Process Philosophy

Process Philosophy: A Survey of Basic Issues

Nicholas Rescher
Copyright Date: 2000
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  • Book Info
    Process Philosophy
    Book Description:

    Process Philosophysurveys the basic issues and controversies surrounding the philosophical approach known as "process philosophy." Process philosophy views temporality, activity, and change as the cardinal factors for our understanding of the real-process has priority over product, both ontologically and epistemically. Rescher examines the movement's historical origins, reflecting a major line of thought in the work of such philosophers as Heracleitus, Leibniz, Bergson, Peirce, William James, and especially A. N. Whitehead.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7393-5
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. CHAPTER ONE The Promise of Process Philosophy
    (pp. 3-21)

    In recent years, “process philosophy” has become a catchphrase for the doctrines of Alfred North Whitehead and his followers. But, of course, this cannot really be what process philosophy is ultimately about; indeed, if a “philosophy” of process exists, it must pivot not on athinkerbut on atheory. What is at issue must, in the end, be a philosophical position that has a life of its own, apart from any particular exposition or expositor.

    Whitehead himself fixed on “process” as a central category of his philosophy because he viewed time and change as definitively central and salient metaphysical...

  5. CHAPTER TWO The Idea of Process
    (pp. 22-32)

    A process is an actual or possible occurrence that consists of an integrated series of connected developments unfolding in programmatic coordination: an orchestrated series of occurrences that are systematically linked to one another either causally or functionally. Such a process need not necessarily be a change in an individual thing or object but can simply relate to some aspect of the general “condition of things”—for example, a change in the temperature or in the purchasing power of money. A natural process by its very nature passes on to the future a construction made from the materials of the past....

  6. CHAPTER THREE The Revolt against Process
    (pp. 33-47)

    A contemporary review of W. V. Quine’s 1960 bookWord and Objectoffered the following observation:¹ “Even as Kant’s search for ‘the way the mind works’ came up with the Aristotelian categories, so Quine’s analysis of ‘the way language works’ comes up with object/subject and attribute/predicate linked by a timeless copula. Quine’s view, like that of Aristotle, is atemporally object-oriented, and so he slights processes, temporal notions, verbs, and adverbs in favor of things, attributes, and timeless relations.”²

    In subsequent years it has become increasingly clear that the point of doctrine to which this review took exception, far from being...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Human Agency as Process
    (pp. 48-58)

    Human action, unprominent process though it may be in the grand scheme of things, is bound to be a topic of particular interest and concern to us humans. In addressing the issues that arise here we confront such fundamental questions as

    What is the nature of action?

    What is an action?

    What sorts of things are actions?

    The present discussion will approach the key question ofWhat is an action?obliquely, from the angle of the questionHow are actions to be described?It proceeds in the expectation that by shedding light upon the descriptive characterization of action it will...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Cognitive Processes and Scientific Progress
    (pp. 59-90)

    Human knowledge should be thought of as a process rather than merely a product. It is clearly not stable; because ongoing inquiry leads to new and often dissonant findings and discoveries, knowledge emerges in phases and stages through processes that engender an everchanging state-of-the-art. The coordination between questions and bodies of knowledge means that in the course of cognitive progress the state of questioning changes no less drastically than the state of knowledge. Cognitive change regarding answers inevitably carries in its wake erotetic change with respect to questions, since alterations in the membership of our body of knowledge will afford...

  9. CHAPTER SIX The Cognitive Process and Metaphysical Realism
    (pp. 91-106)

    The circumstance that our factual knowledge of the world’s arrangements is a process of ongoing interaction with nature has far-reaching implications. It means that as far as we finite knowers are concerned, real things have hidden depths—they are always cognitively opaque to us to some extent because more about them can always come to light.

    Any particular thing—the moon, for example—is such that two related but critically different versions can be contemplated: (1) the moon, the actual moon as it “really” is; and (2) the moon as somebody (you or I or the Babylonians) conceives of it....

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN Process Philosophy and Historicist Relativism
    (pp. 107-122)

    Process philosophy represents an approach to philosophical issues that is of substantial interest and value in its own right. However, it also possesses substantialinstrumentalvalue. In particular, it is of great utility for the clarification and resolution of some philosophical problems that do not overtly lie in its own characteristic domain. An instructive illustration of this fact is provided by the much debated issue of historical relativism.

    Unquestionably, everything that we humans manage to do is accomplished within a setting of place and time. The historical process envelops all our activities and dealings. Everything we do and undergo is...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT Process Philosophy and Monadological Metaphysics
    (pp. 123-132)

    Monadological metaphysics is intimately bound to process philosophy; from the days of Leibniz and Boscovitch, process-oriented thinking has figured prominently in monadological philosophizing.

    The termmonadis used in both a physical and a metaphysical sense. Physically, monads are centers of force or activity—loci characterized by a dynamic impetus to change. Metaphysically, monads are existing items (units of reality) whose identities lie in their descriptive uniqueness. One of the prime objectives of this discussion is to show how these two seemingly discordant features are interrelated.

    A pivotal contention of monadological metaphysics is that concrete particulars (individuals, objects, items) can...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 133-142)
    (pp. 143-144)