Abstracts DUE March 31, 2017. Abstracts should be all sent to natureinprocess@gmail.com.
If you require a formal invitation to apply for institutional support or a Travel Visa, please register and contact natureinprocess@gmail.com.

 

1) Whitehead and Analytical Philosophy

Head: Johanna Seibt

Abstract:

Whitehead’s philosophy of organism arguably is the explanatorily strongest metaphysics we have to date.  However, Whitehead’s framework is also notoriously difficult to access.  The aim of this section of the conference will be to consider whether any of the recently developed process theories in analytical philosophy can accomplish the modelling tasks that current scientific reasoning in biology, cognitive science, action theory, social robotics, and quantum physics ask of a process ontology.

The contributors to this section will be asked to include a statement of the purpose and method of ontology and metaphysics, so that the discussion can include general methodological considerations.

The aim of the section is:

(i) to arrive at a better understanding of the theoretical alternatives in process ontology in the current research landscape and

(ii) to determine the  strengths and weaknesses of different theoretical approaches to the tasks of ontology and metaphysics relative to a clearly defined catalogue of features.


 

2) Whitehead and Bergson

Head: Maria-Teresa Teixeira

Abstract:

Whitehead and Bergson can be considered to be the pillar figures of process philosophy. Whitehead recognises his indebtedness to Bergson at the very beginning of Process and Reality; and he refers to Bergson’s philosophy many a time throughout his works, from Concept of Nature to Adventures of Ideas. In Creative Mind, Bergson, in his turn, recognises the deep affinity between his own ideas and Whitehead’s.

We welcome papers bridging Whitehead and Bergson’s philosophies. We are interested in a variety of topics, which can be found in both theories, including but not limited to: creativity, temporality, evolution, holism, potentiality, causality, simple location, substantialism, organism, and multiplicities. They all concur with an integral, natural worldview, showing that wholeness, complexity, and indivisibility are prevalent in Nature. Special emphasis will be laid on Whitehead’s epochal theory of time and Bergson’s durée. This is most relevant for the understanding of what Whitehead called “the fallacy of misplaced concreteness”, for Bergson’s critique of homogeneous space and his concept of time, and, especially, for the understanding of the category of creativity to be found in both philosophies.

Music and other forms of art, like cinema, are crucial to the understanding of the category of process. In this way, we invite papers on other Bergsonian process philosophers, namely Vladimir Jankélévitch and Gilles Deleuze. We also welcome papers on the influence of Bergson’s philosophy on process thinkers from Eastern cultures, such as Sri Aurobindo and Nishida Kitaro, which can also be linked with Whitehead’s philosophy.

All in all, we aim at bringing together Bergson and Whitehead not only through their reciprocal influence, but also through the impact they had on other process philosophers, and also on process philosophy in general. We want to highlight how process philosophy can contribute to an integral worldview setting new paradigms for novel approaches to nature, science and metaphysics.


 

3) Whitehead and Biology

Head: Spyridon Koutroufinis and René Pikarski

Abstract:

Biophilosophy is understood by the organizers of the section as a philosophic tradition existing since antiquity, which includes heterogeneous philosophic considerations of life. Philosophy of biology constitutes only one part of biophilosophy. Contemporary philosophy of biology is built upon metaphysical assumptions about matter, causality, and mental agency that are substantially different from the metaphysical assumptions of Bergsonian, Whiteheadian, and other biophilosophy that is based on process-ontology.

The following basic assumptions build important pillars of process-metaphysical biophilosophy:

Mental activity cannot be exhaustingly reduced to complex physicochemical patterns of activity in neural systems. Plants, simple 
multi-cell organisms, single-cell organisms, and cells have proto-mental experiences. Qualitative phenomena (qualia) possess causal relevance for ontogenesis and evolution.

The temporality of organismic processes (metabolism, growth, embryogenesis, perception, behavior) is intrinsically connected with proto-mentality. Therefore organismic temporality transcends essentially the quantifiable homogeneous time of physics (including theories of self-organization).

Organismic processes cannot be understood as arising from the interactions of material entities that are strictly spatio-temporally localized. Ideas in quantum physics such as the non-local entanglement between elementary particles must be considered to be relevant in biology (including brain physiology).

We invite philosophers, scientists, and scholars of other disciplines, to present ideas supporting and extending the above mentioned assumptions from the perspective of Bergson’s and Whitehead’s process philosophy.

 

4) Whitehead, German Idealism and modern German philosophy

 

Head: Aljoscha Berve

Abstract:

The relation between Alfred North Whitehead and German philosophy since the German Idealism probably is best characterised as remote yet meaningful. While Whitehead constructed his system of metaphysics in direct consideration of the contemporary philosophical debates within Pragmatism and the advances of science, his interest in German Idealism was mostly historical. Nevertheless, the amount of implicit structural parallels between his cosmology, German philosophy and some varieties of modern German philosophy is profound.

A philosopher Whitehead concerns himself with repeatedly is Immanuel Kant. Although he attributes the focus of post-Enlightenment philosophy on epistemology to Kant and is very critical about this development, his own philosophical concept is in some respects similar to that of Kant in the effort to mediate between positions of idealism and scientific positivism.

It is interesting to note that Whitehead is regarded as a central figure of “process philosophy”, while oftentimes the German notion of “Prozessphilosophie” is applied to a philosophical tradition of thinkers belonging to German Idealism. The speculative metaphysics of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel conceives of historical reality as the process of the “Weltgeist”, exploring the notion of the absolute. Even closer to the core concepts of Whitehead’s philosophy, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling aims to overcome the mechanistic paradigm and traditional substance-based metaphysics with his concept of the processual organism. Even the last attempt to create a comprehensive system of metaphysics in German philosophy by Nicolai Hartmann shows similarities with Whitehead.

In recent years, the connection between the philosophical concepts of Whitehead and Ernst Cassirer has increasingly become the object of research. Whitehead’s contemporary, Cassirer shared his interest in mathematics, physics and modern psychology. The intention of Cassirer’s “Philosophy of symbolic Forms” is to understand the process of human experience in its abundance of different facets. Like Whitehead, Cassirer was interested in a number of scientific fields and came to regard human experience as the best starting point for modern philosophy. Both thinkers grapple with the implications of the scientific revolution at the beginning of the 20th century and try to conceive a philosophical concept to conciliate the increasingly diverse disciplines and human experience in an overarching design.

The section “Whitehead, German Idealism and modern German philosophy” aims to provide an environment to explore the many relations between Alfred North Whitehead, different concepts of German Idealism and some modern German philosophers. To this purpose, the discussion actively encourages different viewpoints to adequately exhibit both distance and similarities of these relations.


 

5) Whitehead, Indian Philosophy and Buddhism

Head: Jeffery D. Long and Wm. Andrew Schwartz

Abstract:

It has been said that Whitehead’s thought has more affinity with Eastern philosophy than most Western philosophy. As such, there is no doubt that the philosophy of Whitehead can be enriched by the study of Indian philosophies, or that Indian philosophies can be enriched by engagement with Whitehead. From Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism to Metaphysics, Ethics, Epistemology, Logic, Ecology, and Science, we invite papers that contribute to a deeper understanding of Whitehead (informed by Indian philosophies), or to a deeper understanding of Indian philosophies (informed by Whitehead).

Particularly desirable are proposals that are both critical and constructive in nature, showing how Whitehead and Indian philosophies can illuminate universal human questions: questions about the meaning of life, the nature of knowledge, good and evil, logic and reason, and the broader metaphysical context of human existence. And while many Indian thinkers, like Whitehead, have explored these big questions with great sophistication, it is not done for the sake of mere intellectual satisfaction.

Therefore, proposals that take a “high-impact philosophy” approach to Whitehead and Indian philosophies are encouraged–proposals that demonstrate the relevance of Whiteheadian and Indic thought for responding to urgent contemporary issues such as the ecological crisis, poverty and inequality, religiously motivated violence, and more.

Note: Papers that deal with process-relational philosophy generally (as opposed to Alfred North Whitehead exclusively) are also welcome.


 

6) Whitehead and Integral Ecology

Heads: Barbara Muraca and Moirika Reker

Abstract:

Although Whitehead has never written on ecology his ‘philosophy of organism’ offers a unique theoretical foundation both for ecology as a science and as a normative worldview. At the same time Whitehead’s philosophy challenges the very distinction between the two and supports the concept of what we may call an ‘integral ecology’ – a concept that has become popular through the Pope’s most recent encyclical.

Integral ecology does not only imply that everything in nature is constitutively interrelated and requires a systemic, holistic, and dynamic approach – a process-relational ontology – to be properly understood. It also reminds us that ecology necessarily refers to human-nature and society-nature relations and that it means first and foremost social and political ecology: the way in which we understand and approach the complex interrelations of living beings, ecosystems, and species is framed by and constitutes social relations, institutions, and practices. At the dawn of the Anthropocene social and environmental issues are even more deeply interconnected. While sustainability has been increasingly appropriated by advocates of a green economy, alternative approaches such as Degrowth or Buen Vivir challenge the Western model of development and the pervasive logic of economism.

Moreover, while dismissing the bifurcation of nature that underpins not only modern, Western metaphysics and science, but also mainstream economics, the concept of integral ecology can give voice to different languages about the relation to what ‘we’ call nature, as they are expressed for example by non-Western traditions and by indigenous people all over the world.

Other stances, such as the Philosophy of Landscape, seek to overcome a dichotomy between man and nature proposing the landscape as the tinkling of the Third, a mediation between the singular and the universal, the ethic and the aesthetic, the human and the non-human, culture, nature and history: an inclusive reality that invites bridges with integral ecology.

Taking the stance of integral ecology from a Whiteheadian perspective shifts attention to the modes and forms in which knowledge (logos) and power (nomos) with respect to the ‘oikos’ – the common home – are generated, appropriated, and distributed by considering the co-constitutive relation existing between epistemology, ontology, and politics in a wider sense.

Submissions are welcomed that address, develop, or challenge the concept of integral ecology from a Whiteheadian point of view. Possible reference points are inter alia:

Relational ontologies, axiologies, and epistemologies (such as for example: values and languages of valuation, inter- and transdisciplinary research, forms of knowledge generation, etc.)

Whitehead and phenomenological approaches to integral ecology and environmental philosophy

Whitehead and political ecology in its different traditions (such as for example: Latour’s politics of nature; Descola’s anthropological research on non-Western relational views beyond the concept of ‘nature’; Escobar’s research on indigenous cosmologies and global environmental conflicts; French political ecology (Gorz, Illich, and Castoriadis) etc.)

Whitehead and voluntary simplicity, alternative communities, and social experiments (Schumacher, Thoreau, Commons-movement, permaculture, etc.)

Whitehead and sustainability, ecological economics, environmental justice, and degrowth

Whitehead and Philosophy of Landscape


 

 

7) Whitehead and Integral Law & Economics

Head: Mark Dibben

Abstract:

This track places a focus on ‘Oeconomy’ (οἰκονομία), the good and prudent handling of Society, i.e. the intellectual  underpinning by Law & Economics.  A fundamental assumption of our time is that positive law and economic growth are a universal panacea. That is, all social problems, unemployment, debt, poverty and even environmental degradation itself can all be solved by the pursuit of socially constructed norms and economic growth. In the context of the effects of climate change, and the not unrelated religious unrest in the Middle East and elsewhere, this assumption  seem uncomfortably out of place. The continuous economic growth is “somehow entrenched as the natural objective of collective human effort”, placing us on a ‘Collision Course’ (Higgs, 2015). Economic growth under the rule of law has been encapsulated in two metaphors, ‘as the economic pie gets larger so there are more slices’; and ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’.  It is well understood John Cobb’s argument since the 1970s is this runs entirely counter to any right-thinking Christian theology. It is also entirely counter to the view put forward by Pope Francis in his 2015 Papal Encyclical, which is both a formidable chastisement of not just Christian thinking but, inherent within that, ‘Modern’ Business and Economics – and a call to arms to redress the harm that has been done.

In response, this section builds upon  the Societies and Social Thought Section X  at IWC 2015 Towards an Ecological Civilisation conference, to further explore ways in which we can rethink and re-imagine the legal and economic regulation of business  to be good and prudent. We wonder how far a process perspective that emphasises genuine integrity, wholeness, transdisciplinarity and relationality may assist.  How might we open up new ways of seeing prosperity in the context, for example, of ‘de-growth’? Such that rather than having a management focused on delivering economic growth that renders states and countries dependent on extractive and depletive industries, it might be possible to achieve sustainable communities that are resilient and resourceful, respectful and regenerative. We sense that Law & Economics for an Ecological Civilization requires a radical rethinking of the Human – Nature dichotomy, to understand and overcome assumptions that we can in fact live on a finite planet with arbitrary laws and  infinite economic growth as the predominant modus operandi.  It requires a new paradigm that takes into consideration a more comprehensive, holistic approach that supports  a more integral, connected way of life as ‘human becoming’.   Pope  “Francis helps us to see that an integral ecology calls for openness to categories which transcend the language of mathematics and biology, and take us to the heart of what it is to be human” (§11). He notes:

” Ecological culture cannot be reduced to a series of urgent and partial responses to the immediate problems of pollution, environmental decay and the depletion of natural resources. There needs to be a distinctive way of looking at things, a way of thinking, policies, an educational programme, a lifestyle and a spirituality which together generate resistance to the assault of the technocratic paradigm.” (§111)

We therefore invite papers:  a) that apply process-relational philosophy to question the theory of contemporary thinking in Law & Economics particularly on  the role and impact of business ‘When Corporations Rule the Word’ (Korten, 2015); b) that crucially suggest alternatives to encompass good and prudent  legal solutions to the ‘Unprecedented’ (Griffin, 2015) and economically-driven costs and crises we are now witnessing; and c) therefore provide a glimpse of the means by which we might arrive at an integral way of life.


 

8) Whitehead, Mathematics and Logic

Head: Vesselin Petrov

Abstract:

Until the end of his life Alfred North Whitehead maintained that symbolic logic was his first love. Logic dominated the mathematics of his early intellectual development at Cambridge. It was the driving force in his quest to understand process in nature and underpinned the novel approach to science and metaphysics in his subsequent influence on contemporary science and philosophy. Study of his logic and mathematics can therefore provide us with further understanding of his speculative metaphysics of nature.  He would not as some sever logic from mathematics and much of his early work on mathematics was at its foundation level.

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

His initial work subsuming Grassmann’ s notion of logic and number into Universal Algebra and  the study of axiomatics in projective and descriptive geometry with applications to the material world arising out of its own natural logic.

The collaboration with Russell on the Principia Mathematica as the foundations of mainstream 20th Century mathematics, their influence on Kurt Gödel, the technical details behind why the fourth volume was abandoned and behind why they parted.

Outstanding issues in Whitehead’s writings particularly relating to the nature of space and time. Logical distinctions with the approaches of Kant, Poincaré, Bergson, Einstein, etc and comparison with alternative theories of extension and process.  His identification of Desargues theorem as the logic behind three dimensional Euclidean space.  Whitehead’s theory of extension in Process and Reality as a transformation of mathematical ideas into metaphysical ones.

The logic of parthood with part-whole and part-part relations as relevant today in mathematics applied to globalisation, theoretical computer science, artificial intelligence and studies in consciousness and evolutionary biology.  Whitehead’s informal descriptions in Process & Reality  have helped spawn new subjects like mereology and and contemporary mereotopology.

The work of Whitehead’s mature period has promoted advances on a wide front for postmodernism in the arts and humanities but these have yet to procreate postmodernism in mathematics or logic.   Current topics in Whitehead’s loose ends include a formal language for his cosmology of process and the clarification of his ‘blind spot’ for intuitionistic logic both of which are now possible to represent ‘naturally’ in the mathematics of Category Theory.

Whitehead’s last writings: Mathematics and the Good – a connection between modern mathematics and metaphysics is of importance in the philosophy of mathematics and is Whitehead’s own ‘footnote’ on Plato’s notion of Mathematics and the Good.

 


 

9) Whitehead and Neoplatonism

Head:  Michael Wagner

Abstract:

This panel invites papers on general themes or points of comparison and influence between Neoplatonism or particular Neoplatonists and Process Philosophy or particular Process philosophers and thinkers, for example as inspired by Whitehead’s belief that “there is urgency in coming to see the world [or reality] as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts.”  Papers pertaining to any philosophical area or problematic – cosmology, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science, ethics, aesthetics, and so forth – are welcomed. Process philosophers’ use and understanding of particular Platonic-Neoplatonic texts and themes, as well as how Process concepts and perspectives may in turn contribute to a better understanding of particular Neoplatonic texts and philosophers are also welcomed. We particularly welcome papers on: Plotinus and Whitehead; Plotinus and Bergson; Eriugena and Whitehead; Hegel and Proclus, and the relevance of Plato’s Timaeus to Process Philosophy.


 

10) Whitehead and New Cosmology

Head: Lukasz Lamza

Abstract:

“Process and reality” was originally subtitled as “An Essay in Cosmology”. Whitehead saw his theory as a proposition in cosmology, which is not commonplace today, when we usually classify his work as a philosophical one. The significance of this change goes far beyond issues of definition and changing vocabulary.

The word “cosmology” has been appropriated throughout the 20th century by the physicists pursuing a, both scientifically accurate and greatly inspiring, program of studying astronomical objects for the purpose of understanding the physical Cosmos. Hence “physical cosmology”, the science that gave us the Big Bang, dark matter and the pictures of far-away galaxies. In the root sense, however, “cosmology” denotes the most general study of the natural world, one that does indeed study galaxies and stars, but also lakes, forests and, last but not least, human beings. Cosmology understood this way would attempt to uncover the general framework of the natural world, and it is in this sense that Whitehead used this word.

Interestingly enough, in the recent decades there have been numerous discoveries within of physical cosmology that may indicate a possible return to this original science of all nature. The first hint was the “anthropic observation” that Nature seems to be organized in such a way as to permit the existence of humans. One of the most vocal proponents of this idea is the cosmologist John Barrow. The closely related “fine-tuning argument” uses the same observation to argue for the extreme improbability of the spontaneous arrangement of things in favor of humans; this leading some to use it as an argument for the existence of God, for instance the theoretical physicist turned theologian John Polkinghorne.

At the same time, conceptual rethinking occurs in theoretical cosmology that may sound familiar to students of process philosophy. Whitehead noted in P&R that “we should now purge cosmology of a point of view which it ought never to have adopted as an ultimate metaphysical principle”, meaning both the existence of enduring objects and the classic notion of Newtonian time. We now know that nothing lasts in our Universe, including the atoms that we are composed of, and the Galaxy that we inhabit – something we often take in our stride as an obvious fact in the 21st century, but whose groundbreaking metaphysical implications have not been really well studied. On the other hand, at the cutting edge of speculative cosmology, hypotheses are put forth that go even further, for instance Roger Penrose’s proposition that time itself may only be a passing phenomenon in the ever-changing sequence of evolutionary steps in the life of Cosmos. Whitehead’s basic notion that all processes are “drops of experience” and should be read through an organic perspective might resonate well with Lee Smolin’s model of the Multiverse, where individual universes are akin to living entities which are born, have their lives, breed offspring and finally perish, but not without leaving a permanent imprint on the evolving population of other universes.

All these discoveries and hypotheses clearly show that the intellectual climate seems to be ripe for the discussion over a “new” cosmology: one that agrees with the current state-of-the-art in physical cosmology, but goes beyond it to discuss issues of even greater importance and generality. The purpose of this section is to bring together all scholars interested in discussing how Whitehead’s thinking might be relevant for this task. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

fine-tuning argument and anthropic reasoning;

relevant issues in contemporary physical cosmology;

speculative cosmological scenarios, such as “baby universes”, chaotic inflation etc.;

nature of time and space;

theological implications of cosmology;

anthropological implications of cosmology.


 

11) Whitehead and Phenomenology

Head: Luca Vanzago

Abstract:

The relationship between A. N. Whitehead’s philosophy, and more broadly Process Thought, and phenomenology has been a recurrent topic of investigation among scholars from different countries. It was prominent in the 1950s and 1960s (one might recall W. Mays and E. Paci among others) for it then to become a neglected issue, until the publication of Merleau-Ponty’s lecture courses was a trigger for a renewal of interest that is still going on and gathering momentum.

Yet this relationship is still an open question. Some would simply deny any possible connection, while others might go as far as to claim their essential identity. This section aims to assess similarities and differences, focusing in particular (although not exclusively) on the topics that might afford a better comparison and mutual understanding: the experience of space and time, the nature of subjectivity, emotion and cognition, and the recognition of a possible common ground for reconceiving of the interconnection between matter and mind in a non-reductionist approach that can situate the experiencing subject within that very nature from which it emerges.


 

12) Whitehead and Philosophy of Mind: Thinking Beyond Mechanism

Head: John Pickering

Abstract:

The feeling that we know more than we can explain is perhaps a human universal.  As  consciousness evolved, this feeling has been expressed in myths, religious beliefs and scientific hypotheses about Nature.  As technology has extended the senses, what we know about Nature has passed far beyond what was known to previous generations of philosophers.  The prodigious times and distances dealt with by cosmology and the minute events of particle physics are far removed from what is dealt with by biology and even further from experience at the human scale.  So far removed, in fact, that these sciences  may begin to seem irrelevant to the philosophy of mind.

And yet they must be relevant.   Minds arise within, or are immanent in, Nature.  Therefore scientific hypotheses concerning Nature must, ipso facto, be relevant to considering what minds are.  But hypotheses are not only fundamentally provisional, the axioms on which they are founded can also be subject to radical revision.  One such revision was the metaphysics of organic process proposed by Whitehead.  In Nature and Life, written in 1934, he claimed that mechanistic assumptions implicit in physics reduced it to “  …  a sort of mystic chant over an unintelligible universe.”

Have subsequent advances made the universe any more intelligible?  Our abilities to use scientific means for technological ends are certainly greater,  but we are no more able to explain how minds inhere in Nature or to unify different areas of science than we were in 1934.

Perhaps as a response, recent developments in physics, biology and psychology, seem to question the axioms of their disciplines in significantly similar ways. Physicists are groping towards phenomenology, biologists are turning towards a systems view and psychologists are developing theories of cognition  that do not separate mind from the body.  These developments point to a process worldview that, like Whitehead’s, moves beyond reductive mechanism.

This section welcomes papers that critically examine whether such a revision of our worldview is in fact in progress and, if so, how it might advance our understanding of Mind and Nature.


 

13) Whitehead and Physics

Head: Joachim Klose

Abstract:

Whitehead´s contribution to the philosophy of physics seems to be questionable. Despite being correct in his criticism of Einstein, for whom a theory always represents an extrapolation beyond what we can know, his alternative theory of relativity appears to some to be too complicated. At first glance, its results are inaccurate, and therefore relatively few have concerned themselves with it. But Whitehead wanted to overcome the dualistic tradition of Cartesianism in the Modern age, and to unify different views of the nature of things. Observed experience, illustrating the philosophic scheme, has to be such that all related experience must exhibit the same texture. Therefore, his philosophy of organism is founded on causality and teleology as basic descriptions of reality. For this reason he takes great care in unpacking and clarifying the extent of the otherwise taken-for-granted distinctions between (e.g.) inside and outside, consciousness and experience, mind and matter, and object and subject. But then one has to ask to what extent Whitehead’s metaphysics can genuinely provide an ontological basis for quantum theory. It is fair to say that he probably did not know the new quantum theories of Heisenberg, Schrödinger and Dirac. Nonetheless there seems to bear deep similarities between his idea of process and the ideas of quantum theory. Both, Whitehead´s metaphysics and quantum theory are theories of observations: The realities which quantum theory deals with are, arguably, certain observations by scientists who use the theory; Whitehead´s speculative cosmology can be seen as an expansion and generalisation of the theory of perception of the British empiricists. Although Abner Shimony concealed the usefulness of Whitehead’s metaphysics for an interpreting system of quantum theory (1965), more recent articles and books have been published on this subject by a range of authors (e.g. J. M. Burger, D. R. Griffin, H. Stapp, T. E. Eastman/H. Keeton). There seems to be strong endorsement of process philosophy, and striking parallels to Whitehead’s formulations. Has Whitehead´s metaphysics to be modified in order to make it compatible with quantum theory, as Henry Stapp claimed? What interests do physicists have when they study Whitehead´s process philosophy? Could process philosophy be the basis to understand current advances in theoretical physics?


 

 

14) Whitehead and Pragmatism

Head: Dennis Sölch (Treasurer of the 11th IWC)

Abstract:

Pragmatism does not simply represent another building block in the history of philosophical theories, but is nothing less than a revolution. John Dewey speaks of a ‘change of outlook and standard from what proceeds to what comes after, from the retrospective to the prospective, from antecedents to consequences.’ Reality, in other words, is not to be sought in ahistorical principles or inherently meaningful sense-data, but has to be conceived of as a plastic, open-ended process that both responds to and is shaped by our actions. Hence, scientific and philosophical enquiry do not simply give a disinterested account of an objective world that is already given. Actions and thoughts partake in the continuous creation of what is there, and the universe is suffused with subjectivity.

Whitehead’s contribution to the tradition of pragmatist thought is at least twofold: On the one hand, process metaphysics seeks to provide a comprehensive, unified scheme of reality that does justice to the various types of experience. It replaces the ‘blooming, buzzing confusion’ of immediate experience by a coherent picture and prevents individual systems of abstractions from inertia by challenging their claims to represent a particular normative ideal of rationality. In this sense, Whitehead offers a speculative ontological foundation for the pragmatist universe. On the other hand, Whitehead enriches pragmatism’s methodological and terminological repertoire.  The criteria for speculative philosophy, the intricate vocabulary for an analysis of the texture of experience, and the revaluation of religious sensibility within our overall experience enlarge the dictionary and aid in the elucidation of our everyday experience.

The pragmatic tradition in general and Whitehead’s philosophy in particular open up the way for a view of nature that might evade some of the theoretical and practical challenges encountered today. They do away with the idea that how we think about the world is independent of how we choose to act. Instead of seeking definite valuations or principles to regulate human conduct towards nature, they attempt to harmonize the multiplicity of subjective experiences, none of which is essentially privileged. Moreover, it recalibrates the balance between scientific, aesthetic, ethical and other perspectives, allowing for more nuanced theories of nature than those in distinct and isolated fields of research.

The section on ‘Whitehead and Pragmatism’ welcomes papers both with a systematic and a historical focus. Contributors may apply a pragmatist perspective to moral, political, epistemological, or ontological problems encountered when dealing with nature, or take a historical perspective and assess Whitehead’s still underestimated role within the development of Pragmatism and Neo-pragmatism.


 

15) Whitehead Spinoza and Leibniz

Head: Helmut Maassen

Abstract:

The cosmology explained in these lectures has been framed in accordance with the reliance on the positive value of the philosophical tradition. ( PR xiv )

To understand and interpret Whitehead properly, it is of utmost importance to place him in the history of philosophy. The focus of this section will be on Leibniz and Spinoza. Despite Whitehead’s own statement that, ‘it is obvious that the basing of philosophy upon the presupposition of organism must be traced back to Leibniz’(SMW140) very few scholars have indeed traced his philosophy of organism back to Leibniz. Whitehead, by his own admission, offers a philosophy that ‘is closely allied to Spinoza’s scheme of thought’ (PR 7). However, in the philosophical discourse so far, this relation has been widely neglected.

We will attempt to strengthen and encourage research on these neglected areas.


 

16) Whitehead and Theology

Head: Hans-Ferdinand Angel

Abstract:

According to Whitehead’s Process Metaphysics “speculative Philosophy is the endeavour to frame a coherent, logical, necessary system of general ideas in terms of which every element of our experience can be interpreted.”

The task of theologians, therefore, should not be restricted to either of these prerequisites of speculative philosophy. It is essential that all these methodological tasks be taken into account.

Whitehead himself introduces the concept of God in Process and Reality as the source of the infinite possibilities for the concrescence of actual entities. This cosmological function, according to his own assessment, comes close to the Platonic notion of the demiurge. In addition, Whitehead has explicitly considered several topics concerning religion:

– Religion and Science

– Religion in History

– Religion and Dogma

– The Contribution of Religion to Metaphysics and the Contribution of Metaphysics to Religion.

Any of these aspects can be dealt with in this section on Theology. Participants can explore, in particular, the encounter of theological notions such as soteriology and eschatology with metaphysical concepts such as time, beginning and end; or others common to both theology and philosophy, such as teleology, bridging religion and metaphysics from a process perspective.

We also invite papers on belief, as well as contributions on the relevance of the category of process to the understanding of belief.