Panentheism.  Revisionism.  Anarchocapitalism.


David Ray Griffin

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The last two paragraphs of this 2002 essay were dropped when it was published as Chapter 3 of David Ray Griffin, Whitehead’s Radically Different Post-modern Philosophy: An Argument for Its Contempor-ary Relevance, State University of New York Press, 2007; its title was changed to “Consciousness as a Subjective Form: Interactionism without Dualism.”

Posted November 12, 2009


Consciousness as a Subjective Form: Whitehead’s Nonreductionist Naturalism

David Ray Griffin 

Whitehead’s position on consciousness differs ra-dically from that of the hitherto dominant approach-es, Cartesian dualism and reductionist materialism, but it does share aspects of these two positions.  Part of its novelty, in fact, is that it can combine ideas that had previously seemed irreconcilable.

With dualists, Whitehead agrees that conscious-ness belongs to an entity—a mind or psyche—that is distinct from the brain, and that genuine freedom can, partly for this reason, be attributed to conscious experience.

With materialists, Whitehead shares a naturalistic sensibility, thereby eschewing any even implicitly supernaturalistic solution to philosophical problems, and, partly for this reason, rejects any dualism between two kinds of actualities. Like materialists, in other words, he affirms a pluralistic monism. He thereby regards consciousness as a function of something more fundamental.

And yet he, like dualists, rejects the reductionism involved in functionalism as understood by material-ists.  All of these features of Whitehead’s position are implicit in his doctrine that consciousness is the subjective form of an intellectual feeling, which arises, if at all, only in a late phase of a moment of experience.  It will be the purpose of this essay to explain this idea and show how it enables us to solve a number of philosophical problems associated with consciousness.


1. Some Criteria for an Adequate Doctrine of Consciousness

In listing the criteria by which to judge the suc-cess of any metaphysical theory, Whitehead includes “adequacy” as well as self-consistency and coher-ence (PR 3).  Although it is now fashionable in some philosophical circles to argue that there can be no universal, tradition-transcendent criteria in terms of which to judge the adequacy of theories, Whitehead disagreed.  The “metaphysical rule of evidence,” he said, is “that we must bow to those presumptions which, in despite of criticism, we still employ for the regulation of our lives” (PR 151).  In affirming this view, Whitehead was explicitly rejecting Hume’s dualism between theory and practice, according to which we have various “natural beliefs,” such as the belief in an external world, which we necessarily presuppose in practice but cannot affirm in philosophical theory.  Whitehead, in response, said:

Whatever is found in ‘practice’ must lie within the scope of the metaphysical description. When the description fails to include the ‘practice,’ the metaphysics is inadequate and requires revision.  There can be no appeal to practice to supplement metaphysics. (PR 13)

Some advocates of deconstruction, using a Kantian description, refer to ideas that we cannot help presupposing, but that we must nevertheless consider false, as “transcendental illusions.”1 How-ever, to say that an idea is false, even though one cannot help presupposing this idea, is to violate the law of noncontradiction, usually considered the first rule of reason, because one is both (implicitly) affirming and (explicitly) denying one and the same proposition.  Such a self-contradiction is “absolutely self-refuting” in the sense clarified by John Passmore: “The proposition p is absolutely self-refuting, if to assert p is equivalent to asserting both p and not-p.”2  Jürgen Habermas and Karl-Otto Apel call such a self-contradiction a “performative contra-diction,” because the performance of making the statement contradicts the statement’s meaning.3 For example, if I say that I doubt your existence, the fact that I am addressing you contradicts my professed doubt.  Whitehead agrees with Passmore, Habermas, and Apel that our theories must seek to avoid such self-contradictions by avoiding “negations of what in practice is presupposed” (PR 13).

In enunciating this criterion, Whitehead thereby stood in the tradition of “commonsense” philosophy. The term “common sense,” however, is now often used quite differently, to refer to ideas that, although widely held at a certain time and place, are false. Science, in fact, is often described as a systematic assault on common sense, undermining such “com-monsense” ideas as the flatness of the Earth, its centrality in the universe, and the solidity of matter. I distinguish between these two meanings, accord-ingly, by referring to common sense in the latter sense as soft-core common sense, while referring to those ideas that we all inevitably presuppose as hard-core commonsense ideas.  It was common sense in the hard-core sense that Whitehead had in mind in referring to his “endeavor to interpret experience in accordance with the overpowering deli-verance of common sense” (PR 50).  Commonsense notions of this hard-core type are “overpowering” because we cannot help presupposing them, even in the act of verbally denying them.

With regard to conscious experience, four of these overpowering notions are that conscious experience exists, that it exerts influence upon the body, that it has a degree of self-determining freedom, and that it can act in accord with various norms.  The fact that all four of these notions are inevitably presupposed in practice is widely recognized by contemporary philosophers.

1. The impossibility of doubting the existence of one’s own conscious experience was famously em-phasized by Descartes.  Now Jaakko Hintikka, in an essay titled “Cogito, Ergo Sum,” has shown that Descartes’ argument involved the notion of a performative self-contradiction.  If I say, “I doubt herewith, now, that I exist,” then, explains Hintikka, “the propositional component contradicts the performative component of the speech act expressed by that self-referential sentence.”4  Insofar as the extreme version of materialism known as “elimina-tive materialism” seeks to eliminate all references to conscious experience, it is involved in this kind of self-refuting contradiction.

2. With regard to our second notion, the efficacy of conscious experience for bodily behavior, William Seager observes that “it presents the aspect of a datum rather than a disputable hypothesis.”5  Ted Honderich, explicitly bringing out the hard-core commonsense status of this belief, says that its main recommendation is “the futility of contemplating its denial.”  With regard to epiphenomenalism, which is the doctrine that conscious experience does not exert causal efficacy on the body, Honderich says: “Off the page, no one believes it.”6  Suggesting a reductio ad absurdum of epiphenomenalism, Jaegwon Kim says: “If our reasons and desires have no causal efficacy at all in influencing our bodily actions, then perhaps no one has ever performed a single intentional action!”7  One’s theory, Kim insists, must have room for the reality of psychophysical causation, as when, feeling a pain, one’s decision to call the doctor leads one to walk to the telephone and dial it.8  John Searle, in a similar vein, includes “the reality and causal efficacy of consciousness” among the “obvious facts” about our minds and endorses the “commonsense objection to ‘eliminative materi-alism’ that it is ‘crazy to say that . . . my beliefs and desires don’t play any role in my behavior.’”9

3. Our third idea, that such actions are based on a degree of self-determining freedom, is equally recog-nized to be an inevitable presupposition. Searle, pointing out that people have been able to give up some commonsense beliefs, such as the beliefs in a flat Earth and literal “sunsets,” says that

we can’t similarly give up the conviction of freedom because that conviction is built into every normal, conscious intentional action. . . . [W]e can’t act otherwise than on the assumption of freedom, no matter how much we learn about how the world works as a determined physical system.10

Similarly, Thomas Nagel, in spite of seeing no way to give a coherent account of freedom, says: “I can no more help holding myself and others responsible in ordinary life than I can help feeling that my actions originate with me.”11  To be sure, some philosophers, such as William Lycan, try to make this feeling of freedom compatible with complete determinism by redefining freedom.  According to this compatibilist definition, to say I did X freely is not to say that I could have acted otherwise.12  But to speak of freedom only in this compatibilist, Pickwickian sense, both Nagel and Searle see, is not to speak of freedom as we presuppose it.13

4. It is also widely recognized that we presuppose that our actions can be shaped by various norms. Kim, in emphasizing the importance of affirming the efficacy of our decisions for our bodily actions, says that otherwise we “would render our moral and cognitive life wholly unintelligible” because we could no longer affirm that “our norms and beliefs regulate our deliberations and decisions.”14  Charles Larmore likewise recognizes that both moral and cognitive norms somehow exercise authority over our con- scious experience.  He says, for example, that it would be ridiculous to suggest “that even so basic a rule of reasoning as the avoidance of contradiction has no more authority than what we choose to give it.”15


2. Inadequacies of Dualism and Materialism

It would seem to be widely agreed, therefore, that for any theory of conscious experience to be deemed even minimally adequate, it would have to do justice to these four notions.  But both dualism and mater-ialism have difficulty affirming these notions in a self-consistent way, at least without appealing to supernatural assistance.  I will discuss their difficulties with these four notions in order.

1. For Descartes, there was no problem in asserting the existence of consciousness, as he simply assumed that God, in creating the world, had created minds as well as bodies ex nihilo.  But philo-sophers today presuppose a naturalistic, evolution-ary worldview.  Materialists and dualists, both presupposing a materialistic view of the ultimate units of nature, must affirm that conscious experi-ence somehow emerged out of entities wholly devoid of experience.  For dualists, this means the emer-gence of minds, as a new kind of actuality (or sub-stance); for materialists, this means the emergence of consciousness as a new property of matter.  In either case, this kind of emergence is hard to make intelligible.

From the side of dualism, Karl Popper and H. D. Lewis have implicitly admitted that they cannot explain it.16  Geoffrey Madell, more candidly, has ex-plicitly admitted that “the appearance of conscious-ness in the course of evolution must appear for the dualist to be an utterly inexplicable emergence of something entirely new, an emergence which must appear quite bizarre.”17  Some materialists think that this problem uniquely exists for dualism.  J.J.C. Smart, for example, said:

How could a nonphysical property or entity suddenly arise in the course of animal evo-lution?. . . . [W]hat sort of chemical process could lead to the springing into existence of something nonphysical?  No enzyme can catalyze the production of a spook!”18

Smart failed to see, however, that the idea that an apparent spook is produced out of wholly insentient stuff creates an equal difficulty.  But Colin McGinn, another materialist, does see this, saying that

we do not know how consciousness might have arisen by natural processes from antece-dently existing material things.  Somehow or other sentience sprang from pulpy matter, giving matter an inner aspect, but we have no idea how this leap was propelled.

McGinn’s reference to natural processes is essential to his point.  “One is tempted,” he says,

to turn to divine assistance: for only a kind of miracle could produce this from that.  It would take a supernatural magician to extract con-sciousness from matter.  Consciousness ap-pears to introduce a sharp break in the natural order—a point at which scientific naturalism runs out of steam.”19

At least one contemporary philosopher, Richard Swinburne, succumbs to this temptation, arguing thus:

[S]cience cannot explain the evolution of a mental life.  That is to say, . . . there is nothing in the nature of certain physical events . . . to give rise to connections to [mental events] .... God, being omnipotent, would have the power to produce a soul.20

But McGinn, speaking for most contemporary philoso-phers by insisting that naturalism must be presup-posed, cannot countenance such an answer.21

McGinn is far from the only materialist to see the difficulty of how, as McGinn puts it, “the aggregation of millions of individually insentient neurons [constituting the brain could] generate subjective awareness.”22  Thomas Nagel, using en soi for a being that exists merely “in itself” and pour soi for one that exists “for itself,” has said:

One cannot derive a pour soi from an en soi .... This gap is logically unbridgeable.  If a bodiless god wanted to create a conscious being, he could not expect to do it by combining together in organic form a lot of particles with none but physical properties.23

The problem here for both dualists and materialists is not that they deny the existence of consciousness. It is that their positions cannot account for this existence.

2. A similar problem obtains with our hard-core commonsense presupposition that our conscious ex-perience exerts causal efficacy upon our bodies, thus directing our bodily actions.  Although dualists and materialists inevitably presuppose that such efficacy occurs, as we have seen, they cannot explain how.  For dualists, one reason for this difficulty is simply the problem of understanding how a mental or spiritual entity could influence physical entities, understood to be completely different in kind.  As Madell admits, “the nature of the causal connection between the mental and the physical, as the Cartesian conceives of it, is utterly mysterious.”24 Descartes himself was not embarrassed by this mysteriousness, because for him the problem was solved by appeal to divine omnipotence, an appeal that was brought out more explicitly in the doctrine of “occasionalism” enunciated by his followers Nico-las Malebranche and Arnold Geulincx.25  As William James said, “For thinkers of that age, ‘God’ was the great solvent of all absurdities.”26  Aside from a few throwbacks to that age such as Richard Swinburne, dualists today cannot employ this solvent, so they cannot explain our conviction that the mind affects the body.

Epiphenomenalists, like dualists, think of the mind as a mental or spiritual entity, distinct from the brain, but they use the impossibility of understanding how it could affect the brain as a basis for denying that it does.  This denial, however, involves arbitrariness. At least one advocate of epiphenomenalism, Keith Campbell, admits that it is arbitrary, because it “rejects only one half of the interaction of matter and spirit.” That is, epiphenomenalism denies “the action of spirit on matterwhile accepting the idea that the spiritual mind emerged out of a wholly materialistic universe, thereby affirming “the action of the material on the spiritual.”27  Campbell’s twofold motive for this arbitrariness, he says, is that it allows him, on the one hand, to admit that the mind exists, so that he need not, with materialists, think of psychological states, such as pains, as simply properties of the brain,28 and yet, on the other hand, to “preserve the completeness of the physical accounts of human action.”29

This latter part of Campbell’s motive reflects a widespread conviction held by materialists as well as epiphenomenalists, the conviction that, as Jaegwon Kim puts it, the bottom layer of nature is controlled by the laws of physics and chemistry, so that it cannot be influenced by higher levels of nature. Given this conviction, our thoughts cannot influence our bodily behavior, because the latter must in principle be fully understandable in terms of the laws of physics and chemistry.  But this view rules out Kim’s affirmation, which he had made in opposition to epiphenomenalism, that we walk to the telephone because we have decided to make a call.  Upon seeing this contradiction, Kim admitted that materi-alism seems “to be up against a dead end.”30

3. Materialists have even greater difficulty with freedom than with downward causation.  Searle, for example, believes that science “allows no place for freedom of the will.”31  This denial follows from Searle’s materialistic assumptions, which he summarizes thus:

Since nature consists of particles and their relations with each other, and since everything can be accounted for in terms of those particles and their relations, there is simply no room for freedom of the will.32

Scientific explanation, Searle further elaborates, is bottom-up explanation, which explains the behavior of all complex things in terms of their most elementary constituents.”33  The idea of statistical indeterminacy at the quantum level provides no basis for affirming freedom, Searle adds, because all such indeterminacy is canceled out in macro-objects, such as billiard balls and human bodies.34  So, al-though Searle admits that we cannot help presup-posing that we and others act freely, the fact that freedom is not reconcilable with scientific mater-ialism means that our feeling of freedom must be an illusion built into the structure of human experience by evolution.”35  Searle explicitly admits his failure, saying that although

ideally, I would like to be able to keep both my commonsense conceptions and my scientific beliefs. . . [,] when it comes to the question of freedom and determinism, I am . . . unable to reconcile the two.”36

Searle’s inability to affirm genuine freedom is echoed by many other materialists, such as Colin McGinn, Thomas Nagel, and Daniel Dennett.”37

This inability to affirm freedom, furthermore, undermines the claim by materialists to have endorsed our second notion, downward causation from conscious experience to the body.  This is at least the case if we accept, as I do, Mortimer Taube’s careful definition of an efficient cause: “An event A causes event B, when B results partly from some activity or influence originating in A.”38  In other words, if an event in the life of my mind helps bring about an event in my body, I can rightly refer to my mind as a cause upon my body only if the bodily event resulted partly from some activity that originated in the mind-event itself.  Materialists cannot say this because for them the mind, not being an entity distinct from the brain, cannot be a locus of power.

Searle is explicit about the fact that his denial of human freedom depends on this assumption that we do not have a mind that could, as he puts it, force the particles of the brain to “swerve from their paths.”39 Because consciousness is merely an emergent pro-perty of the brain, it cannot “cause things that could not be explained by the causal behavior of the neurons.”40  Dualists, by contrast, do affirm the exis-tence of a mind that, being distinct from the brain, can be affirmed as the locus of self-determining free-dom.  Dualists, however, cannot explain how the mind, being different in kind from the neurons of the brain, can influence them.  Searle, driving home this problem, says:

How could something mental make a physical difference?  Are we supposed to think that our thoughts and feelings can somehow produce chemical effects on our brains . . . ?  How could such a thing occur?  Are we supposed to think that thoughts can wrap themselves around the axons or shake the dendrites or sneak inside the cell wall and attack the cell nucleus?41

Dualists, not being able to answer this question—as Madell and others admit—can, therefore, really do little more justice than can materialists to our inescapable assumption that our bodily actions reflect a degree of freedom.

4. The same inability obtains with regard to our presupposition that we can consciously act in terms of norms.  McGinn points to the difficulty of this problem for his materialist position by asking “how a physical organism can be subject to the norms of rationality.  How, for example, does modus ponens get its grip on the causal transitions between mental states.”42  The problem is that causation involving norms, which are abstract (rather than physical) entities, would be wholly different from billiard-ball causation, which McGinn, in line with his materialism, takes to be paradigmatic for causation in general.”43  “[C]ausal relations between . . . abstract entities and human minds,” says McGinn, would be “funny kinds of causation.”44  Another way to state the problem is to point out that if norms—whether cognitive, moral, or aesthetic—are to have some authority over our experience, there must be some way for us to apprehend these norms.  But materialists, equating the mind with the brain, hold that all perception is through the body’s physical senses, which cannot be activated by nonphysical things such as norms.

Again, dualists, by virtue of distinguishing between the mind and the brain, are able in principle to affirm the reality of nonsensory perception, through which norms could be apprehended, and some dualists do make this affirmation.”45  But they still have the problem of being unable to explain how a nonphysical mind can affect the physical body, so dualists cannot really explain how norm-guided behavior is possible.

Dualism and materialism, in sum, are complete failures with regard to our hard-core commonsense assumptions about our own conscious experience. They, accordingly, must be regarded as woefully inadequate.  This woeful inadequacy suggests that the world must in reality be radically different from the world as portrayed by both dualists and materialists.


3. Whitehead’s Panexperientialism

Such a radically different worldview was proffered by Whitehead.  Part of this difference involves the fact that Whitehead became a theist of sorts, in order to explain various features of our world that seemed otherwise inexplicable.  But this adoption of a theistic perspective did not involve any recursion to super-naturalism.  He rejected the earlier “appeal to a deus ex machina who was capable of rising superior to the difficulties of metaphysics” (SMW 156).  In line with his complete eschewal of supernaturalism, he reject-ed any doctrine that implied a dualism between two types of actualities.46  Positively, this rejection took the form of the acceptance of panexperientialism, according to which all actualities have experience. Accepting this view implied the rejection of what he called “vacuous actualities,” meaning things that are fully actual and yet wholly devoid of experience (PR 29, 167).

Panexperientialism is, to be sure, still thought in many circles to be self-evidently absurd.  But this is partly because the “pan” in panexperientialism is often taken to mean that literally all things, including aggregations such as sticks and stones, have experi-ence.  Whitehead’s doctrine, however, is only that all genuine individuals have experience. Genuine indi-viduals are of two types.  There are simple individu-als, which are the most elementary units of nature (whether these be thought to be quarks or even simpler units).  And there are what Charles Harts-horne, in developing Whitehead’s panexperientialism more fully, called “compound individuals,”47 which are compounded out of simpler individuals, as when atoms are compounded out of subatomic particles, molecules out of atoms, living cells out of macro-molecules, and animals out of cells. These compound individuals are true individuals because the experience of their members give birth to a highest-level experience, which is the “dominant” member of the organism as a whole. This dominant member gives the compound individual a unity of experience and a unity of action, so that it can act purposively with a degree of freedom.  These compound indivi-duals hence differ in kind from mere aggregations of individuals, such as rocks and telephones, in which the experiences of the individual molecules do not give rise to a higher-level, inclusive experience.  For this reason, I emphasize that Whitehead’s doctrine should be called not simply “panexperientialism,” but “panexperientialism with organizational duality.”48

A second reason for considering doctrines of this type absurd is the assumption that they attribute not just experience, but conscious experience, to all things, or at least all individuals.  This assumption has been based partly on the older term for such doctrines, “panpsychism,” which, by implying that all things are psyches, suggests that they all have high-grade, conscious mentality.  Whitehead himself evidently rejected the term “panpsychism” for this reason.49  Although he did not propose the term “panexperientialism” as an alternative, it is sug-gested by many of his statements, such as his rejec-tion of the concept of an actuality “void of subjective experience,” his statement that “apart from the ex-periences of subjects there is nothing,” and his denial that there is any meaning of “togetherness” other than “experiential togetherness” (PR 167, 189).50 Whitehead’s panexperientialism, in any case, holds that all individuals have experience, but that con-sciousness is a very high-level form of experience, enjoyed by relatively few individuals.  With these clarifications, we can see that the standard rejec-tions of panexperientialism as absurd—such as Mc-Ginn’s claim that it attributes thoughts to rocks51—do not apply to Whitehead’s version of it.52

There are still, to be sure, other reasons for resisting the doctrine, chief among which is probably pointed to by Nagel’s statement that “if one travels too far down the phylogenetic tree, people gradually shed their faith that there is experience there at all.”53  This reason, however, is an example of soft-core common sense, which science has repeatedly undermined.  And the scientific undermining of this particular assumption, that experience could not go all the way down, is already well advanced.  Whereas Descartes denied experience to all earthly creatures except humans, some leading ethologists now posit experience at least as far down as bees.54  Going much further down, there is now a wide range of evidence suggestive of the idea that single-cell organisms, such as amoebae and paramecia, have a primitive type of experience.55  Going still further, to the prokaryotic level, some biologists have provided evidence for a rudimentary form of decision-making, based on a rudimentary form of memory, in bacteria.56  Furthermore, although DNA molecules were originally pictured in mechanistic terms, later studies suggested a more organismic understand-ing.57  Going all the way down, quantum physics has shown entities at this level not to be analogous to billiard balls,58 and, as physicist David Bohm and philosopher William Seager have said, quantum theory implies that the behavior of the elementary units of nature can be explained only by attributing to them something analogous to our own mentality.59 Accordingly, the prejudice that experience cannot go all the way down, far from being supported by any scientific evidence, is being increasingly undermined by the relevant evidence.

I have, in any case, argued elsewhere that this empirical support for panexperientialism is only one of many lines of argument pointing towards its truth.60  One of those lines of arguments is that pan-experientialism, and apparently only panexperien-tialism, does justice to the four hard-core common-sense assumptions about conscious experience examined earlier.  A basis for this argument can be provided by spelling out Whitehead’s panexperien-tialism as the doctrine that the actual world is com-prised of creative, experiential, physical-mental events.  I will deal with each of these terms in re-verse order, beginning with the fourth term, “events.”

All the world’s actual entities in the fullest sense are momentary events.  These are all spatiotemporal events with a finite inner duration, ranging perhaps from less than a billionth of a second at the subatomic level to a tenth or twentieth of a second at the level of human experience.  All enduring indivi-duals, such as electrons and minds, are temporal societies of such events.  This feature provides another reason why “panexperientialism” is a better term for this doctrine than “panpsychism.” The latter term, being based on the word “psyche,” suggests that the ultimate units of the world are enduring individuals, whereas the term “panexperientialism” suggests that they are experiences, which are momentary.

In any case, each such event has both physical and mental aspects, with the physical aspect always being prior.  The physical aspect is the event’s recep-tion of the efficient causation of prior events into itself.  This receptivity is called “physical prehen-sion,” or “physical feeling,” which is a mode of per-ception more basic than sensory perception.  An event originates with a multiplicity of physical pre-hensions, each of which has two aspects: an objec-tive datum, which is what is felt, and a subjective form, which is how that datum is felt.  To say that every unit-event (in distinction from an aggregation-al event61) has a mental aspect means that it has a degree—however slight in the most elementary events—of spontaneity or self-determination. Al-though the event’s physical pole is given to it, its mentality is its capacity to decide precisely what to make of its given foundation.  Its physicality is its relation to past actuality; its mentality involves its prehension of ideality or possibility, through which it escapes total determination by the past.

Each event, the second of our terms indicates, is experiential from beginning to end, which means that, in distinction from usage reflecting dualism, the “physical” aspect of the event is not devoid of experience, hence the “mental” aspect is not uniquely associated with experience.  An event’s mentality is simply its experience insofar as it is self-determining.  Whitehead emphasizes the experiential nature of unit-events by calling them “occasions of experience.”

With regard to the first term, creative, I have already stated that each event is, in its mental pole, self-creative, deciding precisely how to respond to the efficient causation exerted upon it.  A second dimension of an experience’s creativity, which comes after its self-determination, is its efficient causation on subsequent events, through which it shares in the creation of the future.  This transition from self-creation to efficient causation betokens another distinction to be made with regard to each unit-event.  Each occasion of experience exists first as a subject of experience, with its physical and mental poles.  But then its subjectivity perishes and it becomes an object for subsequent subjects.  In each enduring individual, accordingly, there is a perpetual oscillation between two modes of existence: subjectivity and objectivity.62  Put in causal language, there is a perpetual oscillation between final causation (in the sense of self-determination) and efficient causation.

Whitehead’s solution to the mind-body problem depends partly on this doctrine of creative, experi-ential, physical-mental events and partly on the idea of compound individuals, one crucial point of which is that the dominant members of increasingly complex compound individuals have an increasing degree of mentality and thereby an increasingly greater capacity for both richness of experience and self-determination.  The occasions of experience consti-tuting a squirrel’s psyche, for example, enjoy a much more complex, sophisticated mode of experience, and far more power for self-determination, than the occasions of experience constituting any of the cells in its body.


4. Whitehead’s Explanation of Our Hard-Core Commonsense Assumptions about Consciousness

I will now explain how Whitehead’s panexperien-tialism can do justice to our hard-core commonsense assumptions about conscious experience.

With regard to the existence of consciousness, we can begin with Whitehead’s discussion of William James’s essay “Does Consciousness Exist?”63 White-head accepts James’s rejection of the existence of consciousness in the sense of an “entity” or an “aboriginal stuff . . . , contrasted with that of which material objects are made, out of which our thoughts of them are made” (SMW 144). Whitehead also accepts James’s contention that consciousness is a particular function of experience. To understand James and Whitehead correctly here, it is important to see that they are not saying that consciousness is a function of the brain, or of nonexperiencing “material objects.”  Rather, consciousness is a function of experience.  It is also important not to take the denial that consciousness is an “aboriginal stuff” to mean that experience is not.  Experience is an aboriginal stuff—for James, who affirmed panpsychism,64 and for Whitehead.  But it is not, of course, an aboriginal stuff different from the stuff out of which material things are made.  The whole point of panexperientialism is that creative experience is the aboriginal stuff out of which human experience and what we call material objects are both made. However, in human beings and other highly complex compound individuals, experience can give rise to conscious thoughts, which have a function that is not enjoyed in the experience of low-grade individuals. This function, said James, is “knowing.” Whitehead agreed, saying that consciousness is “the function of knowing” (SMW 144, 151).  

Given Whitehead’s panexperientialist ontology, the main reasons for denying the full-fledged reality of conscious experience disappear.  If we hold that neurons are sentient, the insoluble problem of how conscious experience could emerge out of insentient neurons does not arise.  Even McGinn grants this point, saying that if we could suppose neurons to have “proto-conscious states,” it would be “easy enough to see how neurons could generate con-sciousness.”65

The problem of mental or downward causation—how one’s decisions can affect one’s brain and thereby one’s bodily behavior—is overcome for the same reason.  Hartshorne explains panexperiential-ism’s solution to both sides of the problem of interaction thus:

cells can influence our human experiences because they have feelings that we can feel. To deal with the influences of human experi-ences upon cells, one turns this around. We have feelings that cells can feel.66

As this statement shows, panexperientialism involves a radically new conception of causation. Rather than, with materialists, thinking of billiard-ball collisions as paradigmatic or, with dualists, thinking in terms of two radically different kinds of causation—that between minds, and that between bodies—and then wondering how minds and bodies can interact, panexperientialism conceives of all causation as involving causation that is analogous to the transference of feeling between two moments of our own experience.67  Accordingly, to hold that “our thoughts and feelings can somehow produce chemical effects on our brains,” we do not have to imagine, as Searle suggests, thoughts “wrap[ping] themselves around the axons or shak[ing] the dendrites [of the brain’s neurons].”

The other standard reason for denying downward causation from conscious experience to the body—the idea that the behavior of things in the physical world is determined by laws of nature—also does not apply.  For Whitehead’s panexperientialism, like that of James and Peirce before him, the so-called laws of nature are not to be thought of as prescriptive, but as descriptive of the widespread habits of nature (MT 154-55).68  And, just as we feel and act differently in different environments, so do cells, molecules, and electrons.  After a molecule migrates from the soil through a carrot to a human body, it is subject to different influences—including influences from the body’s living cells and its dominant member, the mind—and hence behaves differently (SMW 78-80). This fact is one of the “laws of nature.”  Holding that our conscious experiences, with their degree of freedom, guide our bodies, therefore, does not violate any laws of nature. 

I have just mentioned our third hard-core com-monsense assumption about our own experience, namely, that we act with a degree of freedom.  One dimension of Whitehead’s explanation of this assumption is the idea that all individual events are creative events, exercising at least some slight iota of self-determination.  Besides not having to explain how conscious experience could have arisen out of wholly insentient entities, therefore, he also did not have to explain how our experience, with its great capacity for self-determination, could have arisen out of entities that interacted in a wholly deter-ministic way.  Freedom did not suddenly appear at some point in the evolutionary process.  Rather, compound individuals with increasingly more mentality emerged out of ones with less.

It is, of course, one thing to assert that all individuals have a degree of freedom; it is another thing to explain how freedom is conceivable in a world in which all events are enmeshed in a universal nexus of efficient causation.  The key to this explanation is the idea, discussed above, that every enduring individual, such as a molecule or a human psyche, perpetually oscillates between subjectivity and objectivity.  Each occasion of experience in an enduring individual exists first as a subject.  In this mode, it begins as an effect of prior events, receiving efficient causation from them.  This is the subject’s physical pole.  Then the event exercises its self-determination, deciding precisely how to respond to the various causal influences upon it.  This is the subject’s mental pole, during which it exercises final causation.  But then the event becomes an object, at which time it exerts efficient causation on future subjects.  This efficient causation is based upon the event’s final causation, its self-determination.  The event’s freedom, in other words, is exercised between its reception of efficient causation from the past and its exertion of efficient causation on the future.  In Whitehead’s words, each “occasion arises as an effect facing its past and ends as a cause facing its future.  In between there lies the teleology of the universe” (AI 194)

We need only apply this idea to the human mind or psyche, understood as a temporal society of dominant occasions of experience, to understand its freedom in relation to its body.  In each moment, the dominant occasion arises out of causal influences from the past world—most immediately its own past experiences and its bodily parts, as mediated through its brain.  It then exercises its self-determination in deciding how to respond to these influences.  This decision then influences its future experiences and its brain cells, which then transmit the decisions to the relevant parts of the body. Therefore, our bodily action does, as we assume, reflect our free choices.

Implicit in this discussion of the psyche—as a temporal series of dominant occasions of experi-ence—is the major way in which Whiteheadian pan-experientialism agrees with dualism.  Materialists cannot even begin to do justice to our freedom because of their view that the mind is numerically identical with the brain.  As I emphasized earlier, this identification entails the denial that the mind is a locus of power that could exercise self-determina-tion.  Structurally, therefore, a human being or a dog is not different in kind from a toaster or a computer. Searle brings out this fact by saying that human and canine behavior must be explained in terms of bottom-up causation just as it is in those other things, because there is nothing in a human being or a dog to exert any top-down causation, at least not causation that reflects self-determination. Dualists have always rejected this account, insisting that the human mind, being a numerically distinct entity, is a locus of self-determining power. Structurally, therefore, humans are different in kind from rocks, toasters, and computers.  Whiteheadian panexper-ientialism, with its distinction between compound individuals and nonindividualized aggregational soci-eties, agrees with dualists on this score.  Both views affirm human freedom, and both views, thereby, affirm the mind’s efficient causation on the body in Taube’s sense.  Both views, more generally, endorse interactionism—that the mind and the brain, being numerically distinct, interact, with each exerting causal efficacy on the other.69

The only difference is that dualism, in addition to affirming this numerical distinctness, affirms that the mind is ontologically different in kind from the brain’s components, being composed of different stuff.  So, although dualism’s numerical thesis provides a necessary condition for making interaction intelli-gible, its ontological thesis makes this interaction un-intelligible.  Whiteheadian panexperientialism keeps the numerical thesis while rejecting the onto-logical thesis.  And it is the ontological thesis, not the numerical thesis by itself, that makes the position dualistic and hence problematic.70  Whitehead’s position, therefore, can be called nondualistic interactionism.71  This doctrine is essential to his defense of human freedom.

Our fourth hard-core assumption is that our action, besides embodying freedom, also involves acting in accord with norms.  Part of the White-headian vindication of this assumption has already been given—namely, that in exercising final causation, we are aiming at a goal, and this goal can well involve some ideal, such as the ideal to be moral or self-consistent.  Implicit in this position, however, is the idea that we can be aware of norms. Whitehead’s panexperientialism speaks to this issue as well.  The modern belief that we could not perceive cognitive, moral, and aesthetic norms, even if such norms exist, is based on the belief that we experience things beyond ourselves only by means of our sensory organs.  However, the idea that perceptual experience is enjoyed by all individuals, including all individuals without sense-organs, implies that there is a mode of perception more basic than sensory perception.  And this is Whitehead’s doctrine—that sensory perception is a high-level form of perception, derivative from a more primitive, nonsensory mode of perception, which he calls “pre-hension” or “feeling.”  It is through this nonsensory prehension that we apprehend norms.72

I have been explaining how Whitehead’s panex-perientialism, with its nonreductionistic naturalism, allows us to do justice to four of our hard-core com-monsense assumptions about conscious experience that have been problematic for both dualists and materialists.  One ingredient in this explanation is the Jamesian demotion of  consciousness from the status of an entity or a stuff73 to that an emergent function. In the final section, I will explain Whitehead’s development of this Jamesian notion into the doctrine that consciousness is the subjective form of a feeling of a certain type.  I will also point out some other ways, in addition to its being a necessary ingredient in Whitehead’s solution to the mind-body problem, that this doctrine is important.  


5. The Doctrine of Consciousness as a Subjective Form: Its Meaning and Importance

Consciousness for Whitehead, to recall, is the subjective form of an intellectual feeling, which arises, if at all, only in a late phase of an occasion of experience.  Thus far the discussion of different phases of experience has been limited to two: the physical and the mental poles.  In an occasion of experience that attains consciousness, however, the mental pole itself has phases.  According to Whitehead’s more detailed analysis of a conscious occasion of experience, there are four phases altogether.  

The first phase is the physical phase, which feels past actual occasions.  

In the second phase, various pure possibilities (eternal objects) are felt conceptually or appeti-tively.  

In the third phase, these possibilities are conjoined with the actualities felt in the physical pole, resulting in the feeling of propositions.

In the fourth phase, these propositions are compared with the original physical feelings, resulting in “intellectual feelings” (PR 241, 266, 277, 344).

What is unique about an intellectual feeling is that it involves a contrast between a fact and a proposition (or theory)—between what is and what might be.  This is called the “affirmation-negation contrast.”

Like all other feelings, intellectual feelings have, besides an objective datum, also a subjective form, which is how that datum is felt.  The objective datum of an intellectual feeling is an affirmation-negation contrast; the subjective form is consciousness. Consciousness, in other words, involves awareness both of something definite and of potentialities that

illustrate either what it is and might not be, or what it is not and might be.  In other words, there is no consciousness without reference to definiteness, affirmation, and negation. Consciousness is how we feel the affirmation-negation contrast. (PR 243)

To explain more fully the difference between experience that is and is not conscious: Experience is present whenever there is any awareness of what is; but we should not speak of conscious experience, Whitehead proposes, except where there is also an awareness of what is not.

Consciousness is the feeling of negation: in the perception of “the stone as grey,” such feeling is in barest germ; in the perception of “the stone as not grey,” such feeling is in full development.  Thus the negative perception is the triumph of consciousness. (PR 161)

Consciousness, according to this analysis, is provoked into existence by, and only by, the right type of datum, this being an affirmation-negation contrast.  Without this datum, there can be no consciousness.  This explains why consciousness can appear only in a late phase of experience: An intellectual feeling is a complex feeling, involving the integration of feelings arising in earlier phases, so it can arise only in a late phase.  This idea lies behind Whitehead’s well-known statement that “conscious-ness presupposes experience, and not experience consciousness (PR 53).  Consciousness, if it occurs, lights up experience that preceded it, a level of experience that can exist without consciousness. Whitehead says, accordingly, that “consciousness is the crown of experience, only occasionally attained, not its necessary base (PR 267).

In saying that consciousness is only occasionally attained, Whitehead means partly that those enduring individuals that are capable of attaining consciousness do not do so in every occasion of their experience (as in dreamless sleep).  But he is mainly referring to the fact that most of the occasions of experience in the universe are too simple to go beyond the third phase.  They are hence incapable of creating any full-fledged propositions, which are necessary conditions for intellectual feelings. Whitehead thereby explains how there can be experience without consciousness, and also how compound individuals capable of consciousness could have emerged out of ones without this capacity.

An explanation of how consciousness could have emerged is an essential component in the theory’s adequacy.  Panexperientialism, as we saw earlier, avoids what has rightly been seen as an insoluble problem: how conscious experience could have emerged out of entities wholly devoid of experience. But one could accept panexperientialism and still not find it self-evident how experience of our type could have emerged out of entities such as quarks and photons.  Whitehead’s account of the phases of concrescence provides an abstract scheme that shows what kind of experiences the intervening steps might have had.  This scheme can be described in terms of the language of “intentionality,” which many philosophers of mind have used to express the problem of how consciousness could have emerged. That is, consciousness involves “intentionality” in the sense of “aboutness”; it has “intentional objects.” These intended objects may be actual things, such as food, or ideal things, such as numbers or proposi-tions.  In any case, the puzzle is how beings such as us, with our intentionality, could have emerged out of things such as quarks and photons, which, even if we grant them some type of experience, cannot be supposed to have anything approaching the intentionality that we enjoy.

The abstract line of development suggested by Whitehead’s analysis goes like this:

Very elementary occasions of experience are not able to synthesize physical and conceptual feelings into propositional feelings, but they do synthesize them into rudimentary analogues, which Whitehead calls “physical purposes” (PR 267, 276).  These experiences, not being able to focus on a possibility qua possibility, have only, we can say, incipient intentionality.  

Somewhat higher-level occasions of experience, complex enough to have propositional (but not intellectual) feelings, have, we can say, proto-intentionality.  Only very high-level experiences have full-fledged, conscious intentionality, because only they are sophisticated enough to contrast proposi-tions, as possibilities, with the perceived facts.

Given the idea of evolution as involving increa-singly complex compound individuals, which can provide their dominant occasions with increasingly complex data, we can see how experiences of our type could have gradually arisen out of extremely trivial experiences. 

* * *

Whitehead’s analysis of consciousness, I have shown, is part and parcel of his explanation of how conscious beings could have emerged evolutionarily and of his justification of our hard-core com-monsense assumptions about our experience.  I will conclude by pointing out how it also lies behind Whitehead’s explanation of why, although our hard-core commonsense beliefs have an empirical basis, philosophers have tended to overlook this basis.

The main idea in this explanation is that con-sciousness, arising only near the conclusion of an oc-casion of experience, fails to shed its light upon the origins of that experience and thereby its most basic ingredients.  In Whitehead’s words: “Consciousness only arises in a late derivative phase of complex integrations” and “primarily illuminates the higher phase in which it arises.”  Accordingly, “conscious-ness only dimly illuminates the . . . primitive ele-ments in our experience.”  Whitehead even refers to this point as a “law”—”that the late derivative ele-ments are more clearly illuminated by consciousness than the primitive elements” (PR 162).  We can call this “Whitehead’s perceptual law.”

On the basis of this law, we can understand why philosophers, at least since the time of Hume, have worried about the empirical basis of our beliefs about causation and the “external world.”  We do, Whitehead says, directly perceive the existence of actual things beyond ourselves and also their causal efficacy on us.  Whitehead, in fact, refers to this as a distinct mode of perception, which he calls “perception in the mode of causal efficacy” (this being a synonym for “physical prehension”).  This mode stands in contrast with another mode, which he calls “perception in the mode of presentational immediacy,” because in this latter mode various data are immediately present to our consciousness.  The perception of sense-data, such as colored shapes, is the most obvious example of perception in this mode.  Full-fledged sense-perception always in-volves a synthesis of these two modes, which Whitehead calls “perception in the mode of symbolic reference.”74  In our conscious experience, however, the data of perception in the mode of causal efficacy tend to drop out, so that sensory perception gets virtually equated with perception in the mode of presentational immediacy.  This is especially the case with philosophers insofar as they focus on the “clear and distinct” data of perception, presuming them to be basic.  Accordingly, Hume, while admitting that in “practice” he could not help presupposing a real world and causation as real influence, said that in his philosophical “theory,” which was to be based rigidly on perceptual experience, he could not refute solipsism and could define causation only as the “constant conjunction” of two types of phenomena. 

Whitehead’s perceptual law—“that the late derivative elements [in an occasion of experience] are more clearly illuminated by consciousness than the primitive elements”—explains why Hume, focusing on the clear and distinct elements in perceptual experience, came to that conclusion.  “[C]onsciousness only dimly illuminates the prehensions in the mode of causal efficacy,” says Whitehead, “because these prehensions are primitive elements in our experience.”  By contrast, “prehensions in the mode of presentational immediacy . . . are late derivatives”; they, accordingly, “are among those prehensions which we enjoy with the most vivid consciousness” (PR 162).

Whitehead’s perceptual law presupposes his idea that the mind or psyche is not an enduring substance, or even stream, numerically one through time, with consciousness as the stuff of which it consists. Consciousness is not, accordingly, simply waiting there, as it were, to be filled by this or that content. If it were, we would expect it to light up early arrivals as clearly as, or even more clearly than, late-comers. This seemed to be Hume’s assumption.  But the mind or psyche is, instead, a serially-ordered society of distinct (albeit intimately interconnected) occasions of experience, and consciousness is a subjective form that arises, if at all, only in a late phase of these occasions.  It is not lying in waiting, but must be provoked into existence.  And this provocation, as we have seen, can occur only in a late phase. Con-sciousness, accordingly, primarily illuminates the late-comers, which have been constructed by the occasion of experience itself, rather than the early arrivals, which were given to the occasion of ex-perience from beyond itself.

If this were the only implication of Whitehead’s perceptual law, it would be of importance only to philosophers, who seem to be the only ones tempted to solipsism and phenomenalist definitions of causality.  A more general cultural problem of modernity, however, is the widespread doubt that normative ideals are given to our experience.  Max Weber called modernity’s transition to seeing the world as not embodying such ideals “the disenchantment of the world.”  The existential implication of this disenchantment is the relativistic belief that ideals are invented, not discovered.75  The political implication is that “might makes right.76

The denial that we perceive normative ideals is closely related to the equation of perception with sensory perception.  Because ideals are not the kinds of things that can be detected by means of our physical sense organs, the belief that we can perceive only by means of our senses can persuade us that we do not perceive ideals.  But this denial is also due in part to the fact that this perception is generally at the fringes of the conscious portion of our experience.  This fringiness of ideals does not mean that they are absent or secondary in our experience.  The exact contrary is the case: They are secondary or even tertiary in consciousness because they are primary in experience.

To explain this point more fully would require a discussion of Whitehead’s theism, God’s provision of an “initial aim” for each finite occasion of experience, and our direct perception of God (in whom, by the “ontological principle,” the normative ideals must subsist if they are to exist and be perceivable).  A complete account of Whitehead’s psychology, in other words, is not possible in abstraction from his theology.  I have discussed this connection else-where.77  For now I simply repeat the main points of the present account—that Whitehead defines con-sciousness as the subjective form of an intellectual feeling; that this conception of consciousness is part and parcel of Whitehead’s panexperientialist world-view; that this worldview, with its nonreductionistic naturalism, is far more adequate to our inevitable presuppositions than are both dualism and material-ism; and that this conception of consciousness can help us understand that our inevitable presuppo-sitions have a basis in our perceptual experience even though modern philosophers, and our conscious experience more generally, tend to overlook this basis.

I close by noting that one of the central tasks of philosophy, in Whitehead’s view, involves over-coming the illusions produced by the fact that con-sciousness tends to leave the most fundamental elements of our experience in the dark.  In his words:

Philosophy is the self-correction by con-sciousness of its own initial excess of sub-jectivity.  Each actual occasion contributes to the circumstances of its origin additional for-mative elements . . . .  Consciousness is only the last and greatest of such elements by which the selective character of the individual obscures the external totality, from which it originates and which it embodies.  An actual individual, of such higher grade, has truck with the totality of things . . . ; but it has attained its individual depth of being by a selective emphasis . . . .  The task of philosophy is to recover the totality obscured by the selection. (PR 15)

Calling this task “the metaphysical correction” (PR xvii), Whitehead shows that metaphysics can be relevant to psychology, even to its existential dimensions.



[1] See McCarthy 1993: 102-03.

2 Passmore 1969: 60.

3 See Jay 1993: 25-37.

4 Hintikka 1962: 32.

5 Seager 1991: 188.

6 Honderich, 1987: 447.

7 Kim 1993: 104.

8 Ibid., 286.

9 Searle 1992: 54, 48.

10 Searle 1984: 97.

11 Nagel 1986: 110-17, 123.

12 Lycan 1987: 113-14.

13 Nagel 1986: 110-17; Searle 1984: 87, 92, 95.

14 Kim 1993: xv.

15 Searle 1984: 87.

16 See Popper and Eccles 1977: 105; Lewis 1969: 26.

17 Madell 1988: 140-41.

18 Smart 1979: 165, 168-69.

19 McGinn 1991: 45.

20 Swinburne 1986: 198-99. Although Swinburne is a dualist, he sees that this problem is the same whether one is a dualist or a materialist.

21 McGinn 1991: 47.

22 Ibid., 1.

23 Nagel 1979: 188-89.

24 Madell 1988: 2

25 For the interpretation of Descartes as an occasionalist, see Baker and Morris : 1996: 153-54, 167-70.  On Malebranche and Geulincx, see Copleston 1960: 117-19, 188-90.

26 James 1911: 194.

27 Campbell 1984: 132, 131.

28 Ibid., 38, 48, 105-09.

29 Ibid., 125.

30 Kim 1993: 367.

31 Searle 1984: 92.

32 Ibid., 86.

33 Ibid.,  93.

34 Ibid., 87.

35 Ibid., 5, 94, 98. 

36 Ibid., 86.

37 See McGinn 1991: 17n; Nagel 1986: 110-23; Dennett 1984.

38 Taube 1936: 17.

39 Searle 1984: 87. Explicitly denying that we have a mind that is distinct from the brain, Searle says, referring to the human head, that “the brain is the only thing in there” (1992: 248).

40 Searle 1992: 63.

41 Searle 1984: 117.

42 McGinn 1991: 23n.

43 Ibid., 55.

44 Ibid., 55, 53.

45 See, for example, Beloff 1962.

46 For example, he rejected vitalism, pointing out that it “involves an essential dualism somewhere” (SMW 79).

47 Hartshorne 1972.

48 I have included this doctrine in a list of ten core doctrines of process philosophy (Reenchantment without Supernaturalism, 6).

49 Johnson 1969: 354.

50 The term “panexperientialism” was coined after Whitehead’s time.  As far as I know, I coined it and first used it in print in Cobb and Griffin 1977: 98.  But Charles Hartshorne commented favorably on it, saying that this term had advantages over both “panpsychism” and the alternative he had proposed, “psychicalism” (1989: 181).

51 McGinn 1982: 32.

52 This fact does not, to be sure, deter some hostile critics, determined to portray all versions of pan-experientialism as unintelligible.  For example, Paul Edwards, in an encyclopedia article on panpsychism, criticizes the doctrine as unintelligible for attributing experience to stars and stones, even while pointing out that Whitehead, the 20th century’s “most distinguished champion of panpsychism,” held the experiencing units to be “not stars and stones but the events out of which stars and stones are constituted” (Edwards 1972: 31).  I have criticized Edwards for this treatment in Griffin 1998: 96-97.

53 Nagel 1979: 168.

54 Griffin (Donald R.), 1992.

55 Hameroff, 1994:  97-99.

56 Adler and Tse 1974; Goldbeter and Koshland, 1982. 

57 Keller 1983.

58 See Capek 1991: 54, 135, 205, 211.

59 Bohm and Hiley 1993: 384-87; Seager 1995: 282-83.

60 Griffin 1997: 251-61; 1998: 89-92; 2001: 97-109.

61 By an “aggregational event” I mean simply the occurrence of something such as a rock at a particular moment—that is, the occurrence of all the molecular events that constitute the rock at that moment.

62 The term “perpetual oscillation,” I have suggested (Griffin 2001: 115-16), is more helpful than White-head’s term “perpetual perishing,” which has proved to be perpetually confusing.  (Many interpreters have taken the statement that an actual entity “perishes” after it reaches satisfaction to mean that it is no longer actual—which would mean that, by the ontological principle that only actualities can act, it would not be able to exert causation.  But this is the exact opposite of Whitehead’s meaning, as the fol-lowing quotation makes clear: “actual entities ‘per-petually perish’ subjectively, but are immortal objec-tively.  Actuality in perishing acquires objectivity, while it loses subjective immediacy.  It loses the final causation . . . and it acquires efficient causation” [PR 29].)  

63 James 1904.

64 This has been conclusively shown in Ford 1982 and 1993.

65 McGinn 1991: 28n.  McGinn even quotes a passage showing that Kant realized that panexperientialism, which he knew in its Leibnizian-Wolffian form, could overcome the chief difficulty in understanding the communion of body and soul.  “The difficulty peculiar to the problem consists,” suggested Kant, “in the assumed heterogeneity of the object of inner sense (the soul) and the objects of the outer senses. . . . But if we consider that the two kinds of objects thus differ from each other, not inwardly but only in so far as one appears outwardly to another, and that what, as thing in itself, underlies the appearances of mat-ter, perhaps after all may not be so heterogeneous in character, this difficulty vanishes” (Kant 1965: 381 [B428]; quoted in McGinn 1991: 81). McGinn, however, is unable to incorporate this solution be-cause of his conviction that panexperientialism is absurd.

66 Hartshorne 1962: 229.

67 “[I]f we hold,” said Whitehead, “that all final individual actualities have the metaphysical char-acter of occasions of experience, then . . . the con-nectedness of one’s immediate present occasion of experience with one’s immediately past occasions, can be validly used to suggest categories applying to the connectedness of all occasions in nature” (AI 221).  Indeed, he argued, we must do this if we are to use the notion of “causation” meaningfully.  Since “we can only understand causation in terms of our observations of [our own occasions of experience],” then “in so far as we apply notions of causation to the understanding of events in nature, we must conceive these events under the general notions which apply to occasions of experience” (AI 184).

68 On James and Peirce, see Ochs 1993: 67-68.

69 In this statement of the way in which Whiteheadian panexperientialism agrees with dualism, I have restricted the discussion to human minds, because some dualists, including Descartes himself, do not attribute minds to nonhuman animals.

70 There has been a pervasive tendency, among both dualists and materialists, to conflate the two theses, as if affirming numerical distinctness were ipso facto to affirm ontological difference. I have discussed this tendency in Griffin 2000: 173-75.

71 On this view, the mind or soul is not, in Gilbert Ryle’s pejorative phrase, a “ghost in the machine” because the body is no machine but a vast society of less sophisticated experiences.

72 These norms can be understood, in Whitehead’s technical language, as either “eternal objects” or “propositions.”  In either case, they exist in God—in what Whitehead calls “the primordial nature of God,” which is God’s primordial envisagement of all pure possibilities, or eternal objects, with the appetition that they be realized in due season.  Understanding Whitehead’s psychology, accordingly, finally requires an understanding of his theology.  But this dimension of this thought lies beyond the scope of the present essay.  It suffices here to point out that we apprehend norms by apprehending God, in whom they exist.  By virtue of this doctrine, Whitehead avoids McGinn’s criticism that the causal effect of norms on our conscious experience would be a “funny” kind of causation, because it would involve the exercise of efficient causation on the mind by an abstract (nonactual) entity.  In Whitehead’s views, because the norms are in God, understood as the dominant member of the universe as a whole, our normative experience can be understood by analogy with the relation between our minds and our bodily cells. 

73 It is, incidentally, not only dualists who have thought of consciousness as the stuff of the mind.  Colin McGinn has said: “Logically, ‘consciousness’ is a stuff term, as ‘matter’ is; and I see nothing wrong, metaphysically, with recognizing that consciousness is a kind of stuff” (1991: 60n).

74 Insofar as Whitehead equates sense-perception with perception in the mode of causal efficacy, he agrees with those “direct realists” who maintain, contrary to Hume, that sensory perception is not solipsistic but gives us direct knowledge of the existence of an external world.  Whitehead differs from them, however, insofar as they fail to regard sense-perception as a mixed mode of perception involving a nonsensory mode.

75 See Mackie 1977, the subtitle of which is Inventing Right and Wrong.

76 See Griffin, 1988: 9-10; 2001: 285-87.

77 See Griffin 2001 Ch. 8; 2003.



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