BODIES AND THEIR PROPERTIES
[The material of this chapter can also be found in Modes of the Finite, Part 2, Section 2, Chapters 4 and 5.]
6.1. "Substance and accident"
I think I should begin this chapter by bringing up something historical, and stating why I am not going to use the terms "substance" and "accident" in describing bodies and their properties (or the way they behave).
Aristotle, who lived around 350 B. C., was the originator of the theory, and indirectly of the terminology. He spoke of what he called the "reality" and its "accompaniments," and referred to the "reality" as the "primary activity" and the "accompaniments" as "secondary acts." What he was talking about, generally speaking, was our notion of "body" (though he would class spirits with "reality") and the various ways the body behaves--which we are about to discuss.
As to the body and its parts, his theory was that bodies were continuous things (i.e. with no internal "spaces" between parts), made up of various mixtures of the four "elements" of earth, water, air, and fire. The "matter" was the ultimate "stuff" underneath the elements, and was the pure ability to do the "primary activity." This primary activity took on various "aspects" or "forms" and gave the matter (and the body) its type.
With Plotinus, around A. D. 250, it was realized that matter was the limitation of the form of the "reality"; but of course, the matter was still not looked at as a quantity of unifying energy, but as a kind of "stuff"--though, interestingly enough, even at this early stage, it was connected somehow with space.
When the Greek terms got translated into Latin, "reality" (for complicated reasons) was translated as "substantia," which means "what stands underneath [the secondary acts]" and the secondary acts were translated as "accidentiae," which means "what attach to or accompany [the primary act]"; and so we have "substance" and "accident." "Accidents" were then classified as "proper" if they had to be present when the "substance" (which means what we mean by "body") was; thus, speech is a "proper accident" of human beings. Other accidents, however, might or might not be present when the substance was--as blackness or whiteness is not a proper accident of a human being, because you can be either and still be human.
Not to make this too long a discussion, the notion of "substance" was doing double duty in explaining the relation between the body and its parts and the body and its "accidents." In the first case, the "substance" (like our unifying energy) was internal to and private to the body; and it seemed separable from the "accidents." In the second sense, however, the "substance" meant "the whole body" (in relation to how it behaved).
But by the time of Descartes, in 1600, the general way of thinking was that the substance existed "in itself" and was therefore independent of its "accidents" and remained unchanged when they changed. This was a gross misinterpretation of Aristotle's original theory, and of the great commentators on it like St. Thomas Aquinas. "Substance" was looked on (and criticized by John Locke as) a kind of "pincushion" you stuck the accidents into.
The definition of "substance" as "independent" led to all kinds of aberrations. Descartes thought that the human being was two different substances, mind and body, because the concepts of mind and body were independent of each other. Spinoza shortly after thought that only God was a "substance," since everything else depended on God; Leibniz, around the time of Newton (say, 1700), thought that each atom (if you will) of a body was totally independent of everything, and they could not act on each other, because that would make them dependent and not "substances." Kant, around 1800, held that when we observe something, our minds unite the sensations of it into a single whole, and we create the "substantiality" of it by our unifying of its effects on us.
Not surprisingly, philosophers nowadays shy away from the notion of "substance"; but in so doing, they have also shied away from the effect Aristotle and the medievals were trying to find the cause of. We have, I think, got through all the silliness which was the product of Descartes' attempt to deduce the world from the contents of consciousness; but the notion of "substance," which was a mistranslation of Aristotle to begin with, has been so battered in the process that I don't think it serves any useful purpose to try to resurrect it in its original usage.
The term has, however, a legitimate usage still in chemistry; and so let us define it to fit this usage:
DEFINITION: A SUBSTANCE is a KIND of body.
Thus, a given human being would be a body of the human type, and the "substance" would be "human." Sulfur, for instance, in chemistry, is a substance, as is water or carbon or hydrochloric acid. A given atom or molecule of sulfur or water or hydrochloric acid would be one atom of the substance in chemistry's or our new terminology, but would not be "a substance" (though it would be one in the medieval sense of the term).
The FORM of the unifying energy determines the substance one is dealing with.
This is actually tautologial, once we have define "substance" in the way defined above. We saw that it is the form of the unifying energy that makes the body the kind of body which it is; thus, it is the form of this energy that defines what substance you are talking about.
Whether this notion of "substance" turns out to be philosophically terribly useful, at least it is such that philosophers and chemists are saying the same thing when they use the term; and that is an advance over what we have now.
6.2. Body and property
I am also going to avoid using the term "accident," which to us means "something that didn't happen on purpose" instead of "what accompanies." I will replace it with the term "property," which was the short form of "proper accident"; but we must make the following qualifications:
DEFINITION: A PROPERTY of a SUBSTANCE is some activity that a body does because it is the KIND of body which it is.
DEFINITION: A PROPERTY of a BODY is ANY act that the body performs as a body.
Thus, my writing this sentence is a property of me as a body, but not as a substance, since you can be human without writing this sentence. But in a sense, I can't be the self I actually am without writing this sentence--because in fact I am writing it (and so am "the body that is writing this sentence").
This gets us free of the notion that the behavior of a body is "accidental," as if it could come and go without the body's being any different. Any behavior of a body is a property of that body, whether or not it is a property of that substance.
6.2.1. The property itself
Let us now try to examine the relation of the property to the body of which it is the property. First of all, we can say this of the property itself:
A property of a body is always an activity.
This would have to be true if the property is not imaginary, or something we impose on the body (as we might impose a "coordinate system" of some type on it in order to study its movement. No one supposes that the coordinate system is actually in the body itself; it is just a convenience we use to consider something about it). If the property is real at all, it is either an activity or a limitation of some activity. But since we know the body through its properties, then they are acts, not limitations. [In fact, historically, the "substance" (in the sense of the body) was looked on as a kind of "power" to perform its acts, and as a sort of limitation of them analogously to the way matter is the limitation of form. In any case, the property is an act, not a limitation.]
A property of a body would always have to be some FORM of activity.
Clearly, infinite activity could not be a property of something, because it would have to be distinct from what it was a property of--which would mean that it would have to be somehow different--not to mention that it would have to be subordinate to the body (as we will see) to be a property of it, which is absurd in the case of Infinite Activity (on which absolutely every limited activity absolutely depends). Hence, a property has to be limited at least in form.
It is not NECESSARY, however, that a property also have a QUANTITY; but if it does not, this argues that the unifying energy of the body is somehow not quantified either.
I bring this up because it turns out that human bodies do perform properties (thinking and choosing) that cannot be forms of energy (i.e. have no quantity and so cannot in principle be measured). The evidence for this is found in my book Living Bodies, where I also show how this argues that the unifying energy of the human body is basically not energy but has a quantitative "dimension" which is not necessary to it.
Generally speaking, however, properties of bodies will have definite quantities, and so will be forms of energy.
When a property is measurable (has a quantity) it is a form of energy.
This is not surprising. Since a body has a form of energy uniting its parts, and its parts are forms of energy united by their own forms of energy (the unifying energies of the subsystems), then you would expect that all of its behavior would also be as forms of energy.
In fact, this is the source of the scientific dogma that "whatever exists is energy (is measurable)." The things we can observe are bodies, and it would seem that if a body performed a spiritual act, it would perform an act that was beyond itself as a body--and hence it would be self-contradictory. Thus, it is assumed by scientists (particularly physicists and chemists) that all talk of spiritual activities or spiritual properties is a holdover from the unsophisticated days of the Middle Ages, where religion got mixed into science to the detriment of both.
The fallacy, of course, is that the body need not necessarily be organized with a (measurable) form of energy, and so could produce spiritual properties by its form of organization.
But this very dogma has led scientists to refuse to consider evidence that tends to refute the notion that "whatever exists is energy." The fact that living bodies tend to maintain a super-high energy level which is biologically stable but unstable from the point of view of physics and chemistry is simply not noticed by them. It argues, of course, that (since the parts are clearly material) the way the parts are interacting in a biological body is different from and less bound by matter than the way they interact in an inanimate body. And as you go up the scale of living bodies, this "freedom" from material limitation becomes more obvious and greater. But this is discussed in Living Bodies, as I mentioned.
Suffice it here that the dogma, however false, is a natural one for physicists and chemists to fall into. Biologists have less excuse.
Note that in this book, we will be dealing only with INANIMATE bodies; that is, bodies ALL of whose acts (whether properties or acts internal to the body) are forms of energy, and which are GOVERNED BY the quantitative aspect of the energy.
For those conversant with science, we will be dealing with bodies which follow (without "problems") the two Laws of Thermodynamics: (1) Energy is neither created nor destroyed, and (2) Any interaction always goes from a higher to a lower energy-state (The "entropy of the universe always increases.")
6.2.2. The property's relation to its body
We now come to something very mysterious. If the property is a reality, and in fact is a form of energy, then what exists? The property or the body? That is, if your color or gravitational field are yours, then what we must say is that what really exists is you, as colored and as having a certain mass.
We already saw that, with respect to the body and its parts, the body is primary and the parts secondary, because the body is basically a unit. But we now have a different version of this one-many problem; the body is one body (presumably, acts as one); but it acts in many different ways. Each of the properties are ways in which the body acts, not something in its own right. That is, if you strike someone with your hand, it is you who struck the person, not really your hand; and certainly the act of striking the person was not something you "ordered" done (as if the act were a kind of employee of yours), but was you, acting.
That is, you can't weasel out of responsibility for the act by saying, "I didn't hit him; the act of hitting did it." The act doesn't exist except AS your reality. True, it is not all there is to your reality; but it is not different from your reality--certainly not if "reality" and "activity" mean the same thing.
Thus, your properties are your existence, in the sense that they are simply ways in which you exist; but no one of them and in fact (given the parts and their interaction, which are not properties) not all of them together are all there is to your existence.
Let us see if we can unpack this.
A property has no existence of its own; it exists as the activity OF some body.
Let me say here that only bodies have properties in the strict sense. I don't want to go into this in any detail, because this book doesn't deal with the spiritual or the evidence for saying that spiritual things exist. But it turns out that, when you analyze consciousness (which is in itself spiritual), then what you find is that the characteristic of an act which is not quantified is that it "contains itself within itself as part of itself." Consider that when you choose, you choose also to stop deliberating and make the choice; the choice chooses to choose (now) as well as to choose the option which it chooses; and the choice contains within it all the reasons for which it makes the choice, and chooses which of the reasons will be operative (will be the "real reasons" for the choice) and which it rejects--and so on. All the conscious "dimensions" of the choice are not a system of interrelated acts, but ways of looking at one single act. Thus, the spiritual is simple in reality, and so the "properties" of a spiritual act are really identical with the act itself (however distinct they might be in concept), and so are really not properties. Thus, only bodies have properties.
If this sounds mysterious and worrisome, don't let it bother you. We are not, as I said, here dealing with what is spiritual, and so this "self-interpenetration" of the spiritual need not concern us. I only mention it because some people have thought that both bodies and spirits have properties, and I am not making a mistake when I say that any property is always the act of some body.
The property is an act of the body AS A WHOLE, not of the part or of the unifying energy.
Even when the body acts through a part that has a special function (as when we see with our eyes and brain), it is the whole body which acts, and not just the part.
This would have to be the case, if the body is what primarily exists, and the parts are subordinate to it. But it is also confirmed by the fact that the activity which is the property can't be performed with only the part, without involving other parts of the body. For instance, if you are going to see, you have to use energy to focus your eyes and pay attention to what you are looking at (if you don't pay attention, the energy coming in stays "below the threshold of perception" and is not a conscious act--or "seeing"--at all); and this means directing energy away from other acts you might be performing, not to mention all that goes on in relation to your consciousness of what you are seeing. Your emotions get involved, and these tend to make you want to do something; and you either act on the emotions or you restrain them--and so on. There is no such thing as a "simple act of seeing."
Thus, the property reveals NOT ONLY the way the body is organized (the unifying energy) BUT ALSO the parts united by this energy.
That is, since the unifying energy is simply what the parts are doing to each other, then it follows that any property involves an activity of the parts as they act on each other, and so would be different if (a) the unifying energy were different, or (b) if the parts united by it were different.
So, for instance, the spectrum of hydrogen is not an act of the unifying energy of the hydrogen atom (its internal space), but of the electron and proton as structured this way. The internal space of the atom gives the electron certain possible "energy levels" to exist at (whether stably or unstably). If it is "lifted" to an "excited" state (an unstable one), it can only fall back to certain other states, radiating out a definite frequency of light. And the different frequencies a hydrogen atom can reradiate are the lines of the spectrum that show up when a whole bunch of them are excited.
But these frequencies are different for hydrogen molecules, because there there are different parts (the two atoms) and a different configuration of internal space; meaning that certain new frequencies are permitted and others forbidden.
Therefore, what a body DOES (its properties) reveals what it IS (the definite parts as organized in a definite way to a definite degree).
And this is simply because what the body does is how the body as a whole acts.
But this means that the (single) existence (activity) of the body as a whole "splits itself up," as it were, into may different existences (activities), no one of which is the whole existence, but any one of which has no other reality than to be the existence of (or a way of existing of) the body as a whole. If you will, the activity of the body "empties itself" into a property, but remains greater than the act it is performing; it "is doing" less than itself in the property; and is in fact simultaneously doing the other properties, each of which is a kind of incomplete revelation of the body as a single (limited) activity.
If this sounds as if it doesn't make sense, consider that in the property the multiple unit is limiting itself, and realize that this is another mode of finiteness, which does not make sense by itself, and whose characteristic as such is that the finite object is in some way the opposite of itself. Here we have the unified multiplicity revealing itself in a multiplied unity (the many properties, each of which and all of which together "talk about" the body as a multiple unit).
The temptation is to put this mysterious self-contradictoriness aside and say, "It's not mysterious at all; we have a body doing many acts. What's the problem?" That's certainly the fact; what the problem is is how one something can be many somethings while remaining one, as well as how an existence can be an existence while still being the existence of something other (in some sense) than itself.
The longer you think about it, the more unintelligible it becomes; it is not that a clear view of the body and its properties solves the problem; it simply makes the effect that much more obviously an effect.
But it is basically the same effect as finiteness itself: how something (the property) can contain the opposite of itself (the existence of the body) within it (or conversely how the body, in acting, can contain the property as a way it exists), or how something can be less than itself while remaining greater (in some sense) than its own lessness. This cannot make sense within the context of just the body; it needs a non-finite activity to be its cause. And this non-finite activity would obviously have to be simple, with no real properties.
The fact that it is the whole body that acts in the property, which therefore reveals it as a whole, is one of the reasons why I don't want to use "substance" in referring to the body. The "substance" is apt to be looked on as the unifying energy, not the body as a whole (because it is made up of "substantial form" and "matter" and seems distinct from the parts the body consists in). But "substance" in that sense (the unifying energy) is not what acts; it is the whole body which expresses itself in its properties--unifying energy and parts united.
Thus, the notion Locke had of the "substance" as a pincushion you stick "accidents" in is an enormous falsification of what is actually going on--and is a falsification of what was actually held by the Scholastics who knew what they were about. Any difference in any property argues to a different "substance" or a different body--even when the body remains (in our new sense) the same substance, as when you blush and stay a human being. You are different when you blush, and different as a whole from what you were when not blushing; but you do not become inhuman by blushing. That is, your body is still organized basically with the human form of unifying energy; but there is a difference in the parts as united by this energy (and the difference clearly would involve something about the difference in degree of unification, if the form of unification is not different). But we will see this later. Suffice it for now that the property is so intimately "related" to the body that it is a way of existing that the body has, and is not something "attached" to it.
6.2.3. Property and nature
The property, then, since it has no reality except that of the body it is a property of, reveals in a limited way what the body is. The property, as it were, is a partial existence of the body as a whole, and is only "distinct" from it insofar as it is not all there is to the body's existence; but it is the body's existence--to an extent.
But this allows us to use a term that was initiated by Aristotle and is still in use in science:
DEFINITION: The NATURE of a body is the body AS revealed in its properties, or AS "capable" of performing the properties.
That is, when you talk about a body and say "it is the nature of the body" you add "to do X and Y and Z." You are talking about the body in relation to the properties that reveal what it is.
And since we can't ordinarily observe from outside all the parts of a body, and since there is no way to observe from outside how and to what degree the parts are interacting (the unifying energy), then the only way we can talk about bodies is by means of their properties, and so
We do not know the body as it is in itself; we know it as a certain NATURE.
This does not mean that our knowledge of it is false, but only indirect, by what it does to us. How else could we know it? We are not its creators, and hence cannot know it by what we are doing to cause it to exist; therefore, the only way it can come into our consciousness is for it to act on us; and this it does through its properties. Hence, we understand the nature of the body: the body as such-and-such because otherwise it could not act on us in this way.
DEFINITION: The term NATURE used absolutely (i.e. not the "nature of X") refers to the sum of all bodies that are not man-made.
That is, this is not "nature" in the sense of "the nature of X," but rather "nature" in the sense of rocks, plants, animals, and so on; the bodies that are "just there" that we didn't make. This sense of "nature" gives us "natural" as opposed to "artificial." and is the sense in which the "back to nature" movement uses the term.
6.2.4. Properties of substance
Let us now bring in the revised notion of "substance" we defined earlier, and make the following distinction:
A property reveals either the nature of the SUBSTANCE or of the INDIVIDUAL BODY.
That is, bodies exhibit certain properties because (a) they have basically the same parts, (b) organized in the same way (with the same form of unifying energy). The properties they all have in common, then, are properties of the substance, because they reveal the kind of body in question.
Thus, the spectrum of hydrogen, its chemical properties, and so on, are all properties of the substance hydrogen, because any instance of will behave in this way.
But there are other properties (the ones traditionally called "accidents") that the body performs that are not performed by other members of the class of body in question. These are properties of the body, but not properties of the substance.
Thus, for instance, the motion of a given hydrogen atom would be a property of it as a body, because, given the energy that was acting on it, it had to be moving at the speed and in the direction in which it in fact was moving. But though this is no "accident," it is still the case that not all hydrogen atoms have this particular movement, and so it is a property of the body but not the substance.
Similarly, your basic bodily shape, your acts of seeing, walking, thinking, and so on (in general) are properties of you as a human substance; while the particular things you say, the idiosyncrasies and mannerisms you have--and every individual act you perform are properties of you as this individual (human) body.
How do you tell whether a property is a property of the substance or just of the individual body? This is what induction, which we discussed in Part One, does. You find cases of behavior that seem to be common to many bodies; you find some reason for believing that the behavior is due to the way the parts are organized, and you conclude that the property is a property of the substance, and any body which otherwise seems to belong to the substance and does not exhibit this property is defective.
Thus, we see so many human beings seeing that we consider blind people defective instances of human beings. And this is confirmed when we cure the blindness of the people. Obviously, the form of the unifying energy is the "power" to see; but if the part it uses to see has something wrong with it, then the body as a whole cannot see. But if you can fix or replace the part, then even this individual body will see, because seeing is a property that belongs to the body because of the way it is organized--supposing it to have the right type of part.
That is, it is of the nature of the human being as such to be able to see. A given human being cannot see because of something connected with the part that performs this function, not because of the form of the unifying energy.
It is clearly not always easy to separate out the properties of the substance from the properties of the individual; but it is just as clear that it is possible to do so. We must not let difficulties and even gross errors in the past make us despair about the power of our mind to know the natures of things.
6.2.5. Intrinsic and reactive properties
Before we consider some of the properties that seem to be performed by inanimate bodies as such, let me make one more distinction about properties and their relation to the body.
DEFINITION: An INTRINSIC PROPERTY is a property that the body exhibits by its own activity in itself, NOT as a REACTION to some energy acting on it.
DEFINITION: A REACTIVE PROPERTY is a property that the body exhibits when RESPONDING to some energy acting on it.
The size, shape, and mass (not the weight), as well as the fields of a body would be examples of intrinsic properties. The size and shape of the body have to do with the field-interactions of the parts of the body themselves. The size would deal with how far the farthermost parts are from each other (i.e. how weakly the parts are interacting through the unifying energy considered as the internal field of the body). The shape, of course, is the parts AS interacting with the unifying energy considered as the internal field. That is, the shape of the body is how the parts are "arranged in space," the "space" in this case being the internal space of the body as such.
Neither of these properties depend on the body's reaction to outside energy. The mass, which shows up as the gravitational field of the body, is intrinsic to it, and is "there" whether the body is being acted on or not, as are any electrical or magnetic fields it might have.
Note that intrinsic properties in general are not observed directly. The reason, of course, is that, in order for something to be observed by us, it has to act on us in a certain way--which means to do work on our sense organs. But since, in doing work, energy is used up, then this means that the body would be losing energy as it acted on our senses, and thus would be changing.
Hence, the intrinsic properties are known by means of reactive properties. Color, sound, weight, hardness, taste, and, in a sense, odor are all reactive properties, or ways in which the body responds to energy acting on it. Notice that size and shape are known through color and hardness, as the area that is colored or impenetrable. Mass is known through weight, and so on. The intrinsic properties are "primary" in the bodies (in the sense that they are "there" even when no outside energy is acting on the body), but they are known as accompanying reactive properties.
This clears up a confusion in philosophy. The properties known directly by the senses (color, sound, taste, odor, and the various tactile properties) are, of course, ways in which the body acts on those parts of the human body which are the various sense organs we have. These, because they are directly perceived by the senses were called the "primary sensibles" in the old Scholastic philosophy. The other properties, like size and shape, were called "common sensibles," because they could be perceived by more than one sense (e.g. sight and touch), and so were "common" to several senses.
Locke, following Galileo, however, hit upon something close to the distinction we made between intrinsic and reactive properties. He, however, made the mistake of thinking that the way we perceive the intrinsic properties was a kind of "copy" of the property itself (which is absurd, since how far away do you have to be from a foot ruler for it to appear "the size it really is"?); and for this reason he called them "primary qualities," while the reactive properties he thought of as the way our senses reacted to the body's act on us, and so he called them "secondary qualities," because they weren't "really in" the body, but were in us.
Not to get into the epistemological morass this leads us towards, let me say that (a) neither type of property is perceived under the same form as it exists in the body, but (b) both types of properties are behaviors of the body, not of ourselves.
That is, a red body that has light falling on it will be reemitting red light whether there is an eye to see it as red or not; a body of a certain size will have that size whether size as it is (the internal field-act) and size-as-we-see-it are the same or not; when the tree falls in the desert and strikes the ground, it makes the air and the ground vibrate, and so makes a sound whether there is an ear to hear it or not.
How you get from the subjective reactions we have to the nature of the property as independent of our subjective way of perceiving it is a question of epistemology, and is discussed in my book, Knowledge, its Acquisition and Expression; and I will not go into the matter here, except to say that (by comparison of similar effects on our senses) we can know the similarity of the acts as their causes--and the bodies as their causers.
Now then, color is the reaction of a body to light that falls on it. Some of its electrons are raised to "excited" (high energy but unstable) states, and fall back to their "ground state" emitting definite frequencies of light. This reaction is the color of the body, and depends on the parts and the form of the unifying energy--and so is generally a property of the substance (though it need not be, as we can see from white, tanned, and black human beings).
The sound a body makes is something it does to make the air vibrate in a rhythmic (cyclic) kind of way, producing a sound wave. This, of course, ordinarily happens by way of a reaction to some energy: by striking something, or by moving through a medium, or by vibrating itself (as a guitar string does) when acted on.
The odor of a body is actually little particles of it broken off by interaction with the air. This is why odor appears as in the air (or other odor-carrying medium); if it loses none of itself, it is odorless; hence, odor is a reaction.
The taste of a body is the way it interacts with the taste buds as we are destroying it in the act of eating. Actually, the taste as perceived also involves odor perceived through the back air passages between the mouth and nose; but this odor is not perceived as odor but as part of the destructive process--or as taste.
The hardness of a body is the fact that its internal field resists another body's entrance into it. Hardness, of course, deals with the body's rigidity, and inability to have its shape deformed by another body's intrusion. A soft body is easily deformed. Whether the body is hard or soft, it is to some extent impenetrable, meaning that you can't get inside it. Bodies, do, however, allow some bodies (such as nutrinos, or even larger ones like water molecules, sometimes) to pass through them; I don't think any body is absolutely impenetrable.
Coldness and heat are the body's parts as moving and striking the other body (you) more or less strongly. If your parts are moving faster, the body is perceived as cool or cold (you lose energy to it); and if its parts are moving faster, it is perceived as warm or hot (imparting energy to you). This is why, if you put one hand in hot water and the other hand in ice water (warming one hand and cooling the other) and then feel the same body, it will appear both warm and cold. There's no mystery; it is warmer than the cold hand and colder than the warm one.
These are examples of various properties of bodies. I did not intend to give an exhaustive list of them, but just to illustrate intrinsic and reactive properties, and show how the "primary sensibles" are really reactive properties of the bodies.
Because of the confusion between "primary and common sensibles" and "primary and secondary qualities," I would offer a plea to make the distinction between intrinsic and reactive properties as closer to something that is actually "out there" in the body.
6.3. Properties of inanimate bodies
There seem to be a few things that can be said about inanimate bodies as such: that is, about the kinds of bodies that are not alive as opposed to those that live.
We are in a rather dark area here, and the statements to be made should be taken as tentative, to some extent.
An inanimate body seems to be performing all the acts it can perform at any given moment.
That is, given a certain state of an inanimate body, there seems to be no energy "in reserve" by which it can act in a way that it doesn't happen to be acting in at the moment. This is easier to state by contrast with a living body. You, for instance, are perhaps sitting down now quietly; but you are aware that you could suddenly jump up and run away, without any particular influx of energy from outside.
But an inanimate body apparently cannot produce spontaneously a new act like that; if it is at rest, for instance, it will remain at rest.
What this amounts to is that a description of the properties of an inanimate body can be exhaustive in the sense that a description of the properties of a living body cannot be. If an inanimate body isn't doing something, it seems legitimate to say that it can't do it, given the condition it is in. But it at least seems to be the case that a living body (when asleep, for instance) is not doing all it could be doing at the moment.
Perhaps this will be clearer if we add the next characteristics:
An inanimate body is controlled by the QUANTITY of its unifying energy (its MATTER).
The TOTAL QUANTITY of the properties is a reflection of the matter of the body.
That is, given that the inanimate body is doing all that it can at the moment, then this implies that there is only so much energy to "distribute" among the properties, and all of what the body can do is used up in actually doing something.
But the fundamental quantitative limitation of the body is its matter: the quantity of the energy which unifies the parts. It would therefore be reasonable to say that, just as the form of the unifying energy makes the body the kind of body which it is, and gives it the sorts of properties that are properties of the substance, so that the matter determines the energy level of the body as a whole, and this "energy level" will be expressed somehow as the sum of the quantities of the properties.
The natural or normal ("equilibrium") condition of an inanimate body is to have the LEAST total energy compatible with that kind of body.
That is, what scientists call the "ground state" of an inanimate body is its lowest total energy, implying (if what was said above is true, the least matter of the unifying energy. That is, whenever the unifying energy "wants," as it were, to be at its lowest energy-state (have the smallest quantity or matter).
Hence, any state of higher energy is not really a state at all in an inanimate body, because it is unstable, and the body must either restructure itself to cope with this higher energy, or somehow get rid of the energy and return to its ground state (exhibiting a reactive property as it does so).
To put this another way, an inanimate body stays the same when it is at its lowest energy level, because it can only change by giving off energy, and at its lowest energy level, it has no energy to give off. Once it is in this condition, the only way you can make it do something different is to add energy to it, putting it in an unstable condition.
This is not the case with living bodies. They seem to have a stable condition which is above the lowest-energy state, and to maintain this by eating and so on. And since they exist in a kind of equilibrium at a state higher than the "ground state" I was speaking of, then they have internal energy in reserve that allows them to turn some properties on and off without being excited into a higher energy state from outside.
Hence, you can predict what properties an inanimate body will have by knowing the total amount of energy in the body.
This follows from most of the above statements taken together. The inanimate body is always doing all the acts it can do, given the condition it is in; and this condition depends on the matter: the amount of the unifying energy, which shows up as the total energy of the body. Hence, if you know the energy level the body is to be in, you can say what properties it will have.
This is not absolutely true, however. We must make the following qualification:
It is possible that a given energy-level of the body can express itself in one of several sets of properties. If so, then which one of the sets expressed at any given moment at this energy-level will be a matter of chance.
What I am saying here is something that seems to be true from quantum mechanics. If you add a certain amount of energy to a hydrogen molecule, for instance, this energy can be absorbed by the body in one of three or four ways: that is, one or both of the electrons can be "knocked out of orbit" to a higher-energy shell, which puts a strain on the unifying energy, making the molecule unstable until the electron or electrons fall back to the ground state, radiating out the wave length of light that corresponds to the energy they absorbed.
But since there are three or four possible "excited states" (each with its own characteristic spectral line or lines as the light gets radiated out) the molecule can be in with this same total energy, then you cannot predict which state a given molecule will be in when you add the energy to it.
Nevertheless, since there are only three or four possible states that can exist at this energy level, you can predict statistically what will happen to a large amount of hydrogen molecules when they are raised to this energy level. That is, you could predict, say, that twenty-five per cent of them will be in state 1, twenty-five per cent in state 2, and so on.
Philosophers differ in speculating upon whether something in the individual molecule forces the molecule to be in one and only one of these "permitted" states, or whether all that is forced is that the molecule has to be in one of the states, but could be indifferently in any one. I don't think that the notion of "cause" I developed earlier would allow you to settle this issue. The cause of the molecule's being in State 2 is the energy added to the molecule (i.e. this is the explanation for the higher-energy state); the cause of its being in state 2 rather than state 3 may not exist, simply because this may not be an effect, but a simple fact. That is, there is no reason why it should be in state 2 rather than State 3, except for the fact that it can't be in both of them. That is, if something is what it is, this is not of itself an effect that needs an explanation; the fact that something could be different does not mean that there has to be a reason why it isn't different. Why are you an American rather than a Nigerian? Once you've said that your parents were Americans, you've given all the answer that can be given; if they had been Nigerians, you would have been Nigerian; but they just weren't, that's all--so ultimately, you just are American. To pursue this "well, but why?" further is an exercise for five-year-olds who do not understand the difference between facts and effects.
Presumably, an inanimate body at its lowest energy-level is performing all its intrinsic properties, and none of its reactive ones.
Obviously, if reactive properties mean that the body is reacting to energy impinging on it, then this means that the energy is raising it to an excited state, and the property is its means of coping with this excited state.
But the intrinsic properties are "there" whether the body is being acted on or not; and hence, they would be the only properties it would have when in its "ground state." So in inanimate bodies, at least, the intrinsic properties are the properties of the body in its ground state.
Clearly, since all bodies are in fields and hence are acted on by other bodies, then no body is ever absolutely in its "ground state"; in order to be, it would not be able to be in any position with respect to any other body (since position is its reaction to the action of the other body's field).
Still, the position of a body does not ordinarily seem to make a great deal of difference to its total energy, and so there can be numerous approximations to the "ground state" which are so near it as to be practically indistinguishable from it.
In this discussion of the properties of inanimate bodies, we have already had to introduce concepts that really belong to what happens to a body when it changes; and so it is now time to turn on the motor, so to speak, and consider philosophical dynamics.