Nature in Process: Novel Approaches to Science and Metaphysics
The University of the Azores is delighted to host the 11th International Whitehead Conference under the topic Nature in Process: novel approaches to Science and Metaphysics. The conference is taking place in Ponta Delgada, on the Island of S. Miguel. The Azorian natural beauty spontaneously invites this conference on Natural Science and Process Metaphysics creating the perfect setting for philosophical musing and discussion. Process philosophy is inseparable from Philosophy of Nature and Philosophy of Science. “Nature is a process.”1 Nature is also duration and passage. And in the passage of Nature we find the primary metaphysical facts. (This intrinsic character of nature cannot be explained away, because it is an insurmountable fact.)
Mechanistic views of nature have long been discredited, but they still linger in our ways of thinking, in everyday, popular science, as well as in formal, and also in hidden, educational curricula. Views such as Descartes’ mechanistic doctrine, which describes Nature in purely deterministic, physical terms, are directly related to all forms of dualism and substantialism and have prevailed in our culture to this day. On the other hand, Newton’s physics, in spite of its success, led to a meaningless and valueless concept of Nature. The prevalent idea of science as a manifold of barren, disconnected, valueless abstractions jeopardized its role as the foundational knowledge for technical, social, ethical, and ecological issues. Moreover, deterministic reductionism seems to be even more entrenched in biology and neuroscience than in today’s physics. The new physics of the beginning of the 20th century opened up novel paths for the discovery of new, unprecedented realities and brought in deeper ways of understanding. Process Philosophy is contemporary to the new physics and also unveiled new, unknown worlds. Novel scientific and metaphysical theories thus revealed novel natural worlds and Process Philosophy emerged as the most appropriate framework for the study of Nature and Science.
Alfred North Whitehead introduced a novel approach to Science and Philosophy. His critique of abstractions, his refusal to bifurcate nature, and his famous formulation of the fallacy of misplaced concreteness can help us approach science in a novel way and establish new methodologies and critiques. In holding that the process of nature is temporal Whitehead meets Bergson; he thus develops his ‘epochal theory of time’, which sustains many of his theories in Science and Metaphysics. The 11th IWC fosters novel approaches to Science and Metaphysics enhancing important relationships between quantum physics and relativity, and process metaphysics; it also puts into perspective chemistry, biology, neuroscience, and environmental science. It will highlight the importance of contemporary process philosophers such as: Henri Bergson, Nicolai Hartmann, Vladimir Jankélévitch, Charles Sanders Peirce, John Dewey, George Herbert Mead, and Sri Aurobindo. They all contributed greatly to a novel and original resurgence of Metaphysics, very much needed in today’s world where reductionist views are often seen as the only plausible theories in spite of their out-of-context perspectives.
The 11th IWC aims at bringing together process scholars from diverse scientific and philosophical areas so that they can share in one another’s different perspectives. It aims at emphasising the relevance of a process view to today’s world, namely concerning ethical and ecological issues whose frameworks need to be reinstated by a metaphysical, relational and holistic background, so that Process Philosophy can emerge as an important and reinvigorating worldview.
1 Concept of Nature, p. 53.