Talk:Process philosophy

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"He understood quantum theory, even to the point of developing a Theory of Relativity similar to Einstein’s." This sentence is ambiguous. If Whitehead's theory of relativity is a physical theory of relativity like Einstein's, it is unrelated to his understanding of quantum mechanics. If it is an analogous philosophical theory with the same name as Einstein's physical theory, it is unrelated to his understanding of quantum mechanics, and also unrelated to Einstein. This should be clarified. -- Anon, (15 December 2004)

This was clarified in the article by Aliman on 20 December 2004. The anonymous writer is correct in that relativity, as presently understood is unrelated to quantum theory. However, he probably does not know that Whitehead was a consumate mathematician of his day, and did formulate his relativity theory in mathematical terms, albeit unrelated to Einstein's principle of equivalence. Whitehead's theory, rather than understanding matter warping spacetime as Einstein did, proposed (roughly) that gravity bent light rays in flat space. Whitehead's 1922 theory was mostly overlooked until the 1960s, and is thought by some to have been disproved in 1972. (see the Wiki entry on Alfred North Whitehead or external website at Whitehead/Einstein Relativity Comparison). Ironically, Anon is assuming the either/or Cartesian split between the physical and the metaphysical (or philosophical) realms, which Whitehead explicitly rejected. Whitehead's philosophy is generalized from his physics, not separate from it. --Blainster 13:25, 4 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Process Philosophy After Whitehead[edit]

1. I think that Process Philosophy does deserve an independent article. Whitehead is a thinker of sufficient renown and repute that his metaphysics deserves a place on this website---nor is process philosophy at all synonymous with the philosophical treatment of organism. One is basic ontology while the other represents a much higher order problem---one is foundational and the other is not. 2. The claims in the "Process Philosophy After Whitehead" section that refer to medicine are completely unsourced: I would say that Foucault has had no influence on medicine---and, even if he has, Foucault is not a follower of Whitehead's metaphysics. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:57, 16 March 2008 (UTC)

General relativity not until 1915![edit]

The current version has a flatly incorrect discussion of relativity. Special relativity emerged in 1905 and deals with non-accelerating objects in a fixed flat space background. General relativity emerged in 1915 and deals with accelerating objects in a curved and dynamical spacetime. The idea of an expanding universe is also logically independent of general relativity, and only emerged some years later with investigation of possible cosmological models in the light of [Hubble]'s measurements of 1929. Like much else in the article the current discussion is mush. --Tdent 20:35, 29 October 2006 (UTC)

"In 1905, the theory of general relativity curtailed exploration of pure process views and made the case for a specific and expanding universe that did exist as an objective object of our human perception and cognition." Is incorrect...try 1915, as the hyperlink correctly tells you. 18:24, 29 November 2006 (UTC) radar-mark, 29 Nov 2006

The equations for Einstein's general relativity (GR) have many solutions; hence GR is compatible with a (infinite?) number of scenarios for the origin and ultimate fate of the universe. The solution Einstein focussed implied a static universe. He did not contemplate an initial singularity followed by expansion (now called the Big Bang); that was first proposed by Alexander Friedmann in 1922, in work little noticed. A few years later, Georges Lemaitre showed that a Big Bang was consistent with Einstein's mathematics; see Friedmann-Lemaitre-Robertson-Walker metric. 2 years later, completely independently, Edwin Hubble empirically confirmed the expansion of the universe. That expansion is consistent with GR, but unlike Eddington's 1919 eclipse observations, cannot be taken as an experimental verification thereof. GR is indifferent as to whether the universe is melioristic; Frank Tipler's Omega Point (Tipler) theory is not. In any event, the connection between GR and process metaphysics is completely unclear. The connection between the Omega Point and process thought is, to my mind, intuitively evident, but to my knowledge has yet to be made in print. (talk) 04:34, 29 November 2008 (UTC)

Non-Whiteheadian process ontology?[edit]

Would this article be an appropriate place to add information about non-Whiteheadian approaches, e.g. Johanna Seibt's theory, Sellarsian stuff, etc? I know 'process philosophy' is often taken as synonymous with 'Whiteheadian philosophy' but it seems to me it may also function as an umbrella term including other approaches. Would anyone be opposed to the addition of a section on non-Whiteheadian approaches? Countermereology 15:08, 12 February 2007 (UTC)

Absolutely, and without a shadow of a doubt Whitehead would have agreed with this suggestion. The idea of process philosophy being a personal project or being under the intellectual ownership of Whitehead solo would have repulsed him, I have little doubt. Whitehead was a great contributor to this field, probably the greatest since the 17th century, but there have been many, many others, Spinoza being a salient example. Brigantian (talk) 00:08, 8 December 2007 (UTC)

Explanation of Citation Missing and Weasel Tags[edit]

This article includes a very large number of attribution of views to persons seemingly in the service of establishing the credentials of process philosophy. Virtually none of the attributions are substantiated by citations. Some of the attributions are controversial. Here are some concrete examples of worrisome passages in the article:

René Descartes, for instance, proposed that the mind and body were actually connected and unified by a single process, the imagination. This was often discarded or devalued by Descartes' followers and critics who attributed to him (incorrectly) advocating a mind-body dualism.

Perhaps, contrary to common understanding[1] Descartes was not a dualist. But this would need substantiation. Notice that in the above quote, it is the mind and the body that are connected - the most natural way of understanding this is that in Descartes' ontology substances like minds and bodies are fundamental which then somehow get connected.

Very similarly, the law of the excluded middle was raised to ontological status by those of Aristotle's followers, notably those practicing medieval scholasticism, who wished to ignore some of his telling observations about moderation (the very ones that Francis Bacon celebrated) and rhetoric (which Aristotle praised, seemingly foreshadowing Descartes' imagination).

What is an ontological status? And before the law of excluded middle was raised to that status, what status did it have? What are the telling observations about moderation that Bacon celebrated? Maybe there are such observations but the reader needs to be told what they are. Finally, I'm not sure anyone practiced scholasticism.

A number of other key Enlightenment figures ... made note of their working processes in terms that suggest change is what they seek to quantify because it is the most fundamental basis on which perception and thus reality proceeds.

Citations? Are we sure that they did not see change as changes of objects such that the objects that are changing are not themselves changes? Process philosophy is not simply the view that processes are important - that 's a boring and uncontroversial claim - but the far more radical claim that changes are ontologically fundamental in the sense that they are not to be understood as changes of things that are not themselves changes.

Of other philosophers, more dominant at that time, Immanuel Kant noted that either experience made objects possible, or objects made experience possible. He seemed to have missed that processes might make both possible.

How might processes make both possible? Which processes are we talking about here? Might the process of digestion make possible both experience and objects?

These hopes proved vain, although it remained for Russell and Whitehead to prove that so in 1913

Which hopes? And what exactly did Russell and Whitehead prove in 1913?

Since, it is argued, free will is inherent to the nature of the universe, God is not omnipotent in Whitehead's metaphysics.

it is argued by who?

other process philosophers have questioned Whitehead's theology, seeing it as a regressive Platonism.

Who are these other philosophers? Quatsch77 19:36, 27 February 2007 (UTC)

I heartily concur that this entry is a philosophical muddle, starting with the claim that Principia Mathematica proved or disproved anything about the foundations of mathematics. Principia 's set theory is damned, because it was innocent of any axioms except an equivalent of the axiom of choice. In particular, it ignored the now-canonical ZF axioms published in 1908. All relations were primitive, because both editions of Principia were innocent of the set-theoretic definitions of the ordered pair, including the non-canonical one Kurotowski proposed in 1921. Principia committed many philosophical sins, starting with the confusion of use and mention (see Ivor Grattan-Guinness 2000). In my opinion, Whitehead turned to metaphysics because he was disappointed with Principia. Tellingly, he had nothing to do with the 1927 second edition. (talk) 04:51, 29 November 2008 (UTC)

Other Problems[edit]

Here are some more infelicities:

Process philosophy ... does not characterize change as illusory but as the cornerstone of metaphysical reality, or ontology

This insinuates that philosophical views other than process philosophy hold that change is somehow unreal. But it is one thing to hold that changes are not the most basic elements of ontology, quite another thing to hold that changes are illusory, just as it is one thing to say that tables are made from fundamental particles, quite another thing to say that the existence of tables is illusory.

This resulted in the most famous work of process philosophy—Alfred North Whitehead's Process and Reality. - a work which can be seen as a lighter and more accessible form of describing the basic Hegelian truth, namely that absolute, or "philosophical", truth can only be a logical and /or worldly "movement" in and through determinates, not these deteminates as fixed concepts or "things". Hegel is the real (modern) rootsource of what (clumsily) can be termed dialectical-dynamical-ontology, and of which process philosophy is a branch.

This needs some serious reworking before it is intelligible. Whitehead's work is lighter and more accessible than what? Why is truth is qualified as 'absolute' or 'philosophical'? Are there unphilosophical and relative truths? And are those other truths fixed concepts? What exactly does it mean to say that a truth is a concept, fixed or otherwise?

The process metaphysics elaborated in Process and Reality proposes that the fundamental elements of the universe are occasions of experience.

What is an 'occasion of experience'? Is it different from the plain experience? I'm sure there is a point in talking about occasions of experience, but the term here needs explaining.

Whitehead's philosophy resembles in some respects the monads of Leibniz.

Whitehead's philosophy does not resemble monads. For that matter, Leibniz's philosophy does not resemble monad's, either. As the next sentence suggests, this should probably be: occasions of experience resemble in some respects the monads of Leibniz.

These experiences may be summed in some sense but can only approximately be shared, even among very similar cognitions with identical DNA.

Cognitions don't have DNA. Quatsch77 19:33, 27 February 2007 (UTC)

Religious parallels[edit]

Anyone else think this section would be better placed on the Process Theology page (if it belongs anywhere at all - it isn't terribly insightful)? 02:34, 13 April 2007 (UTC)

work this in![edit]

GILLES DELEUZE, MANUEL DELANDA, BRIAN MASSUMI —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 11:14, 29 April 2007 (UTC).


In an attempt to remove the tags .... please place specific issues below. IF NOT, tags will be removed. J. D. Redding 20:37, 20 May 2007 (UTC)

What requires cleanup?[edit]

Please place specific issues/items below. J. D. Redding 20:37, 20 May 2007 (UTC)

Which insufficiently sourced phrases?[edit]

Please place specific issues/items below. J. D. Redding 20:37, 20 May 2007 (UTC)

Uh .. the article appears to have no sources (except one undecipherable french website). Someone needs to buy or borrow a proper introduction to the subject and tie all the key information into it's pages. See WP:Citing sources or WP:Verification methods ---- CharlesGillingham (talk) 19:52, 4 July 2008 (UTC)

Neutrality or factuality issues?[edit]

Please place specific issues/items below. J. D. Redding 20:37, 20 May 2007 (UTC)

This whole article is clearly written by what i would not hesitate to call 'devotees' of the process perspective, and reads like an advertisement. This bias is present in the general tone of the article and causes me to doubt everything on the page. More concrete manifestations of this problem include: 1. The list of "Modern Process Philosophers" in the introduction. Many of these names (eg Nietzsche, Pierce) died prior to the invention of this philosophy as a particular school of thought. A phrase such as "Process Philosophy counts ---- as ancestors of its approach, and attempts to systematize some of their 'process-oriented' insights and methodologies.

2. The previous fault is especially egregious in the section about Heraclitus, which not only lacks sources of the fragments in question but in fact attempts a definitive exegesis of this notoriously 'obscure' philosopher. We could not possibly claim that H. "began the formal development of theory", for reasons stated above and also because Heraclitus did not have theories or formal development. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:53, 7 July 2009 (UTC)

Original research issues?[edit]

Please place specific issues/items below. J. D. Redding 20:39, 20 May 2007 (UTC)

The "Process Philosophy since Whitehead" section is a mess. Hardly anything mentioned in this section is directly related to Process Philosophy at all, certainly not enough to be considered extentions or further work in the field as the header seems to indicate. The Philosophy of Medicine section should probably be removed unless someone can explain what anything in that paragraph has to do with Process Philosophy besides vague similarites. The Psychology section seems more relevant but needs citations or a better explanation of the link to Process Philosophy. The Paul Erdos section should also be removed, it seems to be someones pet theory that his method is somehow derived from Process Philsophy but this is undocumented and tangential at best. This entire section really needs to be removed or heavily edited. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Crashaudiojack (talkcontribs) 19:02, 21 July 2008 (UTC)

The Twentieth Century subsection is very unclear and draws various tenuous parallels between the philosophy of math, the foundations of math, and ontology. In particular, the connection between PM and the abandonment of a certain form of ontology is original/unverified. Moreover, I don't think 'positivist' is precisely the right word for the program that PM attempted to carry out, although i'm not quite familiar enough with the positivists to know this. In fact, I believe that the proper designation is "formalist". I will attempt to edit this a little bit. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:04, 8 July 2009 (UTC)

Unverified claims?[edit]

Please place specific issues/items below. J. D. Redding 20:39, 20 May 2007 (UTC)

Merge from Philosophy of Organism suggestion[edit]

The Philosophy of Organism article is brief, compararively useless without the information in this article, refers, in effect, to the same theory as that discussed on this page, and may contain information and references that are useful on this page. I propose a merge from 'Philosophy of Organism', with a redirect from that page to this. What do you think? Anarchia 21:38, 13 September 2007 (UTC)

If "philosophy of organism" is actually an expression used by Whitehead, then it should not be merged here, as process philosophy is not restricted to Whitehead (see Bergson, Deleuze, etc.). Spirals31 18:38, 8 November 2007 (UTC)

No. This page needs to stay but needs to be developed. It is certainly not limited to the "philosophy of organism" nor consumed by "process theology" It has connections to dialectics, pragmatism, semiotics etc. It is not limited to Whitehead's use.

Eastern Process Philosophy[edit]

Process philosophy has been discussed in "the East", especially India, for at least 2,500 years. The Buddhist idea of impermanence is one example. This could/should be noted in the History section. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:30, 3 August 2011 (UTC)

change link[edit]

The word change is defined in the Wikipedia article on Identity and change. But that article is written from a philosophical perspective that radically differs from that of process philosophy, so that that article's definition of change reads as nonsense from the viewpoint of the present article on Process philosophy. To link this present article to the one on Identity and change would be a mistake, because it would read as nonsense. To remedy this, one might wish to revise the article on Identity and change, but that is perhaps beyond duty of editors of the present article, and I am not attempting it. My solution for the present: remove the link.

According to Whitehead (Process and Reality, page 34), "how an actual entity becomes constitutes what that actual entity is." Also (page 52), "Actual entities perish, but do not change; they are what they are." Thus it is not a very bad stretch of ordinary language to identify a Whiteheadian actual entity with a change, in the sense that a process may be regarded as a change, and also as a Whiteheadian actual entity. It does not make sense to say that "a change changes [itself]", or that "a process changes [itself]", although it does make sense in ordinary language to say that "a process changes something else".Chjoaygame (talk) 23:57, 7 December 2011 (UTC)

ordinary language for the lead[edit]

The term 'dynamism' that I have removed from the leading sentence is a specialized term of art, and as it is defined it does not give a good focus on the main idea of process philosophy. I have therefore replaced it with the ordinary language words 'change and development', deliberately not linked to Wikipedia disambiguation pages because they are intended as words of the ordinary language. In my judgment, they better summarize the intentions of process philosophy. I think that the summarizing function of the lead calls for a statement that is not specifically linked to a particular source. Whitehead writes of words "mutely appealing for an imaginative leap."Chjoaygame (talk) 23:52, 7 February 2012 (UTC)

new series of edits[edit]

It is good to see zeal for reliable sourcing.

The new series of edits is covered by a note that says that a huge section has recently been added. Well, not very recently. The section was much expanded by me in September 2011. Since then it has been sporadically revised bit by bit, including some recent revisions. The covering note is right to say that the section is hardly referenced.

I made my edits by working directly from Process and Reality. Perhaps it is very naughty to work from a primary source, but in the case of Whitehead, one finds that secondary sources often "improve" on the original, even to the point where the original is hardly recognizable. Nevertheless, I agree that the section should be properly sourced, and the new edit is working at that.

I have made an adjustment to the subsection sequence.

If I may be so bold, the new edit leaves something to be desired in the way of syntax. Perhaps the editor is still working on that. Also, a strict approach would ask for page references rather than a repeated blanket reference to a book. Full secondary sourcing for this section would be a big task. For myself, I have found Ivor Leclerc's Whitehead's Metaphysics. An Introductory Exposition, George Allen and Unwin, London, Macmillan, New York, (1958), most helpful.Chjoaygame (talk) 01:46, 28 March 2013 (UTC)

Because I do not wish to inhibit the zealous supply of references, I do not wish to be over-critical of the new edits, but I feel I ought to point out that Whitehead's work was radically original and not to be easily comprehended by mere description in terms of previously established ways of thinking. In expounding Whitehead's scheme, it is easy to slip into a more poetic or metaphoric than categorical way of expression; I think this is unhelpful and can easily mislead the reader. I will here make some comments on the particulars of the new edits, and perhaps later I will do some more editing myself. In summmary I will here conclude, with respect, that the material in the new edit functions more to provide a formal appearance of sourcing, than to further clarify the account of the Whitehead's scheme.

The first new edit consists of two sentences. The first of them reads "Concrescence is a term coined by Whitehead to show the process of jointly forming an actual entity that was without form, but about to manifest itself into an entity Actual full (satisfaction) based on datums or for information on the universe.[1]" I have to confess that this seems to me to have problems of intelligibility. I do not see it as a fair rendering of its cited source.

The second sentence of the first new edit reads: "The process of forming an actual entity is the case based on the existing datums. Concretion process can be regarded as subjectification process.[2]" I do not at present have a copy of this source and it will take me perhaps a week to get it. The sentence is perhaps intelligible to someone who is already familiar with the material, but is to some extent misleading to someone not familiar with it.

The next new edit reads " Creativity is a term coined by Whitehead to show a force in the universe that allows the presence of actual entity a new one based on actual entity, others actual entities.[2] Creativity is the principle of novelty.[1]" I think this needs significant revision. As it stands it is likely to mislead or tend to create misunderstanding. I do not see it as supported by its cited source.

The third new edit reads "Datum is a term coined by Whitehead to show the different variants of information possessed by actual entity. In process philosophy, datum is obtained through the events of concrescence. Every actual entity has a variety of datum.[2][1]" Agan, I think this needs revision.

The fourth new edit reads "Nexus is a term coined by Whitehead to show the network actual entity from universe. In the universe of actual entities spread[1] actual entity. Actual entities are clashing with each other and form other actual entities.[2] The birth of an actual entity based on an actual entity, actual entities around him referred to as nexus.[1]" I doubt that this will enlighten someone not already familiar with the work. It needs revision.

Whitehead is not easy for a beginner to understand from scratch, and not easy to expound in way that will be easy for a beginner to understand. A main difficulty for the beginner is to unlearn ingrained theoretical prejudice and habitual dogma. Eventually, Whitehead's metaphysical system is simple and easy to use, but that is only after a significant amount of unlearning of previously established theory. It is an impediment to clear exposition to try to put too much of Whitehead's specialized terminology into an introductory account.Chjoaygame (talk) 09:47, 28 March 2013 (UTC)

Dear Star767, with your latest edit, I can see that you are set on a mighty improvement of the section. Therefore I will not further edit this section, but I will leave it to you. I have transplanted a revised version of this section to the article Process and Reality, and I will probably further edit that version.Chjoaygame (talk) 15:02, 28 March 2013 (UTC)Chjoaygame (talk) 16:56, 28 March 2013 (UTC)


  1. ^ a b c d e Robert Audi. 1995, The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. Cambridge: The Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge.
  2. ^ a b c d John B. Cobb and David Ray Griffin. 1976, Process Theology, An Introduction. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.

Vandalism? Or just above my head?[edit]


In psychology, the subject of imagination was again explored more extensively since Whitehead, and the question of feasibility or "eternal objects" of thought became central to the impaired theory of mind explorations that framed postmodern cognitive science. A biological understanding of the most eternal object, that being the emerging of similar but independent cognitive apparatus, led to an obsession with the process "embodiment", that being, the emergence of these cognitions. Like Whitehead's God, especially as elaborated in J. J. Gibson's perceptual psychology emphasizing affordances, by ordering the relevance of eternal objects (especially the cognitions of other such actors), the world becomes. Or, it becomes simple enough for human beings to begin to make choices, and to prehend what happens as a result. These experiences may be summed in some sense but can only approximately be shared, even among very similar cognitions with identical DNA. An early explorer of this view was Alan Turing who sought to prove the limits of expressive complexity of human genes in the late 1940s, to put bounds on the complexity of human intelligence and so assess the feasibility of artificial intelligence emerging. Since 2000, Process Psychology has progressed as an independent academic and therapeutic discipline.[14]"

Above is the version I found of an entire section that is a bit confusing.

Rather than delete the whole section, I edited out what most looked like vandalism after copying it to here for discussion.

Here is what it would look like after I edited it. I decided to leave the article as it was until discussion had occurred:


In psychology, the subject of imagination was again explored more extensively since Whitehead, and the question of feasibility of "eternal objects" of thought became central to the theory of mind explorations that framed cognitive science. A biological understanding of the most eternal object, that being the emerging of similar but independent cognitive apparatus, led to an interest in the process "embodiment", that being, the emergence of these cognitions. Like Whitehead's God, especially as elaborated in J. J. Gibson's perceptual psychology emphasizing affordances, by ordering the relevance of eternal objects (especially the cognitions of other such actors), the world becomes. Or, it becomes simple enough for human beings to begin to make choices, and to comprehend what happens as a result. These experiences may be summed in some sense but only approximately be shared, even among very similar cognitions with identical DNA. An early explorer of this view was Alan Turing who sought to prove the limits of expressive complexity of human genes in the late 1940s, to put bounds on the complexity of human intelligence and so assess the feasibility of artificial intelligence emerging. Since 2000, process psychology has progressed as an independent academic and therapeutic discipline.[14]" — Preceding unsigned comment added by Mark Matthew Dalton (talkcontribs) 03:18, 14 January 2014 (UTC) Mark Matthew Dalton (talk) 03:23, 14 January 2014 (UTC)

I don't see vandalism occurring here ("impaired" theory of mind is a real thing, for instance). I do think the paragraph could really stand to be rewritten using plainer language, but that's a different issue. The referenced article is online here, and more articles here, here, and here, if anyone wants to tackle it. Joseph Petek (talk) 08:42, 14 January 2014 (UTC)

"process rather than substance"[edit]

Whitehead explicitly regards actual entities, instanced in their most general form for him by occasions of experience, as substances. That is to say, for Whitehead, process is the one and only kind of substance. It therefore is an unfortunate choice of language in the lead to say that processes are not substances. Yes, the word substance has two rather different usages, one the philosophical one that Whitehead uses, and another the more ordinary language usage in which a substance is a persisting and chemically definite material. But still the choice of language is unfortunate.Chjoaygame (talk) 00:49, 13 February 2014 (UTC)

undid good faith edit[edit]

I have undone a good faith edit because it was based on a single item of primary research, and I think it is self-contradictory and inaccurate. It makes deep and wide claims that verge on nonsense. As a piece of neurophysiological thought it verges on drivel. Reliable sources in such matters are preferably tertiary or at least secondary.Chjoaygame (talk) 09:59, 10 April 2014 (UTC)

sumary deletion[edit]

I have summarily deleted "e.g., he called God the "Supreme Fascist", echoing the role Whitehead assigned,". Perhaps this can be supported by a good reference, but I doubt it. To go a little further, I cannot see anything in the sub-section headed Process philosophy#Legacy and applications#Mathematics that justifies its presence in the article. Perhaps someone can correct me there?Chjoaygame (talk) 03:33, 4 August 2015 (UTC)

New section for Nicholas Rescher[edit]

I would like to add a new section about Nicholas Rescher and his ideas about Process Philosophy. This new section would be after Whitehead. I am not an expert so it will take a long time. My main reference will be his book "Process Philosophy, A Survey of Basic Issues." any suggestions would be appreciated.

I think that the importance of this article should be upgraded considering that it eliminate dualism and provides an ontological organization of everything. Pagatiponon (talk) 05:14, 9 October 2015 (UTC)