This blog will consist mainly in selections adapted from longer posts in my home blog The Tetrast. My four-folds are generally related to a slightly revised version of Aristotle's Four Causes (four reasons for a thing's being what it is). I disbelieve in numerology and it bores me. No paranormalism, synchronicity claims, etc., here. I call myself “the Tetrast” partly in fun at my inclination to make philosophy on the seemingly threadbare theme of a four-fold pattern. Best viewed in Internet Explorer or Firefox (at least as of my recentest opportunity to compare).
Recentest significant edit: September 5, 2013.
Important update: " Telos, entelechy, Aristotle's Four Causes, pleasure, & happiness". I recently got over a major brain glitch about the beginning-means-ending-check four-fold. I had long thought of my fourth stage (entelechy, "check") as involving verification that one has, so to speak, hit a target. So the prospect of verifiability could influence one's choice of targets. That was just not a strong enough conception of entelechy's part in the four-fold, and it kept nagging me though at length I drifted to other concerns. Then something that Dewey said finally set me on a better path. It's not just a matter of verifying one's "hits," but of whether the goals were good ideas in the first place. The prospective entelechy helps us consider unintended consequences, develop general values, and deal with conflicts among values. Thus entelechy guides ends (not to mention means and beginnings). Hedonism focuses only on end, telos, culmination, etc., and ignores entelechy. That's it in a nutshell.(From "Compare to Aristotle, Aquinas, & Peirce")
Beginnings, middles, ends, and checks/entelechies.
Plus "entelechy" definitions from the Century Dictionary and from Joe Sachs (see Sidebar further below).
unsteadied going(s) .
Now, when we try, seek, pick or take, or adhere to something, sometimes it’s so direct that we don’t think of means as being saliently involved. But often enough there are intermediate stages through which we go, and intermediative things.
• If the decision-making, the beginning, is regarded as a kind of main cause, those middles appear, relative to the situation of interest, as intermediate causes, helpers, facilitating causes. Of course they’re also intermediate effects. In any case we regard them as means.
• If the end is achieved, effected, sometimes it’s so directly obvious that we don’t think of any checks as being involved. But often enough there are collateral and maybe later things or events to which we look. If the end is regarded as a kind of main effect, those things or events “on the side” or further in time appear, relative to the situation of interest, as side effects, after-effects, evidentiary effects, checks.
Just as in advance one may have desired and hoped for the end, likewise one may have imagined and anticipated the collateral effects, the evidences, e.g., wakes, trails, tracks, shells, etc. One then also will have hoped for them, but only because one hopes for them as signs of the end’s having been achieved. They aren’t means to the end, they’re beyond and in addition to the end in a rather similar sense as the means are beyond and in addition to the beginning, the decision-making. And, just like an end, a check can be prospective, not yet accomplished.
We often think of an agent cause as compelling. That’s an affinity, not a rigid rule. One could also stand physically willing but not insistent for motion, and thus one will amount to a contributing agent cause of one’s motion if one does move. But let’s focus on the typical affinities among ideas. By pushing oneself, in the sense of pushing against the hardly movable ground for example, one compels one’s own motion, with a kind of physical insistence. On the other hand, we regard means as enabling rather than compelling. (The particular means may be necessary or, thanks to alternatives, unnecessary.) Now, let’s use this pattern of affinities in order to flesh out the conception of the “check,” the establishment or settlement or confirmation, as a cause. Given a goal, a prospective end or satisfaction, there is a necessity — not a compulsion but a kind of needfulness — for a means. Now, what conception stands to needfulness, as enablement stands to compulsion? A kind of reasonableness. Given that it will be established or practically knowable (at least by oneself if not by others, or even vice versa) and be a basis (for knowledge or whatever), one has reason to do something, that is, it’s reasonable to do it, in the sense that it will be real or solid or legitimate or in evidence. Why do it if it’s such that it might as well be unknown by anybody ever? Of course, sometimes one does something because it will be off the record or hidden or transitory or somehow not for real (and others will not know of it). But that is weak counter-example because the same kind of weak counter-example has always occurred in the case of goals: sometimes one does something because others will not care about it or even because it will block their aims. One note: just as an end or goal is not only about pleasure but first of all about the good — otherwise we might as well just attach electrodes to our brains' pleasure centers — likewise the check is not only about knowing and wakefulness, but first of all about the real, the legitimate, etc. To the problematics of goals, pleasures, pains, indifference, and of people acting against their own interests and ends, I come bearing reminders of the problematics of checks, knowledge, ignorance, deception, and of people acting as their own unwitting accomplices.
As a middle, a continuing, is like a staying-begun, so a check is like a staying-ended. There’s some nice simplicity and symmetry about these ideas, even as they incorporate asymmetry. We live in time-asymmetric world in which the check, the hold, the staying-ended (and, so to speak, its content) which follows upon a thing’s ending pertains to that thing more specifically, more informatively, than does a hold or holding-off which precedes the thing’s beginning. This and other asymmetries seem to have their part in the symmetries that abound.
Of course, just as a means can secondarily be an end and vice versa, so a check can secondarily be a means and vice versa, and likewise so can a check secondarily be a beginning, a decision point, etc.
My conception of entelechy is somewhat nonstandard, based on ideas of stability and confirmation. I don’t seek mainly to clarify Aristotle (well, except when I edited Wikipedia's "Entelechy" article). Unlike Aristotle and tradition, I don’t seek to stretch act and end to encompass form and entelechy. Such encompassment conflates the driven with the borne, the vibrant (or vigorous) with the firm, etc., and ramifies into conflating the driver (agent) with the bearer (patient). Systematic deeper equivalences aren’t found without recognizing the systematic distinctions nearer the surface.
A traditional view of entelechy appears in the entry for “entelechy” in the great Century Dictionary. C.S. Peirce may have written the entry and probably at least reviewed it, since it is among the words at the relevant database at the Peirce Edition Project’s branch at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQÀM) (Website at http://www.pep.uqam.ca/ )
From the Century Dictionary, Vol. III, Page 1946, Entastic to Enter (DjVu):
Joe Sachs in the “Energeia and Entelecheia” section of his article “Aristotle (384-322 BCE): Motion and its Place in Nature” in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy is dissatisfied with the traditional emphases in interpretation of what Aristotle meant by entelécheia. Sachs writes: Yet, the activity and effort turn out sometimes, in Sachs’s descriptions, to be a stable static balance of forces, for instance as with an attracted stone at rest against the attractive earth under water. We normally would not say that such a stone is active or that such a stone’s position or behavior is a continual expenditure of effort. Instead we would note the effort that stands invested and the potential energy, potential activity, thereby involved. All the same — aside from Sachs’s initially making it sound as though a stable static equilibrium couldn’t be an entelechy — his conception of entelechy is closer than the traditional one is to my deliberately altered conception of it, given his emphasis on the staying complete, not to mention his depicting it in terms of places and embeddedness in the world. And I also don’t regard all entelechy as necessarily static. Maybe my version isn’t as nonstandard as I thought!
By ‘end,’ I mean a culmination, an ending — télos in the sense of ‘teleosis,’ reaching the end, actualization. The check, on the other hand, is a kind of settlement, solidification, and holding in completeness — entelechy (see sidebar) —, be it ontic or epistemic.
The check or entelechy amounts to a kind of confirmation of things which might have been illusory or transitory. In a broader sense than is usual for the word “entelechy,” one can consider wakes, tracks, trails, shells, husks, etc., as entelechies, or as outcroppings of an entelechy of the situation.
However, the traditional emphasis, in the conception expressed by the term “entelechy,” has been on the entelechy as a having COMPLETE, fully and not just partly actualized — rather than on entelechy as a HAVING complete - a standing finished - in a settled completion that can stand up to trials. It’s been enTELechy instead of entelECHY. That traditional emphasis on fullness of actualization (rather than on solidity, establishment), going back to the term’s orginator Aristotle, has permillennially missed something of the confirmational aspect, I think.
Hard it is to become good, harder still to stay good — that sort of thought seems to have been at the root of it, so it’s good to remember that, in a practical sense, what’s involved in staying good is not only that one fully has the good, but also that one’s good is firm and can stand up to reality’s trials and tests, whether they come thick and fast, or otherwise. It’s a good which is tried and true.
Moreover, it is simpler to regard entelechy in that way, as being a distinct principle, something further than a being-fully-completed, since one already regards the middle as being something further than a being-fully-begun. The analogy is exact down through its foundations, as will be seen in a moment. One must be regardful of the systematic conceptual structure of stayings and becomings which undergird these ideas.
Which brings us to the following:
Occam Doesn’t Raze Exactly One Corner of the Square of Opposition
One might object that “beginning, middle, end” seems so nice and complete; why add something more? Beginning, middle, end, like start, continue, stop.
Logically, however, it doesn’t seem so nice and complete at all. Instead:
Beginning, like starting at time t
— X occurs? no (for some period) till t, yes (for some period) since t.
Middle, like continuing at time t
— X occurs? yes (for some period) till t, yes (for some period) since t.
End, like stopping at time t
— X occurs? yes(for some period) till t, no (for some period) since t.
Check, like refraining, holding at time t
— X occurs? no (for some period) till t, no (for some period) since t.
Now that’s logically nice, complete, and hardly escapable, exhausting the combinatorial possibilities of the two relevant parameters.
The entelechy is traditionally associated with the form. Now, a structure is an equilibrium (be the equilibrium static, harmonic, or whatever else) among forces with some stability. Therefore the structure of a thing - even with all the mobility, flexibility, etc., which the structure may have - is a settlement or establishment of the thing, and is the kind of form (as opposed to form as aspect, figure, quality, etc.) most suited to be regarded as the entelechy. While the good has the rational character of an end, a culmination, on the other hand the true, the sound, the legitimate, have the rational character of a check, an entelechy.
It is also possible to make an entelechy the end, goal, culmination of one's action, as when one acts in order to prove something - maybe in inquiry, but also, for instance, about oneself in daily life, acting to prove oneself as being legitimately this or that, deserving of some sort of recognition or honor or accorded status, or to prove that some people do or don't deserve some status. (How many times have you heard one person ask another, "what are you trying to prove?")
One can make a goal of any of the four causes, and there are 'arenas' of contention for them -
• For instance one makes a goal of a beginning, a deciding, a leadership - i.e., power - when one vies or contends in group or mass decision-making for a decision or for a way of decision-making (politics, military battle, etc., deciding who or what gets to decide, etc.).
• If it's a vying to have or be means in general, then it's for wealth, means, wherewithal, (e.g., business, commerce, finance, etc.).
• If it's a vying to have or be ends in general, a vying to be valued, then it's for glory, glamour, wattage, splendor (e.g., fashion, sports, popularity, notoriety, opulence, "hipness," etc.). For "wattage" think not only candlepower but also horsepower; think vitality and, obviously, sex.
• If it's a vying to have or be entelechies in general, a vying to be legitimized, then it's for honor, standing, etc. (e.g., case-building, discussion, debate, the formation of common opinion).