Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Slowing Pace, but a Quickly Coming Treat

As my readers might have guessed, I have slowed down with the onset of the school year.  Since I teach a 5/5 load, I'm quite busy.  I plan to muse upon topics relating to my teaching, which might not be as interesting as the process metaphysics.  To placate those, I tell you that I will be posting on emergent teleology shortly.

What motivated that short essay was Levi Bryant's commentary on Lucretius and statements such as "the anti-teleological orientation of any genuine materialistic naturalism".  Well, Deweyan naturalism is not likely to fit any conventional definition of materialistic naturalism.  (I don't believe that Bryant was implying anything for or against materialistic naturalism given the context.)  Later, he talks about parts, elements, assemblages, etc.  It spurred me to write a short essay explaining emergeny teleology since it shares little relation to the classical view of teleology that he discusses.  Hence, my invocation of the term might be quite confusing.  Although we share the view that what is really "in things" is "powers," I suspect that we differ on what it is to be "in a thing" and what a "power" is.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Seeing It Only Sideways: On OOO, Process, and Levi Bryant

Seeing it sideways?  That would be me.

Though I cannot claim to be a sole cause, I would like to think that my questioning, among others, of Levi Bryant at Larval Subjects has brought the numerous responses lately.  I suspect that he is positioning himself in contradistinction to Harman, especially since many critiques against Harman do not appear to gain any traction against Bryant.  However, as I push him to articulate his views, perhaps I and we critics should hold off until his book The Democracy of Objects is available.

For those just tuning in, the topics of my criticism have been 1) the logical problem of external relations; e.g., how do unrelated objects become related without positing ex nihilo creation?  There is also 2) the logical problem of internal relations regarding process thought; e.g., if all things are internally related, then numerous mereological problems result such as the plausible reducibility of everything to its relations.  And  3), if there is an irreducible core to an object or thing, then how does this not run afoul of  1) and 2) and analogous problems when explaining change?  See my pasts posts on this and more.

As for my answer to 1-3, I claim that there is not an irreducible core, and that neither 1 nor 2 apply to my Dewey-Peircean view.  I strongly suspect that the same is true of Whitehead.  In my case, the solution is in the theories of power, their composability, the creativity that results from the melding of their entelechies (~teloi), the emergent nature actual events, etc.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Pragmatic Theory of Experience: An Introductory Point

Ain't yo momma's empiricism.

I wish to reveal a fundamental principle of a pragmatic theory of experience as originated in William James and as developed in John Dewey.  I perform this as an exercise in clarifying fundamental notions of experience for neophytes to pragmatic phenomenology.

James reversed the standard British/Scottish empiricist view of experience view of the composition of experience.  Experience is not first a plenum, a multitude of impressions, ideas, or even sensible manifolds brought into unity.  Experience is a unity, a "pure experience," in which distinctions are secondary or derived.  Distinctions are acts.

What is the primary unity?  Now I transition to Dewey and give a metaphysical-biological answer.  The fundamental unity of experience is due to the equilibrium of environmental-organismic interaction.  Activity is unity, and the quality of that unity is its equilibrium.  Insomuch as our activities within the natural environment are in equilibrium, are homeostatic, experience is a unity, e.g., "pure experience."

Distinction in conscious experience originates from a relative disequilibrium in bodily activity.  Contra Kant, we understand "spontaneity" to be an event of resistance, ie., a "tensional" or "problematic" situation.  The origin of the phenomenon is not from within consciousness; consciousness is something that happens to a natural event.

What principle am I attempting to impart?  1) Unity is primary over diversity, and there is no traditional problem of synthesis.  2) Unity is understood as a unity of activity, a relatively stable dynamic.  Many might agree with 1 but not 2.

This is one of the fundamental differences between a pragmatic phenomenology, i.e., its metaphysical and epistemological realism that is also immediately compatible with experimental science, and typical continental phenomenology.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Philosophical Pluralism is Not Cosmopolitanism

I have previously argued (here) for a particular model of philosophical pluralism based on the metaphor of being "multilingual."  That is, we should speak different traditions natively, or at least as well as we can, as native fluency is the ideal.  Previously, I have argued for the positive side of this form of philosophical pluralism, and now I wish to levy a critique against what I will name "philosophical cosmopolitanism."

"Cosmopolitanism" simpliciter invokes the idea of the "cosmos within a city," where all differences meet and work together in unity, at least ideally.  The metaphor of the "cosmopolitan city" is apt to make my critique.  The problem of such a city is that the cosmopolitans are fundamentally appropriators and synthesizers; the city exists only because true difference that is not appropriated exists and flourishes.  Because not everyone is cosmopolitan and strives to be so.  In real cities, this means that the various social and ethnic groups have relatively homogeneous home locales and resist assimilation.  Cosmopolitanism is only sustainable insomuch as its appropriation is not total, else it annihilates the cultural cosmos for the sake of the polis.

If we become "philosophical cosmopolitans," a view that I think apt to describe certain "post-tradition" thinking, then we face the same problem.  If we read "that old wacky guy Nietzsche" without the history of philosophy and historic context--if we just mine the text for ideas--then we have annihilated the cosmos for the sake of the polis, or historic communities of meaning for the present dominant one.  We have narrowed our horizons for thought and meaning.

I write this because there is a strong push for eliminating the "continental vs. analytic divide," and some argue for what looks like philosophical cosmopolitanism.  I think that this is terribly mistaken for a number of reasons, some of which should be obvious given the prior discussion.  Eliminating different traditions annihilates the hermeneutic communities upon which cosmopolitanism subsists.  The move also presumes that it is even possible, let alone possible without violent coercion.  As a pragmatist, and thereby not on either side, I expect to be relegated to an ideological internment camp no matter which side of the Great War "wins."  Thus, I plead for a third way, learning multiple traditions natively and thereby respecting their differences, which also requires that we not annihilate either.

CFP: Charles S. Peirce Essay Contest


2011-12 Charles S. Peirce Society Essay Contest

Topic: Any topic on or related to the work of Charles Sanders Peirce.

* $500 cash prize.
* Presentation at the Society's next annual meeting, held in
conjunction with that of the Pacific Division of the American
Philosophical Association (Seattle, Washington, April 4-7, 2012).
* Possible publication, subject to editorial revision, in the
Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society

Submission Deadline: January 16, 2012.

Length: Because the winning essay may be published in the
Transactions, the length of contest submissions should be about the
length of an average journal article. The maximum acceptable length is
10,000 words, including notes. The presentation of the winning
submission at the annual meeting cannot exceed 30 minutes reading

Open to: Graduate students and persons who have held a Ph.D. or its
equivalent for no more than seven years. Entries from students who
have not yet begun their graduate training will not be considered.
Past winners of the contest are ineligible. Joint submissions are
allowed provided that all authors satisfy the eligibility

Advice to Essay Contest Entrants:

The winning entry will make a genuine contribution to the literature
on Peirce. Therefore, entrants should become familiar with the major
currents of work on Peirce to date and take care to locate their views
in relation to published material that bears directly on their topic.

Entrants should note that scholarly work on Peirce frequently benefits
from the explicit consideration of the historical development of his
views. Even a submission that focuses on a single stage in that
development can benefit from noting the stage on which it focuses in
reference to other phases of Peirce's treatment of the topic under
consideration. (This advice is not intended to reflect a bias toward
chronological studies, but merely to express a strong preference for a
chronologically informed understanding of Peirce's philosophy.)
We do not require but strongly encourage, where appropriate, citation
of the Writings of Charles S. Peirce: A Chronological Edition.
Ideally, citation of texts found in both the Collected Papers and the
Writings should be to both CP and W.

Submissions should be prepared for blind evaluation and must not be
under consideration for publication elsewhere.

Cover letter or email should include complete contact information,
including mailing address and phone numbers, and a statement that the
entrant meets the eligibility requirements of the contest.

Electronic submissions are preferred. Submissions should be sent as
email attachments (Microsoft Word documents, RTF files, or PDF files
only) to Robert Lane, secretary-treasurer of the Society:
rlane@westga.edu .

Please include "Peirce Essay Contest Submission" in the subject line
of your email.

Submissions by traditional mail are also acceptable. Please mail submissions to:

Robert Lane
Philosophy Program
University of West Georgia
Carrollton, GA 30118
Attn: Peirce Essay Contest

For more information about the Peirce Society, please visit our web site:
http://www.peircesociety.org/ .

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Whitehead's Eternal Objects: response to Harman on Shaviro

Graham Harman, on replying to Steven Shaviro here, writes the following,

"As for Whitehead, I’m not sure I know what Steven means when he says the eternal objects are there as a source of novelty rather than a source of connection. The point is, prehension is always mediated by the eternal objects, and the eternal objects are in God. It’s hard to be more of an occasionalist than to say that God is the mediator of all relations and that entities exist only as occasions. It’s textbook occasionalism, in fact." (full text)

Matt of Footnotes2Plato is right; Harman is leaving out much Whitehead to make those claims about Whitehead and occassionalism.

The "eternal objects" are analogous to Peircean "pure possibility" and invoke a scholastic realism of universals.  That is, it is the view that universals are not just words that humans use to order their experience, which is nominalism and Peirce's foe, but have being though not existence.  (There are exactly three modalities of being for Peirce.)  If the eternal objects are not real, have being, then we run into the British Empiricist or Lockean problem of asking what "dogness" is if we have only a general (generated) idea of it formed from a habit of recognizing impressions.  Even Kant doesn't sufficiently get us out of this problem.

This is why eternal objects matter.  Their necessity is not supposed to be a mystery.  The logical implications seem messy and counter-intuitive because so much of the last few hundred years of philosophy has been nominalism, and even so-called "realism" is often crypto-nominalism.  I am not saying that the solutions are easy or can be laid bare, but we should be aware of the problem, especially since obeissance to neuro-philosophical models makes it too easy to slide into a facilt nominalism. 

Finally, Harman's statement that the eternal objects are "in God" is just playing on an unanalyzed spatial metaphor that some readers will accept without thinking due to its conventionality.  The "in-ness" is not totally misguided as God has a special relation to the eternal objects as Matt discusses.  I think Levi Bryant is right in the sense that we do not have to call this "God," although the logical necessity of the "God-function" makes the term an apt choice ... except that we live in even more atheistic times than Whitehead.  Perhaps we forget that.  Matt is right to connect God and participation, and it does not hurt to think about what Plato said about "participation" if one can hold oneself back from accusing Whitehead of being a Platonist.

In conclusion, I am taking Harman's statement to be an off-hand comment masquerading as a thoughtful one.  I make plenty of offhand comemnts before--I recently mixed up "generals" and "universals," which makes the Baby Peirce cry.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Question for OOO: Plurality from Singularity?

I have been reading a lot of metaphysics recently when I came across a question that stopped me in its tracks as I intuitively asked it of object-oriented ontology.  Before people get up in arms, treating it as a ringing challenge, please understand that I am trying to work through the thought rather than beating anyone over the head with it.  

If everything is an object, as it is the only ontological category, then how do we explain the plurality of being?

This seems like a blatant contradiction, or at least a paradox.  Since I prefer questions to which I already have answers, which locates what I think I might mean by the question, let me offer my first guess at a response.  "Object" is the only ontological category, but it is not the only category of analysis.  Here, I invoke the distinction between an order of being and an order of analysis that is analogous to the real vs. formal distinction.  Then, we may explain plurality in terms of orders of analysis.  

However, my first answer may not be sufficient, because it proposes that our analysis offers very little explanation of real difference.  But then, is that not the point?   Is this not a "flat ontology" that claims ontological parity?  Returning a counterpoint, we cannot we have "flat ontologies" of more than one category?  That is what Peirce, Dewey, and Buchler have.

Levi Bryant uphold "power" as a category; we have discussed it and it appears in his lexicon, while it is a point of difference with Harman.  Powers form part of the irreducible core of objects on his view, and are generated and generative.  Given that and our discussions, I suspect that he has an answer.  I am less sure that Harman does.

Can a person more informed of these thinkers clarify these problems?  Or am I on to something, the product of seeing things "sideways" as a pragmatic view appears to offer to these debates.

What Dewey Had to Say about Whitehead: Beginning a Realist Phenomenology

Below, I produce two quotes from Dewey's article on Whitehead, as they were contemporaries.  I offer this to Whiteheadians who are less familiar with Dewey and wonder why I keep invoking him for a pragmatic, realist, "process phenomenology."  Note that "realism" here has little to do with various analytic interpretations of realism.

the unity of nature and the phenomenon: no posited dualisms please
"This doctrine that all actual existences are to be treated as "occasions of experience" carries and elaborates, it seems to me, thesignificance contained in the propositions I quoted earlier about the depth and width of scope of experience. The idea that the immediate traits of distinctively human experience are highly specialized cases of what actually goes on in every actualized event of nature does infinitely more than merely deny the existence of an impassable gulf between physical and psychological subject-matter. It authorizes us, as philosophers engaged in forming highly generalized descriptions of nature, to use the traits of immediate experience as clews for interpreting our observations of non-human and non-animate nature.   It also authorizes us to carry over the main conclusions of physical science into explanation and description of mysterious and inexplicable traits of experience marked by "consciousness." It enables us to do so without engaging in the dogmatic mechanistic materialism that inevitably resulted when Newtonian physics was used to account for what is distinctive in human experience. That which on the negative side is simply an elimination of the grounds of the metaphysical dualism of physical and mental, material and ideal, object and subject, opens the road to free observation of whatever experience of any kind discloses and points toward:—free, that is, from a rigid frame of preconceptions." (LW

Part of what "realist phenomenology" means for me is a continuity of the experienced thing, what I interact with on the level of the body, and the consciously experienced thing, which is a latter phase of the same natural process.  However, the consciously experienced things is "encoded" (symbolized), and thus this is not a representational theory of mind.  However, the conscious experience is of the real effects of the things; there's not reason to presume that quality is "all in the head" once one ditches Cartesian philosophy.

the identity of the world within and without experience
"For the generalization of "experience" which is involved in calling every actual existence by the name "occasion of experience" has a two-fold consequence, each aspect of this dual consequence being complementary to the other. The traits of human experience can be used to direct observation of the generalized traits of all nature. For they are intensified manifestations, specialized developments, of conditions and factors found everywhere in nature. On the other hand, all the generalizations to which physical science leads are resources available for analysis and descriptive interpretation of all the phenomena of human life, personal and "social." It is my impression that in his earlier writings Whitehead started preferably from the physical side, and then moved on to a doctrine of nature "in general" without much explicit attention to what may be called experience from
the psychological point of view, while in his later writings he supplements and extends the conclusions thus reached by adoption of a reverse movement:—that from specialized human experience through physical experience to a comprehensive doctrine of Nature. The "events" of his earlier treatises thus become the "occasions of experience" of later writings. But whether or not this impression is well-founded is of slight importance compared with the fact that Whitehead proceeds systematically upon the ground indicated in the following passage: "The world within experience is identical with the world beyond experience, the occasion of experience is within the world and the world is within the occasion. The categories have to elucidate this paradox of the connectedness of things:—the many things, the one world without and within."»6" (LW 14:128)

The difference between the world within and without?  Temporal-historical, not substantial.  Consciousness is an event that nature generates only under certain conditions.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Brilliant Twilight: Irreducible Cores or Powers? (Part IV)

Below is a repost of my response to Leon of After Nature here.  I discuss the issue of what is "irreducible," e.g., the "irreducible cores of objects" from my Dewey-Peircean perspective.

Leon writes,

"I like irreducible cores, and think that they can do some work with respect to value. Is a core is an intensity, power, capacity – then in those respects any core has an infinite worth in its power to produce effects – some producing more or greater effects than others. So a core isn’t a cold dead center, it is an active nature that withdraws as we try to grasp it. Yet “it” is singular (I think, for now). Hopefully this makes some sense -typing during my travels."

I agree with everything you say, but let me put it in this perspective that tries to specify what is irreducible.  I reject the idea that an actual event (object) "has" an irreducible core that constitutes its distinctness, and much of the argument is due to how I understand the composition/composability of powers.

An "object" may "have" irreducible cores in the sense that powers are "atomic" as are the emergent properties of actual events.  The powers are irreducible to the event, and the emergent properties, e.g., created powers, are irreducible to those that constitute the actuality of the event.  There's your irreducibility.  However, and this might be my misunderstanding of Harman's position, the actual event (or object?) does not "possess" those powers.  That whole is not a discrete unit.  In sum, irreducibility is tied to either the emergence of the event, or the powers themselves, but not the actuality or "identity" of the event.  Hence, given that "substance" and "identity" usually go hand-in-hand, though not if we read our Aristotle carefully, I refuse to use the term substance as it is misleading.  I suspect that OOO positions differ of the proposed logical treatment of irreducibility, identity, and the fundamental unit of existence or analysis.  I believe that Bryant and Harman disagree on this point, so we should not assume that there are just two positions; see my discussion with Bryant on his blog.

By the way, the hard distinction between constitutive powers of an actual event and its emergent powers is temporal; constitutive powers must be in play to constitute provide persistence for the actual event, and only afterwards do the emergent powers manifest.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

History, Relativity, and Powers: Clarifying Process Part III

Below is a response to Ben's question from Naught Thought, who must be an excellent student as he continuous asks excellent and immediately pertinent questions.  I wish more established scholars did this, although they are probably busier too..  I have reproduced the questions:

1-How does event relate to history in terms of relations relating to non-relations that is – is history a non-absolutized series of events that become history when certain events occur which direct the the path of future events?
2-I agree with what you critique as quasi-Aristotelianism and this is why I like approaches that are powers all the way down or at least theories of powers that don’t rely on things have them (having powers that is).
3-While you critique this move of powers all the way done I wonder how this relates to my own attempt at having kinds of transcendental regimes ...

I think a clear answer is an exposition, not just an explanation, and thus I answered as I did.

Other than Experience and Nature, reading primary sources on Dewey is not recommended, as one has to mine his books and become a specialist to gain enough to work with.  Read Thomas Alexander's John Dewey's Theory of Art, Experience, and Nature first.  Pragmatist scholars are likely to disagree with that recommendation, and I am willing to fight that battle.

I critique the move of "powers" all the way down, but let me explain.  A "power" is a 1) capacitiy/pure possiiblity (dunamis), 2) telic activity (kinesis) and 3) realization unto actuality (entelechy).  1) & 2) are necessary, while 3) is what the power achieves if not inhibited.  However, as entelechies are composable in ways not known in advance and are thus a source of creativity (generativity), there is a difference between a merely active power and a complex/nexus/dynamic system of powers that give rise to stable actual events (concretions of their composed entelechies).  That is why it is not, to be precise, "powers" all the way down as powers implies only 1) and 2) but not 3) or its complexes.

"History" refers to the morphology of the configuration or dynamic system of powers and actual events.  "Time" is not a sufficient concept, because it cannot capture the intricacies of organization' e.g., as I've said, the configuration is also causally efficacious, but that is historical and not temporal.  Obviously, "history" does not mean "a series of events," because a "process" is not a mere procession of unrelated or simply related events.  The earlier events constitute the later ones, e.g., the impact of my foot on the rock constitutes my subsequences consciousness of kicking that rock.  "Temporality" refers to the constitutions and relations of one event to another, possible and actual, whereas "history" primarily denotes their actual configuration, whole complexes and environments, and not just this event to that event (temporality).  Apologies, as I'm responding quickly.  A process is not a simple symmetric series of otherwise unrelated events, and that's part of the reason that "history" and "temporality" have non-conventional denotations.  cf. Whitehead objective immortality.

By the way, there is no "history in terms of relations relating to non-relations," because nothing can be unrelated, else we cannot speak of it.  There might be something absolutely unrelated, but then we could never experience or know it, so I just ignore that possibility and it does likewise.  This does not mean that all there is, is relations; it means that whatever exists must be related.  That said, I take the modalities of being to include more than brute existence, and it is always possible that some possibility has never existed but could exist, as possibility is a distinct modality of being not dependent upon actuality.  Real possibilities, of course, become dependent through existing.

I read Schelling's Freedom book intensely, as well as other literature, which has convinced me that I should refrain from making anything but the most basic claim.  Hence, I can only remind you of the Peirce quote on Schelling that I gave you, but I cannot address "transcendental regimes."

Torches in the Twilight: Making Process Philosophy Clear (Part II)

The following was my comment at Ben Woodard's Naught Thought.  Below, I'm defending process metaphysic's supposed "fuzziness" by responding in detail to the charges.  Aside from the practice for myself, the post might also be informative of those coming at process from the continental tradition rather than my own pragmatist tradition.  The background assumed and positions taken can differ greatly and are mutually informative.  Much of what I say here is discussed in greater detail in prior posts, and people should feel free to ask me to hunt up which posts.

I'll respond to the question of the priority of "object" or "substance" to "processes" and "powers."  In short, the question is not coherent in my position, and I believe the same for Peirce and Whitehead, although I would defer to those more knowledgeable of Whitehead.  Here's why from my Dewey-Peircean position.  First, in an event ontology, the fundamental unit would be an "event," not "object" or "substance."  You question implies a substance perspective that event ontologies do not share, because all events occur in a history in which a power leads to an actual event, and actual events lead to emergent powers.  There is no absolute priority of events, and any particular priority of powers over actual events is non-necessary.

Moreover, one should be careful to scrub any conventional idea of (efficient) causation, e.g., that powers "cause" events, because the conventional models still lead one down mechanical conceptual metaphors.  Yes, powers "cause" events in a way, but the details are quite different, e.g., powers/potentials are wholly separable from objects or substance on a Peircean view and there is not hard distinction between force and existence.  The last point is notable because people usually take the quasi-Aristotelian view that existences "have" powers that exert force.  Not so for Peirce.  Further explanation could get knarly, as it invokes synechism/continuity.  That is, nature has no joints, and most of our distinctions are at best Scotus' formal distinction.  This is where the term "speculative" comes in, as we formulate distinctions through abductive inference to better understand and hope that ideally we have achieved a formal distinction.

It is not "processes or powers all the way down," because actual events are when determinate existence, emergence, and true creativity occur.  Reaching the boiling point of water, that phase change, is not something reducible to what is prior or after.  "Creativity" should not be understood as "artistic" or "something new," but genesis.  The stability of creative phenomena, due to the stability or "habits" of the present configuration of the cosmos and local environment, are what give stability to creativity, e.g., the fact that water boiling is fairly predictable.

As for the difference between "objects that power" (trans: actual events that power) and "powers that object," their are numerous differences, but none of them are differences in power.  They are differences in organization, time, history, etc., but perhaps the biggest difference in those two phrases is that the emergence of an "object" (actual event) is the emergence of new powers.  See my recent post about the composability of entelechies.  As for "powers that object," that is mostly a temporal-historical distinction, i.e., the newly created powers of the object are already existent.

I suspect that you and others presume that there's an equivocation in the term "power" in your statement--presume that their should be.  No, except that there are many, many instances of "power."  I have posted previously on whether the number of distinct, non-isomorphic powers can be infinite; see my blog on causal closure.  I suspect that the answer must be "no" at the moment of cosmogenesis.  We can construct limited infinite sets from permutations of finite powers, so it's possible that a limited set of powers at cosmogenesis lead to an infinite set.  We can also presume that there was no cosmogenesis.

Not everything "has experiences" if I must nitpick from a Deweyan view.  Experience is the activity of nature, and the term strictly denotes the transaction of entities.  Experience is thirdness, possibly regarded minimally as degenerate thirdness.  Whitehead has more elaborate views, e.g., regarding subjectivity, that I will leave to his scholars.  There is a really important reason to use the word "experience" for this that I can answer later.  As for the difference between a rock experiencing a pond and a German poet doing the same, assuming all three are there, I have a short answer.  The German poet as a human being has modalities of experience that a rock doesn't have, i.e., an organic body capable of consciousness and mind, that allows for more complex relations.  The poet "interprets" or symbolizes its relations to the rock and pond in ways that the rock cannot, e.g., poetry versus the boring laws of nature for the rock.  I suspect it could be called an ontic difference, but I'm not sure how you're employing the terms.  As for Matt's other comments, those do not relate to mine and I'm not sure what he's saying, since I do not see where affectivity comes in.  By the way, "feeling" is NOT an "affect."  It may become one under certain human-inclusive conditions.

As for "the relation to Whitehead is key," that might be true, but I'm saying all this with only basic Whitehead knowledge that does not rely on that knowledge.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Twilight Moon and Radiant Heavens: Seeing Process Philosophy Clearly

The following is a repost of my comment at Adam's Knowledge Ecology here where he addresses Ben's post at Naught Thought here about the "Twilight" and fuzziness of process philosophy, especially as it defends itself against object-oriented ontology.  Here, as a response, I lay out some of my Peirce-Deweyan position to begin getting explicit.


The more I read, the more I want to enter these conversations, and the less prepared I feel as every time I try to grasp OOO it slips away and I was perhaps arguing against a straw man.  I thank Levi again for his explanations that cleared things up for me per his view.  Peirce and Whitehead are extremely clear, and thus I think the fuzziness might be due to miscommunication and misunderstanding.

For instance, as I understand process, or as I write on it, your following statement is just assumed.

 "Each object is simultaneously substance and process, with each one reversing into the other depending on specific encounters with other objects. Though at each point of encounter, all objects are integral insofar as they are irreducible to both smaller individual entities, and larger ongoing flows of interaction."

If we replace "object" with "emergent event" or some synonym, and "substance" with actuality, and leave "process," then I have never thought otherwise.  However, as I slowly go through the literature, most recently "vicarious causation," and talk to scholars, I just do not feel that they see "process metaphysics" as agreeing to that statement.  I know Leon does for sure, and I presume the Whiteheadians in general do as well.  I am confused.

What are we debating again?  Really?  Or am I just not sufficiently informed of what "process" means in this ongoing blogosphere conversation?  I have started to suspect this.  So, let me give my own response about why the statement is the case.

The emergent event comes to be through the transaction of other events, other transacting complexes of potentialities.  Hence, for one to be, many must be.  This invokes internal relations.  This may also be called a dynamic system in the sense that the organization of the complexities is also causally efficacious over and above the mere enumeration of potentialities.  Think of electromagnetic wave interference patterns.  All this organization, complex, and system-talk is the relational aspect.  However, once the event emerges, novel possibilities are created that are not reducible from the actual event.  The transaction of force/existence is fundamentally creative, because it is taken as basic that transaction changes a thing, and that things own self-similarity is not static (cf Peirce's tychism).  Perhaps this is an analogue of "hidden powers," although I do not go so far as to presume that or to speak of an "irreducible core."  Partly, this is because the event persists only through the relative stability of its local transactive environment.

There is a sense in which for the many to be, there must be one.  This is Peirce's synechism, or theory of continuity.  For things to ever affect each other, they must always already be related, and they are in a way "integral."  Hence, there is a sense in which relations are external, because mere relationality is not causally efficacious.  Again, organization is an issue, spatial as well as temporal, although I take time to be more fundamental than space.  What distinguishes the external vs. internal moment of these relations is the event of emergence, which is analogous to Whiteheadian concresence of an actual occasion.  (Whitehead's version is far more detailed than my current Peirce-Dewey one, although I'm aiming at phenomenology and have been developing other aspects.)

In all this, substance is not an over-riding concept.  The fundamental categories are the triad, especially as understood as possibility, force/activity/existence, and determinate existence/law/habit etc.  As I have explained it here, the emergence of the event emphasizes secondness and thirdness, active potentiality and its actualization, neither of which are well explained by the term "substance." 

Side note, although I've mentioned this on my blog.  This is a heavily modified Aristotelian potentiality.  Potentiality is always active unless actively inhibited by another.  And a potentiality does not have an exclusive, determinate realization unto actuality (entelechy).  Any pure potentiality (kinesis) has a realization (entelechy), but the transaction of potentialities, as well as their structure, their change, their rate of change, stability/chance, etc. combine to form a greater realization.  That is, entelechies are composed and composable all the way up or down to the limit of intelligiblity.  This relates to my discussion elsewhere of why there is something rather than nothing, as asking questions of cosmogenesis and evolution with this view gets dicey.  I mention this side note about potentiality to further explain the source of creativity.

I hope that I have been of service, and I will repost this on my blog.

Towards a Pragmatic Phenomenology: Agency and Objects

Here I give an introduction to agency and objects in a Deweyan phenomenology.  It was not written as a general introduction, and thus I hope that non-specialists will get enough to ask for further clarification.  Someone asked about "objects," and this is a partial response.  Note that this work was written before my shift to a synthesized Deweyan-Peircean position, as here I present Pure Dewey.   For those of you wondering what you're missing in pragmatism, here's the stuff that rarely gets heard outside a small group of scholars.  Also, please see the prior post about conatus in Dewey, as "desire" means something quite other than "affect," but more like "primal vital drive" that may manifest as an affect.
Below is a passage from my dissertation, which is copyrighted by me, and by posting this passage I in no way waive or grant any rights of an author or copyright holder to anyone else.  Please do not reference without attribution.

Many words must and will be said about Dewey's terminology, and here I offer a few.  Dewey used such words as "control," "object" and “free” (freedom), yet what he meant by those terms was alien and unintelligible to his contemporaries and remains so to this day.  Let me explain in reference to my constructive critique.  Dewey's theory of desire proposes that desire can be controlled through controlling its object that leads to control of activity, e.g., inquiry.  I criticize him for assuming that desire is always ideational and therefore available for cognitive control, and propose to explicate the idealization of desire such that it may come into intellectual control. Thereby, we may discuss the conditions for an inquirer becoming aware of various meanings of a situation including potential meanings of the object of desire.

There is no self separate from desire or control, and thus commonsense "self-control" is not what Dewey meant by "control."  "Control" is the effective immanent organization of desire.  Insomuch as control is effective, it is "reasonable" (rational), a "quality of effective relationships among desires" (MW 14:135).  James Gouinlock phrases it as "[w]hat is called self-control or—ideally—the identity of desire and intelligence is not the work of something called the will or of a presumed reason possessed as such of motive power.  It is the cause, but not a result."[i]  Hence, reason or ordered willing is the result of the ordering of desire that constitutes the self.  The significance of proportionate desiring is that there is no removed subject choosing or not to submit to an affect.  Choosing occurs when "some combination of elements of habits and impulse, finds a way fully open.  Then energy is released" (MW 14:134).  Therefore, disordered desiring may result in the inability to inhibit impulsive activity that makes a self less "free."  Freedom or agency is realized in and through the immanent determination of the object of desire.[ii]  Finally, as if this were not unusual enough "object" has a radically different meaning than one might anticipate, and thus the phrase "control of the object of desire" is anything but straight-forward.

Objects are "habits turned inside out" that implicate the "projectile power" of habits.  These "forecasts" that are "anticipatory" (intentional) manifest the "onward tendency of habit" that has recoiled inward to become sensation in immediate consciousness rather than unconscious outward activity on the environment.  The sensations reflect the "objective conditions" that have been "incorporated" in the recoiling habit (MW 14:21).  The objects and contents of consciousness represent the "incorporeal material of habits coming to the surface" (MW 14:128).  The "incorporeal material" is the activity of habit that has not yet been incorporated or integrated; it does not mean disembodied.  Consciousness is an event that manifests the connection between organized habits and unorganized impulses.  The appearance of objects is due to the disintegration and reintegration of organized habitual activity.  Disintegration occurs when impulses conflict or are frustrated in anticipating the environment, whereas reintegration comprehends impulses and renders them efficacious as objects to which one may respond.  Consciousness seeks to organize activity to give it an outlet, and an object is a means to comprehending the situation so as to reduce felt tension.

[i] James Gouinlock, John Dewey’s Philosophy of Value (New York: Humanities Press, 1972), 242; see also 264.
[ii] See also Gouinlock, John Dewey’s Philosophy of Value, 282-286.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Repost: Why Mark Johnson is a pragmatist, but cannot be accepted uncritically by pragmatists

This is a repost from one of my earliest posts.  The topic has come up again.

Below is a draft from an article nearing completion.  It is taken out of context, which I'll supply if the article is accepted.  Comments are very welcome, especially if one can find another fully developed theory of the imagination.  No, Fesmire and all that other "dramatic rehearsal" stuff is not what I mean.  Read Johnson's Kantian explanation--that's the level being requested.  This is some of the material that built off my last SAAP presentation.

Mark Johnson maintains the only pragmatic theory of imagination other than Alexander's, who was the inspiration for Johnson and myself. 1  I will explain the limited role of Johnson's work in this essay, which also accounts for the unusual style of its exposition.  Johnson and I attribute the same inspiration for our theories, John Dewey, although our goals differ.  I aim to develop the classical tradition as a "neoclassical" pragmatist, while Johnson sees Dewey as the solution to many problems in the anglo-american tradition in which he was originally trained.  He incorporates scholarship from many, many sources that are not tested against or are obviously incompatible with the classical pragmatist tradition.  This is not a problem for Johnson, since he is solving problems in analytic philosophy, but his solutions are thereby not ipso facto answers for the pragmatist tradition.  We inheritors of the tradition cannot blindly accept any "pragmatic" theory without risking the introduction of contradictions and incoherency.  What is at stake is pragmatism as a tradition with something to offer to the contemporary scene rather than a toolbox to be regularly raided.  As pragmatist scholars know well, pragmatism is a wholly different tradition that encompasses novel theories in most fields, but this breadth and depth is not well known to other traditions.  In consequence, I will present a pragmatic theory of imagination based on the original works of and later scholarship on John Dewey for the purposes of growing the tradition.  Johnson cannot fulfill this role, although as I will indicate, his synthesis of pragmatism serves as a bridge for neoclassical scholarship to connect to contemporary cognitive science.  His theory is complementary rather than a competitor, and though I commend his work, I would chastise pragmatists who would embrace it uncritically as consistent with (neo)classical pragmatism.

Johnson's view is that we understand abstract thought in terms of simpler bodily activities and structures.  For example, "MORE is UP;" we understand quantity in terms of verticality due to our embodied nature, where being "taller" means being "more." (BitM, xv)   We project bodily understanding into abstract thought to render them intelligible.  The claim is radical, because it places the source and limitation of intelligibility in the body, not the mind.  So many philosophical concepts reputed to be basic to universal and disembodied "reason" must be derived and betray a vestigial Cartesianism.    For  my purposes, the details of Johnson's theory and not its implications are important.

"Imagination" is the projection of bodily experience into abstract thought.  It is understanding via "metaphoric projection," which is a "pervasive mode of understanding by which we project patterns from one domain of experience in order to structure another domain of a different kind." (BitM, xiv-xv)  Projection can also be understood as an "isomorphic" mapping from a "source domain" to a "target domain" (116).  For example, we understand "sexual appearance" as "physical force," and thus we speak of being overcome by an irresistible power as if by bodily confinement. (16)  The patterns of the simpler domain become projected onto the abstract one and serve to limit inference and meaning.  These understandings follow regular patterns called "schema."  The patterns to be projected are "image schemata," a "recurring, dynamic pattern of our perceptual interactions and motor programs that gives coherence and structure to our experience." (14)  The schema are the dynamic patterns by which imaginative projection orders experience into intelligibility.

Johnson attributes his theory of imagination and schema to Kant (BitM, 19, 156), but his only detailed discussion of Kant is illustrative rather than substantial.  3  Contra Kant, e.g., he views schema as organizing bodily structures and activity (20).  There are numerous other points on which Johnson's theory cannot be Kantian, but the illustration is apt, because most contemporaries have a Romantic view of imagination as the production of images rather than Kant's, for which imagination mediates between sensible intuition (percepts) and categorical understanding (concepts) such that sensation becomes meaningful.

"I have given considerable attention to Kant's account, because he makes a point upon which the entire argument of my book rests, namely, that all meaningful experience and all understanding involves the activity of imagination which orders our representations (the reproductive function) and constitutes the temporal unity of our consciousness (the productive function)." (157)

I will agree with Johnson that "all meaningful experience and understanding involves the activity of imagination," but not that "imagination orders our representations" or "constitutes the temporal unity of our consciousness". 2 (157)  Much of what he attributes to "imagination" I will ascribe to other functions such that the whole account of how sense becomes meaningful will be sympathetic but irreconcilable to his.  Specifically, habit orders experience, which is both a pattern and activity whose projective function of associating quality and meaning will be named "imagination."  This function is analogous to the Kantian synthetic function by which sense (felt quality) becomes meaningful.  Yet if one were to parse Kant's three-fold synthesis of imagination, e.g., cognizing a series of representations as a single object, as a temporal procession of objects, and as a recognition of what an object is, then one realizes that there is no correlate in my Deweyan pragmatic theory. 3.  There can be no correlate for many reasons, including conflicting theories of time; non- vs. representational theories of experience; process metaphysics wherein "experience" signifies across metaphysical, biological, and phenomenological domains per the principle of continuity; etc.  Many of these conflicts remain even when Johnson steps back from a Kantian articulation and approaches a more pragmatic one, as he did in his more recent books.4

In The Meaning of the Body, Johnson adopts his most Deweyan-pragmatic view to date.  However, he appropriates Deweyan terms without accounting for their original or modified signification.  For instance, most of what he writes about "quality," "feeling," "emotion," or "situation" (MotB, 56-70) is partially correct, but in a way that conforms to conventional expectations at odds with Dewey or subsequent scholarship.6  I will later discuss all of these these except "situation," and  the conflict--either between their original or my modified signification--will become apparent to anyone familiar with Johnson's work.5  

In closing, Johnson's theory is complimentary to neoclassical pragmatism, i.e., scholarship anchored to the living tradition, but need give no notification or rationale when it departs from the tradition while proclaiming to be "Deweyan."  Such scholars cannot uncritically or wholesale accept his theory, but should be partners in the larger discourse of contemporary philosophy.  To contribute to the discourse, I propose that Johnson's empirical work on "image schema" describe how feeling (the activity) becomes felt quality (the event) as organized by habit.  I will return to the topic at the end of the essay, by which time the implications of the proposal in the present framework will be more obvious.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Tradition of American Pragmatism: The Lay of the Land

This began as a recommendation for Adam of Knowledge Ecology.  I have decided to make a longer, more general  explanation of the lay of the land of John Dewey scholarship.  This is not meant to be comprehensive, although eventually I plan for it to be so.  I am speaking to a number of factors, including sociological and political ones.

There are three sub-traditions of "American pragmatism" that all fall under the umbrella of "American philosophy."  "American philosophy" is meant to include any philosophic though native to the United States, or arguably, the Americas.  It includes many subjects and thinkers, such as John Edwards or Jane Addams.  The reason I mention this is because pragmatism situates itself within its history, e.g., does not strongly distinguish between "doing history" and "doing contemporary," which is an outlook common to continental philosophy but not to stereotypical analytic philosophy.

The three subtraditions of American pragmatism are classical, neoclassical, and neopragmatism.  Classical pragmatism is the study of historic texts of the founding figures and the resultant historical commentaries.  Neoclassical pragmatism, a term coined by Larry Hickman I believe, includes classical pragmatism but aims to continue the historic projects into contemporary philosophy.  In practice, its a fluid distinction, but is useful to mention because some believe that contemporary pragmatists are just historians, which is not true.  Many neoclassicals are also pluralists, myself included, and frequently are scholars of analytic, continental, and Asian philosophy.  A number of well-regarded scholars either do not hold a degree in philosophy or reside in other departments, especially education, politics, and psychology; the field strongly tends towards interdisciplinarity.    Finally, there is neopragmatism, which has several branches inclusive of Quine, Putnam, Davidson, Rorty, West, Haack, etc.  In short, neopragmatists adopt a few theories from classical pragmatism, especially its theory of truth and politics, and apply them to issues in analytic philosophy.  Neoclassicals and neopragmatists share little in common, and there has been a rift for decades that has been the subject of much internal discussion.  Part of the rift is due to the term "pragmatism" becoming publicly associated with whatever neopragmatism does.  Hence, I usually get many shocked looks when explaining my work to analytic philosophers, because what I say is so counter-intuitive to what they think "pragmatism" is.  In conclusion, there are many who identify with pragmatism for whom these labels are not helpful; I am merely identifying the mainstream lines of published scholarship.  Peirceans, for instance, are most likely not to be well-served by these distinctions in my view.

Within neoclassical pragmatism, there are many lines of scholarship.  I will name a few functional divisions.  First, scholarship tends to divide on whether one emphasizes the aesthetic dimension (Alexander et al) or "instrumentalist/theory of inquiry" dimension, which amounts to which texts they emphasize, i.e., Experience and Nature & Art as Experience vs. Logic: the Theory of Inquiry.  Scholarship divides again depending upon one's "pluralism," i.e., whether one is also a scholar of continental, analytic, Asian, or of other non-philosophy fields.  There are strong trends among those who pair pragmatism with continental vs. with analytic.  Pragmatists, recently as a matter of employment necessity, study more than pragmatism.

Shaviro on Harman and Latour: Select Highlights

Shaviro at The Pinnochio Theory posts on Latour vs. Harman and their relation to Whitehead as discussed in The Prince and the Wolf.  The post confirms a lot of my inferences about objects, although recent helpful discussion has shown that I should treat different object-thinkers with care rather than generalize.  I keyed into the various passages that cover what I have been ruminating over here.  Some highlights:

"For Whitehead, an entity cannot ever exist apart from its connections, even though the entity itself is not reducible to these connections."

*This is notable because I have heard the concern that process views risk reducing an entity (identity) to its relations.  I have denied it in my case, and it is good to see corroboration.

"The problem for Whitehead is not the occasionalist one of how to bring unconnected things together, but rather the one of how to produce gaps, discontinuities, and changes in a world in which everything (every actual entity) has a reason, which reason is always another actual entity (or a number of them)."

*I have noted this before, and I have connected it to the problem of discerning determinate identity or the "in-itself" if you have read my other previous posts.  For my Peirce-Deweyan conception, the question becomes "how is emergence possible and what is it?"  The answer is a sort of emergent teleology, where emergence occurs at a nexus of active potentialities that give rise to newly actualized potentialities.  It should be noted , since I have not previously made it explicit, that order or structure has causal efficacy in this view, and thus the mere local existence of the same potentialities is necessary but not sufficient for the same emergence.  See Mark Bickhard of Lehigh University's work on this that is devoted to theories of representation, as is mine. In the Shaviro essay, the issue comes up at the end.

"And this, coming near the end of the volume (page 108), is perhaps the crux: Latour claims that “every single entity is expectant of a next step.”Harman responds: “Not expectant, but it becomes a possible mediator of other two entities.” Latour responds that he does intend the stronger meaning that Harman rejects: “No, but for itself, we are talking about the thing itself. It is expectant, is it not?” Harman says no, where Latour says yes. As for me, this is precisely where I side with Latour (and Whitehead) against Harman. Things are indeed “expectant,” because they feel what they prehend, and in turn set down conditions for what will prehend them, i.e. ways in which they will (expect to) be felt."

Finally, comes an issue dear to my studies,

"precisely because we can no longer accept the notion of substance, the question that exercises him the most is one of subsistence."

Why, gentlemen and ladies, subsistence is "habit."  And this is where the Dewey comes in, for he allows us to take Peirce's concept and metaphysics and render it biological, cultural, social, political, etc.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Peirce, Not Whitehead, as a Source of Process Thought

In recent discussion of object-oriented ontology, especially at Knowledge Ecology, especially per my probing its commitments to achieve greater understanding on my part, I espoused a commitment to emergentism and teleology within the context of an emergentist naturalism (per Dewey, which I did not mention then).  I also have been blogging and discussing internal vs. external relations and what an instantiation of such a relation is, i.e., what a relation exists as.

In this vein, Leon of After Nature has posted a link to an article on Hartshorne on internal and external relations. For those not familiar with Perice, this is enlightening:

"Peirce, on the other hand, provided suitable categories for expressing Hartshorne’s metaphysics of feeling and also provided the doctrine of the continuum which enabled him to develop a theory of emergent possibilities in contrast to Whitehead’s doctrine of eternal objects."

I have wondered, when discussing my Peirce-Deweyan position to interlocutors who know something about Whitehead but not Peirce, whether they realize how different the position is.  Having recently discussed Levi Bryant's position here, I think that our inquiries are complementary on the subject of potentiality and emergence.  I am not sure that is the case object-oriented ontology in general.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thoughts on Harman's "Vicarious Causation."

Thoughts on Harman's "Vicarious Causation."

"It is not human consciousness that distorts the reality of things, but relationality per se." (193)

I do not see any reason to call this a "distortion" rather than an "extension" of their reality.  For Heidegger, and Harman's statement comes in the middle of a discussion of Heideggerian tool-being, things are always involved in a world first and become encountered second.  Else, they could never come to be disclosed as present-at-hand.  I do not agree with the statement that "Heideger's tool-analysis unwittingly gives us the deepest possible account of the classical rift between substance and relation." (193)  It is not an account of that, because there is no rift between substance and relation; relation is first, and encounter second.  If we reverse this and presume that the thing is first and relation second, then we enter into the very classical conundrum that the tool analysis avoids.  Again, I do not agree that Heidegger had "insight into the withdrawal of real objects behind all relations" (197) as I read the metaphor described in Heidegger's definition of the phenomenon to be one of emanence; "to let that which shows itself be seen from itself in the very way in which it shows itself from itself.”   

Later, Harman writes "the pine tree and I are separate objects residing on the interior of a third: the intention as a whole." (197)  I liked this at first because it looks like a triad, and us lovers of Peirce like triads.  But then, he claims that the "real object" is I and not the pine tree, which is "merely a sensual one."  Why not claim that it is all real and have a merry triad?  Why presume that the tree and I are separate objects first that then enter into a relation via a third object that is not real?   

To be fair to Harman and answer my question in part, we are coming from very different academic backgrounds even though we share this basis of classical continental phenomenology.  I can see that much of the vocabulary is borrowed from that tradition, and if I were to give my equivalent rendition, my vocabulary would also borrow from my tradition.  It may be that I'm misunderstanding some of the background and therefore making the wrong inferences about what the text means.  However, agreement with myself from scholars who are deeply familiar with his work lead me to continue and suppose that I am not wholly misunderstanding.  Soon, hopefully, my own revised articles on the subject will be accepted so that I may also be subject to the same interrogation.  May it be fruitful for us all.

Further on, Harman explains that:

"Elsewhere I have used the phrase 'every relation is itself an object', and still regard this statement as true.  But since this article has redefined relations to include containment, sincerity, and contiguity, the slogan must be reworded as follows: 'every connection is itself an object.'" (207)

So, does this means that relations are real?  What constitutes their reality?  Coming from a tradition in which relations are real, because "relation" signifies determinate interconnectedness from which new potentialities emerge, I am willing to accept this unusual thesis.  But what constitutes their reality?  That is, the objective nature  and reality of the real tree, the sensual tree, and the I do not seem to be on par, which leaves me with questions.  Without answering these questions, I wonder if one equivocates when calling a relation an object vs. a real tree, especially since "connections occur only between two real objects." (208)  That makes sense, else the sensation of a tree could wander off and make connections on its own, and we'd be living in a crypto-Berkeleyan cosmos.  Perhaps this is all just a vocabulary issue, but I cannot be sure.

Recently, I have been having a discussion with Levi Bryant of Larval Subjects on how object-oriented ontology account for change.  Hence, I will quote what Harman writes, 

"These accidents ["parts" of objects in the sensual realm] are the only possible source of change, since they alone are the potential bridge between one sensual object and another….  Accidents alone have the dual status of belonging and not belonging to an object….  Accidents are tempting hooks protruding from the sensual object, allowing it the chance to connect with others and thereby fuse two into one." (218)

He goes on to distinguish a difference in part-whole relations between sensual and real objects. (218-219)

In conclusion, I find the first quotation, that relationality is distortion, and the reversal of the Heideggerian encounter/relationality dynamic to be problematic.

One may ask why I study and write this, especially since I do not claim (yet) to be a scholar of object-oriented ontology.  Because I am a scholar of a friendly position, that of pragmatism, especially Peirce and Dewey, that were beloved of Whitehead.  Hence, much of what is novel or powerful in the OOO tradition is not alien to me, since I see it in the writings of Peirce, James, Dewey, Mead, Whitehead, and others.  I am pleased that this sort of thinking is coming to the fore, but it is not the only game in town.  That said, pragmatism is a separate tradition from continental, and thus I should not suppose that those who know one also know the other.  I am not proselytizing for either side, but perhaps for both.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Maine and Down East Humor

As a former Mainer, I feel that I ought to respond to Leon of After Nature's posts about his vacation there.  He needs an introduction to "Down East" humor and its most famous comedian, Tim Sample.  Watch the first video clip on his sight and notice something, the "Down East" or "Mainer" accent.  Many Mainers have Scottish backgrounds--it is next to "New Scotland" or the Canadian province of Nova Scotia--and also British backgrounds as the Loyalists moved north.  On Cape Breton of Nova Scotia, they still have a heavy Scottish accent and unique brogue to this day.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The God Function in Peirce and Whitehead

This is a response in an ongoing dialogue with Leon of After Nature; see The God Function in Peirce and Whitehead.

Leon has not yet convinced me that personalism is saved in the process-perspective discussed.  I would remind all the the personal is not necessarily the human, and in fact in some part must not be else God cannot be personal.

Regardless, he makes many good points and brings together much of what he's stated before.  His points about the "God function" in Peirce and Whitehead are not only correct, but a proper way of talking about the issue.  I've nettled a few about this.

Does Process Theology Endanger Personalism?

Leon of After Nature posted the following More on Whitehead: Process Catholicism that provokes a question from me.  Is this sort of work endangering to personalist views?  That is, personalism broadly holds that the category of the human is ontologically essential, and it is a common doctrine of Catholicism.   The danger is that allowing "subjectivity" to be a general feature of the cosmos de-emphasizes human subjectivity to the point of depersonalizing it.  I have a difficult time seeing how one can depersonalize subjectivity without diminishing the human person, especially in a Catholic framework.  I can image that there are ways around my critique, but that leads to me ask why is it explained in this way?  Rhetoric is the only answer I can imagine, which makes me wonder what is at play.  Puzzlement.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Welcoming a New Member of the Blog Community: Hinges of Dao

Carl, a long-time friend and avid correspondent, has joined the blogosphere.  He is a scholar of Chinese Philosophy in particular and East Asian in general, esp. Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism, as well as a pluralistic background in historic and contemporary philosophy East and West.

Clarifications on the One and the Many, and the Problem of History

More on thinking  being, genesis, identity, and change.

In my discussion of the One and the Many, I am clearly not thinking it in a classical Greek way.  It's not, for instance, a discussion of Parmenidean block-being.  For the most part, they saw static being as most real, whereas change as flux was unreal.  In contrast, I am addressing singularity vs. plurality in a cosmos where change is real.  Hence, cosmogenesis becomes a problem because then we must ask what comes first, e.g., how the one becomes many, or how any determinate being becomes the presumedly plural cosmos.  Any particular positing of what was first becomes a limitation on what may be.  I mostly discuss this in terms of an "identity principle," because the initial structure/identity is what is limiting, not its mere being or existence.

The issue of cosmogenesis and the One and the Many may seem to be minor point.  But if history is real, as it must be for most articulations of process metaphysics, then initial distinctions will reverbate.  This is less of a metaphysical discussion per se than a methodological one.

What am I after?  An understanding of the interrelation of the identity and genesis principles.  This correlates to discussions of actual occasions and concrescence, or objects and their withdrawal in object-oriented ontology.
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