Archive for the ‘Richard McKeon’ Category

Four Philosophies

May 14, 2015


If one could divide all philosophies into four groups, what would those groups be? There doesn’t seem to be a strong consensus on how to do this although several have tried.

My first inclination is to start with the Archic Philosophers, discussed by Robert McKeon and his students Walter Watson and David Dilworth. These would be the Sophists, Plato, Democritus, and Aristotle. Philosophies aren’t usally divided in this way, but pros of doing this is that all four groups emerge from classical Greek thought. One of the main cons is that many would not agree that all philosophies are decendents of these four philosophers, or even combinations of aspects from each.

Another student of McKeon, Robert S. Brumbaugh, thought the process philosophies starting from those of Heraclitus and Anaxagoras (both pre-Socratic) and ranging through Whitehead should be represented instead of the Sophists. Otherwise he choose the same three as McKeon, giving Anaxagorean, Platonic, Democritean, and Aristotelian philosophies. By doing this he can form the double dual of Materialist-Formalist (direction) and Holoscopic-Meroscopic (method).

  • Anaxagoras: Materialist, Holoscopic
  • Platonic: Formalist, Holoscopic
  • Democritean: Materialist, Meroscopic
  • Aristotelian: Formalist, Meroscopic

Two works older than Brumbaugh’s that divide philosophy into the same four groups are those of Ralph Barton Perry and James Donald Butler. Their division is Naturalism, Idealism, Pragmatism, and Realism. I believe that the Realism in these books means Platonic Realism, instead of the more recent Scientific Realism thought of today. Of course Realism has many shadings as seen below.

It might be advantageous to consider Naturalism as a group instead of Realism, since the very concept of the real has so much disagreement. Naturalism does too, but not the extent that Realism does.

Several web sites divide four philosophies of eduction into Idealism, Realism, Pragmatism, and Existentialism. To me, Existentialism is similar to the Relativism of the Sophists. But what about Phenomenalism? Is that more like Relativism or Idealism?

There is also the monumental work “The Sociology of Philosophies” by Randall Collins but I haven’t examined it yet. I suspect they are not condensed or simplified into four groups.

So for now I’ve settled on Relativism, Idealism, Pragmatism, and Naturalism.

Walter Watson / The Architectonics of Meaning: Foundations of the New Pluralism

David Dilworth / Philosophy in World Perspective: A Comparative Hermeneutic of the Major Theories

Robert S. Brumbaugh / Western Philosophic Systems and Their Cyclic Transformations

Ralph Barton Perry /Present Philosophical Tendencies: a critical survey of naturalism, idealism, pragmatism, and realism together with a synopsis of the philosophy of William James

James Donald Butler /Four Philosophies and Their Practice in Education and Religion

Randall Collins / The Sociology of Philosophies: a global theory of intellectual change



The Rational Structure of Inquiring Systems

February 26, 2015

sq_engelhartWhat are the components of consciousness? In the dissertation of L. Kurt Engelhart we see a fourfold used to analyze the texts and bodies of work of both scientists and philosophers, a hermeneutical tool if you will. This tool is also styled by concepts of “systems theory”, and requires the exposition of the aspects of Content, Control, Process, and Purpose of the authors. These match closely the Four Causes of Aristotle, which are the causes of made things or the explanations of how and why they came about: material, efficient, formal, and final. In fact, this close association was one of the main reasons I dove into the world of fourfolds. Texts are made things, after all.sq_causes

Making is so fundamental to what we do, that humans have been called “Homo Faber”, man the maker. We make tools, stories, culture, and even our concept of self. What if I turned this tool onto my own work, the writings and images found here? Perhaps that will be the project of another analyst, if my efforts warrant. What if I applied this tool to Engelhart’s project? That would be interesting indeed.

Another fourfold Engelhart presents is that of the domains of conscious experience, or the self itself as system. sq_four_alsThis fourfold consists of the Real, the Actual, the Ideal, and the Literal, but my version is in disagreement with Engelhart’s as to the classification of integrative and differentiative for the Ideal and the Literal. My assignments match the conjunctive and disjunctive properties of the operators of Linear Logic. Also left out is the Universal and how it supersedes the Actual as we make a complete turn. I like my version because it is similar to Richard McKeon’s Things, Thoughts, Words, and Actions. Also T. S. Eliot’s Falls the Shadow.

Of course this is just a brief gloss of the rich ideas presented in Engelhart’s work. Another of his key concepts is that of wholeness, which I have completely omitted. I hope to return and write a better review at a later time. I’m glad to see that Engelhart’s dissertation is now available as a Kindle book for the low, low price of $1. It is much easier to read in this format! From the Amazon Book Description:

This study describes, as a single systemic model of inquiry, the context common to conscious experience of the phenomenon of inquiry. Data are the published texts of selected contemporary writers relevant to the question. The problem is to define a common systemic structure of inquiry in a context of consciousness. Research verifies that a specific structure is common to these writers and that their respective views are converging on this same structure.

Identifying a common structure involves reducing the textual descriptions of the writers to their systemically relevant essentials. Defining the essential elements and describing a reduction method depends heavily on theory of metaphor and metaphorical evolution. A history of the metaphorical structure relevant to inquiry is described and this structure is used as a basis for finding structure in the selected texts. Texts researched include evolutionary biology, sociology, psychology (phenomenology), and philosophy. This work replicates that done by Talcott Parsons in experimentally describing a voluntaristic theory of action. A wholistic theory of inquiry is described using the same systemic scheme.

The metaphysical approaches to inquiry of realism and idealism have converged on a common theoretical structure for describing inquiry. Commonalities emphasize systemic structure comprising the elements of function: purpose, process, content, and control. It has been necessary to distinguish between affectual and instrumental purposes, and between organic and mechanical function. The ontological essentiality of the structure reveals a necessary logical relationship between function, systemicity, wholeness, and rationality in human understanding. Continuing research in philosophy is crucial to expanding our understanding of the ontological and epistemological structural essentials of consciousness.

Human inquiry during the last century has specialized in the material realm of realism, objective description, and mechanical explanation. A wholistic theory of inquiry does not discount the contributions of realism-based science or idealism-based philosophy, but expands the horizons of each to include the other. Where mathematics provides essential tools for mechanical explanation, organic explanation still lacks abstract structural tools for describing conscious organic, including human, behavior. The intent of a wholistic theory of inquiry is to provide conceptual tools that support disciplined inquiry into conscious behavior.

References and Links:

L. Kurt Engelhart / Wholeness and the Rational Structure of Inquiring Systems: A Dissertation


I removed some text about the “Book of Nature”, because it needed more work. This mentioned the systems theory adage “the purpose of a system”, which can also tie into “meaning as use”. I also missed seeing an obvious thought that inquiry is making.

[*2.188, *3.104, *8.134]


Things, Thoughts, Words, and Actions

June 6, 2013

things_thoughts_words_actionsHere are some additional fourfolds from philosopher Richard McKeon.

McKeon wrote much on the subject of rhetoric. A favorite fourfold of concepts was that of Things, Thoughts, Words, and Actions. He called these “commonplaces of inquiry” or “places of invention and memory”. Two rhetorical devices he used were amplification and schematization. Amplification can extend the scope of, for example, words to the other three, similar to the principle of indifference. “Objectivity is the inclusive principle of indifference by which it is recognized that being is grasped only in what we think, and say, and do about it.” [1] Schematization was used to identify and distiguish, for example, commonplaces. Thus I think amplification is a conjunctive device, and schematization is a disjunctive device.


Another fourfold of subjects by McKeon was Topics, Themes, Theses, and Hypotheses. McKeon wrote, “Speculation concerning discourse must avoid the fixities of categories, doctrines, methods, and assumptions which discourse assumes in any one form of philosophy or inquiry, if it is to include all the forms which discourse takes in philosophy and in inquiry, action, and production. This is possible because the variety of categories or elements is approached in discourse by way of common topics or ‘commonplaces’; the variety of facts or statements of what is the case by way of common hypotheses; the variety of arts or methods of treating problems by way of common themes; and the variety of assumptions or principles by way of common theses.” [2]

Are both these fourfolds aligned correctly with the previous Knowable, Knowledge, Known, and Knower? McKeon’s use of terms in his rhetoric was very fluid, perhaps to prevent systemization or to promote pluralism. However, his main reference to fourfolds was Aristotle’s four scientific questions, or Four Causes, which we can use to try to understand his fourfolds.


Theresa Enos (ed.) / Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition: Communication from Ancient Times to the Information Age

[1] Richard McKeon / Selected Writings of Richard McKeon: Volume One: Philosophy, Science, and Culture

[2] Richard McKeon / Selected Writings of Richard McKeon, Volume Two: Culture, Education, and the Arts

H. L. Ulman / Things, Thoughts, Words, and Actions: the problem of language in late Eighteenth-Century British rhetorical theory

[*5.197, *6.140, *7.162, *7.165]


The Archic Philosophers

May 3, 2013

archic_philosophersInspired by philosopher Richard McKeon, I believe that philosophy as a whole is encompassed by four main philosophical stances, exemplified by four ancient philosophers: the Sophists (as a group), Democritus, Plato, and Aristotle. Their four systems of thought lay out principal philosophical directions, much like the compass directions east, south, north, and west lay out a complete set of primary directions.

Of course the compass directions can be subdivided into north-east, or south-south-west, and so on, and similarly each of these philosophical systems can be divided into four parts. This division into a four-by-four matrix is called the Archic Matrix and was written about at length in the separate but complementary works of Walter Watson and David Dilworth.

Watson and Dilworth described the four main philosophical directions to be perspective, reality, method, and principle: perspective for the Sophists, reality for Democritus, method for Plato, and principle for Aristotle. I have written about these philosophical perspectives previously in several ways.

Thus philosophy as a practice goes around and around and revisits the same ideas over and over. Perhaps McKeon thought his philosophical system followed in the footsteps of Aristotle, and probably Watson and Dilworth had a similar view.

Likewise, I believe that my fourfold of Structure-Function represents these four philosophical directions in the following way: Action(s) for the Sophists, Part(s) for Democritus, Structure for Plato, and Function for Aristotle.


J.-Y. Girard’s Transcendental Syntax

March 7, 2012

With the recent release of the paper found at the link below, logician Jean-Yves Girard has updated his program for a transcendental syntax to version 2.0. The first version was available last year only in French, but this new manuscript is available in English. Girard is known for his refinement of classical and intuitionistic logic, Linear Logic, and his exploration into the mechanisms of logic, Ludics.

In this new paper, Girard describes four levels of semantics, his infernos: alethic, functional, interactive, and deontic. They descend into the depths of meaning, and thus are numbered from -1 to -4. The negatively first, alethic, is the layer of truth or models. The negatively second, functional, is the layer of functions or categories. The negatively third, interaction, is the layer of games or game semantics. The negatively fourth, deontic, is the layer of normativity or formatting.

Interestingly, these four levels are in good agreement with Richard McKeon’s schema for philosophical semantics, represented by the fourfold of reality, method, perspective, and principle.




Walter Watson and David Dilworth’s Archic Matrix

December 2, 2011

Throughout the history of philosophy, there have been many conflicting stances both towards claiming what exists (ontology), and how we can know our claims are valid (epistemology). There are the oppositions between idealism and realism, between rationalism and empiricism, between thinking all is change and all is changeless, between all is many and all is one, and so on. One approach to overcome these oppositions is to combine them to form their Hegelian synthesis. Another is to deconstruct them à la Derrida. Another pluralistic approach is to consider that there is a germ of truth on each side of the conflicting stance, an aspect of reality for which that stance is valid. Some might think that pluralism is the same as relativism, but it is not. Relativism and pluralism form yet another philosophical opposition like others mentioned above.

Regardless of the validity of pluralism, it can be very useful to analyze what philosophical stances are possible and how they relate to one another. The philosopher Richard McKeon created a rich schema for philosophical semantics that deserves greater recognition. This schema was both simplified and elaborated on by Walter Watson and David Dilworth in their books about the Archic Matrix. There are four main aspects, all exemplified by ancient philosophers: the Sophists, Democritus, Plato, and Aristotle. Everything else is a combination of these original aspects, or essentially a rehashing of them. The main aspects are perspective from the Sophists, reality from Democritus, method from Plato, and principle from Aristotle. These partition “what is”, however it is conceived, into four aspects, each of which can be interpreted in four different ways.

Considering Whitehead’s Criteria, note that perspective has consistency, method has coherency, reality has applicability, and principle has adequacy.

Walter Watson / The Architectonics of Meaning: foundations of the new pluralism

David A. Dilworth / Philosophy in World Perspective: a comparative hermeneutic of the major theories



Archic Matrix: Principles

August 12, 2011

Creative cause functioning by virtue of (indeterminate) potentiality transcend what is given, functioning caused is without limit different for different things, indeterminate in kind of functioning caused
Elemental cause functioning by virtue of (determinate) potentiality immanent in what is given, from which the functioning emerges same for all things, all things are the same in their being
Comprehensive cause functioning by virtue of actuality (of totality) transcend what is given, functioning of all things transcends any given thing same for all things, all things are differentiated parts of same whole
Reflexive cause functioning by virtue of actuality (of functionality) immanent in what is given, as the functioning itself different for different things, determinate in kind of functioning caused

Since the Archic Matrix can be thought of as the union of four separate fourfolds, each of the fourfolds of perspective, reality, method, principle can be considered on its own. Here is the fourfold of principles consisting of creative, elemental, comprehensive, and reflexive principles. The content of the table and the bottom figure is derived from Walter Watson’s Architectonics of Meaning.



Archic Matrix: Methods

August 12, 2011

Agonistic parts are primary, producing whole through endeavors two voices are tested against each other to organize whole close off intermediate wholes because of external forces
Logistic parts are primary, producing whole while remaining same one voice beginning from determinate towards determinate whole extend towards ultimates (least parts)
Dialectic whole determines parts directly two voices are united with each other to organize whole extend towards ultimates (all-inclusive whole)
Problematic whole determines parts reciprocally one voice beginning from indeterminate towards determinate whole close off intermediate wholes because of own internal unity

Since the Archic Matrix can be thought of as the union of four separate fourfolds, each of the fourfolds of perspective, reality, method, principle can be considered on its own. Here is the fourfold of methods consisting of agonistic, logistic, dialectic, and problematic methods. The content of the table and the bottom figure is derived from Walter Watson’s Architectonics of Meaning.



Archic Matrix: Realities

August 11, 2011

Existential individual, infinite separate changing (real) from unchanging reality found in appearances (themselves)
Substrative individual, infinite individuations of common substratum persists through change (substratum) reality lies behind appearances (underlying)
Noumenal general, one ideal individual apart from many separate changing from unchanging (real) reality lies behind appearances (transcending)
Essential general, many individuals themselves persists through change (essence) reality found in appearances (that which appears)

Since the Archic Matrix can be thought of as the union of four separate fourfolds, each of the fourfolds of perspective, reality, method, principle can be considered on its own. Here is the fourfold of realities consisting of existential, substrative, noumenal, and essential realities. The content of the table and the bottom figure is derived from Walter Watson’s Architectonics of Meaning.



Archic Matrix: Perspectives

August 11, 2011

Personal distinction between (primary) subject and object personal, merely but infinite in number constitutive of (individual) content
Objective distinction between subject and (primary) object impersonal, subjectivity excluded non-constitutive, subordinate to content
Diaphanic unity between subject and object (to be obtained) personal, subordinated to higher and absolute perspectives non-constitutive, subordinate to superior views
Disciplinary unity between subject and object (initial condition) impersonal, subjectivity universalized constitutive of (universal) content

Since the Archic Matrix can be thought of as the union of four separate fourfolds, each of the fourfolds of perspective, reality, method, principle can be considered on its own. Here is the fourfold of perspectives consisting of personal, objective, diaphanic, and disciplinary perspectives. The content of the table and the bottom figure is derived from Walter Watson’s Architectonics of Meaning.