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5.0 out of 5 stars Life in process, Dec 9 2005
By 
FrKurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (Bloomington, IN USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Ce commentaire est de: Process Metaphysics: An Introduction to Process Philosophy (Paperback)
Many theologians found in Alfred North Whitehead's ideas answers to questions they had been seeking, or, if the word `answers' is a bit too strong, at least a framework that had fewer problems than many more traditional ways of constructing theology. Process theology has several primary features: an emphasis on the developmental/process view of God, that God is not static or unchanging in all aspects, primarily in God's relationship with humanity. Process theology also accommodates a reasonable incarnation, acceptance of biblical portrayals of God (that must be, however, demythologised), and love of God for all of reality. These are often problem areas for theologians.
In my theological education, many of my professors are heavily or primarily influenced by and adherents of process theology. It makes sense that I too would have a keen interest in this topic. Having more than a passing interest, I opted to study further under the rubrics of a guided research the underlying philosophy of this theology.
Nicholas Rescher is a professor of philosophy at the University of Pittsburg. This particular volume is part of the SUNY Series in Philosophy. There are in fact several introductions and explanations of process philosophy (several more of which I shall likely write upon here). In the introduction, Rescher explains the importance and some of the success of process philosophy:
`Process metaphysics as a general line of approach holds that physical existence is at bottom processual; that processes rather than things best represent the phenomena that we encounter in the natural world about us.'
Rescher begins in the first chapter with an historical survey, looking at various points in ancient and more recent philosophical systems that provide seeds for process thought. He states that the true father of process thought is Heraclitus, the philosopher from the 6th century BCE, who wrote of nature as process. Plato, in endorsing Heraclitus, continues some process ideas. Leibniz, Hegel, Pierce, James, Bergson, Dewey, and Sheldon are all held up, together with Whitehead, as key to the development of process thought as it is formulated today.
`No philosophical position as such is defined by its historical exponents; it is at most exemplified by them. And, in fact, the process-oriented approach in metaphysics is historically too pervasive and systematically too significant to be restricted in its bearing to one particular philosopher and his adherents.'
One of the difficulties at pinning down process philosophy, particularly metaphysics, is that it is less of a doctrine and more of a trend, or tendency, or overarching framework.
`It can be developed in very different directions, varying with the question of what sort of process one takes to be paradigmatic or fundamental. If it is a mechanical or physical process, one sort of doctrine results (a materialism of some sort), while if it is mental or psychical, a very different sort of doctrine results (an idealism of some description).'
Rescher takes one through the key concepts and categories -- like all philosophies, it has its own vocabulary. There are different kinds of processes. There are different kinds of relationships of process with particulars, and process with universals. Particulars end up being less static items as being matrices of process, embodiments, as it were. Universals is a tricky problem for metaphysics generally -- in process, universals are generally demoted from the lofty heights a Platonic framework might give them and put into the processes themselves.
Rescher continues from these basic chapters to developing ideas about process and nature, process and persons, process logic and epistemology, and process views of scientific inquiry. However, it is to the final two chapters, Process Theology and Process in Philosophy, that I wish to devote more attention.
In Process Theology, Rescher frankly states the situation that not all process philosophers care about theological ideas. God is seen less as a substance (with all the problems that that view entails) and more of a process. However, God is not part of the physical processes of the world. There is no easy way of visualising God's participation in the world, not being of the world, but there is an interconnectedness, and the issue of how is, according to Rescher, secondary.
`Even apart from process philosophy, various influential theologians have in recent years urged the necessity and desirability of seeing God not through the lens of unchanging stability but with reference to movement, change, development and process.'
God is not a God of mighty acts and deeds in process thinking. God is rather a persuasive force. God does not act directly in the world in a substantive way, but rather in a processual way. God as a personal entity who relates to the world is made much easier to reconcile in a process framework.
`The philosophy of process is also a philosophy in process.'
What is the bottom line with process philosophy? Largely, it is the same as the bottom line with any philosophical system. Can it make sense? Does it explain the details as well as possess a coherence that is rational? How can process philosophy, a philosophy that changes, possess such coherence? Rescher resists the urge to set out a `decisive, knock-down drag-out argumentation' whose power of persuasion would be `somewhere between miniscule and nonexistent.' He does, however identify many of the key problems with substance philosophical systems and the smooth and promising fruits of process thinking, not least of which are its compatibility with modern social, scientific, and theological ideas.
This book by Rescher is not for the casual reader. For the advanced undergraduate or graduate student who has at least some background in philosophy, this is a good introduction. Some of the chapters require specialised knowledge -- Rescher's explanation of the difficulties of substantialism in chapter three on particulars employs logic formulae with no explanation; those without training in elementary symbolic logic will likely get lost in this discussion. However, for those who are getting deeper into philosophy or theology, this book will be enlightening and interesting.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Life in process..., May 4 2003
By 
FrKurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (Bloomington, IN USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Ce commentaire est de: Process Metaphysics: An Introduction to Process Philosophy (Paperback)
Many theologians found in Alfred North Whitehead's ideas answers to questions they had been seeking, or, if the word 'answers' is a bit too strong, at least a framework that had fewer problems than many more traditional ways of constructing theology. Process theology has several primary features: an emphasis on the developmental/process view of God, that God is not static or unchanging in all aspects, primarily in God's relationship with humanity. Process theology also accommodates a reasonable incarnation, acceptance of biblical portrayals of God (that must be, however, demythologised), and love of God for all of reality. These are often problem areas for theologians.
In my theological education, many of my professors are heavily or primarily influenced by and adherents of process theology. It makes sense that I too would have a keen interest in this topic. Having more than a passing interest, I opted to study further under the rubrics of a guided research the underlying philosophy of this theology.
Nicholas Rescher is a professor of philosophy at the University of Pittsburg. This particular volume is part of the SUNY Series in Philosophy. There are in fact several introductions and explanations of process philosophy (several more of which I shall likely write upon here). In the introduction, Rescher explains the importance and some of the success of process philosophy:
'Process metaphysics as a general line of approach holds that physical existence is at bottom processual; that processes rather than things best represent the phenomena that we encounter in the natural world about us.'
Rescher begins in the first chapter with an historical survey, looking at various points in ancient and more recent philosophical systems that provide seeds for process thought. He states that the true father of process thought is Heraclitus, the philosopher from the 6th century BCE, who wrote of nature as process. Plato, in endorsing Heraclitus, continues some process ideas. Leibniz, Hegel, Pierce, James, Bergson, Dewey, and Sheldon are all held up, together with Whitehead, as key to the development of process thought as it is formulated today.
'No philosophical position as such is defined by its historical exponents; it is at most exemplified by them. And, in fact, the process-oriented approach in metaphysics is historically too pervasive and systematically too significant to be restricted in its bearing to one particular philosopher and his adherents.'
One of the difficulties at pinning down process philosophy, particularly metaphysics, is that it is less of a doctrine and more of a trend, or tendency, or overarching framework.
'It can be developed in very different directions, varying with the question of what sort of process one takes to be paradigmatic or fundamental. If it is a mechanical or physical process, one sort of doctrine results (a materialism of some sort), while if it is mental or psychical, a very different sort of doctrine results (an idealism of some description).'
Rescher takes one through the key concepts and categories -- like all philosophies, it has its own vocabulary. There are different kinds of processes. There are different kinds of relationships of process with particulars, and process with universals. Particulars end up being less static items as being matrices of process, embodiments, as it were. Universals is a tricky problem for metaphysics generally -- in process, universals are generally demoted from the lofty heights a Platonic framework might give them and put into the processes themselves.
Rescher continues from these basic chapters to developing ideas about process and nature, process and persons, process logic and epistemology, and process views of scientific inquiry. However, it is to the final two chapters, Process Theology and Process in Philosophy, that I wish to devote more attention.
In Process Theology, Rescher frankly states the situation that not all process philosophers care about theological ideas. God is seen less as a substance (with all the problems that that view entails) and more of a process. However, God is not part of the physical processes of the world. There is no easy way of visualising God's participation in the world, not being of the world, but there is an interconnectedness, and the issue of how is, according to Rescher, secondary.
'Even apart from process philosophy, various influential theologians have in recent years urged the necessity and desirability of seeing God not through the lens of unchanging stability but with reference to movement, change, development and process.'
God is not a God of mighty acts and deeds in process thinking. God is rather a persuasive force. God does not act directly in the world in a substantive way, but rather in a processual way. God as a personal entity who relates to the world is made much easier to reconcile in a process framework.
'The philosophy of process is also a philosophy in process.'
What is the bottom line with process philosophy? Largely, it is the same as the bottom line with any philosophical system. Can it make sense? Does it explain the details as well as possess a coherence that is rational? How can process philosophy, a philosophy that changes, possess such coherence? Rescher resists the urge to set out a 'decisive, knock-down drag-out argumentation' whose power of persuasion would be 'somewhere between miniscule and nonexistent.' He does, however identify many of the key problems with substance philosophical systems and the smooth and promising fruits of process thinking, not least of which are its compatibility with modern social, scientific, and theological ideas.
This book by Rescher is not for the casual reader. For the advanced undergraduate or graduate student who has at least some background in philosophy, this is a good introduction. Some of the chapters require specialised knowledge -- Rescher's explanation of the difficulties of substantialism in chapter three on particulars employs logic formulae with no explanation; those without training in elementary symbolic logic will likely get lost in this discussion. However, for those who are getting deeper into philosophy or theology, this book will be enlightening and interesting.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent exposition of process philosophy basics, Aug. 24 2002
By 
TMC (Cambridge, MA) - See all my reviews
Ce commentaire est de: Process Metaphysics: An Introduction to Process Philosophy (Paperback)
This book did a wonderful job of expounding the basics of process metaphysics with the angle of showing how process philosophy avoids many of the problems that plague substance metaphysics. Particularly it is shown that first not all processes are merely the actions of well defined 'things' (vibrations in a magnetic field, for example) with a certain essence. Second, processes are shown to be just as fundamental as 'essential things',if not more. In fact, Rescher is probably a little too forgiving to the essentialist view. The quantum mechanical world, the most basic in physical reality, is comprised entirely of processes, not well defined 'things'.
Rescher explains also how Whitehead seemed to somewhat cave into the essentialist view by positing 'actual occasions' as basic units of process akin to the atomist view of substance metaphysicians. Rescher tells us that there is no need to posit these basic processual units, but we can go even further than that: empirical evidence would suggest that such units do not exist. With what we know from QM, it appears that the world is held together by processes, illustrated by quantum mechanical wave functions, 'all the way down' with no discernable basic processual unit (and furthermore, might the insertion of something basic, be it a process or a 'thing', contradict the spirit of QM itself?). Rescher thinks that by adopting this view which is more at home with Sheldon (and Teilhard de Chardin) and later process thinkers, process metaphysics rests itself on even more solid foundations.
After reading this book it has become difficult for me to read even Paul Tillich who's otherwise interesting theology is couched in the Platonic language that seems so horribly archaic now. The implication of this would be that Plato and Aristotle (and thus the entire Western tradition) just plain got it wrong about metaphysics and have led us on a wild goose chase to prop up an outlook about the 'first things' that was doomed to fail. It has only been thanks to the cunning insights of Hume and Kant and, even more, the discoveries of science that many philosophers have given up on substance metaphysics and see a process perspective as the only one that could work (if any do). Rescher also speaks very highly of Henri Bergson as prototypical process philosopher which is interesting considering that Teilhard thought so highly of him.
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Process Metaphysics: An Introduction to Process Philosophy
Process Metaphysics: An Introduction to Process Philosophy by Nicholas Rescher (Paperback - Feb. 1 1996)
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