Process-Relational Philosophy: A Guide

Charles Hartshorne (1897-2000)

Process-Relational Philosophy: A Guide

Other than the Stanford entries on Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne, someone wanting to learn about process philosophy might want to use some of the resources found below. Admittedly, this is a very, very small beginner's guide.  Much more could be said, obviously.

First, I would recommend reading through Hyatt Carter's Introduction to Process Philosophy online, which is a great place to start if one is limited to online resources.  I have copied that introduction below.  I would also recommend The Center for Process Studies: What is Process Thought? which I copy below as well.

I have then listed primary and secondary literature, including the major "must-reads" of process philosophy (my choices may surprise you).  I have also included some blog entries and audio.

When it comes to the audio lectures it is important to listen in the order posted.  (Each lecture is about an hour or so in length.)   

Again, this is a beginner's guide so my aim was to be compact but also informative and true to the tradition.  I hope that I have achieved that goal.

IA. What is Process Thought?... 

(Credit: Center for Process, all rights reserved.)

  • Introduction

With a foundation in the metaphysical system of Alfred North Whitehead (among others), and a methodology that integrates both speculation and empirical verification, process thought brings its unique metaphysical perspective to bear on many fields of reflection and action.
Ultimately, process thought seeks to integrate and reconcile the diverse facets of human experience (i.e. ethical, religious, aesthetic, and scientific intuitions) into one coherent explanatory scheme. The most common applications of process thought are in the fields of philosophy and theology. However, process has also found a meaningful foothold in many other discussions, including ecology, economics, physics, biology, education, psychology, feminism, and cultural studies.   
  • Basic Doctrines

Process metaphysics, in general, seeks to elucidate the developmental nature of reality, emphasizing becoming rather than static existence or being. It also stresses the inter-relatedness of all entities. Process describes reality as ultimately made up of experiential events rather than enduring inert substances.
The particular character of every event, and consequently the world, is the result of a selective process where the relevant past is creatively brought together to become that new event. Reality is conceived as a process of creative advance in which many past events are integrated in the events of the present, and in turn are taken up by future events. The universe proceeds as "the many become one, and are increased by one" in a sequence of integrations at every level and moment of existence. Process thought thus replaces the traditional Western "substance metaphysic" with an "event metaphysic."
Terms that further characterize process thought are inter-relatedness, unity-in-diversity, non-dualism, panentheism, mutual transformation, person-in-community, and panexperientialism.
The following links are helpful short essays written by scholars that describe and summarize process thought.
  •  Process Philosophy
  •  Process Theology
  • Scholarship

The term "process thought" encompasses work in three main areasof writing and discussion: process philosophy, process theology, and process interdisciplinary thought about complex issues.
  • Process philosophy applies the work of Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne to standard philosophical problems. A major vehicle for this is the journal Process Studies.

  • Process theology interprets doctrines in Christianity and other world religions in terms of the relational worldview generated by Whitehead and later developers of his work. In addition to the academic journal Process Studies, a popular vehicle for the dissemination of the theological application is Creative Transformation, the magazine of the Process and Faith Program.
  • Process interdisciplinary thought addresses issues outside the areas of academic philosophy and theology, for example in education, physics, ecology, economics, social theory, women's studies, and psychology. In addition to the academic journal Process Studies, major vehicles of this application are the Conferences and Seminars of the Center for Process Studies, reported in its newsletter Process Perspectives, and the State University of New York (SUNY) Series in Constructive Postmodern Thought, edited by David Ray Griffin.

Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947)
IB. An Introduction to Process Philosophy by Hyatt Carter
(Credit: Hyatt Carter, all rights reserved.)


God in Four Questions
Humanity's Greatest Intellectual Error
Process Thought: The Adventurous Frontier
The pH Factor
Hartshorne's 42 Philosophical Discoveries
My Process Poem
Goethe's Process Poem
Sublimity of Structure: The Hydrogen Atom
High Adventures in Pre-Biotic Evolution
Hartshorne's New Book: A Cause for Celebration
The Many and the One

II. Books: Primary and Secondary Literature

Another good place to start is actually a choice: if one enjoys secondary literature as a background first *or* if one prefers to dive into some process texts themselves.

For Whitehead a beginner's starting point should NOT be Process and Reality, but rather Modes of Thought.  Clear and concise, you get an idea of basic Whiteheadian philosophy in way that does not demand any prior experience with process thought.

Hartshorne is abit different, but it depends on one's interests.  For theology you could choose the lite Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes or the fairly short but dense The Divine Relativity.  For a general picture of panentheism one could read the very clear Philosophers Speak of God.  

For Hartshorne's metaphysics, The Zero Fallacy, bar none.  It's a collection of Hartshorne's most representative essays, yet as a warning I must say that it is fairly dense and subtle.  However, the labor is well worth it and reading this book does give you the best picture available of Hartshorne's overall project.  I would also add Creative Synthesis & Philosophic Method if the reader is looking for a more "basic" introduction to Hartshorne's metaphysical view.

Another interesting way to approach Hartshorne is by reading Hyatt Carter's Hartshorne's 42 Philosophical Discoveries.  (I have posted excerpts from it here on my blog, click the link to read it.)

Secondary literature is easy: read the respective volumes of the Library of Living Philosophers (LLP) on Hartshorne and Whitehead, period.  With over 800 pages each, you'll have a very good grasp of what process thought is all about by reading critical and descriptive essays concerning its innovators.  

If you simply don't have time to read the larger texts I would suggest this paper which bullet points the basics of process philosophy and process theism: "God Beyond Orthodoxy: Process Theology for the 21st Century" by Philip Clayton.

III. Blog: Selected posts from the Immanence Series of Process-Relational Philosophy 101 (credit: Adrian / Immanence blog)

IV. Audio
These lectures should serve as an introduction to the basics of process thought for those interested.  Have fun in listening, the lectures are enjoyable and informative.  

 V. Additional Secondary Literature

Rescher's Process Metaphysics: An Introduction to Process Philosophy.  Contrary to the popular belief that *all* of Rescher's books read like analytical pragmatism, this one does not.  It is clear and to the point and explains things well - this without logical chop-blocking.  This is probably my favorite introduction to process by an author other than Hartshorne and Whitehead (Note: I appreciate Cobb's lectures but not so much his books).
These are indispensable for an introduction to process theism (perhaps abit stronger and more nuanced than Cobb's introductory lectures which are fine for a background).  First, Griffin's Reenchantment without Supernaturalism.  Now, the book is quite lengthy but I haven't seen a more detailed examination of Whitehead and a process philosophy of religion expounded within a single text.  Second, Whitehead's View of Reality, especially the section written by Hartshorne on Whitehead's God.  There are paperback versions of this one floating around for cheap.

Finally, with with respect to process theism, see Charles Hartshorne, "Is Whitehead's God the God of Religion?" Ethics Vol. 53, No. 3 (Apr., 1943): 219-227.  Article link here

 VI. Bibliography by topic

 VII. General Bibliography (by Nicholas Rescher)

  • Browning, Douglas, 1965, Philosophers of Process, New York: Random House.
  • Cobb, John B., 1965, A Christian Natural Theology, Philadelphia: Westminster Press.
  • Cobb, John B. and David R. Griffin, 1976, Process Theology: An Introductory Exposition, Philadelphia, Westminster Press.
  • –––, 1982, Process Theology as Political Ecology, Philadelphia, Westminster Press.
  • Gray, James R., 1982, Modern Process Thought, Lanham, MD.: University of America.
  • Hartshorne, Charles, 1932, "Contingency and the New Era in Metaphysics (I/II)," Journal of Philosophy, 29/16: 421-431, 29/17: 457-469.
  • –––, 1970, Creative Synthesis and philosophic Method, La Salle, IL.: Open Court.
  • –––, 1971, "The Development of Process Philosophy," in Process Theology, Ewert H. Cousins (ed.), New York, Newman Press.
  • –––, 1948, The Divine Relativity: A Social Conception of God, New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • –––, 1967, A Natural Theology for Our Time, La Salle, IL: Open Court.
  • –––, 1972, Whitehead's Philosophy: Selected Essays, 1935-1970, Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.
  • Lucas, George R. Jr., 1979, Two View of Freedom in Process Thought: A Study of Hegel and Whitehead, Missoula, MT: Scholar's Press.
  • –––, 1983, The Genesis of Modern Process Thought, Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press.
  • –––, 1986, Hegel and Whitehead: Contemporary Perspectives on Systematic Philosophy, Albany: SUNY Press.
  • –––, 1989, The Rehabilitation of Whitehead: An Analytical and Historical Arsenal of Process Philosophy, Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
  • Palter, Robert, 1960, Whitehead's Philosophy of Science, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Plamondon, Ann, 1979, Whitehead's Organic Philosophy of Science, Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
  • Rescher, Nicholas, 1996, Process Metaphysics: An Introduction to Process Philosophy, New York: SUNY Press.
  • –––, 2000, Process Philosophy: A Survey of Basic issues, Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.
  • –––, 2006, Process Philosophical Deliberations, Frankfurt: Ontos Verlag.
  • Seibt, Johanna, 1990, Properties as Processes: A Synoptic Study of W. Sellars' Nominalism, Reseda, CA: Ridgeview.
  • Strawson, P. F., 1959, Individuals, London: Methuen.
  • Weber, Michel (ed.), 2004, After Whitehead: Rescher on Process Metaphysics, Frankfurt: Ontos Verlag.
  • Whitehead, A. N., 1919, An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Natural Knowledge, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; reprinted New York: Kraus Reprints, 1982.
  • –––, 1920, The Concept of Nature, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • –––, 1972, The Principle or Relativity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • –––, 1925, Science and the Modern World, New York: Macmillan.
  • –––, 1926, Religion in the Making, New York: Macmillan.
  • –––, 1929, Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology, New York: Macmillan. Critical edition by D. R. Griffin and D. W. Sherbourne, New York: Macmillan.
  • –––, 1927, Symbolism: Its Meaning and Effect, New York: Macmillan; reprinted New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons.
  • –––, 1929, The Function of Reason, Boston: Beacon Press.
  • –––, 1933, Adventures of Ideas, New York: Macmillan.
  • –––, 1934, Nature and Life, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • –––, 1938, Modes of Thought, New York: Macmillan.
  • –––, 1948, Essays in Science and Philosophy , New York: Philosophical Library.
  • Whittemore, Robert C., (ed.), 1974, Studies in Process Philosophy, New Orleans: Tulane University Press.
  • –––, 1976, Studies in Process Philosophy II, New Orleans: Tulane University Press.
  • –––, 1975, Studies in Process Philosophy III, New Orleans: Tulane University Press.