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Qualities

Existence consistent of all the things that exist. Everything that exists may be refered to as an existent. Physical existents may also be referred to as entities, but exitents with other modes of existence, such as "feelings" or "concepts" are not entities, though they are existents.

Since we know from ontology's principles of identity that every existent's identity, its nature, its differentiation from all other existents, and its relationships to all other existents, are all determined by that existent's qualities, if we are to understand the nature of existence at all, it is imperative we understand the nature of qualities.

The Relationship of Qualities to Existents

"Qualities" refers to any of an existent's attributes, characteristics, or properties, which are all only aspects of an existents total nature as the existent it is. It is very important to understand those qualities do not "make" the existent what it is in some causative sense. The qualities of an existent are what they are because the existent is what it is. The qualities of existents, themselves, only exist as qualities of existents and have no independent existence apart from those existents.

Though they do not have any independent existence, qualities do exist, and like all existents have qualities themselves, which define the kind of qualities they are. The nature of the differences in qualities is crucial to epistemology, and more so to logic. To understand those difference, qualities can be explained in terms of their categories.

Categories of Qualities

There are, of course, as many qualities as there are existents (actually more, since every existent has many qualities). To attempt to understand existence in terms of all possible qualities is hopeless. But it is unnecessary to identify every possible quality of every possible existent to understand the nature of the qualities that our world's existence is comprehended by, because, like all other existents and our understanding of them, all qualities can be subsumed under a limited number of kinds or categories. There may be other ways to categorize qualities, but the method I've use, I think, provides the most comprehensive and least complex organization. Here then are the categories of all possible qualities.

  • Perceptual Direct
  • Perceptual Indirect
  • Inherent
  • Relative
  • Necessary
  • Possible
  • Conceptual—including:
    1. Quality
    2. Relational
    3. Derived
    4. Analogous
    5. Metamaterial
    6. Consciousness (of)
    7. Emotional

Perceptual Qualities

The first qualities we are conscious of are the qualities of perception, those we are directly aware of, the colors we see, the scents we smell, the sounds we hear, the flavors we taste, and the sensations we feel. Since the subject of perception has been fully addressed elsewhere, it is only necessary here to emphasize the nature of those perceptual qualities as they relate to qualities in general.

The perceptual qualities are the actual qualities of physical existents directly available to consciousness through the neurological system. We obviously know a great deal more about physical existents, including physical, chemical, and, in the case of living organisms, biological attributes which we cannot directly perceive, but all we know about physical existents we know by means of those qualities which we first perceive.

The perceivable qualities of an existent are all determined by the entire nature of that existent. All of an entity's attributes (its identity) are implied by those qualities which can be directly perceived. No attribute of an existent can be changed without changing some aspect of how that existent is or can be perceived.

[Note: This last deserves a great deal more discussion, and is certainly not obvious. It might seem this is just a kind of assumption, but it is not. In fact, if any quality of a thing could change that was not perceivable in any way, the "changed" attribute would be irrelevant. The change in perceptual qualities might be very subtle and require instruments or "experiments" to make them apparent.]

For example, we cannot directly perceive a things chemical makeup, but the chemical makeup will determine how the thing looks, feels (weight and texture), smells, if it has an oder, tastes, if it has a taste, and sounds, if it makes one. If it's chemical makeup were different, some or all of those characteristics would be different (and of course the existent itself would be a different one). This does not mean that some very different things might seem perceptually similar, even identical, at least without careful examination, (fake jewelry, for example), but they are exceptions, and even in those cases, how they look, feel, smell, taste, and sound is determined by their entire nature, that is, the qualities that make them what they are.

Direct Perceptual Qualities

Most of the qualities of existents that can be directly perceived are indirect. The direct perceptual qualities are limited to color and intensity (vision); pitch, harmonics, and loudness (hearing); scent, taste, and the feelings of cold, pressure, and muscle response, as well as a number of internal perceptions such as balance, for example.

Some philosophers, like Locke, knew there was a difference in the qualities of things as perceived, but their attempts to explain the difference did more harm to philosophy than good, resulting in such false ideas as primary and secondary attributes. All the attributes of an existent that are perceived are attributes of the existent, period; the difference is in whether there is a "percept" that directly corresponds to the attribute of the entity being perceived, or whether the attribute is perceived as a configuration or arrangement of percepts. The latter I refer to as indirect perceptual qualities.

Indirect Perceptual Qualities

Visually, the only "percepts" we have are color and brightness. By means of those percepts we directly perceive the color and brightness of the entities we see. There are, however, no "percepts" corresponding to all the other attributes of the things we perceive visually, such as shape, size, and relative positions. We perceive those attributes of entities by means of the "percepts" of color and brightness indirectly, as configurations of color and brightness.

This does not mean we do not truly perceive those other attributes—we do perceive them, but we do not perceive them as percepts, we perceive them as what they actually are, configurations or patterns of those colors and intensity as they exist or appear in the entities themselves.

For example, consider a tomato (a really nicely formed deep gorgeous red one). We can directly perceive the color of the tomato (a deep gorgeous red) and since the tomato is round, the "gorgeous red" percept in our visual field will be round as well. There is no percept, "round," however; the roundness is an attribute of the particular percept of "gorgeous red" we have when seeing a tomato.

While the perception we have of a tomato is, in our visual field, a patch of "round redness" the "redness" is a direct perception of the color of the tomato, and the "roundness" is an indirect perception resulting from the fact the tomato itself is round, and only presents redness in that configuration to our senses to be perceived.

This difference between direct and indirect perception is true for all of perception. While we perceive pressure and temperature and muscle reaction as direct percepts, our perception of texture, for example, is indirect; it is a configuration of pressure percepts. If we touch a smooth stone the pressure percepts will be more or less uniform, and we call that configuration of pressure percepts, "smooth;" but if we touch a file or piece of sandpaper the pressure percepts will be discontinuous and disorganized, and we call the configuration of pressure percepts "rough." Smooth and rough are indirect percepts, but real percepts of the actual nature of the things being felt.

Indirect perceptual qualities also include some qualities of relationship, such as position and motion, or one thing be "above" another, or to the "right" or "left" of another, or something being "in" something or "behind" something. The perception of those relative qualities is the same as other indirect percepts, simply the way the direct perceptual qualities are "configured" or "change" in our field of perception. These indirect perceptual qualities do not lead directly to their identification, that is, concepts of these qualities. It is only as we learn to identify these relationships between things that they become concepts.

No Primary/Secondary Dichotomy

It is not my intention to correct every mistake that has plagued philosophy, but some are so common they have become ingrained and accepted without question. The idea of primary and secondary qualities is one of them.

The fact that the means by which we perceive color and shape is different is irrelevant to the "type" of qualities these are as attributes of existents. They are different kinds of percepts, but both are percepts of the real qualities of the entities being perceived.

The mistaken view of Locke and other 16th and 17th century philosophers, which is still taught and widely held, supposes that only "primary" qualities are actual attributes of things, existing in the "external" world just as they are perceived, but that secondary qualities do not actually exist in things perceived and only exist as perceptions. Primary qualities, it is supposed, are all measurable and include shape, size, distance, weight, and temperature, for example. Secondary qualities are not supposedly measurable and include color, taste, texture, scent, and sound.

If there were a difference in these kinds of qualities, other than the fact they are different attributes of things, it is the so-called "secondary" qualities which are the truly primary. We see color, taste flavors, feel pressure, smell oders and hear sounds directly, and without those direct percepts, we could not perceive the so-called "primary" attributes at all. We perceive all the qualities by means of these. We see the roundness of an apple, for example, because we directly perceive its redness, but we see it's roundness only because the redness we directly perceive has a round configuration.

The claim of the primary/secondary fallacy is that while a thing's shape is exactly as it is perceived, it's color, as it is perceived, is only in our mind, not actually in the entity; that is, "there is no redness in a red apple." The redness we consciously perceive is, however, in the apple, and it is a real attribute of the apple in exactly the same way roundness is an attribute of an apple. The color of an entity is determined by it's nature, just as it's shape is, or it's weight is. An entity's color is determined by those characteristics that determine the wave-length of the light it will reflect, transmit, or emit, all measurable characteristics, by the way.

If there were no color in the apple, no other attribute of an apple, such as its shape, or size, or position could be seen at all. The primary/secondary dichotomy absurdly asserts that we are conscious of all things by means of our direct consciousness of what does not exist—if redness does not exist as an attribute of an apple our perception of red would be a perception of nothing at all.

[Note: Two additional points are required here: (Presented here without argument.) 1. A red apple really is red, and our perception of that color is exactly appropriate to what it is a perception of, the color of light being reflected by the apple. 2. Though the conscious experience of perceiving red is "subjective," the supposition that we may all then may have a different experience when perceiving red is a mistake. There is no reason to suppose our subjective experiences of perception are different, and every reason to suppose they are the same.]

Inherent and Relative Qualities

Inherent qualities are all the properties, attributes, and characteristics an entity has independent of its relationship to any other entity or entities. Inherent qualities are also called natural qualities because they are the qualities that determine what an entity is, that is, its nature or identity, as a member of a class of entities.

The inherent qualities include all perceptual qualities, like color, texture, size, shape, weight, scent, and flavor, which we see, hear, feel, smell, and taste. They include all those qualities we discover by studying entities as they are perceived, such as their chemical makeup, physical structure, as well as thermal, electrical, and mechanical characteristics, for example. They also include attributes that cannot possibly be directly perceived, such as atomic and subatomic components and structure. If living entities, their inherent qualities include all their biological attributes, as well as their individual identities.

[Note: inherent vs. relative qualities pertain to all kinds of existents, not just physical entities, though most of this discussion is in terms of physical entities.]

Relative qualities are all those qualities of things which are determined by their relationship to other existents, both physical and conceptual. For example, an existent's position or geographic location is obviously a real but relative quality determined by its relationship to other entities; the thing would still be what it is if it were somewhere else. Weight (not mass) and velocity are also relative qualities.

Other relative qualities are "conceptual," for example, uncle (if one's brother or sister has no children the person who would otherwise be an uncle is not, but is still the same person), and many others like, "recently discovered," "important," "lost," "found," "wanted" as well as the ordinal concepts like "first," "last," and "fifth," which can be applied to people ("the fifth girl in line"), a series of events, ("the fifth race"), or ideas, ("the fifth principle"), for example. In each case the entity or existent could be the same one if the relationship were different.

The relative qualities can all be defined without reference to the inherent or natural qualities of entities. However, it is an entity's nature, defined by its inherent or natural qualities that determines what kind relationships it must or may have to other entities. A girl can be the fifth in line, but she cannot be an uncle.

Since there are entities which are identical in terms of their inherent or natural qualities (molecules of water, for example) it is the relative qualities that differentiate them. When existents are identical in every other way, the only possible differences they can have are relative ones, for example, a positional difference. It must be noted that even when entities are well differentiated by inherent qualities, they are also differentiated by the relative qualities they would be differentiated by even if inherently identical.

[Note: It is unlikely that any two physical existents are identical. One reason atoms and sub-atomic particles are not metaphysically primary is because their identification is identical, all their inherent qualities are necessary qualities, and none have different inherent possible qualities. Their only differences are relative.]

Between Ontology and Epistemology

Inherent qualities expressed in abstract relative terms is an epistemological concept, and forms a bridge between the ontological and epistemological. For example, an entity's size can be directly perceived, and is an attribute of the entity itself, an aspect of its nature, and does not depend on its relationship to any other entity. As a concept, however, size is a relative quality and must be expressed in relative terms. The definition of any concept of size is in relationship to some "standard" unit of measure, which can be anything that has size as an attribute. All the physical, chemical, biological (scientific) qualities of things are inherent qualities expressed in abstract relative terms.

Inherent qualities expressed in abstract relative terms is not the only bridge between the ontological and the epistemological, of course. All of those qualities I've identified as "analogous" below that are derived from the ontological are also part of that bridge.

Necessary and Possible Qualities

Necessary and possible qualities is the most important category for epistemology. It is in terms of qualities in this category that concepts are formed.

Necessary qualities are all the qualities an existent must have to be the existent, or kind of existent it is, and without which it could not be that existent or kind of existent. In the case of a single existent the necessary qualities are all those it must have to be the existent it is (at any particular time). Necessary qualities also exclude any qualities of an existent that would make it a different kind of existent.

Possible qualities are all those qualities that an existent may have but does not necessarily have, including all those qualities that may change without the existent becoming a different existent or a different kind of existent. Possible qualities also include all possible relationships an existent may have to other existents. The necessary qualities determine what qualities are possible to an existent.

There are two kinds of necessary qualities: immutable and mutable.

Immutable necessary qualities are those qualities that cannot change for a given kind of existent or particular existent. An existent always has the same immutable necessary qualities or ceases to be that existent or kind of existent. An individual, for example, matures, may gain or loose weight, learns, lives in different places, but always remains the same individual so long as he lives. The immutable qualities that identify an individual as that individual never change, even if those attributes are not known.

Mutable necessary qualities pertain only to individual or particular existents and are those qualities that can change, but are the qualities of an existent "at the moment." The mutable necessary qualities may change or may be true sometimes and not at other times, but are true of the existent at the time the existent is being identified. For example, a person's weight may change, but at any particular time that weight will have a specific value. For that person at that specific time that weight is a necessary quality, if any person had a different weight at that moment, it would be a different person, not the one identified.

Conceptual Qualities

In epistemology we learn, except for those concepts that identify material existents, attributes, behavior, or relationships, which all exist ontologically, what is identified by all other concepts exist only epistemologically, that is, only as concepts. Since all existents, including epistemological existents, are whatever their qualities are, the qualities of all existents, other then ontological ones, are epistemological or conceptual.

[Note: I have identified metaphysics as the study of that which exists, not just materially, but in every mode. In most philosophies, metaphysics is identical with ontology, which only deals with material existence (that which exists independently of anyone's knowledge or consciousness of it). It is important in my philosophy to emphasize that concepts really exist, and that though epistemological concepts have no ontological existence, they do exist metaphysically, but only as they are held in any individual's consciousness by means of the words that identify those concepts.]

Kinds of Conceptual Qualities

This list is not meant to be exhaustive, because there are too many different kinds of conceptual qualities. These, at least, are the most common. Many conceptual qualities belong to more than one category.

1. Quality
2. Relational
3. Derived
4. Analogous
5. Metamaterial
5. Consciousness (of)
6. Emotional

Quality qualities are attributes of qualities themselves. Every quality is also an existent and therefore has qualities itself, as every existent does. It is a qualities attributes that determine which category of quality it is, which is the very subject of this article.

Relational qualities identify relationships and include physical (ontological) relationships, but as conceptual qualities they pertain only to relationships between concepts and other existents (which can be physical) or between concepts and other concepts. All "size" concepts, as described above are relational qualities.

Some other common relational qualities are new, old, lost, found, wanted, as well as ordinal relations such as first, middle, last and twenty-seventh.

All qualities of value are relational: important, good, bad, useful, dangerous, benevolent, malevolent. Values always assume a valuer and an end or purpose to which a thing is a value.

Some relative qualities are both material qualities (metaphysical) and conceptual qualities, such as in, on, above, below, right and left. Though the words are related, technically these qualities when used ontologically ("the broom is in the closet") do not have the same meaning as they do when used conceptually ("the proof is in the pudding"). These qualities used conceptually are called analogous and are under "Analogous" qualities below.

Derived qualities are derived from existents (and indirectly their attributes). Common examples are "metallic" and "plastic," which mean having the attributes of "metal" (such a the appearance of metal) or the attributes of plastic (malleable). Such qualities often have both an ontological (metallic paint) as well as conceptual use (his values are quite plastic).

The existents may be substances, like metal, plastic, water (watery) and ice (icy); or entities, like feathers (feathery), rocks (rocky) and books (bookish); events or actions, like fire (fiery), explosion (explosive) and run (running); or concepts, like justice (just), profession (professional), and beauty (beautiful).

When derived from existents that are themselves concepts such qualities are usually conceptual, such as the examples, professional, and beautiful, already given, as well as all those concepts of consciousness, such as mind (mental), memory (remembered), thought (thoughtful), choice (chosen), and reason (reasonable or reasoned).

Analogous qualities use the attributes of existents in an indirect comparative way. Qualities like the relative qualities in, on, above, below, right and left, are also analogously when used conceptually. For example, in the following phrases, "in history," "on balance," "above and beyond that," "below standards," "the political left," "the radical right," the words in, on, above, below, left, and right are all used analogously.

[Note: In one sense all concepts, except those for the ontological, are metaphors and analogies based on the directly perceived physical world. The connection is more obvious in some cases than others, and sometimes the chain of reasoning back to that physical reality is obscure. I am not referring here to the fact that all our knowledge is ultimately grounded in the material existence we are directly conscious of; here I am only referring to concepts themselves.

As an example, consider this first sentence from, "The Declaration of Independence:"

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

In the phrase, "in the course of human events," both "in" and "course" are obviously analogous, and the whole phrase is an analogous picture of human activity pictured as physical things following a physical course. In the phrase "to dissolve the political bands," both "dissolve" and "bands" are also obvious analogies drawn from physical "dissolving" and "bands". Other obvious terms drawn from physical analogies are powers, separate, station, Laws, and impel. Except for the pronouns, every word in that sentence, though not so obviously, is based on an analogy of some attribute of the physical world. For example, the common preposition "to" is based on a physical direction; the preposition "of" originally meant, "off, from, or away," (all physical directions) but now means, "belonging to," as in, "physical possession of," but by analogy, "pertaining to." The word become is from, "happen, come about," that is from physical events that produce a result.]

Metamaterial qualities are analogous qualities of the metaphysical. They are called "metamaterial" because they are real attributes of material phenomena, but the attributes are conceived as analogies from perceived material reality.

For example, the scientific descriptions of physical attributes that cannot be directly perceived, like all those of the atomic and sub-atomic nature of physical existents and other physical phenomena. When sub-atomic existences are called "particles" it is an analogy from the physical world we actually see and experience. Other phenomena, like light being referred to as both particles (photons) and waves (electro-magnetic), which are both analogies from the perceivable physical world.

In terms of their mathematical and behavioral characteristics, particles and waves are how those aspects of nature are "pictured" or "modeled" by scientists, but they are only pictures. There is nothing particulate or wavelike as those terms describe physically observable particles and waves in that phenomena that cannot be directly observed, anymore than there is physical heat in a, "really hot issue."

[Note: One reason these analogies are deceptive is because they result in a kind of confusion if care is not taken to avoid it. If one mistakenly are carelessly views the physical attributes that are analogously attributed to sub-physical world, it amounts to arguing the physical attributes are their own explanation. In other words, if the sub-atomic particles have the same attributes as the physical existents which are constructed of them, they would simply be physical existents, not the explanation for them.]

[Note: This does not imply that these are not good analogies, or as the scientists who don't forget that is all they are call them, "models." Unfortunately most laymen and many scientists either forget or are never aware of this nature of scientific concepts.]

Emotional qualities are qualities derived from identified emotional states, most often those things and states to which or with which one identifies their particular emotions or feelings.

[Note: while the emotions and feelings are percepts, they are not perceptions of any particular existent—except our own body—but of a general state or condition, the reaction of our entire physical nature to the content of consciousness. Our concepts of the emotions are entirely conceptual, because they are all associations of specific feelings with those things we have discovered (or believe) are their cause.]

Emotional qualities would include sad, funny, happy, unhappy, feared, fearful, frightening, worrisome, fretful, eager, and ecstatic for example.

Consciousness (of) qualities are qualities related to aspects of consciousness itself and would include such qualities as perceptual, perceptive, thoughtful, rational, reasonable, remembered, reminiscent, imagined, imaginary, dreamed, dreamy, critical, judgmental.

—Reginald Firehammer (2/2/10)

Summary

  1. "Qualities" refers to any of an existent's attributes, characteristics, or properties.
  2. Qualities do not "make" an existent what it is in some causative sense. The qualities of an existent are what they are because the existent is what it is.
  3. Qualities of existents have no independent existence apart from existents.
  4. The perceptual qualities are the actual qualities of physical existents directly available to consciousness through the neurological system.
  5. The direct perceptual qualities are limited to color and intensity (vision); pitch, harmonics, and loudness (hearing); scent, taste, and the feelings of cold, pressure, and muscle response, as well as a number of internal perceptions such as balance.
  6. The indirect perceptual qualities are all the qualities that can be perceived by means of configurations or arrangements of direct perceptual qualities like size, shape, and position.
  7. The inherent qualities are all of an existent's qualities that it has without respect to any relationship it has to any other existent. An existent's inherent qualities determine its nature and what relative qualities are possible to it.
  8. Relative qualities are all those qualities of things which are determined by their relationship to other existents, both physical and conceptual.
  9. Inherent qualities expressed in abstract relative terms is an epistemological concept, and forms a bridge between the ontological and epistemological. For example, an entity's size can be directly perceived, and is an attribute of the entity itself, an aspect of its nature, and does not depend on its relationship to any other entity. As a concept, however, size is a relative quality and must be expressed in relative terms. The definition of any concept of size is in relationship to some "standard" unit of measure, which can be anything that has size as an attribute. All the physical, chemical, biological (scientific) qualities of things are inherent qualities expressed in abstract relative terms.
  10. Necessary qualities are all the qualities an existent must have to be the existent, or kind of existent it is, and without which it could not be that existent or kind of existent.
  11. Possible qualities are all those qualities that an existent may have but does not necessarily have, including all those qualities that may change without the existent becoming a different existent or a different kind of existent.
  12. Immutable necessary qualities are those qualities that cannot change for a given kind of existent or particular existent.
  13. Mutable necessary qualities pertain only to individual or particular existents and are those qualities that can change, but are the qualities of an existent "at the moment."