Process And Reality By Whitehead PdfBy Velasco L. In and pdf 26.11.2020 at 02:35 3 min read
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- Whitehead Process and Reality
- A key to Whitehead’s process and reality
- Alfred North Whitehead - Process & Reality
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Whitehead Process and Reality
A Review of Process and Reality. Alfred North Whitehead — created a comprehensive metaphysical system for understanding science, society, and self. Thus the philosophical scheme should be coherent, logical, and in respect to its interpretation, applicable and adequate… Process and Reality , 3. An adequate metaphysics, then, must apply in general terms to the whole of reality, including all human subjective experiences.
Indeed, the metaphysics is such that the normal uses of the terms subjective and objective no longer apply. It is not adequate to construct a metaphysics that renders the full spectrum of the emotional and imaginative life invisible or insignificant. Note that while Whitehead references fantastic inventions of human imagination, his objective is objectivity. A general description of reality is the goal. What is fundamentally real, says Whitehead, are not things but events.
All events are relational. They have causal antecedents and causal consequences in webs of varying complexity, significance, and intensity. All events also exhibit some modicum of internal self-creative freedom that is not fully determined by their causal antecedents nor is it predictable in their causal consequences.
We no longer need to be troubled about the distinctions between matter and mind, animate and inanimate, created and evolved, nature and nurture, or reductionism and emergence. The difference between atoms, animals, artifacts, and humans is in the degrees of complexity, the intensity of causal relationships, and the extent of self-creative freedom integrated in these various phenomena.
The differences are not in any essentialized notions of natural kinds. The incarnate God is determined by the sum of all past actualities, and the transcendent God is limited within a matrix of future possibilities. For Whitehead, the one become many and the many one as the universe and God evolve together. The goal of this evolution is realized beauty.
God-in-universe is a complex distributed system. The technical term used is panentheism , to be distinguished from pantheism. Whiteheadean process metaphysics has given rise to various schools of process theology that have found devotees in numerous seminaries and departments of religion. This does not mean all beings are equivalent in a flat, relativistic monism without significant distinctions, because being is spun within a web of asymmetrical, multivariable, hierarchically layered, and differentially valued relationships.
While Whitehead does not develop an explicit epistemology to go along with his ontology, we may infer that all knowing is also causally related knowing within a web of asymmetrical, multivariable, hierarchically layered, and differentially valued relationships. This is the persuasive telos of god-in-universe. Whitehead not only uses common and philosophical language in idiosyncratic ways, but he also invents a series of neologisms, including terms like appetition, concrescence, comformal, formaliter, ingression, prehension, regnant society , and superject.
This obtuse style is frustrating to even trained philosophers, let alone the unwary graduate student. The language is a nonstarter for most literally minded scientists, even though Whitehead aspires to a literal general description of reality. This creates an in-group and out-group phenomenon, which has hampered the exploration of Whitehead among philosophers, theologians, scientists, and the general public.
I keep quite a file of Whitehead quotes for ready use in papers and conversations. The concept of God in Whitehead is also problematic. This is an extremely abstract and depersonalized God. It is not the least bit clear why anyone would worship this God. It ends up being a turn-off to philosophers and theologians alike.
He does not draw on scriptural sources in theologizing about his new concept of God. Whitehead is disconnected from his own Christian tradition in this respect and will have little appeal to scripturally oriented religious traditionalists.
This god-in-universe suffers with the world because it is the world, marvels at its complexity, plays with us, loves with us, relates with us. God-in-universe is a presence all the way up and down the cosmic unfolding of time and scales of emergence. Rendering God no longer omnipotent, perhaps not even omniscient or omnibenevolent, may render God too emasculated and irrelevant for most traditionalists even to begin considering. Whether it be the death of a single child due to disease, starvation, or violence or something on a larger scale like the Rwanda massacre, these past actualities are just part of the unfolding of evolution.
Moral and natural evil may provoke change, adaptation, and further evolution — that is progress — but at whose expense? Whitehead offers no salvation story outside of the hoped-for evolution of the universe toward the one, the many, and the beautiful.
Thus, Whitehead offers no real solutions to the existential angst over death and injustice that motivates much of religious adherence. Ethics for Whitehead is a subset of aesthetics. The purpose of the universe is to realize beauty.
Moral conduct is directed at achieving greater beauty. Realized beauty is the divine aim in process. So we have a kind of aesthetics and ethics of the golden mean between change and continuity, between order and novelty. There are no universal moral laws, duties, and obligations, nor is there any essential and fixed human nature. One advantage of this approach is that we can now talk of moral evolution in human history.
On what grounds could a Whiteheadean argue for inviolable, individual human rights? With Whitehead, we have no fixed human nature and therefore no fixed boundaries and limitations that should restrain human behavior.
There are no real criteria for restraining human creativity and destruction, except the vague concept of maximizing aesthetic experience. If beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, then so too might morality be merely the opinions of the beholden. Principles of environmental ethics, bioethics, and justice are difficult to establish in the Whiteheadean framework.
Wilson loves nature, that is clear, but he can offer nothing more than utilitarian justifications for why we should love and preserve natural kinds, as they happen to be at this moment in evolution.
Relatedness, whether in the form of biocentrism or communitarian ethics, can be antithetical to the notion of individual rights. The Western moral tradition, encoded in the Declaration of Independence and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, considers individuals to be irreducible centers of dignity and worth. This can be seen as an outgrowth and implication of the theological doctrine of Imago Dei. Extreme individualism, however, is also found wanting.
First, it is counterfactual but also inherently ethically dubious. So we are left ambiguously between process and relationships, on the one side, and principles and individuals, on the other.
Here, we have a basic statement of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This turns out to be a rough measure of complexity in evolution. Through photosynthesis, plants achieve an energy density flow roughly a thousand times more than that of a star. The human body is sustained by a daily food intake resulting in an energy density flow about 20, times more than that of a typical star.
Remember that we are comparing the ratio of energy consumed to mass of the objects. So here is another way to think of this. If a human body could be scaled up to the mass of our sun, it would be 20, times more luminous assuming it could obtain enough energy! The human brain, which consumes about 20 percent of our energy intake while constituting about 2 percent of our body weight, has an energy density flow , times that of a typical star.
And finally, modern human civilization has an energy density ratio some , times that of a typical star. The realized evolution of God, universe, and human history, however, is not necessarily good or beautiful. We see this in the examples of any number of natural and human tragedies. Past experience is not necessarily good or beautiful, noble or just. I want to end by suggesting ways that process philosophy may yet offer partial solutions to these problems through 1 a new moral matrix and 2 a time-transcendent eschatology.
The new moral matrix I take from the writings of the late Thomas Berry — , who recently passed away at the age of ninety-four. He advocated the incorporation and interpretation of the new scientific cosmology into our religious and moral systems.
The observed teleonomy of the universe is increased differentiation , increased communion , and increased autopoiesis. Taken together, these three principles would constitute what Whitehead means by realized beauty. Berry and Swimme explore numerous examples of these tendencies in the evolutionary narrative. For instance, differentiation is promoted by chance and mutation in the evolution of life.
Communion is promoted by necessity and selection. Autopoiesis is promoted by niche creation and choice. They then move from description to prescription. Human actions and beliefs are true, good, and beautiful when they protect and increase differentiation , when they attend to and enjoy communion , and when they foster and enhance autopoiesis, that is, self-creative freedom.
Evil is a corruption of these goods by disproportionately emphasizing one and neglecting the others. The dynamic balance between these tripartite goods constitutes beautiful and ethical behavior. I find this moral matrix helpful. It would be useful to explore some examples of how this might be applied in political philosophy, bioethics, and environmental ethics.
While this framework is not going to give us simple answers to culture-war debates about abortion or homosexuality, national healthcare or energy policy, it does provide a context for a common moral conversation at least partly grounded in a scientific worldview. In the matrix itself we all see that real ethical problems are often not polar opposites but a conflict of goods that cannot all be maximized at the same time. The great philosophical and moral challenge of our time is to reconcile natural law philosophy global ethics with natural philosophy contemporary science in conversation with our received traditions comparative religions.
There is some basis for this understanding of time in contemporary physics. The equations of the microcosmic physics all work the same backward, or forward, without respect to our common sense understanding of irreversible, linear time. It is only in the macrocosmic laws of thermodynamics that irreversible, linear time enters the equation.
The laws of entropy need not have the last word in our metaphysics. And in the end, we should not expect any easy answers or final resolutions of the problem of evil in the universe or the theodicy of God. The shift to a more mystical and less rational discourse is perhaps the best we can expect after all of our debates. This unreasonable expectation that the world should be better than it is and that we should be better people than we are is perhaps the ur-source of the religious, moral, and creative impulse of our restless species.
Volume One San Francisco: Harper,
A key to Whitehead’s process and reality
There is one question that any potential reader who suspects that Alfred North Whitehead might be important for past, contemporary, and future philosophy inevitably raises: how should I read Whitehead? How can I make sense of this incredibly dense tissue of imaginative systematizing, spread over decades of work in disciplines so different and specialized as algebra, geometry, logic, relativistic physics and philosophy of science? Accordingly, this monograph has two main complementary objectives. The first one is to propose a set of efficient hermeneutical tools to get the reader started. These straightforward tools provide answers that are highly coherent and probably the most applicable to Whitehead's entire corpus.
Alfred North Whitehead - Process & Reality
Process and Reality is a book by Alfred North Whitehead , in which the author propounds a philosophy of organism, also called process philosophy. The book, published in , is a revision of the Gifford Lectures he gave in — We diverge from Descartes by holding that what he has described as primary attributes of physical bodies, are really the forms of internal relationships between actual occasions. Such a change of thought is the shift from materialism to Organic Realism , as a basic idea of physical science. Whitehead's background was an unusual one for a speculative philosopher.
Process philosophy is based on the premise that being is dynamic and that the dynamic nature of being should be the primary focus of any comprehensive philosophical account of reality and our place within it.