Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

Potentiality, Creativity, and Relationality: Creative Power as a "New" Transcendental?

Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

Potentiality, Creativity, and Relationality: Creative Power as a "New" Transcendental?

Article excerpt

TO SUGGEST AN ADDITION to the transcendental properties of being requires some work--a great deal of it necessarily sketchy and dogmatically presented. But we will try to build everything from the bottom up, from the structures given in experience and what we can infer from them, proximately and remotely. (1) That will constitute the first and densest part of the paper. This part has two subsections that we might designate roughly as "Nature" and "History." Regarding Nature, in a basically Aristotelian analysis with Nietzschian overtones, we will look at the notion of potentiality as that entails creativity and relationality in a hierarchy of powers and beings. At the human level, in a basically Hegelian analysis, we will claim that the notion of being founds History as the accumulation of creative human empowerment through institutionalization. A second major part--which we might call "History of Nature"--will extend the analysis by appealing to the results of scientific investigation that will retain but resituate the previous part. The concluding third part will then suggest an extension of the transcendentals to include creative empowerment through relation.

Nature. Our starting point involves reflection upon potentiality. Potentiality is an inference from actuality, but both notions occupy a very high level of abstraction from what is always already given. The most proximate to us are things and persons presented in the Now of sensed actuality but understood in terms of the powers they exhibit in and through the patterned sequence of that actuality. (2)

We who make these observations stand in our awareness at the pinnacle of a hierarchy of structures functionally copresent in ourselves, but we also stand as the term of a developmental process that reveals the potentialities immanent in the earliest stages of that development. Our reflections rest upon sensory activity that presupposes an organic base, each level of which emerges serially from our earliest stage as a fertilized ovum. The series of stages exhibits two critical thresholds: the passage from organic life to sentient awareness and the passage from sentient awareness to reflective awareness. Observation of the exhibition in sensed actuality of the developing sequence leads to the inference that the earliest stages contained the not-yet-exhibited active potentialities for the actualizations that followed. An exhaustive empirical inventory of the observable actuality of the fertilized ovum yields no insight into the potentialities it contains. Given its relative incomplexity, its presentation of nothing remotely approaching its eventual articulation, it is not too difficult to regard it as nothing but what it actually presents itself to be at that moment for an outside inspection and thus allow it to be dispensed with when it conflicts with our ends. A more thoughtful relation to the fertilized ovum retains an awareness of the inference to the active powers it contains, still only in the earliest phases of the actualization process.

The sequence of actualization occurs in relation to the environment that corresponds to the active and passive powers of the developing human being. In the environment we find the tri-level phases concurrent in us distributed into three kinds of beings outside us: plant life, animal life, and the life of other humans. Plant life together with the corresponding organic level of our own life draws continually upon the elements in the nonliving environment for its own development and sustenance. That gives us four levels: human, animal, plant, and elemental. Whatever we know of the beings occupying these four levels we know through their being actualized in our own sensory field as sensory objects. But their differing modes of behavior allow us to infer differing underlying potentialities systematically linked and to sort out functioning wholes of differing types at each of the levels in correlation to our own functioning wholeness. …

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