[A shorter version of this paper was presented at the INTA Annual Congress held at the Clarion Hotel James Madison in Norfolk, Virginia, July 21-26, 2002.]
The Adventurous Frontier
The general, or popular, notion of “process” goes back at least as far as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus who declared that all things flow, and who came up with an analogy so memorable that it has become part of our common vocabulary: you can’t step into the same river twice.
Process philosophy, however, as conceived by Alfred North Whitehead, one of the most profound and original thinkers of all time, is a unique creation of our era. Whitehead’s thought is of such quality that it has been characterized as “. . . some of the most careful and elegant thinking in the history of Western philosophy.” (RE 412) Whitehead made significant contributions not only in philosophy but also in mathematics, physics, and formal logic. When quantum physics dematerialized Newton’s billiard-ball atom into a vibrational “structure of activity,” it took a genius of Whitehead’s breadth to glimpse that such a structure could be further dematerialized into a non-substantial “unit of experience,” and to conceive the entire universe in terms of dynamic units of living process. From this new process perspective Whitehead was able to upgrade the saying of Heraclitus by making a rather startling statement. He said that “no thinker thinks twice.” No thinker thinks twice. Hold that thought—it will become clearer as this discussion unfolds.
Process philosophers today, and in the 20th century, differ among themselves in how they accommodate, or oppose, the complex metaphysical system conceived and developed by Whitehead. Some, like Nicholas Rescher, try to distance themselves as much as possible from Whitehead. Others are more intent on refining and advancing the intellectual task that Whitehead initiated.
Such a philosopher is Charles Hartshorne who independently came up with some of the same ideas he later found in Whitehead. Hartshorne originated electrifying new insights himself, clarified many process ideas, and corrected some of Whitehead’s oversights. It can hardly be overstated how much Hartshorne has done to strengthen the case for process philosophy. Among 20th-century philosophers, Hartshorne stands out as one of the premier metaphysicians and the most influential proponent of the process conception of God.
In contrast to Hartshorne, Frederick Ferré is among those in process thought who prefer to get along without introducing the notion of God into their systems.
Given all this, is there any agreement or consensus as to what constitutes the basic ideas of process philosophy. Hartshorne identifies fifteen common theses accepted by most process philosophers. David Griffin has set down what he calls the Ten Core Doctrines of Process Philosophy. Donald Wayne Viney finds Griffin’s list laudable but problematic, and defines process philosophy in terms of four propositions:
(1) The fundamental constituents of reality are processive—involving change, motion, time, and/or contingency;
(2) Whatever is not processive is part of or grounded in what is processive. As Hartshorne argues, becoming includes being, not vice versa;
(3) Reality is social—Hartshorne has the most coherent doctrine of social relations, saying that the present moment is internally related to the past but partly externally related to the future;
(4) Value is inherent in process.
My paper is divided into six main sections, each dealing with what I see as basic and important ideas in Whitehead’s system, and a final section wherein I make variations on a theme introduced by the philosopher Frederick Ferré. These are:
(1) the centrality of the body in human experience
(2) the idea of panexperientialism: there is experience in everything
(3) dipolarity: an essential two-foldedness that runs through all nature
(4) the two basic types of “process” in process philosophy
(5) A Holographic Universe
(6) God and the World
(7) A Kalogenic Universe (“kalogenic” means the “creation of beauty”)
All of these are tied together by the unifying theme of the idea of experience.
Coming to Terms
Before I go any further it may be helpful to briefly discuss some of Whitehead’s key technical terms that I will be using in this paper, terms some of you may not be familiar with. First—
What are the basic units of nature, what are the most fundamentally real things in the world? Strictly speaking, this is not a scientific, but a metaphysical question. To answer this question, Whitehead began with a single moment of human experience. For surely the one thing we cannot doubt is the reality of our own experience. If we can’t start here, then there’s simply no starting at all.
The first thing to be noticed is that a moment of experience is a discrete unit: experience comes in drops or buds. Experience is quantum in nature. Whitehead’s analysis of a single moment of experience also revealed a tripartite structure:
First, a moment of experience is heavy with the presence or pressure of the immediate past. This accounts for our distinct sense of continuity. From this there arises a feeling or valuation of what is thus received with the felt possibility of novelty, or deviation from the past. Finally, there is a “decision” for either originality or conformity with the past, and a handing on of this as influence on the future. Whitehead then generalized that this basic structure must hold throughout all reality: a moment of experience in anything—from people to protons, from elephants to electrons—will exemplify this structure, or better: this process.
For Whitehead, this is the most basic process in the universe, and he calls this universal process an actual entity.
An actual entity is Whitehead’s term for the basic units, or building blocks, of nature. It is a dynamic unit of process, a pulsation, a throb of self-achieved actuality that endures only for a split-second. In contrast to Newton’s billiard-ball atom, note how Whitehead’s actual entity is a unit of creative change. The universe of Alfred North Whitehead is an adventurous universe—right down to the very core.
The next term is—
Undergirding sensory perception is a more basic and primitive form of nonsensory perception that Whitehead calls “prehension.” Before sensory perception arose in evolutionary history, this was how creatures were able to take account of their immediate environment. Thus, a single-celled life form, such as an ameba, will retreat from what it prehends as danger and advance toward, and engulf, what it prehends as possible food.
Or, I can remember my favorite dog when growing up, a beagle I named Ike-ey. When I played with him, and spoke to him in a warm and friendly way, he would become very animated and frisky, and begin to bark and wag his tail and jump all over me. He was feeling, or prehending, my affection and approval, and responding in kind. A scolding, however, with sharp words and tone, would cause him to hunker down with his tail between his legs.
Another example may help to make clear how this works. When Laker basketball star Kobe Bryant ate a tainted hamburger in Sacramento during the NBA playoffs, he fell ill with food poisoning and began to feel very sick at his stomach. What Kobe experienced were not sense perceptions. He was directly feeling the causal influence of his body. He was prehending the cells of his stomach, feeling their feelings of acute distress. In fact, Whitehead’s most concise definition of “prehension” is the “feeling of feeling.”
An example from the botanical world would be heliotropic flowers. In a prehensive “taking account of” sunbeams, or photons, such flowers turn their blossoms to follow the sun, from morning till evening, from horizon to horizon. Underground the same sort of thing happens with the roots as they meander here and there in a prehensive search for water and essential nutrients. This surely illustrates a primitive form of “awareness.”
Even in the inorganic world something of this can be seen. The mutual “attraction” of oppositely charged particles is made manifest in magnets, for if you hold two magnets close together, you can feel them straining for union. Does this illustrate a primordial form of “yearning?”
The third term is—
The Ontological Principle
Whitehead’s philosophy is strongly empirical, meaning that it is grounded in experience. Reflecting this empirical commitment, his ontological principle states that only actual individuals can act. All explanation, in metaphysical discussion, is to be in terms of, or referable to, an actual thing or fact. Paraphrasing his words, “nothing simply floats into the world from out of the blue.” An example of a violation of the ontological principle would be to say that laws, such as the laws of nature, cause or make things happen. Laws merely describe the relatively stable but evolving “habits of interaction” of the many entities that populate the universe.
The Body Electric
“I sing the body electric.” — Walt Whitman
Whitehead derived his metaphysics, in part, from a keen observation and analysis of his own everyday experiences as a human subject. Much of the time we tend to ignore the body, or to take it for granted. But for Whitehead the human body is “the starting point for our knowledge of the circumambient world.” (PR 81)
All sense perception is entirely dependent on the prior functioning of our bodies; what we experience is derived from extensive and interconnected chains of antecedent experiences that occur within the body. We experience other experiences.
For example, what happens when we see a patch of red before us? As Whitehead says, a datum of information is passed from the excited “cells of the retina, through the train of actual entities forming the relevant nerves, up to the brain. Any direct relation of eye to brain is entirely overshadowed by this intensity of indirect transmission . . . the predominant basis of perception is perception of the various bodily organs, as passing on their experiences by channels of transmission and enhancement.” (PR 118, 119) And even this account abstracts from the complexity of the biological details underlying our experience of “red.”
What you are seeing is a presentation made possible by many antecedent processes occurring in your body. From this David Griffin observes: “So even though the data of sensory perception give us a purely spatial world, the process of sensory perception itself suggests that the cells in our bodies are not purely spatial but are prehensive unifications of data from prior events, being in this respect analogous to moments of our own experience.” (RS 106-07)
The body is a vast ocean of feelings—a labyrinth of elegant routes of communication whereby information of various kinds is passed on, amplified, enhanced, integrated, and reintegrated. Whitehead again:
It is a set of occasions miraculously coordinated so as to pour its inheritance into various regions within the brain. There is thus every reason to believe that our sense of unity with the body has the same original as our sense of unity with our immediate past of personal experience. (AI 189)
Your relationship with your body is a social relationship: a relationship of the one self, or soul, to the many micro-individuals that make up your living body—the hundreds of thousands of different kinds of cells whose total number ranges in the trillions. Each cell in turn is a vast society of molecules wherein each molecule in turn is a teeming society of elementary particles. All of these micro-individuals are, to some degree, taking account of one another, or “socializing.” Electrons are very “attracted” to those flirtatious entities we call protons. We are complexly social through and through.
* * *
So closely do we identify with our bodies, that we tend to lose sight of an obvious fact: that the body is in the world. Far from being apart from the external world, the body is only the most intimate part of the environment we experience.
As Whitehead puts it, “We think of ourselves as so intimately entwined in bodily life that a man is a complex unity—body and mind. But the body is part of the external world, continuous with it. In fact, it is just as much part of nature as anything else there—a river, or a mountain, or a cloud. Also, if we are fussily exact, we cannot define where a body begins and where external nature ends.” (MT 21)
Given that our bodies are the most intimate part of nature that we can observe most directly, Whitehead took this as a clue as to what was happening in the rest of nature, and he surmised that “other sections of the universe are to be interpreted in accordance with what we know of the human body.” (PR 119) “The human body,” Whitehead says, “ provides our closest experience of the interplay of the actualities of nature.” (MT 115)
Whitehead calls the body “a miracle of order” and indeed it is the extraordinary structure of the human body that makes possible what may be called high levels of experience. The body, and I mean the body itself, is structured for conceptual adventure. The body is that locus, or matrix, wherein the possible and the actual intersect. On this fundamental contrast is based all novelty.
On this matter of the body, Teilhard de Chardin is in agreement with Whitehead, for he has written:
Hitherto, the prevailing view has been that the body (that is to say, the matter . . . attached to each soul) is a fragment of the universe—a piece completely detached from the rest and handed over to a spirit that informs it. In future, we shall say that the Body is the very Universality of things, in as much as they are centered on an animating Spirit, in as much as they influence that Spirit—and are themselves influenced and sustained by it. . . . My own body is not these cells or those cells that belong exclusively to me: it is what, in these cells and in the rest of the world, feels my influence and reacts against me. My matter is not a part of the universe that I possess totally: it is the totality of the Universe possessed by me partially.” (SC 12-13.)
A Panexperiential Universe
During the 300-year reign of science over which the analytical spirit of Sir Isaac Newton presided, the universe was viewed as a gigantic clockwork machine, ticking away in timeless perfection, a perfection created once and for all by God, who then stepped back, according to that view, to dispassionately contemplate his handiwork for all eternity.
The world the scientist looked out upon was, in essence, a fixed world, a changeless world, governed by immutable laws. It was a predictable world of force and matter, ruled by a rigid determinism, a mechanical world of billiard-ball cause and effect. Now, one undeniable attribute of a machine is that it has no life in it. So too, said science, was the material universe devoid of life: sheer matter acted upon by mechanical force. And back of it all, a changeless God—Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover. In a deterministic universe such as this, there’s not much room for adventure.
Modern science has, in a sense, eviscerated the basic units of nature. As a consequence, they are seen as inert, dead, completely insentient, nonpurposive, devoid of experience, incapable of self-movement. Whitehead calls such matter “vacuous actualities,” meaning that it has no interiority.
Enter panexperientialism: this is a long eight-syllable word with a simple meaning but some rather complex and surprising implications. It simply means that experience is the basic reality. In sharp contrast to Newton’s vacuous actualities, the fundamental units of nature, what Whitehead calls “actual entities,” are experiencing subjects. The basic units of nature are units of process and that process itself is a momentary flash of experience. Whitehead is clear and emphatic about this when he says that “apart from the experiences of subjects there is nothing, nothing, nothing, bare nothingness.” (PR 167)
Whitehead makes an important distinction between actual entities and what he calls enduring objects, entities that endure, or persist in time. These enduring entities are the real individuals that you can see and touch in the everyday world: all life forms that act and feel as one, such as dogs and fish and birds. Or the simple life forms that can be seen through a microscope: the cells of the human body, bacteria, protozoa, and plankton. And those inorganic enduring entities that can be, if not seen, at least detected by scientific instrumentation: molecules, atoms, subatomic particles, photons of light.
An actual entity is a single moment of experience in any one of these enduring entities. A moment that begins and ends very quickly—in a fraction of a second. When an actual entity achieves its moment of actuality, it “perishes,” to use Whitehead’s word, and is immediately followed by a new pulse of actuality.
Simply put, actual entities arise and “perish” whereas enduring entities persist through time. Whereas an enduring entity has a history, and sometimes a very long history, an actual entity happens “all at once.”
Whitehead states the importance of making this distinction:
The real actual things that endure are all [enduring entities]. They are not actual occasions. It is the mistake that has thwarted European metaphysics from the time of the Greeks, namely, to confuse [enduring entities] with the completely real things which are the actual occasions. . . . Thus [an enduring entity] . . . enjoys a history expressing its changing reactions to changing circumstances. But an actual occasion has no such history. It never changes. It only becomes and perishes. (AI 204)
In making this distinction Whitehead is insisting on the essential quantum nature of all reality, as opposed to the view of an enduring substance that somehow persists over time while exhibiting changing qualities. This includes the human mind or psyche, and so it is proper to speak in terms of the quantum soul. As David Griffin has stated, “The enduring self, understood as an enduring substance, is deconstructed.” (FC 202) Such a quantum view of the soul has been commonplace in Buddhist thought for centuries.
* * *
For panexperientialism to be a tenable doctrine, two other distinctions are required, and to overlook either is to invite confusion.
Some critics of process like to make fun of the idea of panexperientialism. They misconstrue the doctrine to mean that everything has experiences—everything without exception. They can then talk about how silly it is to claim that a chair has feelings, or that a stone or a rock can think.
The “pan” in panexperientialism means not that all things experience, but that there is experience in all things. A rock, for example, enjoys no unified experience, but a rock is teeming with a multitude of micro-individuals who do experience—molecules, atoms, elementary particles, and so forth. Internally, on the quantum level, a rock is roaring with activity. Even though a rock itself cannot be said to experience, there is experience, and plenty of it, within the rock.
Which brings me to the second distinction:
Experience varies vastly as to complexity, beauty, and intensity. This is the whole thrust of evolution, which began with very primitive units of experience, and only much later, after billions of years, evolved consciousness and self-awareness. Although experience does go all the way down, consciousness does not. As Whitehead puts it, “consciousness is the crown of experience . . . not . . . its base.” (PR 267)
Thus, those who ridicule the idea of panexperientialism by pointing out the obvious—that rocks can’t think—have completely overlooked these two essential distinctions.
For clarity, it should be pointed out that not all actual entities are exactly alike. In fact, Whitehead distinguishes four different grades:
In the actual world we discern four grades of actual [entities] . . . First, and lowest, there are the actual [entities] in so-called ‘empty space’; secondly, there are the actual [entities] which are moments in the life-histories of enduring non-living objects, such as electrons or other primitive organisms; thirdly, there are the actual [entities] which are moments in the life-histories of enduring living [entities]; fourthly, there are the actual [entities] which are moments in the life-histories of enduring [entities] with conscious knowledge. (PR 177)
They differ among themselves: God is an actual entity, and so is the most trivial puff of existence in far-off empty space. But, though there are gradations of importance, and diversities of function, yet in the principles which actuality exemplifies, all are on the same level. The final facts are, all alike, actual entities; and these actual entities are drops of experience, complex and interdependent. (PR 18)
In short, although there are great differences among actual entities, they all exemplify the same fundamental process of coming to be.
We are rarely, if ever, consciously aware of actual entities. In John Cobb’s words:
These individual occasions are only detectable either by intense introspection or by scientific instruments. None of the entities of which we are conscious in common experience are individual occasions and only rarely do these appear even in the sciences. For the most part, our conscious experience is concerned with entities that
are groupings of occasions rather than individual occasions. (CN 40)
* * *
There are three very distinctive features of human experience. First, the inwardness of experience. We are more than our bodies and our mere behavior as glimpsed by others. Experience is something that transpires within and in a very real sense is hidden from the rest of world.
The second feature is that experience is not continuous but comes in discrete units, or “quanta.” William James called them drops or buds of experience. As we’ve seen, Whitehead uses the technical term “actual entities” or sometimes he refers to them as “occasions of experience.”
To use a cinematic analogy, we flash along our quantum way at about ten to twelve frames per second. This would seem like slow motion to an electron for whom a minute must seem like a millennium.
As mentioned previously, for Buddhists the quantum nature of reality is nothing new. In a book entitled The Secret Oral Teachings in Tibetan Buddhist Sects, we find this:
The tangible world is movement, say the Masters, not a collection of moving objects, but movement itself. There are no objects “in movements,” it is the movement which constitutes the objects which appear to us: they are nothing but movement.
This movement is a continued and infinitely rapid succession of flashes of energy (in Tibetan “tsal” or “shoug”). All objects perceptible to our senses, all phenomena of whatever kind and whatever aspect they may assume, are constituted by a rapid succession of instantaneous events . . . the movement is intermittent and advances by separate flashes of energy which follow each other at such small intervals that these intervals are almost non-existent.
The third feature is creativity. Every moment of experience provides windows of opportunity for creative advance—for adventure. Whitehead’s thought is adventurous because he found reality itself to be adventurous.
Whitehead was an empiricist and, as such, he founded his epistemology, his theory of knowledge, and his ontology, his theory of reality, on that concrete reality we know best, most directly, and most intimately: our own experience as human subjects. Indeed, it would be no exaggeration to characterize Whitehead’s entire conceptual system as “the metaphysics of experience.”
Whitehead made the bold conceptual move of generalizing this to include all of reality: experience, inner experience, goes all the way down, from people to protons. Human experience is thus a high-level exemplification of reality in general. Or, as Frederick Ferré puts it:
Coherence would strongly suggest that the one precious sample of reality to which we have intimate access should be taken instead as our best clue to whatever else is real and effective in itself. It is our only example of the interiority of an existing being; and it provides the inescapable context for every bit of data we receive. (BV 351)
Since our experiences are the “only complete data” given to us directly, and since we are those experiences, it is difficult to see how knowledge could be any more intimate than this. With this in mind it is far from obvious that the other units of reality are completely different in principle than that which we most intimately feel and directly know.
To attribute feelings “all the way down” is one aspect of Whitehead’s attempt to reflect, in his metaphysical system, the unity of nature. Whitehead was the first philosopher to formulate the doctrine of panexperientialism with conceptual clarity. As so formulated, this doctrine has been hailed as “one of the greatest philosophical discoveries of all time.”
* * *
Panexperientialism is a powerful conceptual tool that provides many theoretical benefits. I’ll briefly mention only two.
First, the mind-body problem.
For over three centuries, the mind-body problem has proven highly resistant to solution by philosophers. This problem has been so difficult to untangle that Arthur Schopenhauer called it the “world-knot.” With regard to our era, philosopher John Searle has said that, “contrary to surface appearances, there really has been only one major topic of discussion in the philosophy of mind for the past fifty years or so, and that is the mind-body problem.”
In 1998 David Ray Griffin published a book (UW) devoted to the problem and some of us believe that he has at last unsnarled this perplexing knot, arguing from the vantage point of panexperientialism. If mind and matter are completely different in kind, the problem to be overcome is how they could possibly interact. From the point of view of materialism and dualism, the problem, according to leading theoreticians, appears to be insoluble. But what they miss seeing is that these are not the only options.
Panexperientialism, with its view that mind and so-called matter differ in degree but not in kind, provides a clear understanding of how interaction between the two is possible.
Another long-standing problem concerns evolution.
Some scientists have concluded that the problem of how first life, and then consciousness or mind, evolved out of mere inert matter is theoretically insoluble. From the perspective of panexperientialism, this is only a pseudo-problem in that whatever entities emerged following the so-called “Big Bang” enjoyed some form of experience, however slight and primitive. As William James has said, “If evolution is to work smoothly, consciousness in some shape must have been present at the very origin of things.”
A Dipolar Universe
Another feature that Whitehead found in his analysis of experience was its essential dipolarity.
Imagine pausing for a moment to look at yourself in a mirror, and become aware of the double perspective—you see your body as others see you, but you are also aware of your own inner experience. Your body, from without, is what you are as you appear to the sensory perception of others. Your mind, or inner experience, are what you are for yourself. Griffin reminds us that this provides the basis for a distinction between mind and matter: “What we call matter is then the outer appearance of something that is, from within, analogous to our own experience.” (FC, 203)
The French paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin said that “coextensive with their Without, there is a Within of things.” And physicist David Bohm is thinking along the same lines in his distinction of two orders in nature: the implicate and the explicate.
Whitehead called these two aspects of experience the mental pole and the physical pole; hence, the word “dipolar.”
He then generalized this dipolarity to be ingredient in all actualities all the way down to the most fundamental units of nature.
Though many have tried to describe what subatomic particles look like as matter, that is, as seen from without, Whitehead was perhaps the first to try to imagine what an electron feels like from inside. To Newton’s inert mass particles, he thus resuscitated not only some interiority, but a lively inner experience with each pulsation of actuality. And thus philosopher Charles Hartshorne came to speak of how an electron can “enjoy its almost incredibly lively career of rhythmic and not too rigidly rhythmic adventures.” (BH 202)
Whitehead’s anatomy of a single pulsation reveals a beginning, a momentary phase of creative development toward a completion that ends with a thrust beyond itself into the next new pulsation. As an electron flashes along its quantum way, each tiny pulsation throbs its own actuality into existence, just as quickly fades away, and is immediately followed by another.
At the deepest level, in electromagnetic wave propagation, this same polarity is vividly exemplified in that such waves are propagated by a sheer reversal of field as a pulsation of negative charge begets positive and positive begets negative in a segue of polar reversals. In this perpetual rhythm of vivid contrasts, nature can be seen as dipolar through and through.
The strange, charmed, beautiful, and truly upside-down microworld of quantum physics reveals the presence of this same dipolarity, for there are two types of elementary particles, quarks and leptons, and the individual particles themselves are linked in pairs—the six quarks: up-down, charmed-strange, truth-beauty (or top-bottom in more prosaic terms), and the six leptons: electron neutrino-electron, muon neutrino-muon, tau neutrino-tau. To extend this biphasal omnipresence ever further, each particle also has an antiparticle, such as the neutrino-antineutrino pair.
Charles Hartshorne proposed that “in basic contrasts or polarities, both poles must be asserted if either is.” If this is true, and if there is life after death, as some of us believe, then we can look forward not to lives of pure spirit but to post-terrestrial careers of dipolar immortality.
Change, or the oscillation between two phases, operates at every level of reality—from subatomic particles and atoms to planets and galaxies. If dipolarity is so fundamental to the very nature of reality, what does this suggest about the nature of God?
The Divine Dipolarity
Process proposes what at first glance may appear to be an apparent paradox: that God both changes and does not change. Can any sense be made of this paradoxical proposal? The process answer is that a coherent explanation can be made by conceiving God as dipolar.
Indeed, if dipolarity is a fundamental principle, and if Whitehead is correct in holding that God can be no exception to such principles, then the divine nature must be dipolar. Moreover, not only is God conceived as dipolar, but as doubly dipolar.
One dipolarity is in terms of a distinction between two aspects of God: God’s concrete actuality and God’s abstract essence. God’s abstract essence does not change, is timeless, necessary . . . in fact, all the mostly negative characteristics attributed to God by classical theism. But as a concrete actuality, God does change, through increase of experience and value, and is temporal, contingent, and relative. Hartshorne emphasizes just how relative God is by proposing that God is the most relative of all actualities and coins the term “surrelative” to describe this. God is super-relative.
In sharp distinction to Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover, God is also dipolar in how God relates to the world: both exerting influence upon, and receiving influence from.
Some critics charge that the God of process theism is not transcendent enough. To this charge Hartshorne has made a sagaciously witty reply: he said that the God of process is twice as transcendent as the God of classical theism. He was able to make this reply through his doctrine of dual transcendence. By dual transcendence, Hartshorne means that only God has uniquely excellent ways of being both absolute and relative, necessary and contingent, immutable and capable of change, and so on.
Dipolarity is only one of many variations on a twofold metaphysical theme that weaves its way through Whitehead’s work: the unification of contrasting pairs such as the many and the one, order and novelty, permanence and change. The last pair, permanence and change, is maybe the most general expression of the underlying rhythms of process in nature. Whitehead calls these contrasting pairs ideal opposites. The point to be noticed is, that in all of these contrasting pairs, one requires the other. They cannot, in Whitehead’s words, “be torn apart.” There is an ultimate complementarity in the very nature of things, including the nature—the dipolar nature—of God.
In Whitehead’s words, “Opposed elements stand to each other in mutual requirement. In their unity, they inhibit or contrast. God and the World stand to each other in this opposed requirement.” (PR 348)
Not only do God and the world stand in mutual requirement, either one is the source of novelty, and adventure, for the other. This is the basis for Whitehead’s statement that “It is as true to say that God creates the world, as that the world creates God.” (PR 348)
In Whitehead’s scheme what appears as an opposition, or self-contradiction, is converted to a vivifying contrast. Since “all the ‘opposites’ are elements in the nature of things, and are incorrigibly there,” (PR 350) there can be no final reconciliation of permanence and change in a process universe. The world will never reach a state of static completion, and neither will God. Creation continues, forevermore and everlastingly, and so: adventure!
Charles Hartshorne has taken Whitehead’s idea of “ideal opposites” and developed it considerably into what he calls a logic of ultimate contrasts. Consider for a moment pairs of contrasting terms such as absolute and relative, cause and effect, object and subject, being and becoming—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.
To illustrate his idea, Hartshorne has constructed a logical matrix (a square containing sixteen smaller squares) that reveals the structure and implications of this logic. If Hartshorne is right, then to exalt the abstract over the concrete implies that we should value objects over subjects, the possible more than the actual, and that the movement from cause through effect is a descent from better to worse, from more to less. As Hartshorne says, if this is indeed the case, then “pessimism is a metaphysical axiom.” (ZF 116)
One of the many surprising adventures of reading Whitehead is to discover what to some may seem an outrageous claim: that much of our received wisdom is not only wrong but that some of our most venerated thinkers got it exactly backwards. Whitehead reminds us that “the doctrines which best repay critical examination are those which for the longest period have remained unquestioned.”(AI 177) In his book Process and Reality, time and time again he will cite an established idea only to say, “but the converse is true.” And then proceed to show why this is so. Is this not reminiscent of Jesus’ saying, “It has been said . . . but I say unto you.”
An example of how this works can be seen in how Religious Science explains the creative process. According to Ernest Holmes, and The Science of Mind textbook, God, as the creative principle, receives the impress of our thought and makes it a reality. In other words, God completes what we initiate. And here is where Whitehead would insist that “the converse is true,” and that Holmes has it exactly backwards. According to a process understanding of the creative process, it is our job to complete what God begins. The compelling reason behind this is that only God can provide relevant aims or possibilities.
In every new moment God prehends the entire universe—every atom, every molecule, every living form, all the billions of moments of our human occasions of experience—and integrates these countless moments in the divine concrescence, and then, with the knowledge of this as reference, provides every single actual entity with a relevant range of possibilities for its best future.
Given the staggering complexity of the universe, given the breathtaking background of its 15-billion-year history, given our fragmentary understanding of things—what Whitehead sometimes calls “the dim recesses of [our] apelike consciousness”(AI 295)—surely only God has the inclusive vision and all-encompassing wisdom to know the range of possibilities that are relevant to initiate a particular creative act. Ponder, if you will, the first four words of the Bible: “In the beginning, God . . .”
Can we suppose, hypothetically, that the founder of Religious Science might agree with this? Consider the following: in his later years, as a guest speaker at a Fort Lauderdale church, Ernest Holmes began his talk with a thought that may surprise some of you. His opening statement was:
Someday, not too many years from now, The Science of Mind book will be filed
away on a dusty old bookshelf and forgotten because so much new knowledge and information will be available that the book will become archaic.
To me, this makes one thing abundantly clear: that the mind of Ernest Holmes was ever adventurous and looking to the future.
Two Types of Process:
Concrescence and Transition
In Whitehead’s system of thought there are two types of process: concrescence and transition. What he means by these two terms can be shown by drawing a distinction between two types of causation: efficient and final. Efficient causation is how one thing, or occasion, influences another. It is the causal influence between two occasions, and is objective, or physical. Final causation is self-determination. This is how an entity influences its own self-formation, or self-completion. As such, it is the causal influence exerted within one occasion on itself, and is subjective, or mental. Final causation, with its glimpse of possibilities beyond what is given by the past, is how determinism is transcended and novelty enters the world.
An analysis of our own experience reveals that we are not completely determined by the past, but are constantly deciding how to react to circumstances. For example, if I feel hunger while working at my computer, I’m not thereby compelled to make a mad dash for the refrigerator, but can decide to wait until later to have a slice of apple pie.
From this analysis, Whitehead generalizes that the same sort of process, different in degree but not in kind, occurs in other individuals, all the way down. Although they differ in richness and complexity, the momentary experiences of a molecule and a Mozart all share the same basic structure.
Here’s how Whitehead analyzes a moment in the life of an actual entity:
Remember, all experience comes in quantum pulsations.
Each pulse of experience begins physically by receiving the efficient causation of the past, followed by a mental, or subjective, phase wherein it feels not only this influence but also a range of possibilities for deciding how to respond. Once this decision and response is made, the subjectivity comes to an end, and the objective datum of what has thus been achieved is then passed on to the succeeding pulse of experience. The ending of subjective experience is the beginning of objective existence as efficient causal influence.
New possibilities for an actual entity are felt as contrasts between what now is and what might be. What “might be” are a range of possibilities, provided by God in terms of an initial aim. The initial aim both initiates the occasion and aims at its best outcome, given all the myriad factors that make up the present concrete situation. Through an initial aim that is relevant to the context, God provides “particular providence for particular situations.”(PR 351) This is how God is present, and participates in, every concrescence and transition in the entire universe.
Simply put, concrescence is how an entity achieves actuality and transition is how it passes on what it has thus achieved to future subjects that follow.
Underlying every reality is the cosmic rhythm wherein transition follows concrescence to beget yet another concrescence. Note the beautiful symmetry of this interweaving of transition and concrescence, efficient and final causality, objectivity and subjectivity, permanence and change.
And so all the enduring entities of nature, including all humans, are biphasal in nature with two modes of existence: subjective and objective. As David Griffin observes, to be an enduring entity is to be in “perpetual oscillation between the two kinds of process, concrescence and transition. The creative advance of the world, therefore, involves a perpetual oscillation between efficient and final causation.” (RS 115)
Perpetual oscillation: is this not reminiscent of the reversal of field, from negative to positive, seen in wave propagation as described by quantum theory? Whitehead’s two kinds of process, concrescence and transition, reveals another instance of the twofold theme.
The whole point of this twofold process is to achieve actuality, over and over and over again, and to each time introduce the possibility for change, for novelty, for adventure.
God is adventurous!
A Holographic Universe
For Whitehead the universe is not a competitive arena for rugged individualists but a close-knit web of intimate social relationships, so close-knit, in fact, that every item in the universe is involved in the concrescence of each actual entity. In the initial phase of concrescence, an actual entity takes account of, or prehends, all other actual entities in its immediate past. As Whitehead says,
In fact if we allow for degrees of relevance, and for negligible relevance, we must say that every actual entity is present in every other actual entity. The philosophy of organism is mainly devoted to the task of making clear the notion of ‘being present in another entity.’ (PR 50)
Actual entities are internally related, which means that the relations are essential and constitutive of what each actual entity becomes. To the question, what are actual entities made of—the reply is that they are made of other actual entities, plus what they achieve by self-completion. And so, another aspect of what is meant by the word “process” is to say that reality is a social process.
Whitehead repeatedly insists that the entire universe conspires to create each new actual entity:
The whole world conspires to produce a new creation. It presents to the creative process its opportunities and its limitations. (RM 113)
In the first place, no event can be wholly and solely the cause of another event. The whole antecedent world conspires to produce a new occasion. (MT 164)
Each task of creation is a social effort, employing the whole universe. (PR 223)
If Whitehead is right about this, and also about saying that every actual entity prehends all other actual entities in its immediate past, and this entails that they be present, in their objectified state, in that actual entity, this has a startling implication.
Indeed, philosopher Jorge Luis Nobo takes us for a quantum leap by pointing out that Whitehead’s adventurous thinking along these lines anticipates the holographic paradigm. In this light, every actual entity is revealed to contain a “metaphysical hologram” of the entire universe; and thus Nobo says:
“. . . the metaphysical chronology and topology of the universe are forever captured and enshrined in . . . its actual occasions.”
Noting that the universe is never at a standstill, Nobo qualifies what he means:
[The universe so captured], it must be noted, is a fleeting momentary state of the universe, which, nevertheless, is permanently captured in the crystallized modal structure of [an actual entity’s] own extensive standpoint.
Thus, the holographic conception of reality—the conception which physicist David Bohm, psychologist Karl Pribram, and other contemporary scientists are beginning to find so illuminating in their respective disciplines—has been an essential, but generally unacknowledged, ingredient of Whitehead’s metaphysical thought since 1924, if not earlier. (WM 327)
Nobo pushes the envelope even further:
. . . the causal objectification of each occasion in [an actual entity’s] immediate past presents for [that actual entity] the entire history of the universe up to the birth of the occasion in question, thereby leaving out only some of the information concerning the complete determinateness of its own contemporaries. (WM 328)
And so each momentary throb of actuality constellates within itself a replication, in marvelous miniature, of the entire universe, showing how all things are interdependent, interwoven together in a wonderful pattern of connectedness, a pattern linking all things together in dynamic relatedness.
Not only does an actual entity contain the whole of the past universe, it pervades the whole of the future by passing on what it achieves, an achievement that will be taken account of, or prehended, by all subsequent entities. As a holographic entity, each fleeting pulse of experience is Alpha and Omega, with prehensive roots stretching all the way back to the primordial flaring forth of the universe fifteen billion years ago, and branches of influence reaching forward into the future . . . for as long as forever is.
Of course, some of our poets, especially those of a mystical turn of mind, have been telling us this all along. For example, William Blake begins one of his poems with these lines:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
But even though some mystical poets have glimpsed this, it was left to Whitehead to formulate this penetrating insight into a rigorous metaphysical system that stands up to the rational criteria of consistency, coherence, applicability, and adequacy.
Our Buddhist friends have a wonderful image of the holographic universe. They call it The Jewel Net of Indra.
It pictures the cosmos as an infinite network of glittering jewels, all different. In each one we can see the images of all the others reflected. Each image contains an image of all the other jewels; and also the image of the images of the images, and so ad infinitum. The myriad reflections within each jewel are the essence of the jewel itself, without which it cannot exist. Thus, every part of the cosmos reflects, and brings into existence, every other part.
And thus an actual entity is a holographic entity whose datum is the boundless universe itself, stretching to the farthest reaches of intergalactic space and back to the beginning of time. If this is true of an actual entity, then it must also be true of our own momentary occasions of experience. This means that the entire universe, as a metaphysical hologram, flashes forth in our unconscious experience a dozen or so times every second.
God and the World
To discuss how God and the world interact, in Whitehead’s view, it may be helpful to first say a few words about creativity.
Creativity is so fundamental an idea in process thought that David Griffin argues that there are two ultimates: God and creativity.
Process denies the idea that only God is creative, or that the creativity of the creatures comes from God. In no way does this deny God’s all-surpassing eminence in the creative process, for without God no process would even be possible, creative or otherwise.
Just as there are no actual entities without some degree of creativity, there is no creativity without, or apart from, some actual entity. Apart from God and actual entities, creativity has no actuality of its own, and yet it transcends them both. Whitehead reveals just how interconnected are his three fundamental ideas:
But, of course, there is no meaning to ‘creativity’ apart from its ‘creatures,’ and no meaning to ‘God’ apart from the ‘creativity’ and the ‘temporal creatures,’ and no meaning to the ‘temporal creatures’ apart from ‘creativity’ and ‘God.’ (PR 225)
Again, this is Whitehead’s “ontological principle,” according to which “there is nothing which floats into the world from nowhere.”
For Whitehead the ultimate metaphysical category is creativity, the form of forms, and universal of universals. In Process and Reality, he writes,
Neither God, nor the World, reaches static completion. Both are in the grip of the ultimate metaphysical ground, the creative advance into novelty. Either of them, God and the World, is the instrument of novelty for the other. (PR 349)
Creativity is pervasive, spanning the entire spectrum of reality, from God all the way down to atoms, electrons, and quarks, though in these elementary particles the degree of creativity is so minimal as to be almost (but not quite) negligible. This is an aspect of the idea of panexperientialism—that all actual entities or dynamic singulars (units of process that act and feel as one) enjoy experience to some degree.
To be a creature, any creature, is to be creative, is to be a creator, though not of course the Creator. And rather than claiming that God is the only Power, process proposes that all creation is co-creation, and that the creative process is just that: a process involving both God and creatures. God does not unilaterally provide any finished products. Jesus made essentially the same point when he said, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.”
First, God provides the ultimate ground and order necessary for any experience whatsoever to occur. God also begets the subjective immediacy of each beginning actual entity, endows it with possibilities, the freedom to choose among those possibilities, and an aim towards its own self-completion.
From a process perspective, God is always present in the very midst of our becoming, offering perfect possibilities in every new moment for each individual’s highest good. Such possibilities Whitehead calls initial aims, and these aims are directive and persuasive, but never coercive. And so every becoming occasion begins with God as creative love: everlastingly leading, luring, urging all actualities to new heights of fulfillment and enjoyment.
Whitehead puts it eloquently:
Every event on its finer side introduces God into the world. . . . The power by which God sustains the world is the power of himself as the ideal. He adds himself to the actual ground from which every creative act takes its rise. The world lives by its incarnation of God in itself. (RM 155-56)
The point to be noticed here is that all creation is co-creation—the co-creation of God and the world.
* * *
In the closing pages of Process and Reality, Whitehead presents a litany to this ultimate complementarity of God and the world:
It is as true to say that God is permanent and the World fluent,
as that the World is permanent and God is fluent.
It is as true to say that God is one and the World many,
as that the World is one and God many.
It is as true to say that, in comparison with the World, God is actual eminently,
as that, in comparison with God, the World is actual eminently.
It is as true to say that the World is immanent in God,
as that God is immanent in the World.
It is as true to say that God transcends the World,
as that the World transcends God.
When I first read this it sounded like a paragon of paradox. I thought to myself, this cannot be! But then Whitehead gives an intriguing clue: “The concept of ‘God’ is the way in which we understand this incredible fact—that what cannot be, yet is.” (PR 350) Remember, in Whitehead’s view God is dipolar with both an abstract essence and concrete actuality. With this in mind, let’s take another look at the second sentence:
It is as true to say that God is one [as abstract essence] and the World many [the many becoming actualities], as that the World is one [unified in God’s concrete actuality] and God many [the many actual entities as they are initially prehended into God’s concrete actuality].
The conclusion to be drawn from this I’ll phrase in Whiteheadian terms:
It is as true to say that the world requires God, as that God requires the world. It is as true to say that the World cannot exist without God, as that God cannot exist without the world. It is as true to say that God contributes to the World, as that the World contributes to God.
What God contributes to the world are possibilities for actualization; what the world contributes to God is the actualization of those possibilities, possibilities that hitherto God, as abstract essence, had only known abstractly and conceptually.
In the everlasting cosmic rhythm of the many and the one, the many creatures are the source of actualized adventures for the one God just as the one God is the source of possibilities for adventures and novelty for the many creatures. In Whitehead’s words:
The theme of Cosmology, which is the basis of all religions, is the story of the dynamic effort of the World passing into everlasting unity, and of the static majesty of God’s vision, accomplishing its purpose of completion by absorption of the World’s multiplicity of effort. (PR 349)
A Kalogenic Universe
In his book Being and Value, philosopher Frederick Ferré acquaints us with a beautiful idea that he names with a beautiful word: kalogenesis.
“Kalós” (kaloV) is the Greek word for “beauty” and “genesis” of course refers to “generating” or “bringing into existence.” And so kalogenesis means the creation or coming to be of beauty. The adjectival form of this word is “kalogenic.”
According to Ferré, beauty is omnipresent, everlasting, and present in every momentary flash of actuality. The becoming of any actuality is also the becoming of beauty. In short we live in a kalogenic universe populated by kalogenic entities. To be, on whatever level, from protons to people, is to be a begetter of beauty.
It seems Whitehead is in accord with this, for he says:
The metaphysical doctrine, here expounded, finds the foundations of the world in the aesthetic experience . . . All order is therefore aesthetic order, and the moral order is merely certain aspects of aesthetic order. The actual world is the outcome of the aesthetic order, and the aesthetic order is derived from the immanence of God. (RM 104-05)
God is the poet of the world, with tender patience leading it by his vision of truth, beauty, and goodness. (PR 346)
In co-creation with God, the fundamental cosmic process, the coming to be of each momentary flash of actuality, represents a real achievement, a flicker of originality, arising out of a feeling, however vague, for a range of possibilities that might have made its existential path otherwise. Adventure is inherent in the very structure of reality.
If, on this hypothesis, the coming to be of every actual entity involves at least some measure of self-completion and, therefore, real freedom, it follows that every occasion is of intrinsic value. Value is inherent in the very texture of reality.
Coming to be always involves the many and the one. In Whitehead’s pithy phrase, “The many become one, and are increased by one.” This describes a process whereby diversity is made one in a prehensive unification of experience. Probably the most general definition of beauty is “unity in diversity.” The culmination of coming to be is a feeling of “satisfaction” upon achieving this accomplishment. If follows that every momentary flash of actuality not only produces beauty, but also “enjoys” the experience of beauty. Beauty is inherent in the most basic dynamics of reality.
The most fundamental process in the universe, the process whereby actuality is attained in each momentary pulse of experience, is a kalogenic process. To be an actual entity is to be a kalogenic entity. The “process” of process philosophy is a kalogenic process.
Beauty also has to do with contrasts held together in harmony. The wider the contrast, the more intense the expression and the experience of beauty. In the becoming of every individual there is always, however slight, some feeling of contrast between what is actual and what is possible.
Ferré observes that:
. . . in its process of becoming actual every fundamental entity must result in a unified harmony of definite elements held together in experience. In this way, every pulse of actualizing energy represents in itself an act of kalogenesis. The universe comprised of kalogenic entities and their combinations is therefore, strictly speaking, the by-product of beauty. (BV 358)
With the advent of sexual reproduction new experiences and expressions of beauty became possible. In Ferré’s words:
Sexual reproduction makes the search for beauty even more intense and gives advantage to decorations, iridescent fins and fine feathers, prowess at dance, attractive odors, and the like, throughout the sexually animated kingdoms, botanical as well as zoological. The universal quest for satisfactory experience, for subjectively enjoyed beauty, draws organisms whether or not their experience (compared to ours) is dim and unselfconscious. At the biological level, we find ourselves within an intensely kalogenic universe. (BV 361-62)
From a process perspective, even pre-biotic evolution tells a tale of high adventure. In the beginning of our universe, what science rather unpoetically calls the Big Bang, electrons and protons emerged in a fraction of a second.
Over the course of about 300,000 years these two types of entities enjoyed their own careers, their own individualities, if you will, as they flashed along their solitary quantum ways. But then something exciting happened. For these primordial individuals somehow managed to suddenly weave themselves together into new more complex entities called atoms. The simplest, and probably first to emerge, is the hydrogen atom with a nucleus of one proton and its single orbiting electron.
The path leading from electrons and protons to atoms is a creative path, and the ontological principle requires that creativity be explained in terms of actual entities, in this case: electrons and protons.
In short, this means that these two were not mere inert particles but throbs of adventurous actuality. It was somehow through their creative interaction, their “decision” for novelty, that a new creature, a new atomic entity, came into being.
This is the first social interplay, a romance if you will, between two opposites who continue to attract each other by one of the strongest forces in the universe.
This is an astonishing achievement. The leap from electrons and protons to atoms is a quantum leap of breathtaking beauty, and these two worthy pioneers may be seen as the first trailblazers.
In The Universe Story, a book that can be described as deeply kalogenic, cosmologist Brian Swimme and geologian Thomas Berry describe the adventure story of hydrogen in much the same way:
The universe bloomed into existence, settled on its fundamental laws, and stabilized itself as baryons and simple nuclei. For several hundred thousand years it expanded and cooled and then, in an instant, at the very end of the fireball, the universe transformed itself into the primordial atoms of hydrogen and helium. Our wandering proton snapped into a new relationship with one of the erstwhile freely interacting electrons. These bonded relationships were impossible during the violent former eras, but now they became the predominant mode of reality.
The creation of the atoms is as stunning as the creation of the universe. Nothing in the previous several hundred thousand years presaged their emergence. These dynamic twists of being leapt out of the originating mystery and immediately organized the universe in a fresh way. Is it the electron trapping a proton? Or vice versa?
It is rather an event initiated by the universe, and completed by the mysterious emergent being we call hydrogen, a new identity that has the power to seal a proton and an electron into a seamless community. (US 29)
In a creative explosion, other new atomic entities quickly followed, bringing forth all the basic atoms, the elements that make up the periodic table. And from these arose molecules and macromolecules, one of stunning beauty and complexity we now call DNA.
A hydrogen atom, with its union of one electron and one proton, is perhaps the simplest exemplification of unity and diversity, and shows forth a simple beauty. And thus it can be readily seen that kalogenic entities were present, and prolific, at the very birth of the universe.
The scientists of today no longer see atoms as inert bits of matter. For example, here’s how Swimme and Berry describe the simple helium atom.
In actuality each helium atom roars with activity. In the time it takes a human to sneeze, a single helium atom has had to organize a billion different evanescent events to establish its helium presence in the world. Just one of its accomplishments is to keep its electrons free from interacting with most of the photons rushing at it. To exist as an invisible gas is a major achievement, one requiring instant-by-instant action, an accomplishment that transformed the universe. (US 33)
And, speaking of accomplishments that transform the universe—
The musical genius of Mozart is legendary . . . astonishing . . . breathtaking.
When creating his music, Mozart never wrote rough drafts that he later polished to perfection. All who observed him at work agree that he could sit down and dash off a musical composition, in its final form, as easily as we might sit down and dash off a grocery list.
He was able to do this because he sometimes conceived an entire movement of a symphony in one single creative thought. Like a beautiful orchid springing into full bloom all at once, in the twinkling of an eye, the whole movement came to him as a unity of experience “in one magnificent moment of musical meaning.”
We all have experienced magnificent moments, though probably to a lesser degree than this, and Frederick Ferré calls such experiences “Mozartian moments.” These moments have an intrinsic value in themselves; they glow, as Ferré says, with their own worth. When they come to us, in their flashes of momentary splendor, we know truly that our “cups runneth over.”
Although they can aspire to intense elevation, Mozartian moments are grounded in the body, for they come charged with deep feeling, and are made possible by the human brain which, as Ferré reminds us, is “the most complex system in the known universe.”
Mozartian moments are integrative—not only do contrasting elements come together, but they are held together in a momentary embrace revealing aesthetic richness and intensity of experience: a unity of diversity, a unity of contrasts. The greater the contrast, the more the intensity.
They are adventures of novelty, revealing exciting new vistas, or breakthrough insights,
evoking feelings of freshness, zest, and vitality.
Mozartian moments are among our highest experiences of beauty . . . and thus intensely kalogenic. Their beauty sparkles. They come “trailing clouds of glory” and are part of what make us unique as humans.
And so in conclusion, I make this wish: may your Mozartian moments be many, and may there be one that stands out above all. And may that one be an adventure of the spirit, of such breathtaking beauty that it transforms the universe!
Key to Abbreviations
SC Chardin, Teilhard de. Science and Christ.
CN Cobb, John B. A Christian Natural Theology: Based on the Thought of Alfred North Whitehead.
RE Cooper, Robert M. “God as Poet and Person at Prayer,” Religious Experience and Process Theology, Ed. Harry James Cargas and Bernard Lee.
BV Ferré, Frederick. Being and Value: Toward a Constructive Postmodern Metaphysics.
FC Griffin, David Ray, John B. Cobb, Marcus P. Ford, Pete A. Gunter, and Peter Ochs. Founders of Constructive Postmodern Philosophy: Peirce, James, Bergson, Whitehead, and Hartshorne.
RS Griffin, David Ray. Religion Without Supernaturalism: A Process Philosophy of Religion.
UW Griffin, David Ray. Unsnarling the World-Knot: Consciouness, Freedom, and the Mind-Body Problem.
BH Hartshorne, Charles. Beyond Humanism.
ZF Hartshorne, Charles. The Zero Fallacy. ed. Mohammad Valady.
WM Nobo, Jorge Luis. Whitehead’s Metaphysics of Extension and Solidarity.
US Swimme, Brian & Thomas Berry. The Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era.
AI Whitehead, Alfred North. Adventures of Ideas.
MT Whitehead, Alfred North. Modes of Thought.
PR Whitehead, Alfred North. Process and Reality. Corrected Edition. Ed. David Ray Griffin and Donald W. Sherburne.
RM Whitehead, Alfred North. Religion in the Making.
Whitehead’s Six Main Principles
In his Harvard lectures of 1926-27, Whitehead announced “the six main principles of my metaphysics”:
1. The principle of solidarity. Every actual entity requires all other entities, actual or ideal, in order to exist.
2. The principle of creative individuality. Every actual entity is a process which is its own result, depending on its own limitations.
3. The principle of efficient causation. Every actual entity by the fact of its own individuality contributes to the character of processes which are actual entities superseding itself.
4. The ontological principle. The character of creativity is derived from its own creatures and expressed by its own creatures.
5. The principle of esthetic individuality. Every actual entity is an end in itself for itself, involving its measure of self-satisfaction individual to itself and constituting the result of itself-as-process.
6. The principle of ideal comparison. Every creature involves in its own constitution an ideal reference to ideal creatures: (1) in ideal relationship to each other, and (2) in comparison with its own self-satisfaction [cf. RM 155].
Process Studies 4, no. 3. (Fall 1974): 204
Core Doctrines of Process Philosophy
1. The integration of moral, aesthetic, and religious intuitions with the most general doctrines of the sciences into a self-consistent worldview as one of the central tasks of philosophy in our time. By understanding “religious intuitions” broadly to include intuitions of moral and aesthetic values, this purpose can be stated more succinctly as the integration of science and religion into a single worldview. This (formal) doctrine will be developed in Chapter 1.
2. Hard-core commonsense notions as the ultimate test of the adequacy of a philosophical position. Although this doctrine is in part, like the first one, formal, it is also partly substantive, in that it says that there are some hard-core commonsense notions, meaning notions that are inevitably presupposed in practice by all human beings. Insofar as they are inevitably presupposed, any philosophy that denies one or more of them violates the law of noncontradiction because it is guilty of explicitly denying what it implicitly affirms. This doctrine provides the primary means by which process philosophy avoids the complete relativism that is affirmed, whether explicitly or only implicitly, by much modern and postmodern philosophy. This doctrine is laid out in the first chapter, then developed further in the final chapter.
3. Whitehead’s nonsensationist doctrine of perception, according to which sensory perception is a secondary mode of perception, being derivative from a more fundamental, nonsensory “prehension.” This epistemological doctrine, which involves the development of a central feature of William James’s “radical empiricism,” allows for genuine religious experience in the sense of a direct perception of a Holy Reality, as shown in Chapter 2. It also allows for the perception of moral norms, as discussed in Chapter 8. Finally, because this doctrine also allows for the direct perception of some other things (such as causality, the past, and the external world) that could not be perceived if the sensationist theory of perception were true, it will be central to the critique of Reformed epistemology in the final chapter.
4. Panexperientialism with organizational duality, according to which all true individuals—as distinct from aggregational societies—have at least some iota of experience and spontaneity (self-determination). The affirmation of panexperientialism involves the rejection of the early modern dualism between two kinds of actual entities: physical actualities devoid of experience and mental actualities (minds) with experience. The addition of “organizational duality” provides the basis for avoiding the counterintuitive suggestion, which some versions of panexperientialism make, that self-determination and a unified experience are enjoyed by literally everything in the actual world, including sticks and stones. This doctrine is central to discussion of the mind-body relation and freedom in Chapter 3.
5. The doctrine that all enduring individuals are serially ordered societies of momentary “occasions of experience.” This doctrine, according to which enduring individuals, such as molecules and minds, are analyzable into momentary events, is fundamental to process philosophy’s reconciliation of final and efficient causation and, therefore, of freedom and determinism. The salient point is that each enduring individual, such as a living cell or a human mind, oscillates between two modes of existence: the subjective mode, in which it exerts final causation or self-determination, and the objective mode, in which it exerts efficient causation upon subsequent events. This unique doctrine will be central to the discussion of the mind-body relation, especially the issue of human freedom, in the third chapter.
6. The doctrine that all actual entities have internal as well as external relations. This doctrine, according to which all actual entities are fundamentally relational—in the sense of first being internally (constitutively) related to prior actual entities, then externally related to (constitutive of) subsequent actual entities—has led some advocates of this position to call it “process-relational philosophy.” This relational doctrine of actuality, besides being explicated in the third chapter, is central to the doctrine of God’s activity and immanence in the world in the following chapters and to the discussion of the relation between the individual and society in Chapter 8.
7. The Whiteheadian version of naturalistic theism, according to which a Divine Actuality acts variably but never supernaturally in the world. This doctrine—the centrality of which is signaled by the phrase without supernaturalism in the book’s title—says that although there is a divine actuality that influences human experience and, in fact, all finite beings, this divine influence never involves an interruption of the normal pattern of causal relations, being instead a natural dimension of this normal pattern. The reason for this absence of divine interruptions, furthermore, is metaphysical, not merely moral, being based on the fact that the fundamental God-World relation is fully natural, grounded in the very nature of things, not in a contingent divine decision. This naturalistic theism, although developed in Chapter 4, is already presupposed in the reconciliation of science and religion provided in the first chapter.
8. Doubly Dipolar Theism. Better known than process philosophy’s naturalistic theism is its dipolar theism, according to which the divine reality has two aspects, or “poles.” There has been considerable confusion, however, about exactly how to understand the divine dipolarity, mainly because process theism actually involves two dipolarities, one of which has been emphasized more by Whitehead, the other more by Hartshorne. In the fourth chapter, I draw on John Cobb’s integration of these two views to develop a doctrine of God that, by overcoming inconsistencies in Whitehead’s doctrine of God and an inadequacy in Hartshorne’s, is intended to do justice to both dipolarities.
9. The provision of cosmological support for the ideals needed by contemporary civilization as one of the chief purposes of philosophy in our time. Like the first core doctrine, which refers to the task of integrating science and religion, this one is purely formal. It complements the first one, however, by bringing out the fact that the overall purposes of process philosophy are practical as well as theoretical. This point, the centrality of which is signaled by the use of the word reenchantment in the title, is developed primarily in Chapter 8, although it is introduced in Chapter 1 and is implicit throughout the book.
10. A distinction between verbal statements (sentences) and propositions and between both of these and propositional feelings. This doctrine is central to the discussion of language and truth in Chapter 9 and thereby to the discussion of knowledge in Chapter 10.
David Ray Griffin, Reenchantment Without Supernaturalism, 5-7
Five General Characteristics of Process Thought:
First, everything—literally everything—about which we have experience or knowledge can be subsumed under the general description of event or energy-event. We have to do, not with substances or things, but with events, occasions, occurrences, happenings—what Whitehead called the “actual entities” that are (to use a very misleading, because a “thing,” word) the “building-blocks” out of which everything is made. This is true of the natural order as studied by the physicist; it is equally true of those areas of creation investigated by the so-called “life-sciences” such as biology and its relations. But it is also true at the level of human experience, with its psychology and sociology as well as its physiology. And it is true of God, too, for in process thought God is not conceived to be an essence, not even esse a se subsistens (certainly in the first place, although there may be a sense in which the term can be used), ens realissimum, or “being itself.” Rather, he is taken to be a dynamic event or series of events himself (since, as we shall see, we may use a personal pronoun for the divine event or series of events) as living and as much a “becoming” as anything else—indeed more so, since he is the “eminent case” of that which is taken to be the basic metaphysical principle in the entire cosmos.
Second, since all is seen as event or energy-event, all is at the same time in process. We have to do with no inert things, with no “fixed entities”; we have to do, rather, with a movement or direction or routing in which all is “coming to be” or “becoming,” toward an end or goal that will be the realization of potentiality or (if the “wrong” decisions are taken at particular instants along the route) the denial of such actualization and hence a failure in realizing potentialities. Again this is as true of the physical world as it is of living matter (as we call it); it is true of man in his historical existence; and it is true of God who is “becoming,” not more divine (since he is always the supreme and worshipful one), but in that he is more fully realizing his divine “reality” in relationship to the cosmos in which he is unfailingly at work and with which he identifies himself intimately and unceasingly.
Third, everything is related to everything else in the world as process thought understands it. By a process of mutual “prehension,” in which entities grasp and are grasped by their fellows, a societal situation is established. The prehension is not simultaneous, since there is always a “time-lag” (however minimal, a matter of tenths of seconds, perhaps) between expression and apprehension or grasping of what is expressed; nonetheless, there is this constant movement of give-and-take, outgoing and receiving, participation, or interrelationship. Even of God this is true, and he is not simply the chief (although not the only) causative agency; he is also the chief recipient of all that happens in the created order. The whole world is knit together “in one bundle,” as an Old Testament phrase puts it. Nowhere is this so obvious as in human existence, but it is true of anything and everything, divine and human.
Fourth, in such a world there is both freedom and responsibility. Whitehead is reported to have characterized “reality” in this way: “It matters and it has consequences.” It matters: so everything is in one way or another important or has “value” or “meaning,” not merely in its being what it is on the way to being, but also in its capacity for decision. In man this is some, but not all, of the time a business of consciously made choice among relevant possibilities; this or that given possibility is taken, negatively or positively, as a way to such fulfillment as will realize the aim initially given to each entity or series of entities. Such decision is not conscious at other levels (as, say, in a quantum of energy) but it is a genuine decision nevertheless—that is, a “cutting off” of some possibilities by the very fact of the opting for another or for others; and the word “decision” comes from the Latin decidere, which means “cutting off.” Not only is there this freedom (within such limits as permit contrast but not irremediable conflict, cosmos but not chaos); there is also the significant point of consequences. It has consequences: by decisions that are taken and implemented, things are altered in the succeeding moments or the subsequent events in the creative advance. And this involves responsibility, certainly at the level of human experience but in appropriate fashion and with the necessary modifications in extent and content elsewhere as well.
Fifth and finally, the most powerful “thing” in the world is persuasion or love, tenderness or gracious concern. At the subpersonal levels this means growing-together in mutuality: it is the movement in “amorization” about which Teilhard de Chardin wrote. At the human level this means actual participation or relationship in mutuality, with the self-giving and the gracious willingness to receive which at its best is known when two persons can say sincerely and wholeheartedly, “We love each other.” Obviously it seems that coercion or sheer force is the strong power in the world; but the insight of the race’s great seers and prophets, saints and poets, coincides with the intuition expressed by Whitehead when he spoke of the inexhaustible, indefatigable, indefeasible, and utterly faithful activity of love. Man himself is becoming human through the decisions taken in response to lures offered; and to become human is to move “toward the image of God” who is Love—or better, “the Cosmic Lover” whose love “moves the sun and the other stars. The creation is nothing other than a great love story, in which the chief causative and receiving agency whom we name God is luring, attracting, enticing, inviting, soliciting, and (persuasively but not coercively) demanding a response of love from the creatures and more especially from the human creatures with whom, for whom, in whom, and by whom he works in the world—as well as working elsewhere, of course.
Norman Pittenger, “Process Theology: A Whiteheadian Version,” Religious Experience and Process Theology, ed. Harry James Cargas and Bernard Lee, 4-6
Ideas and Theses of Process Philosophers
A. Process Philosophers of the Past
A — Samuel Alexander (1859-1938)
B — Henri Bergson (1859-1941)
Bou — Emile Boutroux (1845-1921)
Bu — Buddhists (ca. 100-)
D — John Dewey (1859-1952)
F — G. T. Fechner (1801-1884)
H — David Hume (171 1-1777)
J — William James (1842-1910)
L — Jules Lequier (1814-1862)
M — Karl Marx (1818-1883)
N — Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
NB — Nicolas Berdyaev (1874-1948)
P — C. S. Peirce (1839-1912)
S — Fausto Socinus (1539-1604)
Sch — F. W. J. von Schelling (1775-1854)
W — A. N. Whitehead (1861-1947)
WPM — Wm. Pepperell Montague (1873-1953)
There is a case for including Hegel in the above list. Indeed, since Kant, and with the exceptions of Bradley, Royce, Russell, Nicolai Hartmann, Santayana, Weiss, and Findlay, metaphysics or speculative philosophy has been almost exclusively process philosophy, taking the term in a broad sense. Yet the critics of metaphysics tend to ignore process philosophers, among whom Croce, Collingwood, and Heidegger should probably be included. Several thinkers in modern India, e.g., Sri Jiva, Mukerji, and Iqbal, could be added. Also Renouvier and Teilhard de Chardin in France; DeWitt H. Parker and E. S. Brightman in the United States; and, with more reservations, Bernardino Varisco in Italy.
B. Common Theses (accepted, or at least not denied, by all or most process thinkers).
1. Becoming includes being; there is a partly new universe each time it is referred to.
2. The future is really open or partly indeterminate (even for God: F, L, NB, S, P, W, WPM).
3. Causal determinism is not absolute; creative freedom (not fully determined, though influenced, by causal conditions) is real: B, Bou, D, F, J, L, N, NB, P, S, W, WPM.
4. “Substance” is defined through “event” or “process”, and not vice versa: A, Bu, D, H, J, M, N, W.
5. The laws of nature evolve: B, Bou, P, W.
6. Experience (human or nonhuman) is coextensive with reality (psychical or nonmaterialistic monism, panpsychism or psychicalism). Exceptions: D, M; not decided or clear: J, L, NB.
7. Memory, as givenness of the past, is basic in reality. Especially B, P, W.
8. There are both internal and external relations, both dependence and independence (moderate pluralism). Especially J, P, W.
9. Social relations are pervasive in experience and reality: P (“agapism”), W (“feeling of feeling”).
10. Self-interest is not the principle of all motivation or the justification of altruism: Bu, H, M, P, W.
11. Some version of the pragmatic theory of meaning is correct: D, J, M, N, P, W.
12. The “ontological principle” (W) that universals, abstractions, are real only in concrete actualities (Aristotle) seems to be affirmed, at least implicitly, in all process philosophies.
13. God is in some aspect in process and is influenced by the creatures: A, F, J, L, NB, P, S, Sch, W, WPM. Nontheists: D, M, N; undecided: H.
14. Aesthetic categories are primary: B, P, W.
15. There are incompossible but genuine values: NB, W.
C. Special Contributions of Peirce (who seems not to have influenced Whitehead).
1. Logico-phenomenological method.
2. Firstness, Secondness, Thirdness.
3. Continuity as order of possibilities. In “Synechism” it is also (wrongly?) taken as order of actualities. These possibilities are viewed, not as an eternal multitude of definite essences (Whitehead’s “eternal objects”), but rather as an indeterminate unity out of which more definite qualities emerge or “evolve”.
4. Continuity of possible sense qualities (feeling qualities) as a special case of C3. (Hartshorne arrived at this view prior to his study of Peirce, but received precious stimulation from Peirce at this point and many others.)
D. Special Contributions of Whitehead (besides his versions of B1-B15)
1. Epochal theory of becoming (anticipated by Bu and J).
2. Strict ultimacy and universality of creativity or creative synthesis transcending causal determination by the past in all concrete cases of becoming, and applicable even to God. (The nearest approximation in previous systems would be Peirce’s Tychism and his doctrine of Firstness.)
3. Perception and memory as alike involving “prehension”, the direct grasp of antecedent events upon which the perceiving or remembering events asymmetrically depend, thereby denying that perceiving and its data are simultaneous. (The nearest approximation would be Peirce’s doctrine of immediate memory as a case of Secondness.)
4. Concept of concrete prehensions as “feelings of feelings” (cf. B9, B 14).
5. Identification of prehension with causality (Whitehead’s answer to Hume) and a clear doctrine of both external and internal relations.
6. Clear, technical doctrine of “societies” as the enduring substances, things, and persons of common sense (cf. B4), and of “social order” as the order of nature.
7. Overcoming the “bifurcation of nature”, as in panpsychism (B6), but with (early twentieth century) physics, physiology, and biology taken into account.
8. Concept of the order of nature as aesthetic.
9. Two natures of God (implicit in all theistic process philosophies).
10. Successive ‘cosmic epochs,” each with its own laws.
E. Special Contributions of Hartshorne
(Although he accepts a form of all the items listed under B, C, and D, in some cases, e.g., B2, B6, B8, B9, Bl0, B13, B14, Hartshorne seems to have reached his convictions relatively independently of the writers mentioned above. Thus he derived the idea of the open future and the process view of God chiefly from W. B. Hocking, one of his teachers, and the rejection of the self-interest theory of motivation from Royce’s discussion of “community” and reflection upon his own experience. Similar remarks could, a fortiori, be made about Peirce, Berdyaev, and Whitehead, three very independent thinkers.)
1. Development and defense of the theory of sensations as localized, sense-organ-dependent, feelings (the “affective continuum”). This has affinities with B14, C4, and D4, but in bare outline it was derived from others than those listed above, perhaps even largely from non-philosophers.
2. A logic of categorial contrasts (absolute, relative; abstract, concrete; object, subject; etc.).
3. A logic of contingency and necessity, with these corollaries: a new perspective on the ontological argument, and a new defense of the possibility of metaphysics.
4. Doctrinal matrices: the method of decision by elimination from exhaustive divisions of the doctrinal possibilities.
5. Theistic proofs (six or seven forms) as applications of these doctrinal matrices (E4); use of creative freedom (D2) and the logic of contingency and necessity (E3) to dissolve the classical problem of evil.
6. Defense of the Peircean (less “platonic”: C3) version of the onto-logical principle (B12) as against the Whiteheadian one.
7. Clarification of pragmatism (B11) as applied to noncontingent truths or values, denying that the necessary or eternal (E3) can be bad or ugly.
8. Clarification of issues connected with the process view of God (B13): panentheism; “perfection” as “unsurpassability by another”; principle of dual transcendence.
9. Theory of beauty as a mean between extremes in two dimensions (clarification of B14).
10. Primacy of asymmetrical relations and directional order as furnishing support to B2, B3, B7, B8, B9; C2; D3, D5; E2.
Charles Hartshorne, “Ideas and Theses of Process Philosophers,” Two Process Philosophers: Hartshorne’s Encounter with Whitehead, Lewis Ford, Ed., 100-03
Books by Whitehead and Hartshorne
Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947)
The Aims of Education. 1929. New York: Free Press, 1967.
Adventures of Ideas. 1933. New York: Free Press, 1967.
The Concept of Nature. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1920.
Essays in Science and Philosophy. New York: Philosophical Library, 1947.
The Function of Reason. 1929. Boston: Beacon, 1958.
Interpretation of Science. Ed. A. H. Johnson. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1961.
Modes of Thought. 1938. New York: Free Press, 1968.
The Organisation of Thought. London: Williams and Norgate, 1917.
Principia Mathematica with Bertrand Russell. 2 ed. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1929.
An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Natural Knowledge. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1919.
Process and Reality. 1929. Corrected Edition. Ed. David Ray Griffin and Donald W. Sherburne. New York: Free Press, 1978.
The Principle of Relativity. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1922.
Religion in the Making. 1926. New York: Fordham UP, 1996.
Symbolism: Its Meaning and Effect. New York: Macmillan, 1927.
Science and the Modern World. 1925. New York: Free Press, 1967.
Charles Hartshorne (1897-2000)
Anselm’s Discovery. La Salle: Open Court, 1965.
Aquinas to Whitehead: Seven Centuries of Metaphysics of Religion. Milwaukee: Marquette University Publications, 1976.
Beyond Humanism: Essays in the New Philosophy of Nature. 1937. Gloucester: Peter Smith, 1975.
Born to Sing: An Interpretation and World Survey of Bird Song. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1973.
Creative Experiencing: A Philosophy of Freedom. Eds. Donald Wayne Viney and Jincheol O. State University of New York Press, 2011.
Creative Synthesis and Philosophic Method. 1970. Lanham: UP of America, 1983.
Creativity in American Philosophy. Albany: State U of New York P, 1984.
The Darkness and the Light. Albany: State U of New York P, 1990.
The Divine Relativity: A Social Conception of God. New Haven: Yale UP, 1983.
Insights and Oversights of Great Thinkers: An Evaluation of Western Philosophy. Albany: State U of New York P, 1983.
The Logic of Perfection and Other Essays in Neoclassical Metaphysics. La Salle: Open Court, 1962.
Man’s Vision of God and the Logic of Theism. 1941. Hamden: Archon, 1964.
A Natural Theology for Our Time. La Salle: Open Court, 1967.
Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes. Albany: State U of New York P, 1984.
The Philosophy and Psychology of Sensation. 1934. Port Washington, N.Y: Kennikat, 1968.
Philosophers Speak of God with William Reese 1953. Chicago: Midway Reprints, 1976.
Reality as Social Process: Studies in Metaphysics and Religion. 1953. New York: Hafner, 1971.
The Unity of Being. Doctoral Dissertation, Harvard University. 1923. Eds. Randall E. Auxier and Hyatt Carter. Forthcoming. La Salle: Open Court.