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Whitehead - Process And Reality


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Dutch wrote, "I was surprised to see he used terms like "eternal objects" because, well, they are objects not occasions. I found here a discussion of the "disappearance" of 'eternal objects'. I understood a little of it. The conclusion was either simple or profound or both: "something matters.""

 

What I like about this exchange is that it is making me think. I do my best thinking while walking or in the shower, so I'm getting a lot of exercise and smell pretty good most of the time.

 

What are Eternal Objects?

 

"Pure Potentials for the Specific Determination of Matters of Fact, or Forms of Defitiness (PR, p 22)."

 

There are kinds of facts, sources of facts, and locations of facts:

 

The different kinds of potential facts, according to Whitehead are:

 

1. Prehensions, or Concrete Facts of Relatedness

 

2. Societies connected by efficient causes and societies connected by final causes, or Public Matters of Fact

 

3. Subjective Forms, or Private Matters of Fact

 

4. Propositions or concepts or concepts of value or theories

 

The source - location of facts are:

 

1. A God immanent in nature rather than a transcendent God outside nature

 

2. Nature

 

3. The World

 

Myron

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Myron,

 

I love bullet points but those aren't enlightening me. I understand what you have laid out there as the groundwork for the rest of Whitehead's thought (I think) but I have to use a secondary source - partially digested.

 

All quotes below, except Cobb, from Halewood link in earlier post.

 

Eternal objects also grant definiteness to an entity by enabling pure potentiality to

be actualized on given occasions (eg. Whitehead, 1978: 149).

This I understand because it is a paraphrase of Jakob Boehme but I still have a problem with the word object, particularly an "eternal object" In an evolutionary framework, excluding some variation on the watchmaker, "eternal object" does not make sense to me.

 

I do get a glimmer of light in the following

 

So, why does he not mention them [eternal objects] again in Adventures of Ideas, or Modes of Thought, when he does retain very similar terminology for other crucial aspects of his work (such as actual occasions)? One simple answer might be that he found that the very term itself had been unhelpful for readers.

“There is one point as to which you - and everyone - misconstrue me - obviously

my usual faults of exposition are to blame. I mean my doctrine of eternal objects.

It is an endeavour to get beyond the absurd simple-mindedness of the traditional

treatment of Universals.5 (written on Jan 2nd 1936)

...

That is to say, values will come to exist, subsequent to their creation as a result of the actualizations of the universe as an on-going process. In this way, the universe has a purpose, a genuine teleology. This purpose is not the maintaining or passing on of value (the vector character of feeling which dominates Process and Reality) but creation of a more ‘harmonised’ value, which Whitehead appears to maintain is, in and of itself, more valuable.

 

This pops out for me because in the Advent of Evolutionary Christianity, John Cobb says

I think God's purpose is the increase of value in the world, and we derive our purposes from the divine purpose.

 

Values do not exist before/beyond the process; they evolve with the process. They are formed in and inform the on-going process. Is it 'accurate' to say that in the process of God becoming and the universe becoming compassion as a global value is now becoming? Evolution of empathy. Perhaps a bias towards compassion. If love wins out in barely 1% of the occasions that is a huge advantage in evolutionary terms.

 

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

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Dutch,

 

From the Progressive Christianity Cafe

 

Dr. Albert Schweitzter

 

"This, then is the nature and origin of ethics. We have dared to say that it is born of physical life, out of the linking of life with life. It is therefore the result of our recognizing the solidarity of life which nature gives us. And as it grows more profound, it teaches us sympathy with all life. Yet, the extremes touch, for this material-born ethic becomes engraved upon our hearts, and culminates in spiritual union and harmony with the Creative Will which is in and through all."

 

http://www1.chapman....h.reading4.html

 

Myron

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Dutch,

 

Perhaps this will help. What is empathy-compassion and where does it come from?

 

Hume is considered one of the first to regard "sympathy" as the foundation of morality and Hume is one of the central figures in Process and Reality. The view that was prevalent around the time of Whitehead was that people feel bad when others suffer. Sometimes this motivates a person to help others, even complete strangers. This can be observed in infants as early as the first 1-2 years. This now called DAAD or distress-at-another's-distress. Many consider it a precursor to empathy-compassion.

 

A more appropriate word may therefore be "compassion", which Lazarus (1991) describes as "being moved by another's suffering", and which Webster's defines as "deep feeling for and understanding of misery or suffering and the concomitant desire to promote its alleviation." (Haidt, 2003)

 

Elicitors

 

Compassion is elicited by the perception of suffering or sorrow in another person. Compassion appears to grow out of the mammalian attachment system, where it has obvious benefits as a mediator of altruism towards kin (Hoffman, 1982b). People can feel compassion for total strangers, and that is why compassion is shown on the far right of Figure 1, however compassion is most strongly and readily felt for one's kin, and for others with whom one has a close, communal relationship (Batson & Shaw, 1991).

 

Action tendencies

 

Compassion makes people want to help, comfort, or otherwise alleviate the suffering of the other (Batson, O'Quinn, Fulty, Vanderplass, & Isen, 1983; Batson & Shaw, 1991; Eisenberg, Fabes, Miller, Fultz, Shell, Mathy, et al., 1989; Hoffman, 1982b). Compassion is linked to guilt conceptually (Baumeister et al., 1994; Hoffman, 1982a) and empirically. People who are more prone to feel other people's pain are more prone to feel guilt, but are less prone to feel shame (Tangney, 1991). Haidt, 2003]

 

Yes, this is a somewhat different view of compassion. However, at the end of Process and Reality, Whitehead names Joy and Sorrow as one of his "Ideal Opposites".

 

I'll expand on this in another post. Now it is time for a walk.

 

Myron

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As noted previously, it can be very confusing when Whithead switches from the construction of Private Matters of Fact (mind-body) to the construction of Public Matters of Fact. When reading PR the second time through I had to mark the transitions in order to keep from getting lost.

 

I would like to add that when Whitehead wrote PR, there was a storm of controversy over the meaning of "teleology". Whitehead does use the word in PR, but with caution (he uses the term but once (P. 214).

 

Here is an example of what the controversy is about:

 

“Darwinian biological attempts at naturalizing content try to avoid this problem by appealing to what they suppose is the inherently teleological, normative character of biological evolution. But this is a very deep mistake. There is nothing normative or teleological about Darwinian evolution (Searle, 1992, p. 51).”

 

Keep in mind that Searle himself uses the term "telological" but appears to restrict it to discussions of consciousness. Searle states:

 

"The feature of consciousness that is most essential for our survival in the world is that consciousness gives us access to the world other than our own conscious states. The two modes in which it does this are the cognitive mode, where we represent how things are, and the volitive or conative mode, in which we represent how we want them to be, or how we are trying to make them become (Searle, 1998, p. 76)."

 

It appears to me that Whitehead says almost the same thing in PR (p. 214):

 

" ... 'What might be' has the capability of relevant contrast with 'what is'."

 

"But the term 'mind' conveys the suggestion of independent substance. This is not meant here: a better term is the 'consciouness' belonging to the actual occassion."

 

Myron

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"This, then is the nature and origin of ethics. We have dared to say that it is born of physical life, out of the linking of life with life. It is therefore the result of our recognizing the solidarity of life which nature gives us. And as it grows more profound, it teaches us sympathy with all life. Yet, the extremes touch, for this material-born ethic becomes engraved upon our hearts, and culminates in spiritual union and harmony with the Creative Will which is in and through all." Dr. Albert Schweitzter

What I am going to say is a simpler and poorer version of this.

 

 

What is empathy-compassion and where does it come from?

I'm just trying to figure out how it gets here.

From Halewood I understand that to talk about values as I will is several steps removed from the groundwork by Whitehead but I can't start there because it is not making sense to me. Maybe I can start on the 'outside' and work in. I am not trying to describe Whitehead's thought. I don't have a complete understanding of "values" but will use it. Beauty, compassion, for starters. I think that "refinement of facts" or even "acquistion of facts" or just plain facts might fit.

 


  1.  
  2. In the beginning is relationship. No qualities. No description except that there is one and an other. From Robert Wright, Evolution of God, relationships are non-zero sum; both can win or both can lose. When both win more can result. The worth of what they hold together increases. Whatever is positive in a relationship will increase for those who remain in relationship. From primitive DAADs to the call to global compassion or the The Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations.
     
  3. Every experience, good and bad, becomes part of the whole of possibilities for the next actual occasion. Good adds to good. A value may be enhanced, refined, or made more complex by each actual occasion. The value cannot be diminished. It may not be brought to actuality in an actual occasion but will always be available of part of the many possibilities.
    • Although there may be 'backsliding" in a civilization in the actualization of particular value at a lower level, that highest attainment is always available.
    • Novelty is what increases the worth or refinement or complexity of a value. Without novelty there would be no increase.
    • Sometimes we are dying because we don't remember our highest value. Sometimes we are dying because we need a prophet with a novel insight, idea, or vision.

[*]Where do these values reside? I don't know. They are not independent of the process and they are not dependent on the process for further existence.

  • They especially do not rely on religion for safe keeping. But - I think that religion, at its best, can point to the highest of the values and prophetically call us to remember what we have and can actualize at our best. Religion can also hold these highest values in its stories and mythologies and understandings not as the sole repository but one among many innumerable and uncategorizeable.

 

The source - location of facts are:

1. A God immanent in nature rather than a transcendent God outside nature

2. Nature

3. The [universe]

 

Now this begins to make sense to me but I think it is missing something. "Collective Unconscious" occurs to me but I am not familiar with all its significance. God of a Consequent Nature, God becoming, holds facts and values in relationship with creation becoming, not as eternal absolutes, but as attainments which are eternal in that they are never to be lost.

 

Empathy-compassion grows out of the process of relationship with its many iterations of that which is positive in a relationship increasing through novelty.

 

Well, I think that is what I know today.

 

Dutch

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Religion should connect the rational generality of philosophy with the emotions and purposes springing out of existence in a particular society, in a particular epoch, and conditioned by particular anticedents (Whitehead, 199, p. 15).

 

Will be busy canning tomatoes tomorrow.

 

Myron

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Having gone back to Process and Reality yet one more time, I sense that there is some confusion as to what Whitehead meant by the terms "vector" and "scalar". In chapter X, p. 212 Whitehead explains that the the first stage of feelings "given" to the mind by the senses are those of external vector relations, as in straight lines connecting points. The second stage is where the scalar property of emotion is added to the original vector relation. It is at the second stage where feelings begin to become a matter of "private immediacy". That which is "alien" and "outside" is transformed into personal experience. Whitehead calls this process 'appetition' or 'vision'.

 

Myron

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