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Process Studies

Volume 48, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2019

Philip Tryon
Pages 67-87
DOI: 10.5840/process20194816

Event Ontology, Habit, and Agency

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.

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