Balder mentions here that he's reading The Universe of Things: On Speculative Realism by Steven Shaviro.

I took a look at the "Look Inside" feature at Amazon, and read the Introduction.  Very interesting discussion providing an overview of how the author connects Speculative Realism to Whitehead's ideas.

It very much reminds me of the last chapter in Nancy Frankenberry's Religion and Radical Empiricism, where Frankenberry connects Whitehead to the Radical Empiricism of James, Wiemen, Meland, & Loomer, and then most importantly to Abhidharmist and Madhyamika Buddhist philosophy.

Whitehead's "causal efficacy" is discussed:

"Whitehead's doctrine thus inverted the classical view of sense-perception as primary and feeling-tones as derivative. Instead, in his thesis, the primitive data of experience are more complex and inclusive, though dim and vague, are the sophisticated result of later abstraction. Sense-perception is a selective highlighting from more complex experiences, making them handy and manageable...[causal efficacy] is an affective response, whether attraction or repulsion, to some vague presence dimly felt...directly experienced when we attend to the ground stream of becoming...what is most real is the flow of experiencing."

Causal efficacy is then paralleled to the Buddhist doctrine of pratitya-samutpada:

"...conditioned coarising or dependent coorigination...all experience is intrinsically is a relational process which coordinates the momentary factors (dharmas) as they pulsate in and out of the causal perceiving causality as a multiple-directional convergence, the Buddha discards the notion of a one-directional movement of power from a prime substance to another independent substance."

She then covers Whitehead's critique of substantialism and sensationalism (discussing Kant, Hume and Descarte in similar ways as Shaviro), followed by the Buddhist critique of the same.

She then concludes with the contention that "the Abhidharmists are close cousins to American radical empiricists...Just as Whiteheadian scholars have been more appreciative of the cosmological and speculative side of Whitehead's philosophy  that attentive to its radically empirical insights, they have also found the highly metaphysical forms of the Madhyamika and the Hwa-yen schools most congenial to comparative analysis. The empirical insights into the nature of experience which Buddhism has advanced in its long history are frequently bypassed in the same way as Whitehead's are.

"...dharmas are adverbial, not adjectival; as concrete facts, they refer to qualitative events, which cannot be described or analyzed exhaustively in terms of universals.

"In the Abhidharma, the dharma-list is a list of seventy-five qualities [I think of a parallel to the 56 dnamic patterns in PatternDynamics], and of each of them there are numerous examples. The only way of identifying or reidentifying a dharma is by its 'marks' (laksana/lakkhana). A mark is a characteristic of a dharma [similarity here to Bruce's use of prepositions?] which enables one to say what type it is. Each of the seventy-five dharma-types has a mark to help one identify it as such."

"...I am arguing that dharmas are best viewed as felt qualities in the radically empirical sense explicated earlier. As such, they are relational, modal, and concrete."

"Despite James's hesitations, and despite Wittgenstein's early injunction 'whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent,' the felt qualities associated with religious experiencing are no more ineffable than are any other modes of experience. They contain patterns that are ready to be expressed, whether as 'God' in the West or as 'Emptiness' in the East [my emphasis]. In both cases, radical empiricists in the West and Buddhists in the East have always insisted that the conceptual elements utilized in what they are saying are not what they are talking about; what they are talking about is that to which the concepts 'God' and 'Emptiness' are applied, and by which they are justified."

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I think this post by Philip Clayton, "Mind vs. matter" also carries some similar themes. This was his introduction to one of the tracks at the recent conference on Seizing an Alternative.

"These seven working groups in Section IV are all working under one common heading, “Re-envisioning Nature; Re-envisioning Science.” It is our shared conviction that the major themes of this conference — “seizing an alternative” and moving “toward an ecological civilization” — will require humanity to overturn the mechanistic view of nature that dominated science in the modern period. Through the powerful influence of science, a mechanistic worldview came to dominate the minds, thoughts, and actions of modern men and women."

"...I suggest, however, that “Re-envisioning Nature; Re-envisioning Science” may represent the most foundational rethinking of the entire conference — the most comprehensive alternative to modern mechanism."

"...Let us then explore the three most important reasons to view nature as a world of interacting agents. I organize the case under the headings: how we know; what we know; and what we should do — or, to use the classical terms: knowledge, metaphysics, and ethics.

As a framework for this exploration, the conference organizers have chosen to highlight two pivotal lectures by Alfred North Whitehead, “Nature Lifeless” and “Nature Alive,” published in his final work Modes of Thought. In the end, we will see, these two lectures have everything to do with ecological civilization. But we mustn’t jump too quickly to the punch line. The standard approach is to hang out at the ecological finish line and congratulate folks as they come across. But the purpose of our working groups is more foundational. Our goal is to understand how one gets to an ecological worldview. For that, we need to ask deeper questions and think deeper thoughts. So fasten your seatbelts and get ready to do some intense philosophy. Once you’ve understood Whitehead’s argument, you will never be tempted by the Siren song of mechanism again..."

Thanks for starting this thread, David.  Whitehead and process philosophy are definitely very relevant themes for our forum, given the influence of Whitehead on the new Wilber-5 work, the polydox theologians, and Deleuze and some forms of speculative realism, among other things.  I'm enjoying Shaviro's book so far, getting a few new insights into topics I explored in a couple of my recent papers.

For now, picking up just on Frankenberry's comment, that "dharmas are adverbial, not adjectival" -- in Sophia Speaks, I described adjectival philosophy as positing a "being-as-appearance" ontology, and named one fundamental Buddhist concept, abhūtaparikalpa, as adjectival in nature:  holding that what exists is only a flow of (qualitative) perceptions.  But this classification likely doesn't do justice to Buddhism as a whole, which very well might be seen as more adverbial than adjectival (I name Dzogchen and Kashmiri Shaivism as adverbial, for instance).  

Regarding Whitehead, in Sophia Speaks I also identified him as an adverbial philosopher.  So, now reading The Universe of Things, I was pleased to see Shaviro confirm this:  

"A philosophy of processes and events explores manners of being rather than states of being, 'modes of thought' rather than any supposed essence of thought, and contingent interactions rather than unchanging substances.  It focuses, you might say, on adverbs instead of nouns.  It is as concerned with the way that one says things as it is with the ostensible content of what is being said."

Consonant with my more recent paper, "Integral In-Dwelling," he also discusses co-presence (in Bhaskar's terms) as implicit in Whitehead's ontology:  

"There is no undifferentiated magma of being; even a volcano is a fully determinate entity.  But there is also no gap to bridge between any one such entity and another, for 'an actual entity is present in other actual entities.  In fact if we allow for degrees of relevance, and for negligible relevance, we must say that every actual entity is present in every other actual entity.'"

Whitehead is thus relevant not only for adverbial but also for prepositional philosophy -- in other words, for any integral or meta-theoretic orientation.

Yes, very good. I'm embarrassed to say I haven't yet read Sophia Speaks, but it is still high on the list!

I should say something about why I am calling it "Process/Relational Philosophy" in the subject title of this thread, which supports your prepositional emphasis. It comes from Bernard Loomer's thinking, quoted by Frankenberry (same book as above, p. 145), discussing and quoting Loomer:

[the end of the 2nd quote is cut off at Google books, I'll have to look it up later in my paperback copy of the book at home]

Ah, good to know that background.  I often hear Whiteheadian or Neo-Whiteheadian philosophy described as process-relational, so Loomer must be where that originated.  No problem about not having read "Sophia Speaks" yet; it's kinda long!  In it, I discuss (as I recall) Nicholas Rescher's process philosophy as a primarily verbal approach, but I associate Whitehead more with an adverbial one.  But these designations are not meant to be limiting or exclusive -- really, most sophisticated philosophies involve all orientations or philosophemes to some degree, and it is more a question of emphasis.  Whitehead's approach, for instance, leads with verbs (processes/events), adverbs (modes), and prepositions (relations).

On another note, an old online friend, Matthew Segall, has a number of blogs, as I recall, on the relationship of Whiteheadian "organismic" (process-relational) philosophy to various speculative realist thinkers.  I'll look for them and link them here when I have a chance.

I don't know if Whitehead was primarily adverbial (I haven't read Whitehead directly yet), or if its more the case that his followers have tended to emphasize that aspect of his work.

I do think Loomer at least would appreciate your prepositional emphasis.

Continuing the quote from above:

"...So Loomer could say:

The meaning of 'experience' is grounded upon a Whiteheadian or Jamesian epistemology which stresses the givenness of relations and the primacy of bodily feelings or causal efficacy from which some experience is an abstraction. It also involves the notion of experience as a synthetic concrescence of the many into some unity, based upon the discontinuous becoming of ultimate drops of experience or quanta of events."

BTW, late in life Loomer did some part-time teaching at Claremont, leading the Advanced Seminar in Process Studies, with Catherine Keller as one of his students. I wonder how much of his influence carries over in her work.

Here are some of Matthew David Segall's blogs on Whitehead.

And this is apparently the science fiction book that provided the title for Shaviro's own book (he also wrote the forward to this):  The Universe of Things.  

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