The recent publication of the stenographer's transcript of Whitehead's guest lecture on “social ethics” has shed new light on the relation between his metaphysics and ethics. Instead of including ethics in his philosophy, Whitehead treats it as a distinct, specialized science that does not share in the universality of metaphysics. The present article argues that an analysis of his lecture shows that a nonindividualist Whiteheadian ethics is possible without rupturing the coherence of Whitehead's system or contradicting the ontological or subjectivist (...) principle. As part of a larger transition in Whitehead's thinking during the years 1925–1927, he reformulates the notion of the environment as inheritance and is therefore able to pose the question of the endurance of values at the level of society, which is the purview of ethics. Reconstructing the metaphysical background may provide a “stimulus to the imagination” for ethical debates today, especially in the field of environmental ethics. (shrink)
In this article, Whitehead's transition from a Philosophy of Evolution to a Philosophy of Organism is studied primarily on the basis of the evidence provided by the first two volumes of The Harvard Lectures of Alfred North Whitehead, especially the second volume that deals with the period 1925–1927 and that is subtitled General Metaphysical Problems of Science.
Whitehead's 1925–1927 Harvard lectures (HL2) are too rich in content to easily summarize. Consequently, I limit myself in the present article to giving an account pivoting around Whitehead's functional theory of reality and his epochal theory of time.
In this article, I will respond to questions regarding the ontological status of relations by exploring Whitehead's pivotal notion of solidarity, especially focusing on the recently published Harvard lectures. Particularly, I shall investigate how solidarity become a metaphysical law in the development of Whitehead's thought, also exploiting other Whiteheadian works of the same period, such as Science and the Modern World and Religion in the Making. I will attempt to show that the comprehension of an immediate brute fact necessarily requires (...) its metaphysical interpretation as an item in a world with some systematic relation to it. I will thus provide my interpretation on solidarity through a comparison with Hegel's notion of Wirklichkeit. (shrink)
The question of the nature of free will remains a perennial challenge for philosophy. The French philosopher Henri Bergson was one who sought to address this challenge. He argued that traditional conceptions of the free-will debate would not suffice. He suggested that both determinist and libertarian accounts fall foul of spatializing tendencies. Bergson's first major work, Time and Free Will, sought to ground his understanding of freedom, in contrast to traditional understandings, in the concept of duration. Bergson, however, actively resisted (...) attempts to define clearly freedom, which he believed ultimately leads to a spatializing of freedom. By attending to Bergson's concept of duration in Time and Free Will, and how this concept relates to freedom, it becomes possible to articulate a positive conception of freedom. This becomes important when arguing for the validity of Bergson's ideas in the current climate. Thus, a positive conception of freedom for Bergson can be “defined” as “the creation of the new within the flow of duration.” It is, however, not something that can be defined, but is something that can be located. (shrink)
Alfred North Whitehead's first book as a professor of philosophy at Harvard University, Science and the Modern World, is not only a historical treatment of the rise and fall of scientific materialism. It also marks his turn to metaphysics in search of an alternative cosmological scheme that would replace matter in motion with organic process as that which is generic in Nature. Among the metaphysical innovations introduced in this book are the somewhat enigmatic “eternal objects.” The publication of the first (...) and second volumes of Whitehead's Harvard Lectures on the philosophical presuppositions (HL1) and general metaphysical problems (HL2) of science provides students of his corpus with an opportunity to catch the thinker in the act of creating his concepts. In searching through student notes for glimpses of what Whitehead really meant, I have kept in mind his admonition that “no thinker thinks twice” (PR 29). Whitehead never ceased philosophizing, and surely he intended for us to continue thinking with but beyond the letter of his ideas. In this spirit and in light of HL1 and HL2, this article seeks to elucidate the role of eternal objects as a category of existence in Whitehead's Philosophy of Organism, with the goal not simply of textual exegesis, but of showing how the meaning of the fifth category of existence (as he refers to eternal objects in PR) is exemplified in the gradual ingression of the idea in Whitehead's imagination. My aim is to sustain the effort at constructive thought he began, making his speculative hypothesis as explicit as possible so as to better prepare it for critical improvement (PR xiv). (shrink)
The work of Gregory Bateson offers a metaphysical basis for a “process psychology,” that is, a view of psychological practice and research guided by an ontology of becoming—identifying change, difference, and relationship as the basic elements of a foundational metaphysics. This article explores the relevance of Bateson's recursive epistemology, his re-conception of the Great Chain of Being, a first-principles approach to defining the nature of mind, and understandings of interaction and difference, pattern and symmetry, interpretation and context. Bateson's philosophical contributions (...) will be drawn into relationship with Wittgenstein's philosophy of language as use, Melnyk's theory of causal levels of explanation, Korzybski's account of map and territory, the rejection of the heuristic rigidity of substantialist ontologies, and a cybernetics communication science-informed approach to contextual bi-directionality of causality. We thereby arrive at an understanding of Bateson's process psychology that, given its ecological-systemic nature, is explanatorily applicable across the mind sciences. This process psychology equips us to answer the question: What is mind? Not by explanatory appeal to substantial entities contained within mind, but instead by recourse to the contextually relevant patterns for understanding mind to a particular purpose. We have thereby attended to the gulf between heuristics and fundamentals, between psychological models and an onto-epistemic account of reality. Insufficient attention has been given to characterising the vital nature of Bateson's philosophical oeuvre to psychological practice. This article draws out Bateson's relevance to establishing foundational principles for a process psychology capable of reinvigorating psychological thought. (shrink)
In exploring how our brains contribute to shaping our mind’s construction of reality McGilchirst draws together the domains of neuropsychology, epistemology and metaphysics; how we can come to know, and the nature of what it is that is known are subjects inextricable from the equipment we rely upon in our exploration. His contention is that today there is an urgent need to transform how we see the world and thus what we make of ourselves. As such his ambition is to (...) disclose a way of looking at the world which diverges significantly from the manner of seeing that has dominated human civilisations for millennia and which, he contends, has produced systemic misunderstandings of the nature of reality. with The Matter With Things, McGilchirst takes the reader on a tour de force of the world of ideas and into a landscape not of a material world composed of ‘things’, but rather discloses the more fundamental ‘process’ quality of reality. We explore the relevance and application to the philosophy of cognitive science and psychological practice. (shrink)