This inclusive attitude is one of the strengths of Coleridge’s approach, which grew from his celebrated powers of synthesis. Seeing polarised debates as revealing an interdependent whole, he tried to embrace the views of his philosophical opponents, rather than simply dismiss them. He saw dichotomous or binary thinking (B versus C) as merely disputative, whereas a broader trichotomy (B versus C within a broader unity of A) presented a unified whole as the higher ideal that fierce yet dependent polar opposition imperfectly represents. The view of a higher union of opposites leads to reasoning, while binary thinking leads merely to arguing.
Beyond the ‘cultivating’ merits of Coleridgean synthesis, it’s also valuable to delve into the content of his philosophy. Over the past 15 years, philosophers have been attending to what Anna Marmodoro calls ‘the metaphysics of powers’ and, since Albert Einstein’s theories of relativity and the later quantum theory, most philosophers and physicists agree that forces and fields of force are more fundamental than matter, which is no longer held to be the atomistic ne plus ultra it was often thought to be. Notably, Isaac Newton refused to reduce the force of gravitation to something that is itself material, leaving it as one of those dark mysteries that we must simply observe and accept without fully understanding.
Without denying physical matter, Coleridge contended against what he saw as abject materialism, which reduced all qualities to quantity and collapsed physical forces into matter. On this point, history now sides with Coleridge against the materialists, and philosophers sympathetic with the intent of materialism now generally identify not with ‘materialism’ but with ‘physicalism’, or the view that the fundamental components of the Universe are whatever physics will eventually conclude they are. Current thinking in quantum physics construes these elements as fundamental forces, which Coleridge himself argued.
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor