On the theory of wholes and parts
The difference between 'abstract' and 'concrete' contents, which is plainly the same as Stumpf's distinction between dependent (non-independent) and independent contents, is most important for all phenomenological investigation; we must, it seems, therefore, first of all submit it to a thorough analysis. As said in my previous Investigation, this distinction, which first showed up in the field of the descriptive psychology of sense-data, could be looked on as a special case of a universal distinction. It extends beyond the sphere of conscious contents and plays an extremely important role in the field of objects as such. The systematic place for its discussion should therefore be in the pure (a priori) theory of objects as such, in which we deal with ideas pertinent to the category of object, ideas such as Whole and Part, Subject and Quality, Individual and Species, Genus and Species, Relation and Collection, Unity, Number, Series, Ordinal Number, Magnitude etc., as well as the a priori truths which relate to these. Here again we cannot allow our analytic investigation to wait on the systematic development of our subject-matter. Difficult notions employed by us in our clarificatory study of knowledge, and made to work rather in the manner of a lever, cannot be left unexamined, till they spontaneously emerge in the systematic fabric of the logical realm. For we are not here engaged on a systematic exposition of logic, but on an epistemological clarification, as well as on the prolegomena to any future exposition of logic.
To plumb the difference between dependent and non-independent contents, therefore, points so directly to the fundamental questions of the Pure Theory of Wholes and Parts (which is a part of formal ontology) that we cannot avoid going into these questions in some detail.
Since the Investigation which follows mainly concerns relations of Parts, we start off with a wholly general discussion of such relations.
Objects can be related to one another as Wholes to Parts, they can also be related to one another as coordinated parts of a whole. These sorts of relations have an a priori foundation in the Idea of an object. Every object is either actually or possibly a part, i.e. there are actual or possible wholes that include it. Not every object, on the other hand, need perhaps have parts, and we have therefore the ideal division of objects into the simple and the complex.
The terms 'complex' and 'simple' are therefore defined by the qualification of having parts or not having parts. They may, however, be understood in a second, possibly more natural sense, in which complexity, as the word's etymology suggests, points to a plurality of disjoined parts in the whole, so that we have to call simple
whatever cannot be 'cut up' into a plurality of parts, i.e. that in which not even two disjoined
parts can be distinguished. In the unity of a sensory phenomenon we can perhaps discover a wholly determinate 'moment' of redness as well as the generic 'moment' of colour. Colour and determinate redness are not, however, disjoined 'moments'. Redness on the other hand, and the extension that it covers, are such disjoined moments, since they have no community of content. They have, we may say, a mutual association in the widest sense of the word; we have here a general relation of parts which is that of disjoined parts in a whole, an association of such parts. It now seems appropriate to call the associated parts members
of the association: but to give so wide a sense to talk about members of a whole, means to count colour and shape as the associated parts of a coloured expanse. That goes against linguistic usage. For in such wholes the parts have relative dependence as regards one another: we find them so closely united as to be called 'interpenetrating'. It is quite different in the case of wholes which are broken up, or could be broken up, into pieces
: in their case talk of members or of articulated structure alone comes natural. The parts are here not merely disjoined from each other, but relatively independent, they have the character of mutually-put-together pieces
Even at the start of our discussion, we see that the relations of parts fall under characteristically different forms: these forms, we suspect, depend on the cardinal difference between independent and non-independent objects, which is our theme in the present section.
We interpret the word 'part' in the widest
sense: we may call anything a 'part' that can be distinguished 'in' an object, or, objectively phrased, that is 'present' in it. Everything is a part that is an object's real possession, not only in the sense of being a real thing, but also in the sense of being something really in something, that truly helps to make it up:1
an object in itself, considered in abstraction from all contexts to which it is tied, is likewise a part. Every non-relative 'real' (reale
) predicate therefore points to a part of the object which is the predicate's subject: 'red' and 'round', e.g., do so, but not 'existent' or 'something'. Every 'real' (reale)
mode of association, e.g. the moment of spatial configuration, likewise counts as a proper part of the whole.
The term 'part' is not used so widely in ordinary discourse. If we now try to pin down the limitations which mark off this ordinary, from our notion of part, we come up against the fundamental distinction called by us that of independent and non-independent parts. Where one talks of 'parts' without qualification, one generally has the independent parts (those referred to as 'pieces') in mind. Since each part can be made the specific object (or, as we also have frequently said, 'content') of a presentation directed upon it, and can therefore be called an object or 'content', the distinction of parts just mentioned points to a distinction in objects (or contents) as such. The term 'object' is in this context always taken in its widest sense.
In ordinary talk of objects or of parts, one of course involuntarily thinks of independent objects. The term 'content' is less restricted in this respect since 'abstract contents' are also commonly talked of. But talk of 'contents' tends to move in a purely psychological sphere, a limitation with which we may start investigating our distinction, but which must be dropped as we proceed.2
As a matter of history the distinction between independent and non-independent contents arose in the psychological realm, more specifically in the field of the phenomenology of inner experience. In a polemic against Locke, Berkeley said:3
We have the ability to recall individual things previously seen, or to put them together or break them down in imagination. We can imagine a man with two heads, the trunk of a man tied to the body of a horse, or isolated pieces such as a separated head, nose, ear etc. As
opposed to this, it is impossible to form 'abstract ideas', to separate the idea, e.g., of a movement from that of a moving body. We can only abstract, in the Lockean separative sense, such parts of a presented whole as are in fact unified with other parts, but as could also exist without them. Since esse
for Berkeley here always means the same as percipi
, this inability to exist means no more than an inability to be perceived. We must note, further, that for Berkeley ideas are the things perceived, i.e. contents of consciousness in the sense of things we really (reell
We may now make a statement that brings out the essential point of Berkeley's distinctions, making use of a readily understandable verbal change.4
Seen in their mutual interrelations, contents presented together on any occasion fall into two main classes: independent and non-independent contents.5
We have independent contents wherever the elements of a presentational complex (complex of contents) by their very nature permit their separated presentation
; we have dependent contents wherever this is not the case.
To be more precise in regard to this ability or inability-to-be-separately-presented, we make use of some of Stumpf's observations — quite insufficiently noticed — and assert the following:6
It is self-evident, in regard to certain contents, that the modification or elimination of at least one of the contents given with them (but not contained in them), must modify or eliminate those contents themselves. In the case of other contents, this is not at all self-evident; it is not absurd to suppose them remaining unaffected despite the modification or elimination of all coexistent contents. Contents of the former sort can only be conceived as parts of more comprehensive wholes, whereas the latter appear possible, even if nothing whatever exists beside them, nothing therefore bound up with them to form a whole.
In the sense just laid down every phenomenal thing and piece of a thing is separably presentable. The head of a horse can be presented 'on its own' or 'cut off', i.e. we can hold it in our fancy, while we allow the other parts of the horse, and its whole intuited setting, to alter and vanish at will. Strictly speaking, the phenomenal thing or its piece, i.e. the sensuous phenomenon as such, the spatial shape filled with sensuous qualities, never stays just the same in descriptive content: but the content of such a 'phenomenon' does not at least involve anything entailing a self-evident, necessary, functional dependence of its changes on those of coexistent phenomena. This holds, we may say, of phenomenal objects as such, as well as of the 'appearances', in the sense of the experiences
, in which these things appear, as also in respect of the sensational complexes which are given an objective 'interpretation' in such experiences. Good examples in this field are the phenomena of tones
and chords, of smells and other experiences, that we can readily think of apart from all relation to existent thinghood.
Let us now consider some instances of inseparable contents, e.g. the relation of visual quality to extension, or the relation of both to the figure which bounds them. It is doubtless true in a certain sense that these moments can be independently varied. Extension can stay the same while colour varies indefinitely, colour stay the same while extent and figure vary indefinitely. But, strictly speaking, such independent variability affects only the kinds of the 'moments' in their various genera. While the moment of colour remains constant in respect of its specific shade, extension and shape may vary indefinitely in their sub-species, and vice versa. Specifically the same quality, and nuance of quality, may be stretched or spread out over every extension, and, conversely, the same extension may be covered by every quality. Scope, however, remains for relations of functional dependence among the changes of such moments, which, be it noted, are not exhausted by the ideal content of their Species. The moment of colour, as immediate part-content of the intuited concrete thing, is not the same in the two concrete intuitions, even when the quality, the lowest differentiation of the genus colour, remains the same. Stumpf has made the powerful observation:
Quality shares after a fashion in changes of extension. We express this verbally when we say that colour diminishes, becomes smaller, even to the vanishing point. Increase and diminution are names for quantitative changes.
Quality is indeed affected in sympathy with changes in extent, although its own peculiar manner of change is independent of extent. It does not thereby become less green or less red: it has itself no degrees, only kinds, and can in itself neither increase nor diminish, only alter. But none the less, when we leave quality quite unchanged as regards its peculiar manner of change, e.g. let it stay green, it still is affected by quantitative change. And that this is perhaps not an improper or misleading verbal transfer, is shown by the fact that a quality can decrease to nothing
, that in the end mere change of quantity can bring it to nought
We accept Stumpf's observation, only adding that it is not really the quality that is affected, but the immediate intuitive 'moment' falling under it. Quality must be looked on as a second-order abstraction, just like the figure and magnitude of an extension. But just on account of the law here under discussion, the moment in question can only be named by way of concepts determined by the genera of Quality and Extension. Quality is differentiated to the qualitative 'moment' now under consideration, by
something not contained in the Genus Colour, since we rightly treat the quality, e.g. the determinate shade of red, as the Infima Species
within this genus. Just so, a determinate figure is the last difference of the Genus Figure, though the corresponding immediate, intuitive 'moment' is further differentiated. But the combinations among the various last differences of the Genera Figure and Colour fully determine the 'moments' in question, determine whatever else may be like or unlike them. The dependence of the immediate 'moments' therefore means a certain necessary relationship among them, which is determined purely by their abstracta at the level just above them.
Stumpf adds the following valuable remarks:
From this (i.e. the above described functional dependence of the 'moments' of Quality and Extension), it follows that both are in their nature inseparable
, that they in some manner compose a total content
, of which they are merely part-contents. Were they merely items in a sum, one might possibly think that, absolutely treated, disappearance of Extension might mean the concomitant disappearance of Quality, that they did not exist apart; but that Quality should gradually diminish and vanish through the mere diminution and vanishing of Quantity, without changing in its own fashion as Quality, would be unintelligible ... they can in any case not be independent contents. Their nature forbids them to have an isolated and mutually independent existence in our ideas
The same sort of thing could be said of the relation of Intensity to Quality. The intensity of a tone is not something indifferent or so-to-speak alien to its qua...