Process philosophy

Process philosophy — also ontology of becoming, processism,[1] or philosophy of organism[2] — 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.[3]

Philosophers who appeal to process rather than substance include Heraclitus, Karl Marx,[4] Friedrich Nietzsche, Henri Bergson, Martin Heidegger, Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, Alfred North Whitehead, Alfred Korzybski, R. G. Collingwood, Alan Watts, Robert M. Pirsig, Charles Hartshorne, Arran Gare, Nicholas Rescher, Colin Wilson, Jacques Derrida, and Gilles Deleuze. In physics, Ilya Prigogine[5] 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.[6][7]

Process philosophy is sometimes classified as closer to Continental philosophy than analytic philosophy, because it is usually only taught in Continental departments.[8] 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.[9][10]


In ancient Greek thought

Heraclitus proclaimed that the basic nature of all things is change.

The quotation from Heraclitus appears in Plato's Cratylus twice; in 401d as:[11]

τὰ ὄντα ἰέναι τε πάντα καὶ μένειν οὐδέν
Ta onta ienai te panta kai menein ouden
"All entities move and nothing remains still"

and in 402a[12]

"πάντα χωρεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει" καὶ "δὶς ἐς τὸν αὐτὸν ποταμὸν οὐκ ἂν ἐμβαίης"
Panta chōrei kai ouden menei kai dis es ton auton potamon ouk an embaies
"Everything changes and nothing remains still ... and ... you cannot step twice into the same stream"[13]

Heraclitus considered fire as the most fundamental element.

"All things are an interchange for fire, and fire for all things, just like goods for gold and gold for goods."[14]

The following is an interpretation of Heraclitus's concepts into modern terms by Nicholas Rescher.

"...reality is not a constellation of things at all, but one of processes. The fundamental "stuff" of the world is not material substance, but volatile flux, namely "fire", and all things are versions thereof (puros tropai). Process is fundamental: the river is not an object, but a continuing flow; the sun is not a thing, but an enduring fire. Everything is a matter of process, of activity, of change (panta rhei)."[15]

An early expression of this viewpoint is in Heraclitus's fragments. He posits strife, ἡ ἔρις (strife, conflict), as the underlying basis of all reality defined by change.[16] The balance and opposition in strife were the foundations of change and stability in the flux of existence.

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,[17] 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.

Whitehead's Process and Reality

Alfred North Whitehead began teaching and writing on process and metaphysics when he joined Harvard University in 1924.[18]

In his book Science and the Modern World (1925), Whitehead noted that the human intuitions and experiences of science, aesthetics, ethics, and religion influence the worldview of a community, but that in the last several centuries science dominates Western culture. Whitehead sought a holistic, comprehensive cosmology that provides a systematic descriptive theory of the world which can be used for the diverse human intuitions gained through ethical, aesthetic, religious, and scientific experiences, and not just the scientific.[6]

Whitehead's influences were not restricted to philosophers or physicists or mathematicians. He was influenced by the French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859–1941), whom he credits along with William James and John Dewey in the preface to Process and Reality.[17]

Process metaphysics

For Whitehead, metaphysics is about logical frameworks for the conduct of discussions of the character of the world. It is not directly and immediately about facts of nature, but only indirectly so, in that its task is to explicitly formulate the language and conceptual presuppositions that are used to describe the facts of nature. Whitehead thinks that discovery of previously unknown facts of nature can in principle call for reconstruction of metaphysics.[19]

The process metaphysics elaborated in Process and Reality[17] posits an ontology which is based on the two kinds of existence of an entity, that of actual entity and that of abstract entity or abstraction, also called 'object'.[20]

Actual entity is a term coined by Whitehead to refer to the entities that really exist in the natural world.[21] For Whitehead, actual entities are spatiotemporally extended events or processes.[22] An actual entity is how something is happening, and how its happening is related to other actual entities.[22] The actually existing world is a multiplicity of actual entities overlapping one another.[22]

The ultimate abstract principle of actual existence for Whitehead is creativity. Creativity is a term coined by Whitehead to show a power in the world that allows the presence of an actual entity, a new actual entity, and multiple actual entities.[22] Creativity is the principle of novelty.[21] It is manifest in what can be called 'singular causality'. This term may be contrasted with the term '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 recognizes 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 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.

For example, for Aristotle, the actual entities were the substances, such as Socrates. Besides Aristotle's ontology of substances, another example of an ontology that posits actual entities is in the monads of Leibniz, which are said to be 'windowless'.

Whitehead's actual entities

For Whitehead's ontology of processes as defining the world, the actual entities exist as the only fundamental elements of reality.

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). An entity that people commonly think of as a simple concrete object, or that Aristotle would think of as a substance, is, in this ontology, considered to be a temporally serial composite of indefinitely many overlapping occasions of experience. A human being is thus composed of indefinitely many occasions of experience.

The one exceptional actual entity is at once both 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.

The occasions of experience are of four grades. The first grade 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; "matter" being the composite overlapping of occasions of experience from the previous grade. 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 of the grades one, two, and three, lack that aspect.

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 aspect and the material aspect 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 recognized by Aristotle, there is biological evidence, written about by Galen,[23] 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.

Inherent in each actual entity is its respective dimension of time. Potentially, each Whiteheadean 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 it in time; 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. This is the process in process philosophy.

Such process is never deterministic. Consequently, free will is essential and inherent to the universe.

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.[24] 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[25] 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 entities, the occasions of experience, are logically atomic in the sense that an occasion of experience cannot be cut and separated into two other occasions of experience. This kind of logical atomicity is perfectly compatible with indefinitely many spatio-temporal overlaps of occasions of experience. One can explain this kind of 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 each of indefinitely many other actual entities.

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 it is itself unchangeable.

The reader should bear in mind that the atomicity of the actual entities is of a simply logical or philosophical kind, thoroughly different in concept from the natural kind of atomicity that describes the atoms of physics and chemistry.

Whitehead's theory of extension was concerned with the spatio-temporal features of his occasions of experience. Fundamental to both Newtonian and to quantum theoretical mechanics is the concept of momentum. The measurement of a momentum 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.[17] 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.

Nexus is a term coined by Whitehead to show the network actual entity from universe. In the universe of actual entities spread[21] actual entity. Actual entities are clashing with each other and form other actual entities.[22] The birth of an actual entity based on an actual entity, actual entities around him referred to as nexus.[21]

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 has a temporally earliest and a temporally last member. Every member (apart from the earliest) of such a nexus 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 member of the nexus. 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.

In some contexts, especially in the theory of relativity in physics, the word 'event' refers to a single point in Minkowski or in Riemannian space-time. A point event is not a process in the sense of Whitehead's metaphysics. Neither is a countable sequence or array of points. A Whiteheadian process is most importantly characterized by extension in space-time, marked by a continuum of uncountably many points in a Minkowski or a Riemannian space-time. The word 'event', indicating a Whiteheadian actual entity, is not being used in the sense of a point event.

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. They are the only entities that can be real but are not actual entities. This statement is one form of Whitehead's 'ontological principle'.

An abstraction is a conceptual entity that refers to 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 emphasizes some aspect of those entities, and that emphasis is an abstraction, because it means that some aspects of the actual entities are emphasized or dragged away from their actuality, while other aspects are de-emphasized or left out or left behind.

'Eternal object' is a term coined by Whitehead. It is an abstraction, a possibility, or pure potential. It can be ingredient into some actual entity.[21] It is a principle that can give a particular form to an actual entity.[22][26]

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 of abstraction. 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.

Causation and concrescence of a process

Concrescence is a term coined by Whitehead to show the process of jointly forming an actual entity that was without form, but about to manifest itself into an entity Actual full (satisfaction) based on datums or for information on the universe.[21] The process of forming an actual entity is the case based on the existing datums. Concretion process can be regarded as subjectification process.[22]

Datum is a term coined by Whitehead to show the different variants of information possessed by actual entity. In process philosophy, datum is obtained through the events of concrescence. Every actual entity has a variety of datum.[21][22]

Commentary on Whitehead and on process philosophy

Whitehead is not an idealist in the strict sense. Whitehead's thought may be regarded as related to the idea of panpsychism (also known as panexperientialism, because of Whitehead's emphasis on experience).[27]

On God

Whitehead's philosophy is very complex, subtle and nuanced and in order to comprehend his thinking regarding what is commonly referred to by many religions as "God", it is recommended that one read from Process and Reality Corrected Edition, wherein regarding "God" the authors elaborate Whitehead's conception.

"He is the unconditioned actuality of conceptual feeling at the base of things; so that by reason of this primordial actuality, there is an order in the relevance of eternal objects to the process of creation (343 of 413) (Location 7624 of 9706 Kindle ed.) Whitehead continues later with, "The particularities of the actual world presuppose it ; while it merely presupposes the general metaphysical character of creative advance, of which it is the primordial exemplification (344 of 413) (Location 7634 of 9706 Kindle Edition)."

Process philosophy, might be considered according to some theistic forms of religion to give a God a special place in the universe of occasions of experience. Regarding Whitehead's use of the term, "occasions" in reference to, "God" it is explained in Process and Reality Corrected Edition that

"'Actual entities'-also termed 'actual occasions'-are the final real things of which the world is made up. There is no going behind actual entities to find anything [28] more real. They differ among themselves: God is an actual entity, and so is the most trivial puff of existence in far-off empty space. But, though there are gradations of importance, and diversities of function, yet in the principles which actuality exemplifies all are on the same level. The final facts are, all alike, actual entities; and these actual entities are drops of experience, complex and interdependent.

It can be also be assumed within some forms of theology that a God encompasses all the other occasions of experience but also transcends them and this might lead to it being argued that Whitehead endorses some form of panentheism.[28] Since, it is argued theologically, that "free will" is inherent to the nature of the universe, Whitehead's God is not omnipotent in Whitehead's metaphysics.[29] God's role is to offer enhanced occasions of experience. God participates in the evolution of the universe by offering possibilities, which may be accepted or rejected. Whitehead's thinking here has given rise to process theology, whose prominent advocates include Charles Hartshorne, John B. Cobb, Jr., and Hans Jonas, who was also influenced by the non-theological philosopher Martin Heidegger. However, other process philosophers have questioned Whitehead's theology, seeing it as a regressive Platonism.[30]

Whitehead enumerated three essential natures of God. The primordial nature of God consists of all potentialities of existence for actual occasions, which Whitehead dubbed eternal objects. God can offer possibilities by ordering the relevance of eternal objects. The consequent nature of God prehends everything that happens in reality. As such, God experiences all of reality in a sentient manner. The last nature is the superjective. This is the way in which God's synthesis becomes a sense-datum for other actual entities. In some sense, God is prehended by existing actual entities.[31]

Legacy and applications


In plant morphology, Rolf Sattler developed a process morphology (dynamic morphology) that overcomes the structure/process (or structure/function) dualism that is commonly taken for granted in biology. According to process morphology, structures such as leaves of plants do not have processes, they are processes.[32][33]

In evolution and in development, the nature of the changes of biological objects are considered by many authors to be more radical than in physical systems. In biology, changes are not just changes of state in a pre-given space, instead the space and more generally the mathematical structures required to understand object change over time.[34][35]


With its perspective that everything is interconnected, that all life has value, and that non-human entities are also experiencing subjects, process philosophy has played an important role in discourse on ecology and sustainability. The first book to connect process philosophy with environmental ethics was John B. Cobb, Jr.'s 1971 work, Is It Too Late: A Theology of Ecology.[36] In a more recent book (2018) edited by John B. Cobb, Jr. and Wm. Andrew Schwartz, Putting Philosophy to Work: Toward an Ecological Civilization[37] contributors explicitly explore the ways in which process philosophy can be put to work to address the most urgent issues facing our world today, by contributing to a transition toward an ecological civilization. That book emerged out of the largest international conference held on the theme of ecological civilization (Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization) which was organized by the Center for Process Studies in June 2015. The conference brought together roughly 2,000 participants from around the world and featured such leaders in the environmental movement as Bill McKibben, Vandana Shiva, John B. Cobb, Jr., Wes Jackson, and Sheri Liao.[38] The notion of ecological civilization is often affiliated with the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead--especially in China.[39]


In the philosophy of mathematics, some of Whitehead's ideas re-emerged in combination with cognitivism as the cognitive science of mathematics and embodied mind theses.

Somewhat earlier, exploration of mathematical practice and quasi-empiricism in mathematics from the 1950s to 1980s had sought alternatives to metamathematics in social behaviours around mathematics itself: for instance, Paul Erdős's simultaneous belief in Platonism and a single "big book" in which all proofs existed, combined with his personal obsessive need or decision to collaborate with the widest possible number of other mathematicians. The process, rather than the outcomes, seemed to drive his explicit behaviour and odd use of language, as if the synthesis of Erdős and collaborators in seeking proofs, creating sense-datum for other mathematicians, was itself the expression of a divine will. Certainly, Erdős behaved as if nothing else in the world mattered, including money or love, as emphasized in his biography The Man Who Loved Only Numbers.


Several fields of science and especially medicine seem to make liberal use of ideas in process philosophy, notably the theory of pain and healing of the late 20th century. The philosophy of medicine began to deviate somewhat from scientific method and an emphasis on repeatable results in the very late 20th century by embracing population thinking, and a more pragmatic approach to issues in public health, environmental health and especially mental health. In this latter field, R. D. Laing, Thomas Szasz and Michel Foucault were instrumental in moving medicine away from emphasis on "cures" and towards concepts of individuals in balance with their society, both of which are changing, and against which no benchmarks or finished "cures" were very likely to be measurable.


In psychology, the subject of imagination was again explored more extensively since Whitehead, and the question of feasibility or "eternal objects" of thought became central to the impaired theory of mind explorations that framed postmodern cognitive science. A biological understanding of the most eternal object, that being the emerging of similar but independent cognitive apparatus, led to an obsession with the process "embodiment", that being, the emergence of these cognitions. Like Whitehead's God, especially as elaborated in J. J. Gibson's perceptual psychology emphasizing affordances, by ordering the relevance of eternal objects (especially the cognitions of other such actors), the world becomes. Or, it becomes simple enough for human beings to begin to make choices, and to prehend what happens as a result. These experiences may be summed in some sense but can only approximately be shared, even among very similar cognitions with identical DNA. An early explorer of this view was Alan Turing who sought to prove the limits of expressive complexity of human genes in the late 1940s, to put bounds on the complexity of human intelligence and so assess the feasibility of artificial intelligence emerging. Since 2000, Process Psychology has progressed as an independent academic and therapeutic discipline: In 2000, Michel Weber created the Whitehead Psychology Nexus: an open forum dedicated to the cross-examination of Alfred North Whitehead's process philosophy and the various facets of the contemporary psychological field.[40]

See also



  1. ^ Nicholas Rescher, Process Metaphysics: An Introduction to Process Philosophy, SUNY Press, 1996, p. 60.
  2. ^ Dorothy Emmet, 1932, Whitehead's Philosophy of Organism, London: Macmillan; 2nd edn, 1966.
  3. ^ Anne Fagot-Largeau, 7 December 2006 course Archived 6 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine at the Collège of France, first part of a series of courses on the "Ontology of Becoming" (in French).
  4. ^ Marx and Whitehead: Process, Dialectics, and the Critique of Capitalism
  5. ^ Ilya Prigogine, From being to becoming, W. H. Freeman and Company, San Francisco, 1980.
  6. ^ a b Jeremy R. Hustwit (2007). "Process Philosophy: 2.a. In Pursuit of a Holistic Worldview". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  7. ^ Cf. Michel Weber (ed.), After Whitehead: Rescher on Process Metaphysics, Frankfurt / Paris / Lancaster, Ontos Verlag, 2004.
  8. ^ William Blattner, "Some Thoughts About "Continental" and "Analytic" Philosophy"
  9. ^ Seibt, Johanna. "Process Philosophy". In Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  10. ^ Nicholas Gaskill, A. J. Nocek, The Lure of Whitehead, University of Minnesota Press, 2014, p. 4: "it is no wonder that Whitehead fell by the wayside. He was too scientific for the "continentals," not scientific enough for the "analytics," and too metaphysical—which is to say uncritical—for them both" and p. 231: "the analytics and Continentals are both inclined toward Kantian presuppositions in a manner that Latour and Whitehead brazenly renounce."
  11. ^ Cratylus Paragraph Crat. 401 section d line 5.
  12. ^ Cratylus Paragraph 402 section a line 8.
  13. ^ This sentence has been translated by Seneca in Epistulae, VI, 58, 23.
  14. ^ Harris, William. "Heraclitus: The Complete Philosophical Fragments". Middlebury College. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  15. ^ Rescher, Nicholas (2000). Process philosophy a survey of basic issues. [Pittsburgh]: University of Pittsburgh Press. p. 3. ISBN 0822961288.
  16. ^ Wheelwright, P. (1959). Heraclitus, Oxford University Press, Oxford UK, ISBN 0-19-924022-1, p.35.
  17. ^ a b c d Whitehead, A. N. (1929). Process and Reality, Macmillan, New York.
  18. ^ "Alfred North Whitehead".
  19. ^ Whitehead, A. N. (1929), pp. 13, 19.
  20. ^ Palter, R.M. (1960). Whitehead's Philosophy of Science, University of Chicago Press, Chicago IL, p. 23.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g Robert Audi. 1995, The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. Cambridge: The Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge. 851–853.
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h John B. Cobb and David Ray Griffin. 1976, Process Theology, An Introduction. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.
  23. ^ Siegel, R. E. (1973). Galen: On Psychology, Psychopathology, and Function and Diseases of the Nervous System. An Analysis of his Doctrines, Observations, and Experiments, Karger, Basel, ISBN 978-3-8055-1479-8.
  24. ^ Naber, G. L. (1992). The Geometry of Minkowski Spacetime. An Introduction to the Mathematics of the Special Theory of Relativity, Springer, New York, ISBN 978-0-387-97848-2
  25. ^ Whitehead, A. N. (1919). An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Natural Knowledge, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge UK.
  26. ^ Cf. Michel Weber (ed.), After Whitehead: Rescher on Process Metaphysics, Frankfurt / Paris / Lancaster, Ontos Verlag, 2004 (ISBN 3-937202-49-8).
  27. ^ Seager, William. "Whitehead and the Revival (?) of Panpsychism". University of Toronto Scarborough. University of Toronto at Scarborough. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  28. ^ Cooper, John W. (2006). Panentheism--The Other God of the Philosophers: From Plato to the Present. Grand Rapids MI: Baker Academic. p. 176. ISBN 978-0801049316. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
  29. ^ Dombrowski, Daniel A. (2017). Whitehead's Religious Thought: From Mechanism to Organism, From Force to Persuasion. Albany: State Univ of New York Pr. pp. 33–35. ISBN 978-1438464299. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
  30. ^ Hustwit, J. R. "Process Philosophy". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP). Retrieved 15 June 2017.
  31. ^ Viney, Donald. "Process Theism". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosoph. Center for the Study of Language and Information (CSLI), Stanford University. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
  32. ^ Sattler, R. 1990. "Towards a more dynamic plant morphology". Acta Biotheoretica 38: 303–315
  33. ^ Sattler, R. 1992. "Process morphology: structural dynamics in development and evolution". Canadian Journal of Botany 70: 708–714.
  34. ^ Montévil, Maël; Mossio, Matteo; Pocheville, Arnaud; Longo, Giuseppe (1 October 2016). "Theoretical principles for biology: Variation". Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology. From the Century of the Genome to the Century of the Organism: New Theoretical Approaches. 122 (1): 36–50. doi:10.1016/j.pbiomolbio.2016.08.005.
  35. ^ Longo, Giuseppe; Montévil, Maël; Kauffman, Stuart (1 January 2012). "No Entailing Laws, but Enablement in the Evolution of the Biosphere". Proceedings of the 14th Annual Conference Companion on Genetic and Evolutionary Computation. GECCO '12. New York, NY, USA: ACM: 1379–1392. arXiv:1201.2069. doi:10.1145/2330784.2330946. ISBN 9781450311786.
  36. ^ Cobb, Jr., John B. (1971). Is It Too Late?: A Theology of Ecology. Macmillan Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0028012803.
  37. ^ Cobb, Jr., John B.; Scwhartz, Wm. Andrew (2018). Putting Philosophy to Work: Toward an Ecological Civilization. Minnesota: Process Century Press. ISBN 978-1940447339.
  38. ^ Herman Greene, "Re-Imagining Civilization as Ecological: Report on the 'Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization' Conference", last modified 24 August 2015, Center for Ecozoic Societies, accessed 1 November 2016.
  39. ^ Wang, Zhihe; Huili, He; Meijun, Fan. "The Ecological Civilization Debate in China: The Role of Ecological Marxism and Constructive Postmodernism—Beyond the Predicament of Legislation". Monthly Review. Retrieved 23 August 2018.
  40. ^ Cobb, John B., Jr. "Process Psychotherapy: Introduction". Process Studies vol. 29, no. 1 (Spring–Summer 2000): 97–102; cf. Michel Weber and Will Desmond (eds.), Handbook of Whiteheadian Process Thought, Frankfurt / Lancaster, ontos verlag, Process Thought X1 & X2, 2008.

Works cited

  • Whitehead, A. N. (1929). Process and Reality, Macmillan, New York.
  • Whitehead, Alfred North. Process and Reality corrected edition, Griffin, David Ray and Sherburne, Donald W., The Free Press, New York (Kindle Edition).

External links

20th-century philosophy

20th-century philosophy saw the development of a number of new philosophical schools—including logical positivism, analytic philosophy, phenomenology, existentialism, and poststructuralism. In terms of the eras of philosophy, it is usually labelled as contemporary philosophy (succeeding modern philosophy, which runs roughly from the time of René Descartes until the late 19th to early 20th centuries).

As with other academic disciplines, philosophy increasingly became professionalized in the twentieth century, and a split emerged between philosophers who considered themselves part of either the "analytic" or "Continental" traditions. However, there have been disputes regarding both the terminology and the reasons behind the divide, as well as philosophers who see themselves as bridging the divide, such as process philosophy advocates and neopragmatists. In addition, philosophy in the twentieth century became increasingly technical and harder for lay people to read.

The publication of Edmund Husserl's Logical Investigations (1900–1) and Bertrand Russell's The Principles of Mathematics (1903) is considered to mark the beginning of 20th-century philosophy.

Alfred North Whitehead

Alfred North Whitehead (15 February 1861 – 30 December 1947) was an English mathematician and philosopher. He is best known as the defining figure of the philosophical school known as process philosophy, which today has found application to a wide variety of disciplines, including ecology, theology, education, physics, biology, economics, and psychology, among other areas.

In his early career Whitehead wrote primarily on mathematics, logic, and physics. His most notable work in these fields is the three-volume Principia Mathematica (1910–1913), which he wrote with former student Bertrand Russell. Principia Mathematica is considered one of the twentieth century's most important works in mathematical logic, and placed 23rd in a list of the top 100 English-language nonfiction books of the twentieth century by Modern Library.Beginning in the late 1910s and early 1920s, Whitehead gradually turned his attention from mathematics to philosophy of science, and finally to metaphysics. He developed a comprehensive metaphysical system which radically departed from most of western philosophy. Whitehead argued that reality consists of processes rather than material objects, and that processes are best defined by their relations with other processes, thus rejecting the theory that reality is fundamentally constructed by bits of matter that exist independently of one another. Today Whitehead's philosophical works – particularly Process and Reality – are regarded as the foundational texts of process philosophy.

Whitehead's process philosophy argues that "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 consequences for the world around us." For this reason, one of the most promising applications of Whitehead's thought in recent years has been in the area of ecological civilization and environmental ethics pioneered by John B. Cobb.

American philosophy

American philosophy is the activity, corpus, and tradition of philosophers affiliated with the United States. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes that while it lacks a "core of defining features, American Philosophy can nevertheless be seen as both reflecting and shaping collective American identity over the history of the nation."

Becoming (philosophy)

In philosophy, becoming is the possibility of change in a thing that has being, that exists.

In the philosophical study of ontology, the concept of becoming originated in ancient Greece with the philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus, who in the sixth century BC, said that nothing in this world is constant except change and becoming. This point was made by Heraclitus with the famous quote "No man ever steps in the same river twice." His theory stands in direct contrast to the philosophic idea of being, first argued by Parmenides, a Greek philosopher from the italic Magna Grecia, who believed that the change or "becoming" we perceive with our senses is deceptive, and that there is a pure perfect and eternal being behind nature, which is the ultimate truth of being. This point was made by Parmenides with the famous quote "what is-is". Becoming, along with its antithesis of being, are two of the foundation concepts in ontology. Scholars have generally believed that either Parmenides was responding to Heraclitus, or Heraclitus to Parmenides, though opinion on who was responding to whom changed over the course of the 20th century.

In philosophy, the word "becoming" concerns a specific ontological concept which should not be confused with process philosophy as a whole or with the related study of process theology.

Buddhism and Western philosophy

Buddhist thought and Western philosophy include several parallels. Before the 20th century, a few European thinkers such as Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche had engaged with Buddhist thought. Likewise, in Asian nations with Buddhist populations, there were also attempts to bring the insights of Western thought to Buddhist philosophy, as can be seen in the rise of Buddhist modernism.

After the post-war spread of Buddhism to the West there has been considerable interest by some scholars in a comparative, cross-cultural approach between Eastern and Western philosophy. Much of this work is now published in academic journals such as Philosophy East and West.

Charles Hartshorne

Charles Hartshorne (; June 5, 1897 – October 9, 2000) was an American philosopher who concentrated primarily on the philosophy of religion and metaphysics, but also contributed to ornithology. He developed the neoclassical idea of God and produced a modal proof of the existence of God that was a development of St. Anselm's ontological argument. Hartshorne is also noted for developing Alfred North Whitehead's process philosophy into process theology.

Clare Palmer

Clare Palmer (born 1967) is a British philosopher, theologian and scholar of environmental and religious studies who is currently a professor in the Department of Philosophy at Texas A&M University. She has previously held academic appointments at the University of Greenwich, the University of Stirling, Lancaster University and Washington University in St. Louis, among others. Palmer is known for her work in environmental and animal ethics.

She has published three sole-authored books—Environmental Ethics (ABC-CLIO, 1997), Environmental Ethics and Process Thinking (Oxford University Press, 1998) and Animal Ethics in Context (Columbia University Press, 2010)—as well as the co-authored Companion Animal Ethics (Wiley-Blackwell, 2015) and seven sole- or co-edited collections and anthologies. She is a former editor of the religious studies journal Worldviews: Environment, Culture, Religion, and a former president of the International Society for Environmental Ethics.

In Environmental Ethics and Process Thinking, which was based on her doctoral research, Palmer explores the possibility of a process philosophy-inspired account of environmental ethics, focussing on the work of Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne. She ultimately concludes that a process ethic is not a desirable approach to environmental questions, despite the fact that process thought has been co-opted by some environmentalist thinkers. In Animal Ethics in Context, Palmer asks about responsibilities to aid animals, in contrast to the typical focus in animal ethics on not harming animals. She defends a contextual, relational ethic according to which humans will typically have duties to assist only domestic, and not wild, animals in need. However, humans will often be permitted to assist wild animals, and may be obligated to do so if there is a particular (causal) relationship between humans and the animals' plight.


Elisionism is a philosophical standpoint encompassing various social theories. Elisionist theories are diverse; however, they are unified in their adherence to process philosophy as well as their assumption that the social and the individual cannot be separated. The term elisionism was coined by Margaret Archer in 1995 in the book Realist Social Theory: The Morphogenetic Approach. Elisionism is often contrasted with holism, atomism, and emergentism.

Henri Bergson

Henri-Louis Bergson (French: [bɛʁksɔn]; 18 October 1859 – 4 January 1941) was a French-Jewish philosopher who was influential in the tradition of continental philosophy, especially during the first half of the 20th century until the Second World War. Bergson is known for his arguments that processes of immediate experience and intuition are more significant than abstract rationalism and science for understanding reality.

He was awarded the 1927 Nobel Prize in Literature "in recognition of his rich and vitalizing ideas and the brilliant skill with which they have been presented". In 1930 France awarded him its highest honour, the Grand-Croix de la Legion d'honneur.

Bergson's great popularity created a controversy in France where his views were seen as opposing the secular and scientific attitude adopted by the Republic's officials.

Jeffery D. Long

Jeffery D. Long is Professor of Religion and Asian Studies at Elizabethtown College, in Pennsylvania, USA. He is associated with the Vedanta Society, DĀNAM (the Dharma Academy of North America) and the Hindu American Foundation. A major theme of Long's work is religious pluralism, a topic he approaches from a perspective informed by the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead and which he refers to as a "Hindu process theology."He has written books on Jainism and Hinduism.

Magnum opus (alchemy)

The Great Work (Latin: Magnum opus) is an alchemical term for the process of working with the prima materia to create the philosopher's stone. It has been used to describe personal and spiritual transmutation in the Hermetic tradition, attached to laboratory processes and chemical color changes, used as a model for the individuation process, and as a device in art and literature. The magnum opus has been carried forward in New Age and neo-Hermetic movements which sometimes attached new symbolism and significance to the processes. The original process philosophy has four stages:

nigredo, a blackening or melanosis

albedo, a whitening or leucosis

citrinitas, a yellowing or xanthosis

rubedo, a reddening, purpling, or iosisThe origin of these four phases can be traced at least as far back as the first century. Zosimus of Panopolis wrote that it was known to Mary the Jewess. After the 15th century, many writers tended to compress citrinitas into rubedo and consider only three stages. Other color stages are sometimes mentioned, most notably the cauda pavonis (peacock's tail) in which an array of colors appear.

The magnum opus had a variety of alchemical symbols attached to it. Birds like the raven, swan, and phoenix could be used to represent the progression through the colors. Similar color changes could be seen in the laboratory, where for example, the blackness of rotting, burnt, or fermenting matter would be associated with nigredo.

Michel Weber

Michel Weber (born 1963) is a Belgian philosopher. He is best known as an interpreter and advocate of the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, and has come to prominence as the architect and organizer of an overlapping array of international scholarly societies and publication projects devoted to Whitehead and the global relevance of process philosophy.

Weber criticizes contemporary academic philosophy for losing touch with its early Greek roots. Philosophy has a practical mission (rooted in Socratic discourse) to restore personal and social well being, but it cannot do this, he argues, if it renounces its traditional metaphysical obligation (rooted in pre-Socratic speculation) to understand the cosmos. Weber believes that process philosophy is uniquely qualified to fulfill this double function in the post-modern world.

Weber was educated in Belgium and the United States. The primary languages of his publications are English and French.

Mordecai Kaplan

Mordecai Menahem Kaplan (June 11, 1881 – November 8, 1983), was a rabbi, essayist and Jewish educator and the co-founder of Reconstructionist Judaism along with his son-in-law Ira Eisenstein.


Neoclassical or neo-classical may refer to:

Neoclassicism or New Classicism, any of a number of movements in the fine arts, literature, theatre, music, language, and architecture beginning in the 17th century

Neoclassical architecture, an architectural style of the 18th and 19th centuries

Neoclassical sculpture, a sculptural style of the 18th and 19th centuries

New Classical architecture, an overarching movement of contemporary classical architecture in the 21st century

in linguistics, a word that is a recent construction from New Latin based on older, classical elements

Neoclassical ballet, a ballet style which uses traditional ballet vocabulary, but is generally more expansive than the classical structure allowed

The "Neo-classical period" of painter Pablo Picasso immediately following World War I

Neoclassical economics, a general approach in economics focusing on the determination of prices, outputs, and income distributions in markets through supply and demand

Neoclassical realism, theory in international relations

Neo-classical school (criminology), a school in criminology that continues the traditions of the Classical School within the framework of Right Realism

Neo-classical theology, another name for process theology, a school of thought influenced by the metaphysical process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead

Neoclassical transport is an effect seen in magnetic fusion energy reactors

Nicholas Rescher

Nicholas Rescher (; German: [ˈʁɛʃɐ]; born 15 July 1928) is a German-American philosopher at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the Chairman of the Center for Philosophy of Science and has formerly served as Chairman of the Philosophy Department.Rescher has served as president for the American Catholic Philosophical Association, American G.W. Leibniz Society, American Metaphysical Society, American Philosophical Association, and C.S. Peirce Society. He is the founder of American Philosophical Quarterly, History of Philosophy Quarterly, and Public Affairs Quarterly.

Process and Reality

Process and Reality is a book by Alfred North Whitehead, in which Whitehead 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 theology

Process theology is a type of theology developed from Alfred North Whitehead's (1861–1947) process philosophy, most notably by Charles Hartshorne (1897–2000) and John B. Cobb (b. 1925). 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.

Western philosophy

Western philosophy is the philosophical thought and work of the Western world. Historically, the term refers to the philosophical thinking of Western culture, beginning with Greek philosophy of the pre-Socratics such as Thales (c. 624 – c. 546 BC) and Pythagoras (c. 570 BC – c. 495 BC), and eventually covering a large area of the globe. The word philosophy itself originated from the Ancient Greek: philosophia (φιλοσοφία), literally, "the love of wisdom" (φιλεῖν philein, "to love" and σοφία sophia, "wisdom").

The scope of philosophy in the ancient understanding, and the writings of (at least some of) the ancient philosophers, were all intellectual endeavors. This included the problems of philosophy as they are understood today; but it also included many other disciplines, such as pure mathematics and natural sciences such as physics, astronomy, and biology (Aristotle, for example, wrote on all of these topics).

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