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Aaron
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PostSubject: Process Panendeism   Sat Dec 26, 2009 11:48 am

Here's a good starter explanation of Whitehead's theory which came to be known as Process Theory or in theistic terms "Process Panendeism".

Quote :
Whitehead on the two natures of God

In Whitehead's philosophy, every actual entity has a physical and a mental pole. For this reason, Whitehead speaks of actual entities as “dipolar” (thus, a second meaning of the word). The physical and mental poles are aspects of every real being (actual entities) but they are not real beings themselves. In other words, Whitehead is not a mind-body dualist in the manner of Descartes. It is also important to note that, for Whitehead, human consciousness is a higher form of mentality but not the only form. Thus, Whitehead does not claim that every real being is a conscious entity. As with Leibniz, Whitehead recognizes a continuum of mind-like qualities ranging from very primitive feelings to the most advanced form of self-awareness. Whereas Leibniz speaks of every real being—he calls them monads—as having apperception and appetition, Whitehead speaks of every actual entity as prehending, or grasping or taking account of, its environment and as striving to realize the subjective aim of coordinating its prehensions in some determinate fashion. Whitehead uses the word “feeling” as a synonym for prehension to indicate the vector character of feelings—a feeling is always a feeling of something. Whitehead's belief in a continuum of mental qualities fits neatly with evolutionary theory where it is commonplace to conceive differing forms of organic complexity as associated with differing levels of mental capacity. For example, the frontal cortex of a human brain allows for more advanced mentality than one finds in a chimpanzee, whose brain is not as complex. Thus, as Jane Goodall points out, the psychological development of a chimpanzee and a human child is roughly parallel for a couple of years, until the human child begins to acquire language, at which point the human far surpasses its primate cousin.

Whitehead is fully aware that there is an imaginative leap in applying these categories to God, but he believes the application can be done in a disciplined and systematic fashion. Whitehead conceives God as an actual entity. In God, the physical and mental poles are called the consequent nature and the primordial nature respectively. As with the physical and mental poles of actual entities, so the two “natures” are distinguishable but inseparable aspects of deity. That is to say, neither can exist apart from the other and each requires the other. The primordial nature is God's envisagement of all possibilities; in the idiom of Leibniz, it is God's knowledge of all possible worlds. It is called “primordial” because it represents what could be in a sense not tethered to the actual course of events. It is logical space, deficient in actuality apart from the consequent nature says Whitehead. The consequent nature is God's prehensions of the actual processes of the world. Conversely, it is the world's influence on God. It is called “consequent” because it is consequent upon, or dependent upon, the decisions of non-divine actual entities (Whitehead calls them actual occasions). The consequent nature is the record of all achieved fact, a perfect memory of what has been—Whitehead speaks of the “objective immortality” of the world in God. The two natures work in concert in the process of God's interaction with the creatures. The deity receives the world of actual occasions into its experience; then, comparing what has actually occurred with the realm of pure possibility, God informs the world with new ideals (new aims), customized for each actual entity, for what realistically could be achieved. Whitehead sometimes refers to this aspect of the process as the superjective nature of God. It is God's relevance for the world as a “lure for feeling,” urging the creatures to strive for whatever perfection of which they are capable.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/process-theism/#WhiTwoNatGod

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PostSubject: Re: Process Panendeism   Sun Dec 27, 2009 3:53 pm

That's too anthropomorphic for my tastes.

I have been trying to explain my version of Deism to a physicist on another forum (yes, I am a glutton for punishment!), and came up with this:

The theory, in a nutshell, says the universe was formed by a body of information that forms universes. We sometimes refer to this body of information as the "First Cause". It observes and records all that occurs, analyzes the data, makes course corrections where the need for such corrections is indicated, and then forms another universe. (Any resemblance to human scientists is NOT coincidental).

Meanwhile, life evolves (or doesn't). If and where it does, life-forms may reach a point in development that allows them to become self-aware and capable of questioning their own existence (or not). None of this would likely attract the attention of the First Cause, anymore than a scientist would stop his work to wonder what the stuff on the slide under his microscope was thinking. BUT, the life-forms may evolve to a point where they can grasp a rudimentary understanding of what the First Cause knows. Since the level of understanding is crude at first, religions and other fables are fabricated. Given enough time, these puny life-forms might actually comprehend...unless the First Cause decides it has enough data, and ends the game.

The race is on! Stay tuned to this station for updates! Smile

Of course, he didn't get it. Instead, he kept trying to pigeon-hole this into some theory that was familiar and easily dismissed. He brought up the tired old argument of infinite regression that plagues every theology, claiming that for a First Cause to exist, it must be more complex than its creations. I answered with this:

Does the creator need to be more complex than the creation? That was not my contention. It seems evolution would indicate the opposite.

So, back to the theory....the First Cause causes a universe to form. The universe transforms itself, increasing in complexity. If it is self-propagating, how complex must the first cause be? (I'm searching for an analogy, but coming up empty - most likely because I'm trying to explain the unknown in terms that are known to exist after the fact).

The best I can muster at the moment is this: I plant a seed. The seed grows into a tree. The tree blossoms and produces fruit. All I did was plant a seed! I didn't need to understand the processes that would result from that simple act. I can instigate a process without knowing what the result will be. Furthermore, if we agree that everything that occurs after the first millisecond is random, then it follows that the creator cannot know what it is ultimately creating. What I'm saying is, the creator learns from its creation.

He also struggled with the nature of the First Cause, as I imagine many Deists do, referring to it as an entity or a being. My reply:

As to its name, "entity", "being", "thing" or "creature" are off the mark. (To be fair, so is "God") They all connote something that exists as we exist. Deist terms like "First Cause" or "Prime Observer" do not necessarily imply a life-form. The first cause of a fire is a spark. A camera could be considered an observer.
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PostSubject: Re: Process Panendeism   Mon Dec 28, 2009 4:46 pm

Quote :

The theory, in a nutshell, says the universe was formed by a body of information that forms universes.

I understand the difficulty of communicating Deist concepts to people with a materialist worldview. As you noted, even some Deists have difficulty imagining an Eternal/Infinite entity with only one anthro-morphic trait : mind. We only have experience with embodied minds, so thinking about a disembodied mind is like trying to envision Nothing. As soon as you form a mental image, it no longer represents Nothing, but something.

I am in the process of building upon my Enformationism cosmological thesis, which is similar to yours, in order to show why an abstract First Cause is necessary to explain the existence of the physical universe with its metaphysical inhabitants. I have a name for the new website, Enformity, and a vague direction, but not much else at this point.

"Enformity" is a coined term defined as the essential quality of an enformed system (e.g. a designed universe as opposed to an accidental universe). Any suggestions will be welcomed. And I may try out some ideas in this forum.
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PostSubject: Re: Process Panendeism   Mon Dec 28, 2009 11:40 pm

Paul Anthony wrote:
That's too anthropomorphic for my tastes.

That's interesting. If anything I find Whitehead's style to be too cold and mathematical. Which makes sense considering he was a mathematician. But then again this was just someone's summary of his (and Leibnitz') work so perhaps that's where the anthropomorphizing snuck in.

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PostSubject: Re: Process Panendeism   Thu Dec 31, 2009 9:40 pm

Here's one that I like.

"Our minds are finite, and yet even in these
circumstances of finitude we are surrounded by possibilities that are
infinite, and the purpose of human life is to grasp as much as we can
out of the infinitude. " ~ Alfred North Whitehead

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PostSubject: Re: Process Panendeism   Mon Jan 04, 2010 1:47 pm

Here's a question I had, which I wondered if any of you with similar views would comment on. Let's take it as given that the world we know is evolving/actualizing some portion of the information/metaphysical possibilities contained in the G*d/First Cause.

Are ALL of the possibilities being actualized somewhere/sometime else? If not, why not?

It's hard to believe our visible world is special in any way. On the other hand, if every possibility is actualized somewhere, it makes the whole experience less meaningful somehow.
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PostSubject: Re: Process Panendeism   Mon Jan 04, 2010 5:05 pm

Steve Esser wrote:
Are ALL of the possibilities being actualized somewhere/sometime else? If not, why not?
Obviously I don't know the answer to that query. But FWIW here's my guess :

I use the Quantum Superposition concept as a guide to questions about all-things-being-possible. A sub-atomic particle in a state of superposition exists in all possible states until a mind somehow* "chooses" one of those states to become a part of reality. Likewise, the super-macro multiverse could "exist" (in the mind of G*D) in all possible configurations, until G*D chooses one possibility to actualize.

Therefore I believe that, in the infinite potential of Eternity, all things are possible, but only certain things are actual. Of course an omnipotent deity could choose to actualize every imagined seed-universe, but that would seem to trivialize everything. So, for simplicity and meaningfulness, I choose to assume that the only actual world I am familiar with is the only real universe. All of the other mini-verses in the multiverse are unreal (or imaginary), as far as I am concerned.


* Presumably that "somehow" is related to the focus of attention of a conscious mind. Other than that, I have no idea how a mind "chooses" one of many alternative realities.
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PostSubject: Re: Process Panendeism   Mon Jan 04, 2010 5:55 pm

That's helpful, thanks. I like the analogy. Should we think of the "choice" as a random flexing of creative power, I wonder. I want to avoid the problems which come with assigning reasons and volition to G*D and then wondering what's special about our world.

If it was a given that some one miniverse was going to be actualized and it just happens (for no particular reason) it was ours, then that gives us the anthropic option of just saying "if it wasn't ours we wouldn't be here to talk about it."
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PostSubject: Re: Process Panendeism   Mon Jan 04, 2010 9:49 pm

I avoid the problems of volition (in the metaphysical realm) by remaining agnostic on the issue... the same goes for "M Theory".

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PostSubject: Re: Process Panendeism   Tue Jan 05, 2010 3:59 am

Reality is what exists in this very moment. At this very moment, there are a multitude of possibilities for the reality that will exist in the next moment. Each of us contributes to the creation of the next moment's reality through every mundane decision we make right now..

I don't need to believe in a single god-like entity creating reality. We are all creators.
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PostSubject: Re: Process Panendeism   Tue Jan 05, 2010 9:05 am

Yes, if god is the possibility of possibility (among other things) then reality isn't so much a creation of god as it is an aspect of god's being.

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PostSubject: Re: Process Panendeism   Tue Jan 05, 2010 11:27 am

Good comments. I need to avoid sliding into the (Leibniz-style) picture of g*d selecting a universe from a set. It is better (like Whitehead) to view creation (actualization) as a process. It's still a little problematic that I don't know whether other, different, possibilities are being actualized beyond what we know. But perhaps this ignorance is not a big deal.
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PostSubject: Re: Process Panendeism   Tue Jan 05, 2010 4:27 pm

Steve Esser wrote:
I want to avoid the problems which come with assigning reasons and volition to G*D and then wondering what's special about our world.
I have no idea what kind of reasoning might conclude with the creation or actualization of a universe. But as a designer myself, volition is definitely a part of my conception of creation.

When I design a building, I consider many options but choose only the ones that I believe will result in the best possible physical manifestation of my overall design concept. Yet I realize that, by attributing intentions and volition to an eternal entity, I am guilty of anthro-morphic* imagining. But no other scenario makes sense to me. The alternative to deliberate design is design-by-accident, which results in random patterns, and useless creations---except possibly for the occasional, miraculous stroke of Luck, as in multiverse theory..

Since I---a mere speck in the universe, which is a mere speck in the Omniverse---have the power of volition, imagination, and intention, I must assume that those limited abilities existed in some unlimited, potential form long before the origin of this finite universe. The deity of my imagination is ultimate potential, and that includes any powers that I possess extended to the n'th degree.

If G*D did indeed deliberately choose to create this world for some reason known only to H/er, then that alone makes us special. We are the chosen people. And that remains true even if other worlds and other people exist beyond our ken. However, as far as I know, we are the only sentient creatures in existence. So that also makes us special. Is it wrong to conclude that humanity is sine par non (without equal) when we have no evidence of superior creatures?


PS---Presumably, an eternal, unitary deity would not choose from among better or worse options, as I do. Instead, The All would choose only from interchangeable, internal parts of The Whole. And the chosen "aspect of G*D's being" is exceptional only in the sense of being selected from among equals.
(Of course I don't know what I'm talking about, so your opinion is just a "good" as mine . . . but only one is true). Smile


* Actually, anthro-minding---attributing to the human mind a formal relationship to divine Mind.
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PostSubject: Re: Process Panendeism   Wed Jan 06, 2010 3:11 am

Gnomon wrote:


Since I---a mere speck in the universe, which is a mere speck in the Omniverse---have the power of volition, imagination, and intention, I must assume that those limited abilities existed in some unlimited, potential form long before the origin of this finite universe. The deity of my imagination is ultimate potential, and that includes any powers that I possess extended to the n'th degree.

Agreed. A drop of water has all the properties of an ocean, but a single drop of water cannot create a tidal wave.

Gnomon wrote:
If G*D did indeed deliberately choose to create this world for some reason known only to H/er, then that alone makes us special. We are the chosen people. And that remains true even if other worlds and other people exist beyond our ken. However, as far as I know, we are the only sentient creatures in existence. So that also makes us special. Is it wrong to conclude that humanity is sine par non (without equal) when we have no evidence of superior creatures?

I have a problem with us as special or chosen. If we accept evolution as the process that has resulted in the existence of sentient beings in the form of homo sapien, Then, god didn't create us - god created a process which we call evolution. The result of that process, so far, is us. But evolution does not have an expiration date. We are the greatest living beings on the planet, for now. Evolution may produce a better being in the future, but it is a slow process - too slow for us to see the next stage, and the next, and the next...

Meanwhile, being the top of the heap comes with responsibilities. We must continue the process of creation to the best of our abilities, and be the stepping stones to the next phase of evolution.
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PostSubject: Re: Process Panendeism   Wed Jan 06, 2010 4:07 pm

Quote :
I have a problem with us as special or chosen. If we accept evolution as the process that has resulted in the existence of sentient beings in the form of homo sapien, Then, god didn't create us - god created a process which we call evolution. The result of that process, so far, is us.
I agree that creation is an on-going process, and that homos are not necessarily the be-all and end-all of that process. But as you noted, as far as we can see, flawed humans are currently the king of the evolutionary hill.

Yet I have a problem with those who belittle the imperfect creatures of G*D's design. Atheists especially believe that the moral and physical imperfections of humanity are a sign of non-design. Ironically, some still hold out hope that random evolution will continue to blindly produce higher and better grades of animated matter. They envision extra-terrestrial intelligences as something similar to secular angels, and man-made robots as the new & improved, next generation of a pointless process.

However, I tend to think that pointlessness is the point of the process, and imperfection is the key to any upwardly-mobile progression. Superficially, Evolution seems to be meandering along with no teleological target ahead. But on a deeper level, the Anthropic Principle of Cosmology is often interpreted as a sign of direction and intention embedded in the random mechanics. Moreover, if modern humanity was the apex of the "creative" process, there would be no need for constructive evolution to continue---and the path of disorderly devolution would lead onward and downward.

Therefore, I think humanity can be proud of its modest accomplishments without succumbing to overweening pride. That's a delicate balance, and our individual contributions are minor. But collectively, I believe we can look forward to even closer approximations of perfection as the process of Intelligent Evolution proceeds.


PS---When an Architect designs a building, the process doesn't stop with a paper blueprint. The actual construction of a theoretical design requires lots of choices and minor course changes that are not under the direct control of the designer. She can only hope that her idealized intention will guide the pragmatic construction to an end that is close to perfection. Presumably a divine design process will result in nothing less than perfection
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PostSubject: Re: Process Panendeism   Thu Jan 07, 2010 8:25 pm

Quote :
Meanwhile, being the top of the heap comes with responsibilities. We must continue the process of creation to the best of our abilities, and be the stepping stones to the next phase of evolution.

Caution! Every step of progress creates its own stone of stumbling. Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Process Panendeism   Thu Jan 07, 2010 9:53 pm

Gnomon wrote:


Caution! Every step of progress creates its own stone of stumbling. Smile

That's good.

Most of the really important lessons I've learned in life were forced upon me by my own mistakes. There is nothing shameful about stumbling. It shows that you made an effort. No one stumbled who never stood up.

Having said that, it's important to remember that stumbling over the same stone a second time is inexcusable.

Besides, why make the same mistake twice, when there are so many new mistakes just waiting to be made? Laughing
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PostSubject: Re: Process Panendeism   Thu Jan 07, 2010 9:58 pm

Stumbling is fine as long as you're on solid ground. If you're a tight rope walker it can be a much more dangerous thing.

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PostSubject: Re: Process Panendeism   Fri Jan 08, 2010 3:16 pm

I just started reading Whitehead’s Process and Reality (Corrected Edition). To me, it is a classic case of overmuch thinking obscuring what is actually being said. In the second chapter he writes:

Quote :
The explanatory purpose of philosophy is often misunderstood. Its business is to explain the emergence of the more abstract things from the more concrete things. It is a complete mistake to ask how concrete particular fact can be built out of universals. The answer is, ‘In no way.’ The true philosophic question is, How can concrete fact exhibit entities abstract from itself and yet participated in by its own nature?

In other words, philosophy is explanatory of abstraction and not of concreteness….

Okay. I can handle that. But he goes on to talk about eight categories of existence and twenty-seven categories of explanation. Now, to me, this is just over the top. Plotinus is an easier read. I’m more of a common sense realist in the fashion of Jonathan Dolhenty.

In regard to other posts, I think The Urantia Book, regardless of what one thinks about it, nails it where it says, "Creatorship is hardly an attribute of God; it is rather the aggregate of his acting nature."
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PostSubject: Re: Process Panendeism   Fri Jan 08, 2010 11:14 pm

WhiteNova wrote:
I just started reading Whitehead’s Process and Reality (Corrected Edition). To me, it is a classic case of overmuch thinking obscuring what is actually being said. In the second chapter he writes:

Quote :
The explanatory purpose of philosophy is often misunderstood. Its business is to explain the emergence of the more abstract things from the more concrete things. It is a complete mistake to ask how concrete particular fact can be built out of universals. The answer is, ‘In no way.’ The true philosophic question is, How can concrete fact exhibit entities abstract from itself and yet participated in by its own nature?

In other words, philosophy is explanatory of abstraction and not of concreteness….

Okay. I can handle that. But he goes on to talk about eight categories of existence and twenty-seven categories of explanation. Now, to me, this is just over the top. Plotinus is an easier read.

I agree although Plotonis wasn't above extraneous and complicated metaphysical models himself.

WhiteNova wrote:
I’m more of a common sense realist in the fashion of Jonathan Dolhenty.
I haven't heard of him. Thanks for the link.

WhiteNova wrote:
In regard to other posts, I think The Urantia Book, regardless of what one thinks about it, nails it where it says, "Creatorship is hardly an attribute of God; it is rather the aggregate of his acting nature."
Good quote.

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