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AletheiaRivers

Panentheism

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I don't want to argue, I want to understand. That said, here goes:

 

Panta said: The "Absolute" does not exist except in imagination.

 

I know I snipped your quote out of context, but it made me think of something. It's an idea that I've read on numerous pages on Hartshorne's Dipolar Theism.

 

From Religion Online: Dipolar theism, according to Charles Hartshorne, understands God as both absolute and relative, abstract and concrete, eternal and temporal, necessary and contingent, infinite and finite (DR)

 

From Religion Online: It should be noted that there is a sense in which the concrete pole of God’s being can be identified with his totality. Hartshorne’s concern is to make clear that God in his concrete actuality, as including the particularity and determinateness of the world process, is not less than the absolute. While the absolute is that which God necessarily is, independently of the world, it is as such a pure abstraction, having no reality apart from its embodiment in the concrete reality of God. So God in his concreteness includes both these absolute and necessary principles which are the precondition for everything whatever and also the actual, contingent realities which have in fact emerged in the course of the world process.

 

How is this panentheism? If the "absolute, eternal, necessary and infinite" pole of God is so abstract as to not exist at all except within the concrete pole, how is this not pantheism?

 

And if the "Absolute" pole only exists abstractly or within the imagination, how can it be said to actually exist? So God isn't actually Infinite and Finite, God is only finite, because Infinitude is abstract. God isn't actually Eternal and Temporal, God is only temporal, because "Eternal" is abstract.

 

Does the "Absolute" pole actually exist? If not, aren't we back to mono-polar? Pantheism?

 

Seriously, if I had come across that quote by itself with Hartshorne's name taken out, I would have thought they were describing pantheism. HELP! :)

Edited by AletheiaRivers

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Alethia,

 

EXCELLENT questions!!! I hope I can explain, but if I fail, please let me know where.

 

Let's see if we can break it down...

How is this panentheism? If the "absolute, eternal, necessary and infinite" pole of God is so abstract as to not exist at all except within the concrete pole, how is this not pantheism?

 

It is extremely important to understand, first of all, the ontological principle:

 

In taking the ontological principle as fundamental Whitehead explicitly returns to a standpoint which characterized philosophy prior to the introduction of the 'subjectivist bias' by Descartes. This had brought epistemology into the foreground; epistemology became basic to the whole philosophical enterprise. For on this standpoint all that we can be completely certain of is our experiencing, now. Accordingly the central problem becomes how we can justifiably proceed from the subjective experiencing to external existents; how one can, for example, validly infer from perception to the existence of external things. The consequence of the adoption of this standpoint is that modern philosophy has been haunted by the solipsist difficulty, from which the only escape is the irrational appeal to 'practice' or what Santayana has called 'animal faith'.

 

Whitehead maintains that it follows from the ontological principle that in its predominant characteristic modern philosophy has been in error. For according to this principle our perceptions, our 'impressions of sensation', cannot be 'produced by the creative power of the mind' (to use Hume's phrase), but must be derivative from some actual entity. In other words, our perceptions, our sensa, etc., cannot be of entirely subjective. origination, 'belonging to the mind only', for if they were it would in fact mean that they came into existence de novo, 'out of nowhere'. But according to the ontological principle this is impossible. As Whitehead has put it, 'according to the ontological principle there is nothing which floats into the world from nowhere. Everything in the actual world is referable to some actual entity'; 'it is a contradiction in terms to assume that some

explanatory fact can float into the actual world out of nonentity. Nonentity is

nothingness. Every explanatory fact refers to the decision and to the efficacy of an actual thing'. Our percepts and concepts, our sensa and 'ideas' ('explanatory facts', 'reasons'), must in any complete analysis be derivative from other actualities; they cannot be subjectively generated...

 

The notion of 'substance' is transformed into that of 'actual entity'; and the notion of 'power' is transformed into the principle that the reasons for things are always to be found in the composite nature of definite actual entities--in the nature of God for reasons of the highest absoluteness, and in the nature of definite temporal actual entities for reasons which refer to a particular environment. The ontological principle can be summarized as: no actual entity, then no reason.

 

This is of particular significance for the whole philosophical enterprise as such. This

enterprise, as we shall see in more detail in the next chapter, is the pursuit of rationalism to its fullest extent: it is the endeavour to discover the final 'reasons' for things. According to the ontological principle these 'reasons' are to be discovered in 'the composite nature of definite actual entities'. That is, these actual entities themselves embody the 'reasons' which philosophy seeks. These particular 'reasons' are nothing other than the 'nature', the 'what' of actual entities which constitutes the essential problem of metaphysics. Thus the notions, the ideas, in terms of which we are to conceive the nature of actual entities must

be derivative from the actual entities themselves. The ontological principle therefore involves the repudiation of any 'subjectivist' doctrine of 'forms of thought' belonging essentially to the knowing mind, such as was asserted by Kant in his 'Copernican revolution' and was before him already implicit in Descartes and in British empiricism.

 

The absolute and infinite in other words, are derived from the actual. What is "actual" though, cannot be absolute and infinite. That's the mistake of pantheism and classical theology. Whitehead called it the "fallacy of misplaced concreteness".

 

There is a lot more to this in answer to your questions, but I'm out of time for the moment. I'll continue a little later this afternoon.

 

One thing you might chew for a little bit, is the difference between 'essence' (WHAT an entity is), 'existence' (THAT an entity is), and 'actuality' (HOW or in what particular form an entity is).

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The absolute and infinite in other words, are derived from the actual.

 

I think that is what the paragraph I quoted basically said right? Did I misunderstand? The absolute and infinite exist as abstract ideas within the actual?

 

What is "actual" though, cannot be absolute and infinite. That's the mistake of pantheism and classical theology.

 

Again, that is what I understood the paragraph to be saying as well. The actual cannot be absolute and infinite. So god is not absolute and infinite except as abstract ideas within the actual?

 

I don't see how God is Transcendant in this scenario except as an IDEA.

 

I understand the Ontological priniciple (I think :P ). It basically says that a perfect being must exist necessarily because existence is a necessary aspect of perfection. I agree with the definition adjustments of Hartshorne as to what constitutes perfection (as opposed to Classical Theism). But I don't see how Hartshorne's Dipolar view, (which as I understand it is different from Whitehead's Dipolar view), actually follows his own ontological principle.

 

Put another way: This perfect being must exist necessarily, but it seems to me that only HALF of Hartshorne's God actually exists. The other half (the absolute half) doesn't ontologically exist. It exists only as a CONCEPT.

 

Aletheia

 

PS: FYI, I really appreciate it when you explain things in your own words, but I also know you might not have time to do that. I just want you to know that I understand what YOU write much better than I do the cut and pastes. :D

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I wrote: I don't see how God is Transcendant in this scenario except as an IDEA.

 

Do I need to conceive of God's transcendance as being SENTIENCE or AWARENESS rather than PHYSICALITY?

 

Did that make sense?

 

Would I be starting to grasp what Harteshorne means by panenetheism if I started to think of God's trancendance as being MIND instead of SPATIAL?

 

So basically, the universe "is" all that "is" spatially, but it is AWARE transcendantly?

 

Am I getting closer? :unsure::blink::huh::unsure::blink::huh:

Edited by AletheiaRivers

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Some people see God as a person or diety that they can love and cherish and some see God as abstract which takes more of the intellect. Others want to serve God by serving humanity and all is good. I think it is best to know oneself. Then the type of God one chooses is more suitable and will make that person a better person. God is all encompassing so there are different ways to communicate. Aletheia your questions are great. It looks like your path is knowledge. Your questions will lead you and others to the prize.

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I wrote: I don't see how God is Transcendant in this scenario except as an IDEA.

 

Do I need to conceive of God's transcendance as being SENTIENCE or AWARENESS rather than PHYSICALITY?

 

Did that make sense?

 

Would I be starting to grasp what Harteshorne means by panenetheism if I started to think of God's trancendance as being MIND instead of SPATIAL?

 

So basically, the universe "is" all that "is" spatially, but it is AWARE transcendantly?

 

Am I getting closer? :unsure::blink::huh::unsure::blink::huh:

 

Yes, you are getting closer. :D

 

One of the things which has frustrated me, I guess, is that Process Theology or Process Philosophy is a SYSTEM of thought. The ideas are connected and interdependent. To understand it, you must understand the system, which is very difficult to do if you are just getting bits of it from various sources which aren't presenting it systematically.

 

I've made a start here beginning with the Ontological Principle, but I'm thinking it may be best to begin another thread and start fresh. Right now, we've got this topic spread all over the place. What do you think?

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I think it would be great to start another thread, but I can guarantee that in no time flat, it will become as fragmented as this one did. :P It's the nature of conversation between multiple people on a bulletin board.

 

I should mention that I am currently reading a book on Process Thealogy: She Who Changes by Carol Christ and recommended by Cobb. She's a feminist and a former Goddess pagan. She likes Hartshorne because of his personality, style and accessability.

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Some people see God as a person or diety that they can love and cherish and some see God as abstract which takes more of the intellect. Others want to serve God by serving humanity and all is good. I think it is best to know oneself. Then the type of God one chooses is more suitable and will make that person a better person. God is all encompassing so there are different ways to communicate. Aletheia your questions are great. It looks like your path is knowledge. Your questions will lead you and others to the prize.

 

Thanks Soma. I see my path as a balanced blend of thought (philosophy) and experience (tree hugging, orange tasting mysticism). :D

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I'm going to migrate this discussion over here from P101, since the explicit connection to Process Philosophy seems to be a better fit.

 

The final summary can only be expressed in terms of a group of antitheses, whose apparent self-contradictions depend on neglect of the diverse categories of existence. In each antithesis there is a shift of meaning which converts the opposition into a contrast [a synthesis].

 

It is as true to say that God is permanent and the World fluent, as that the World is permanent and God is fluent.

 

It is as true to say that God is one and the World many, as that the World is one and God many.

 

It is as true to say that, in comparison with the World, God is actual eminently, as that, in comparison with God, the World is actual eminently.

 

It is as true to say that the World is immanent in God, as that God is immanent in the World.

 

It is as true to say that God transcends the World, as that the World transcends God.

 

It is as true to say that God creates the World, as that the World creates God.

I've been thinking about this post a lot over the weekend, and how it relates to (and is different from) my understanding of the God-World relationship. I'm realizing that much of the difference may be due to terminology. So Panta, since you seem to be the resident expert on the fine points of Process Philosophy: Would it be fair, in the above statements, to say that what is meant by "God" and "World" are, respectively, the pure subjective and objective poles of Reality? That is, that it is as true to say that Subject creates the objective world as that Object creates the subjective world; that Subject, in comparison to the objective world, is actual eminently as that Object, in comparison to the subjective world, is actual eminently, etc.? Would it then be true to say that Subject, as that which creates the objective world, is the primordial nature of God; whereas the subjective world that is created by Object is the consequent nature of God?

 

If the answer to my exploratory questions is correct, then our previous disagreements hinge on a matter of terminology. In my terminology, I have been using "God" not as "Subject" but as that Unity which transcends the subject-object distinction altogether (think Tao). THIS sense of God (which mystical theology also sometimes refers to as "Godhead") would ontologically precede and create both "God" and "World" in Process terminology, and be what I have been calling completely ineffable, unspeakable, beyond comprehension, etc. Mull over this and see if it resonates with you at all.

 

If so, it may be more precise in the future to differentiate between "God" and "Godhead" when referring to these two senses of God. (God as subject and "God above God," a la Tillich.)

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I'm going to migrate this discussion over here from P101, since the explicit connection to Process Philosophy seems to be a better fit.

 

I've been thinking about this post a lot over the weekend, and how it relates to (and is different from) my understanding of the God-World relationship.  I'm realizing that much of the difference may be due to terminology.  So Panta, since you seem to be the resident expert on the fine points of Process Philosophy: Would it be fair, in the above statements, to say that what is meant by "God" and "World" are, respectively, the pure subjective and objective poles of Reality?  That is, that it is as true to say that Subject creates the objective world as that Object creates the subjective world; that Subject, in comparison to the objective world, is actual eminently as that Object, in comparison to the subjective world, is actual eminently, etc.?  Would it then be true to say that Subject, as that which creates the objective world, is the primordial nature of God; whereas the subjective world that is created by Object is the consequent nature of God?

 

If the answer to my exploratory questions is correct, then our previous disagreements hinge on a matter of terminology.  In my terminology, I have been using "God" not as "Subject" but as that Unity which transcends the subject-object distinction altogether (think Tao).  THIS sense of God (which mystical theology also sometimes refers to as "Godhead") would ontologically precede and create both "God" and "World" in Process terminology, and be what I have been calling completely ineffable, unspeakable, beyond comprehension, etc.  Mull over this and see if it resonates with you at all.

 

If so, it may be more precise in the future to differentiate between "God" and "Godhead" when referring to these two senses of God.  (God as subject and "God above God," a la Tillich.)

 

Yes, but.... There are always "yesbuts" aren't there? <_< I very much agree with you that terminology is a problem. The term "God" seems to be primarily problematic. David Griffin argues that there is a "generic definition" of God and suggests that it is at least the minimum standard for the legitimate use of the term. I think we also need to discuss what is meant by "Subject" and "Object" and the Primordial and Consequent nature of God.

 

I believe a process philosopher would argue that according to the Ontological Principle what you refer to as the "Godhead" cannot ontologically precede and create both "God" and "World". Basically, the Ontological Principle states that EVERYTHING is derived from an actual entity. I would be very interested in discussing these things further, but I really do think we need to go about this somewhat systematically. I don't have time right now, but I think I'll go ahead and start a Process Theology topic and maybe, if you and others are willing, we can begin with some basics and go from there.

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I don't have time right now, but I think I'll go ahead and start a Process Theology topic and maybe, if you and others are willing, we can begin with some basics and go from there.

Fair enough... I'm not going to have time for a little while either, with starting a new job, and, well, fatherhood rapidly encroaching. ;) (mid-summer)

 

I think I'm going to need to get up to speed myself, before any of these discussions really get beyond the level of cursory explorations. What I really need to find is a really hardcore debate between a Christian Neoplatonist and a Process Theologian. ;)

 

Thx for your thoughts, as always.

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I don't have time right now, but I think I'll go ahead and start a Process Theology topic and maybe, if you and others are willing, we can begin with some basics and go from there.

Fair enough... I'm not going to have time for a little while either, with starting a new job, and, well, fatherhood rapidly encroaching. ;) (mid-summer)

 

I think I'm going to need to get up to speed myself, before any of these discussions really get beyond the level of cursory explorations. What I really need to find is a really hardcore debate between a Christian Neoplatonist and a Process Theologian. ;)

 

Thx for your thoughts, as always.

 

I went ahead and created it. I'm thinking the web site I referred to might answer some of the questions you asked in the last post. I'd be interested in knowing if it does. :D

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Fred,

 

For the heck of it I did a search on Richard Swineburn and John Cobb. I found a book review. The book is basically a debate between classical and neo-classical philosophy and theology.

 

Here is the book!

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Sounds like a good book!

 

I didn't realize that Cobb was associated with the idea of "dual aspect monism." I was actually discussing that very idea with a close friend a number of years ago (who is a hardcore Augustinian Neoplatonist). In fact, I believe I coined that term myself, unaware (until now!) that it was already in use. As I use the term (more loosely, I'm sure, than the PP community), it refers to the fact that reality is a unity which is nevertheless essentially polar in nature, manifesting both a subjective and an objective aspect. Panta, how does John Cobb figure into your understanding of PP?

 

Thanks for the link!

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In fact, I believe I coined that term myself, unaware (until now!) that it was already in use.

 

Yeah, I thought I coined the term "Duality in Unity". LOL! Just when you think you're being all creative and original ... <_<

 

... dual aspect monism ... reality is a unity which is nevertheless essentially polar in nature ...

 

"Dialectic Monism" on the Universal Dialectic Webpage means the same thing as far as I can tell. (I don't mean the same thing as PP, but what YOU said: dual aspect monism.)

 

I imagine that "dual aspect monism" (aka qualified monism, dialectic monism) is actually the same as "holistic dualism" (aka qualified dualism, unified dualism).

Edited by AletheiaRivers

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