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What is the Role of the Subjective Aim in Whitehead’s Account of Concrescence?
Student No. 07975043 What is the Role of the Subjective Aim in Whitehead’s Account of Concrescence?
I. Laws of Nature The Laws of Nature or The Manifest Stability in Nature Doctrine of the Law as Imposed Doctrine of the Law as Immanent Order in Nature: Immanent and Imposed
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II. Whitehead’s Process Creativity Process The Ontological Principle Actual Occasions Concrescence
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III. Subjective Aim Freedom Diversity Efficient and Final Causality
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Student No. 07975043 What is the Role of the Subjective Aim in Whitehead’s Account of Concrescence?
Introduction In the metaphysics of Alfred North Whitehead the subjective aim describes the conditioned process of Becoming whereby novel facts attain actuality. The conditioning of this process and its potential for originality is important in the description of the order and diversity of the complex system of interrelations described by Whitehead as actual entities. The potential for becoming organised, for manifesting a stability of organisation and for generating original patterns of organisation are features required by Whitehead’s process metaphysics. The self-organisation and self-creation of Whitehead’s actual entities is in contrast to the imposed organisation and created nature of mechanical materialist metaphysics.
The metaphysics of process described by Whitehead rejects any transcendent realm of existents. Whitehead’s ontological principle demands reasons without any appeal to superadded entities. Instead of powerless bodies organised by external law, Whitehead describes powers of differentiation which are productive of organised systems. The process of Becoming is dipolar and actual entities are both the product of forces and the ingredients in future productive occasions. In a process metaphysics laws or principles of organisation are inherent, the product of the relational structure of entities in the system. The relations of the system are dynamic, they describe change and Becoming, not static atemporal entities. Both efficient and final causalities are active in the system as prior actualities condition, but do not determine, the becoming of new actualities. There is then a certain freedom or irreducible indeterminacy in the system. Potentiality has real ontological significance and the development of
Student No. 07975043 organisation and the possibility of original patterns of organisation are immanent to the system. The subjective aim in Whitehead’s metaphysics describes the conditioning of potential Becoming by efficient and final causality. This paper will explore the process described by Whitehead, and the features of this process in the organisation and creativity of actual entities.
In section I. we will examine the possibility of considering concepts of organisation as laws pertaining to the structure of existence. Mechanical materialism will be considered as exemplary of a system of imposed law. Whitehead’s process metaphysics as exemplary of immanent law. It will be argued that the bifurcation of nature entailed by imposed law presents serious problems for the further development of a philosophy of nature.
In section II. we will describe those aspects of Whitehead’s process metaphysics relevant to the consideration of the concept of organisation. The conditioned process whereby stability and order are the product of the creative power inherent in nature is the subjective aim of actual occasions, the events of Becoming described by Whitehead’s philosophy.
In section III. we will examine the subjective aim, the conditioning of the process of Becoming. The process of Becoming is open to a certain freedom, with potential diversity from past facts. There are two forms of causation active in Whitehead’s process and these are active in the subjective aim of individual quanta of Becoming.
We take a philosophy of nature to be any which considers its metaphysical statements to have real ontological value; the description of a metaphysical system is considered as true of reality, and not a statement of appearance,
Student No. 07975043 phenomena or theory. A philosophy of nature is then ontology of the most general lineament; metaphysics applies globally and in no partial sense to special entities. It is the argument of this project that Whitehead’s metaphysics represents such a philosophy of nature.
Student No. 07975043 I. Laws of Nature The Laws of Nature or The Manifest Stability in Nature In its broadest sense a law represents a theory capable of drawing together particular matters of fact and describing their relation. The possibility of generalising from particular matters of fact to potential past or future configurations of fact represents a speculative law aiming at a description of wider circumstances than can be given in any particular instance. The concept of a law is dependent upon a certain regularity, order or recurrence. A persistent order in any system makes possible a coherent study of that system, but it is also the condition for our own systematising investigation. Were there no stability of form or organisation the interrogation of objects, environments or systems would dissolve as quickly as the system itself changed. Equally, our relationship as observers to a system described by laws will be affected depending upon whether we are considered subject to those same laws.
In Adventures in Ideas (1933) Whitehead describes four prevalent doctrines concerning the laws of nature. Each represents a possible answer to the question “what is a law?”, and each describes a certain understanding of the entities and relations whose configuration is described by the law: 1) law as immanent; 2) law as imposed; 3) law as observed order of succession or mere description; and 4) law as conventional interpretation. Whitehead argues that the doctrine of the law as imposed has been primary in the history of European science and philosophy, especially since the 17th century. Whitehead also argues however that many of the contemporary problems of science and philosophy are the result of this doctrine. In seeking to guide new understandings he puts forward the doctrine of the law as immanent as a system unencumbered by the aporia of imposed law. All four doctrines have played some part, for better and worse, in the continual unfolding of our understanding of nature. However, in the context of the present project however there is not space to adequately consider all four.
Student No. 07975043 We will instead examine those doctrines engaged in a realist project to elucidate what order there is in nature and the reasons for that order: the doctrines of imposed and immanent law.
Doctrine of the Law as Imposed The doctrine of the Law as imposed has as its metaphysical base an order of external relations between independent existents which are the constituents of nature. The independent constituents of nature are understandable in complete abstraction or isolation from any other part of nature, they are sufficient to themselves, and need no addition for their existence. That these existents are however found within a world of other existents imposes upon them the necessity of causal relations and these are the laws of nature.
The classical physics of Newton is exemplary of the doctrine of imposed Law. A body is describable mathematically simply by its volume, mass and motion. The extensive nature of a body is the limit of its attributable characteristics. In relation to other bodies positions may be measured and from these relations certain forces imposed. The existence of two or more bodies in any space establishes relationships of force – inherent, impressed, centripetal – and from these certain laws are derived.
An imposed law is consistent with Deism. Descartes’ enquiries were aimed at a reconciliation of the new physics of his time with metaphysical and theist concerns. The dualism of Descartes metaphysics is another clear example of the doctrine of imposed law; material extension contains no power of its own and so motion is imposed upon bodies from elsewhere. Indeed there is here a clear link between scientific and philosophical method. In Newton’s work the order of nature is established by his adoption of the doctrine of imposed law. The dualism of such a system, of matter and some immaterial substance, is explicit: 7
Student No. 07975043 “It is inconceivable that inanimate brute matter should, without the mediation of something else, which is not material, operate on and affect other matter” (Newton, 2004, 102). Descartes enquiries are concerned precisely with the nature of the immaterial operations acting upon dull matter.
The problems of such dualism are well known to philosophy. How are two orders of nature, entirely separate, able to effect or interact with one another? The problem of a mechanics of nature which are imposed splits the system and there is a bifurcation of nature into dull extended matter and active immaterial powers. How are we to know the laws from the particular bodies, and are the laws able to tell us anything about the particular bodies upon which they act? How can there be any relation between two absolutely opposed natures?
The success of the doctrine of imposed Law is evident in its ubiquity however. It has been a consistent feature of philosophy and science that any order in nature must be imposed. The classical sciences of the 17th century which operated on this assumption served in the development of at least 250 years of technology and civilisation. Classical mechanics is still used today in the description of the motion of macroscopic objects, from projectiles to astronomical objects. Indeed this success now presents us with a problem as the metaphysical basis of imposed law underpins much of our contemporary understanding of nature. The bifurcation of nature which is the result of such an understanding must be refuted. The impetus must then be to show that order is not the product only of an imposed law but instead that the creative advance of the immanent power of nature will itself be productive of order.
Doctrine of the Law as Immanent By the doctrine of the law as immanent the order of nature is itself expressive of nature’s laws. The entities in nature by their relation to one another compose 8
Student No. 07975043 the pattern of nature. By the interdependence of any community the pervading structure of these relations is a pattern of the laws of nature. Contrary to the doctrine of mere description the doctrine of the law as immanent is precisely concerned with reasons and explanations. The organisation of nature is constituted by its internal relations.
Whitehead introduces the doctrine of the law as immanent with Plato’s definition of reality as power: My suggestion would be, that anything which possesses any sort of power to affect another, or to be affected by another even for a moment, however trifling the cause and however slight and momentary the effect, has real existence; and that the definition of being is simply power (Plato, Sophist, 247E). To have an effect, to be the cause of a difference, or to be effected is to be real. Any fact or entity must be the product or effect of some actual power and no fact can exist independently and without reference to any other fact. This doctrine is a reversal of the doctrine of imposed law or external relations since no body can be inanimate and no immaterial power can be imposed unidirectionally. Any actual existent must be capable of effecting and being effected. By the criteria proposed by Plato the “inanimate brute matter” of Newton cannot be redeemed by any external force of a separate and unknown nature. If there are bodies and forces in the cosmos then both must be capable of effecting, or being effected by, change.
Beyond the inherent speculative and realist character of the doctrine of the law as immanent Whitehead raises three further consequences. First, we can not always expect exact conformation to the laws of nature because immanent laws are expressive of a process rather than regulating it. Those things possessive of a common character will conform to a law, but in some cases the relations of 9
Student No. 07975043 things will fail to illustrate any law. This does not mean that we are once again deprived of induction as a rational means of investigation. In fact, the doctrine of the law as immanent, with its consideration of nature as intrinsically powerful and ordered by it’s own causal relations, provides us with a reasonable degree of certainty in induction. Indeterminacy and probability are irreducible parts of nature, but that nature is alive to a creative advance that is premised upon continuity of internal relations.
A second consequence of the immanency of nature’s law is that the uniformity and stability of the laws of nature are only contingent. Since the organisation of the internal relations of Nature is itself productive of the laws then any change in their arrangement may result in a change of the laws. The evolution of the universe is conceivable only concurrently with the evolution of the laws. Any consideration of evolution subject to eternal or unchanging laws signals a reversion to the doctrine of imposed law. This tension however marks the final consequence of the doctrine of the law as immanent: it is only tenable within a metaphysical system capable of providing us with an adequate understanding of the way in which “the characters of the relevant things in nature are the outcome of their interconnections, and their interconnections are the outcome of their characters” (Whitehead, 1933, 113). Any Law that is the product of the organisation of its constituents, that can in some way explain this organisation is subject to a reciprocal relationship of constructed/constructing and some account must be given of the way in which any order prevalent in nature comes about.
Order in Nature: Immanent and Imposed The doctrines of imposed and immanent law both consider nature as either definitely or potentially ordered and that order as following from some reason.
Student No. 07975043 Each puts forward the possibility of a philosophy of nature whose descriptions are inclusive of every existent. Whitehead was concerned throughout his philosophical work with the problem of the bifurcation of nature. Any conceptual system which divides existent entities into separate realms, or excludes from description some set of existent facts must be viewed as a conceptual abstraction of limited applicability. The pragmatic application of some system of abstractions to local situations will be valued for its descriptive power, but the extension of this abstraction beyond its limits will result in aporia. Representative of imposed law we have considered mechanical materialism, and there are problems with this doctrine which entail serious bifurcation.
The metaphysics of mechanical materialism describe a manifest stability of organisation in some system, but by its ontology of independently existing and powerless bodies this organisation is not an inherent feature of the system. The organisation of any system of bodies is imposed by some external power. Whitehead described the eminence of static and powerless bodies in a metaphysics “‘the fallacy of misplaced concreteness’ […][which] consists in
neglecting the degree of abstraction involved when an actual entity is considered merely in so far as it exemplifies certain categories of thought” (Whitehead, 1929, 7-8). Bodies considered merely as extended contain no inherent power and thus mechanism entails dualism; the activity and organisation of a system are not a part of the system. The principles of organisation and activity also work asymmetrically; they act on the system, but are not themselves acted on. They are then subject to no change and are essentially atemporal. The division of reality is then of a transcendent and eternal realm, and a changing temporal realm. For the method of science and philosophy such a division presents serious problems. First, the ontological significance of the two realms is uncertain; of what necessity is a temporal realm 11
Student No. 07975043 if a transcendent realm contains within itself every principle of its organisation? Second, since laws are imposed they will be followed exactly and are then deterministic. Causality is efficient only and the change through time of any system can be reduced to a necessary chain of causal connections. This may be considered a virtue of imposed law, especially for the physical sciences, since there can be absolute certainty about cause and effect. However, in science absolute determinism is at variance with contemporary understandings of quantum physics, and appears reductive and lacking explanatory power in the life sciences. The philosophical implications of absolute determinism are also serious. Third and following from the previous, mechanist systems are essentially atemporal. The Becoming of the temporal world is merely a limited perspective on the transcendent realm of Being. Finally, causality between a transcendent and temporal realm must be explained, and the epistemology of beings in the temporal realm must be accounted for.
If considering the order of nature as imposed entails bifurcation, then it is argued by Whitehead that considering the ordering principles as immanent will repair this division. We will then consider Whitehead’s metaphysics of process as exemplary of a system of immanent law.
Student No. 07975043 II. Whitehead’s Process Creativity Becoming is for Whitehead the primary expression of Being. Whitehead’s metaphysics describes not independently existing entities but the creativity of interdependent entities. There is no eminence of bodies in Whitehead’s metaphysics, or need for the imposition of external laws. Bodies made eminent have no effects, no powers inherent in themselves. We have examined the problems of imposed law and found need of some alternative. Therefore, taking Plato’s definition of real existence as power, we must ask will be the consequences of this new criteria of ontological significance? First, it will be recognised that mere power is not a sufficient description for our purposes. The criteria proposed by Plato is power in the production of difference. Whatever has power to effect change or be changed has real existence. The process of becoming which is Whitehead’s concern is a function of the active production of difference, the mapping of some cause to its effect. The creativity active in every entity of Whitehead’s metaphysics is a power of effective change.
In Process and Reality (1929) Whitehead sets out his speculative scheme in a series of categories. The “Category of the Ultimate” is creativity. Creativity is for Whitehead the most general metaphysical notion, a process of differentiation and the activity of actualisation. This ultimate creativity describes the relation of all potential elements in a system and the activity of change effected from this system. “It is the ultimate, underivable condition of transformation or composition, the universal principle of construction or actualisation, understood as the activity of establishing a relation between the structure of a result and its bases” (Bradley, 2008, 4). Creativity cannot be understood as a thing or activity which might exist apart from other entities, it is the power active in the interrelations of every element in a system. The description of any element is 13
Student No. 07975043 inconceivable apart from its relations, which are characterised by creative power. Further to this all elements of a system must be understood as the effects of the process of creativity and also then as potential causes for the further activity of this system. As such then this creative power is ungrounded, since no beginning to its activity can be posited any element in the system is regarded as the result of antecedent activity. Creativity is productive of the entities of a system and these entities in turn are the system of relations formative in a creative process of new entities.
Process In Whitehead’s metaphysics events not things are the eminent metaphysical reality. The enduring objects of our experience are events, or more accurately, multiplicities and series of events. Even the most impassive of objects have a history and this history is a record of its changing relations. An apparently impassive rock was formed some geological time ago in the dynamic processes of sedimentation, or volcanism. Perhaps this rock was chipped from a larger stone, which was moved at different times to new locations amid new structures of events. Whitehead considers Cleopatra’s Needle on the London Embankment. The Needle has been on the embankment for all of my life, but it was not always there, there has not always been an embankment or even an Earth. Day to day it gets dirty or cleaned, and a physicist could describe the dance of electrons lost or gained. The permanence of any description depends upon the abstraction of the definition (1925, 166-7). The most fundamental reality of any object is its activity in its relations within a system of other objects similarly constituted by events.
The events of Becoming of Whitehead’s philosophy are described as “actual occasions” or “actual entities”. Actual occasions are units of process which are
Student No. 07975043 the fundamental metaphysical reality in the description of the becoming of the world. These occasions are deeply interrelated and the system of their relations are productive of higher order entities. A nexus is a collection of actual occasions related by some fact. If the elements of a nexus are not simply contiguous but joined by some characteristic inherited by all its members then it is called a society. Societies are united by some commonly inherited characteristic and by this inherited character a society will be self-sustaining, or enduring. The objects of common experience are societies, so are the more abstract entities of the sciences. A rock, an electron, or Cleopatra’s Needle are societies, so are people. The description of these entities as enduring identically is a pragmatic simplification for coherent discourse (and the result of a simplification inherent in human perception). To ontologise the enduring identity of these things is to make their extensive nature eminent and thus require the imposition of powers of order or motion. Therefore, a process metaphysical description of these entities is concerned with their becoming. The actual occasions which are productive of nexus and societies are discrete quanta of becoming, they themselves do not endure. Once an occasion has become, its productive power is exhausted and it perishes. This does not mean however that becoming is a constant foam of ephemeral occasions having no lasting effect. The past occasions subsist as data for future occasions, at the end of their process they attain objective immortality. The data of past occasions are then active in the becoming of new actual occasions.
The process of the becoming of actual entities is called concrescence, and the enduring character of any entity is a Becoming that must be serially repeated. Nothing endures in itself but must be created anew by the process of concrescence. Of the temporally and materially extensive nature it is important to remember that in a philosophy of process through epochal occasions “[t]here is a becoming of continuity, but no continuity of becoming” (Whitehead, 1929, 15
Student No. 07975043 35). The becoming of continuity is a part of what Whitehead describes as the creative advance of the universe; everything that becomes is something new, the active production of a novel actuality. As particular expressions of creativity, actual occasions are self-creating or causa sui. The creative process does not begin ex nihilo, the activity of occasions describes the change from the data of past occasions to novel actuality. In this way the enduring extended objects of experience are serially recreated. The scientists description of Cleopatra’s needle and its dancing atomic constituents perhaps comes closest to describing this metaphysical process. Of course, if the description of these atoms posits them as enduring corpuscles then a problem of the power of these entities reappears. A Whiteheadian physics admits of no atomic corpuscular constituents, the entities of particle physics are actual occasions. Indeed, in the final analysis the world is nothing but actual occasions. “‘Actual occasions’ – also termed ‘actual entities’ - are the final real things of which the world is made up. There is no going beyond these actual entities to find anything more real. […] God is an actual entity, and so is the most trivial puff of existence in far-off empty space” (Whitehead, 1929, 18). The becoming of actual occasions, and the inheritance of the data of the past in novel creativity of present actual fact is the process by which all actuality becomes.
The Ontological Principle Whitehead’s ontological principle is a rejection of any transcendent realm of higher or more perfect reality, or any external power imposing order from beyond. The ultimate creativity of Whitehead’s metaphysics is productive from actuality to novel actuality. There is no separation of realms, creativity works in and through actual entities. “[T]he world is built up of actual occasions[…] [and] whatever things there are in any sense of ‘existence’, are derived by abstraction from actual occasions” (Whitehead, 1929, 73). Actual occasions in 16
Student No. 07975043 their nexus and societies are the constituents of the particular entities of experience. Active in actual occasions however, are entities other than actual. It must always be remembered that these are “derived by abstraction from actual occasions”, they have no independent existence in themselves. Whitehead’s formulation of the ontological principle makes clear that whatever can be said in any sense to exist, can exist only as active in the process of becoming actual which constitutes all actual entities. “[E]very condition to which the process of becoming conforms in any particular instance, has its reason either in the character of some actual entity, or in the character of the subject which is in the process of concrescence” (Whitehead, 1929, 24). Thus, any existent other than actual occasions must be understood as it actively contributes to the becoming of actuality, any discussion of such existents apart from such process is an abstraction. The analysis of Whitehead’s account of process, and the genetic analysis of actual occasions requires such abstractions. The philosophy of process is a rejection of any distinction of substance or imposition of external law. The ontological principle stands in opposition to the fallacy of misplaced concreteness and the calcification of Being in static powerless inertia. If any entity is not an ingredient active in the becoming of some actual entity then it is nothing. Every entity of Whitehead’s universe has the potential to be active in effecting difference or be effected by a process of differentiation.
Actual Occasions An actual occasion is a discrete quantum of becoming, an “epoch” in Whitehead’s terminology. As a unit of process an actual occasion is indivisible, but in a genetic analysis of concrescence various factors constituting the process of becoming can be discerned. The distinctions made always refer to the whole activity of an occasion in concrescence. As a unity and as a process an actual occasion must always be considered as it relates to the becoming actual of itself.
Student No. 07975043 An actual occasion is a process in the concrescence of a final determinate actual fact. This end product Whitehead terms the “satisfaction” of the occasion. The satisfaction of an occasion is its one purpose, and it is this purpose which is described by the subjective aim. The meaning of the “subject” of any occasion must be considered carefully however, for in common language a subject may be understood as a pre-existent thing given to some situation or the fully formed substance of some action. This is misleading since the subject of an actual occasion is not pre-given, but in the process of concrescence or constituted by the action. For this reason Whitehead uses the term “superject” to mean the product of the process, or sometimes “subject-superject” to mean the experience of the process and its product (1929, 29).
The relation of every actual entity to all other actual entities is described by Whitehead as a form of experience. Whitehead’s term for the experiential character of occasions is “prehension”, with the literal meaning seizing or grasping. Actual occasions grasp or prehend other entities for the process of their concrescence. The first phase of the process of an actual occasion is the prehension of physical data. The data prehended by actual entities are the definite forms of past actualities. It is from these past data that novel actual occasions concresce. The inherence in every actual entity of some potentially effective relationship to other actual entities is in this way illimitable. The prehensions of actual entities give them access to every other actual entity. “Each fully realized fact has an infinitude of relations in the historic world and in the realm of form; namely, its perspective of the universe” (Whitehead, 1938, 89). The data of past actualities have ontological significance as they are available to condition the concrescence of new actual occasions. The
concrescence of every other actual entity too is prehended by individual actual occasions. Put simply, the relational structure of process is such that “every 18
Student No. 07975043 actual entity is present in every other actual entity” (Whitehead, 1929, 50). The question that arises from such a deeply interrelated process is how to explain the manifest diversity of entities in the universe? Why, if every actual entities is present in every other are they not in absolute agreement in undifferentiated unison? The answer to this is given in Whitehead’s reference above to form, the perspective of the occasions and in qualification that “[t]he data for any one pulsation of actuality consist of the full content of the antecedent universe as it exists in relevance to that pulsation” (Whitehead, 1938, 89). Although actual entities inhere in one another through their illimitable prehensions, every actual occasion is actually diverse and is a particular perspective on the universe. The reason why all occasions are not in undifferentiated unison is a product of complex diversity arising from the supplemental phase of concrescence. The second phase of the actual occasion is conceptual prehension which introduces a new entity to the subject of the occasion.
The conceptual prehension of occasions is a prehension of relational forms inherent in the physical data. Whitehead gives to these relational forms the name “eternal objects”. Eternal objects provide potential forms of definiteness for the final concrescence of the occasion. The physical and conceptual prehension of occasions is the subjective form of concrescence which conditions the becoming of actuality. Amongst the data of past actual occasions certain relations inhere linking them by a common characteristic such as would organise a nexus or society of occasions. These forms of organisation are eternal objects, potential orders of relation for the becoming of new occasions. As forms of definiteness considered in abstraction from any actuality eternal objects are multiply instantiable. Whitehead calls the instantiation of an eternal object in an actual entity “ingression”. Eternal objects are both immanent and transcendent. As the form of definiteness of an actual entity they are immanent,
Student No. 07975043 and as a potential forms of definiteness they transcend any particular ingression. Eternal objects function similarly to Platonic Forms, but the transcendence of eternal objects is in no way as independently existing entities in some ideal realm. An eternal object has existence only as it is relevant to an actual entity.
Concrescence The process of any actual occasions moves from its physical prehension, its grasping of the data of antecedent actuality; through conceptual prehension, its conceptualisation of potential patterns of definiteness; to its actualisation or satisfaction. An occasion is a process of concrescence, and it has significance only as a finally actual fact, the superject or product of its activity. Active in the concrescence of every actual occasion is every other actual occasion, an illimitable multiplicity of data. “The ground, or origin, of the concrescent process is the multiplicity of data in the universe, actual entities and eternal objects” (Whitehead, 1929, 224). The determination of a final form of definiteness then requires the synthesis of the data active in an actual occasions. Creativity is the process whereby “[t]he many become one, and are increased by one” (Whitehead, 1929, 21). Creativity is the non-determining concept of this process. The many are the diverse data of the universe which are synthesised in an act of concrescence. The one is the novel actuality which is the terminus of this process and a new datum for the serial creativity of becoming.
Whitehead describes nine categoreal obligations which guide the actualisation of an occasion. These obligations are not imposed laws, but regularities illustrated by the process itself. The categories do not serve as universals out of which are built up particular concrete facts. Whitehead argues that to ask how such a building up might occur is a mistake. The approach of his philosophy is instead
Student No. 07975043 to ask: “[h]ow can concrete fact exhibit entities abstract from itself and yet participated in by its own nature?” (1929, 20). No exact confirmation to any ideal can be expected; the organisation of actual fact instantiates certain features of regularity which can be repeated or abstracted. The obligations then describe the way in which occasions unify the multiple data (physical and conceptual) in the concrescence of a final fact. It is not necessary here, nor is there space, to elucidate the nine categories. Instead we will consider those features relevant to our current discussion.
The subjective form of an occasion is its valuation of the contrasts inherent in its prehended data. An activity which will guide the concrescence of the occasion is the negative prehension of certain data. Negative prehension excludes from consideration certain data as irrelevant to the actualisation of the occasion or incompossible with the actualisation of other entities. The data prehended must be unifiable in one superject and actualisable in the diversity of other actual entities. The actualisation of an occasion then depends upon the intensity of the valuation of the antecedent data and the eternal objects. With this data positively prehended an occasion may repeat some form of definiteness or diversify from it in a relevant contrast.
The concrescent process of an occasion may inherit directly and without originality the patterns of data antecedent to it. “The Category of Conceptual Valuation” describes the process whereby occasions prehend the conceptual content of antecedent data. The conceptual prehensions of an occasion may be only those directly implicated by its physical prehensions. If the conceptual prehensions are limited to these determinate forms then physical necessity will be the active type of causality active in the process. This is the efficient causality of Whitehead’s metaphysics; the limiting of effect to the determinate
Student No. 07975043 patterns of data inherited from the physical prehensions of antecedent fact. In this way the stability and regularity of nature is the product of these limited types of conceptual prehension.
The concrescence of occasions is not limited to efficient causality and a certain indeterminacy or variation from inherited patterns is possible. “The Category of Conceptual Reversion” describes the process whereby patterns of eternal objects enter into new relations in the context of the concrescent occasion and provide diverse potentiality for the satisfaction of the occasion. In this way causality diverges from the merely efficient variety. This new kind of causality and the indeterminacy it introduces to the system of actual entities is conditioned by physical necessity; conceptual valuation and negative prehension determine concrescent fact so far as the creativity of process requires for consistency. But there remains the possibility of original patterns of Becoming as the process of concrescence creates new conditions for the satisfaction of actual entities. This potential originality is a product of the diversity of conceptual prehension, and this “diversity is a relevant diversity determined by the subjective aim” (Whitehead, 1929, 26).
The determination of efficient causality and the potential for divergence from this will be the subject for our final section. The necessary inheritance of physical effects by some actual entities is the reason for any manifest regularity and stability of nature. The novel originality of pattern which diverges from this regularity represents a certain indeterminacy or radical potentiality for freedom from the necessary requirements of mere reiteration of the past.
Student No. 07975043 III. Subjective Aim The Becoming of Whitehead’s process metaphysics is the serial creativity of an illimitable plurality of occasions active in the concrescence of final actual facts or forms of definiteness. The Category of the Ultimate creativity is the most general concept of this process. Actual occasions are particular instances of the transformation of “‘creativity’, ‘many’, ‘one’” (1929, 21), the unification of
data in the concrescence of one final superject and the addition of this completed superject to the plurality of all actual entities. Creativity is literally a transformative process; the shaping of novel actual entities from antecedent actual entities. But it is also a serially disjunctive process, not a continuum, since a continuum is infinitely divisible and productive of no definite form. The consistency of the process of actualisation establishes certain categories of behaviour which occasions illustrate in their concrescence. The prehension of physical and conceptual data and the valuation of eternal entities as potential forms of definiteness is the process of the subject-superject of an occasion. The conceptualisation of eternal entities is the valuation of the concrescent occasion at its satisfaction. The aim of all occasions toward their concrescence is their subjective aim. “The concrescence is dominated by a subjective aim which
essentially concerns the creature as a final superject. This subjective aim is this subject itself determining its own self-creation as one creature” (Whitehead, 1929, 69). In situations of physical necessity there is little if any deviation form a direct inheritance of past data. However, under certain conditions actual occasions retain an open potentiality for the actualisation of original forms of definiteness and in this way the subjective aim is the original creativity of actuality. The subjective aim then performs two functions in Whitehead’s metaphysics; the exploration of freedom, and the generation of diversity. We will first consider the freedom and diversity of Whitehead’s process
Student No. 07975043 metaphysics. This will then introduce two concepts of causality which we will consider in relation to the development of order in nature.
Freedom The becoming of actual entities is conditioned by their environment in the form of their physical prehensions of antecedent data, but the final superject of any occasion has in the last analysis a certain freedom in its concrescence. The final of Whitehead’s nine categoreal obligations is “of Freedom and Determination” and describes the concrescence of any occasion after all other obligations are fulfilled. “[I]n each concrescence whatever is determinable is determined, but […] there is always a remainder for the decision of the subject-superject of that concrescence” (1929, 27-8). The determination of what is determinable is the definite form of antecedent data and the patterns of eternal objects drawn from their relations. The process of concrescence is not mere repetition however, there is always some difference in the superject of an actual occasion from its past data. In the most limited of cases this may be the difference between occasion1 and occasion2. There may be a direct inheritance of form from an antecedent datum, but the novel occasion is a concrescence in a changed network of relations relative to its direct environment and the wider universe. The stable continuity of certain entities, for instance a helium atom or a rock, are the manifest serial recreation of direct inheritance from physical data. The necessity for entities to follow the determining physical prehensions is not absolute however, and in every occasion there remains a certain freedom from determination.
The freedom for the final determination of a concrescent occasion comes from the inherent power that is productive of all entities. Since every occasion is an instantiation of the general creative power of Becoming, and this power is none
Student No. 07975043 determining, an indeterminate region of possibility is open to occasions. First, the ultimate creativity active in all process requires some domain or input; creative activity acts on something which can always be variable. Creativity does not work ex nihilo, but from some actual entity. The process from this actuality will be partially determined by the set of actual entities active in the process, but this set is potentially infinite and cannot be finally determined. Second, creative activity is non-determining, it describes a process of differentiation but does not require a definite form from any instance of this process. The creativity of the many antecedent data as they are active in the concrescence of a final superject requires the synthesis of the many in the one, but the process of this synthesis is not determined. Third, the concrescence of an occasion is not reducible to its domain or inherited data since it concrescence from this data subject is its own novel determination. There is no limit to the potential contrasts and relations which can be conceptually prehended as eternal entities from the antecedent data of any occasion. Finally, the concrescence of an occasion is not determined by any rule or law, since the concrescence of the occasion is the act of expressing that rule. The concrescence of actual occasions is free relative to ultimate creativity, its antecedent data and its rule. A concrescent actual occasion enjoys negative freedom, in that its activity cannot be determined by any of its conditions; and positive freedom, in that it is then its own reason or cuasa sui (Bradley, 2008, 10). “[T]he future of the Universe, though conditioned by the immanence of its past, awaits for its complete determination the spontaneity of the novel individual occasions as in their season they come into being” (1933, 255).
The relations inherent in any set of physical prehensions are illimitable, since they include a potentially infinite number of datum, the relations of these data, and potential relations of relations ad infinitum. The concrescence of novel actualities have a potentially infinite potential forms of definiteness. An infinity 25
Student No. 07975043 of these eternal objects will not always be available for ingression, since the conditions prevailing in any system will exclude from possibility the actualisation of certain eternal objects. The necessity of agreement among occasions in the actualisation of novel facts requires that a common character prevails in any system. But where conditions are right for the actualisation of original relations diversity from inherited conditions is possible. The negative prehensions which exclude from possibility those eternal entities whose ingression would contradict the actualisation of the general environment of any occasion are the determining characteristics of Becoming, but this determination is not absolute. The potential for diversity beyond the common character of any system “constitutes that special element in the flux of forms in history, which is ‘given’ and incapable of rationalisation beyond the fact that within it every component which is determined is internally determined” (Whitehead, 1929, 47).
Diversity In the conceptual valuation of the subjective form of any actual occasion there are a potentially infinite number of conceptual prehensions. These variations of conceptual possibilities represent “an indefinite progression of categories, as we proceed from ‘contrasts’ to ‘contrasts of contrasts’, and on indefinitely to higher grades of contrast” (Whitehead, 1929, 22). The “contrasts” and “contrasts of contrasts” are the relations presented as forms for ingression by eternal objects. The potentially infinite contrasts of these relations provide an illimitable diversity of possible forms for concrescence.
The subjective aim of any occasion conceptualises both the past and the future. The past comes from the prehensions of antecedent data. The future is the anticipatory feeling of the subject-superject to its final concrescence. This
Student No. 07975043 anticipatory feeling contains within itself reference to the future concrescence of novel occasions since the completed fact of an occasion will be a datum for future occasions. Whitehead describes this process as “objectification”; the satisfaction of the subjective aim will be a datum for future occasions. The dual aspect of concrescent occasions, prehending the past and looking to the future, is described by the Category of Subjective Intensity. The intensity of conceptual prehensions are the quality and form of eternal objects conceptualised by the subject-superject. The intensities of feeling are the effective product of the contrast of eternal objects in the subjective form of any occasion, and they drive the increasingly diverse creation of novel actual entities through contrasts, contrasts of contrasts and so on. The ingression of eternal objects in actual entities, and the subsequent contrasts with new potentials for definiteness, provide the possibility of the ever increasing complexity of actual entities. The consistency of creativity and the negative prehensions of occasions provide the conditions of contrast for the growing complexity of relational systems. The consistency of creativity is the unification of multiple data, through the conceptualisation of relevant patterns of this data, in one novel actualised fact. Negative prehensions and the interrelations of occasions then reject
incompossible eternal entities, and this constraint provide a certain measure of stability for the development of novel occasions to explore the freedom of possible actualisations.
Efficient and Final Causality Mechanistic materialism is a deterministic system of imposed law in contrast to the freedom of Whitehead’s process metaphysics. The freedom and
indeterminacy is not however a chaotic or incoherent process, the relations of the system of actual entities impute to them certain obligations which are productive of an ordered system. This order is necessary under the conditions of individual occasions, but is not an absolute fact of the system. The Category of 27
Student No. 07975043 the Ultimate is creativity which is non-determining concept of transformation, unification and diversity. By the ontological principle every entity in nature must have the potential to effect or be effected, but the conditions of cause and effect are not determined. What is entailed in any relation is the mapping of a diverse set of data to some determinate concrescent fact. The inheritance from data to novel occasion is conditioned, but not finally determined by the obligations of the occasion in its network of interrelations. There are then two forms of causality at work in Whitehead’s process metaphysics; the direct inheritance from antecedent data, and the potential divergences inherent in this data conceptually realised.
The concrescence of a final superject is both the satisfaction of the subjective aim and a datum subsequent occasions; this is the process of objectification. Every entity is then at different epochs both a subject and an object. When objectified entities give to process the direct line of physical inheritance which provides to every concrescence its basic ingredients. Physical prehensions and the actualisation of occasions in the network of other occasions constrain the concrescent process. The coherence of concrescent occasions as they interrelate imputes to the occasions the necessity of certain forms of definiteness. This direct form of effect from datum to datum is a form of efficient causality. Efficient causality in a system of immanent power provides a regularity of order which may be described by laws. In this way a stability of organisation is established without the need for imposed law. Beyond this direct inheritance of form however there is always a certain region of freedom or possibility in the conceptual valuation of a concrescent subject. The secondary prehension, by the Category of Conceptual Reversion, of eternal objects or “contrasts of contrasts” give to certain occasions a space to explore divergent patterns of concrescence from those directly inherited. The exploration of adjacent possibilities amongst the welter of conceptual data is the function of the subjective aim and the final 28
Student No. 07975043 satisfaction of the occasion is in this sense a form of final causality. “The ‘objectifications’ of the actual entities on the actual world, relative to a definite actual entity, constitute the efficient causes out of which that actual entity arises; the ‘subjective aim’ at ‘satisfaction’ constitutes the final cause, or lure, whereby there is determinate concrescence” (1929, 87).
Student No. 07975043 Conclusion The subjective aim at satisfaction in a determinate concrescence from the data of past fact is the particular activity of the ultimate creativity which is the fundamental process of Becoming described by Whitehead’s metaphysics. The creative process of unifying in one subject multiple data, and the transformation from this data to a novel individual fact is the Becoming of every entity in nature. By their interrelations, and these relations are so deep as for every entity to be a potentially active element in every other, the concrescence of occasions displays certain categories of behaviour. These categories are not imposed, but a product of the process shared between all actual entities. The immanent power of activity between all entities imputes to them certain shared characteristics or forms of relation. By these forms of relation common patterns can emerge which may be shared in nexus or societies and these entities are descriptive of the manifestly stable regularities observed in nature. Nature considered as a multiplicity of active powers will by its activity produce relations of inheritance which serially recreate the enduring objects of experience.
The bifurcation of nature entailed in mechanical materialism considered as a system of imposed law separates from nature the powers of its activity and organisation. Nature conceived of as lifeless dull extension is subject to no reason other than imposed supernatural law. Such a bifurcation presents serious problems to philosophy, but the power of imposed law in describing the regular features of nature make it a valuable scientific tool. The challenge to philosophy is to articulate a system of immanent law, established by powers which are productive of activity, extension and order. Whitehead’s process metaphysics describes such a system, and this system provides powerful philosophical concepts for science and the philosophy of nature.
Student No. 07975043 In addition to the generation of certain stable and repeatable relations active in the enduring entities in nature, Whitehead’s process philosophy describes the indeterminism of creativity, the freedom of entities within a system, and the diversity which is the product of such indeterminism. In this way the development of systems beyond mere repetition of sequence is possible. The laws described by mechanical materialism are deterministic, being imposed they are followed exactly. The laws of a system of immanent law do not exist independently, but are illustrated in the activity of the system. No exact confirmation to any law can be expected. This indeterminacy does not undermine induction or the investigative experiments aimed at an elucidation of the order of nature, since the overall character is still one of manifest stability. But the freedom of entities in a system of immanent laws to diverge from their inherited situation puts forth the possibility of describing an evolving and active system of nature.
The study of nature in its most fundamental being by contemporary science is described by under the title of “physics”. The questions of physics are of the motion, forces and powers of nature, and its methods of speculative theory and systematizing law make clear to us its concerns: organisation, order and reason. If the ontology guiding physics is of a static system ordered by a superadded realm, physics then describes only determinist mechanics devoid of change or time and subject to serious philosophical problems. If, alternatively, the study of physics is undertaken in the etymological sense of the word – “phusis” (φύσις), meaning the productive power in nature, the power of growth and development – then the study of nature becomes “the progressive discovery of new relevant questions, enlightening the diversity of nature, and the need to learn how to approach this diversity” (Stengers, 2005, 1). This attentiveness to the method and progressive discovery in the physical sciences then requires a
Student No. 07975043 sufficient metaphysics; the philosophical enquiry into the concept of nature which informs and guides our questions. Whitehead’s philosophy describes such a concept of nature, and the subjective aim is that aspect of it which explores and unfolds the diversity of the creative power of nature in an ongoing adventure.
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