Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

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

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - 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

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

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) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

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

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Examining Process Philosophy & Process Theology, Part 1

Examining Process Philosophy
& Process Theology

Part 1/2

Who Was Alfred North Whitehead?

Process Philosophy was developed by Alfred North Whitehead subsequent to his life's work with Bertrand Russell, Principia Mathematica (PM), in which they set out together to look at I) mathematical logic, II) the expression of propositions into symbolic logic, and to III) address mathematical paradoxes which plague both logic and set theory:
"There is no doubt that PM is of great importance in the history of mathematics and philosophy: as Irvine has noted, it sparked interest in symbolic logic and advanced the subject by popularizing it; it showcased the powers and capacities of symbolic logic; and it showed how advances in philosophy of mathematics and symbolic logic could go hand-in-hand with tremendous fruitfulness. Indeed, PM was in part brought about by an interest in logicism, the view on which all mathematical truths are logical truths. It was in part thanks to the advances made in PM that, despite its defects, numerous advances in meta-logic were made, including Gödel's incomplete-ness theorems." - Wikipedia

Not personally being a Whiteheadian scholar, still I wonder if it wasn't in the production of this massive three volume tome, and later, in its attempted translation into the natural sciences, which subsequently propelled Whitehead into the realm of philosophical metaphysics, and specifically in picking up where the philosopher GWF Hegel had left off, in the area of Hegel's nascent process philosophy:

"Process thought describes truth as 'movement' in-and-through substance (Hegelian truth), rather than substances as fixed [eternal] concepts or "things" (Aristotelian truth). Since A.N. Whitehead, process thought is distinguished from Hegel in that it describes entities that arise - or coalesce 'in becoming' - rather than being simply dialectically determined from prior posited determinates. These [becoming] entities are referred to as 'complexes of occasions of experience.'" - Wikipedia

By this extended biographical interpretation of Whitehead's life's work, I intend to mean that Whitehead may have understood his previous life's labor with its many insights and accomplishments as a meaningful, yet transitory effort, within the fuller flow of history.

Remember too that Whitehead was early on interacting with Einstein's relativity theorems and the big cosmological questions of the day. Cosmological ideas which were asking whether the universe was static or not based upon Einstein's cosmological constant. In contrast, other contemporaries were asking about the relatively newer ideas of whether the universe was non-static and in dynamic motion relative to the gravitation densities of negative or positive vacuum energies pervading its spaces everywhere one looked.

As example of this supposition, note that Whitehead was present on November 6, 1919, as a fellow and contributing member of the Royal Academy of Sciences and  Royal Astronomical Society, when Sir Arthur Eddington announced he had proved Einstein's theory of "gravitational lensing":

"The Eddington experiment was an observational test of General Relativity, organised by the British astronomers Frank Watson Dyson and Arthur Stanley Eddington in 1919. The observations were of the total solar eclipse of 29 May 1919 and were carried out by two expeditions, one to the West African island of Príncipe, and the other to the Brazilian town of Sobral. The aim of the expeditions was to measure the gravitational deflection of starlight passing near the Sun. The value of this deflection had been predicted by Albert Einstein in a 1911 paper, and was one of the tests proposed for his 1915 theory of General Relativity. Following the return of the expeditions, the results were presented by Eddington to the Royal Society of London, and, after some deliberation, were accepted. Widespread newspaper coverage of the results led to worldwide fame for Einstein and his theories." - Wikipedia

And similar to Einstein's world shattering proclamations, Whitehead may have seen in his own Principia Mathematica theories its later conjecture, refutation, adoption, and adaptation of his labor in the years ahead. Reminding him that "Nothing ever stays the same when we come to look at something from a new perspective."

*"[Whitehead] later recalled: 'There was dramatic quality in the very staging [of Eddington's presentation] - the traditional ceremonial, and in the background, the picture of [Isaac] Newton to remind us that the greatest of scientific generalizations was now, after more than two centuries, to receive its first modification... a great adventure in thought had at length come safe to shore.' "

"Newspaper headlines ballyhooed the discovery: 'Newtonian ideas overthrown,' blazed one; 'Space Warped,' declared another. The achievement would 'overthrow the certainty of the ages,' declared the London Times. 'Epoch Making,' said The New York Times. Einstein responded with aplomb. Had [Eddington's] experiment failed to support him, he would have been 'sorry for the dear Lord - the theory is correct.' " (*"Wrinkles in Time," by Nobel Physicist George Smoot, pp 34-35)

At which point Whitehead may have taken these personal insights into his life's meaning as evidence that it wasn't in the production of a thing which made it meaningful so much as it was in the accomplishment of a thing from which one's self, and others, might move forwards producing perhaps more consequential thoughts and momentous occasions from previously expended efforts into productive future engagements.

The Process World We Live In

We might use the phrase, "Things come, and things go." Whether a job, an acting role in a play or a movie, a musical concert, a daughter's dogged determination towards graduation fulfillment, a son's incredible accomplishments, or other such momentous life events.

Each and every temporary moment, and it's personal moments of labor, speak to the continuity flow of a life, or livelihood, pushing relentlessly forward upon the world in momentary, relational engagement. Of its necessary past. And its consequential future. Thus we are part of the organic flow of processes of being which are becoming some other processes of being.

In this case, we might think of Whitehead, Russell, and past philosophers such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, as contributors to the developing stream of what we now consider as process philosophy, or better, the philosophy of organism. I suspect at the age of 62 this may have cheered AN Whitehead forward in completing his speculative Theory of Organism (sic, cosmic organic process) which he entitled "Process and Reality" completing it at the age of 68. Both a significant accomplishment and his life's capstone event which is even now robustly extant and rapidly expanding into the present academies of thought everywhere around the world.

But Why Organism?

Because the universe, taken as a whole from our experiential worlds of nature and being, to the affects upon us from the outer worlds of stars, galaxies and black holes, are comprehended in-and-of themselves as an integrating cosmic whole interacting across its whole with its multiflorous parts as an overwhelming and organic whole. A massively complex cosmic (or creational) organism, if you well. Feeling within-and-without itself, and outwards-and-inwards across its spectral being, reaching towards some relational form of panpsychic comprehension of its parts to its whole and its whole to its parts. Thus, we live in relationship to an organic cosmos as much reactive as it is compre-active, having feeling, is energetic in its dynamism, and full of portending life moments whisking into creational beauty and as quickly out of it into another concreasing form.

And Why Process? 

This speaks to how an (organic) event moves in its part from a non-occasion, or a non-actuality, forward in the process of becoming a fully completed momentary occasion, or actuality, before it-in-itself is then eclipsed in its "beingness" towards evolving again into "becoming" another occasion or actuality in a never-ending stream of "being and becoming". A cosmic evolution which destroys, modifies, and absorbs itself, while perplexingly enhancing itself, through successional re-births moving from one transformational moment to the next transformational moment, in keeping with its nature of "being and becoming". Thus, we live in a dynamic organism which is, and is becoming, more than its past cosmic self.

Cosmological Organism + Cosmological Process = What?

Thus, Whitehead's theory of Process Philosophy of (Cosmic) Organism speaks to the i) panpsychic feeling of entity/event, the ii) comprehension of entity/event, and the iii) transformation of entity/event, where the entity or event are occasions prehending actuality which once actuated are concreascing forward towards new prehended occasions becoming new actualities in never ending cycles of transitory reality. Remember, all process events are momentary RELATIONAL events. And by these categories one may speak of an open future which is affected by all past and present events (sic, Open and Relational Process Theology).

Another example of this form of the world would be the momentary fragments of time in any living or nonliving thing's life cycles. When strung together we, as humans, see a seamless reality, but if broken down, could visualize discrete blood streams bearing nutrients through a bodily system; or cellular formations coming and going in keeping with that biophillic system's needs and wants; or the interaction of a complex system with its environmental parts; and so on. Each event is but a fragment of time bearing a fragment of moments. Hence, process relational events are complexly interactive, prehending occasions which are becoming actualized interacting occasions having concreased forward from one becoming moment to the next becoming moment. This is Whiteheadian Process Thought.

Concluding Remarks

Whiteheadian Process Thought rejects all Platonic descriptors of eternal subjects, eternal nouns and verbs, or eternal types and archetypes. These are idealized descriptors of a process world where nothing eternal exists except as phenomenological and existential descriptors to the lifeforms able to comprehend them. The only real reality is the one which isn't real except as a stream of connecting events repeatedly birthing concreasing relational moments.

And so, yes, Whiteheadian thought is as complex as it sounds. Which is why I leave it to the reader to peruse the remainder of the Wikipedia article given here below on Process Philosophy, along with reading through Whitehead's biography, and the treatise of his book, Process and Reality. (I believe its fourth chapter is the more technical of all the chapters. So don't despair if several readings must be taken. But first complete the book before reading its parts again. This was suggested to my class last year by John Cobb Jr, at 96 years of age).

And because I came to process thought through my earlier years of research and development through the topic of Open and Relational Theology, based upon its Arminian church roots (sic, Jacob Arminius), I did not realize how closely aligned Arminianism was with Process Thought. But once connecting the theology to the philosophy it was a short leap over to connecting the dots. Perhaps another coin with two sides as we might say. One churchy the other worldly.

But it was only years later that I learned that my open and relational friends had already crossed over and could seat earlier biblical theologies firmly down within Process Philosophical Thought and Theology. Though I was heading in this direction it was for me a slower transition being on my own as I yearned to recenter everything  in the bible towards an open and relational theological engagement with Evolutionary Creationism, Quantum Cosmological Thought, Theology Proper, Christology, Eschatology, Harmatology, Pneumatology, Church Theology, Liturgy, Worship, Missions, Evangelism, Societal Movement, Social Justice, and even Earth Ecology.

As such, each and every topic addressed here will now be recentered around Whiteheadian Process Thought in combination with open and relational theology. The dividing line would be from August 2021 of last year when I began to more purposely combine both subjects and write all future blogs in this fashion having completed my first endeavor of discovering a new hermeneutical center to the bible (basically there is none, unless it is God's Love, or Jesus, or what I am working on now).

And you will likely see, as I am seeing, every science in academia is also reacting in the same as I am as they each come across Whitehead's philosophical ideas into their own separate realms of contemplative study and experimental research.

And with that, I'll stop for the day. In the days ahead I'd like to introduce specifically Process Theology and then try to combine both process subjects in an interactive whole. Thank you for your company.

R.E. Slater
February 11, 2021
Updated February 12, 2021

“Open and Relational Theology” is an umbrella label under which a variety of theologies and believers reside. This variety shares at least two ideas in common: (1) "God experiences time moment-by-moment (thus, open theism); and (2) God, humanity, and creation relate to one another so that everyone or everything gives and receives to the other (thus, relational theism) - The Center for Open and Relational Theology

* * * * * * * *

Process philosophy

[Excerpt of article] Process philosophy — also ontology of becoming, processism, or philosophy of organism — identifies metaphysical reality with change. In opposition to the classical model of change as illusory (as argued by Parmenides) or accidental (as argued by Aristotle), process philosophy regards change as the cornerstone of reality—the cornerstone of being thought of as becoming.

Since the time of Plato and Aristotle, some philosophers have posited true reality as "timeless", based on permanent substances, while processes are denied or subordinated to timeless substances. If Socrates changes, becoming sick, Socrates is still the same (the substance of Socrates being the same), and change (his sickness) only glides over his substance: change is accidental, whereas the substance is essential. Therefore, classic ontology denies any full reality to change, which is conceived as only accidental and not essential. This classical ontology is what made knowledge and a theory of knowledge possible, as it was thought that a science of something in becoming was an impossible feat to achieve.

Philosophers who appeal to process rather than substance include Heraclitus, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Henri Bergson, Martin Heidegger, Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, Alfred North Whitehead, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Thomas Nail, Alfred Korzybski, R. G. Collingwood, Alan Watts, Robert M. Pirsig, Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Charles Hartshorne, Arran Gare, Nicholas Rescher, Colin Wilson, Tim Ingold, Bruno Latour, and Gilles Deleuze. In physics, Ilya Prigogine distinguishes between the "physics of being" and the "physics of becoming". Process philosophy covers not just scientific intuitions and experiences, but can be used as a conceptual bridge to facilitate discussions among religion, philosophy, and science.

Process philosophy is sometimes classified as closer to Continental philosophy than analytic philosophy, because it is usually only taught in Continental departments. However, other sources state that process philosophy should be placed somewhere in the middle between the poles of analytic versus Continental methods in contemporary philosophy.

Twentieth century

In early twentieth century, the philosophy of mathematics was undertaken to develop mathematics as an airtight, axiomatic system in which every truth could be derived logically from a set of axioms. In the foundations of mathematics, this project is variously understood as logicism or as part of the formalist program of David Hilbert. Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell attempted to complete, or at least facilitate, this program with their seminal book Principia Mathematica, which purported to build a logically consistent set theory on which to found mathematics. After this, Whitehead extended his interest to natural science, which he held needed a deeper philosophical basis. He intuited that natural science was struggling to overcome a traditional ontology of timeless material substances that does not suit natural phenomena. According to Whitehead, material is more properly understood as 'process'. In 1929, he produced the most famous work of process philosophy, Process and Reality, continuing the work begun by Hegel but describing a more complex and fluid dynamic ontology.

Process thought describes truth as "movement" in-and-through substance (Hegelian truth), rather than substances as fixed concepts or "things" (Aristotelian truth). Since Whitehead, process thought is distinguished from Hegel in that it describes entities that arise or coalesce in becoming, rather than being simply dialectically determined from prior posited determinates. These entities are referred to as complexes of occasions of experience.

It is also distinguished in being not necessarily conflictual or oppositional in operation. Process may be integrative, destructive or both together, allowing for aspects of interdependence, influence, and confluence, and addressing coherence in universal as well as particular developments, i.e., those aspects not befitting Hegel's system. Additionally, instances of determinate occasions of experience, while always ephemeral, are nonetheless seen as important to define the type and continuity of those occasions of experience that flow from or relate to them.

* * * * * * * *

Process theology

[Excerpt of article] Process theology is a type of theology developed from Alfred North Whitehead's (1861–1947) process philosophy, most notably by Charles Hartshorne (1897–2000), John B. Cobb (b. 1925) and Eugene H. Peters (1929-1983). Process theology and process philosophy are collectively referred to as "process thought".

For both Whitehead and Hartshorne, it is an essential attribute of God to affect and be affected by temporal processes, contrary to the forms of theism that hold God to be in all respects non-temporal (eternal), unchanging (immutable), and unaffected by the world (impassible). Process theology does not deny that God is in some respects eternal (will never die), immutable (in the sense that God is unchangingly good), and impassible (in the sense that God's eternal aspect is unaffected by actuality), but it contradicts the classical view by insisting that God is in some respects temporal, mutable, and passible.

According to Cobb, "process theology may refer to all forms of theology that emphasize event, occurrence, or becoming over substance. In this sense theology influenced by Hegel is process theology just as much as that influenced by Whitehead. This use of the term calls attention to affinities between these otherwise quite different traditions." Also Pierre Teilhard de Chardin can be included among process theologians, even if they are generally understood as referring to the Whiteheadian/Hartshornean school, where there continue to be ongoing debates within the field on the nature of God, the relationship of God and the world, and immortality.

* * * * * * * *

Process and Reality

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Process and 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 1929, is a revision of the Gifford Lectures he gave in 1927–28.

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.

— Process and Reality, 1929, p. 471. 
Whitehead's Process and Reality

Whitehead's background was an unusual one for a speculative philosopher. Educated as a mathematician, he became, through his coauthorship and 1913 publication of Principia Mathematica with Bertrand Russell, a major logician. Later he wrote extensively on physics and its philosophy, proposing a theory of gravity in Minkowski space as a logically possible alternative to Einstein's general theory of relativity. Whitehead's Process and Reality[1] is perhaps his philosophical master work.

The following is an attempt to provide an accessible outline of some of the main ideas in Whitehead's Process and Reality, based on the book itself, but guided by a general reading of secondary sources, especially I. Leclerc's Whitehead's Metaphysics. An Introductory Exposition.[2] Whitehead often speaks of the metaphysics of Process and Reality as 'the philosophy of organism'.

The cosmology elaborated in Process and Reality posits an ontology based on the two kinds of existence of entity, that of actual entity and that of abstract entity or abstraction.

The ultimate abstract principle of actual existence for Whitehead is creativity. Actual existence is a process of becoming, and "... 'becoming' is a creative advance into novelty."[3] It is manifest in what can be called 'singular causality'. This term may be contrasted with 'nomic causality'. An example of singular causation is that I woke this morning because my alarm clock rang. An example of nomic causation is that alarm clocks generally wake people in the morning. Aristotle recognises singular causality as efficient causality. For Whitehead, there are many contributory singular causes for an event. A further contributory singular cause of my being awoken by my alarm clock this morning was that I was lying asleep near it till it rang.

An actual entity is a general philosophical term for an utterly determinate and completely concrete individual particular of the actually existing world or universe of changeable entities considered in terms of singular causality, about which categorical statements can be made. Whitehead's most far-reaching and profound and radical contribution to metaphysics is his invention of a better way of choosing the actual entities. Whitehead chooses a way of defining the actual entities that makes them all alike, qua actual entities, with a single exception, God.

For example, for Aristotle, the actual entities were the substances, such as Socrates (a particular citizen of Athens) and Bucephalus (a particular horse belonging to Alexander the Great). Besides Aristotle's ontology of substances, another example of an ontology that posits actual entities is in Leibnizmonads, said to be 'windowless'.

Whitehead's actual entities

For Whitehead, the actual entities exist as the only foundational elements of reality, the ultimately existing facts of the world. Nothing "either in fact or in efficacy"[4] underlies or lies beyond the actual entities; rather they underlie all reality.[5]

The actual entities are of two kinds, temporal and atemporal.

With one exception, all actual entities for Whitehead are temporal and are occasions of experience (which are not to be confused with consciousness, or with mere subjectivity). This 'actual entity' idea is most distinctly characteristic of the metaphysics of Process and Reality, and requires of the newly approaching reader a philosophically unprejudiced approach. An entity that people commonly think of as a simple concrete object, or that Aristotle would think of as a substance – a human being included – is in this ontology considered to be a composite of indefinitely many occasions of experience.

The one exceptional actual entity is at once temporal and atemporal: God. He is objectively immortal, as well as being immanent in the world. He is objectified in each temporal actual entity; but He is not an eternal object. Whitehead uses the term 'actual occasion' to refer only to purely temporal actual entities, those other than God.[6]

The occasions of experience are of four grades. The first comprises processes in a physical vacuum such as the propagation of an electromagnetic wave or gravitational influence across empty space. The occasions of experience of the second grade involve just inanimate matter. The occasions of experience of the third grade involve living organisms. Occasions of experience of the fourth grade involve experience in the mode of presentational immediacy, which means more or less what are often called the qualia of subjective experience. So far as we know, experience in the mode of presentational immediacy occurs in only more evolved animals. That some occasions of experience involve experience in the mode of presentational immediacy is the one and only reason why Whitehead makes the occasions of experience his actual entities; for the actual entities must be of the ultimately general kind. Consequently, it is inessential that an occasion of experience have an aspect in the mode of presentational immediacy; occasions in the grades one, two, and three lack that aspect. The highest grade of experience "is to be identified with the canalized importance of free conceptual functionings".[7]

There is no mind-matter duality in this ontology, because "mind" is simply seen as an abstraction from an occasion of experience which has also a material aspect, which is of course simply another abstraction from it; thus the mental and the material aspects are abstractions from one and the same concrete occasion of experience. The brain is part of the body, both being abstractions of a kind known as persistent physical objects, neither being actual entities. Though not recognised by Aristotle, there is biological evidence, written about by Galen,[8] that the human brain is an essential seat of human experience in the mode of presentational immediacy. We may say that the brain has a material and a mental aspect, all three being abstractions from their indefinitely many constitutive occasions of experience, which are actual entities.[9]

Inherent in each actual entity is its respective dimension of time. Potentially, each occasion of experience is causally consequential on every other occasion of experience that precedes it in time, and has as its causal consequences every other occasion of experience that follows; thus it has been said that Whitehead's occasions of experience are 'all window', in contrast to Leibniz's 'windowless' monads. In time defined relative to it, each occasion of experience is causally influenced by prior occasions of experiences, and causally influences future occasions of experience. An occasion of experience consists of a process of prehending other occasions of experience, reacting to them.

The causal outcomes obey the usual well-respected rule that the causes precede the effects in time. Some pairs of processes cannot be connected by cause-and-effect relations, and they are said to be spatially separated. This is in perfect agreement with the viewpoint of the Einstein theory of special relativity and with the Minkowski geometry of spacetime.[10] It is clear that Whitehead respected these ideas, as may be seen for example in his 1919 book An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Natural Knowledge[11] as well as in Process and Reality. Time in this view is relative to an inertial reference frame, different reference frames defining different versions of time.

The actual entity, the occasion of experience, is logically atomic in the sense that it cannot be cut and separated into two other occasions of experience. This kind of logical atomicity is perfectly compatible with indefinitely many spatiotemporal overlaps of occasions of experience. One can explain this atomicity by saying that an occasion of experience has an internal causal structure that could not be reproduced in each of the two complementary sections into which it might be cut. Nevertheless, an actual entity can completely contain indefinitely many other actual entities.[12]

Whitehead's theory of extension concerns the spatio-temporal features of his occasions of experience. Fundamental to both Newtonian and to quantum theoretical mechanics is the concept of velocity. The measurement of a velocity requires a finite spatiotemporal extent. Because it has no finite spatiotemporal extent, a single point of Minkowski space cannot be an occasion of experience, but is an abstraction from an infinite set of overlapping or contained occasions of experience, as explained in Process and Reality.[1] Though the occasions of experience are atomic, they are not necessarily separate in extension, spatiotemporally, from one another. Indefinitely many occasions of experience can overlap in Minkowski space.

An example of a nexus of temporally overlapping occasions of experience is what Whitehead calls an enduring physical object, which corresponds closely with an Aristotelian substance. An enduring physical object temporally has an earliest and a last member. Every member (apart from the earliest) is a causal consequence of the earliest member of the nexus, and every member (apart from the last) of such a nexus is a causal antecedent of the last. There are indefinitely many other causal antecedents and consequences of the enduring physical object, which overlap, but are not members, of the nexus. No member of the nexus is spatially separate from any other member. Within the nexus are indefinitely many continuous streams of overlapping nexūs, each stream including the earliest and the last member of the enduring physical object. Thus an enduring physical object, like an Aristotelian substance, undergoes changes and adventures during the course of its existence.[13]

Another aspect of the atomicity of occasions of experience is that they do not change. An actual entity is what it is. An occasion of experience can be described as a process of change, but is itself unchangeable.[14]

Whitehead's abstractions

Whitehead's abstractions are conceptual entities that are abstracted from or derived from and founded upon his actual entities. Abstractions are themselves not actual entities, but are the only entities that can be real.

An abstraction is a conceptual entity that involves more than one single actual entity. Whitehead's ontology refers to importantly structured collections of actual entities as nexuses of actual entities. Collection of actual entities into a nexus emphasises some aspect of those entities, and that emphasis is an abstraction, because it means that some aspects of the actual entities are emphasised or dragged away from their actuality, while other aspects are de-emphasised.

Whitehead admitted indefinitely many eternal objects. An example of an eternal object is a number, such as the number 'two'. Whitehead held that eternal objects are abstractions of a very high degree. Many abstractions, including eternal objects, are potential ingredients of processes.

Relation between actual entities and abstractions stated in the ontological principle

For Whitehead, besides its temporal generation by the actual entities which are its contributory causes, a process may be considered as a concrescence of abstract ingredient eternal objects. God enters into every temporal actual entity.

Whitehead's ontological principle is that whatever reality pertains to an abstraction is derived from the actual entities upon which it is founded or of which it is comprised.[15]

Publication data

The several originally published editions of Process and Reality were from New York and from Cambridge UK. There were many textual errors, partly due to Whitehead's imperfect handwriting and lack of interest in proof-reading. A largely corrected scholarly redaction was eventually prepared and published as Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology (1929). 1979 corrected edition, edited by David Ray Griffin and Donald W. Sherburne, Free Press, ISBN 0-02-934570-7.