THE COMPLEX UNIT
[This topic is treated in Modes of the Finite, Part 2, Section 2.]
9.1. Types of multiple units
There are various ways in which many somethings can be thought of or experienced together as one something. Let us go from the least unified to the most.
DEFINITION: A set is a multiplicity that is thought of as a unit, whether it has any real unity or not.
DEFINITION: One of the units that make up a set is called a member.
Thus, the set of all red objects is a set. There's no connection among all the members just because each of them happens to be red. If you paint one green, then it drops out of consideration as part of the set, of course, but the fact that you changed its color makes no difference to any of the other members. In this case, we just happen to want to consider them all together for some reason; but we're not doing so because we're reacting to some unity we've discovered "out there."
In other words, in a mere set (i.e. a set that's not also a system), the unity is imaginary, whether or not the things unified are real. Of course, the whole set could be imaginary, as would be the set of all blue unicorns--or, in fact, as mathematical sets are (numbers don't exist as such; there's no "2" anywhere).
These things are of no real interest for us; I just put the term in for the sake of completeness.
DEFINITION: A system is a set which has some kind of real unity to it. The elements are somehow connected, and the system behaves in some way as a unit.
DEFINITION: The unit that makes up a set is called an element.
In systems, then, there is some respect by which you can say that it is really many, and some other respect by which you can say that it is one. Having seen what we have seen about existence, that existence is activity, or to be is to do, we can now say the following:
TWENTIETH CONCLUSION: A system consists of many activities (existences) united by some sort of activity.
Not surprisingly, if the system is many activities connected by an activity, you will find that it acts in many ways and also that these many acts somehow act together so that you can also say that the system is doing something.
DEFINITION: The unifying energy of the system is the act that connects the elements together making the system a system.
I have made a leap here, actually. It turns out that spiritual activities are not systems, but single activities, for reasons that would take a much more extended analysis to establish. It's basically connected with what we said about consciousness as spiritual: that it reacts to itself, and knows itself. This means that the spiritual act contains the whole of itself within itself as a kind of "part" of itself. But of course, the part is the whole, and the part contains the whole within it, since there's only one act there. That is, your knowing-that-you-are-seeing-this-page contains the "seeing the page" within it as part of the whole act; but the "seeing the page,"since it's conscious, contains the knowing that you are seeing the page within it, or it would not be consciousness at all.
As I said, it's very complicated to establish this; and if you think that what I've said about finite being is confusing, you don't know what "confusing" means. Suffice it that, in the spiritual, the "whole" contains the "part" and the "part" contains the "whole" in one single act, not a system of interconnected acts. And for that reason, spiritual acts are units rather than systems; the multiplicity is not a real multiplicity, as if one aspect were really not the other.
So whenever you have a system, it is actually forms of energy connected by a form of energy I am calling the "unifying energy."
Let us look at a few systems. In the case of the solar system, the elements are the sun and the planets, and the unifying energy is the gravitational energy that keeps it together. The whole system orbits around the center of the galaxy, and as a whole exerts a gravitational attraction on other stars (though to an infinitesimal degree).
This is a very weak case of a system, since all sorts of things can happen on one of the planets, and this makes no difference whatever to any of the other ones; so the planets behave mainly as units, and only very secondarily as parts of a greater unit.
A somewhat more tightly unified system would be an army. Here, the unifying energy is the commands of the superiors making the soldiers cooperate and do what belongs to their particular roles in the maneuver. In this way, the army "behaves as a fighting unit," and is far more effective than just a bunch of people who have banded together without any clear internal structure. The difference can be seen in the United States army as it fought against the Indians; they were perhaps braver (and possibly smarter), and sometimes as well armed, but they were disorganized and no match for the disciplined troops who fought them. So in this case, though the army is more obviously a number of people than it is "one" something, the unity is palpably there.
A still tighter unity exists in something like a table, which is pieces of wood that are glued and screwed together, so that we tend to think of it as "a" table rather than a system of interacting pieces of wood. That's what it is, though; the pieces of wood are so arranged that some support others, and so it is the table as a whole that supports the weight of the food and so forth placed upon it. Here, the unity is as important as the multiplicity; the pieces are tightly connected together, and one of them can't act without its affecting the others.
If you then look at a single piece of wood, the unity is even more apparent. It is hard even to think of it as a system of interacting molecules of wood--which is, of course, what it is. It is a very tightly unified system, that is all, so tightly unified that it is more convenient to stress the unification and consider it as acting as a unit rather than as many interconnected elements.
Nevertheless, if you cut the piece of wood in two (which takes a good deal of effort, which shows that the unifying energy is a strong one), you wind up with--two pieces of wood. So the fact that the piece as you have it is a certain size (i.e. that it has this many molecules interacting in it) doesn't really make much difference to it.
But things change when you get down to a single molecule of the wood. Now of course, this is made up of carbon atoms, hydrogen atoms, and oxygen atoms, all interacting in a certain way (the molecular structure of the wood molecule). Note that you might have the same atoms, possibly even the same number of atoms, but if they were "configured" differently, the result might be, say, bamboo or even lettuce rather than wood. To take another example, there are many different kinds of sugars, which, if I recall correctly, are all C6H12O6; but sucrose is different from dextrose, which is different from glucose or fructose, and so on, depending on what the atoms are doing to each other (i.e. the form of the unifying energy).
And the interesting thing is that if you break up the molecule, you don't, as in the case of the piece of wood, get wood, you get something that behaves in a completely different way. It isn't recognizably wood any more at all. So we have a new situation here, one that deserves a new name.
DEFINITION: A body is a system whose unity is so tight that it behaves in significant ways differently from the sum of its parts.
DEFINITION: The unit that makes up a body is called a part.
Thus, the body is "really" a unit, and acts, first and foremost, as a unit; but it is also, in a secondary sense, a multiplicity of parts that are interacting. In fact, when you get to living bodies, the unity is so significant that the unifying energy actually builds the parts for the sake of their function within the unit; that is, for the particular activity that they enable the unit to perform or not perform. So, you didn't begin your existence with an eye; your unifying energy ("reading," as it were the plan of your genetic structure) built a pair of eyes so that you could see by means of them. But it is you who see with your eyes; it isn't your eyes which see. In fact, your eyes can't see, since the consciousness takes place in the brain; if you have perfectly intact eyes and a severed optic nerve so that the impulses don't get to the brain, you're blind. So what really acts in the case of the body is the unit.
9.1.1. The unifying energy
Since a body is first and foremost a unit and only secondarily a multiplicity, then obviously the unifying energy is the most significant thing about it. It may not be able to exist without parts, and it might act somewhat differently depending on what the parts are; but the main facts about it are going to be due to the unifying energy. That is, you know that if you cut off your left arm, you won't be able to pick up things the way you used to; but it's clear that you still exist. (Notice, however, that you can't call the arm a "part" of you any more. It just decays, and doesn't even look like an arm after quite a short time, while the rest of your body continues in equilibrium because it is still unified with the same unifying energy.)
Similarly, you take in new molecules (new parts) every day and discard old ones that don't perform their proper function any more; and so, though you probably don't have any of the parts you started out with, you are still one and the same body, since you have the same unifying energy connecting all those new parts.
First practical conclusion from this investigation: Since the body is a unit first and a multiplicity second, it follows that the unity pervades the whole body. Thus, for instance, a woman is different as a unit from a man; everything about her is different, though not wholly different, from a man (since they're both human). But it is absurd to talk of "sex-change" operations as if they actually changed the sex of the person, when all they did was mutilate one part and add hormones artificially. A woman's genetic structure is different from a man's; and so is her skeletal structure, her musculature, her endocrine system, her metabolism, her nervous system, her psychology. None of this is changed in the "sex-change" operation, and so the man who has one is still a male afterwards, who can only pretend that he is a woman.
Similarly, those who say that "gender" differences are due to training and society fly in the face of the objective evidence, and are discovering that their attempt to create a "uni-sex" society are backfiring; because men and women are not trained to be different, they are different, and since to be is to do, they necessarily will behave differently.
This, of course, does not imply that one sex is "superior" to the other. (By the way, the term is "sex," not "gender." "Gender" is a grammatical term that applies to words. In languages like French, even inanimate things have either masculine or feminine gender, like la pipe, "the pipe," which is feminine. Further, the genders are masculine and feminine, not male and female. Anything can have a gender; only what can have sex has sex.) Male and female are sub-classes of humans, and differ qualitatively, not quantitatively. Men are a different kind of human (their form of existence is different) from women, not a greater or lesser degree of human.
But to return to the argument about multiple units, lest you think that I have now given up phenomenology, let me show you how the reasoning goes to establish that there really are such things as bodies. Believe it or not, this has been denied by very famous and very brilliant philosophers, such as Immanuel Kant, who held that it is the organizing, unfying function of my mind that collects the disparate impressions together into a unity. So the unity is not due to the existence "out there" but to the structure of the mind "in here."
The idea he had was that the mind is a bit like, let us say, a black-and-white television tube. The picture on the tube is only in a secondary sense due to the electrons that are being shot from the electron gun at the screen. What happens is that the gun shoots the electrons in a stream across the top of the screen, then back the next row, and then forth again slightly farther down, and so back and forth to the bottom of the screen. Now where there's actually an electron, the screen has a bright spot on it, and where there isn't one, the spot is black. It just so happens that this pattern of electrons-and-no-electrons is such that, as the beam goes back and forth down the screen, the black and white dots merge together with the ones above and below them to form a picture. And of course, no matter what produced the electrons, the picture is always going to be (a) two-dimensional, and (b) in varying shades of gray, just because of the structure of the television tube.
So Kant developed an elaborate scheme to show that the only reason you think in terms of bodies and so on is not because there are bodies "out there," (though there may be, for all we know), but because it's impossible for you to think of a multiple unit without organizing the data in a certain way. And depending on how you organize it, you get the various kinds of multiple units.
It's a very ingenious scheme, and there are still a lot of people who subscribe to it, or to some development that has it as its roots. But there's again a rough-and-ready indication that it can't be right, and a more rigorous way to establish that it isn't.
If my mind were the sole explanation of the unity of multiple units, then how could I distinguish between sets, systems, and bodies? In fact, in a set, my consciousness (which is aware of itself, remember) recognizes that it is doing the unifying, and there's no unity being forced upon it that it can't control. This is analogous to the distinction I made earlier about imagining and perceiving; if there were no real world, it would be impossible to make such a distinction, because the cause would be identical in all cases, and identical causes have identical effects. Similarly here, if the mind were the "unifier," then all multiple units would appear the same, and they clearly don't.
Further (and this is the more rigorous proof), when I see a person (a body) get up and leave the room, I see his color go along with him, and his shape, and his height, and all his other aspects. They all "go around together." But when he gets up from the chair, only that "set" of acts gets up. The chair (i.e. that "set of appearances" I call the chair) stays put.
Now if I (i.e. my mind) is unifying the appearances into the "appearance of the object," why is it that I must unifying all of the appearances of the person into this multiple unit and distinguish it from this other multiple unit which I am also forced to "keep together." Identical causes have identical effects. If the mind did the unifying, there'd be nothing to pick out which appearances went into which unit; the whole thing would be either one colossal multiple unit (the whole of your experience would be of one body), or (supposing I can manipulate my own consciousness, as when I imagine creatively), you would be able to unify whatever you chose into whatever unity you chose. So you could make a "person-chair" out of the set of appearances that is John sitting in the chair; and so when John got up, all the appearances of the chair would have to get up along with him, just because you decreed that it be so.
Obviously, this is the opposite of what happens. And therefore,
TWENTY-FIRST CONCLUSION: Bodies really exist; the fact that we see them as multiple units has to be due to the fact that they really are multiple units.
Once again I hear you saying, "Well, thrills! All of that agony to say that when I look at my mother, there's really something there!" Ah, but if you knew how many otherwise intelligent people's brilliant reasoning forced them into the logical position of having to say, "But you don't really know this; in fact, you don't know that your mother is anything more than a set of colors and shapes and sounds and so on that you choose to consider as if she were a real 'substance.'"
You see, it's only if you get very brilliant that you can work your way back through the smokescreen of sophistical reasoning to the obvious truths that you've known since you were three years old.
Having established, then, that there is a unifying energy in a body, which is the primary activity of the body (otherwise it would be a mere system), what can we say about it?
First of all, you have to be clear about what this unifying energy is. The unifying energy is the interacting of the parts; it is the fact that each part is acting on the others, connecting itself with them in a dynamic way so that the whole interconnected mass operates together as a unit. It is not a distinct, "foreign" act that somehow "gets into" the body like a drill sergeant and starts ordering the parts around. The unifying energy is not distinct from what the parts are doing to each other. That is, in fact, all that it is.
So from the point of view of one of the parts, the unifying energy is a kind of set of "forces" connecting it with each of the other parts in various ways, and so from its point of view, the unifying energy appears as a multiplicity.
This shouldn't be too surprising. We've run into another mode of the finite. Here, the unity "multiplizes" itself, so to speak, at the same time the multiplicity (the parts) unify themselves. They unify themselves by something that to each unit among them is many, but to the body looked at as a whole is the basic unifier. From the point of view of the body as a whole, the unifying energy is a kind of "internal field," or "shaping" of the dynamic "space" within the body, with the various parts at various "energy-levels" within that dynamic space. In any case, the unity contains its opposite, multiplicity, within it defining it as the dynamic unity of a body, and not just the kind of "unity" that a single act has.
Now then, since the unifying energy is the controlling energy of the body as a whole, we can say this:
TWENTY-SECOND CONCLUSION: The form of the unifying energy is what determines what kind of body the body is.
This should be obvious, once you think about it. The kind of food you eat (the stuff that your body is made up of, the ultimate parts) have nothing to do with what sort of body you have. Vegetarians are as human as people who eat nothing but meat and salad, as are those who scarf down a bunch of Big Macs and fries every day. (They may be more or less healthy humans, but they're still human.)
Notice that you don't even necessarily have to have the "right" parts, in the sense of the natural ones, either the ones your own unifying energy built to begin with (though these are the parts it "wants," and it tries to reject anything else; but you can block the rejection, since it takes place by a definite mechanism). If you get a heart transplant, for instance, your body stays the same body, even with someone else's heart. You can even stay the same if you get a plastic heart implanted in you. All you need is something there that acts like a pump (in other words, that performs the function that the natural part does). So it's the unifying energy rather than the parts that make the human being human, the dog a dog, the elm tree and elm tree, and so on.
It isn't even the genetic structure of your cells that makes you a human being, because when you die and your body is a corpse, it's a different kind of thing, even though all the cells in that corpse have the human genetic structure. Even living human cells with human genetic structure don't make the cell mass a human being, because there are such things as tissue cultures of human skin cells that can be kept alive by feeding them; but they always stay human skin cells and never behave like a human being (until they're grafted onto a living human being, of course)--and yet every one of these cells in the culture has the total human genetic structure of the person the cells were taken from.
So even though the human genetic structure is necessary for the human being to exist, it is not sufficient, since there are things that are not human that have it; so it's a condition for something's being a human being.
How is having the human genetic structure a condition (in our technical sense of the term: the cause of the cause)? Because the cause of the humanity of any living body is the unifying energy; but the unifying energy takes its form from the genetic structure.
To put all this another way, the way the parts of the body are acting on each other makes the body the given kind of body. This "way" depends on what sort of genetic structure is in the original gamete (the fertilized egg), because it uses that "set of instructions" to "shape" itself (or to shape the internal field); but it is different from the instructions it "reads."
Note that this should solve the issue connected with abortion. When you abort a human fetus, are you killing a human being or not?
You are if the fetus has is own distinct and human unifying energy. You're not if (while it's inside the mother) it's a part like a heart, which is a complex structure with its own "unifying energy," but with a "unifying energy" that depends on and is subordinate to the unifying energy of the whole body. Remember, the body is first and foremost a unit, so the unity of the parts themselves (if they're complex) is a subordinate and secondary unity to the unity of the whole. What really exists is a single body, not heart plus lungs plus stomach plus liver plus bones, etc.
Unfortunately, in trying to find out the answer to this question, we run smack into the following:
TWENTY-THIRD CONCLUSION: The unifying energy is not observable from outside the body.
The reason for this should be obvious. It is nothing but what the parts are doing to each other to unify them into a single unit (which, as a unit, separates itself from every other being). But anything that would be able to observe the unifying energy would have to be acted on by it (how else would you observe it?). But in that case, it would by definition be a part.
As we saw, if you got some observing instrument inside the body, this wouldn't help, because the unifying energy would recognize it as a foreign body which happened to be inside, and would reject it and try to expel it. The one thing it wouldn't do is interact with it (unless this foreign body were performing a function for the body as a whole and you blocked the rejection mechanism, as with a transplanted heart). But in that case, it would be a part.(1)
But it's not hopeless. We can infer what kind of unifying energy is there from the behavior of the body as a whole. We will see this in more detail later; but it should be obvious on the face of it.
We can, for instance, settle whether a human embryo or fetus is a part of the mother or not. Since the body is first and foremost a unit, then the parts function for the sake of the whole. If the fetus acts independently of the mother while it's in the uterus, and especially if it acts against the well-being of the mother, then it's clear that it has its own distinct unifying energy, and is a different body which happens to be located temporarily inside the mother.
And there is all kinds of evidence, increasing every day as we study embryology and fetology, to indicate that the embryo or fetus is a distinct, other body. The mother actually tries to reject its implantation, and it produces chemicals that block the rejection; its development often causes morning sickness, even at the early stages, and any woman will tell you that this hardly enhances her well-being; it will take chemicals like calcium from the mother if it doesn't have enough for its own development from the food, leaving the mother's body with a calcium deficiency while it develops normally; and so on.
So it's definitely the case that whatever the human embryo or fetus is, it's not a part of the mother, but a distinct body in its own right.
But is it a unit, particularly at the early stages, and not just a mass of cells like a tissue culture? It would seem that this is so, because at the early stages, if you separate some of the cells off, they will develop into a distinct other human being with the same genetic structure. That's how identical twins come about, in fact.
But this does not establish that the mass is not a unit, with the parts interacting. You can separate off a branch from a geranium and plant it and it will grow into a twin of the original plant; but that doesn't mean that the geranium plant wasn't a "real" unit, a body and was "merely" a system. Obviously that's false, because the plant takes in food that's not like a geranium and transforms it into the geranium; so the unifying energy is the main actor here. It's just that the unifying energy can also unify a part that's cut off, because the geranium, though a unit, is a relatively simple unit.
And the evidence that the embryo is a unit is that the development is orderly right up to adulthood. This "mass" of cells by no means has the individual cells "doing their own thing" in disregard of the others; they are developing in an extremely ordered way, and each one has its own definite role to play in what's going to happen to the whole. So the unifying energy, whatever it is, is there, and so the embryo is a body from the very start.
But is it a human body, or is it something that is in a kind of "pre-human" condition, and only later will have the human unifying energy. This would seem a silly question, except for the fact that we have organisms like caterpillars and butterflies, in which one single body undergoes a radical transformation, builds new parts, and has the parts interact in a completely different way. A caterpillar will die if you feed it nectar, and the butterfly can't survive eating leaves. So the caterpillar and butterfly are one individual body, but two different kinds of bodies.
But is the fetus like that? Here is where we have to infer what kind of unifying energy is acting within the body by looking at what the body as a whole is doing. I argued just above that the caterpillar and butterfly were two different kinds of body because the parts were different, and the parts had different functions; the body as a whole behaved in a completely different way.
But one of the first organs that the human embryo develops is the eye, which is totally useless for its life inside the uterus; and in fact, all of the organs (except the umbilical cord) are organs that make sense only for its human life of seeing, walking, talking, and so on once it gets outside the uterus. Thus, the unifying energy is from the very start building a body that is adapted to human life and no other; and so it flies in the face of embryonic development to assert that it's organized in a different way inside than outside the uterus.
PRACTICAL CONCLUSION from this metaphysical investigation: The human embryo/fetus is, from the very beginning, a human being. So if you kill a fetus or an embryo, you're killing a human being. In other words, abortion is homicide, whatever the intention or belief of the people who have it or perform it.
It's interesting that the investigation at this very abstract level can have such a practical solution. In fact, it is this sort of investigation that is the only way to solve the problem objectively. Biology alone can't do it, because biologically speaking a tissue culture of human cells is as "human" as a ten-year-old boy; and a caterpillar and butterfly are the same "species," biologically, even though they're two different kinds of thing.
Now then, is there anything else we can say about the unifying energy? If the form of the unifying energy determines the kind of body, it shouldn't be surprising that we can draw the following:
TWENTY-FOURTH CONCLUSION: The quantity of the unifying energy determines the individual of the particular kind of body.
That is, you and I are human because our parts are interacting with each other in basically the same way. You are a different human being from me because this interaction in you is a different degree from the interaction of my parts. In other words, the unification of the body, while it may be the same type of unification, is more or less energetic, and it's these different energy-levels of the unifying energy which make for the difference between individuals of the same kind of body.
Aristotle, who was the first to talk about the primary activity of the body (though he didn't call it a unification of parts, exactly), thought that what made the individual differences was that each of us was different "stuff" that got unified (different matter, is how the tradition referred to it.)
But we can see now that the body doesn't depend on what "stuff" makes it up, since we change the "stuff" all the time and have not only the same kind of body, but the same individual body. I'm still as short as I was when I was in my twenties, unfortunately, and no amount of eating is going to add an inch to my height (though it may to my waistline; the excess has to go somewhere). The point is that I'm not just "human" all the time, I'm "this human" all my life long, no matter what chemicals are inside me.
Later philosophers, Plotinus and after him St. Thomas, saw that it is limitation that differentiates things that are the same; and so they held that the matter was really "what limits" the form, "receiving" it as if it were a kind of dish or bottle, which individualized it.
But this has the same problem I had with the "transcendental relation" between existence and form, as if the existence and the form were "somethings" that were connected together.
So I think it isn't the "stuff" we're made of which limits the form; the form's limitation is intrinsic to the form itself; it is its quantity, and it is the quantified form that pulls "stuff" in to build the various parts of the body which then allows the body to function as a unit.
Hence, I am not even going to use the term "substantial form" and "matter." They are misleading, confusing, and, I think, in part false. I will talk only about the unifying energy and its quantity, which, with all the discussion of the finite we have had, should be fairly clear by now.
Now of course, you can't measure the quantity of the unifying energy of a body, for the same reason that you can't observe the form of the unifying energy: the energy is private to the body, and excludes all foreign objects. Still, it is obvious that some bodies as a whole are "more energetic" than others, and this confirms empirically what we have concluded must be the case if there is more than one instance of a given kind of body.
Another interesting practical conclusion from this is that no two human beings are created equal. "Equal" is a quantitative term. Every human being is qualitatively the same as every other (we all have the same form of unifying energy); and in this sense you can say that any human being, however weak or retarded is "as human" as any other. But human beings differ precisely in the degree of their unifying energy, and so no two are equal.
Now of course, what Jefferson meant was that there are no "natural classes" of human beings, so that if you are born of two parents that happen to be nobles, your "blood" or your genetics is different from the children of two commoners. In fact, the American experiment is an opportunity for the quantitative individual differences between human beings to flourish, by not putting people into categories just because of the accident of their birth. If you were born of a farmer's daughter and a piano tuner, it does not follow that it's hopeless for you to try to become a philosopher.
Unfortunately, too many have taken Jefferson's "self-evident truth" literally, and we have the "dumbing down" of the excellent and talented because we don't want them to be "unequal" to the inept and stupid. What a pity! Because, of course, it won't work in the long run, since we are unequal, and the inequality will show up.
9.2. Bodies and their behavior
We come now to what was traditionally referred to as the "substance and accident" distinction, in which the "substance" is the "real reality," and the "accidents" are forms of existence that "attach" to it somehow, whose reality in one sense is the reality of the "substance," but in another sense isn't, because the accident is not all that the substance is. Sounds like another mode of the finite, doesn't it?
What the tradition refers to as the "substance" is what I have been calling the "body," and so I'm going to go on calling it the "body." It is the unified multiplicity of the parts.
Now not surprisingly, since this body is both a one and a many, it acts like something that is simultaneously a unit and a multiplicity; and so it has a series of behaviors that are proper to it as this particular unified multiplicity.
DEFINITION: A behavior or property of a body is an act the body performs because it is a given set of parts unified with a given unifying energy.
The behaviors are called "properties" because they reveal the body as a whole. A person is what a person does, you might say; or better, what a person does is because of and a manifestation of what he is--what he is as human and what he is as this individual human.
And these behaviors depend, not only on the unifying energy, but on the parts too. Cut off your hand, and you can't pick up things. Damage your heart, and you can't run fast or for any length of time. The unifying energy is still there, but the parts it uses are not or are defective; and so the body as a whole can't do what it used to be able to do.
DEFINITION: The nature of a body is the body, looked as as the "power" to perform its behaviors or properties.
Thus, what is revealed by the properties is the nature. What is actually revealed is the body as a whole, but from the point of view of its being the ability to perform this and that act. Hence, it is my nature as human (my specific nature) to talk and write and walk on two legs and so on; it is my individual nature to write philosophy, to lift weights of a certain heaviness, to talk with a certain accent, and so on.
One of the reasons I don't like the word "accidents" when referring to these behaviors is that there's nothing accidental about them. They're not something that "happens to" the body; they're what the body does, and since to be is to do (as we have seen so often), they're what the body is.
So when somebody asks you "What do you do?" and you tell him what your work is, he takes that answer as meaning that this type of activity characterizes you as you, because it is your distinctive activity. It is your nature to do this sort of thing, because this is what you mainly do. It defines you.
Note that this implies that you can't really "distinguish the sin from the sinner." A person who steals is a thief. If he steals something just once, then he's not much of a thief, but he's a thief nonetheless, because you can't say, "Oh, he's not a thief, he just does it." It's part of his nature as an individual to steal (or, to have stolen). So if you "love the sinner and hate the sin," you're being a hypocrite, because the sinner's reality his activity, his existence is the act of sinning. (Of course, the solution here is not to "hate the sinner," which implies that you can't "hate the sin" either. The sin is something to be avoided, not hated.)
Now of course, no individual act of behavior is the body's whole existence, (i.e. the only act it is performing); and in fact, not even the whole set of behaviors you perform is your existence, because you are also a set of parts that is unified in a certain way to a certain degree. Each of the parts has its own (sub-)existence, and the whole has its existence, which is the existence of the unifying energy.
But the body also has this secondary "set" of existences which are its behaviors. These acts have no existence of their own; they are the existence (activity) of the unit, the body, and reveal the nature of the body, as I said. So it is the body which is "emptying itself" into this or that act, making its existence just this manifestation of itself; it both is this existence and is greater than this existence. So the behavior is precisely a mode of the finiteness of the multiple unit which is behaving in this way.
That is, the whole body "contains" these acts, but not as parts of itself; it performs its behaviors; it doesn't unify them the way it unifies the parts into a single whole. So each behavior both is and is not the body; it is nothing but the body, and is the body's existence; but it is not equal to what it is to be this body. Nor is the body the behavior, or even the sum of all its behaviors, since essentially it is the parts unified into the whole, whether as a whole it performs external acts or not. In fact, in living bodies, the body may not be performing all the acts it can perform at the moment, as when an animal goes to sleep, and you can't tell it from a corpse unless you look closely--and yet at a moment's noise, for instance, it leaps awake and starts barking or running. So the body is less than what it is when it is active; it is simply the potential to perform acts that it may or may not be performing; and it exists fully when it's acting out its behaviors. Hence, the body is both less than and greater than any of its behaviors and even the sum total of all of them; its existence restricts itself into just a body.
Note also that the unity of the body is revealed in the behaviors, because they reveal the body as a whole, not only the unifying energy, but the unifying energy as unifying these particular parts; and so the unity of the body "finds itself," so to speak, in its multiple behaviors; but by the same token, the multiplicity of the body (the many parts) "empties itself" into a behavior, since this behavior also reveals that the body is not just a unit, but a multiple unit. So the unity is contained in the multiplicity, and the multiplicity is contained in the unity. The being contains in several different senses what is not itself as identical with itself; and in several different senses is greater than itself and less than itself; and, by the same token, in several different senses is different from itself.
Again, if this makes the body sound like a conundrum and not something intelligible, this is not because I have a love for making things mysterious so that I can sound "profound." I am just telling it like it is; but when you tell the finite "like it is," then you necessarily get into saying contradictory things about it, because everything finite is an effect just because it is finite.
It's not surprising, by the way, that when you push the analysis of any facet of finite reality far enough, you bump up against the unintelligibility of finiteness; because, after all, everything about a finite existence is bound to be finite.
But you can see how this makes a mockery out of the scientistic dogma that eventually science will be able to describe the world so that it makes perfectly rational sense without having to assume that there is something "supernatural" like God. Scientists will be able to do this in the future in the only way they have been able to do it in the past: by ignoring huge chunks of the evidence. I have nothing against what science discovers using its method; it's when it extrapolates from its meager findings and says, "this and that will some day turn out to be true" when these statements directly contradict what the known facts are, that I question science's intelligence or intellectual integrity.
There is one final remark about bodies and their behaviors that I want to stress before I close this chapter: the apparently static properties of a body are really activities it is performing.
That is, the color is actually the act the body performs when light hits the molecules and knocks some electrons into what is called an "excited state." They have absorbed an excess of energy that the body can't support, and so they get rid of the particular amount of energy by radiating it out as a certain frequency (color) of light. The weight of a body is its reaction to the pull of the earth's gravity; it's hardness or solidity is its resistance to your hand when you try to put your hand through it; its inertia is another form of its resistance to your attempt to move it from one place to another--and so on and so on.
These acts seem to be "static" because they are constant. But the fact that they're not changing doesn't mean they're not active. To be is to do; and so a property--a way something is--is in fact a behavior--what something is doing.
But this mentioning of activity as not necessarily involving change leads us into the final chapter. What is change, anyway?
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER 9
There are many ways we can think of multiple units. From the least unified to the most, a set is a multiplicity that is thought of as a unit, whether it has any real unity or not. The units of a set are members. Mere sets have no real unification; the objects are just lumped together in our minds, as the set of all red objects. A system is a set that has a real unity, something connecting the elements, which are the units, and it behaves in some way as a unit, like the solar system or an army or a table or a piece of wood. The unifying energy is the act that connects the elements together into a unit; it can be weaker or stronger, making the system less or more unified. A body is a system whose unity is so tight that it behaves in significant ways differently from the sum of the parts, which are what its units are called. And example is a chemical molecule, which, when split, no longer acts like the molecule at all, or a living body, whose unifying energy even builds the parts for their function in the whole. In the case of a body, what really acts is the unit through the parts, not the "parts-as-interconnected." A practical conclusion from this is that women are different from men as a whole; they are not identical except for a few parts; everything about a woman is different from the corresponding aspect of a man. This does not imply superiority or inferiority, however, women are have a different form of humanity from men, not a different degree of it.
Phenomenologically, the philosophy of Immanuel Kant and his followers is mistaken. They held that it was the unifying structure of my mind that accounted for the unity of the appearance, not some unity that is "out there." But in that case (a) we would not be able to distinguish sets from systems from bodies, since identical causes produce identical effects, and the mind would be the sole unifier in all these cases; and (b) our minds are forced to unify some parts of our visual field into one object (all of whose characteristics stay together) and separate this unit from other units within the same visual field. That has to mean that the cause forcing the mind to unifying only this set of characteristics has to be information coming from outside, since we can't choose what part of our perception is to be an object. 21st conclusion: Bodies really exist.
The unifying energy is really the interaction of the parts: what they are doing to each other to connect each other into a functioning unit; and so from the point of each part, the unifying energy appears to be multiple "forces" connecting it to each other part. This means that we have another mode of the finite, since the unity contains multiplicity and the multiplicity contains unity within itself.
22nd conclusion: The form of the unifying energy determines the kind of body. This is true because the unifying energy in a body is the primary act and the controlling act. This is confirmed by the fact that by eating we change our parts but remain the same body; and even artificial parts that have the right function can be put into the body, and it stays the same as a whole. So the way the parts behave together is what makes the body the kind of body which it is.
One can apply this to abortion. First, the embryo or fetus is not part of the mother, because parts act for the benefit of the whole, and the embryo and fetus act in various ways independently of and even against the interest of the mother. So the fetus is a distinct body. It is a unified body, even in the earliest stages when "twinning" is possible, because the cell mass is organized in an orderly way for development right through to adulthood. And the fetus has the human unifying energy, unlike a caterpillar and butterfly (which have two different kinds of unifying energy), because the parts built within the uterus make no sense for intrauterine life, but only for life after birth; and this building of "only-later-usable" parts occurs right from the beginning. So the unifying energy is the same one the body will have after birth, which means that the body is a human being; and therefore, abortion is homicide. The following is true, however: 23rd conclusion: the unifying energy is not observable from outside the body, precisely because anything it acts on is a part (because what it does is unify what it acts on into the body). But what the unifying energy is can be inferred from the behavior of the body as a whole, as we just did in the case of the fetus.
We can also say the following: 24th conclusion: the quantity of the unifying energy determines the individual of the particular kind of body. Unlike the traditional theory, in which the "stuff" the body is made of is what individuates it, it is the limitation of the unifying energy (its quantity) which actually does this job, as can be seen from the fact that living bodies change the "stuff" in the body all their lives, and yet remain not only the same kind of body but the same individual. Of course, even though the unifying energy is quantified, it can't in practice be measured, because the measuring instrument would be recognized by it as a foreign object, and so the unifying energy wouldn't act on it (and so the instrument wouldn't be able to detect it).
A practical conclusion from quantity is individuating is that no two human beings are equal. "Equal" implies "the same in quantity," and no two humans have exactly the same quantity of human unifying energy. Humans are the same in form, not quantity, and so we are all the same, but are not equal. (What Jefferson meant is that "noble blood" does not put you in a special class of humans. Human quantitative differences apply to individuals, not classes of people.)
Traditionally, the fact that bodies, as multiple units, behave in multiple ways has been called the "substance-accident" distinction, which is an unhappy use of words on several counts. There is nothing "accidental" to the acts, and they do not "attach" themselves to the "substance" (the body); they are a mode of the finite existence of the body as a whole. A behavior or property is an act the body performs because it is a given set of parts unified with a given unifying energy; the behaviors are "properties" because they reveal the body as a whole, not just the parts and not just the unifying energy. If you lack a part like a hand, you behave differently (with the same unifying energy); if your unifying energy is different, your behavior will be different. The nature of the body is in fact the body itself, but considered as the power or potential to perform the behaviors. Thus, the behaviors, technically, reveal the nature; but this means that what they reveal is the body (because, as it exists it is capable of doing these acts). "Nature" then is just a point of view from which to consider what is in fact the body as a whole.
Any behavior is in fact the activity and therefore the existence of the body as a whole; but it is not the whole of the existence of the body. So, not only does the one body reveal its unity by its multiple behaviors, the body is clearly greater than any behavior, and so it "lessens itself" when it behaves; but by the same token, the non-behaving body is less than the behavior, since as such it is only the potential to act, and the act is the existence. The behavior, as existence, is greater than the body as mere potential; but it is also less than the body because it is not the full existence of the body. This is also true of the sum of all behaviors of the body, since they leave out the parts and their unification.
Hence, the body and its behaviors is another mode of finiteness. Note that since the act and its limitation are one and the same, it also follows that the body can't be separated from its behaviors. You are what you do, even though any given act you perform is not all there is to you. A person who steals once is a thief; this is his nature.
Note that even apparently static properties are really behaviors. Color is the reaction of the body to light (re-radiating out certain wave lengths); weight is the reaction to the pull of the earth, and so on. These are thought to be "static" and not active, not because there is no activity going on, but because they are stable and constant acts.
1. I might point out that something like this sort of thing is sometimes done, in, for instance, giving radioactive chemicals such as iodine to patients who have thyroid problems. The only place the body uses iodine is in the thyroid gland, and so the radioactive iodine goes there, where (because it's radioactive) it can be traced. But even this doesn't really tell you how it's interacting with the other parts of the body; it just tells you where this particular part is.