David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Alfred North Whitehead in his book Process and Reality describes the history of the universe in terms of a process of ‘creative advance into novelty.’ This advance is produced by a collection of happenings called ‘actual occasions’, or ‘actual entities’. Each actual entity has an associated actual world, and it arises from its own peculiar actual world. (PR 284). Two occasions are termed ‘contemporary’ if neither lies in the actual world of the other. A key issue is whether the words in Process and Reality commit Whitehead to the relativity-theory idea that, at least in our present epoch, the creative advance into novelty is not serially ordered, or whether, alternatively, the logical developments in Part IV entail, at a deep metaphysical level, that the facts specified by two contemporary occasions become fixed and settled in some definite order. Irresolution on this basic question renders Whitehead’s theory obscure and plagued with controversy. I argue, in opposition to another paper in this issue, that Whitehead endorses the relativistic viewpoint, and consistently adheres to it. This makes Whitehead’s theory compatible with relativistic quantum theory. Combining Whitehead’s relativistic process theory with relativistic quantum field theory is therefore possible, and it holds the promise of producing a rationally coherent understanding far richer than what is provided by either theory alone of the relationships between the physically described aspects of the universe and human knowledge and intentions.
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