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Thursday, 27 November 2014

Whitehead: to exist is to arrive at a crowd

Whitehead's interplay between perception and creation in prehension can be read as a cement that glues together the various elements of his system in Process and Reality. His Lockean account of indirect perception requires that (sensorial) ideas are involved in (physical and conceptual) perception and therefore that universals are present even though not in the sensationalist way (endorsed mainly by Hume). These universals are only potentially present when they are not prehended. They are actualized by prehension for, in fact, Whitehead's definition of actuality has to do with being able to affect other actualities. To come actual is like to arrive where the crowd is: nobody can arrive to where the crowd is and be alone - to exist in actuality is to co-exist. Universals are brought to actuality by actual entities, without prehensions they are merely potential. This is why God is needed to prehend eternal objects - without God these objects would lack what only an actual entity can provide and God is the actual entity that prehends all the eternal objects. God is an actual entity and as such, cannot exist vacuously and has to co-exist. Therefore, God needs other actual entities as much as the other actual entities need God.

To be sure, God is contemporary of all actual entity and in that sense is not temporal. Time is itself brought about by actual entities - through the timing of contemporary actual occasions. This makes God omnipresent without being causa sui or substantial in any other sense. It depends on anything else as much as it provides order and creativity to the rest of the world. Whitehead's theology makes God somehow immanent as Meillassoux does, but God's connection to the rest of the world is not contingent, and is not limited to a cosmic epoch. Creation without perception is as unintelligible as perception without creation and, as a consequence, there is no creator of the world. The system is thoroughly pluralist - even though actual entities are connected to each other (in a monadological way, I say), there can never be less than many of them.

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