(Roughly) Daily

“What was scattered gathers. What was gathered blows away.”*…


Process philosophy


One of the most ubiquitous assumptions in Western thinking is a metaphysics of substance. This way of seeing the world is so deeply embedded in the unthought wilderness at the back of our minds that it rarely occurs to us to even consider it. Whatever else we may come to blows about, we almost all feel justified in leaning on the idea that our world fundamentally consists of “things”, objects that exist, solid entities that have an identity, possess properties, fill space and so on. All of us, apart from one small minority that thinks differently: the valiant tradition of process philosophers.

Process philosophy holds that the world consists not of objects but of processes, that the fundamental mode of things is not being but doing, that the nature of a thing consists not in what it is but in what is does. Traditionally, we see events as being done by things; there are objects, and acts are predicated of them (the bird flies, the fish swims, the sun shines). Process philosophers see the doing as primary: not that the bird flies, but that there is one might say a “birding” which throughout a certain duration “is birding flying-ly”.

At this point many readers will begin reeling back with discomfort. Here we see that the very way our language structures our thinking makes it difficult to even comprehend a processual point of view. And the next step in this repulsion is to ask “why bother?”. After all, ostensibly there are such things as birds, and they do appear to fly, so why bother with such eccentric semi-nonsense as “birding flying-ly” when saying “the bird flies” perfectly communicates a perception of reality that nearly everyone can acknowledge without dispute?

Because if it is true, as process philosophers claim, that the way we habitually think and talk about our world merely biases us towards a certain way of conceptualising it, then this bias will spread outward beyond metaphysics to every other discipline that concerns the world (i.e. all of them). Process ontology is not merely a more eccentric way of describing the world, but a tool that helps us uncover truths and practice effective strategies we otherwise would never have envisaged…

Thinking differently: “A Cosmos of Flux: The Case for Process Philosophy.”

* Heraclitus


As we go with the flow, we might send adventurous birthday greetings to Gerald “Gerry” Malcolm Durrell; he was born on this date in 1925.  A British naturalist, zookeeper, conservationist, author, and television presenter, most of his work was rooted in his life as an animal collector and enthusiast… though he is probably most widely known for his autobiographical book My Family and Other Animals and its successors, Birds, Beasts, and Relatives and The Garden of the Gods... which have been made into television and radio mini-series many times, most recently as ITV’s/PBS’s The Durrells.




Written by LW

January 7, 2020 at 1:01 am

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