from Power, Form, and Mind by Arthur Berndtson (1981) Lewisburg, Bucknell University Press; London and Toronto: Associated University Press


2. Ontological Foundations


1. The Principal Terms

In pursuit of the most general aspects or principles of being, this book will consider several distinctive terms: being, power, form, change, creativity, matter, mind, value, and God. Some of these terms clamor for instant treatment, for each that importunes is important in its own right and sheds light on other terms. But simultaneous discussion is not possible for human reason, which is discursive as well as structured, and it is not desirable for the understanding of grounds and consequents. In deference to the clamor, however, and in order that this book should have no more mystery than the subject requires, the major terms may be characterized briefly before intensive analysis begins. (44)

Being will be taken as the basic term in its area, in preference to such related and sometimes competing terms as reality, actuality, existence, and becoming. Being is simple and indefinable; it has no character or nature of its own; it is contingent. Nonbeing can be similarly described. It is incompatible with being but has ontological import nonetheless. (44)

Power is the primary carrier or vehicle of being: there is no being apart from power. Power will be defined as indeterminate intensity which tends as immanent causal ground toward change. It will be considered under two heads: infrequently as primordial power, which is one, spatially interpenetrating, and formless, and usually as finite power, which is many, spatially distinct, and typically formed. Power is experienced in the domain of mind, and it is inferred from physical changes. (44)

Form is the secondary carrier of being and the product of power in interaction with other power. It is defined as character determinate and unified; its species are qualities and relations. (44)

Universals do not have a monopoly on form; particular instances of red or of justice, considered apart from the power on which they depend, are also characters determinate and unified. As products of power, universals have no transcendent or timeless being; their reality is described by a mixture of conceptualism and moderate realism. (45)

Change is not itself a basic carrier of being, but it is a highly general being by virtue of its relation first to power and second to form. Change and endurance are reciprocals, which are inseparable and equal in being. Powers and forms change positions in space and in time, and forms come to be and cease. Endurance ultimately is of power, which is the same amid all changes of position and form. (45)

Creativity is taken in a limited but radical sense. It is not one, universal in space and time, and purposive, but many, finite and disconnected, and nonpurposive in its "earlier" instances. It consists of those factors which have a bearing on the production of novel beings, whether positional changes or forms. The primary factor is power, which is necessary for creation but does not guarantee creation, since the result of power may be negative as well as positive: creativity is contingent in power. Its secondary factor is form inherited from earlier acts of creation. Creativity is understood radically in this book, since all irreducible form is regarded as created in time, and its novelty eludes repetition and thus explanation. (45)

Matter is finite power formed by characters which are relational and spatial, involving defined boundary, shape, and size. Its resistance is due to contained power; its motion and impact are due to the same power in relation with external power similarly formed. (45)

Mind is finite power formed by characters which are qualitative and relational, involving consciousness, valuation, and symbolic function in an order of decreasing generality. The unit of mind is a feeling, which is dynamic tendency invested with some degree of consciousness. (45)

Value as such is distinct from what has value. A basic trait of value as such is an ought-to-be. The most general character of what has value is consciousness of power fulfilled in freedom. Value and what has value come into being with mind: value is not coextensive with being, or power, or form. There is no general teleology. (45, 46)

God, deity, or the holy will be considered as a character of human experience and as a being beyond man. The holy in human experience has unlimited importance. The holy in being is elusive. The tension between these two truths is the ultimate existential fact, problem, and anguish. (46)

The foregoing terms make it possible to define the parts of metaphysics. Primary ontology concerns being, which is being as such or being in itself or pure being. Secondary ontology deals with principles which are coextensive with being or nearly so: for this book, those principles are power, change, and form. Philosophical physics, or cosmology, studies the principles of being which are spatial and material. Philosophical psychology considers the principles of being which are mental. And philosophical theology deals with being as infinite, and draws accordingly on most or all of the preceding parts of metaphysics. For metaphysics, the basic distinction is between being and what has being, which causes the distinction between primary ontology and the remainder of metaphysics. What has being, if sufficiently general, is often confused with or otherwise identified with being, so that the two parts of ontology often merge in the history of metaphysics. And for materialists and ontological idealists, either matter or mind is deemed to be coextensive with being, so that philosophical physics or philosophical psychology moves into secondary ontology and, by virtue of the preceding sentence, may merge with primary ontology. (46)


2. Being: A Theory

There is some disagreement as to the most general and basic term in primary ontology. Five terms have some claim to serious consideration: being, reality, actuality, existence, and becoming. From Parmenides, Plato, and Aristotle to Heidegger and Sartre, being is taken as the basic and presumably the most general term, though it may at times be opposed to existence or becoming and thus lose generality. Reality is probably the basic ontological term in common discourse, where it signifies something final and beyond question to common thought; the philosopher may be influenced by this usage when, in pursuit of something whose reality is not to be doubted, he uses the phrase "really real." From its Latin source, res, signifying thing, "reality" has an intimation of the concrete, substantial, and temporal, which may limit the generality of the term. The term actuality has incisiveness and thrust in common discourse, and adherents for one ontological purpose or another in philosophy. It appears to be ambiguous, for it may signify something that acts and so is temporal, or something that is "pure act," is entirely free of potentiality, imperfection, and change, and thus is timeless. Existence usually is understood as temporal; in recent decades it has acquired the further import of consciousness in pursuit of ultimate value, found in infinite being for Kierkegaard, and realized through nothingness in the pursuit itself for Sartre. As temporal and as conscious, existence has determinations which narrow its generality in ontology. The same is true of becoming, which is explicitly wedded to change and often is opposed to being. (46, 47)

The principal term in primary ontology should be chosen from the preceding list with several requirements in mind. It should be capable, without strain, of functioning as a generic term under which, in some sense, the other terms can be subsumed; without such a generic term the list is without unity and its members are deficiently related to each other. It should have currency and credit in the history of metaphysics. It should have a basis, preferably strong, in ordinary language. And it should be distinct from, and preferably exclusive of, the principal negative term in ontology, nonbeing or nothing. (47)

Being alone satisfies these needs. It can readily be divided into the two great domains of timeless and temporal being, as in Hartmann's division of being (Sein) into ideal being and real being. Here temporal or real being is not understood as being in a deficient mode, as may be the case with sensible and material objects for Plato's Republic and kindred dialogues, nor as being par excellence, as may be the case with naturalists, empiricists, and pragmatists who cannot wait for secondary ontology to state their case: for either alternative, being is ambiguous and cannot function adequately in the generic capacity. If the preceding paragraph is correct, the ontological terms other than being have temporal and other determinations which make them too narrow for the generic position. Hartshorne opposes being and becoming, prefers the second as the comprehensive term in ontology, and proposes that being may be included within becoming, presumably as a moment or factor. But being then must bear the imprint of becoming; the timelessness identified with it must pass at best into the everlasting; and the distinction within becoming between change and the being it has is lost sight of. (47, 48)

It is evident that being satisfies the historical test, as indicated by the history of the word from Parmenides to Sartre. On the surface at least, and below that as the sequel will attempt to show, being is the opposite of nonbeing, while some of the alternative terms often are thought to depend in part on nonbeing. It is less evident that being has a basis in ordinary language. Such a basis is clear for "reality" and "existence," but not for "being." But the noun "being" is identical, as sign vehicle, with the present participle "being" of the verb "to be." And the principal finite form of "to be" is the verb "is," which is in the dominant tense and person of the infinitive. The word "is" is the commonest word from the ontological area in the English language. Granting that "is" often has syntactical uses in sentences, it also has a regular referential use with a clear ontological intent. Consider Matthew Arnold's celebrated statement about Keats: "He is; he is with Shakespeare."' "Being" therefore has a strong basis in ordinary language. (48)

Of being little can be said, and much cannot be said; but the word is not therefore meaningless, and being does not vanish into nonbeing. (48)

(1) Being is distinct from what is and cannot be described by a what, nature, or form, i.e., by an essence. If being had an essence, that essence would either agree with a given essence, and thus lead to an automatic ontological affirmation; or the essence of being would disagree with the given essence, and so prevent an ontological affirmation. If the essence of being were the form of internal unity, every unified complex would be, despite the evidence of common experience and reflective thought to the contrary. In general, the applicability in principle of being to any essence requires that being should be neutral essentially to all essence. Neither power, nor form, nor change, nor any comparable term in metaphysics if there is one, can serve for the understanding of being as such. This does not prevent power, or form, or change from being coextensive with being. (48, 49)

(2) Being is simple, indefinable, and entirely indeterminate. It is simple, for it has no qualities to differentiate it in kind, and no spatial relations to divide it in extent. It is indefinable logically, for its simplicity forbids analysis of being into a set of terms to constitute a definiens. It is indefinable ostensively, for pointing is directly at a place, and secondarily at a character, and being is neither; the ambiguity of pointing, illustrated by pointing at a colored shape, is remedied by repetition and contrast, but being is present without contrast. Power is radically indeterminate, because it lacks character; being is wholly indeterminate, since it lacks in addition power. (49)

(3) Being is identical with itself. being is being and, if x has being, then x has being. These statements are tautologies and so are analytic to the highest degree: they supply no information about being. The self-identity of being does not mean that being will continue and be the same over any interval of time, however small. A statement to that effect is synthetic, informative, and exposed to risk. Still less does the self-identity of being imply that what has being will continue the same; the self-identity of what has being does not imply sameness in time, by the preceding argument, and the more remote identity of being cannot accomplish more. Apart from the principle of identity, however, being is distinct from change, which is an instance of what is or may be. But if being is distinct and neutral in regard to change, the endurance of what is cannot be imputed to being as such. (49)

Being, however, is predicated of change insofar as change is predicated of what is. (49)

(4) Being is contingent in several respects. The statement that being is being does not entail the statement that being is: the first is analytic and convertible into a hypothetical statement, as indicated in the preceding paragraph; the second is synthetic and categorical. Questions were raised about synthetic necessity in chapter 1, section 1: they recur here. An intrinsic necessity may be sought in being, such that being may be thought to necessitate itself. The necessity cannot be dynamical, since being as such has no power. It may be thought of as statical and rational, consisting in passage from being as essence to being "proper." But being has no essence to furnish a basis for rational necessity. This argument will be pursued further in the concluding chapter of this book, where it will concern not being as such but a being, which has essence, and is infinite: there as here the ontological argument will be rejected. (49, 50)

If immanent necessity has difficulties, so does extrinsic necessity. This necessity would be conferred on being by nonbeing or by what is. The discussion of nonbeing in the next section will ascribe no being to absolute nonbeing; no leverage will then be available in nonbeing for the necessitation of being; and if being were so imputed, the question of the source of being would be begged. And what is cannot confer necessity on being, since it presupposes being. Power may necessitate dynamically, but it can do so only to resisting power; and power is literally powerless without the being it should have the power to necessitate. (50)

(5) The knowledge or other apprehension of being is problematic also. Sensation and introspection do not reach being as such, since being has no sensory or affective qualities and it is distinct from the power which may be disclosed by introspection. Reason apparently does not reach pure being, for being has no relations and so no structures. Intuition does not seem to grasp being; for Bergson, intuition discloses either character or the dynamic process that creates character, and these belong to form or to power rather than to being as such. If Moore was justified in appealing to intuition for awareness of good in its simple, indefinable character, that justification cannot be transferred here, since being, unlike good, has no quality. The indeterminateness of being may suggest a mystical access; but the indeterminate totality of mystical experience is not empty of essence. If these avenues of awareness are not competent, unspecialized emotion may be appealed to, as in existentialist theory. The emotion of anguish is a plausible approach to nonbeing, and the contrary experiences of hope, joy, and courage may be proposed as approaches to being. Sartre's reference to nausea and boredom in the apprehension of being seems to disturb this division. Emotion can be said to be cognitive in the intuitive, preconceptual mode, since it is immediate awareness of value and disvalue. Emotion does not itself apprehend the object to which value or disvalue is ascribed, whether the object is being or what has being: the object is apprehended by one of the preceding avenues, which have been found to be deficient in relation to being. And the awareness of value does not necessarily indicate being rather than nonbeing. If the essence of death is bad, the nonbeing of death is good. (50, 51)

If the foregoing analysis is correct, being is not known directly and in itself. If it is known, it must be through what has being. Unfortunately, what has being is in doubt in regard to its being insofar as being is in doubt. The procedure of reflective thought in this situation appears to be that stated earlier in the reply to total skepticism. Any given essence that is thought to have being is reflectively judged to have being if it coheres with a sufficiently large system of essences furnished by sensation and introspection. These methods are warranted pragmatically because they are the field of valuation and action and fulfilment, of problems, solutions, and standards. The reflective judgment of what has being appears to be as close to the apprehension of being as the mind can go. (51)

(6) Being is not a genus in relation to what is. A genus appears in the definition of its subordinate species, and is necessary for the understanding of the species. Being does not appear in the definitions of power, form, and change; they are understood through their respective essences, in abstraction from the question whether they are or are not; it is only after they are understood, whether completely or incompletely, that it is meaningful to ask whether they have being. And if being is granted, it does not itself add to their essences. (51)

(7) Being is a genus in relation to other terms of primary ontology. The other terms consist of being and differentiae drawn from what is. For Christian theology and part of the theology of Whitehead, timeless being consists of universal forms, which are abstract, and an infinite spirit, which in some sense is concrete. For naturalistic and humanistic philosophies, temporal being includes spirit or matter or power, characteristically finite, and forms particular and universal. Becoming is identical with temporal being, except for doctrinal emphases on novelty at the expense of endurance. Existence is also identical, except for an emphasis on consciousness as center and perhaps as source of change and time. As indicated earlier, actuality may fall under either temporal or timeless being, with preference for the first in common usage of the word. If the thing or substance for reality is taken with emphasis on change, the real will coincide with temporal being; if the entity is taken as perfect, the real will embrace the infinite spirit and even the universal forms of timeless being. Because of its scope, reality verges on being, keeping only the notion of thing, substance, entity as a reminder of what is. In all of these species and varieties of being, being is the same in kind and degree, having neither. The difference between the number six for a Platonist and six oranges for the ordinary man is not in being; it lies in the what, including form and power, for which being is claimed or is not claimed. (51, 52)

The seven statements about being as such separate being from every what, nature, or character. They also hint strongly at a close relation between being and what is. The self-identity of being leads thinkers to assert the sameness of beings in time, though the one does not entail the other. Knowledge of being falters, but attains some credence because the structure, or power, or value it reaches seems to be so close to being. The species of being cannot be stated without reference to what is. There is no paradox in the thesis of separation and the hints of union. Being is not of itself, according to (4) above; it appears here that, in addition, it is not by itself. Being requires a what or essence in order to be, whether that essence be conceived as power or form, as permanent or changing, as infinite or finite, or as mind or matter. And every essence requires being in order to function. Power without being is powerless to act. Change stripped of being cannot realize the tendency in power. A particular form is what it is because it is effect and cause of other forms, all under the tending of power; but it has these relations to other forms not inherently, but only under the condition that it has being. Being and essence are interdependent and thus unified, though they are not one since they remain two. (52)

Essence is a concomitant of being, if we understand by concomitant something that coexists without exception with being. If the preceding paragraph is correct, essence must be a concomitant for any metaphysics. For this book, the essence in view can be defined further as power, which is regarded as having the same coexistence with being. Change is not a concomitant, for the tendency of power toward change may be blocked by contrary power, and it may be contained and congealed in the forms with which it is identified. The persistence of subatomic motions suggests that the containment need not be a reduction of change. Form is not a concomitant, since it requires interaction of powers, which is more complex than bare tendency. Form is character determinate and unified, and it is possible that either determinateness or unity should be wider in scope than their combination. Determinateness occurs in a single part, for there are limits between that part and other parts. It does not appear in a structureless and infinite whole, which has neither internal nor external limits. (52, 53)

Unity taken in a strict sense requires a plurality of parts with a common factor; it is then narrower than determinateness, if there may be an element without a plurality and a plurality without a common factor. The concept of unity may be extended in two ways: to include the identity of a single element with itself, in which case the plurality is provided by the reflexive movement of the element upon itself for thought; and to include a structureless whole, by reason of its wholeness. Extended in this manner, unity may be predicated of any being for its identity, of primordial power for its wholeness, of finite powers for the power common to them, of forms internally by definition, and of change for its endurance. Unity here is a universal property of essence and thus a concomitant of being. (53)


3. Being: Parmenides, Plato, and Heidegger

This account of being may be compared briefly with theories from Parmenides to Heidegger in a process of reciprocal evaluation.

With a caveat due to the fragmentary and obscure nature of his extant text, and to variations among his interpreters, Parmenides' major theses can be rendered in five statements: (1) thought and being are congruent; (2) being (or "is") is; (3) nonbeing is not; (4) being is necessary; and (5) being is one, homogeneous, indivisible, changeless, and spherical . (53, 54)

Thought, or reason, appears here to be identified with the principles of identity and noncontradiction. If these principles are analytic, they tell us no more about being than we knew before they were applied to that object; if they are synthetic, they yield new knowledge, but their congruence with being is a problem, which can be resolved if at all only at the end of an investigation of being. Parmenides believed that we cannot think nonbeing, since any object of thought would go to the credit of being, but that we can think being: but reasons have been given earlier why reason does not grasp being as such. Its only access would be through the principle of identity, which would allow the statement that being is being, but would not warrant the synthetic statement that being is. The latter statement is confirmed by experience of what is, which cannot be denied without denying the act of denial, which itself is an instance of what is. Nonbeing will be considered at length in the next section. Here it may be said on behalf of Parmenides that nonbeing as such is excluded by definition from being as such, and thus is not available for "is" in the ontological sense; but that exclusion does not strip nonbeing of ontological status, and so does not forbid diversity and change in the essences that constitute what is. The necessity of being has been argued against in (4) of the preceding section. Parmenides' text does not justify revision of that argument. (54)

The description of being as homogeneous and indivisible agrees with the theory of being stated in this chapter, which holds that being is distinct from all essence, thus has nothing to give it diversity or complexity, and therefore is simple. If the meaning of "one" regarding being is a unit, or single and simple term, its simplicity repeats the terms homogeneous and indivisible. If it is a unity in the strict sense, it cannot apply to being, which is simple. If it is a unity in the extended sense, it can be predicated of being in regard to self-identity. The words "changeless" and "spherical" designate essence, and it is probable that the three earlier words do so also, with opposite consequences for essence in the first two interpretations of one." Taylor believes that Parmenides' world is matter in a single homogeneous solid sphere" Kirk and Raven hold that he was "feeling his way towards" the incorporeal; and Robin asserts that Parmenides opened the way for the doctrine of universal ideas." Although his initial theses were in primary ontology, he appears to have moved insensibly to secondary ontology, thus confusing being with what has being. (54, 55)

Plato's Sophist moves from such confusion to a subtle, but clear, distinction between being and other categorial terms, which gives support to the distinction made in this chapter between being and what has being. The proposal is made that "the definition of being is simply power" to "affect another, or to be affected by another." This term resembles, amid differences, the basic term of this book; it indicates high generality, since it is introduced in search of something which is "common to both the corporeal and incorporeal"; it leads to abandonment of the earlier Platonic distinction between being and becoming, found in the Republic, Phaedrus, Symposium, and kindred dialogues, on the ground that mind, which is "present with perfect being," has both motion and rest; but it is not acceptable for the account of being as such for the reason given in section 2 of this chapter under the first of the seven statements about being. The dialogue does not make that distinction between being and what has being in relation to power, and it does not reject power as the basic term regarding what is; but it proceeds with the terms motion and rest in relation to being, with results that confirm that distinction. Motion and rest are "in the most entire opposition" but they "equally are." If they were identical with being, they would then be identical with each other, i.e., both would be motion or both would be rest. From this false consequent it is concluded that we must "conceive of being as some third and distinct nature, under which rest and motion are alike included."10 Implied here is the distinction between statements of identity and statements of ordinary predication or attribution. The discussion of being then proceeds to distinguish being from the other pair of basic terms, the same and the other. Being and the same are not identical, for "if they are identical, then again in saying that motion and rest have being, we should also be saying that they are the same."" And being is not identical with the other, for other is always relative to another, but being is absolute as well as other. Motion, rest, same, and other thus participate in being but are distinguished from it. All that appears to be missing here is a general distinction between being on the one hand and the other four terms on the other hand. (55, 56)

In modern philosophy, the term being received new emphasis in Hegel and, from his diverse influence a century later, in Heidegger and Sartre. Hegel's Science of Logic and Logic of the Encyclopaedia devote little space to being as such or pure being, which they describe as indeterminate and immediate. They are noteworthy for the attempt to deduce all other categories from the starting point of pure being, and,especially for the attempt to deduce nonbeing or nothing from being. These attempts will be considered in section 5, which is devoted to the problem of nonbeing. Sartre's Being and Nothingness is concerned primarily with being for itself, alone and in relation to others of the same name; despite its designation, being in itself is not the same as being as such, for it is the repository of essence; being as such, if it can be distinguished with certainty amid the rich obscurity of Sartre's writing, receives some attention, but nothing to compare with the exhaustive treatment of the for-itself and nothingness. Although Heidegger's Being and Time did not realize the anticipated third section on "Time and Being," but discussed at length Dasein or being-there, later work has gone further into the problem of being. We may consider his Introduction to Metaphysics, whose two hundred pages are concerne(I solely with being at a level of high generality and abstraction; the book is based on a lecture of 1935, revised and extended, and was first published in 1953. (56)

It will be important to pinpoint any distinction that Heidegger may make between being as such and whatever essence, nature, or character has being. The many passages in which he approaches or touches upon this distinction are dense with thought, but not so clear as to lead to a firm conclusion. Inquiry into the being of "the essent" (d6!s Seiende, what is) goes "beyond essents, and deals with being." But the question of "being as such tends to take the same form as the question of the essent as such, chiefly because the essential origin of the question of the existent as such" remains obscure.The essent means "first that which is at any time, in particular this grayish white . . . light, brittle mass. But 'the essent' also means . . . that which constitutes its being if it is.The next sentence repeat,,; the contrast as that between "that which is" and "essentness, being." The second half of each contrast seems to straddle the distinction between essent and being, in apparent contradiction of the opening statement that being goes beyond essents. Essentness should comprise whatever has being in all essent,,;, and it may be said to constitute the being of essents in the sense that it is the sufficient condition for any essent to be: here, whatever has being is not itself being, and the condition for being is not itself being. It may be that the two contrasts are meant to be between what is specific, derivative, and contingent in essence and what is general, basic, and necessary in essence: the distinction made in this book between finite or formed powers,, including ordinary things, and primordial power or power as such. (56, 57)

Heidegger's frequent discussion of physis, a term he appropriated from early Greek philosophy, may shed light on these issues and on the difficulty of drawing a clear distinction in his thought between being as such and the essent or what is. Physis "denotes self-blossoming emergence . . . opening up, unfolding, that which manifests itself in such unfolding and perseveres and endures in it; in short, the realm of things that emerge and linger on." 15 Here physis applies to both the act of emerging and the ordinary thing, or individual essent, engaged in the act. "Physis means the power that emerges and the enduring realm under its sway." Here physis is extended downward to its proper nature, to power found in all things or essents; it qualifies for the title of essentness, since it is pervasive and basic in all essents; and it may be said to constitute the being of all essents, since it is the suflicient condition for every essent to be. Heidegger would be entitled to say of physis what this book says of power, that it is a concomitant of being and the carrier of being. But he seems to go a step further and to identify it with being as such: "Physis is being itself, by virtue of which essents become and remain observable."17 The first four words are unequivocal in their identification of physis and being as such; but the remainder of the sentence may be a retreat to the concomitant of being, with emphasis on power as the unformed essent which causes that forming of individual essents which constitutes their becoming as individual essents. The identification recurs in the statement: "The essence of being is physis. "I" It does not seem proper to translate that statement into another: that the essence of what is, or of the essent, or of all essents, is physis. Heidegger appears to have intended that translation: much of his book following the initial statements aboutphysis is an attempt to find a meaning for the word "being," as though physis were not the answer. (57, 58)

He recognizes that "we cannot immediately grasp the being of the essent itself "; that we can explore a building "from cellar to attic" and find corridors and rooms but not the being of the building; that when we wish "to apprehend being, it is always as though we were reaching into the void ... yet we have always rejected the contention that the essent in its entirety is not." His grammatical and etymological investigation of the word "being" (Sein) confirms the apparent emptiness of the word. The infinitive "to be" (sein) "no longer manifests what the verb otherwise reveals"; furthermore, "the transformation of the infinitive into a verbal substantive [Sein] further stabilizes as it were the emptiness that already resided in the infinitive; 'sein' is set down like a stable object.' And the finite forms of sein have lost their ancient meanings. The "entire range of the inflections of the verb 'sein' is determined by three different stems" found in Indo-European and Germanic languages; "from the three stems we derive the three initial concrete meanings: to live, to emerge, to linger or endure. These meanings are now extinct; only the abstract meaning "to be" has survived. In these processes is the explanation of the fact that "the word 'being' is empty and its meaning a vapor.' Despite this statement of indeterminate meaning, Heidegger finds an aspect of determinateness. Although we can doubt the being of a particular essent, "the definite distinction between being and nonbeing must be present in our minds" in order that the doubt may arise . Furthermore, an understanding of being is presupposed by language: "For to speak of an essent as such includes: to understand it in advance as an essent, that is, to understand its being.' (58)

In pursuit of the meaning thus indicated, Heidegger uses two methods. The shorter is to consider the meaning of the word "is" in typical statements of ordinary language, such as statements that God is, the earth is, the cup is of silver, the book is mine. He finds that "a single determinate trait" runs through all these modes of 'is.' "The limitation of the meaning of 'being' remains within the sphere of actuality and presence, of permanence and duration, of abiding and occurrence.' The longer method is to consider being as successively distinguished from becoming, appearance, thinking, and the ought. At the conclusion of a remarkable categorial, historical, and semantiCal analysis, Heidegger elicits a view of being as permanence in contrast with becoming; the always identical prototype in contrast with appearance; the "already-there" in contrast with thought; and the datum in contrast with the ought .27 These meanings of being he summarizes under the heading of "enduring presence." But the terms opposed to being are not nothing, but essent; they must be accommodated under "being" widened beyond the formula that summarized their exclusions. Heidegger does not consider whether the widened concept would suffer from the indeterminateness he sought to escape, and he gives only a brief formula for the procedure leading to the new view of being. The older view of being as enduring presence was determined by "thought guided by logos as statement"; the new view is determined by the experience of time, and specifically a notion of time not influenced by that logos. Heidegger finds that "with Aristotle, time itself had to be taken as something somehow present.... Consequently time was considered from the standpoint of the 'now,' the actual moment.... Being in the sense of already-thereness (presence) became the perspective for the determination of time. But time was not the perspective specially chosen for the interpretation of being.' (58, 59)

The revised conception of time can also be found in Bergson. But time of any kind is a character of essents or of what has being. Neither "enduring presence" nor the new formula applies to being as such. The determinations of meaning for being considered by Heidegger, old or new, belong to essence, nature, or character, not to being itself. They appear to violate his own principle stated in transit from the traditional conception of being to his revision: "The one basic differentiation, whose intensity and fundamental cleavage sustain history, is the differentiation between being and the essent.' (59)


4. Nonbeing: A Theory

Nonbeing resembles being in that nonbeing is distinct from, and other than, any what or essence to which it is related. As being is other than what is, so nonbeing is other than what is not. Nonbeing differs from being in two ways. Nonbeing is incompatible with any what or essence with which it is related, while being unites with essence. Here there still is a resemblance, for the mutual otherness in relation to essence means that neither is a cause, in any Aristotelian sense, of the respective conditions of negation and affirmation of essence. Coming to be and ceasing to be ordinarily are the effects of beings, in which being and essence are united. And finally, nonbeing is incompatible with being. In the relation of nonbeing to being there is no relation of bare otherness, which might permit nonbeing to be thought of as being that is other than being. Whether nonbeing is taken as limited and relative in scope, as in the nonbeing of health in a sick man, or as unlimited and absolute, as in nonbeing "preceding" being and all essence in the world as a whole, nonbeing is incompatible with being for the scope in question. These three theses regarding nonbeing can be developed in the order of the discussion of being in the second section of this chapter. (60)

(1) Nonbeing is distinct from what is not and cannot be described by any what or essence. If nonbeing had an essence, that essence would either agree with a given essence, and thus lead to ontological negation; or the essence of nonbeing would disagree with the given essence, and so prevent an ontological negation. If the essence of nonbeing were internal contradiction, every unified complex again would be. In general, essence or "meaning" is neutral with regard to the distinction between being and nonbeing: a condition required for the self-identity of a proposition when affirmed and denied.(60)

(2) Nonbeing is simple and entirely indeterminate. It has no essence, by the preceding paragraph, and so has no basis for differentiation or division or determination. It may be thought to have some advantage over being, however minimal, in regard to definition, since it may be defined as not being. But this definition does not achieve the results of definition in the senses of analysis into parts or of pointing. And it offers no gain of understanding over the definition of being as not nonbeing. The preference for the first definition indicates the greater familiarity of being in comparison with nonbeing in common experience and thought. But the familiarity is a mere appearance, since what is familiar or clear is not being but what has being.(60, 61)

(3) Nonbeing is identical with itself: nonbeing is nonbeing and, if x has nonbeing, then x has nonbeing. This statement, like the similar statement about being, is a tautology: it gives no information about nonbeing. It does not mean that nonbeing will continue over any interval of time: a statement to that effect would be synthetic. The doctrine that being has a monopoly on the principle of identity, and that nonbeing is identified with a principle of self-contradiction, has a perverse logic and semiotic. It would mean that nonbeing is identified without having an identity by which to be identified. It would also mean that nonbeing would slip into being, so that the word "nonbeing" would have no application and the word "being" would have more application than it needs. The doctrine also confuses nonbeing with what is not: its intent is to favor change, but change is a character of what is and what is not rather than of nonbeing; nonbeing, like being, is neutral in regard to change. (61)

(4) Nonbeing is contingent for the most part. The statement that nonbeing is nonbeing does not entail the statement that nonbeing is: the one is analytic and the other is synthetic. The arguments against synthetic immanent necessity for being apply equally well to nonbeing. Nonbeing has no power with which to necessitate itself dynamically, and no essence to serve as a ground for rational necessity. Synthetic extrinsic necessity is also unavailable for nonbeing. Being is incompatible with nonbeing and thus cannot necessitate it. What is cannot necessitate nonbeing, since it presupposes incompatible being. And what is not cannot necessitate nonbeing, since it presupposes nonbeing. But nonbeing can be necessitated analytically by a complex and self-contradictory essence, such as a round square. (61)

Here nonbeing is limited. An inductive necessity for limited nonbeing can be found according to empirical laws of the destructive action of what is, just as a similar necessity for limited being can be found according to similar laws of constructive action of what is. (62)

(5) The knowledge of nonbeing is as problematic as that of being, since nonbeing like being is other than the essences that engage sensation and introspection, reason, intuition and mysticism, and emotion. A further problem arises for nonbeing. Any cognitive process is a being, whose being makes it impossible for the process to engage absolute nonbeing. Nonbeing can be known only by a being, and the slightest infection of being removes the absolute nonbeing to be known. (62)

(6) Nonbeing is not a genus in relation to what is not. Nonbeing, like being, does not appear in the definitions of essences, which are framed in abstraction from the question of being and nonbeing and then are submitted to that question.(62)

These statements emphasize the distinction or otherness of nonbeing and essence. The additional thesis of the incompatibility of nonbeing and essence, like the final thesis of the incompatibility of nonbeing and being, refers to what is distinctive in nonbeing. Unlike the final thesis, it has a reasonable amount of clarity. Limited nonbeing excludes matter, or mind, or a red color, or temperance: exclusions which occur in common experience and thought and are the topics of common negative judgments. Absolute nonbeing goes a step further and excludes, for this book, power, all form, and all change. Nonbeing therefore has no concomitant, since it excludes essence relative to its scope. Nonbeing is sometimes identified with passivity, or resistance, or evil. But passivity and resistance are properties of a being or of beings and so presuppose essence, which in this book is identified as power, the carrier and concomitant of being. Only power can act or be acted upon, and only power can resist. Despite his persuasive accounts of nonbeing in relation to finitude and anxiety, Tillich is mistaken when he writes of the "threat of nonbeing" and of the power of being "conquering nonbeing. It is beings, not nonbeing, that threaten and, when successful, reduce other beings to nonbeing; and nonbeing has no power to be conquered. He is nearer to the truth when he says that recent existentialism has given to "nonbeing a positivity and a power which contradict the immediate meaning of the word. And evil, like good, is not a property of being or nonbeing, but a character of essences in relation to a valuing being. In common experience and thought, evil is attributed alike to the nonbeing of essences that would satisfy desire and to the being of essences that thwart desire. (62, 63)

The final thesis is the most obscure and difficult of the three. It asserts that nonbeing is incompatible with being and, reciprocally, that being is incompatible with nonbeing. It is illustrated in the apparent observation that the nonbeing of health and the being of health exclude each other in any man who can truly be said to have the one condition or the other. By extension, absolute nonbeing excludes all beings, and any being excludes absolute nonbeing. The thesis appears to follow directly from the minimal definition of nonbeing as not being. But if nonbeing excludes being, it has no share in being, it is false to say that nonbeing is, and true to say that nonbeing is not. The last two statements have the authority of Parmenides, early but seldom followed. They appear to strip nonbeing of any ontological status. Then change as a passage with nonbeing at one end and being at the other end is impossible. Absolute nonbeing is impossible and being is necessary, contrary to the asserted contingency of both. An antinomy develops. If nonbeing excludes being, it has a proper identity but no application beyond the syntactical "not" of language. If nonbeing includes being, it has no identity of its own and no application anywhere.(63)

This difficulty may mean that the region of nonbeing is a thicket which reason cannot traverse, or that it is so transparent a glass that the mind cannot see it. Two ways, however, can be proposed for escape from the impasse. One retains the incompatibility of nonbeing with being but finds it acceptable for an ontology of nonbeing. The other softens the distinction and so holds that nonbeing has being in some respect.(63)

The first method asserts that the statement, "nonbeing is not," does not remove nonbeing from ontological import, but consummates that import, as it were. Nonbeing is the ontological deposit of what is not. Every essence, whether power or form, is neutral to the distinction of being and nonbeing, so that it is equally meaningful to say that an essence is and that it is not. The is-not condition of an essence, as of health in a sick man, is the nonbeing of health in the man. The is-not condition of every essence, including primordial power for this book and every form, is absolute nonbeing. The is-not of essence is the meaning of the is-not of nonbeing, and the truth of the statement of the first is the correlative of the ontological status of the second. Nonbeing as is-not thus has meaning for discourse and function in ontology. To ask that "is not" be replaced by "is" is to ask that essence be introduced into nonbeing, contrary to the second thesis. It is to ask that the nonbeing of health be understood as the being of the diseased and weakened tissues and functions of the sick body, and to ask that absolute nonbeing be thought of as an empty container, or ghost, preceding being. In both cases nonbeing loses its identity and yields to being. The is-not of nonbeing thus does not mean that nonbeing is impossible, except in the mode of "is," which is not intended or required. Similarly, being remains contingent, since the alternative of absolute nonbeing is viable. It is evident that, for this account, the third thesis is subordinate to the second. That subordination has merit, since the thesis of the exclusion of essence is more clear than the thesis of the exclusion of being. The account is complex, subtle, and obscure, like its subject, but is plausible. The alternative is to say that being has some magic, or that essence has some magic, to necessitate being: a statement which is neither clear nor plausible. (63, 64)


5. Nonbeing: Plato and Hegel

The second method has several historical exponents. In the Sophist Plato observed that "a false proposition will be deemed to be one which asserts the non-existence of things which are, and the existence of things which are not,' and that the Parmenidean exclusion of nonbeing from being means that nonbeing is nothing and that a statement about it is meaningless. To rescue falsehood as meaningful, the Sophist invokes the category of the other in the thesis that nonbeing is being other than being. 'I'he argument for the thesis includes the distinction between "other" and "opposite"; the claim that since "the nature of the other has a real existence, the parts of this nature must equally be supposed to exist"; and an analogy between the not-just and nonbeing, so that the being available to the not-just is similarly available to -nonbeing . But the analogy is false, since the not-,just, or injustice, has an essence of which being can be predicated, whereas nonbeing excludes essence and the being available to essence. If the "parts" of the other exist as assuredly as the nature of the other, it seems that a centaur, as other than man, must exist with man. And the softening of the opposite into the bare other does not do justice to nonbeing. In the "realm" of essence there is an indefinite number of forms other than a given form, of which many are compatible with the form, like youth and wisdom with health, and some are incompatible, like the forms of disease with health. The being of disease excludes the being of health, and the nonbeing of health is similarly incompatible with the being of health. In the case of absolute nonbeing, there is no essence whose being might alleviate the opposition of nonbeing and being. Finally, in the Sophist's concluding account of falsity, the sentence " 'Theaetetus, with whom I am now speaking, is flying, does not depend on a particular other than flying, like the sitting ascribed to Th(-,aetetus, for its meaning; it depends on flying as a universal form, which is similar to or identical in character with the particular flying falsely ascribed to Theaetetus .The universal has being of itself for Plato, and it will supply meaning to the sentence on any theory that admits the distinction of particulars and universals. But the nonbeing of the particular flying in question is not compatible with the being of that flying, and the relation of the being and the nonbeing is not reduced from exclusion to bare otherness by the invocation of universals whose nonbeing is not at issue. (65)

A more radical attenuation of the distinction between being and nonbeing appears in Hegel's Science of Logic. With reservations due to the subtle, fluent, and obscure nature of the text, Hegel's theory of the interplay of being and nonbeing can be stated in several propositions or clusters of propositions. (1) "Being, pure being ... has no diversity within itself nor any with a reference outwards. . . . It is pure indeterminateness and emptiness.... Being, the indeterminate immediate, is in fact nothing .... (2) "Nothing, pure nothing: it is ... complete emptiness, absence of all determination and contentundifferentiatedness in itself.... Nothing is, therefore, the same ... absence of determination, and thus altogether the same as, pure being. (3) "Pure being and pure nothing are, therefore, the same.... But it is equally true that they are ... not the same, that they are absolutely distinct. . . . The conjunction of the two statements "is self-contradictory and cancels itself out"; it contains "an unrest of incompatibles.... (4) The unrest and self-canceling take the form of the third member of the triad, becoming, in which being and nothing "each immediately vanishes in its opposite. "They are not reciprocally sublated . . . but each sublates itself in itself and is in its own self the opposite of itself. This most abstract level of becoming is not to be confused with ordinary becoming, which has "a substratum in which the transition takes place" and in which "being and nothing are held apart in time.... (5) Since "being and nothing are in this unity only as vanishing moments," and "becoming as such is only through their distinguishedness," the result is "the vanishedness of becoming. The result is stable; it is not nothing, which is not the "resultant of nothing and being"; it is being at the new level of determinate being. In determinate being, finitude takes over from abstract becoming, and abstract being and nothing are replaced by something and other, each of which combines the two antecedents. Something is being within its own boundaries and nonbeing in relation to what lies beyond, and other is nonbeing in relation to the something to which it is other, and being as another something within its own limits. (65, 66)

This basic and masterful instance of the Hegelian dialectic is nonetheless open to criticism. (A) Cluster (1), emphasizing the indeterminateness and emptiness of being, truly asserts the distinction made earlier between being and essence, nature, or character. Cluster (2) makes the same true assertion of the distinction between nonbeing and essence. But this common distinction does not make being the same as nonbeing, since nonbeing, by the second and third theses about nonbeing stated earlier, has incompatibility with essence and with being which being does not have. Being therefore is not the same as nonbeing; the deduction of nonbeing from being in (1) fails; and the first and most crucial step in the dialectical itinerary from being to absolute idea loses logical and dialectical force. The failure of the deduction does not remove nonbeing from consideration, but it makes the entry of nonbeing contingent and empirical and, as empirical, limited to relative nonbeing. (B) The statement in (3) that being and nothing are not the same is not explained by Hegel, though it is manifest from the second and third theses stated above. With the removal of the claim of sameness, the conjunction in (3) ceases and with it the self-contradiction. Abundant contradiction remains, since being and nothing are not the same in the maximum degree of incompatibility. (66, 67)

(C) The synthesis of contradictory being and nonbeing in becoming is not impaired by the argument of (B). But contrary to (4), becoming does not involve the self-opposition of being and of nonbeing, and the consequent vanishing of each into the other, for the claim of sameness of being and nonbeing has been refuted, and tension between sameness and difference in being and in nonbeing has disappeared. With these changes in the concept of becoming, the terms of becoming are not pure being and pure nonbeing, but essences, powers, forms endowed with being in an order of time and, relative to their position in that order, with nonbeing. From the finitude of essences comes the limited status of the being and nonbeing involved in becoming. If this argument is correct, the pure becoming of the first triad cannot be deduced from pure being and pure nonbeing; it yields to ordinary becoming, which presupposes determinate being, something, and other. With the disappearance of pure becoming, the derivation in (5) of determinate being from pure becoming collapses. This corresponds to the general impossibility of deducing essence from being as such. (67)

Despite these criticisms of the letter of Hegel's theory, much can be said for the discerning spirit behind that letter. Hegel was aware that the principle of identity, of itself, does not take us beyond any term or proposition to which it is applied. Seeking to combine diversity with pure reason, he sought a method to deduce difference from a self-identical thesis. The method he came up with was to insert an element of opposition into identity, as in the statement in (4) above that being and nonbeing each "is in its own self the opposite of itself." The insertion appears to jeopardize the principle of identity, by denying that the thesis is itself, and the principle of noncontradiction, by asserting that the thesis is equally itself and not itself. But both principles are necessary to Hegel's method, and he takes pains to affirm the principle of noncontradiction in (3) and the principle of identity in the "own self" of (4). Without the principle of identity, a thesis would dissolve into an indeterminate nothing, leaving reason without a ground to support the leap to the opposite or antithesis and making every thesis identical with every other thesis. Without the principle of noncontradiction, the antithesis would be indifferent to the thesis, leaving the antithesis at a standstill. At the same time, the application of the principle of noncontradiction to a literal contradiction would lead to the elimination of one of the two terms, with a return to the original condition of nondiversity. With these requirements in mind, we may infer that the opposite or antithesis is not the literal contradictory of the thesis, but is sufficiently distant from the contradictory to permit of coexistence and thus duality, and sufficiently close to the contradictory to permit of tension and thus of solution into the third term or synthesis. Unfortunately, the antithesis so construed has a position which is indeterminate in relation to the thesis and therefore cannot be deduced or posited by reason, which handles only determinateness. The merit of literal contradiction is that it would point the way to a determinate exit from the thesis, and thus assist reason to assert a new position. Thus the antithesis can at best merely occur, blindly .(68)

Despite the letter to the contrary, this formula surely applies to the first triad. Nothing as used by Hegel is not the contradictory of being, since it omits the second and third theses needed to complete the contradiction. It is difficult to conceive of opposites as contradictories when an element, at least, of sameness is claimed. Since pure becoming has no temporal succession between being and nonbeing, it cannot embrace contradictories as ordinary becoming does. The use of the phrase "pure becoming" must signify the relation of being and nonbeing at a level short of contradiction. Such bare otherness cannot be found in being and nonbeing as such; it involves essences of some kind; because of the timeless relation of the terms, the otherness must be one of universal forms. The significance of the emphasis on pure nonbeing in the first triad, when only determinate nonbeing or other can enter into the synthesis, is that pure nonbeing is a symbol of openness and novelty between thesis and antithesis in the dialectic. Ordinary reason, which is analytic, tight, and repetitious, does not handle openness and novelty. Creativity is the source of these, but it is temporal and it eludes explanation and deduction. It appears that pure nonbeing for Hegel is a modest approach to the notion of creativity, and that his dialectic is an attempt to reconcile creation and reason. Hegel stretched the concept of reason as part of that attempt, in his insertion of opposition into identity. He did not reconcile reason and creation, since the recurrent other is not deducible. But he saw the basic roles of reason and creation in the world and in ontology, and the basic problem of their relation, and the significance of nonbeing as at least a metaphor in that relation. And the tension of opposites, and its resolution in novel synthesis, suggests the tension of powers in the creation of forms. Tension is a metaphor among forms, but a literal relation among powers. (68, 69)