Process philosophy

Any of a variety of theories emphasizing that the basic reality in the universe is not objects or substances but processes.

Objects are mere temporary bodies in the general flux, and are not sharply separated from one another; and real time is continuous and not an accretion of instantaneous moments.

Process philosophy can be seen in Heraclitus of Ephesus (writing c.500 BC), and its leading modern exponents include William James (1842-1910), Henri Bergson (1859-1941) and Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947).

Source:
W James, A Pluralistic Universe (1909), lecture 6; clear, readable, and sympathetic exposition of some of Bergson’s philosophy, which had Bergson’s full approval

Process philosophy — also ontology of becomingprocessism,[1] or philosophy of organism[2] — identifies metaphysical reality with change. In opposition to the classical model of change as illusory (as argued by Parmenides) or accidental (as argued by Aristotle), process philosophy regards change as the cornerstone of reality—the cornerstone of being thought of as becoming.

Since the time of Plato and Aristotle, some philosophers have posited true reality as “timeless”, based on permanent substances, while processes are denied or subordinated to timeless substances. If Socrates changes, becoming sick, Socrates is still the same (the substance of Socrates being the same), and change (his sickness) only glides over his substance: change is accidental, whereas the substance is essential. Therefore, classic ontology denies any full reality to change, which is conceived as only accidental and not essential. This classical ontology is what made knowledge and a theory of knowledge possible, as it was thought that a science of something in becoming was an impossible feat to achieve.[3]

Philosophers who appeal to process rather than substance include Heraclitus, Karl Marx,[4] Friedrich Nietzsche, Henri Bergson, Martin Heidegger, Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, Alfred North Whitehead, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Thomas Nail, Alfred Korzybski, R. G. Collingwood, Alan Watts, Robert M. Pirsig, Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Charles Hartshorne, Arran Gare, Nicholas Rescher, Colin Wilson, Tim Ingold, Bruno Latour, and Gilles Deleuze. In physics, Ilya Prigogine[5] distinguishes between the “physics of being” and the “physics of becoming”. Process philosophy covers not just scientific intuitions and experiences, but can be used as a conceptual bridge to facilitate discussions among religion, philosophy, and science.[6][7][original research?]

Process philosophy is sometimes classified as closer to Continental philosophy than analytic philosophy, because it is usually only taught in Continental departments.[8] However, other sources state that process philosophy should be placed somewhere in the middle between the poles of analytic versus Continental methods in contemporary philosophy.

2 thoughts on “Process philosophy

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