§3. Fact

 

433. The same conclusion can be reached by another line of thought. There are different kinds of existence. There is the existence of physical actions, there is the existence of psychical volitions, there is the existence of all time, there is the existence of the present, there is the existence of material things, there is the existence of the creations of one of Shakespeare's plays, and, for aught we know, there may be another creation with a space and time of its own in which things may exist. Each kind of existence consists in having a place among the total collection of such a universe. It consists in being a second to any object in such universe taken as first. It is not time and space which produce this character. It is rather this character which for its realization calls for something like time and space.

434. When we speak of a fact as individual, or not general, we mean to attribute to it two characters each of which is altogether peculiar to facts. One of these is the character just described, the other having a mode of being independent of any qualities or determinations, or, as we may say, having brute fighting force, or self-assertion. The individual fact insists on being here irrespective of any reason, whether it be true or not that when we take a broader view we are able to see that, without reason, it never could have been endowed with that insistency. This character makes a gulf between the individual fact and the general fact, or law, as well as between the individual fact and any quality, or mere possibility, which only mildly hopes it won't be intruding. But besides that character, individuality implies another, which is that the individual is determinate in regard to every possibility, or quality, either as possessing it or as not possessing it. This is the principle of excluded middle, which does not hold for anything general, because the general is partially indeterminate; and any philosophy which does not do full justice to the element of fact in the world (of which there are many, so remote is the philosopher's high walled garden from the market place of life, where fact holds sway), will be sure sooner or later to become entangled in a quarrel with this principle of excluded middle.

435. Thus far, in this section, attention has been called successively (but in no philosophical sequence) to six characteristic features of fact. In recollecting them, we may place at their head the circumstance that fact has distinct features, for this distinguishes it from quality although not from law. The others already examined have been as follows: second, facts are either accidentally actual or involve brute force; third, every fact has a here and now; fourth, fact is intimately associated with the dyad; fifth, every fact is the sum of its consequences; sixth, the existence of facts consists in fight; seventh, every fact is determinate in reference to every character. But in making our distribution of the elements of phenomena into quality, fact, and law, we were led to notice additional features of fact. I continue to take them up promiscuously.

436. The eighth feature of fact is that every fact has a subject, which is the grammatical subject of the sentence that asserts the existence of the fact. Indeed, in a logical sense, there are two subjects; for the fact concerns two things. One of these two subjects, at least, is a thing itself of the nature of fact, or we may express this in other words by saying that the existence of this subject is a fact. This subject is a thing. It has its here and now. It is the sum of all its characters, or consequences. Its existence does not depend upon any definition, but consists in its reacting against the other things of the universe. Of it every quality whatever is either true or false. That this subject, whose actions all have single objects, is material, or physical substance, or body, not a psychical subject, we shall see when we come to consider psychical subjects in discussing the nature of law. This does not in the least contradict idealism, or the doctrine that material bodies, when the whole phenomenon is considered, are seen to have a psychical substratum.

437. The ninth feature of fact is that every fact is connected with a reciprocal fact, which may, or may not, be inextricably bound up with it. If one body strikes upon another, that second body reciprocally strikes upon it; and the two facts are inseparable. But if one body is hard, there must be a second body of some degree of hardness for the former to resist. Yet the annihilation of the second body would [not] destroy the hardness of the first. It would not affect it; for any other body that might grow hard at any time and the first body, remaining unaffected, would realize its hardness whenever the impact with the other should happen to occur. Here, therefore, the reciprocal fact is not so inseparable from the other. If a solid body suddenly melts, it will at once flow into the vacant parts of its vessel; and the beginning to any such consequent fact will be a change reciprocal to the first change. But there is no particular consequence which will be inseparable from the melting, perhaps. There may or may not be. So we see that the division between facts inseparable from reciprocal facts is not coincident with a division of facts into those whose reciprocal facts are separable and those whose reciprocal facts are inseparable.

438. The tenth feature of fact, which has just been illustrated is that its natural classification takes place by dichotomies.

439. The eleventh feature of dual fact is that if it involves any variation in time, this variation consists of a change in the qualities of its subjects, but never the annihilation or production of those subjects. We may, indeed, conceive of an action by which something is produced or destroyed. But either a third subject will be concerned, so that the fact is one of those the study of which we have expressly postponed, or that which is produced or destroyed will be one of those facts whose reciprocal facts are separable. If a star suddenly bursts into view, when no external subject caused it to do so, then, just as the appearance will be irrefragable demonstration that something dark was there before, so the fact itself will constitute the previous existence of its subject. For this is the only method by which we can deduce metaphysical truths. Consequently, bodies, and the subjects of facts generally, are permanent and eternal.

440. The twelfth feature of fact is that it is accidental. That is to say, even if it involves brute force, and though that force be governed by a law which requires the acting body continually to exert this force, yet nevertheless the individual action is not involved in the existence of the fact, but on the contrary is something that can only happen by having a subject with an independent mode of being not dependent upon this nor upon any determination whatsoever. It is something which happens.

I have taken no pains to make this promiscuous list of properties of fact complete, having only cared that it should be sufficient to enable us to compare the characters of fact with those of duality and thus ultimately to attain an understanding of why all phenomena should be composed of quality, fact, and law.

 


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