§3. Fact

 

427. Next, what is fact?

As before, it is not the usage of language which we seek to learn, but what must be the description of fact in order that our division of the elements of phenomena into the categories of quality, fact, and law may not only be true, but also have the utmost possible value, being governed by those same characteristics which really dominate the phenomenal world. It is first requisite to point out something which must be excluded from the category of fact. This is the general, and with it the permanent or eternal (for permanence is a species of generality), and the conditional (which equally involves generality). Generality is either of that negative sort which belongs to the merely potential, as such, and this is peculiar to the category of quality; or it is of that positive kind which belongs to conditional necessity, and this is peculiar to the category of law. These exclusions leave for the category of fact, first, that which the logicians call the contingent, that is, the accidentally actual, and second, whatever involves an unconditional necessity, that is, force without law or reason, brute force.

428. It may be said that there is no such phenomenon in the universe as brute force, or freedom of will, and nothing accidental. I do not assent to either opinion; but granting that both are correct, it still remains true that considering a single action by itself, apart from all others and, therefore, apart from the governing uniformity, it is in itself brute, whether it show brute force or not. I shall presently point out a sense in which it does display force. That it is possible for a phenomenon in some sense to present force to our notice without emphasizing any element of law, is familiar to everybody. We often regard our own exertions of will in that way. In like manner, if we consider any state of an individual thing, putting aside other things, we have a phenomenon which is actual, but in itself is not necessitated. It is not pretended that what is here termed fact is the whole phenomenon, but only an element of the phenomenon — so much as belongs to a particular place and time. That when more is taken into account, the observer finds himself in the realm of law in every case, I fully admit. (Nor does that conflict with tychism.1))

429. On the other hand, if the view be limited to any part of the phenomenal world, however great, and this be looked upon as a monad, entirely regardless of its parts, nothing is presented to the observer but a quality. How much, then, must we attend to, in order to perceive the pure element of fact? There are certain occurrences which, when they come to our notice, we set down as »accidental.« Now, although there is really no more of the factual element in these than in other facts, yet the circumstance that we call them par excellence contingent, or »accidental,« would lead us to expect that which distinguishes the realm of fact from the realms of quality and of law, to be particularly prominent in them. We call such facts »coincidences,« a name which implies that our attention is called in them to the coming together of two things. Two phenomena, and but two, are required to constitute a coincidence; and if there are more than two no new form of relationship appears further than a complication of pairs. Two phenomena, whose parts are not attended to, cannot display any law, or regularity. Three dots may be placed in a straight line, which is a kind of regularity; or they may be placed at the vertices of an equilateral triangle, which is another kind of regularity. But two dots cannot be placed in any particularly regular way, since there is but one way in which they can be placed, unless they were set together, when they would cease to be two. It is true that on the earth two dots may be placed antipodally. But that is only one of the exceptions that prove the rule, because the earth is a third object there taken into account. So two straight lines in a plane can be set at right angles, which is a sort of regularity. But this is another rule proving exception, since <AOB is made equal to <BOC. Now those angles are distinguished by being formed of two different parts of the line AC; so that really three things, OA, OB, and OC are considered. So much for accidental actuality. The type of brute force is the exertion of animal strength. Suppose I have long ago determined how and when I will act. It still remains to perform the act. That element of the whole operation is purely brute execution. Now observe that I cannot exert strength all alone. I can only exert my strength if there be something to resist me. Again duality is prominent, and this time in a [more] obtrusively dual way than before, because the two units are in two different relations the one to the other. In the coincidence the two phenomena are related in one way to one another. It is a monoidal dyad. But in the exertion of strength, although I act on the object and the object acts on me, which are two relations of one kind and joined in one reaction, yet in each of these two relations there is an agent and a patient, a doer and a sufferer, which are in contrary attitudes to one another. So that the action consists of two monoid dyads oppositely situated.

 


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