Core Doctrine of Process Philosophy #1 (of 10)

Over 10 blog entries, I will set out the 10 Core Doctrines of process philosophy (of Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne), as given by the process philosopher and theologian David Griffin.

Core Doctrine #1:  Process integrates “…moral, aesthetic, and religious intuitions with the most general doctrines of the sciences into a self-consistent worldview [and considers this] as one of the central tasks of philosophy in our time.”  From: Griffin, David R.  “Reenchantment Without Supernaturalism” (p. 5)

Another way to say this is the integration of science and religion; to be able to put religion in a context that someone who takes science seriously may countenance, and to be able to put science in a context that someone with religious beliefs can countenance.

PROCESS PANEGYRIC

Troythulu the Skeptophrenic Blogger, must think I’m mad.  I respond to some of the posts on his blog, but I don’t seem to respond directly-my responses have a non sequitur feeling.  The reason I respond is because the ideas in some of his posts are as close as they can be to mine, but just far enough way to make it very satisfying to attempt to build a bridge between the skeptical point of view and mine.  Thus the non sequitur feeling of my responses.  I wonder if he feels the same way?

I suppose partly in response to something I wrote, Troythulu blogged that “it is often claimed by those who seek to misrepresent science…that science is no more epistemically valid than religion, because both rely on prior assumptions as the basis for their arguments and conclusions.”  He also says that supernaturalistic religion is based on faith, dogma, and people and books that claim to be ultimate authorities without giving arguments or evidence, etc.  (the entire post is HERE).  Rather than responding directly to this, I launched into a Process Panegyric.  I posted it here because I think it’s interesting to see that a more subtle and informed metaphysical point of view can produce a more robust and satisfying scientific view, as well as a more satisfying religious view:

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#1: (TGT): Let’s Begin…Two Great Truths: A New Synthesis of Scientific Naturalism and Christian Faith (TGT)

This is a discussion of David Ray Griffin’s book: “Two Great Truths: A New Synthesis of Scientific Naturalism and Christian Faith” (here identified by “TGT”) with a foreward by Howard J. Van Till.

It’s all over the media, in synagogues, mosques, churches, scientific labs, and universities everywhere: there’s gigantic conflict between science and religion.  Well, of course there is!  It’s a huge and direct conflict, after all, EVERYBODY knows it is.  (Argumentum ad Populum)  Well, David Ray Griffin (and process philosophy/theology in general) would rather delve deeper into both science and religion and take a more informed, synoptic view.

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#2: (MOS) Breif Summary

Chapter 1 deals with Immanuel Kant.  It “…presents Kant’s philosophy as a foundation for understanding…Heidegger and Whitehead.” (MOS 2)  Smith then delineates his new way of reading Kant as a postmodern thinker, which we’ll get to when we look directly at chapter 1.

Chapter 2 sets out Heidegger’s project.  Heidegger rethinks the analysis of a knowing, substantial subject, as it has been taken for most of western history, and transforms it via an existential analysis of “Dasein.”  This summary of Heidegger I’m sure readers will find complete-but it is very compact (but this is Heidegger-there’s probably no way around this).

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#1: (MOS) Let’s Begin: Myths of the Self (MOS)

This series of posts is about Dr. Olav’s Smith’s famous (or should be famous) book: Myths of the Self: Narrative Identity and Postmodern Metaphysics (called MOS here).  (Click here for partial text at Google Books).  Dr. Smith is a lecturer at California State University, Chico.  The book is based on Smith’s doctoral dissertation under David Ray Griffin at The Center for Process Studies at Claremont in Los Angeles, CA.

William Desmond, Director of the International Philosophy Program at  KU Leuven says:  “This is a very intelligent and engaging essay in constructive postmodern metaphysics.  Olav Smith brings Whitehead into provocative and fruitful dialogue with the philosophies of Kant, Heidegger, and Ricoeur.  The diverse discussions are marked by many illuminating and surprising connections.”

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Solidity of Science

Troythulu put up a nice post on “Skeptics, Science, and the Fallacy of Consensual Reality.”  I Commented:

Troythulu—Great stuff!  You mention, “…giving all the evidence a fair shake,” and having “…the will to discover the truth by way of logic and evidence.” (And I’d add “coherence” and “adequacy” as Whitehead does, because every element of our experience has to be explained, not just the ones we pick and choose).

Also, you’re right to point out, “…400 years of history has shown that science works as well as it does…because the Universe ultimately makes sense, and is not arbitrarily or capriciously supernatural in its workings.”  I certainly agree, as long as you mean “universe” in the wider sense–i.e. prehension and concrescence, and not just our cosmic epoch (big bang until now).  And I agree as long as you’re taking into account that science is based on physical law which in turn is based on the contingent nature of current configurations of actual entities.  (By “current” I mean Planck Time until now.)  (Actually…I’m editing later…Science isn’t based on physical law.  Science is a methodology used to discern physical law.  What I’m saying is that law is contingent upon the configurations of actual entites.)  And I agree as long as you’re not saying that somehow our current set of interpretations are ultimately the only ones. 

(Aristotle thought that; so did the neoplatonists and renaissance scientists; so did the moderns and Newton; so did Maxwell; and so did Einstein.  In fact, as you probably know, Einstein’s vehement questioning (mostly directed at Bohr) of the Copenhagen Interpretation spurred Bohr (and Heisenberg and the rest of them) to seriously refine the Copenhagen Interpretation.)

The point is, that many people would probably read what you wrote, and having a very narrow view, and not understanding the history of paradigm shifts in science, and not understanding, really, what physical law is, draw the conclusion that you’re somehow closing the books on reality…we’ve figured it all out and got it all down pat.

Moving onto Supernaturalism:  Of course, it’s pointless to entertain the idea of the supernatural.  How can something “be” “supernatural?”  The scare quotes are to show the idea is an utter contradiction.  For something to be supernatural, it would have to take place outside of reality!  Since there’s no such thing as being “outside of reality” it follows that the concept of supernatural is nonsense.  Oh, God exists, and so do other things that seem supernatural and seem to defy logic (e.g., certain elements in the quantum realm), but they are all perfectly logical and perfectly natural and part of reality.  What most people call “supernatural” can really be subsumed under “natural.”

I have a bit of an issue about the parochial nature of your statement that reality is “made up of…atoms, energy, and multidimensional space-time.”  These are all high level abstractions as opposed to fundamental and concrete entities.  (I think you agree, when you start talking about what reality is “made up” of, and start talking about ultimate structures and fundamental structures, you have to be specific and concrete and necessary, not abstract and contingent.)  Atoms and energy are high level abstractions–even from the scientific point of view, subatomic particles are more fundamental, moreso are virtual particles and moreso are quarks other structures.  Further, from a metaphysical point of view, even the quantum realm is an abstraction.  The only thing we can say for certain about reality “really” being “made up” of is actual entities or actual occasions (that which concreses and prehends).  

And multidimensional space-time is another abstraction—another contingency.  Space and time are (or spacetime is) created by concrescence, and multidimensionality is contingent upon particular conditions at a singularity which are highly variable (as far as we can tell).  By “particular conditions” I mean primarily velocity, but not only velocity.  Further, logic dictates that extending out from this electromagnetic epoch we have a context that simply exhibits geometrical axioms, then outside of that four-dimensionality, then outside of that “mere” dimensionality, then the logical limit is what Whitehead calls “mere extensiveness” or the Extensive Continuum.  Hubble is looking back into “spaces” that border on dimensionality and extensiveness about which we don’t know the particular contingent workings of for sure…  Even if we assume spacetime exists there, there’s no logical necessity that the behavior of entities are exactly the same as those in our current epoch.  That the behavior is exactly the same remains to be seen.  (I use the word “seen” loosely, because if things are significantly different, observation may not be possible—if wave functions don’t collapse in the sense that we understand, then those dimensions are utterly removed from us.  (This is a corollary to the nonsensical nature of supernatural—why even begin to talk about supernatural when there are logically possible worlds that make what we call supernatural phenomena seem fairly straight forward.  (OK, sorry… looking over the last several sentences I see each one would need about 5 pages of text to put into context and argue correctly……….))

Enough….it’s almost 2am already.  Aloha.

Fun Introduction to Whitehead & Process

Written by Richard Lubbock, this intro. is fun:

“…..Once you have allowed Whitehead’s powerful engine of hope to transform your attitude to life you will never again need to consult another philosopher. Those sinister philosophical miseries of the 20th century–you know who I mean: malignant Heidegger, disjointed Wittgenstein, cross-eyed Husserl, sour Sartre–you can consign their jeremiads to the fire. They failed to salute the quantum and relativistic earthquakes of our century and so they’re dust, history, trash. Forget ’em…..”

CLICK HERE