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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-N047-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 14, 2024, from

Article Summary

A process is a course of change with a direction and internal order, where one stage leads on to the next. Processes can be physical (such as atomic decay), biological (such as the growth of living things), artificial (such as building a house) and social (such as carrying out a criminal investigation). Much of what is said about processes can be said about sequences of events. The concept of event, however, suggests a separate occurrence, whereas that of a process suggests something which is ongoing. There are matters, such as development in organisms, where to see what is happening as part of a process has an advantage over thinking of it as an event. Causes are generally spoken of as events, but the more dynamic concept of causal processes may get nearer to expressing the transition between cause and effect. Moreover, to explain something as a stage in a process can take account not only of what has happened in the past, but of what might happen in the future. This may (but need not) involve purpose; with organisms it involves development through functionally interrelated activities. In some social processes there can be a practical, moral significance in seeing a situation as a stage in a process, since this can encourage us to look to a further stage where something constructive might be brought out of what could otherwise be seen as simply an untoward event or an unhappy situation.

Citing this article:
Emmet, Dorothy. Processes, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-N047-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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