect.

We are left to wonder about the nature of the ground of causal necessity. Its hiddenness brings to mind Plato's warning in the Timaeus that his talk about nature could only be a "likely story" [123]. While we commonly may feel more certainty than that would warrant in the force of natural necessity and the results of scientific inquiry, we are still bound to admit that we cannot go much beyond Plato in our ultimate assurance about causal laws. Even though causal laws in themselves may be necessary conditions of the event, the theory of such laws is never more than sufficient to the phenomena. As we admit uncertainty in the ground itself of causal necessity, we must also admit an inescapable logical uncertainty in our hypothetical formulation of causal laws.

§5 Will

Schopenhauer's famous decision was that the thing in itself was will [124]. His point may be well taken as an identification of transcendence, but here we must qualify it as being seriously limited on two scores: 1) it is a conception only of negative transcendence; and 2) it is a conception only of internal existence. With these in mind we can credit Schopenhauer with his insight yet avoid the peculiarities of his theory. Our definition of will then is that it is simply the ability that we possess to introduce chance into the world by virtue of our conscious existence, the small well of internal transcendence of the ego.

External objects, including the external existence that corresponds to our own internal existence, are at the causal mercy of other objects, and in time such objects exist by virtue of the happenstance of antecedent conditions. We even imagine natural causation as a series of causes into the past -- a spatialized series of conditioned events as the perfect aspect is expanded into the depth of lost presents. Every cause is conditioned by other causes and every individual object is conditioned by the character and motions of distinct objects, back into the forgotten beginnings of time. On the other hand, we see ourselves as somehow distinct and separate from this whole order because there is in truth only one internal object in the whole of experience for each of us. It would certainly make things easy if this unique object could only be conditioned by itself, in its isolation, and were not dependent on the character of other things for its own character. The internal object would be unconditioned and free of hidden causal constraints. We are limited by causal constraints, but an inability to simply leap off the ground and fly or to survive without eating is usually not what is troublesome about the nature of will. The trouble with will is free will.

The most difficult aspect of free will theory is defining what in the first place that is supposed to mean. Being "unconditioned" is not enough: so far all that need mean is that the event is a matter of chance; and if chance were the determining actor in my free acts, I am no more intimately associated with them than if they were wholly determined by antecedent causes. Any theory that seeks to conform to the strictures of scientific explanation is liable to seize upon chance as the chink in the armor of determinism that allows for some form of free will to be introduced. While it may be the chink, it is not particularly helpful in itself. A chance event is not controlled or conditioned by anything, and if my actions were the result of chance, they would certainly not be under my control. If confronted with a choice between indistinguishable alternatives, it is not the same for me to decide the choice by flipping a coin as by making a decision. The one is a random event, the other is an exercise of will. What we want is not that the choice be unconditioned, absolutely, but that I be unconditioned; and if I am what is free, then I may also make free decisions about alternatives that are not indistinguishable.

In the will we each have our own private preserve of ontologically imperfect material, our own well of future potential that presumably we can dispose of as we please. At the same time the identity of this with some fragment of external transcendence means that we are limited by the causal constraints of the external and are subject to the effects of the causal series of natural events. Against the theory of external events, which is the whole of science from mathematics and physics to biology and neurophysiology, we have little to show for our freedom but a vague subjective sense that we can choose freely as we will. The will as such has no apparent structure, and sometimes we even grasp onto our ability to make completely arbitrary choices as the essence of will. That is not very reassuring, however, when the problem is usually to choose between important differences, where an arbitrary choice would seem foolish or insane. For that we need a theory of rational purpose which is at once also a theory of rational freedom.

§6 Conclusion

What we should derive from the theory of negative transcendence is a pair of questions that now have special meaning for us. Specifically these will be: 1) What is the positive content of the emptiness of the Eleatic plenum? and 2) How is it that purpose, or rational choice, can be the unconditioned occasion of free will? The questions about the structure of space and the nature of scientific knowledge, which have been touched upon, are intrinsic to negative transcendence and will not be considered again in this treatment.

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Copyright (c) 1985 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved