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Process Studies

Volume 48, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2019

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1. Process Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Daniel A. Dombrowski Editor’s Notes
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2. Process Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Lisa Landoe Hedrick Thinking with Whitehead on Transcendence and Its Failures: A Challenge to Stengers and Derrida
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The ability to recognize failures presupposes the ability to recognize achievements. By the same logic, ethical failures are identifiable only to the extent to which ethical achievements are identifiable. This article examines the possibility of cultural criticism in Whitehead’s metaphysics. The first part of this article challenges Isabelle Stenger’s nonnormative reading of Whitehead, while the second part employs my alternative reading in order to critique two different (albeit nonexhaustive) accounts of the nature of (primarily ethical) ideals. The main focus of this critique is Derrida’s account of the autoimmunity of democracy and the aporetic structure of justice.
3. Process Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Rem B. Edwards Conflicting Process Theodicies
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This article examines the process theodicies of David Ray Griffin and Philip Clayton. It explains their differences on such issues as God’s primordial power and voluntary self-limitation, creativity as an independent metaphysical principle that limits God, creation out of nothing or out of chaos, and God’s voluntary causal naturalism. Difficulties with their positions are discussed. The Clayton-Knapp “no-not-once” principle is explained, and a more comprehensive theodicy is outlined.
4. Process Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Eric LaRock, Mostyn Jones How Subjects Can Emerge from Neurons
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We pose a foundational problem for those who claim that subjects are ontologically irreducible, but causally reducible (weak emergence). This problem is neuroscience’s notorious binding problem, which concerns how distributed neural areas produce unified mental objects (such as perceptions) and the unified subject that experiences them. Synchrony, synapses, and other mechanisms cannot explain this. We argue that this problem seriously threatens popular claims that mental causality is reducible to neural causality. Weak emergence additionally raises evolutionary worries about how we have survived the perils of nature. Our emergent subject hypothesis (ESH) avoids these shortcomings. Here, a singular, unified subject acts back on the neurons it emerges from and binds sensory features into unified mental objects. Serving as the mind’s controlling center, this subject is ontologically and causally irreducible (strong emergence). Our ESH draws on recent experimental evidence, including the evidence for a possible correlate (or “seat”) of the subject, which enhances its testability.
5. Process Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Jonathan Kopel A Note Regarding Relational Ontology in Chemistry
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Reductionism remains the dominant philosophical framework of modern science. Within reductionism, the universe is conceived as a probabilistic and deterministic system guided solely by the laws of physics and mathematics. Under the guidance of reductionist thought, the development of the modern atomic theory and quantum mechanics has drastically changed science, medicine, and philosophy. In particular, the standard model of particle physics remains the crowning achievement of over three hundred years of reductionist thought in both physics and chemistry. Yet developments within chemistry suggest a new paradigm is required to overcome the limitations of reductionism and provide chemists a more fruitful model. This article will argue that a version of relational ontology provides an avenue for elucidating and predicting chemical and atomic phenomena. In relational ontology, the ontological status of an enduring entity in any moment is viewed as a composite of its own inherited properties and the influences of other entities, especially those closely related to it within a system. This view encompasses the causal aspects of the world without denying its dynamic and creative nature while providing a richer understanding of chemistry and other scientific fields.
6. Process Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Philip Tryon Event Ontology, Habit, and Agency
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The following is an outline of an emerging foundation for science that begins to explain living forms and their patterns of movement beyond the sphere of mechanistic interactions. Employing an event ontology based on a convergence of quantum physics and Alfred North Whitehead’s process philosophy, coupled with the controversial yet promising theory of formative causation, this development will explore possible influences on the outcomes of events beyond any combination of external forces, laws of Nature, and chance. If it turns out there are no such additional influences—beyond mechanistic causes—it is difficult to see how agency or free will could exist. Assuming agency exists, as Whitehead apparently does, while committing to an event ontology in which process is fundamental leads to interesting questions about the natures of any entities that might participate in events. Furthermore, what might the purposes and agendas of such entities be based upon, beyond memory traces or DNA code? This ontological model, recognizing processes as fundamental, leads to a revised cosmology where the trajectory of a series of events may be due to more than rearrangement of material bits according to external forces and where goal-directed, recurring processes and the emergence of mind are not so surprising. Just as special relativity reduces to classical treatment when speeds slow down, this scientific model for a living world reduces to mechanistic materialism whenever conditions are more limited. Though this development is based on a philosophy of process, there are some dissimilarities with respect to Whitehead’s particular version.
7. Process Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Eric v. d. Luft Three Paradigm Theories of Time: Bergson, McTaggart, and Whitehead
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The three theories considered here, real continuous time (Bergson), real serial time (Whitehead), and unreal time (McTaggart), are each in some sense a reaction to Hume’s theory of serial or “spatialized” time. Hence, Hume’s theory is elaborated on as a foundation for the discussion and comparison of the subsequent three. This brief excursion into the nature of time may help to illuminate the differences among these three and to suggest some of their possible implications, particularly with regard to (1) the existential difference between intuited or transcendent time and experienced or immanent time and (2) the qualitative or ontological difference between the eternal and the temporal.
8. Process Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Joseph Bracken A New Process-Oriented Approach to Theodicy
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In God of Empowering Love: A History and Reconception of the Theodicy Conundrum, David Polk proposes that the power of God should be understood as love that empowers rather than overpowers and that the process-relational metaphysics of Whitehead, Hartshorne, and subsequent Whiteheadian thinkers justifies this conception of God’s power as empowering love. I argue instead that, while Polk’s thesis cannot, strictly speaking, be philosophically justified within the conventional parameters of Whitehead’s metaphysical scheme, the latter could be modestly altered so as to justify divine power as empowering love. In what follows, I lay out my argument for a systems-oriented approach to the God-world relationship in which God as Trinity is both the transcendent origin and ultimate goal of the cosmic process (understood as an ongoing structured society of finite subsocieties and nexuses).
9. Process Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Adam C. Scarfe Everything Flows: Towards a Processual Philosophy of Biology
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10. Process Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Adam C. Scarfe The Harvard Lectures of Alfred North Whitehead (1924–1925): Philosophical Presuppositions of Science
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