I am posting a snippet from the book that I am editing. Previously I posted “What Is Process Philosophy?” This posting supplements that one by exhibiting some common misconceptions about process, and it focuses on the temporality of processes. Recall that I am intending this to be both a general primer and an entry into Deweyan process philosophy. If you want to see the full explanation ... you will have to buy the book.
A process is a dynamic, continuous series of act-events that has analogies and dis-anologies to a moving train. I have discussed several characteristics including: holism, internal vs. external relations, asymmetry, dynamic teleology, and multidimensionality. These address common misconceptions about processes that I would make more clear. First, one should not treat events as separable and atomic, and should think of the process in terms of a whole. Second, events in a process are to an extent internally related, but this does not mean radical dependency. For example, the relation of the present to the past is one of fixity, as the past is fully actual while the present is becoming, and thus a change in the present does not change the actual past, though a change in the present always affects the future. This leads to a third common misconception, whence one treats all relations or events in a process as symmetric that is not always the case. Moreover, the kind of asymmetry is not the same, as the asymmetries of the present-to-past (becoming in light of the actual) are not the same as that of the present-to-future (what might be in light of what is), or even the future-to-present (what may be in light of the possible). This last asymmetry is crucial for understanding the ideal, the function of imagination, or the experience of meaning, and also plays a part in emergent hierarchy. Fourth, it may be difficult for one to read “teleology” without thinking classical Aristotle and reading telos as implying magical causation rather than as describing the dynamic disposition of non-determinate change. Finally, processes are non-deterministic and non-linear, and thus the next event is not simply just a roll of the dice that implies a fixed probability. A common misconception is to think that each event follows the next in a regular if asymmetric pattern of probability—what mathematicians call a “probability function”—but this conception falters when applied to living processes, since they are characterized by dynamic equilibriums, homeostasis, autopoesis, and other mechanisms that are neither linear, circular, or predictable without thinking in terms of progressive and open feedback loops. This last misconception is perhaps the hardest to avoid.