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Chiasmi International

Volume 22, 2020

Mirrors and Other Technologies

Luca Vanzago
Pages 101-117

Mutual Determination, Concrescence and Transition. Whitehead’s Speculative Conception of Temporal Subjectivity Interpreted from a Merleau-Pontyan Standpoint

The interpretive approach adopted in this paper is influenced by Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy and in particular by his understanding of Nature, which in turn takes into consideration Whitehead’s work. Whitehead’s philosophy of organism is seen by its author as the metaphysical generalization of problems found in his investigation of natural knowledge. Whitehead admits that a speculative approach is necessitated by the very questions arising from the mathematical concepts of the material world and the revolutions undergone in logic, mathematics and physics at the turn of the century. Whitehead’s understanding of nature is framed from the beginning in terms of a processual approach. However, this notion of process is not fully worked out in the epistemological works and requires a metaphysical deepening. This is due to the fact that the notion of duration adopted in the epistemological works is not sufficient to convey the notion of process. This lack of adequacy is coupled by Whitehead with the need to interpret process in terms of experience. In turn, this notion of experience is wider than the usual one, for it implies that there is experience from the lowest levels onwards. Matter itself experiences. Seen in this perspective, reality is thus conceived in terms of a whole in constant change, whose parts are in mutual connection. This conception derives from Whitehead’s criticism of Aristotle’s substantialism and from his preference for a relationist ontology. The outcome of this approach is a speculative conception of reality in terms of a twofold notion of process: concrescence and transition, which Whitehead sees as the two faces of the creative advance of nature. This dual notion of process is interpreted in this essay in a merleau-pontyan perspective.