Tag Archives: Walter Watson

The Archic Philosophers

archic_philosophersIn a word, the Sophist begins from man, the Democritean from matter, the Platonist from form, and the Aristotelian from functioning.

— From The Architectonics of Meaning, by Walter Watson

Inspired 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.


Archic Matrix: Principles

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.