Panentheism.  Revisionism.  Anarchocapitalism.



Essays by Me

Essays by Others

Process, Insight, and Empirical Method 

An Argument for the Compatibility of the Philosophies of Alfred North Whitehead and Bernard J. F. Lonergan and Its Implications for Foundational Theology.

A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of the Divinity School, The University of Chicago, for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

December 1983

Thomas Hosinski, C.S.C.

Chapter III:

The Influence of Empirical Method in Whitehead’s and Lonergan’s Analyses of Human Subjectivity [Continued]

Whitehead’s Analysis of Human Subjectivity [Continued]

Valuing and Purposing: Conceptual Prehensions, Subjective Aim, and the Rise of Novelty [Continued]

The Metaphysical Hypothesis: The Theory of Concrescence, Responsive Phases


Just as Whitehead generalized from his analysis of the human experience of givenness in order to formulate a metaphysical interpretation of the initial phase of any occasion of experience, so he generalizes from the human experience of freedom, purpose, and self-creation in order to formulate a metaphysical interpretation of the later responsive phases in any occasion of experience. Here, of course, the charge of anthropomorphism and groundless speculation is likely to arise even more strongly than before.  I will thus attempt to show that this interpretation, while it is speculative, does have empirical warrants and submits itself to testing and hence is a legitimate hypothesis.  Whitehead does follow his empirical method. He is trying to describe the metaphysical factors presupposed by our common experience and by the explanatory categories of the sciences.  In common human experience and in science we note two basic and contrasting facts: continuity and flux, endurance and change, sameness and novelty. [See PR, II.5.iii (M, pp. 206-207; 0, p. 136); II.10.i (M, pp. 317-318; C, pp. 208-209).] In generalizing from the human experience of givenness, Whitehead hypothesized that conformal feeling in the initial receptive phase of every occasion of experience is the ground of our experience of continuity and connexity.  It is how things endure, how the past lives on in the present, how there is continuity in the world.  But if this is the case, how can anything new come into the world?  How is novelty possible?  There must be some other factor or set of factors operative which make it possible for there to be diverse sorts of things in the world, factors operating so as to produce novelty.  This problem is not restricted to human experience alone.  It extends to the most infinitesimal level studied by atomic physicists.  How is it possible for there to be such a diversity of molecules, of atoms, of sub-atomic particles?  The problem, then, is truly metaphysical and requires a metaphysical description of the factors making possible this undeniable diversity and novelty in our experience.

The place to begin searching empirically for the answer is in the human experience of novelty, because this is the experience most open to our investigation and understanding.  Whitehead identifies what appear to be the conditions of the possibility of novel subjective response to given situations in human experience.  There are, as we have seen, the entertainment of values inherent in both the actual given situation and in possible alternatives, the decision upon one of the possibilities—on the basis of relative worth—as what the subject aims at or makes its purpose, and acting so as to effect or satisfy that purpose.  It seems impossible to understand our actions without the notion of “purpose” or aim.  It seems impossible to understand purpose or aim without reference to a decision among alternative possibilities.  It seems impossible to understand any such decision without reference to the preference of one value over others.  Such preference requires that somehow the values be entertained.  Also, purpose, decision and preference all require the freedom to make selections, freedom finally to determine purpose.  Without these notions we simply cannot understand our own experience of the possibility of novel response, nor can we understand our sense of responsibility for our responses.

This, however, is not the only empirical evidence for speculating that these factors must somehow be present in any act of experience.  It is important to note that though we must appeal to these factors in order to understand our actions, in many cases we have no experience of consciously attending to such factors prior to analysis.  My joyous response to the beauty of a spring day is present in my experience without prior reflection on all the valuations and contrasts and decisions that result in the dominant emotion of joy.  My grief occurs without conscious attention to anything but the fact of the death of someone I love.  My nearly instinctive response of rushing to the aid of someone in danger occurs without my conscious reflection on the alternatives or the ideal that guides my action.  Yet I cannot understand these actions or responses without reference to “values,” “decisions,” and so on.   There thus appears to be some ground for theorizing that the factors necessary for novel response in a human being are not uniquely human capabilities—at least, they are not tied unavoidably to our capacity for conscious reflection, judgment, and decision.  Further, we have good empirical evidence for the existence of such factors in the behavior of the higher animals. “A lost dog can be seen trying to find his master or trying to find his way home.” [MT, VIII, p. 166.] We can observe our pet cats stubbornly refusing to eat certain foods that most cats are known to eat.  We can observe most animals pursuing purposes, and we can observe them exhibiting significant amounts of freedom in what they make it their purpose to pursue and what they do not.

The unpredictability of animal behavior is well-known in biological research laboratories. Rene Dubos, referring to an account by the Harvard biologist George Wald, says that this fact “led an exasperated physiologist to state what has come to be known as the Harvard Law of Animal Behavior: “Under precisely controlled conditions, an animal does as he damn pleases.’” Dubos, So Human An Animal (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1968), p. 133.

Also, “it is notable that no biological science has been able to express itself apart from phraseology which is meaningless unless it refers to ideals I proper to the organism in question.” [PR, II.3.i (M, p. 128; C, p. 84).]

Further, the whole adventure of life as disclosed by evolutionary theory seems to testify that there is an upward urge, an aim at a greater intensity of experience and higher modes of satisfaction. [See FR, I, pp. 4-8.] This would be immediately denied by many as an “unscientific” understanding of evolutionary biology.  There is, however, a real problem for thought set by life itself and by evolutionary theory.  If survival is the only value in the natural world, how is it that life appeared at all?

. . . life itself is comparatively deficient in survival value.  The art of persistence is to be dead.  Only inorganic things persist for great lengths of time.  A rock survives for eight hundred million years; whereas the limit for a tree is about a thousand years, for a man or an elephant about fifty or one hundred years, for a dog about twelve years, for insects about one year.  The problem set by the doctrine of evolution is to explain how complex organisms with such deficient survival power ever evolved.  They certainly did not appear because they were better at that game than the rocks around them. [Ibid., pp. 4-5.]

Moreover, when one surveys the history of life as disclosed in evolutionary theory, one finds an increasing complexity of organisms which, in their higher reaches, are actively engaged in modifying or adapting the environment to suit them, rather than adapting themselves to suit the environment. [Ibid., pp. 7-8.] These curious facts about life seem to indicate that there is present in the experiment of life an urge toward novelty of form so as to lead to more satisfying experience.  Whitehead states the interpretation based on these observations in the following thesis: “In fact the art of life is first to be alive, secondly to be alive in a satisfactory way, and thirdly to acquire an increase in satisfaction.” [Ibid., pp. 7-8.] These are the empirical grounds leading Whitehead to hypothesize that factors discovered in the analysis of human subjective experience are present in any occasion of experience.

In the remainder of this subsection I shall try to describe the ontological hypothesis Whitehead generalizes from the human experience of subjective response.  I shall restrict myself, however, to that theory as illustrated in the simplest case in order first to meet some common objections to the theory and second to show what this theory enables Whitehead to accomplish.  In the following subsection I shall discuss his hypothesis concerning more complex grades of experience.

Metaphysically, then, each occasion of experience is to be understood as the becoming of experience guided by its own “subjective aim” at satisfaction. Since ‘any such subjective aim must involve the possibility of entertaining the worth inherent in unactualized potentialities and the worth inherent in the actual given situation, Whitehead theorizes that each actual entity must be dipolar, having a “mental” pole as well as a “physical” pole. [See PR, II.3.xi (M, pp. 163-165; C, pp. 107-108); III.2.ii (M, pp. 366-367;-C, pp. 239-240); III.3.i (M, pp. 374-375; C, pp. 244-245); III.3.iii (M, pp. 378-380; C, pp. 247-249); (M, p. 423; C, p. 277).] This is because valuation, or the entertainment of worth, cannot be understood as “physical” experience, but only as “mental” or “conceptual” activity.  Thus Whitehead argues that each actual entity involves not only “physical feelings” of the objective content of its datum, but also “conceptual feelings.”  Conceptual feelings in themselves are the mental prehensions of forms of definiteness, or “eternal objects.” [See PR, II.1.iii (M, pp. 69-70; C, pp. 43-44); II.6.iii (M, pp. 225-226; C, pp. 48-149).] These eternal objects are totally abstract, mere forms without actuality, ways in which actual entities might be.  From the point of view of the concrescing subject, however, these eternal objects fall into two main types: those which are ingredient in the objective content or datum for experience (i.e., those forms which the actual given situation exemplify), and those which might be but are not ingredient in the actual given situation (i.e., those forms of definiteness which are possible but not actual).  These eternal objects are the forms of definiteness open to the present occasion; they define the possibilities or potentialities which it might strive to actualize, the forms of definiteness it might adopt for itself given its actual world.

The ontological principle asserts that everything has to be somewhere, that is, referable to some actual entity. See, e.g. PR, I.2.ii, Category of Explanation xviii (M, pp. 36-37; C, pp. 24-25).  The eternal objects or forms of definiteness which are not ingredient in the actual given situation (i.e., possibilities as opposed to actual facts) must be somewhere.  They cannot simply float in out of the blue.  Hence is raised the problem of the actual source of possibility.  As we shall see in Chapter IV, this problem—the resolution of which is crucial to the theory of concrescence and the explanation of novelty—is one of the major grounds for Whitehead’s argument for God.  The entertainment of the entire realm of eternal objects and providing the concrescing entity with the, limited set of eternal objects relevant to the actual given situation are two of God’s major ontological functions in Whitehead’s philosophy.

The subjective forms of conceptual prehensions, that is, how the concrescing subject “feels” or prehends these eternal objects, are valuations. [See PR, III.2.i11 (M, pp. 367-369; C, pp. 240-241); III.3.iii (M, pp. 378-380;-C, pp. 247-248).] All conceptual feelings, in short, are emotional or aesthetic reactions to the worth of the forms of definiteness, both actualized and possible.  In the simplest case, in occasions of low-grade type such as a “moment” in the life-history of a sub-atomic particle, conceptual feelings or valuations are the mere grasping of forms of definiteness or potentials with the immediacy of subjective reaction to them.  What is felt “there-then” as alien, as the forms of definiteness exhibited in the public world of the immediate past and given for feeling, is transformed into the immediate privacy of subjective feeling “here-now.”  What was felt in the first phase of conformal feeling as belonging to other centers of feeling is now immediately felt as possibilities belonging to the concrescing subject.  How these possibilities are felt involves the beginnings of “appetition.” [See PR, 1.3.i (M, pp. 47-50; C, pp. 32-34); II.6.iii (M, p. 227; C, p. 150).]  Appetition is the urge to form subjective experience, to realize in the present a form of definiteness.  It is the subject’s urge to have or exhibit a form of definiteness of its own.  This urge, this appetition, is present in the subject’s valuations of the forms of definiteness exhibited in its datum for experience.  How these forms are felt is the subjective reaction, desirous of some form, to the worth of those particular forms.  Thus conceptual prehensions, with their subjective forms of valuation, provide the necessary ground, the “material”, for “decision.”

In the third phase of concrescence, which Whitehead calls the phase of simple comparative feelings, the subject integrates the conceptual feelings of its second phase with the physical feelings of its first phase. [See Pr, III.5.i (M, p. 406; C, p. 266), vii (M, pp. 420-423; C, pp. 275-277).] In the simplest case, this integration produces a single integral feeling which is the occasion’s unity as a subject.  Appetition has come to a head and the concrescing subject makes the final determination of its subjective aim.  The subjective aim is at one and the same time what guides “decision” and the product of “decision.”  In the initial phases of concrescence, the subjective aim is partially determined by the datum, but not wholly so.  It is in some measure indeterminate, lacking the final stamp of subjective unity of feeling.  Though indeterminate, it has been luring the occasion toward its integration of feeling.  In performing this integration of its conceptual and physical feelings, the subject finally determines its subjective aim, its purpose.  This determination involves “selection,” the preference of one possibility or form of definiteness over others.  It is a turning toward one possibility with intensity of feeling, and a turning away from other possibilities; it is adversion or aversion, a special appetition acquired on the basis of subjective determination of relative worth.  This single integral feeling is the entity’s “decision” concerning what it shall be.  It is the entity’s final choice from among the possible forms of definiteness it has valuated in its conceptual feelings, and the fusion of that choice with its physical feelings.  Such an integration is the formation of what Whitehead calls a “physical purpose.”

There are, Whitehead theorizes, two types of “physical purpose.” [PR, III.3.iii (M, pp. 380-381; C, pp. 248-249); III.5.vii-viii (M, pp. 420-427; C, pp. 275-280).]  In one type, the simpler, the concrescent subject in essence generates the primary conceptual correlate to its physical feeling, and proceeds immediately to integrate this conceptual feeling with its physical feeling.  The physical purpose so formed produces the same form of definiteness as exhibited in its datum, but now with full, immediate subjective (“private”) feeling instead of with the mere re-enactment of its datum or objectified actual entity as in conformal feeling.  The other type of physical purpose is more complex.  In a sub-phase of conceptual feeling, the concrescent subject not only generates and feels the primary conceptual correlate to its physical feeling, but also, through “conceptual reversion,”

For this and the description that follows, see ibid.

feels the proximate novelties or relevant alternatives.  In other words, the forms of definiteness or potentialities felt are partially identical with and partially diverse from the forms of definiteness exhibited in the datum.  In the subsequent subjective integration, if the concrescent subject chooses the relevant alternative, this enables the realization of a contrast which intensifies the subjective enjoyment of experience.  It is due to this second type of physical purpose, Whitehead says, “that vibration and rhythm have a dominating importance in the physical world.” [PR, III.5.viii (M, pp. 423-424; C, p. 277).]

Physical purposes, then, are types of adversion or aversion.  In occasions of low-grade type, however, adversion and aversion are for the most part negligible as instruments of novelty. [PR, III.3.iv (M, p. 388; C, p. 254).]  There is novelty, to be sure: there has been the subjective readjustment of subjective forms and the fresh exhibition of some form in this fresh moment.  For most purposes, however, this novelty is negligible.  That is why, for example, one hydrogen atom, though unique in its subjective character, is indistinguishable as an “object” from other hydrogen atoms.  In the simplest case, the formation of physical purpose is the terminal phase of concrescence.  When the fusion of the conceptual feelings and the physical feelings is accomplished, the entity reaches “satisfaction” and its process of concrescence is terminated.  It is now a datum for a new concrescence, an object (or, as Whitehead prefers to call it, a “superject”), there to be felt but drained of subjective immediacy of feeling, exhibiting its chosen form of definiteness.  As a subject it has perished, and yet it lives on in its future as a datum that must be taken into account by a new concrescence. [ See PR, II.3.i (M, pp. 129-130, 134, 135-136; C, pp. 84-85, 87, 88); II.7.iv (M, pp. 251-252; C, p. 166).]

We must note that in higher-grade organisms a more advanced sub-phase is possible.  If there is significant intensity and complexity of conceptual feeling, flashes of novelty can occur in the mental pole of an occasion.  When all these adversions and aversions are fused with the physical feelings, the integrated comparative feeling can act as a datum for further feeling.  Rather than being a final decision, a final determination of subjective aim, it can act as a lure for a reintegration of feeling.  What in simpler cases is a physical purpose becomes in higher-grade organisms a “proposition,” acting as a private datum for reintegration of feeling.  It is in this more advanced sub-phase of the third phase of concrescence in higher-grade organisms that the possibility of significant novelty emerges.  I shall reserve discussion of this phase for the following subsection.

In this summary description of Whitehead’s ontological theory I have deliberately restricted attention to the simplest case.  I have ignored a host of complications that arise in the discussion of more complex cases.  The description of the simplest case, however, seem sufficient in order to illustrate how seriously Whitehead takes the human experience of privacy, novelty, and uniqueness.  Subjects are not just what the past allows them to be.  There is always some measure of self-creation.

The doctrine of the philosophy of organism is that, however far the sphere of efficient causation be pushed in the determination of components of a concrescence—its data, its emotions, its appreciations, its purposes, its phases of subjective aim—beyond the determination of these components there always remains the final reaction of the self-creative unity of the universe.  This final reaction completes the self-creative act by putting the decisive stamp of creative emphasis upon the determinations of efficient cause.  Each occasion exhibits its measure of creative emphasis in proportion to its measure of subjective intensity. . . . for occasions of relatively slight experient intensity their decisions of creative emphasis are individually negligible compared to the determined components which they receive and transmit. [PR, II.1.iv (M, p. 75; C, p. 47).]

Whitehead summarizes the ontological theory, derived from the two aspects of human subjectivity we have discussed, in the following way.

Thus the primitive experience is emotional feeling, felt in its relevance to a world beyond.  The feeling is blind and the relevance is vague.  Also feeling, and reference to an exterior world, pass into appetition, which is the feeling of determinate relevance to a world about to be.  In the phraseology of physics, this primitive experience is “vector feeling,” that is to say, feeling from a beyond which is determinate and pointing to a beyond which is to be determined.  But the feeling is subjectively rooted in the immediacy of the present occasion: it is what the occasion feels for itself, as derived from the past and as merging into the future.

. . . It must be remembered, however, that emotion in human experience, or even in animal experience, is not bare emotion.  It is emotion interpreted, integrated, and transformed into higher categories of feeling.  But even so, the emotional appetitive elements in our conscious experience are those which most closely resemble the basic elements of all physical experience. [PR, II.7.iii (M, pp. 247, 248; C, p. 163).]

There are some common objections to this theory, or reservations about it, which I ought to consider.  They are variations of the charge of anthropomorphism, and center around the language Whitehead uses in developing his ontological theory.  Specifically, the objections or reservations concern the attribution of mentality and freedom of decision to inorganic entities.  It may be legitimate to extend the attribute of mentality down through the animal kingdom and retain some of its meaning.  But how can one attribute mentality and freedom of choice or decision to such entities as the occasions in rocks, clouds, chemicals in test tubes, and the world of the atom, and still claim to be speaking meaningfully?

There are several points to be made in defense of Whitehead’s theory.  First, Whitehead continually states that we must distinguish between mentality and consciousness. [See PR, II.3.i (M, pp. 130-131; C, p. 85); II.10.iv (M, pp. 325326; C, pp. 213-214); III.2.ii (M, p. 366; C, p. 239); III.3.iii (M, p. 379; C, p. 248); III.5 .vii (M, p. 423; C, p. 277); IV.3.v (M, p. 470; C, pp. 308-309); and FR, I, p. 32.] Clearly we can only begin to ascribe consciousness to the dominating occasions within the higher organisms.  For example, the dominating occasion within a human being is conscious for approximately sixteen hours each day.  But we cannot ascribe consciousness to each of the billions of occasions making up our bodies.  We have clear evidence that the dominating occasions in almost all animals are conscious, but the evidence fades at the lower end of the animal kingdom and seems absent in the vegetable kingdom.  Consciousness is a rare form of experience, yet mentality, as Whitehead defines it metaphysically—the subjective grasping and reaction to forms of definiteness—is clearly possible without consciousness.

Secondly, Whitehead clearly acknowledges that for all practical purposes mentality, freedom, choice, and decision are negligible in the inorganic realm. [See PR, II.8.iv (M, p. 269; C, p. 177); III.3.v (M, p. 390; C, p. 255); FR, I, pp. 33-34; AI, XIV, iii, p. 211; MT, VIII, pp. 167-168.]

When we pass to inorganic actual occasions, we have lost the two higher originative phases in the “process,” namely, the “supplemental” phase, and the “mental” phase.  They are lost in the sense that, so far as our observations go, they are negligible.  The influx of objectifications of the actualities of the world as organized vehicles of feeling is responded to by a mere subjective appropriation of such elements of feeling in their received relevance.  The inorganic occasions are merely what the causal past allows them to be. 

As we pass to the inorganic world, causation never for a moment seems to lose its grip.  What is lost is originativeness, and any evidence of immediate absorption in the present.  So far as we can see, inorganic entities are vehicles for receiving, for storing in a napkin, and for restoring without loss or gain. [PR, II.8.iv (M, p. 269; C, p. 177). See also II.I.iv (M, p. 75; C, p. 47).]

Thus Whitehead is not really attributing mentality, freedom, choice, and decision as we normally use those words to inorganic occasions.  He is affirming, however, that the primitive roots of these operations and capacities are present in every actual entity, even if they are so trivially present that we cannot observe them.

Here we find the patterns of activity studied by the physicists and chemists.  Mentality is merely latent in all these occasions as thus studied.  In the case of inorganic nature any sporadic flashes are inoperative so far as our powers of discernment are concerned.  The lowest stages of effective mentality, controlled by the inheritance of physical pattern, involves the faint direction of emphasis by unconscious ideal aim. [MT, VIII, pp. 167-168.]

This subjective aim is not primarily intellectual; it is the lure for feeling.  This lure for feeling is the germ of mind. [FR, I, p. 33.]

In its lowers form, mental experience is canalized into slavish conformity.  It is merely the appetition towards, or from, whatever in fact already is.  The slavish thirst in a desert is mere urge from intolerable dryness.  This lowest form of slavish conformity pervades all nature.  It is rather a capacity for mentality, than mentality itself.  But it is mentality. [FR, II.3.i (M, p. 130; C, p. 85).]

Whitehead, in short, is affirming that in order to understand the development of such mentality as we can observe in higher organisms, we must hypothesize that the primitive roots from which such mentality develops are present in inorganic entities.  Further, he is affirming that if we are to achieve an interpretation of all experience as united in one continuous world, then we must hypothesize that the capacities which define the conditions of the possibility of novelty and self-creation must be latently present in even the lowest form of an occasion of experience.  As he repeatedly states, so far as our powers of observation can penetrate, these are at the lowest level mere latent capacities.  However, if we are to express in a precise metaphysical hypothesis what our common experience and presupposition of one continuous world of experience without fundamental discontinuities requires, then we must theorize that these “mental” capacities, however trivially present, are present in even the lowest form of an occasion of experience.

There can, of course, be no definitive “proof” of such an hypothesis.  As Whitehead repeatedly states, the only proof there can be is elucidation.  If this hypothesis enables us to see in a new light aspects of our experience of the world formerly shrouded in the darkness of incomprehension, or if it begins to reveal to our understanding the infinite complexity of reality formerly marked by overly simple assumptions, then it has gained some measure of confirmation in the light it sheds, and in the deepening of our appreciation of the infinite wonders in our experience.

What, then, are the accomplishments of this hypothesis?  In what ways does it shed new light on our experience?  Apart from stating in a metaphysically precise way the continuity between human experience and the rest of the world, there are several specific areas in which this hypothesis sheds new light, and thus gains some measure of confirmation.  First of all, it enables us to take our poets and their intuitions seriously.  It enables us to see and take into account in a systematic way the factors in reality to which their intuitions testify.  This is the whole point of Whitehead’s analysis of English Romantic poetry, [See SMW, V, esp. pp. 120-121, 127, 136, 138.] which he understands to represent “a protest on behalf of value.” [Ibid., p. 138.] “The poetic rendering of our concrete experience” of nature is evidence

that the element of value, of being valuable, of having value, of being an end in itself, of being something which is for its own sake, must not be omitted in any account of an event as the most concrete actual something.  “Value” is the word I use for the intrinsic reality of an event.  Value is an element which permeates through and through the poetic view of nature. [Ibid., p. 136.]

In formulating his metaphysical hypothesis of the factors involved in the concrescence of an actual entity, Whitehead gives philosophically precise expression to those factors which operate so as to make each occasion “a unit of emergent value.” [Ibid., p. 157.] This hypothesis also throws light on the ontological realities to which religious experience testifies in its affirmation of value in the world and beyond the world.

See RM, II, 4, p. 77, and III, 5, pp. 97-101.  Since I shall be considering this topic in Chapters IV and V, I merely allude to it here.

We have already seen that the hypothesis is partially drawn from our common sense of the necessity of morality, the common sense of responsibility that can be found in any human culture, however the specific standards for it may vary.  In addition we have already seen that Whitehead appeals to the principles of explanation in the biological sciences, which continually explain the organization and behavior of organisms by reference to ideals and aims pursued by the organism.  Hence this single metaphysical hypothesis illuminates the ontological ground of widely diverse sorts of human experience, from the explanatory principles of the biological sciences to the testimonies drawn from the poetic and religious renderings of our concrete experience.  With regard to outstanding problems in philosophy, this hypothesis enables a fresh and satisfying resolution to an ancient problem: the relationship of efficient and final causation.  In speaking of how Aristotle was impressed by the necessity of referring ‘to ideals proper to organisms in order for biological science to express itself, Whitehead notes that Aristotle’s

philosophy led to a wild overstressing of the notion of “final causes” during the Christian middle ages; and thence, by a reaction, to the correlative overstressing of the notion of “efficient causes” during the modern scientific period.  One task of a sound metaphysics is to exhibit final and efficient causes in their proper relation to each other.   [PR, II.3.i (M, pp. 128-129; C, p. 84).]

This, of course, is because we cannot do without either notion.  Modern scientific explanation is built upon discovering and tracing the operations of efficient causation, and we cannot understand nature without that notion.  However, it is equally true that we cannot understand our own behavior or the behavior of the higher organisms in nature without the notion of final causation. [See FR, I, pp. 8-34, esp. pp. 13-17, 24-28.] In Whitehead’s ontological theory efficient causation is shown to be an abstraction from the relationships and operations responsible for continuity, while final causation is shown to be an abstraction from the relationships and operations responsible for atomicity.  Efficient causation expresses the transition from actual entity to actual entity, while final causation expresses how each actual entity individually becomes itself.

See PR, II.6.iii (M, pp. 227-229; C, pp. 150-151).  See also “Index” to C. ed., entries under “Final causation, cause; and efficient causation.”  This is why final cause, for the purposes of scientific explanation, is negligible until one comes to the higher organisms.

Efficient causation describes how the actual entity as superject—that is, “perished,” drained of immediate subjectivity—yet lives on in its future to establish the given at the base of a new concrescent occasion.  Final causation describes the process of subjective self-creation based on the given from the past and terminating in the given for the future (the superject).  There are thus two species of “process”: transition and concrescence.  [See PR,II.10.i (M, pp. 317-320; C, pp. 208-210), v (M, pp. 326-328; C, pp. 214-215).] These two species of process are what the notions of efficient and final causation aim to describe in our experience.

The part of Whitehead’s ontological theory I have been considering in this subsection also makes important contributions to the rational grounding of our faith in the order of nature and to the understanding of the laws of nature.  However, since several of the metaphysical functions of God are essential to Whitehead’s discussion of these issues, I shall postpone consideration of them until Chapter IV of my study.

Finally, Whitehead’s theory of concrescence establishes the ontological ground for an understanding of cognition and epistemology.  Before turning to these topics, however, I wish to present Whitehead’s summary of the human experience upon which his ontological and cosmological theory is founded.

In this survey of the observational data in terms of which our philosophic cosmology must be founded, we have brought together the conclusions of physical science, and those habitual persuasions dominating the sociological functionings of mankind.  These persuasions also guide the humanism of literature, of art, and of religion.  Mere existence has never entered into the consciousness of man, except as the remote terminus of an abstraction in thought.  Descartes’ “Cogito, ergo sum” is wrongly translated, “I think, therefore I am.”  It is never bare thought or bare existence that we are aware of.  I find myself as essentially a unity of emotions, enjoyments, hopes, fears, regrets, valuations of alternatives, decisions—all of them subjective reactions to the environment as active in my nature.  My unity—which is Descartes’ “I am”—is my process of shaping this welter of material into a consistent pattern of feelings.  The individual enjoyment is what I am in my role of a natural activity, as I shape the activities of the environment into a new creation, which is myself at this moment; and yet, as being myself, it is a continuation of the antecedent world.  If we stress the role of the environment, this process is causation.  If we stress the role of my immediate pattern of active enjoyment, this process is self-creation.  If we stress the role of the conceptual anticipation of the future whose existence is a necessity in the nature of the present, this process is the teleological aim at some ideal in the future.  This aim, however, is not really beyond the present process.  For the aim at the future is an enjoyment in the present.  It thus effectively conditions the immediate self-creation of the new creature. [MT, VIII, p. 165-166.]


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