Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hartshorne's Creative Experiencing, Review Part 2

(Back to Part One of this review, HERE.)

Chapter Nine, “Theism and Dual Transcendence” unpacks the idea that God is an individual, but one that is not “properly a particular."  In other words, God is properly a Transcendent individual.  But what does this mean?  Hartshorne answers that, God must be “[a] being radically superior to all other beings” (Hartshorne, 93).  But is there more to this definition?  The superiority of God, we are told, is not a relation of infinity, for example, to nothing – but a relation to the finite.  Not a relation of transcendence to an immanence that is so absolute that the relation does not hold.  Relation, rather, must always be positive and relative.  In other words, “[A]ll actuality is finite and relative, and…although the primordial nature of God is absolute, infinite, and deficient in actuality, God’s consequent nature is actual and finite, and is ‘in flux’ and ‘always moving’” (Hartshorne, 94).  This means that the Transcendent God’s superiority is “di-polar,” where “di-polarity” means relative-absolute, contingent-necessary, complex-simple, temporal-nontemporal, concrete-abstract, finite-infinite, possible-impossible, dependent-independent, and social-nonsocial.  Thus, God’s particularity proper falls under the principle of dual Transcendence.  Underscoring this principle in a universe of creative freedom, where God, too, is a creative individual (whose creative act and knowledge of what is created is forever increasing), Hartshorne concludes that, “Necessary is only that there be some world or other, and some appropriate divine knowledge of whatever world there is.  All the rest is contingent” (Hartshorne, 101).

Other than panpsychism, Hartshorne is also well known for rehabilitating the ontological argument – especially as Anselm conceived it.  In Chapter Ten, “The Ontological Argument and the Meaning of Modal Terms,” Hartshorne echoes the likes of Norman Malcolm and Alvin Plantinga in asserting that modal terms such as contingent, possible, and necessary may adequately be applied to a coherent idea of God.  As Hartshorne puts it, “I maintain that Anselm was literally correct; the ‘nonexistence of God’ is a phrase with no corresponding coherent thought or possible reference” (Hartshorne, 110).  The chapter explores in modal logic Hartshorne’s updating of the ontological argument and weaves in the notion that a becoming God is just a supremely necessary as one thought to be “pure actuality.”  We are told that not until the distinction between “existence” and “actuality” is made clear can the ontological argument achieve what it sets out to do.

Chapter Eleven, “Categories, Transcendentals, and Creative Experiencing,” distinguishes (in a Scholastic manner) categories from transcendentals.  “A category is a concept applicable to every being except God.  A transcendental is a concept applicable to every being including God” (Hartshorne, 113).  Hartshorne accepts the five transcendentals, but thinks that nothing in the transcendentals involves becoming, even as a possibility.  The essay sets out to challenge the idea of immutable perfection and to show how becoming applies to the supreme being, God.   Hartshorne parses out the ontology behind a “becoming God” and how that God is “actual” but also “existent” in different senses of being.  In “the logic of immanence and Transcendence” we find that becoming possibility means being creative.  God is the supreme being who possesses the supreme amount of creativity and freedom, the creatures lesser so.  Instead of “being” Hartshorne thus prefers to say that God is a “creative experiencing.”  

Chapter Twelve is titled “The Higher Levels of Creativity: Wieman’s Theory.”  This chapter argues that “neither creative novelty nor value can be totally lacking, or at zero, in any concrete actuality…how far above zero the novelty or the value may be is left open” (Hartshorne, 129).  For Hartshorne, all value is a felt harmony.  Even in intense suffering there is a display of some value.  The value of harmonious feelings is proportionate to their intensity, where intensity is established by “the depth and variety of the contrasts in the data” (Hartshorne, 129).  All of experience is value, and all of experience is a creation of some sort of value.  With this in mind, Hartshorne continues to explain that how creative value is added ultimately involves a social relation, dependent upon “the extent to which we open ourselves to the influence of others….[in] ‘creative interchange’” (Hartshorne, 131).  The main proponent of such a theory, in addition to the likes of Berdyaev, Whitehead, Bergson, and others – all whose moral imperative was, “Be creative and foster creativity in others”- was Henry Nelson Wieman, a figure whose career involved for the main teaching in the department of philosophy at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (that department known for its specialization in process philosophy, pragmatism, and phenomenology).  

By creative Wieman meant a mode of “exchanging thoughts and feelings” which produces rich experience and which tends to “optimalize” the capacities of the participants in the exchange.  In many ways this theory resembles Nicholas Rescher’s: a creative reality is the way it is because that is the best (metaphysical optimalism of creative value, or axiogenesis).  The uniqueness of Wieman’s theory is the fact that it takes creative exchange into the realm of culture and religion, focusing on the relationship between human culture and God.  Wieman’s belief is that “The aim of life should be the glory of God,” where what we observe in the creative capacities of the human is God (Hartshorne, 131).  Hartshorne builds on this and states that, taken as ultimate category and ground, creativity is divine in the sense that both creature and Creator add to nature and culture. In the creative life there is always symmetry: some form of mutual creativity and spiritual exchange.

This theme comprises the concluding chapter, “Politics and the Metaphysics of Freedom.”  In it, political freedom simply means that “the behavior of citizens be protected against determination by the rulers” (Hartshorne, 137).  Here I see Hartshorne raising the shield of a process-theory of freedom against the likes of deterministic political and social philosophical systems, such as those found in Hegel or Spinoza.  A truly “social” conception of freedom must demand that God not rule in such a way that would determine or even coerce the creatures if freedom is to be preserved.  Freedom, an act of  creative addition of value to the universe, is politically a metaphysics involving more or less determinative behavior, true, however it is Hartshorne’s thesis that behavior must never be totally determined, that is, controlled, by those (or even a being) whose power ultimately exercises some total or absolute influence over all others. 

Despite the challenge of Hartshorne’s at-times difficult style of writing, the essays’ arguments are compelling.  This book truly is a testament to Hartshorne’s metaphysical genius, and Creative Experiencing is the perfect capstone to a trilogy of books that outlines the essentials of one of the twentieth-century’s greatest process-relational philosophers.  

 I would recommend this book, and the other two in the trilogy, especially to those looking to expand their knowledge of process-philosophy vis-à-vis studies in Whitehead, or more generally to anyone simply looking to master the essentials of Hartshorne.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

the magic of the real

Die Schere #27
When a "vision" takes place, the afflicted is assailed by that vague sensation which is felt by a man, who, upon returning from an excursion, is unable to give any account thereof. At the time, the vision could have passed as a dream - its realization makes one suspect that more was in play.

The scissors, appearing before only as image, can cut - this is uncanny.Perhaps memory conserves only a secondary particular, as does a note in the margin of a page whose text is smudged. Has more taken place? A similar mood can follow a heavy inebriation: the drinker does not know what drove him to it. In any case, a tie has been made - he has found his way back to his person and his norms. Drinking from the Well of Mimir is taboo.

Die Schere #29
The pre-visionary thus attended twice his own funeral, once while standing at the window, then in reality. The  relation has interlocked, the scissors of Atropos, at first seen in its potential, then took effect in actu - the scissors cut. But the visionary is hurt no more.
Second sight does not open a panoramic view, as if a curtain were ripped apart.

Instead, it is like squinting through a keyhole. The perspective is quite limited, it is mostly trifles, like a toppled inkwell, that meet the eye. However, such accidental details are perceived with great exactness. This might be explained by assuming a slight disturbance, caused perhaps by a tiny screw in the intricate mechanism of perception becoming loose - luckily merely for a moment.

E. Juenger, The Sheers (Die Schere)

What is the spirit world and what is its relation to this life?  Does the natural reflect up from within its own depths the spiritual and magical?  We are presented with options concerning the one nature and its sheered existence (Juenger).

Schelling (in his text, Clara, or On Nature's Connection to the Spirit World) offers insight into our options:

1. The spirit world enters this life
2. The two worlds are kept completely separate
3. There is interaction between this life and the next
4. we may learn about the next life from carefully looking at this one

Another question must follow.  In what way might the human be a point between these two worlds, a Schere or scissor cutting them apart?  We are not directly connected to the spiritual world, but do progress toward the spiritual through our death.  The bands of a paper cut into a moebius strip are hemmed by our perception.  

Steroscopically, the senses may zero in and unveil the magical quality of the world - the spiritual entering in through and interacting with this life.  Dreams are the direct testament to such a revelation presented before the inner senses, although others have developed the optics which, under certain conditions, perceive the truth of the revelation directly.  Whether or how this may be communicated is another story.

Novelist Ernst Juenger (1885-1998), friend of Martin Heidegger (and equally loathed because of his politics) is the phenomenologist of dreams, a "psychonaut."  Opening a new view of the everyday allowed him to perceive the spiritual alive in it.  Among the realities found in this new, deeper layer of reality, is the reality of liberation: freedom from the body.  Juenger's politicization of this inner pillar of freedom was called "the Anarch"; a figure whose religious orientation was psychical and Eastern, a figure whose metaphysics was libertarian and ecological.  Thus a unique prototype, the Anarch has the ability to "shape-shift" according to circumstance: the ultimate figure of freedom.  At the end of his life Juenger appears to have aligned beliefs about this prototype to an order whose aesthetic and spiritual ranking he seemed to confide in the most, the Catholic church (although Juenger never just "gave up" his freedom to the Church, if anything this was a respectful nod to the order, an acknowledgment of its spiritual aesthetics).

Juenger also found a spiritual freedom in the forest, evidenced in his novel Eumeswil, where he then develops a figure whom he titles, "the Forest Fleer."  Juenger's celebrated essay Der Waldgang ("The Forest Fleer") develops the theme of inner emigration, a transition from Anarch to Forest Fleer - the retreat to a spiritual zone found within the forest which is also a retreat into the self.  There, in the forest, there in dreams, we communicate with the dead.  We see the power of our inner freedom and the magic of the real.  The transition is from Anarch to Forest Fleer: the prototype drops its mask and reveals to the world the power of its inner freedom.  There in the forest the last stand is made.

I copy below a not-so-bad  translation of an article written about Juenger referencing several of the themes outline above.

credit: from 13.04.2012

Ernst Jünger (1895-1998) is polarized like no other intellectual of the 20th Century. They called him a propagandist of the war and described his poems as "Mr. Reiter's prose." Nevertheless, the German poet-philosopher for some represents an appeal like that of the '68-movement.

He was "a kind of disciple to life, surrounded by the aura of intellectual obscenity," such as former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer once remarked. A report on drug-induced "paradise" and "human salamanders" is found in the work of Ernst Jünger.

Juenger re-read

To sweep the widespread stereotypes about Juenger aside, the philosopher Gerd B. Achenbach in early April held a multi-day seminar held in the Swabian monastery Heiligkreuztal. The intention of Achenbach was to undertake some investigations into the multi-faceted, subtle work of controversial the artist-philosopher, Ernst Juenger.

You should show that Juenger may well be regarded for a philosopher, if  - as Achenbach - implies, you are not confused with footnote philology and academic term papers. In an interview with, Achenbach referred to Juenger's "strategy", namely looking to the phenomena and activities of daily life that are hardly noticed as a starting point for theoretical point of view excursions. They lead Juenger into "the pathless darkness of mystery."

A new view of the everyday

Documents of these expeditions into the mystery find themselves in the Juenger's book, "The Adventurous Heart. Figures and Capricchios". His aim was to wrest the surface of things and uncover a deeper meaning of reality with new or hidden dimensions. His goal was also to undermine the reality of the very means of art.

Much like the surrealist writers Juenger drew a new perspective on the everyday, which opened up surprising perspectives, "A falling to the ground of reality's tissue may be the start of an Archimedean point from which the poet [Juenger] sets in motion a whole world and opens up a world," wrote the writer Guillaume Apollinaire.

Stereoscopic sensuality

The means to transform reality is, from the stereoscopic view, to be discovered next to the usual perception of everyday objects in their magical quality, "as if an observant was controlled from the mysterious itself".

Stereoscopically one perceives words as Juenger did, to win from the same object simultaneously two sensory qualities, and indeed - this is what is important - by a single sensory organ. As an example he cites the cinnamon scent of clove, "of which not only the smell is aromatic, but also has the taste of a spicy quality."

Discover the magic of the real

The stereoscopic view stages a simultaneous layering of realities, impressions, memories and dreams, it leads to an enhanced perception of the object world, which thus takes on a magical quality.

Here, too, are echoes of Surrealist writers such as André Breton, where the stereoscopic gaze is the place of the "automatic writing" - translated, the letter automatically takes place. Artistic expeditions would expand the range of factuality and reality into the realm of the numinous, the mysterious, the wonderful advance that defies logical and rational access.

    "Often it seems to us that the sense of depth can be created only from the surface, the rainbow-colored skin in the world, where the sight moves us urgently. Then again, this colorful pattern is created solely from letters and symbols by which the depths talk to us through their secrets. " (Ernst Jünger)

The shortcomings of the administered world

The stereoscopic view is trying to evoke a sphere which was displaced in the Enlightenment by the "disenchantment of the world". Such refers to the paranoid delusion of the Enlightenment era, which tries to explain all phenomena and define all rationally - "The geometry of reason obscures a diabolical mosaic, sometimes shockingly alive world".

The will of the realm of the numinous, the wonderful world, was disenchanted into a flattened world - spoken by those who celebrate on the weekends in the supermarket's buying frenzy, - a substitute for the loss of the Saints. Jünger's critique of the one-dimensional life-world that resembles the life of lemurs, meets with the analysis of Theodor W. Adorno.

The parade intellectuals of the "Frankfurt School" deplored "the damaged life" of the individual who will be sacrificed by the late capitalist industrial society on the altar of profit maximization. For Adorno, this form of society "is completely wrong," the "hell of human existence" was a total loss of the individual, demoted to "Lurch".

The Doors of Perception

Many were convinced that the use of drugs also opens up access to the area of ​​the numinous - beyond the usual bleak one-dimensional world. With the use of hashish, opium, mescaline, cocaine or LSD, Juenger designed singular experiments where created a sense of that archaic phenomena of ecstasy, which were usually hidden in the process of Western civilization .

High on drugs, there was the unexpected, "wholly other", which was already described enthusiastically by the English author Thomas de Quincey as divine. He spoke of a God-like state that occurs after the ingestion of opium. This condition is also experienced after taking LSD, which Juenger shared with Albert Hofmann, who took the substance which he had created (Hofmann, a chemist).

In the book "Approaches and drug intoxication," Juenger said LSD was a possible access to the "divine which moves everything." Back in 1949 he had presented in his novel "Heliopolis" the spiritual adventurer Antonio Peri, in addition to his everyday life wrought by the hallucinogenic drug "artificial paradises". This "artificial paradises" now promised "good news, eleusinisches light." You can, however, find out that these experiences- "turn out to be mirages, a pretend the true oases, but without a closer reality".

Regarding the use of hallucinogenic drugs, Juenger wrote, "Once is enough, you will have gained an idea of ​​the dimensions within which they move as a blind man once plumbed the depths, the yawns among the planks of their boat."

Waldgänger and Anarch

When thinking - and living Juenger propagated the "forest transition" or "retreat into the forest" - he who defies the world and manages the consumer frenzy. The "Forest Fleer" is an outsider of civilization, one who situates their self at the edges, and is very skeptical of the normativity of common sense, who always knows that people are not "good."

The radical aversion to socially binding norms affects not only the late-capitalist society, but is directed against any religious or ideological coercion corsets. The "Forest Fleer" is simultaneously a "Psychonaut", which always seeks out extreme conditions in order to expand consciousness. He is also "Anarch", not an anarchist, who still has the illusion of being able to change the world rather than one's self.

The "Anarch" refers to Max Stirner's "unique one" who has made his cause on nothing. He defies not only every act but also any public articulation of his only developed inner secret thought:

    "When "Anarch" I am determined to get involved with anything, but not taking anything too seriously - but not in a nihilistic way - as a man's land is between tides, eyes, and ears." (Eumeswil)


Pain is one of the keys to unlock man's innermost being as well as the world.  Whenever one approaches the points where pain proves himself to be equal or superior to pain, one gains access to the sources of his power and the secret hidden behind his dominion....Through examination of this new kind of relation to pain, we now intend to secure an elevated point of surveillance, from which we may be able to catch sight of things still imperceptible on the ground.  - E. Juenger, On Pain
If one were to characterize with a single word the type of human being taking shape today, one might say that the one of its most salient features lies in its possession of a 'second' consciousness.  This second and colder consciousness reveals itself in the ever-increasing ability to see oneself as an object.   This is not to be confused with the act of self-reflection associated with traditional psychology.  Psychology differs from the second consciousness.  Psychology takes the sensitive human being as its object of inquiry, whereas the second consciousness is focused on the person standing outside the zone of pain....[D]etachment is even clearer in the transmission of images....This is most evident where we confront our own reflection, whether by watching our movements on film or hearing our voice as if it belonged to a stranger.
- E. Juenger, On Pain

Several days ago the left part of my body went numb for roughly thirty seconds.  This was preceded by about two to three hours where my nervous system wasn't allowing my lungs to take in enough air.  

Neurological problems and corresponding pain, due to definitely one, but possibly two, mini-strokes last year, as well as a related surgery gone wrong that was intended to correct tearing in my hip due to an inflammation process, are nothing new to me.  I am in physical therapy at least three days per week, suffer muscle atrophy, still suffer some memory loss, have problems with my eyes, heart, and have an altered sense of taste (because the nerve damage, in addition to having affected my left side, especially the lower part of my body, affected my olefactory nerve which controls my sense of taste).  

Whether this damage is permanent no one knows.  The damage caused due to my surgery seems to be healing, albeit slowly.

In order to cope with this pain, Buddhist forms of mediation and Hindu spiritual insights - that I am not my body - have proven useful.  Whoever said, "It's just pain, lad" knows nothing of bodily torture.  I haven't slept in months, I haven't been comfortable - that is, below a 4 on a level of 0-10 on the pain scale - in months, haven't walked normally, talked normally, remembered normally, and thus had a normal life, in months.  "It's just pain, lad."  

Your body is here, but you're not

That thing that screamed with me

And dreamed with me
That thing that laughed with me
And cried with me
That same thing lies before me
On this deathbed
But where are you?

You're not on your deathbed

108, "Deathbed" Songs of Separation (1995)

Disidentifying with my body took time, and I still haven't completely mastered it.  To say that the spiritual plays too small a role in this life is an understatement.  Detachment, disassociation, is a process - one that reveals a deeper spiritual nature, perhaps the reality and presence of soul, which is not the body.  There is anger, I am not anger.  There is the sensation of pain, I am not pain.  There is a body breathing, I am not my body.

It's odd, because I have struggled with questions concerning the soul ever since I nearly died in the hospital - that happened about three times in the past two years years.  The nurse was so uplifting and sensitive, as she said, "Wow, we almost lost you last night" - this after finding out that my heart was dropping below 30 beats per minute then shooting up to 180 beats per minute, while at rest in my sleep.  In other words, I would have just died in my sleep.

The reality of the spiritual also recently pressed itself against me when my childhood friend, Mike Meyers (not the Halloween character), died of pancreatic cancer three years ago to the day tomorrow.  Mike was my childhood friend, a best friend,  from age 5 until about age 21 or so.  He was 31 years old - he is my age - when he died.  He had five months to live once they knew that he was ill.

So, again, questions about life and death, the soul, the afterlife, are things that I have been thinking about.

Mike has visited me in my dreams often.  My conclusions are of a Hindu nature: "it never ends" I was told. Repetition and a cosmic cycle of birth, life, death and re-birth.  With this new knowledge I have discovered "joyful delight" - a Mindfulness, one that quells fear.  "Letting go" is a sort of peace that has relinquished one's attachment not only to this body, but this life.  Again, I haven't mastered this and admit that there is still fear.  Pain is a reminder that I have a body and am chained to it.  I try to live Mindfully.  I am acutely aware of my finitude through my daily pain.

Were I to die, and when my lungs choose not to take in air, or when my heart decides to go haywire, or when my brain decides just to temporarily "shut off," I am reminded of this very real and near possibility. I've instructed my loved ones to cremate my body and spread some of my ashes near Mike's grave, a place that I have visited dozens and dozens of times in the past three years.  The rest of my ashes are to be kept in a Buddhist shrine in our home. 

I feel that cosmic reincarnation, to be reinvigorated, is perhaps more quickly enacted if the ashes, the material, is reabsorbed directly back into the wind, into the dirt, into the forests nearby.  Although, "time" here is irrelevant.  Going to sleep means that time disappears.  We only know that moment when we awake again.  Mike has long ago reawakened, and he is far from here in a far off distant place.

When I feel my pain I am reminded that I am mortal, finite. Tillich said that "awareness of finitude is anxiety."  Sometimes I do feel anxious that the nerve damage is permanent, that I will be partially disabled my entire life.  Sometimes I do feel that my next trip to the hospital won't turn out so lucky.  I have not yet processed how any of this has affected my "career" (which has now been tragically cut short, due to the fact that the pain and debilitation seems to be getting worse).  I still have not yet come to terms with Mike's death.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Hartshorne's Creative Experiencing, Review Part 1

Charles Hartshorne.  Creative Experiencing: A Philosophy of Freedom (Edited by Donald Wayne Viney and Jincheol O), Albany: State University of New York Press, 2011.  Pp. 176 + Hardcover $75.00.  
Creative Experiencing is the last metaphysical testament of Charles Hartshorne.  The book-length manuscript was found among Hartshorne’s unpublished papers which are now deposited at the Center for Process Studies at the Claremont School of Theology.  Hartshorne mentions in the manuscript’s preface that he considered the book to be the final part of a trilogy including Creative Synthesis and Philosophic Method (1970) and Wisdom as Moderation (1987).  This final piece of the trilogy, which he titled Creative Experiencing, was also to be his final contribution to “technical philosophy” (Editor’s Preface, vii).  The original unpublished manuscript included a table of contents, a preface, and thirteen chapters.  Five of the chapters were never published.  Thus, the discovery was essentially not only a complete work but a “scholar’s dream” come true (Editor’s Preface, ix).  The book’s overall importance centers on Hartshorne’s dialogue with pragmatism, phenomenology, metaphysics, and logic – in addition to his reflections on Husserl, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty – from a “neoclassical” or process point of view.  This book is by no means an “easy” read, nor could it be considered an “introduction” to Hartshorne’s philosophy.  Rather, it is indeed a capstone to his own technical philosophy and reading this book in tandem with the trilogy’s other two pieces would be advised in order to gain the most benefit.

“Metaphysics,” Hartshorne writes in the Preface, “is the attempt to interpret concrete experience rationally, in terms of the most general principles of valid reasoning” (Hartshorne, xi).  The first chapter, “Some Formal Criteria of Good Metaphysics,” seeks to establish “some good criteria for the distinction between good and bad metaphysics” (Hartshorne, 1).  In setting up the criteria for discerning good and bad metaphysics, Hartshorne immediately draws upon his two main influences: C.S. Peirce and Alfred North Whitehead.  The criteria for good metaphysics are as follows, and I repeat them here as they establish a framework for the entire book’s outlook.  

Criteria One: Leibniz’s proposition that metaphysical truth is all positive (mistakes in metaphysics are in denials, not assertions. What is to be denied in metaphysics is itself negative, and a double-negative is positive).  Therefore, metaphysics is rational but also speculative: it is the assertion of “what makes positive sense” – rationally, logically, and mathematically.

Criteria Two: No category is so absolute that there cannot be at least one contrariety equally affirmed (no category is a “mere” category).  Hartshorne writes, “[P]ossibility and actuality belong together, there can be no such thing as ‘pure actuality,’ actus purus, no such thing as the merely infinite or merely finite….[B]oth poles of ultimate contrarieties must be affirmed” (Hartshorne, 2).  To affirm opposite poles of a category is not contradictory for S is P and S is not P are always affirmed in difference aspects of S.  To this “unity of contraries” I would add that, by Hartshorne’s logic, there can be no “merely” transcendent against a “purely” immanent.  Hartshorne writes that “Hegel saw this and Peirce and Whitehead saw it” (Hartshorne, 2).  

Criteria Three: Wisdom as moderation of metaphysical positions.  “[G]iven an extreme position to which there is a contrary extreme, the truth is a mean between the extremes….Extreme monism is false and extreme pluralism is false….The truth is a moderate monism, which is also a moderate pluralism” (Hartshorne, 2).

Criteria Four: The Principle of Contrast.  “The function of a concept is to distinguish something from something else.  To say everything is necessary and nothing is contingent is to deprive ‘necessary’ of any distinctive meaning.  The same with saying everything is contingent….The Stoics and Spinoza, with their necessitarianism, and William James, and countless others with their contingentism, were all extremists.  The Principle of Contrast is a fourth way of stating the Leibnizian-Hegelian principle” (Hartshorne, 2).

Whitehead, we are told, is the philosopher whose metaphysical system best demonstrates a moderation of extremes between necessity and contingency, the finite and the infinite, the immanent and the transcendent, and the one and the many.  Whitehead was not an extreme monist or pluralist – the former denying a plurality of actualities, the later holding that actualities are completely interdependent, any one implicating all of the rest.  Whitehead’s metaphysics was able to accommodate each of these pairings, and Hartshorne seeks to include this type of Whiteheadian accommodation within his own metaphysics.

Another one of this chapter’s outstanding features is its discussion of nominalism.  “Pure nominalism is, of course, an extreme” Hartshorne tells us – because objects, if they are to be discernible, must have their own similarities and differences which relate to a temporal nature, where “similarity and difference are ultimate notions not to be compounded of something else” (Hartshorne, 6).  “[We cannot have] reality as a plurality of individuals, each simply identical with itself and simply nonidentical with its neighbors….[T]he final units of reality are not you or I but you-now, I-now…. “  To make sense of this we must understand that there is a temporal structure of reality.  The absolute independence of an object is an impossibility if the object’s identity relates to a future self that is as of yet undetermined as a particular.  Hartshorne explains that, “The nominalist can only conceive the future in the same terms as the past, as a sequence of particulars.  There are no such things as future particulars.  Nominalism…cannot understand futurity or possibility….[A]ctualization and particularization are one operation” (Hartshorne, 7).  

The chapter ends with the question of deity. Hartshorne finds that deity (here understood as an ultimate Influence or persuasive governance) exists within a contingent reality that evidences order dependent upon creaturely as well as divine freedom.  He writes, “Since there is freedom in every creature, the orderliness that any going on world requires is an inexplicable mystery unless the freedom of the creatures is inspired by a cosmically influential ordering power.  Either the creatures conspire to maintain a minimal order or they are ordered by the same universal Influence.  Since the order is contingent, there being other possible cosmic schemes, it is as though a cosmic decision has been made.  Neoclassical theism says there can be a cosmos of free creatures only because all the lesser freedoms are influenced by the supreme freedom, whose decisions determine the basic law as that are the rules for the game of life.  The rules obtain not for eternity but for some cosmic epoch.  If other laws are possible, with their own aesthetic possibilities, they too should be tried in good time” (Hartshorne, 8).  In this we see that the divine freedom is influential, not coercive in its decisions; the divine reality is supreme, but not without existing relative to a lesser freedom had by creatures.  Freedom, aesthetic possibility, is the basic law.

Chapter Two, “My Eclectic Approach to Phenomenology” articulates a phenomenological method which is a “descriptive science” – one that, in Whiteheadian terms, “gets its basic concepts from the most general aspects of experience” and which does not specifically reference the observer but experience itself” (Harsthorne, 11).  Hartshorne articulates how his phenomenology is different from Husserl’s and Heidegger’s - he met and briefly studied with both philosophers during his travels in Europe as a Sheldon Fellow in 1924-1925 (Hartshorne published the first English review of Sein und Zeit in 1929).  If some argue that phenomenology may never truly be a “realist” method of metaphysics due to the “human-centeredness” of its methodology (the charge is that the phenomenological method espoused by Husserl is “correlationist” because it refers its results to a human standpoint, that is, always to an observer), then Hartshorne’s version of phenomenology easily dodges the correlationist bullet.

Hartshorne emphasizes that the question of phenomenology is, “As what are sensations experienced?”   Disagreeing with Husserl and agreeing instead with Whitehead (and Peirce), Hartshorne explains that, “Experience-of-x is x plus something.  But the relation of the two is no mere and.  Experience-of-x includes x.  Whitehead uses ‘prehend’ for this inclusion” (Hartshorne, 12).  This is to say that reality is experiential and not just experiential-for a human observer which activates within an observation some experience.  Experience and sense (feeling) are instead said to be one.  Hartshorne’s phenomenology, being panexperiential and a priori in metaphysical orientation, shifts speculative query back into an exhibitive display of the real without recourse to a specifically anthropocentric intentionality.  As an “eclectic phenomenologist,” Hartshorne elaborates, “I can say…Husserl was right in seeking the source of meanings in concrete experience as such but dismally wrong in trying to conceive experience in abstraction from an actual world, without…dynamic agents other than the experiencing or experiencer itself” (Hartshorne, 24).  In this Hartshorne establishes the beginnings of a “non-correlationalist” phenomenology, indebted to both Peirce and Whitehead for its construction.

Chapter Three, “Negative Facts and the Analogical Inference to ‘Other Mind’ argues that all verified negative judgments depend on positive characters.  A complete absence of experience in another is impossible if an absolutely negative judgment concerning experience, what otherwise Hartshorne would call, “the Zero Fallacy” – a zero degree or negative amount of experience – is by itself impossible.  “’[N]ot conscious’ or ‘insentient’ is meaningful only if some positive character is incompatible with being conscious or sentient” (Hartshorne, 27).  Stated differently, when it comes to the problem of other minds, “absolute absence has no part in speculation” (Hartshorne, 27).  This thesis fits into a larger argument about panpsychism presented later in the book (Chapter Six).

Chapter Four, “Perception and the Concrete Abstractness of Science” builds on the previous chapter in that it articulates positive notions of the real “as nature might be (and once was) without any animals similar to man” (Hartshorne, 34).  Perceptions in their abstractness “yield structure and quality, but neither one with distinctness and sharply individual detail” (Hartshorne, 35).  These features may be discerned in such distinctness and detail infinitely – and taken as an ultimate principle, the definition of potential experience must be unlimited.  In genuine abstractness one finds that experience does not only have spatiotemporal structure but certain qualities found in the definition of experience generally, “sensory or emotional” experience which may be a “rich treasure” for the sciences.  Hartshorne’s naturalism is emphasized toward the close of the chapter, “Whether or not sensory and emotional qualities are confined to animals more or less similar to ourselves, they are certainly part of nature…” (Hartshorne, 37).  

Chapter Five, “Metaphysical Truth by Systematic Elimination of Absurdities” outlines first, a mathematical approach to ontology where “[M]athematics seeks universal, nonempirical, and necessary truths” obtained via both procedure and the discernment of patterns. Mathematical ontology thus studies “patterns that might conceivably exist and the necessary relations between such patterns” (Hartshorne, 43).  Second, the essay explains that if successful, metaphysics may articulate categorical but non-empirical statements (and classes of statements) about “the universe in its entirety yet also in its details…” where such the truth of such statements depends on the elimination of absurdities and the identification of incoherence (Hartshorne, 43).  
Hartshorne explains that a mathematical-metaphysical science must hold that “the most general abstractions, such as being, becoming, actuality, possibility, relation, and individual, should all have some positive instances” (Hartshorne, 44).  Here Hartshorne balances the contingentism of Hume with the rationalism of figures such as Leibniz and Spinoza.  Metaphysical truth, Hartshorne states, is a.) positive, and b.) mathematical.  However, these abstract truths are recognized in a matter of contingency.  “[T]he necessary can only be extremely abstract, and the very meaning of becoming is its piecemeal contingency” (Hartshorne, 45).  Additionally, positive metaphysical truth can be stated, but only given coherence among mutually compatible positive instances of statements: their opposite being necessary untruths or impossibilities.  Hartshorne notes that, “Specific ideas coming under universal categories are contingent in their application because they come in mutually incompatible but positive options….Choosing is not between a positive and a merely negative, but among positives” (Hartshorne, 47).  Metaphysical speculation is thus necessarily a positive science, but is limited by what is untrue or impossible.  In other words, there can be no mutually positive instances of incompossible values – incoherence or absurdity may be a test of what is metaphysically impossible.  Eliminating these absurdities is a process toward discovering metaphysical truth.

Hartshorne is a well-known panpsychist, and the chapter “The Case for Metaphysical Idealism” (Chapter Six) consists of some familiar Hartshornian arguments for the position of panpsychism.  This chapter essentially shows that panpsychism is not merely idealism but is rather a broad position concerning the nature of experience both concrete and abstract.  In this chapter we also find that Hartshorne’s position implies anthrodecentrism.  This comes to the fore in statements such as, “We understand that there is more in the world than we ourselves experience partly by taking into account what others experience.  If we are to believe that there is more than human-being experiences, can we do this otherwise than by implicitly grasping a meaning for ‘experience’ or ‘knowledge’ wider than the human?  The escape from the egocentric predicament is not by dismissing the very idea of a subject, but by recognizing a variety of subjects, actual and possible….We transcend species-centeredness (if we ever do) by recognizing a society wider than the human” (Hartshorne, 61).  Other than Peirce and Whitehead, another one of Hartshorne’s important interlocutors, G. W. F. Leibniz, is drawn upon in this essay.

“Partial though not complete predictability, I shall show, is an entailment of the creative-cumulative view” Hartshorne writes.  This thesis begins Chapter Seven, “Creativity and the Deductive Logic of Causality.”  We are told that “each instance of becoming is a ‘creative synthesis’ of the previous instances” and that deductively, that is, taken up from a previous but simultaneously geared into the future, causality is “one-way inclusion” (Harsthorne, 71).  Causation, we shall see, is understood in terms of aesthetics.
Taking up the difficulties of Hume’s view, but also the difficulties of “absolute idealism,” the Hartshornian process view sets out to articulate how achieving a future unity of stability based upon various data from the past is actually a matter of aesthetic principles: a unity of feeling.  In other words, Hartshorne turns to aesthetics in order to answer to the problem of determinism (a causally closed universe) but also to answer to the problem of an absolutely contingent universe (how to explain the reality of order).  Hartshorne answers as follows: “If the data are not sufficiently homogenous, no unity of feeling, no aesthetic harmony, can occur; if the data are excessively homogenous, if there is insufficient contrast, aesthetic achievement will also be impossible.  Aesthetic value is the mean between mere diversity [chaos, no predictability, absolute contingency] and mere unity [absolute order, total lack of freedom and determinism, absolute necessity] (Hartshorne, 78).  

In this theory, earlier data is implicated by its successors, but not without the novelty of aesthetic contrasts achieving new values and new states of feeling.  Real or existential possibility (potential, creativity) “actuates” into powerful intensities, the feeling of aesthetic-value contrasts given within the medium of experience.  Hartshorne notes that the achievement of future aesthetic value is a temporal, processive situation: a “will be” is a present causal situation, however novelty always references a “can be” possible, a more basic ontological mode of existence upon which the future, a “may be,” depends.

Chapter Eight, “The Meaning of ‘Is Going to Be’” states that, “If truth is about reality, then if realities are created in the course of time, so are truths” (Hartshorne, 81).  “For example,” Hartshorne asks, ‘The grass will be green’ is true if the grass will be green; but what is the force of the ‘will be’?” (Hartshorne, 81).  Here Hartshorne’s sides with Peirce in stating that triadicity is internal to the temporal structure of propositions, rather than their truth values.  Trivalence is determinately p, determinately not-p, and indeterminate with respect to p.  Predication is therefore not a timeless utterance.  In some respects this is an “evolutionary” approach to logic (again, mirroring Peirce).  We suppose long-run, statistical, or evolving information relative to the temporal dimensions of the terms that we use.  However, Hartshorne writes that, “’Truth changes’ not in random fashion, but according to a necessary general rule.  The vague and highly indefinite real possibilities for the remote future become “step-by-step replaced , or rather supplemented, by more and more definite possibilities, as that future becomes imminent” (Hartshorne, 85).  Truth is an irreversibly increase in definiteness as an indefinite future becomes more and more definite, a past that is concrete and particular.

Read Part Two HERE.

ancient infinitude: new ultradeep image

From Discover website:
Astronomers have just announced they have discovered what may be the most distant galaxy ever seen, smashing the previous record holder. This galaxy is at a mind-crushing distance of 13.2 billion light years from Earth, making it not just the most distant galaxy but also the most distant extant object ever detected.  

 Article LINK HERE.

History of the infinite

Log museum blog has a dated but very useful page HERE containing lots of good links and rare pieces.  HT Beyond Necessity.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Beyond Hermeneutics: Peirce's speculative semiology (mp3 audio link)

HT Peter Gratton.  Jim Bradley’s “Beyond Hermeneutics: Pierce’s Semiology as a Trinitarian Metaphysics of Communication.“  Audio link HERE.

Radical hermeneutics might say something like, "Reality is nothing but interpretation."  And, being correlationist in such a construal, reality is nothing but a human reading.

Peirce states that reality is an objective exchange of information.  A Peircean phenomenology and hermeneutics, better expressed as semiotics (or semiology) takes these methods "beyond" the human correlate in its speculative function.  It seeks the "outside" of thought.  Here "thought" means "exhange of information."

Eric Savoth's "Outside Thought: Meillassoux, Uexküll, Peirce” (Interdisciplinary Journal for Germanic Linguistics and Semiotic Analysis, 16.1, 2011) seems to be a great piece in explaining how Peirce's approach to phenomenology, hermeneutics, semiotics, was more realist and non-correlationist than many suppose.  In order to understand this, the nature of biosemiotic exchange is key.

Lately Meillassoux has been considering semiotics (see Meillassoux "Iteration, Reiteration, Repetition. A Speculative Analysis of the Meaningless Sign"), so it will be interesting to see where this all goes.  I think that it is possible that semiotics will be taken up into speculative realism in novel ways in the future.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

radical atheist materialism: Mp3 of Haegglund's critique of Meillassoux

From 2009, but still interesting.  "Radical Atheist Materialism: A Critique of Meillassoux," MaMa Theory Institute, Zagreb, June 21, 2009.  Audio link HERE.  Pertinent, considering my upcoming EN 2012 talk.