Using a process-oriented understanding of the relation between actions and agents, the author argues that an ontological agent is the ongoing effect or by-product rather than the antecedent cause of actions. Applied to the relation between natural and supernatural in philosophical cosmology, this allows one to claim, first, that agents (whether natural or supernatural) are not sensibly perceived, but only inferred from the ongoing observation of empirical actions; second, that the distinction between the natural and the supernatural is then conceivably (...) a distinction between interrelated processes rather than between independently existing agents; and third, that a higher order process of supernatural origin could be operative in a lower order empirical process without interference even though its existence and activity could only be established on the basis of a faith commitment, not empirical evidence. What Paul Ricoeur referred to as a “surplus of meaning” over and above the scientific explanation of an event would be in play with the claim of divine guidance for the cosmic process. (shrink)
In this essay I defend two interrelated theses. The first is that Whiteheadian structured societies are best understood as open-ended systems akin to those currently being proposed in the natural and social sciences by Stuart Kauffman, David Sloan Wilson, and Niklas Luhmann. The second is that an open-ended system is best understood in terms of an ongoing interplay of subjectivity and objectivity, which I derive from a modest rethinking of the workings of a Whiteheadian structured society.
Polanyi’s vision of the cosmic process as undergirded by a logic of emergence common to both the mental life of human beings and the processes of non-human nature can be vindicated if one is prepared to make certain adjustments in the notion of morphogenetic fields with an active center or organizing principle. Given the author’s field-oriented interpretation of Whiteheadian societies, it should be possible to think of entelechies or final causes in developmental rather than strictly Aristotelian terms. That is, the (...) “common element of form” or organizing principle of a Whiteheadian society depends for its own existence on the spontaneous activity of previous sets of actual occasions and yet serves as the ongoing principle of formal and final causality for the present set of actual occasions and still others to follow it. In Aristotelian language, matter and form thus dialectically condition one another and neither is ontologically superior to the other. (shrink)
Following a brief examination of some remarks by Paul Ricoeur on the notion of testimony. I provide the outline or an analysis of revelation based upon certain key concepts of process philosophy. This is followed by a more specific interpretation within the context of Whitehead’s philosophy of process.