According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Course Outline: Whitehead's Process and Reality, by Jay McDaniel




Introduction by R.E. Slater

Back in 2009 I began what now seems to be a ten year project of which I am nearly done. It was undertaken to update a traditional Christianity I had grown up with from a classically Reformed tradition (in this case, Baptist) from the influences of Fundamentalism and later, Conservative Evangelicalism, through a series of churches, schools, and eventuating in my graduation from a Baptist Seminary which favored Covenantal Reformed Theology over Dispensationalism. My roots were in Arminianism as a Baptist but by education (even in those Baptistic churches I attended) was Calvinistic.

Around this time I began to transition in a very personal way. A deeply personal way as if the Holy Spirit came upon me then suddenly placed me into a wilderness of rocks and heat far far away from all human help. I discovered very quickly it was a spiritually dark place that did not hear the voice of God. It was as if I was placed apart from God's presence which left me asking a defening "why" without answer. This then began my training and orientation out of a pious past. I now lived in an uncircumcised land where I could ask the foundational questions which needed asking while learning to listen in a new way apart from the echoes of my past training and education, readings and teachings.

Nevertheless, it was a disquieting place to spiritually live. I felt very much like the prophet Jeremiah thrown roughly into a miry pit of clay to be left their to rot and decay. And it was of the Spirit's own making. Not mine, as I intended nothing so severe, so complete, so withdrawing. And there was no help. No one to turn to. Even family failed to understand. And if they did it was surprise and alarm without ability to understanding. It was a very singular event which seems even now to haunt me in a good way rather than in a threatening way.


From that deeply felt personal experience it was as if I was reborn again. Through that time I never doubted God's existence even though I asked if He were real, if His Bible was true, if my life's work was meaningless. But there was no booming speech from the Divine. Only silence. A deep silence. And this silence did not lift. It was a place of spiritual aloneness. A joyless pit I did not seek to escape but to allow this time given to me to form me for fear that I would leave its lessons too soon. And so I stayed in the silence and prayed and searched. To move towards a new spiritual understanding I could not get from my past faith travels. In response, when finally discovering none could help I began to read with an attitude of skepticism, allowing uncertainty to be my guide without wishing to escape its cold heart.

And then, nearly a year to the day, I was delivered from this spiritual pit of great darkness and could see afresh. It was as if looking for the first time with a new set of spiritual eyes. Even though God's presence had fled from me right from the onset, in a curious way His Spirit did not leave mine own. How the two experiences can be separated I cannot explain. It just was. As such, the Spirit filled me, directed my thoughts, moved my soul to form this present website and share my experiences so that others might learn of God in a new way. One that would resonate with my classical training but move more deeply towards significant, contemporary forms, of understanding. In the end, my soul as well as my head, needed an updated faith that could move forward into a post-truth era of today's anarchal period of post-postmodernism. Fortunately, before this era arose I had the opportunity to understand its earlier, more benevolent - if not global twin - of postmodernism, which had several decades earlier thrown off the rigors and darkness of modernity at the onset of the horrible world wars of the twentieth century to come. In America this time proved to be the Vietnam era of social and civil unrest. In Europe it came sooner because of the wars.

At which point the Spirit held me tight and drove me to labor and write, publish and edit, everything which made sense to me. I later discovered not only I, but many many others, had gone through this same experience around the world so that now, no longer am I alone but am pursuing spiritual engagement with all my brothers and sisters, each Holy Spirit driven to lend hope and help to a world gone mad. To preach against the evils of a Christianity needing deep reform from its beggarly doctrines forbading love to the lowliest creature, the earth, or even one another. To seek a faith that isn't filled with hate and darkness but would see every man, woman, and child for the multuality we bear with one another rather than to cheapen life. To lay a new foundation down for those seeking a more meaningful spiritual direction. Into this journey has come a thousand different directions from an army of contemporary Christian Messengers who are thinking through what it means to recognize the deep necessity of their task. One requiring of God's many prophets and His teachers to speak out to the church, to humanity as a whole, and even to God's creation we have so carelessly destroyed without wisdom or comprehension.


In essence, when I transitioned to Arminianism and away from Calvinism I found I had to re-appraise the entirety of my belief structures to allow for the openness required in seeing the world anew. It brought with it fundamentally new ways of viewing Jesus, the bible, even God Himself. It also allowed me to understanding how my past traditions had become entangled in their own webs needing deliverance - not defensive apologetics by strident pen and voice. And this I endeavored to do which has led to many discoveries - first on my own, but later through others - of a attitude not wishing to defend my faith but to accept and discover God in all things again despite my inherited faith. One of those discoveries is the idea of an Open and Relational Process theology. For me ORT is a beginning, but not an end, to a fuller search seeking a broader hermeneutic in which to live, study, preach, and minister. Along with many other discoveries outside of ORT its force has allowed for a better appreciation of science, sociological, anthropology, worship, and ministry.

As consequence, Relevancy22 is a very wide-and-open site as I attempt to provide a more honest look of how today's Millennials or Generation-Z PostMillennials might live and breath out the Divine faith of Jesus into the world and church. In hindsight, if this website were to be read sequentially, from earliest date to latest, you would witness the progress of my thoughts as they formed actively - not perfectly, but imperfectly - as I tried to grasp and understand the meaning of what was being said on any one topic through the new eyes of the Spirit moving my being to write until I can no longer. And so I will. And pray for those faithful supplicants here to not give up hope. That the Christian faith can be meaningful rather than religious. That the bible can be the Bible through the eyes of Faith. And that good works as modeled by Jesus have tremendous spiritual impact as only God can energize those labors when done truthfully in His name.

Peace,

R.E. Slater
September 17, 2017






* * * * * * * * * * *




Jesus, Jazz, Buddhism

by Jay McDaniel



What is Process Thought?

A Short Course Introducing Whitehead's Philosophy and Helping Readers Understand Passages from Process and Reality Featuring Twenty Short Videos.


Where to Begin?

  • Readers who are interested in the process tradition as a whole will want to start with the Introduction.
  • Readers who attracted to Whitehead's idea that nature is alive may want to begin with Lesson Five.
  • Readers interested in jazz and innovation might begin with Lesson Twelve.
  • Readers interested in a summary of Whitehead's understanding of experience might begin with Lesson Seventeen.
  • Readers interested in the arts might start with Lesson Eighteen.
  • Readers interested in Whitehead's understanding of God might begin with Lesson Nineteen.
  • Readers wondering why people turn to Whitehead in the first place might begin with Lesson Twenty.


Why Short Videos?

The educational videos below are intended to help people in different parts of the world read Whitehead's Process and Reality. There are now many centers for process thought on every continent. The videos are created with an international audience in mind.

Most of the videos below are about six minutes long. The first video offers a general introduction and the ones that follow offer interpretations of important passages in the Whitehead's book, beginning with the Preface. 

We recognize that many of our listeners are not native English speakers. Many of them are in mainland China, where we are doing much work these days. We wish we could offer these videos in multiple languages. 

Nevertheless, the narrator -- Dr. Jay McDaniel -- speaks very slowly so that people for whom English is a second language can understand easily. The videos may be helpful for those wishing to practice English.


Suggestions for Using the Videos

How can the videos be used? Ideally, the videos will be supplemented by the guidance of a teacher on-site who adds his or her own guidance to the project of reading Process and Reality. Already they are used in certain settings in the United States in this way. But in the absence of a teacher, it is still possible, with help from the videos, to work through Process and Reality alone or in small reading groups.

    

Two introductory texts can be especially helpful to newcomers: The Whitehead WordBook by John B. Cobb, Jr. and Process-Relational Philosophy by C. Robert Mesle. Readers interested in Christian versions of process thought can learn from Process Theology: A Guide for the Perplexed by Bruce Epperly.

Readers interested in the more general relevance of process thought to religious life, including Jewish and Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu, can learn from the increasingly pluralistic work of Process and Faith.

Readers interested in general applications of process thought to areas such as education, ecology, economics, spirituality, physics, biology, and other topics can gain much from the excellent resources of the Center for Process Studies, in Claremont, California.


Who is Alfred North Whitehead?

You can learn much about Whitehead by going to the website for the Center for Process Studies. In this website we also offer a short introduction to his life and career.

We will be offering more short-video courses, on other books by Whitehead, and on applications of process thought to daily life and community development, as the months unfold. This is just the beginning.



Introduction
Process Thought is an Attitude and Outlook on Life, International in Scope, Influenced by the Philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead.

This video introduces process thought and explains the purpose of the series. Dr. Jay McDaniel (the narrator) introduces himself and presents process thought as an attitude toward life emphasizing creativity, interconnectedness, and respect for life. He gives you a sense of who and where process thinkers are, and he introduces a diagram -- the Tree Diagram -- which compares process thought to a growing tree.

The roots are Whitehead's philosophy; the trunk consists of twenty key ideas that flow from his philosophy; and the branches consist of application. The twenty key ideas can be found in English and Chinese on the JJB website: Twenty Key Ideas. JJB also introduces many applications of process thinking on a wide variety of topics: ecology, education, culture, spirituality, science, art, music, and food culture, for example.

For example, if you are interested in practical applications to ecology, see John Cobb's Ten Ideas for Saving the Planet. Or if you are interested in spirituality, see Replanting Yourself in Beauty or Trust in Beauty.

However, this course focuses on the roots as developed in Whitehead's Process and Reality. As you take the course it is helpful, but not necessary, to have a copy of Whitehead's Process and Reality alongside you, making sure that you read the selected pages. It is best to read the text very slowly, without rushing. Do not worry if there are phrases you do not understand. If you watch and reflect upon these videos, you will have a good understanding of many ideas in Process and Reality.


What Is Process Thought? - Lesson 1




Lesson One
Relevant Text: Process and Reality, Preface, pages xi-xii
Key Theme: There are four sources for wisdom: Science, Art, Religion, and Ethics.

This lesson focuses on the first two pages of the preface to Process and Reality. With help from highlighted texts, it presents Whitehead's aims in writing the book; explains that Whitehead spoke of his philosophy as a philosophy of organism; and talks about four kinds of experience Whitehead wanted to unify: scientific, aesthetic, moral, and religious. At the end Dr. McDaniel explains that, for Whitehead, the wisdom of the perspective he develops will lie in the overall scheme, and that this scheme is gradually developed throughout the book.


What Is Process Thought? - Lesson 2




Lesson Two
Relevant Text: Process and Reality, Preface, page xiii
Key Theme: Thinking and feeling and decision-making form a whole.

Following a brief review of the previous lesson, this lesson turns to a list of nine fallacies which Whitehead lists in the preface found on page xiii of the Preface. These are fallacies which Whitehead seeks to avoid. This lesson focuses on three of them: (1) the fallacy of distrusting speculative philosophy, (2) the fallacy of trusting that language is an adequate expression of ideas, and (3) the fallacy of thinking that the human mind can be divided into mutually external compartments or faculties.


What Is Process Thought? - Lesson 3




Lesson Three
Relevant Text: Process and Reality, Preface, page xiii (cont.)
Key Theme: Reality does not conform to subject-predicate grammar.

Lesson three continues in explication of nine ideas repudiated or rejected by Whitehead as he begins to develop his philosophy. After a short review of the previous lesson, Dr. McDaniel discusses one of the most important "fallacies" Whitehead sought to avoid. It is that of thinking that the world in which we live, and our experience of it, can be understood on the analogy of the subject-predicate mode of grammatical expression. In so doing the lesson introduces an idea that is central to the process tradition: namely that "entities" emerge out of their relations with other "entities" and that there are no entities existing in isolation. The emphasis on relationality is one reason that Whitehead called his philosophy a philosophy of organism.


What Is Process Thought? - Lesson 4


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJN_7qu1aAw


Lesson Four
Relevant Text: Process and Reality, Preface, page xiii (cont.)
Key Theme: In philosophy no form of experience should be excluded.

Lesson Four presents Whitehead's idea that the starting point for philosophical thought is experience and explains that, for Whitehead, all kinds of experience must be taken into account: experience anxious and carefree, experience happy and grieving, experience emotional and experience intellectual, experience normal and abnormal, experience asleep and experience awake. This lesson also introduces the idea that Whitehead was a radical empiricist, rejecting the sensationalist doctrine of perception in the interests of recognizing the potential wisdom of many forms of experience.


What Is Process Thought? - Lesson 5




Lesson Five
Relevant Text: Process and Reality, Preface, page xiii (cont.) 
Key Theme: There are no vacuous actualities; nature is alive.

With help from visual images from the French artist and post-Impressionist painter, Paul Cezanne (1839-1906), this lesson introduces Whitehead's idea that the whole of the universe is "alive" in varying degrees and ways, and that there are no vacuous actualities. A vacuous actuality is an actuality which lacks any interiority or agency; it is a mere thing. Whitehead's philosophy is known for its proposal that all genuine actualities in our universe prehend their actual worlds from their own perspective, and that the objects we see in our world are either genuine actualities in their own right or nexus (aggregates) of such actualities. Mountains, for example, are aggregate expressions of actualities with prehensive vitality. One well-known process philosopher, David Ray Griffin, speaks of this as panexperientialism. In this website we sometimes call it panprehensionality. Whitehead's notion of prehension is dealt with in a subsequent lesson.


What Is Process Thought? - Lesson 6




Lesson Six
Relevant Text: Process and Reality, Preface, page xiv
Key Theme: We all have worldviews, but no one has the final word. 

Lesson Six introduces four impressions that dominate Whitehead's thinking as he writes Process and Reality: (1) The age of criticism has done it's work, and it is time for construction, (2) the true method of philosophical construction is to frame a set of ideas, drawing from many forms of experience, and see if they help interpret and illuminate experience, (3) all forms of thought are influenced by a philosophical scheme of one sort or another, acknowledged or not, and (4) when it comes to sounding the depths of things, all schemes are finite and fallible. "The merest hint of dogmatic certainty as to finality of statement is an exhibition of folly."


What Is Process Thought? - Lesson 7




Lesson Seven
Relevant Text: Process and Reality, page 7
Key Theme: Creativity is the ultimate reality of the universe

Lesson Seven explores four key themes, based on a very important paragraph in the first chapter of Part One of Process and Reality. The ideas are that (1) the ultimate reality is Creativity, which is ultimate by virtue of its actualizations; (2) God is the primordial self-actualization of creativity, but not the ultimate reality itself, (3) the emphasis on Creativity resembles Asian -- Chinese and Indian -- ways of thinking; and (4) when it comes to thinking about ultimates, some process thinkers (but not Whitehead himself) speak of different kinds of ultimates around which different cultural and religious traditions may be centered.


What Is Process Thought? - Lesson 8




Lesson Eight
Relevant Text: Process and Reality, page 22
Key Idea: The actual entity is a process of prehending the actual world. 

Lesson Eight begins the process of explicating the eight key "categories of existence" as adumbrated in Whitehead's Process and Reality. Among Whiteheadians there are two complementary ways of understanding an actual entity. One way begins with submicroscopic matter and works "up" to human experience. It presents actual entities as very tiny energy-events with the depths of matter. The other way begins with a single moment of human experience and works "down" to submicroscopic matter. It presents actual entities as activities, or processes, amid which, in the moment at hand, a human being feels the presence of the actual world. This lesson begins in the second way. It embodies what philosophers might call a phenomenological approach to Whitehead's idea of an actual entity. In the tradition of Whiteheadian scholarship there are many approaches: phenomenological, speculative, and post-structural.

Phenomenological approaches begin with lived human experience; speculative approaches begin with speculations about the universe; post-structural approaches begin more general sensibilities concerning multiplicity, difference, interconnectedness, and flow. In these lessons we often begin phenomenologically, but feel free to turn in the other two directions. And so it is with most Whiteheadian thinkers.

What Is Process Thought? - Lesson 9




Lesson Nine
Relevant Text: Process and Reality, page 21
Key Idea: The many become one and are increased by one.

Lesson Nine considers selected passages from six paragraphs in a section of Whitehead's Process and Reality called The Category of the Ultimate. One of the most important ideas presented in these passages is that Creativity is, in Whitehead's words, "the universal of universals characterizing ultimate matters of fact." His idea is that every actual fact in the universe -- every actual entity -- is a "production of novel togetherness." This means that an entity is not simply "one" but also "many." It is the many becoming one. The video uses the example of a child's relationship to her parents to illustrate the point. Her parents are part of who she is, and in her very inclusion of them within her own life, she is more than them. Always she is becoming herself, and the self who becomes at any given moment becomes part of a many which influence her in the future.


What Is Process Thought? - Lesson 10




Lesson Ten
Relevant Text: Process and Reality, page 18
Key Theme: Everything - even God -- is an act of experiencing.

Lesson Ten focuses on a unique paragraph in Process and Reality, where Whitehead proposes an answer to the question: What is everything made of? Whereas some traditions in the world might way that everything is made of something like matter and whereas some might say that everything is made of consciousness; Whitehead proposes a more Buddhist or Chinese response. Everything is made of events or, to be more specific, drops of experience, complex and interdependent. Here we find a vivid instance of Whitehead's event-cosmology. In traditional Chinese thinking philosophers speak of the totality of all that exists as wan wu (萬物) sometimes translated as the Ten Thousand Things. In a Whiteheadian context the Ten Thousand Things are Ten Thousand Events. There is nothing more real than events, and they are themselves drops of experience. At any given moment we ourselves are events composed of our own experience, yet related to everything else in the universe. God is an event, too. And so is a puff of energy in outer space. The universe is a vast unfolding network of inter-being or, perhaps better, inter-events.


What Is Process Thought? - Lesson 11




Lesson Eleven
Relevant Text: Process and Reality, page 39
Key Idea: There are two kinds of reality: actuality and potentiality.

In Whitehead's philosophy something is "real" if it can be experienced as an object of one sort or another and thus, as an object, make a difference in experience. Lesson Eleven introduces the idea that some objects of experience are possibilities rather than actualities. They are real but not actual, because they do not feel or prehend their surroundings and do not make decisions. The most abstract of these objects are what Whitehead calls eternal objects. They are pure potentials which may be actualized in some universe or cosmic epoch, even if not our own. These objects are similar to Plato's Forms, and Whitehead was indeed influenced by Plato. The lesson concludes with remarks concerning the creative and performing arts and the natural sciences, suggesting that they are ways of exploring and presenting potentialities.


What Is Process Thought? - Lesson 12




Lesson Twelve
Relevant Text: Process and Reality, page 23
Key Idea: Propositions are not simply statements of belief; they are lures for feeling.

Lesson Twelve discusses Whitehead's idea of a proposition -- or lure for feeling -- showing how propositions are means by which novelty enters the world. By way of illustration, this segment plays some of the music of the jazz musician, John Coltrane, and presents propositions in light of the innovative spirit of jazz. Whitehead proposes that, at every moment of our lives, we are improvising responses to given situations, adding our own voice to the very history of the universe. Other creatures are doing this, too. We live in an improvisational universe, in which indeterminacy is as real, and as important, as determinacy. Thus, for Whitehead, the future is always open, and the future is never entirely pre-determined by the past or the present. This is the case even for God, who knows what is possible in the future, but not what is actual until it becomes actual.


What Is Process Thought? - Lesson 13




Lesson Thirteen
Relevant Text: Process and Reality, page 51.
Key Idea: Prehensions are the means by which entities are present in others. 

Lesson Thirteen introduces two of the most important ideas in Whitehead's philosophy: prehensions and subjective forms. . Every actual entity, every moment of experience, consists of acts of experiencing or prehending many realities which "become one" in the act of experiencing them. The realities can be other actual entities or pure potentialities, or combinations of them. Prehensions may be conscious or unconscious; in human life most are unconscious. Consciousness is but the tip of the experiential iceberg. Prehensions are the most fundamental element in actual entities, the means by which the universe is held together and things are present in one another. Lesson Thirteen takes a conversation between a mother and her daughter as a way of illustration prehension and their complementary notion: subjective forms.


What Is Process Thought? - Lesson 14




Lesson Fourteen
Relevant Text: Process and Reality, page 34.
Key Idea: Reality is thoroughly social. Molecules and atoms, planets and stars are societies, too. There are no self-contained facts.

Lesson Fourteen introduces the ideas of nexus and society to readers. Most of the macroscopic objects that we perceive around us are not single actual entities, but rather aggregates of actual entities unified by their prehensions of one another (nexus) and perhaps also by a common characteristic which they inherit from predecessors in the the nexus, thus giving them more specific definition (society). There are many kinds of societies. A human being is a society too. She is a personally-ordered society who consists of many moments of experience (many actual entities) in succession, each inheriting from the predecessors with special intimacy. There is no single person who underlies the change; there are many subjects in succession. The idea is very Buddhist: "No thinker thinks twice and no experiencer experiences twice." Lesson Fourteen ends by offering the idea that perhaps the universe as a whole is gathered into an ongoing Life, too. This is what Whitehead means by the consequent nature of God.


What Is Process Thought? - Lesson 15




Lesson Fifteen
Relevant Text: Process and Reality, page 81.
Key Idea: The body plays an essential role in human life: the withness of the body.

Lesson Fifteen introduces three ideas that are important to Whitehead in Process and Reality: the withness of the body, experience in the mode of causal efficacy, and experience in the mode of presentational immediacy. Experience in the mode of causal efficacy is visceral experience. It occurs when we feel affected or influenced by bodily states and by realities outside our bodies in direct, energetic ways. It is an important part of bodily experience and serves a perpetual reminder that, in our daily lives, we are with our bodies and our bodies are with us. Whitehead calls it the withness of the body. This does not mean that our minds are precisely identical with our bodies; we can have attitudes toward our bodies which are healthy or unhealthy, and these attitudes occur in our minds. But our bodies are marvelously intricate and complex systems of energy which nourish us, give us a sense of direction, offer us wisdom, and connect us with the world. And ultimately, says Whitehead, the whole world is like a body to us. Even God -- if God exists-- is embodied. The universe is God's body.


What Is Process Thought? - Lesson 16




Lesson Sixteen
Relevant Text: Process and Reality, page 43
Key Idea: Decision is the very meaning of actuality

Lesson Sixteen focuses on Whitehead's idea that the very meaning of actuality lies in the notion of decision. In Whitehead's philosophy a decision is not a "conscious" decision, but rather a subjectivity activity -- conscious or unconscious -- in which some possibilities for responding to a given situation are excluded or cut off, while others are then actualizes. A woman climbing a mountain, movement by moment, is making conscious decisions which constitute her very actuality in the moment at hand. And so, thinks Whitehead, are the energy-events within the very depths of atoms. Understood in this way, decision is one of the primary expressions of the ultimate reality of the universe: creativity. Decisions may be wise or unwise, productive or destructive, violent or graceful -- whatever their nature, they are the very reason why things unfolds as they do. From Whitehead's perspective the universe is not simply an unfolding of abstract ideas. The world is not the outcome of mathematical formulas. It is the outcome of decisions.


What Is Process Thought? - Lesson 17




Lesson Seventeen
Key Text: Process and Reality, pages 48-51.
Key Idea: Every moment of human experience is a concrescence of the universe.

Lesson Seventeen offers the most systematic summary of Whitehead's idea of experience available in this series of videos. The diagrams were created by a student at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, USA. There is a danger in diagrams, insofar as they can lead people into overly-static and linear ways of looking at the world. Whitehead's philosophy is more holistic and dynamic. This means that, when we think of experience, we need to hold onto diagrams with a relaxed grasp, fully aware that experience is always more than images. Nevertheless, the diagrams may help viewers more fully understand Whitehead's concept of experience. In the narrative the experiencing subject is imagined as a human being, but it is important to remember that, in Whitehead's philosophy, there is subjectivity everywhere: in the infinitely small and the infinitely large. Even in the depths of atoms, and even in the depths of God, there is something akin to what is depicted in the diagrams: prehending, subjective form, and decision. However, in God, as Whitehead understands God, there is no perishing of immediacy. God is the inclusive and everlasting act of concrescence who shares in all finite moments such as those depicted above. (See Lesson Nineteen.)


What Is Process Thought? - Lesson 18




Lesson Eighteen
Relevant Text: Process and Reality, page 229
Key Idea: The beauty of life is felt in contrast; the aim of life is to weave them.

Lesson Eighteen introduces an idea which is extremely important to Whitehead, and which he lists as among the eight categories of existence he seeks to illuminate in Process and Reality. This is the idea of contrasts. For some in the English-speaking world, the word contrast can suggest conflict; but for Whitehead it suggested complementarity. The yin-yang diagram in traditional Chinese thinking offers a helpful image of contrasts. Whitehead was interested in how we can experience objects in the world through contrasts, and also in how we try to weave our own emotions -- our subjective forms -- into contrasts. He believed that all experiencing subjects, anywhere in the universe, are seeking contrasts or, to use another word important to him, beauty. They - we -- seek harmony and intensity, neither to the exclusion of the other. In the very seeking there is a zest or vitality which, for Whitehead, is part of life's meaning. Even the adventure of the universe as One -- even God -- is enriched by and forever seeking a harmony of contrasts.


What Is Process Thought? - Lesson 19




Lesson Nineteen
Relevant Text: Process and Reality, pages 342-351
Relevant Idea: God is a non-coercive guide and a fellow sufferer who understands.

Lesson Nineteen presents Whitehead's understanding of God. This is an aspect of Whitehead's cosmology which which many religiously-minded people find especially important: whether Jewish or Muslim or Christian, Hindu or Taoist or Buddhist. In Whitehead's philosophy God has two aspects: a non-coercive but guiding aspect which is home to all the potentialities which the universe can actualize, and which is within each experiencing subject as its own innermost lure toward full aliveness; and a receptive side which shares in the experiences of all living beings, anywhere and everywhere, and is affected by all that is felt. God is, as it were, the deep Mind and the deep Listening. Whitehead thought it more rational to believe in God, thus understood, than not to believe in God; and he believed that this way of thinking about God is consonant with the view of the universe we gain from post-mechanistic science. In a later book, Adventures of Ideas, he speaks of the guiding side of God as an Eros by which the universe is lured into adventure, moment by moment, epoch by epoch; and the receptive side as a Harmony of Harmonies within which, in certain moments, the restlessness of adventure drops away and people feel deep peace.


What Is Process Thought? - Lesson 20




Lesson Twenty
Relevant Text: Process and Reality as a Whole
Key Idea: Why Whitehead? So many reasons.

Lesson Twenty brings the series to a close by articulating various reasons why people in different parts of the world are attracted to Whitehead's philosophy. To the many reasons identified in the video, one very important reason should be added. Many scholars in the academic world believe that Whitehead's philosophy can advance knowledge in specific disciplines: chemistry, physics, psychology, sociology, biology, philosophy, economics, business, culture studies. The work of the Center for Process Studies in Claremont, California, can introduce readers to developments in these and many other areas. It is the best single, online resource for finding resources and keeping abreast of developments within the disciplines.

At the same time, Whitehead's philosophy offers a way of moving beyond the disciplinary fragmentation that has separated academic disciplines from one another and from forms of practice, in real world, which might help guide the world toward sustainable communities. When it comes to practicing process thought, some Whiteheadian thinkers turn toward particular questions of public policy: economics,agriculture, manufacturing, education, governance. In this website, John Cobb's Ten Ideas for Saving the Planet and Foundations for a New Civilization offers an intimation of the policy-oriented directions. There is also much work being done today using Whitehead's thought encourage cross-cultural dialogue, including inter-religious dialogue. Why Whitehead? So many reasons.

This does not mean that Whitehead's philosophy has all the answers. For Whiteheadians the world needs many points of view, including many which offer critiques of Whitehead's own thinking. Whitehead hoped that his own ideas would be tested, applied, revised and, where necessary, replaced. And he did not want his philosophy to be turned into a dogma. Recall the point he makes in the preface: "How shallow, puny, and imperfect are efforts to sound the depths in the nature of things. In philosophical discussion, the merest hint of dogmatic certainty as to finality of statement is an exhibition of folly." (xiv) Process philosophy is more -- much more -- than Whitehead. It is an ongoing tradition, inspired by Whitehead's ideas, but moving beyond his thinking, too, fully cognizant that there are no final answers, only lures for feeling.



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