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Process philosophy

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-N085-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 18, 2024, from

Article Summary

In the broad sense, the term ‘process philosophy’ refers to all worldviews holding that process or becoming is more fundamental than unchanging being. For example, an anthology titled Philosophers of Process (1965) includes selections from Samuel Alexander, Henri Bergson, John Dewey, William James, Lloyd Morgan, Charles Peirce and Alfred North Whitehead, with an introduction by Charles HARTSHORNE. Some lists include Hegel and Heraclitus. The term has widely come to refer in particular, however, to the movement inaugurated by Whitehead and extended by Hartshorne. Here, process philosophy is treated in this narrower sense.

Philosophy’s central task, process philosophers hold, is to develop a metaphysical cosmology that is self-consistent and adequate to all experienced facts. To be adequate, it cannot be based solely on the natural sciences, but must give equal weight to aesthetic, ethical and religious intuitions. Philosophy’s chief importance, in fact, derives from its integration of science and religion into a rational scheme of thought. This integration is impossible, however, unless exaggerations on both sides are overcome. On the side of science, the main exaggerations involve ‘scientific materialism’ and the ‘sensationalist’ doctrine of perception. On the side of religion, the chief exaggeration has been the idea of divine omnipotence. Process philosophy replaces these ideas with a ‘panexperientialist’ ontology, a doctrine of perception in which nonsensory ‘prehension’ is fundamental, and a doctrine of divine power as persuasive rather than coercive.

Citing this article:
Griffin, David Ray. Process philosophy, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-N085-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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