The American philosopher Charles Hartshorne has been hailed as “the Einstein of religious thought, someone whose discoveries and insights will be influential for centuries.” The sheer fertility of his thought is astonishing. In addition to a vast correspondence, he published twenty books and almost 500 essays and reviews in professional journals.
Hartshorne lived to the ripe old age of 103. He was, and here he is a model for us all, an active and prolific scholar in his eighth and ninth decades. So far as I know, he is the only philosopher who ever published a major new book in his hundredth year.
Born in 1897, Hartshorne holds a unique distinction in being the only philosopher who lived in three different centuries. As a centenarian, he rejoiced “to be not only still alive, but still able to be excited by ideas and to do something to express this excitement.”
Because of the fecundity and inventiveness of his mind, I have alluded to CH as the Thomas Edison of philosophy. As evidence of this inventiveness, here are:
42 Examples of metaphysical and philosophical truths discovered by Charles Hartshorne, ancient truths that he revealed in a new light, or intellectual errors he helped to overturn:
1. Doctrinal Matrices: exhaustive sets of theoretical options.
Hartshorne’s Matrix showing the permutations of a pair of contrasts, necessity and contingency, as they apply to logically possible ideas of God.
For a discussion of this, see Part V of my essay “An Introduction to Process Philosophy.”
2. The distinction between “existence” and “actuality.”
Philosophers should, at long last, give due heed to the manifest difference between existence, the mere abstract truth that an abstraction is somehow concretely embodied, and the actuality, the how, of the embodiment. The ignoring of this duality in nearly all discussions of the ontological problem is a marvelous instance of how even centuries of prolonged controversy, involving almost an entire learned world, can still leave a point unnoticed by anyone. The possibility of such collective blindness helps to make intellectual life exciting. There is always a chance of seeing clearly for the first time what implicitly many have been looking for.
Charles Hartshorne, Anselm's Discovery, 131-32.
Our discussion has implied, but not explicated, a distinction between existence and actuality. Species or properties exist in individuals, individuals exist in concrete events or states. That a property exists means that there is at least one individual with the property; that an individual exists means that there has occurred at least one event constituting a state of the individual. The state is the actuality. To exist is to be somehow actualized, in some individual and state. By “actuality” is meant the how, the state, of actualization. With all properties except those equivalent to deity, that a property exists only means that there is some individual of the kind in question in some state or other; just what individual being another question, requiring additional information. With all individuals, even God, in what actual state the individual exists is contingent. Actuality can in no case be necessary. This is the truth misstated in the dogma, “existence is never a property.” Existence, being somehow actualized, can be a property; but never actuality, the precise how of actualization.
Charles Hartshorne, Creative Synthesis and Philosophic Method, 254.
Fortunately for the Argument, there is a very plain basis in ordinary instances for the distinction in question. That I shall (at least probably) exist tomorrow is one thing; that I shall exist hearing a blue jay call at noon is another. The latter is the more specific or concrete statement, and it is not entailed by the former (unless one accepts the logical structure of Leibniz’s theory of the monad). Furthermore, the existence of “human being” (the bare fact that there are such beings) is less concrete than the existence of you or of me.
Charles Hartshorne, The Logic of Perfection, 63.
3. The reality of chance or contingency—as opposed to the idea that “there are no accidents,” and that “chance” is merely a word for our ignorance.
Hartshorne affirms, with Peirce, that chance, or contingency, is an objective feature of the universe, and Peirce even coined a term for this, "Tychism," from the Greek tuch, meaning chance, fortune, or luck.
The root of evil, suffering, misfortune, wickedness, is the same as the root of all good, joy, happiness, and that is freedom, decision making. If, by a combination of good management and good luck, X and Y harmonize in their decisions, the AB they bring about may be good and happy; if not, not. To attribute all good to good luck, or all to good management, is equally erroneous. Life is not and cannot be other than a mixture of the two. God’s good management is the explanation of there being a cosmic order that limits the scope of freedom and hence of chance—limits, but does not reduce to zero. With too much freedom, with nothing like laws of nature (which, some of us believe, are divinely decided and sustained), there could be only meaningless chaos; with too little, there could be only such good as there may be in atoms and molecules by themselves, apart from all higher forms. With no creaturely freedom at all, there could not even be that, but at most God alone, making divine decisions—about what? It is the existence of many decision makers that produces everything, whether good or ill. It is the existence of God that makes it possible for the innumerable decisions to add up to a coherent and basically good world where opportunities justify the risks. Without freedom, no risks—and no opportunities.
Charles Hartshorne, Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes, 18.
Hartshorne argues that the universe is not the expression of a single will only . . . it is a community of countless wills, whose supreme Will is not a tyrant, however benevolent or otherwise, nor yet the contriver of an all-inclusive machine, but the supreme inspiring genius of the Great Community of partly self-determining creatures. How this could be without risk of incompatibility and hence suffering in the innumerable decisions out of which existence is woven I at least cannot see. But I can see, I think, how sublime beauty and pervasive zest can and do result.
Charles Hartshorne, The Logic of Perfection, 316.
4. The Prosaic Fallacy.
One of the core doctrines of process philosophy is the idea of panexperientialism: that the enjoyment of experience goes all the way down in nature. The world of nature, on every level, is an ever-moving, never-ending “ocean of feeling.” This is a basic intuition of all poets and it finds vibrant expression in the works of William Wordsworth.
We can even call it “mind,” if “mind” is understood as a variable and not as a constant. This means that no matter how lowly the life form, or how primitive the particle, “mind,” or at least the “germ” of mind, is active in all the dynamic unities present in the natural world, that is, all entities that act and feel as one—such as atoms, molecules, living cells, all animals, up to and including humans, and God.
If feeling, or experience, is enjoyed by all the dynamic or natural unities in the universe, then to deny such experience, or “mind,” to the lower members of this ascending scale, and to assert that they are lifeless stuff—this is to commit the prosaic fallacy.
To see nature in this way is to see only what Whitehead calls vacuous actualities (empty shells, mere surface, mere behavior) and not to behold robustly living entities who enjoy creative experience, individual unity, initiative, and purpose—with each of the foregoing four terms understood as variables that can be generalized to include an extensive range of values.
Under influence of the prosaic fallacy, the world of living nature is still there in all its freshness and fullness and wildness, but our perception delivers a domesticated version. Rather than perceiving, and feeling, the full spectrum, we take in only a narrow band. As Hartshorne observes, we suppose “the world to be as tame as our sluggish convention-ridden imaginations imply.”
Hyatt Carter, “The Prosaic Fallacy,” an essay in Thinking Is the Best Way to Travel, 199-204.
5. The Anselmian Principle.
My “Anselmian Principle” (that the God of the high religions either could not exist and is an incoherent or hopelessly indefinite idea or could not fail to exist), i.e., that to know that the God idea makes sense and to know that God exists are inseparable.
Charles Hartshorne, The Zero Fallacy, 42.
6. Contributionism: through our creativity, we “enrich the divine life itself.”
Berdyaev, Whitehead, and Tillich, three prominent and in many ways very different writers concerned with philosophy of religion, agree, almost in so many words, that the creatures, by their partly free or self-determining acts “enrich the divine life itself.” In this doctrine they give a new meaning to the old saying, “the end of all existence is the glory of God.” . . . Very literally we exist to enhance, not simply to admire or enjoy, the divine glory. Ultimately we are contributors to the ever-growing divine treasury of values. We serve God, God is not finally means to our ends. Our final and inclusive end is to contribute to the divine life.
Charles Hartshorne, Aquinas To Whitehead: Seven Centuries of Metaphysics Of Religion, 42-43.
7. The Logic of Perfection.
See Part V of my essay “An Introduction to Process Philosophy.”
8. The Revolution in Metaphysics.
Proclaiming a brave new world in metaphysics, Charles Hartshorne wrote: “theology is now passing through its profoundest revolution since the early Christian Era. There has, in fact, been a basic revolution in metaphysics, quite as revolutionary as the revolution in physics. If classical physics has been permanently superseded, so for many of us has classical theology, or philosophy of religion.”
Hartshorne, who made significant contributions to this revolution, suggests that for a metaphysician or student of religion to ignore the revolution is on a par with a scientist choosing to ignore Relativity Theory or Quantum Mechanics.
Hyatt Carter, “The Revolution in Metaphysics,” an essay in Thinking Is the Best Way to Travel, 267-68.
9. The idea that God’s existence is a metaphysical not an empirical question.
My partial defense of the ontological argument is consistent with my general stance in metaphysics. An early version is in my Harvard dissertation. It is one of the issues that distinguish me somewhat sharply from Whitehead and also from the great majority of modern philosophers since Leibniz. I have little doubt that it is not the majority who are basically right on the point, provided it be clearly understood that I do agree with the majority in two respects: Anselm’s commonly cited version of the argument (following Proslogium II) is indeed fallacious; and even the correct version or versions that I have given in several places are insufficient by themselves to justify theism. However, they are sufficient to establish the extremely important methodological principle that the existence of God is not subject to empirical disproof. The rational justification for atheism—if there can be one—must be a priori, arguing from the logic of concepts, including the concept of deity. No conceivable experiences could imply the divine nonexistence without also implying that belief in God is not simply false but is without coherent sense and could not be true. Here, I side with positivism. It is the meaning of belief that is to be challenged, not its factual truth. If theism makes sense, it is true necessarily. But the antinomies so often deduced from that doctrine, the way it often seems to be a case of wanting to have things both ways, wanting to digest contradictions, warns us that Anselm’s Principle is a justification of theism only for those who can meet the positivist challenge, which is over 2000 years old. Not “Is ‘God exists’ true?” but “Does it make sense?” is the question.
Charles Hartshorne, The Darkness and the Light, 337.
10. The idea that “Is there a God?” is a loaded question since it presupposes an answer to the question “What is God like, supposing there were a God?”
Speaking of the 16-fold matrix mentioned in Item # 1, Hartshorne says:
It is as powerful an instrument for thinking analytically, rationally, about the theistic problem as is now available, especially if it be realized that it can be taken as only one of a series of analogous tables that can be made using other similarly abstract polarities besides that of necessary-contingent, including absolute-relative, independent-dependent, infinite-finite, abstract-concrete, simple-complex, and object-subject.
In each such table the sixteen items are so related that fifteen must be false and the remaining one true, if the zeroes are interpreted broadly. What William L. Reese and I attempted in Philosophers Speak of God (and I had done some work on previously) has in these tables reached what looks like a fairly definitive form. Before us, centuries and millennia of theological and antitheological discussions had been unconsciously but grossly oversimplifying the theistic problem. They committed the “fallacy of many questions.” Does God exist? Answer, Which God?
At least six of the sixteen items, each standing for a doctrine, can reasonably be termed theistic: the first three in columns I and III (some would say, also in column II). The first and third items in row 4 fit what Hegel calls acosmism or mystical monism, as in Hinduism in some form. More pluralistic varieties of Hinduism may fit N.c, or classical theism, others perhaps NC.c, or NC.cn. The Bengali School of Sri Jiva Goswami, two of whose representatives I met in this country and one of whom wrote a dissertation under me in Chicago, easily fit the last mentioned modal combination. In column IV are the explicitly atheistic theoretical possibilities.
Charles Hartshorne, “God, Necessary and Contingent; World, Contingent and Necessary; and the Fifteen Other Options in Thinking about God,” an essay in the book Metaphysics as Foundation, edited by Paul A. Bogaard and Gordon Treash, 297.
11. The idea of dual transcendence, that God can be characterized by both sides of metaphysical contrasts (provided one makes the existence/actuality distinction).
As an alternative to conceiving God in wholly absolute terms, Hartshorne offers his idea of “dual transcendence,” or of God as “uniquely excellent in two really distinguishable aspects, the one infinite, absolute, immutable, eternal, and necessary as nothing else is, and the other finite, relative, mutable, temporal, and contingent, also as nothing else is. The divine preeminence is not to be captured by asserting one side of these ultimate contrasts and negating the other. Rather there is a divine form of finitude, relativity, mutability, temporality, and contingency that in principle surpasses all other conceivable forms.” He thus distinguishes the abstract essence from the concrete actuality of God’s dipolar nature.
Alfred North Whitehead used a different terminology for essentially the same idea in distinguishing between God’s abstract primordial nature and concrete consequent nature. Hartshorne makes the excellent point that consequent “nature” should really be “natures,” making it plural, for there is a new consequent nature each moment.
Hyatt Carter, “The Revolution in Metaphysics,” an essay in Thinking Is the Best Way to Travel, 277.
12. Divine love is not mere outflowing benevolence but includes an eminent form of passivity. God is not the unmoved mover but the most and best moved mover.
See Part V of my essay “An Introduction to Process Philosophy.”
13. Divine power and creativity are not all-determining, but power or creativity over other beings with power. This transforms the traditional problem of evil.
If we human creatures have any degree of self-determination, then God cannot be the omnipotent, or the only power. If God is the only power, period, then we live, or better, we exist, or go through the vacuous motions of existing, in a deterministic universe. If God is the only power, then he has power over—what? Nothing worth having power over, for what value is a block universe with countless entities who themselves have zero power?
The omnipotence idea opens the door for one contradiction after another, not the least of which is the following: that if God is the only power, then when we are worshipping God, this becomes not the worship of God by us, but God worshipping God.
After discussing how, in Oriental thought, the great Tao is often compared to water, Hartshorne makes the revealing observation that it is a typically Western idea to exalt “‘masculine’ mastery, power, stability, control, being, absoluteness, while depreciating the feminine, yielding, passive, fluid—that is, becoming and relativity.”
Can we not simply say that God’s power must excel all other, that the divine power is the highest conceivable form of power, that God’s power is beyond question the greatest power, exponentially greater beyond imagination than any other power—and still say that even the greatest power is still one power among many? If the creatures have no power, then: no freedom, no creativity, no world, in fact, at least no world worth talking about.
Hyatt Carter, “The Revolution in Metaphysics,” an essay in Thinking Is the Best Way to Travel, 270.
14. Divine knowledge is primarily a knowledge by acquaintance and propositional knowledge is based on this.
There is nothing whatsoever in all our experience to furnish the slightest basis for the idea of a knower who as a whole or in his concreteness would be unqualified by his relations to what he knows. Here the resort to experience which, in some respects, is well carried out in Thomism, simply disappears, and we are told that it is the relations of the object of human knowledge which are analogous to God’s relations as knower — a clear substantiation, it seems to me, of the accusation often made against Thomism that it treats God “as an object, not as a subject.”
Nevertheless, we should respect a doctrine which becomes profoundly defensible the moment a rather simple device of reinterpretation is applied to it. There may very well be a divine Something which is immutable, unaffected by its inclusion in ever more concrete relational contexts — the primordial abstract essence of the uniquely complete, and hence both necessary and accidental, being, God, the ever changing, and hence, as necessary aspect of this perpetual change, forever identical with itself.
Of course, inferential, symbolic, indirect knowledge, “knowledge about,” not “by acquaintance,” has as its object something relatively external to the knower; but (1) this knowledge is admittedly and in principle incapable of perfection, clearly not the model for omniscience; and (2) even this knowledge conforms the knower to the known, although in a limited, indirect way.
Charles Hartshorne, Man’s Vision of God and the Logic of Theism, 241.
15. The divine actuality is constantly changing in creative response to the world. God is, nevertheless, unsurpassable. God is the self-surpassing surpasser of all.
On all levels of actuality the principle of principles, the very essence of reality, is self-surpassing creativity. And when it comes to metaphysical principles, process philosophy claims that God is not to be treated as an exception, but as their chief exemplification. Therefore, although unsurpassable by all conceivable entities, God—in terms of endless growth through experience and esthetic enrichment—is the self-surpassing surpasser of all.
Hyatt Carter, Thinking Is the Best Way to Travel, 124-25.
A deeply entrenched prejudice against the idea of “change” in Western religious and metaphysical thought goes all the way back to Plato, with his Eternal Realm of Perfect Forms. There’s a certain irony in this since Plato himself moved away from this position in his later writings. The basic misconception ties in with the idea of perfection. To move either toward or away from perfection is construed as negative, the former implying an initially incomplete state; the latter, a degradation. But why cannot change be seen as positive, even as applied to deity, in the sense of self-surpassing, with God as the unrivalled but self-surpassing surpasser of all? Surely the vast saga of evolution, with its billions of years of adventure and novelty, has been something on the order of aesthetic satisfaction for God.
Hyatt Carter, Thinking Is the Best Way to Travel, 217.
16. Closely related to the previous: The future is best described with a triad of options: “X will occur, or X will not occur, or X may or may not occur.”
The notion of “X doing act A at time t” may turn out to fit the facts when t becomes the present; but a prediction is not a timeless utterance like “X performing A at t”. It is rather an assertion that at a certain time, future to the time when the assertion is made, events will exhibit such and such a character. What is the sense of “will” in this non-volitional use? Many writers appear to find nothing problematic here: “will” simply turns a verb into the future tense, enabling it to refer to later events. Yes, but in what sense are there events which have not yet happened?
Suppose a blind guess “comes true” (as we say); the question remains, was the guess true when made? X has done A, but it need not follow that he “was going to do it all along” (from the time of utterance). Note that “is going” (to do it) is the present progressive tense of the verb “to go”, just as “I will do it” in the volitional sense means, I am even now resolved upon the deed. These linguistic hints can, I believe, be taken seriously. “X will do A” in the strict meaning (as will be seen presently, we often speak more loosely) implies, “X’s doing of A is already determined or settled upon”, or “there is no longer another possibility for X at time t than doing A”, or “all the real possibilities allowed by the present causal conditions include X’s doing of A”. Thus there is a formal analogy to volition, provided a present decision is taken as irrevocable, invincible. “X will not do A” means, if intended in the strictest sense, “none of the now causally open possibilities include his doing the deed; it has been ruled out by the ‘march of events’”. If this is the meaning, no law of excluded middle as between true and false can restrict us to the two cases, will and will not; for some of the real possibilities may include A while others do not. The march of events may neither have ruled it out nor ruled it in. (To reject this indeterminate case a priori is to assert complete determinism, a topic to which we shall return presently.) We may then say, “It is false that A will, also false that A will not, but true that A may-or-may-not occur, since the real possibilities are divided between those including and those excluding A”. Whatever happens later will neither prove nor disprove this statement. The only way decisively to refute or establish a “may-or-may-not” assertion is to know all the relevant current conditions and causal laws and to see that they do, or do not, determine the choice between A and not-A. To accomplish this perhaps exceeds human powers; but it is not meaningless. A thing is not unknowable simply because knowing it with certainty is a humanly unattainable ideal.
“Will” and “will not”; like “may-or-may-not”, statements are unprovable in any simple decisive way by subsequent events. That A happened cannot show that there was no other real possibility (unless determinism is an a priori truth); similarly, if A fails to happen, its happening may yet have been really possible. If anyone finds it paradoxical that a prediction can be “fulfilled” or “verified” and yet have been untrue, I ask him to recall that we use similarly paradoxical language when we say that a scientific law may be verified, that is, found to fit known cases, and still not be a valid law. For this reason, Popper rejects the term “verify” and prefers the weaker “corroborate”. And just as he rightly insists that the decisive operation is the falsification of laws, so we may say that the decisive operation as to predictions is similarly the negative one. “A will occur” is decisively falsified if A does not occur; for the “will” here means that no causally open possibility fails to include A, and the subsequent non-occurrence of A shows that at least one possibility did fail to include it. By contrast the prediction is only indecisively corroborated if A does occur; for we thus learn only that some possibility included the A feature, not that all did. We have then a genuine analogy to the corroboration of laws.
In the foregoing, we have shown how the causal conception of predictive truth may be embraced in the general theory of scientific reasoning, without assuming strict determinism. To suppose determinism absolutely true is to imply that the “may-or-may-not” form is always vacuous, or a mere profession of ignorance. Certainly if there is but a single real possibility in each case, this possibility either does or does not involve A, and hence either A will, or A will not happen. Accordingly, the semantic analysis of truth with reference to future events should not be so formulated as to make “will” and “will not” the sole possibilities. For to accept this dichotomy is to decide by definition, or from semantic considerations alone, that there cannot be a plurality of real possibilities for a given future date. It is to make determinism in the maximal sense logically true. (I shall mention later a supposed escape from this consequence of the dichotomous view.) One of the rules of philosophizing should be, first seek the completely general or necessary principle, then define special or contingent forms by restriction. But we should also bear in mind that certain forms may, in some sorts of problem, be mere limiting conceptions which could not be actualized but, at most, approximated to. Determinism is, I believe, precisely such a limiting conception, the infinitely special case in which indeterminacy or creativity would shrink universally to zero. Absolute zeros are hard to establish, and in some contexts may be nonsensical. If indeterminateness were always zero, what would “determinate” express? There are even objections to thinking it could be ever zero. How can an absolute prescription for a later event be in its conditioning predecessors? Everything of the future event would thus become present except a featureless, diaphanous “reality”. And if the principle is generalized, the whole of becoming is in effect being viewed as though mapped, with infinite exactitude, in each of its states. If people had more imagination, I question if there would be so many determinists.
Charles Hartshorne, “The Meaning of ‘Is Going To Be,’” an essay that appeared in Mind (Jan. 1965): 46-58.
17. The Humean or empiricist dictum that the distinguishable is the separable is false. It is inconsistent with a world in process, a world where things undergo development, a world where evolution is true.
David Hume, otherwise very different from Bergson, is equally or even more heedless of the distinction between one-way and symmetrical inclusion or dependence. ‘What is distinguishable is separable’ — this famous dictum blurs together a symmetrical relation of comparison with a non-symmetrical relation of existential independence. This is easily shown. Thus x and xy (that is, a whole containing x and some additional factor) are distinguishable, but while x may in some cases be separable from xy, xy can in no case be separated from x. In other words, given x, there is not necessarily xy, but given xy there is certainly x. Thus, symmetrical separability by no means follows from distinguishability.
On one assumption Hume is right. An x separable from xy, which here denotes x and something additional, must be simpler than xy. Hume assumes that the entities he will apply his maxim to are equally simple. Successive ‘impressions’ or events are not related, he implies, as x and xy. However, the phenomenon of memory suggests the contrary: that later experience refers back to and is complicated by earlier experience in a manner not matched by the forward reference of anticipation. At any rate, Hume’s maxim is useless in metaphysics until the issue of equal complexity has been settled. So clear a head as Von Wright has overlooked this point, as has Ayer.
Charles Hartshorne, Creative Synthesis and Philosophic Method, 211-12.
18. Relations of asymmetry, even in logic, are more fundamental than relations of symmetry. This relates to the points about chance and indeterminism.
Consider for a moment pairs of contrasting terms such as absolute and relative, cause and effect, object and subject, being and becoming—Charles Hartshorne calls these ultimate contrasts, or contraries. For many centuries it has been customary in theology to exalt one side of these contraries at the expense of the other—to such an extent that one side has been used exclusively as names or designations of deity. Thus we have God as Absolute, Universal, Cause, Infinite . . .
In thus exalting the absolute over the relative, being over becoming, Hartshorne argues that the medieval theologians did not get it right once and for all, but, on the contrary, they got it exactly backwards. And we, as inheritors of this tradition, when we do likewise, we repeat the same old, centuries-old, mistake.
When talking or reasoning about these metaphysical contraries or ultimate contrasts, Hartshorne holds that a certain logic must be kept in mind if we are to avoid error. He calls this a logic of ultimate contrasts and he has constructed a table that reveals the structure and implications of this logic. One feature of this logic is that all the relative terms are inclusive of the absolute terms. The relation of concrete to abstract perhaps shows this most clearly, for, by definition, the abstract is abstracted from the concrete.
Another feature of this logic is that a basic asymmetry defines the relation between any pair of contrasting terms. Whereas the step from an a-term to an r-terms is a creative step, the step in the reverse direction is merely a matter of logical entailment or analysis.
To quote Hartshorne: “Since r-terms are inclusive and express the overall truth, the entire table tells us that we can find the absolute only in the relative, objects . . . only in subjects, causes only in effects . . . earlier events only in later, being only in becoming, the eternal only in the temporal, the abstract only in the concrete, the potential only in the actual, the necessary only in the contingent . . . the infinite only in the finite . . . the specific only in the individual, the generic only in the specific . . . the metaphysical only in the generic, God in the necessary, and eternal essence only in divine contingent, temporal states. . . . If one wants to understand an a-term, one should locate it in its r-correlate. There are not subjects and objects but only objects in subjects, not causes and effects but only causes in effects, not earlier and later but earlier in later, not necessary things and contingent things but necessary constituents of contingent wholes . . . not God and the world but the world in God.”
Hyatt Carter, “The Revolution in Metaphysics,” an essay in Thinking Is the Best Way to Travel, 274-75.
19. Multiple freedom is inherently unstable and risky. Chance is real. Determinism is ignorance parading as knowledge.
Yet tragedy is logically inherent in a philosophy of freedom such as Whitehead’s. There can be no absolute harmonization of multiple freedom, even by divine ‘persuasion’; not because God is weak but because it is meaningless to speak of absolute control over free beings. And for a metaphysics of freedom, a simply ‘unfree’ being is also an incoherent notion; hence, the notion of absolute control or absolute providential guarantees is logically, not just factually, vacuous. And the higher the level of freedom, the greater the inherent risks of conflict as well as opportunities of valuable harmony. Thus human life is bound to have aspects of great danger.
Charles Hartshorne, Creativity in American Philosophy, 12.
In the second place, such a system could only work precisely if chance could be entirely excluded from the course of events, and this is impossible if (as is maintained in this book) multiple freedom is the principle of reality. Ibid., 40.
Creative action cannot be precisely ordered; for each such action must order itself, and the conjunction of creative acts is in a measure, therefore, unordered. I cannot perfectly and precisely order my act in relation to yours, which is not yet committed, or at least not yet known to me (nor will it ever be perfectly known to me). You are in the same relation to me. As for God, his ordering of us both must leave open some scope for our own self-ordering. This self-ordering cannot be both open to us and yet entirely closed. We alone can close it, but we do this as two, not as one; and this lack of oneness cannot go for nothing in the result. No absolute unity of direction, no inevitable harmony, is possible here. An element of disorder or chaos is inherent in the notion of multiple acts of creativity. Chaos is multiple freedom, except so far as the unsurpassable form of freedom gives directives, which cannot be all-determinative, to the surpassable forms. Without God, said Jefferson, reality would be “unmitigated chaos.” With God, the chaos is still there, but mitigated. In Whitehead’s simple phrase, “disorder is as real as order.” Why did not Emerson see all this? The only answer I can give is that most of the philosophers of modern times have failed to see it or to keep it steadily and clearly in mind. And Emerson was not an originator in philosophy. He could only follow, not lead. Ibid., 45.
That a Whiteheadian act, like a Meadian, is emergent means that determinism is not quite true even of “inanimate” nature. No one else, unless Peirce, has ever seen as sharply as Whitehead that the escape from monism into a genuine pluralism can only be through the idea of multiple freedom. Ibid., 135.
20. The distinction between God and the creatures is not the distinction between the infinite and the finite but the distinction between the whole and fragmentary. Religion is acceptance of our fragmentariness.
One more mistake that I accuse theologians of making is that of deifying infinity so that there can be no finitude in God. As though finitude must, in principle, be bad or inferior! On the contrary, mere infinity is an utterly empty abstraction, as most of the Greeks, and I think the Hebrews, realized. What makes us nondivine is not our finitude but our fragmentariness. Each of us (and our entire species) is but a fragment (or group of fragments) in the vast cosmos, which also, at least spatially (I am confident) is finite. That it should be left to me to be the first to make the obvious distinction between ‘finitude’ and ‘fragmentariness’ is amazing. There have been so many great thinkers. How could they all, or so nearly all, have missed it?
Charles Hartshorne, The Zero Fallacy, 71.
21. Genetic identity is not strict identity.
Genetic identity is identity that it is generated serially, moment by moment, with both vertical and horizontal components. To use a philosophical term, the pronoun “I” is indexical, with a meaning, and a referent, that is at least partly new each time the “same” person uses it. Identity is thus not a constant but a variable.
Hyatt Carter, “Seeing Through the I’s of Jesus,” an essay in Some Little Night Musings, 11-12.
22. The Phenomenological Principle, that is, prehension, or nonsensory perception.
Undergirding sensory perception is a more basic and primitive form of nonsensory perception.
Consider, if you will, the nature of time as an emergent process of creative synthesis, time not as mere or pure succession, the succession of one moment or event by another, but as the objective modality of experience itself—as one experience derives from, must largely conform to, and yet is capable of surpassing, that prior experience which is its own immediate past.
Every becoming occasion of experience is inclusive of, and is shaped by, the ineluctable presence of the past. Such an occasion begins by feeling not just one, but the many influences that make up its immediate past, and thus it includes the spatial dimension as well as the temporal.
The process by which the immediate past is included—Whitehead calls this “prehension.” It is, as he says, “the most concrete form of relatedness.”
A prehension is constituted by three parts:
1) the subject who experiences
2) the object or datum that is experienced
3) the subjective form of the experience, i.e., how the datum is experienced
That the past, or datum, must be included is a necessary and a “stubborn fact,” but, as there is some measure of freedom in deciding how to include the immediate past, we thereby escape a strict determinism by antecedent conditions. To decide is to create.
Due to how evanescent they are and how deeply embedded in experience, prehensions occur largely in the background of consciousness, and indeed their momentary evanescings may, like a motion picture, flicker by unnoticed at ten frames a second or more.
Prehensions, or the “feeling of feeling,” are the most basic transactions in reality. It is through prehension that an actual entity, as subject, both inherits from, and transcends, the past, and the key to all concrete relationships is this subject-object structure. This relational structure is temporal in that an earlier object is always prehended by a later subject, and asymmetrical in terms of influence: though Plato can affect me, I cannot affect him.
Prehension, as the general principle of causality, explains the solidarity of the universe. To be is to be related.
Prehensions are ubiquitous throughout the universe and operative on all levels, ranging from the excitation of the “incredibly lively careers of . . . rhythmic adventures” enjoyed by electrons, to the primitive advance-and-retreat gropings of unicellular beings such as the amoeba, all the way up to the infallible prehensions of deity, God, whose prehensions in every fraction of a second must number far beyond the reach of even our wildest imagination.
How is God inclusive of all things, and how is it that we can say that all things include God? (panentheism) Is it a merely simple or static inclusion—the way a package includes its contents? Surely not.
God includes all by prehending all. If this is so, then we, as living creatures, are not in God, once and for all, as a final and accomplished fact; rather, at each new tick of the clock, because of increments of at least a modicum of change, we are prehended by God as a new entity.
Prehension is the way whereby God is immanent in the world, and also open to, and receptive of, influence from the world. Pace Aristotle and his Unmoved Mover, a moment’s reflection on this may suggest that not only is God far busier than you may have thought, but that also: so are you. A Zen koan asks, “Who is the artist who makes the grass green?”
Hartshorne on Whitehead’s theory of prehension:
“No more magnificent metaphysical generalization has ever been made. Of all Whitehead’s conceptions, perhaps the most original is prehension. No standard philosophical term current before his work is even roughly equivalent to it. With the one three-word phrase, ‘feeling of feeling,’ as he used it for his single term prehension, Whitehead inaugurated a new epoch in the intellectual history of mankind. In sum, prehension is one of the most original, central, lucid proposals ever offered in metaphysics.”
Hyatt Carter, “The Revolution in Metaphysics,” an essay in Thinking Is the Best Way to Travel, 286-88.
“Prehension” is Whitehead’s term and idea, but, as David Ray Griffin observes, “it is Hartshorne who has called attention to this achievement. One could well read through Whitehead’s writings several times without realizing that such a powerful generalization had been accomplished. It is also Hartshorne who has called attention to the similarity between this accomplishment and the type of unity that scientific thinking in general seeks. For these reasons, the achievement is one in which Hartshorne shares. Fully recognizing and naming an insight of genius can be as important as the insight itself.”
23. The Cosmic Variables.
The “psychic” variables, in short, are simply all the variables with unlimited range, the concepts with supreme flexibility or breadth. To call them psychic is justified, not because the associations of the word are pleasant or exciting, but because it may help us to remember the following truths. All variables, whatever else they may be, must be variables of human experience, must have more than one value satisfied by that experience. We cannot conceive any mode of difference from our experiences which is not in some degree also a mode of difference between these experiences. We can generalize beyond human experience only by generalizing “experience” itself beyond the human variety. For there can be no experiential meaning to a distinction between what is experienced and what is simply not experienced, but only to the distinction between what is experienced by a given individual or species of individual and what is not so experienced; and this distinction has a meaning because the ways in which one experience of an individual differs from another experience of that individual involve an infinite range of values in principle, but a finite range in fact.
If it be asked how the individual can be aware of this infinite range if his experience is finite, the answer is that it is only the distinct or fully conscious aspect of human experience which is finite; while the faint, slightly conscious background embraces all past time (else this phrase has no meaning), all the future, all space, and all possibility. And thanks to this dim consciousness of infinity, we can conceive in principle an indefinite extension of the distinct consciousness which in us is finite. For the theist, the infinite we dimly feel is God, in whom are distinct all the values that are distinct anywhere, and whose experience is the measure of the infinite variables as such, as well as the integration of all the finite values which happen to be anywhere actualized. The infinite possibilities of experience are derived from the infinite power of God, in whom are realized the supreme values of the cosmic variables.
Charles Hartshorne, Beyond Humanism, 121-22.
24. The Compound Individual.
Certainly one of the more widely quoted and therefore influential articles written by Charles Hartshorne in the course of his illustrious career has been “The Compound Individual,” originally composed for a Festschrift in honor of Alfred North Whitehead in 1936. Therein Hartshorne reviewed the history of Western metaphysics on the key issue of substance or individuality and concluded that Whitehead alone had found a way to explain how organisms can be composed of much smaller entities (e.g., cells or, smaller yet, atoms) and still exist as functioning individuals in their own right. Organisms are colonies or societies of actual occasions “interlocked with other such individuals into societies of societies” so as to constitute the macroscopic realities of common sense experience. Some of these structured societies, to be sure, do not possess a dominant subsociety which coordinates the activities of all the other subsocieties. But all higher-order animal species with central nervous system and brain clearly do give evidence of the presence and activity of a dominant subsociety of actual occasions to unify and coordinate bodily functions. Moreover, says Hartshorne at the end of the article, the God-world relationship may be explained in similar fashion. That is, God and the world are a compound individual, with God acting as the mind or soul of the world, and the world as the body of God. Thus, just as cells within the human body are substantial entities in their own right and yet under the direction of the soul make up a single macroscopic individual, so human beings and all other finite entities under God’s unifying activity make up a single cosmic organism at any given moment.
Joseph Bracken, “The World: Body of God or Field of Cosmic Activity.”
25. Deus est caritas, or, God is love.
During the year following this reading of Royce, it became clear to me, and is so to this day, that any form, however subtle, of self-interest theory of motivation is the erroneous erection into a first principle of what is merely one chief expression of the truly first principle — the participation of experiences in other experiences, i.e., ‘sympathy’ or, in terms of its higher and happier forms, “love.” Whitehead’s taking “society” as more basic than “substance” was for me the technically sharp version of what I had firmly believed for ten years. Such also, only less clear, was Peirce’s “Agapism.”
In the centrality of the social structure of experience, I find the key to cosmology and epistemology, as well as ethics and religion. From an early pious—yet rather liberal— Christian training, my dogmatic slumber in which was rudely and once for all interrupted by Matthew Arnold’s Literature and Dogma, the firmest residuum is summed up in the phrase Deus est caritas, together with the two “Great Commandments”: total love for God, and love for neighbor comparable to love for self. But at least something like these principles is in certain forms of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, and even in the two-thousand-year-old hymns of Ikhnaton. If there are central intuitive convictions back of my acceptance or rejection of philosophical doctrines, these may be the ones.
Charles Hartshorne, Creative Synthesis and Philosophic Method, xvii-xviii.
Again, a consistent theist could not make the error of trying to force all goodness into the mold of “self-interest”; for in theology love, as the relation of sympathy, cannot be derived from anything else since, according to theism, it is the foundation of all other relations.
Charles Hartshorne, Beyond Humanism, 26.
The theist has something more; he has the key to facts and the key to values in a single idea, since participation, i.e., love, is traditionally recognized as in some manner the supreme ethical standard. To find the key to facts and values in the same principle is, I submit, an intellectual achievement than which none could be greater. In this respect, what rival could theism have? Its serious rivals are the pseudo-theisms, the idols to which the name of God, or the attitude of worship, has, with insufficient caution, been attached.
Charles Hartshorne, The Logic of Perfection, 129.
26. The compatibility of Objective Independence and Universal Objectivity.
Consider then the following four theses:—
1. An “object,” or that of which a particular subject is aware, in no degree depends upon that subject.
Principle of Objective Independence.
Common sense, Aristotle, Moore, Perry, Whitehead.
2. A “subject,” or whatever is aware of anything, always depends upon the entities of which it is aware, its objects.
Principle of Subjective Dependence.
Common sense, Aristotle, Whitehead.
(1) and (2) constitute “realism.”
3. Any entity must be (or at least be destined to become) object for some subject or other.
Principle of Universal Objectivity. “Idealism.”
4. Any concrete entity is a subject, or set of subjects; hence, any other concrete entity of which a subject, S1, is aware, is another subject or subjects (S2; or S2, S3, etc.)
Principle of Universal Subjectivity. “Panpsychism.”
Leibniz, Peirce, Whitehead.
The doctrine of this chapter is that these four principles are not in conflict or competition with each other, but are rather complementary or mutually supporting. The theory which asserts all four principles as forming a coherent unity may be called, with Whitehead, “reformed subjectivism”; also “societism,” for it amounts to a social theory of reality.
Charles Hartshorne, Reality as Social Process, 70-71.
27. Reality as the content of divine knowledge.
In another way, however, medieval thought about modality was sounder than most modern thought. It held that God could create any logically possible state of affairs, his power extending to all that is conceivable. In this way logical and real possibility ultimately coincide. There were two difficulties. One is that in a purely eternal deity there is no room for real alternatives, and hence none for real freedom. An eternal divine decision must be a necessary decision, by the Aristotelian principle. But then worlds excluded by such a decision are not really possible even for God, and the decision is no decision, just as Spinoza said it was not, but a sheer necessity. This difficulty can be overcome by admitting a temporal aspect of deity, as is done in this book. The other difficulty is that God’s power to have any logically possible world as his creation was taken to mean that he could, by a simple fiat or choice, infallibly produce such a world. But then creaturely freedom is mere illusion and all evil is deliberately imposed upon the creatures by the divine will. This difficulty can only be removed by defining God’s power to have any logically possible world not as his freedom to choose that world, but as his freedom to choose the basic laws of such a world and his capacity adequately to know and thus in the most absolute sense possess whatever world results from the laws plus the choices of the creatures so far as left open by the divine choice.
Knowing is one thing, choosing is another thing, and it will not do to try to obliterate the distinction, even in God. God can know the world whatever it may be; but no world could be determined merely by divine choice, since the very meaning of ‘world’ is a set of individuals to some extent determining what divine choice has left indeterminate though determinable. To be possible is to be possible content of divine knowledge, but not necessarily to be possible object of divine choice. God cannot choose a single creaturely act in its concreteness, for the simple reason that it would not then be a creaturely act. Thomism has a formula with which it tries to have it both ways, but I find only contradiction or no meaning at all in this procedure.
Charles Hartshorne, Creative Synthesis and Philosophic Knowledge, 137-38.
28. The correction of defects in traditional versions of Idealism.
MV: One perhaps puzzling aspect of your philosophy is your “idealism.” For you, objects do not depend on our particular experiences of them; rather, you believe in the asymmetrical dependence of subjects on their objects. Thus, epistemologically speaking, you are not an idealist but a realist. However, you contend that “Epistemological realism is entirely compatible with metaphysical idealism.” What, exactly, does your “metaphysical idealism” entail, and is “idealistic” indeed an appropriate label for your type of metaphysics?
H: I deal with this especially in “The Synthesis of Idealism and Realism,” Theoria 15 (1949); also in “What was True in Idealism,” Philos 43 (1946). The key is fourfold: (1) subject-object relations are subject-subject relations so far as objects are active singulars and concrete, otherwise the objects are abstractions from or collections of such subjects; (2) actual objects are temporally prior to and hence independent of subjects to which they are given; (3) subjects (Leibniz) are enormously varied and in the vast majority of kinds more or less radically different from human persons, varying from feelings of electrons, say, at the lower end of the hierarchy, to God at the upper end; (4) fully concrete and particular subjects are not persons and the like, but single experiences (Whitehead’s actual entities). My psychicalism and Whitehead’s “reformed subjectivism” are virtually the same, so far as I can see. The subject-object relation is prehension. No one else ever clearly had this idea previously. Tibetan Buddhism seems to have come fairly close, Berkeley and Hegel not at all. Ewing’s definitions of idealism include one that clearly fits my use of the word.
From the dialogue between Hartshorne and Valady that constitutes Chapter One of The Zero Fallacy, p. 31.
29. Contingency in God.
For those of a logical persuasion, Hartshorne provides a formal proof that there is contingency in God:
“The following propositions form, I hold, an inconsistent triad. One of them must be false.
P. God has infallible knowledge that the world exists contingently.
Q. The world exists contingently.
R. There is in God nothing contingent.
1. P entails Q.
2. R entails that either P is necessary or God’s knowledge is not in God (which is absurd).
3. Hence, Q is necessary (what a necessary proposition entails is necessary).
“The non-thomistic solution is to say with Socinus, Whitehead, and many others, that R is false, God has contingent aspects (and is not wholly immutable, impassable, and the other Thomistic attributes). A Thomist must either admit contingency in God, or deny that what P asserts is anything in God. But then what is it, something outside God? I am reminded that [Mortimer] Adler once wrote me that he had used a quotation from me similar, if I recall correctly, to the preceding on an examination and had been disappointed in his students’ comments. I have wondered if I did not have some part in Adler’s partial loss of confidence in the Thomistic form of theism.”
Charles Hartshorne, The Darkness and the Light, 232-33.
30. Memory and perception belong to the same genus, and both are retrospective. Perception is impersonal memory.
That subjects are later (2r, 5r) and objects earlier (2a, 5a) will surprise many. It enshrines the doctrine that, both in memory and in perception, the given entities are antecedent events. As Peirce said, perhaps as the first, “It is the past which is actual,” there to be experienced. The present is nascent, it is coming into being, rather than in being, and there is no definite entity to prehend. Whitehead, so far as I know, is the first thinker in all the world to take the position with full explicitness that experiencing is never simultaneous with its concrete objects but always subsequent. Perception may then be called ‘impersonal memory’, intuition not of our own past experiences, but of past events in and around the body. The scientific facts and the metaphysical requirements fit effortlessly together, if we take this view. That we seem to perceive what is happening absolutely ‘now’ is a harmless exaggeration of the truth that the time lapse for near events is negligible and that the causal stability of much of the world guarantees that what has just been happening is close to what is still happening.
Moreover, if there is an illusion of simultaneity in perceiving, there is a nicely parallel illusion in remembering. For, as Ryle says, ‘introspection’ is very short-run memory utilized to tell us what we are approximately now thinking and feeling. That we are always a trifle behind ourselves in this is not only harmless but the only way to note our mental processes without interfering with them. We do not inspect our mental processes simultaneously with their occurrence. This is nonsense. But through immediate memory, we can keep noticing what they have just been.
Charles Hartshorne, The Zero Fallacy, 116-17.
31. The Zero Fallacy.
It is time to state the zero fallacy, which should be formulated in logic texts, but is not: with properties of which there can be varying degrees, the zero degree, or total absence, is knowable empirically only if there is a known least quantum, or finite minimum, of the property. Planck’s constant is an example; it excludes complete continuity in changes by setting an absolute finite minimum. Thus light intensity may be reduced to one photon; less than that is simply no light. I hold that metaphysicians should have anticipated this. Absolute continuity of change, nature "making no leaps," never was or could be an observed fact, for to observe it one would have to be God, with absolutely clear and distinct perceptions. There are also reasons why God should not be supposed to observe continuous change. A zero of elephants is observable because there is a finite minimum of what can properly be called an elephant.
Charles Hartshorne, The Zero Fallacy, 166.
To the standard fallacies of the textbooks, I add the "zero fallacy." "Zero elephants in the immediate vicinity" can be a safe assertion. In contrast, "zero life or mind" (other than one’s own) is unobservable. Such an observation would have to exclude God, by definition ubiquitous, also deal with the pervasiveness of microorganisms. and in addition take into consideration that molecules and atoms are organized wholes, acting as one, and insofar like animals.
Charles Hartshorne, The Darkness and the Light, 31-32.
32. The reality of time, or, in the words of Charles Peirce, time as “objective modality.”
Further, Plato’s God has a body (again an assertion) which is the entire cosmos, and this not as a totality of things and events fixed once for all but as a totality with ever-new additions. I feel safe in denying that Plato in his full maturity held the standard medieval view of a timeless omniscience. Timeless is one of those pseudosacred negations by which we have been bewildered for too long. Plato, in his post-Republic maturity, transcended this knee-jerk eternalism, which was already in Parmenides and Zeno. Time is what we know; we had better be modest about our ability to absolutely negate it and have even a vestige of meaning left.
Charles Hartshorne, The Zero Fallacy, 164.
Aristotle suggested, in somewhat uncertain outlines, a theory of objective modality, but failed to see or adhere to some of the implications of this theory. Nothing much was done about this until Peirce proposed his view of time as ‘a species of objective modality’ with explicit reference to Aristotle. That time is the ‘schema’ (Kant) of our basic conceptions was already almost seen by Aristotle, who, however, failed to realize that it is time or becoming which explains eternity or mere being, not vice versa. Eternity is a function of time, not the other way. The current view that modal concepts are merely linguistic or logical, rather than ontological, arises from not seeing that the structure of time or becoming is inherent in concreteness (and in factual truth) as such, and hence is a priori, and that this structure is modal and cannot be grasped in merely extensional terms.
Charles Hartshorne, Creative Synthesis and Philosophic Method, 29.
“Time is objective modality,” as Peirce put it. Eternity is the mode of absolute or abstract necessity and possibility, the past is the mode of conditional or concrete necessity (being necessary, given the actual present), the future is the mixed mode of conditional necessity and possibility. So much for the distinction between necessity de dictu and necessity de re, logical and onto-logical necessity. The better our language, the more it reflects the real or temporal modalities into linguistic ones. Ibid., 253-54.
Before Bergson, Whitehead, and others, but helped by Aristotle, Peirce saw sharply and profoundly the categorial distinctiveness of futurity. “Time is a species of objective modality” is one expression of his insight. Given a particular past, all later events are, in their full concreteness, arbitrary additions to that past, but certain abstract, more or less general, features of these additions are settled in advance. Because of the reality of chance and (the same thing from a different aspect) the partial openness of the future, no event is a necessary successor to its predecessors . . .
Charles Hartshorne, Creativity in American Philosophy, 79.
I begin with modality. Aristotle had, with some strokes of genius, initiated inquiry into two aspects of existence, contingency and necessity. He distinguished the temporal as contingent from the eternal as necessary, and the present as actual from the future as potential. If he had clearly said that it is the past that is actual, the future that is possible, and the present that is becoming actual, nascent actuality, the transition between the two aspects, he would have achieved a perfect score in the theory of time as “objective modality,” in Peirce’s much later words.
Charles Hartshorne, Insights and Oversights of Great Thinkers, 176.
33. A social theory of reality, or, reality as social process.
And as a college sophomore I learned from Royce’s great essay on “Community” . . . the most essential metaphysical lesson of all, perhaps, a lesson the Buddhists had learned long before. This was to detect the element of illusion (or, if you prefer, confusion) in the idea of a plurality of selves mutually external to each other. . . . During the year following this reading of Royce, it became clear to me, and is so to this day, that any form, however subtle, of self-interest theory of motivation is the erroneous erection into a first principle of what is merely one chief expression of the truly first principle—the participation of experiences in other experiences, i.e., “sympathy” or, in terms of its higher and happier forms, “love.” Whitehead’s taking “society” as more basic than “substance” was for me the technically sharp version of what I had firmly believed for ten years. Such also, only less clear, was Peirce’s “Agapism.” In the centrality of the social structure of experience, I find the key to cosmology and epistemology, as well as ethics and religion.
Charles Hartshorne, Creative Synthesis and Philosophic Method, xvii-xviii.
And the social philosophy has arguments to show that the only conceivable God is a social being whose creatures must also be social throughout. We shall have something to say about this theological question later. Meanwhile, you may further object that even to us human beings it is plain that a stone or a body of water is not a social being or a society. But are you quite sure? As has been shown above, low-grade societies must appear as non-social to any observer whose manner of observing is too inaccurate to detect their minute elements of freedom. With sufficiently improved techniques of observations and inference, however, the absence of any complete routine (which is the negative side of freedom) will begin to appear. Now this seems to have happened in twentieth-century physics. The uncertainty principle and the impossibility of conceiving (not merely, as some say, of verifying) any but statistical uniformities in microphysics are now commonplace, and (as has been widely admitted by physicists themselves) they break down the assumption of a difference in principle between social and mechanical laws. Thus, a social scientist, writing not in defense of the social ‘philosophy but with another objective, is able to say: “The social sciences do not need to be brought to the level of the natural sciences; they are already there as far as the logical structure of their laws is concerned. . . . This level is not the mythological level of absolute certainty and predictability but that of statistical averages and probability. . . . The new physics show, indeed, that there exists a close correspondence between the human mind, on the one hand, and nature and society on the other. Modern scientific thought re-establishes the unity of the physical and social world.” Is the reader still so certain that a stone is not an example of the social?
However, it may seem that the logical structure of the laws involved should not be made the only test of sociality. So it will be well to consider the matter more broadly. Let us define the social as the appeal of life for life, of experience for experience. It is “shared experience,” the echo of one experience in another. Hence nothing can be social that is without experience. The minimum of experience, let us further agree, is feeling. Creatures are social if they feel, and feel in relation to each others’ feelings. Can this be true, as the social philosophy holds, of all things?
Charles Hartshorne, Reality as Social Process, 33-34.
Experience is social throughout, to its uttermost fragments or “elements.” Its every mode is a mode of sociability. Thus, for example, the very objectivity or over-against-us character of sensations, particularly visual, is nothing but a certain kind of social otherness involved in them. Or, again, the “coldness” of green, the “distance” of blue, the “aggressiveness” of red, embody modes of variation fully explicable only in terms of experience conceived as a social continuum.
Charles Hartshorne, The Philosophy and Psychology of Sensation, 8.
If the foregoing is at all correct, then the social point of view is the final point of view. All creatures are fellow creatures. Nothing is wholly alien to us or devoid of inner satisfactions with which, if we could grasp them, we might more or less sympathize. It is merely a question of how accessible to our perception and understanding the inner values may be.
Charles Hartshorne, The Logic of Perfection, 309-10.
34. The Affective Continuum.
In his first book Hartshorne argues that sensations exist along an “‘affective continuum’ of aesthetically meaningful, socially expressive, organically adaptive and evolving experience functions.” The twin axes of the theory are (1) sensory modalities are not isolated from each other and (2) every sensation is a feeling, but not every feeling is a sensation. According to (1), the comparison of qualities from different senses has a biological basis. On Hartshorne’s view, to speak of tones as bright, dark, sharp, soft, or sweet is not merely a question of analogy. According to (2), there are no sensations devoid of affect. This is most evident in the sense of touch. The flame’s heat, directly on the skin, is felt as painful. Hartshorne notes that, from an evolutionary standpoint, a bare sensation would be an anomaly, for it would have no adaptive utility. Hartshorne’s theory has the most difficulty accommodating the sense of sight. Even here, however, it is evident that too much brightness is felt as sharply painful; more diffuse light is felt as soft. Emotional sensitivity to light also varies, as the phenomenon of seasonal affective disorder attests.
Donald Wayne Viney, from his “Charles Hartshorne” entry in The Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers.
35. There is progress in philosophy.
Being without our knowledge of cells, both in trees and in animals, and of the cells composing the nervous system, Aristotle could not have done nearly as much with this animal-vegetable distinction as we are in a position to do. I have yet to be persuaded that most teachers of philosophy are making much use of this new opportunity. It is not a detail. My essay about The Compound Individual (1936) tried to spell out what is involved. Without far better grasp of microbiology than I have I am not in a position to go much beyond that essay. But it is clear to me that the Greeks were hopelessly handicapped in dealing with the mind-body or the mind-matter problems. Aristotle was in some ways farther from modern science than Plato. And Epicurus was less handicapped than either of them in some respects. But they were all largely in the dark on these topics.
Charles Hartshorne, from Charles Hartshorne’s Concept of God: Philosophical and Theological Responses, edited by Santiago Sia, 319.
36. Causality is crystallized freedom, freedom is causality in the making.
Man’s very fate depends in part upon his adequate recognition of his lowly status as only a little more than an unconscious (although complicated) bit of causal driftwood, but also of the preciousness and glory of that slight surplus. The causal drift itself is merely the mass of data formed by acts of freedom already enacted on various levels, human, subhuman, and perhaps superhuman. Causality is crystallized freedom, freedom is causality in the making. There is always freedom, for there is always novelty. There is always causality, for always freedom has already been exercised, and a decision once made can only be accepted, it cannot be remade. Past decisions made with at least minimal freedom furnish the only content of new acts of emergent synthesis. Reality is sheer creation, but present creation adds only its Little mite to the organic totality of data already accumulated.
Charles Hartshorne, The Logic of Perfection, 233.
37. Errors in traditional, or classical, theism.
Here I will list several points, or doctrines, of traditional theism, and their counterpoints in light of what Hartshorne called his “neoclassical theism.”
Point: God is omnipotent, period—i.e., God is the only power and has all the power.
Counterpoint: God is perfect in power, yes, but that perfection entails the sharing of power with all creatures. Can we not simply say that God’s power must excel all other, that the divine power is the highest conceivable form of power, that God’s power is beyond question the greatest power, exponentially greater beyond imagination than any other power—and still say that even the greatest power is still one power among many?
Point: God is immutable: no change within, or without
Counterpoint: From a process perspective, God is not wholly immutable but is, in a sense, the individual most open to change. This follows, by any logic I know, from the idea that God in all-inclusive.
The God of process is the all-surpassing God, unsurpassable by all conceivable others, but everlastingly self-surpassing in terms of endless growth and enrichment through his own inexhaustible creativity and the creative enrichment contributed by all creatures, both great and small. To some of us, this seems a far more glorious idea than the static and one-sided idea of God as wholly immutable.
Point: The will of God is, in Luther’s words, “immutable, eternal, and infallible”—God absolutely determines everything down to the least detail.
Counterpoint: Hartshorne holds, with Whitehead, that God leads the world, yes, but not through coercion, but though a persuasive love that informs our co-creative advance with God. Creativity is the ultimate principle, not determinism. Although God did not create creativity, God is the primordial instantiation of creativity. From a process perspective there are, in fact, two ultimates: God and creativity. For a lucid discussion of these Two Ultimates, see David Ray Griffin, Reenchantment without Supernaturalism, 260-84.
Point: God is omniscient, period
Counterpoint: God knows all there is to know, but some things are just not there to know, such as my future decisions. The possible cannot be known as actual until a concrete decision is made that makes it actual. If God knows my decisions before I make them, then it is God who is doing the deciding, not me.
Another variation of this error is that God exists in a timeless realm wherein, with divine foresight, he knows all our future actions spread out before the divine gaze as one totality. Not only does this view commit the fallacy of what Bergson calls “the spatialization of time,” it also does not take into account the process view that there is no such totality, but a new totality in every new moment. In a very real sense, every single time you utter the word “cosmos,” you’re referring to a new cosmos.
Point: God is impassible, nor affected by the world, or by humanity—this is Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover.
Counterpoint: God is the most and the best moved mover.
Point: God is eternal, wholly outside of time or the temporal process
Counterpoint: God’s “abstract essence,” one side of the dipolar nature of deity, is indeed eternal and outside of the temporal process, but God as a “concrete actuality” is not only in time but is the chief exemplification of the temporal process.
“Classical theists, in speaking of God as the necessary, timeless absolute, completely independent of and thereby unaffected by the temporal world, were enunciating a vitally important aspect of the idea of God. Their mistake, however, was to equate this aspect with God as a whole, thereby committing the fallacy of misplaced concreteness. What makes Hartshorne’s view neo-classical is the idea that the attributes of timelessness, necessity, absoluteness, independence, immutability, and impassibility apply not to God as a whole but merely to the abstract essence of God. God as concrete, meaning God as a whole, is temporal, contingent, relative, dependent, changeable, and passible.” —David Ray Griffin, Reenchantment without Supernaturalism, 161
38. The Principle of Moderation.
Many philosophers and nonphilosophers have been overfascinated with “dichotomous thinking” or “false simplicities.” Witness the popularity of both radical monism and radical pluralism. Sound metaphysics, according to Hartshorne, is not possible unless we practice “the principle of moderation,” i.e., that truth lies somewhere between doctrinal extremes. In Hartshorne’s view, both unqualified determinism and indeterminism are extreme doctrines which misrepresent the world. The former doctrine denies the reality of independence/disorder while the latter commits the equally erroneous mistake of denying dependence/order. The moderate view (relative determinism or indeterminism) acknowledges the reality of both causality and freedom. All events are caused; but to say so does not imply that an event is strictly deducible from its antecedent cause(s): “Each event is a determinate, but not antecedently determined or predictable, act of concretion, endowed with its proportional spontaneity or possibility of partial self-determination”; “A free act is the resolution of an uncertainty inherent in the totality of the influences to which the act is subject. The conditions decide what can be done and cannot; but what is done is always more determinate than merely what can be done.”
Mohammad Valady, Editor’s Introduction, The Zero Fallacy, by Charles Hartshorne, xix.
39. Hartshorne’s “global argument” for the existence of God.
The misunderstanding of Hartshorne’s position and the relative neglect of the global argument provide the raison d’être of this work. It is also my purpose to highlight the fact that the global argument is a cumulative case. The case for God’s existence is built on a series of interrelated arguments which support each other at their weakest points.
Too many philosophers of religion labor under the assumption that theism stands or falls with the success or failure of a single argument. The global argument is a much needed remedy for this prevalent misconception.
Donald Wayne Viney, Charles Hartshorne and the Existence of God, 1-2.
40. Experience cannot generate its own data.
Strange that Longfellow saw the point so long before the philosophers did! The constraint of the past upon the present is simply that an experience cannot generate its own data, but must find them in what has already occurred. The experience is free to make its own ‘decision’ as to how to accommodate, utilize, or enjoy the data, the previous happenings, but accommodate them it must. If neural activity is a causal condition of human or vertebrate experience, this simply means that just-antecedent neural happenings are among the indispensable data of this type of experience. That introspection cannot discover much about these happenings is of a piece with the general feebleness of man’s introspective and inspective powers. (Much of Wittgenstein consists in exploiting and perhaps over-exploiting this very feebleness.) There is vastly more given in our experience than we can discover there by mere inspection. Antecedent bodily activities are one part of this ‘more’. Nos. 3, 5, tell us that the primary wholes (by which all wholes can be explained) are formed out of temporally prior and (therefore) independent (1a) constituents, and Nos. 2, 16, imply that these wholes are singular experient-events (note that ‘singular’ does not contradict ‘complex’ or imply mere simplicity — 14a) whose prior and independent constituents are their objects. Thus an actuality is a subjective synthesis, a single experiencing, of objective factors (which may consist of other instances of subjective synthesis).
Charles Hartshorne, Creative Synthesis and Philosophic Method, 117.
[Note: the Nos. 3, 5, etc. refer to Hartshorne’s table of metaphysical contraries you will find on page 276 of my book, Thinking Is the Best Way to Travel.]
41. Psychology as inclusive of physics.
Moreover, it is only verbally that materialism overcomes dualism. We know more about experience, the psychical, than that certain mathematical expressions apply to it. By immediate memory (misleadingly called introspection) we know sensing, feeling, remembering, desiring, enjoying, thinking. The official concepts of physics ignore these things, except when the physicist is talking methodology. The dualism between mind and seeming nonmind will be there just so long as the nonmind is allowed to stand. It is not mind that we need to, or can, explain away, but only "mere" matter. The structure of mind as such furnishes the key to all structure. This is not only a message of a long sequence of metaphysicians, but it is a reasonable interpretation of the changes that have occurred in physics since Democritus. Fifty years ago Whitehead said that all nature was in a subtle fashion alive or mindlike; more and more physicists have been saying this recently. I recall also the saying, "If biology is ever reduced to physics it will be because physics has become more like biology than it now is." There is but one step farther: If psychology is ever reduced to physics it will be because physics has become more like psychology than it now is. CH, Insights and Oversights of Great Thinkers, 21
With Descartes, Heidegger, and Whitehead we should regard our experiences as our primary samples of indubitable reality; but it is experiences, not the ego, that have this status. Nor is it true that (understanding what we are doing) we can doubt everything except our experiences. Only verbally can we doubt that we experience things other than and independent of our experiences. The primacy of these experiences for our knowledge is only in our greater intuitive grasp of their natures, as compared to our lack of such grasp concerning the independent somethings we perceive. What is that physical system we call nature, or that physical stuff or process we call matter? Over two thousand years of physics and biology still leave these questions in basic respects a riddle. And we can learn far more from the psychology of Plato, Aristotle, or various Indian and Chinese sages, than we can from their physics or biology.
Charles Hartshorne, Insights and Oversights of Great Thinkers, 368.
To add one more, and thus bring the total to 42, the year of my birth, I will mention an insight that may become an epiphany for you as it was for me when I first read it.
In “A Reply to My Critics,” Hartshorne discusses Twenty Metaphysical Principles, with the last principle, P20, stated thusly:
42. The foregoing nineteen principles must, if true, be mutually compatible; any one fully understood is, except in emphasis, equivalent to any other. They all define that abstract Something that could not fail to have instantiation or concrete realization.
Forty-two items make an impressive list, true enough; but the list is not exhaustive and there are some overlaps. Several more could be listed in reference to Hartshorne’s research and observations in the field of ornithology, as evidenced in his book, Born to Sing: An Interpretation and World Survey of Bird Song. The overlaps become suggestive in light of Hartshorne’s statement, in the above paragraph, of principle P20.
Note: items 9 through 21 on the list were contributed by Don Viney. I provided the explanatory material that follows each item—in most cases with direct quotations from Hartshorne’s writings.