Process Philosophy

Below are some informative quotes from various sources and some brief comments related to process philosophy.

From the perspective of process philosophy as defined on wikipedia (

Process philosophy suggests that the fundamental elements of the universe are occasions of experience. According to this notion, what people commonly think of as concrete objects are actually successions of these occasions of experience.

And the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states:

What is characteristically definitive of process philosophizing as a distinctive sector of philosophical tradition is not simply the commonplace recognition of natural process as the active initiator of what exists in nature, but an insistence on seeing process as constituting an essential aspect of everything that exists -- a commitment to the fundamentally processual nature of the real. For the process philosopher is, effectively by definition, one who holds that what exists in nature is not just originated and sustained by processes but is in fact ongoingly and inexorably characterized by them. On such a view, process is both pervasive in nature and fundamental for its understanding.

Non-Process Theories Process Theories
geometrical time process time
develop static models of the relationships between empirical observables develop process driven dynamical models, models the operational relation between states
inherently objective model of reality inherently information theoretic, perceptual and experiential model of reality
conceives of reality as a 4D block of spacetime with inanimate matter in it and the present moment being some unexplained psychological anomaly conceives of reality as a process that is unfolding with experience being central to all interaction, nothing is 'inert' and consciousness is a spectrum of information processing from the most low level computation up to the higher levels of human consciousness
cannot model dynamical processual aspects of reality, cannot comprehend the nature of consciousness models all known aspects of reality

R.T. Cahill on process philosophy, from ("Process Physics" by R.T. Cahill, Process Studies Supplement 2003 Issue 5, “Western science and philosophy have always been dominated by non-process thought. This ‘historical record’ or being model of reality has been with us since Parmenides, and his student Zeno of Elea, and is known as the Eleatic model (c500 BCE). Zeno gave us the first insights into the inherent problems of comprehending motion, a problem long forgotten by conventional non-process physics, but finally explained by process physics. The becoming or processing model of reality dates back to Heraclitus of Ephesus (540-480 BCE) who argued that common sense is mistaken in thinking that the world consists of stable things; rather the world is in a state of flux. The appearances of ‘things’ depend upon this flux for their continuity and identity. What needs to be explained, Heraclitus argued, is not change, but the appearance of stability. With process physics western science and philosophy is now able to move beyond the moribund non-process mindset. But it was the work of Gödel that demonstrated beyond any doubt that the non-process system of thought had fundamental limitations; implicit in his work is the idea that the whole reductionist mindset that goes back to Thales of Miletus could not offer, in the end, an effective account of reality. However the notion that there were limits to syntactical or symbolic encoding is actually very old. Priest [26] has given an account of that history. However in the East the Buddhists in particular were amazingly advanced in their analysis and comprehension of reality. Stcherbatsky [27], writing about the extraordinary achievements of Buddhist logic in the C6 and C7th CE, noted that Reality according to Buddhists is kinetic, not static, but logic, on the other hand, imagines a reality stabilized in concepts and names. The ultimate aim of Buddhist logic is to explain the relation between a moving reality and the static constructions of logic.

In the West the process system approach to reality was developed, much later, by such process philosophers as Peirce, James, Bergson and Whitehead to name a few, although their achievements were very limited and substantially flawed, limited as they were by the physical phenomena known to them. A collection of their writings is available in [2]. Perhaps a quote from Charles Peirce [2], writing in 1891, gives the sense of their thinking;

“The one intelligible theory of the universe is that of objective idealism, that matter is effete mind, inveterate habits becoming physical laws. But before this can be accepted it must show itself capable of explaining the tridimensionality of space, the laws of motion, and the general characteristics of the universe, with mathematical clearness and precision; for no less should be demanded of every philosophy.”

With process physics we have almost achieved this end, and Wheeler has already expressed this notion of inveterate habits as “law without law” [28]. As the reader will note the self-referentially limited neural network model, that underpins process physics, is remarkably akin to Peirce’s effete mind. It is the limitations of syntax, and the need for intrinsic or semantic information ‘within’ reality and at all levels, that reality is not imposed, that drives us to this approach.