The Reformed Subjectivist Principle Revisited
by Lewis S. Ford
Lewis S. Ford is Emeritus Professor at Old Dominion University, and founding editor of Process Studies Periodical (1971 - 1995). The following article appeared in Process Studies, pp. 28-48, Vol.19, Number 1, Spring, 1990. Process Studies is published quarterly by the Center for Process Studies, 1325 N. College Ave., Claremont, CA 91711. Used by permission. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.
The reformed subjectivist principle, that the primary togetherness of things is their togetherness in experience (PR 189/288), is mentioned but rarely in Alfred North Whitehead’s Process and Reality. Nevertheless many have intuitively appreciated its centrality to his endeavor. The theologian Schubert Ogden sees it as "the starting-point for a genuinely new theistic conception" (RG 57). As we shall see later, the reformed subjectivist principle is so fundamental as to derive from a modification of the most basic principle of all, the ontological principle.
What the principle is all about, however, is open to question. I shall challenge a prevalent interpretation which focuses on the nature of what is experienced.1 This interpretation starts with what Whitehead designates, but does not adopt, as (simply) the subjectivist principle, which asserts "that the datum in the act of experience can be adequately analyzed purely in terms of universals" (PR 157/239). Why this should be called a subjectivist principle is by no means evident. If we adopt Descartes’ subjectivist bias, however, that we replace "the stone is gray" with "I experience the stone as gray as the primary datum of philosophical reflection, and also assume the pre-Cartesian pattern of qualities inhering in subjects, then only universals can be ingredient in experience, just as only qualities and not other substances can inhere in a substance. Whitehead argues this inevitably leads to the solipsism of the present moment.
Therefore "Descartes’ discovery on the side of subjectivism requires balancing by an ‘objectivist’ principle as to the datum for experience" (PR 160/243). From this line of argument Ivor Leclerc concludes: "This is what Whitehead calls the ‘reformed’ subjectivist principle" (WM 121).
Donald W Sherburne also agrees that the subjectivist reorientation of Descartes needs to be balanced by an objective element. "Whitehead’s rebuttal is to accept the subjectivist bias and couple it with his ‘reformed’ subjectivist principle, which states that actual entities, and not merely universals, are revealed in experience" (KPR 138).
Moreover, Jorge L. Nobo recognizes that the datum for experience includes particulars as well as universals, though he questions whether this should be called a reformed principle: "In truth, however, the organic conception of the datum constitutes an outright repudiation, rather than a reformation, of the subjectivist principle; for it denies categorically . . . that the datum for subjective experience consists exclusively of universals. On the contrary, the datum is conceived by the organic philosophy necessarily to include the objectifications of other particulars" (WMES 375f).
Now Leclerc, Sherburne, and Nobo are surely correct that occasions prehend particulars and not simply universals, and that the subjectivist principle must be revised accordingly, but it is by no means certain that this is done in Whitehead’s discussion of the reformed subjectivist principle.
In order to make my point evident we need to introduce genetic considerations. In the Emergence of Whitehead’s Metaphysics, I argue that it is possible to discern stages in Whitehead’s thinking in terms of the composition of Process and Reality and that in particular there is a major shift in his philosophical position from the nine and one-half chapters he wrote during the summer of 1927 (which I have designated as the Giffords draft) and the final revisions added later. The reformed subjectivist principle seems to be the summary statement of shift. Whitehead then sought to find a suitable place in his writing for this principle, finally attaching it to the discussion of "the subjectivist principle."2
For our purposes the salient difference between the Giffords draft (roughly, PR part II, without later additions) and the final revisions (roughly, PR part Ill) lies in that from which concrescence starts. Is it a single datum, constituted by the efficient causation of past actualities in a process of transition (so the Giffords draft), or are there many past actual entities, to be unified in the process of concrescence (EWM 189-217)? The standard interpretations of Christian, Sherburne, and Leclerc have developed Whitehead systematically in terms of part m theory, ignoring evidence of part II theory. Jorge Nobo, in Whitehead’s Metaphysics of Extension and Solidarity,3 effectively argues the case for systematically understanding all of Whitehead’s work in terms of the part II theory. The two theories are very much at odds with one another, yet come out of the same book. I argue we can understand both as Whitehead’s, provided one represents a theory he ultimately gave up.
The shift basically concerns the scope of concrescent unification: does it include efficient causation, or not? In the Giffords draft, Whitehead had come to understand the process of actualization in terms of subjectivity and the unification or integration of feeling, but there was one form of composite unity -- the original datum from which the concrescence began -- that was outside concrescence. By the identification of feeling with (positive) prehension, Whitehead sought to include even this within concrescence and therefore within subjective experience. Since it would now be possible to generalize this to mean that no composite unity stood outside concrescence, Whitehead could proclaim that the primary togetherness of things is their togetherness in experience (PR 189/288).
While it is certainly true that for Whitehead we experience particulars and not merely universals, the primary reason why this is not the burden of the reformed subjectivist principle is that this was a well-established teaching within the Giffords draft, and did not need the basic shift in order to become evident. In "Fact and Form" (PR 11.1), an early chapter of the Giffords draft, in a passage which shows no signs of being inserted later, Whitehead observes that his philosophy "directly traverses Aristotle’s dictum, A substance is not present in a subject.’ On the contrary, according to this principle an actual entity is present in other actual entities.... The philosophy of organism is mainly devoted to the task of making clear the notion of ‘being present in another entity"’ (PR 50/79f).4 This does not mean "the crude notion that one actual entity is added to another simpliciter" (PR 50/80), for the first is objectified for the second, but it is the particular actual entity which is so objectified. This is an important teaching, but if it were all that Whitehead meant later after the shift by his principle, it would not have to be enunciated.
In challenging the prevalent interpretation, it is not enough simply to give a close reading of the text. It makes all the difference in the world what interpretive principles we adopt in response to Whitehead’s compositional methods. Thus in the second section I shall examine the basic texts with an eye to determining how they came to be so. The third section details a developmental account of the reformed subjectivist principle in terms of the deepening of panpsychism, achieved in the essay on "Time" (1926), to pansubjectivity. The final section then assesses the significance and implications of this principle. Before we examine the relevant texts in detail, it will be helpful to consider an exchange between Lindsey and Griffin on these same issues.
As James E. Lindsey, Jr. notes, "The reformed subjectivist principle is, in spite of its name, not a revised or reformed version of the subjectivist principle," although we may see it as an extension of Whitehead’s affirmation of the subjectivist bias (PS 6: 101f). It depends crucially upon that fundamental reorientation as to the nature of that from which concrescence begins which Whitehead had not yet undertaken. In the earlier discussion, epistemological considerations predominate, but in the final formulation it is broadened into an ontological doctrine.
Lindsey argues that there are two distinct and incompatible meanings for the subjectivist principle’ or that Whitehead intended some other term such as ‘subjectivist bias’ in at least one instance (PR 167/253; PS 6:98ff). The editors of the corrected edition agree, in part. They leave this text alone, but note: "This is clearly nor a reference to the ‘subjectivist principle’ as defined in the opening section of this chapter (PR 157.28f/239). . . . For one thing, the definition on 157 is of a principle Whitehead rejects, whereas these latter two references are to a principle which he accepts.
Perhaps Whitehead should have written "subjectivist bias" instead of "subjectivist principle" in the passage Lindsey cites (PR 167/253). This would have made things much clearer, and avoided the contradiction he notes, but the fact remains that Whitehead did apparently write "subjectivist principle," both here and on the previous page, where it does not fit either. Why? It behooves us to find a genetic explanation, if one is possible.
Whitehead’s inconsistencies can be accounted for if we postulate two revisions of the subjectivist principle, both occurring during the final effort at revision after giving the Gifford Lectures in June of 1928.
The first is fundamentally conceptual, based upon a generalization of the old subjectivist principle (the experient togetherness of the subject) extended to the data of experience in the light of Whitehead’s revised theory of concrescence. The shift from an original datum from which concrescence springs to a multiplicity of past data, themselves concrescent experiences, enables Whitehead to extend the principle of experient togetherness to the data as well. Since he construes this as a generalization of the subjectivist doctrine, it can be specified as his version of the subjectivist doctrine in contrast to others.
Kant’s version is criticized in that the temporal world is merely experienced. "The difficulties of the subjectivist doctrine arise when it is combined with the ‘sensationalist’ doctrine concerning the analysis of the components which are together in experience" (PR 190/289), for the components were not themselves products of experient togetherness that Whitehead requires.
As part of this conceptual revision Whitehead could well have written the final section of the chapter on "The Subjectivist Principle" (II.7.5). This section was devoted to what was then probably called the "subjectivist principle adopted by the philosophy of organism." This was defined as the principle "that the whole universe consists of elements disclosed in the analysis of the experiences of subjects" (PR 166/252). (This seems innocuous enough, until we realize that Whitehead means it in a radical form. Not only do subjects experience, but what they experience were themselves experient subjects.) For brevity’s sake he simply referred to this as "the subjectivist principle," leaving it understood that it was his new principle, and not the old one he rejected, that he meant. After all, he was in all probability much engrossed in his "subjectivist principle," seeing the other one as a half-forgotten principle.
Then there may well have been a second editorial revision, perhaps occasioned by a rereading of his initial section (11.7.1), recognizing the confusion that different meanings of ‘subjectivist principle’ could cause. At this time he may have specified his own theory as "the reformed subjectivist principle" (PR 157.12/238, 160.28/243).5
The editorial revision would also extend to the last section of the chapter on "The Subjectivist Principle" (II.7.5). Here the revision seems most incomplete, and probably was limited only to adding the word "reformed" to "subjectivist principle" in the first sentence (PR 166/252). Another sentence, "Finally, the reformed subjectivist principle must be repeated: that apart from the experiences of subjects there is nothing, nothing, nothing, bare nothingness" (PR 167/254) seems to have been added later.6
Unfortunately the other two mentions of the "subjectivist principle" were overlooked, causing confusion ever since. One of these is the one Professor Lindsey would emend to ‘subjectivist bias,’ which makes better sense than the present text, but which does not fit with the terminology of Whitehead’s conceptual revision. If in the final section (II.7.5) Whitehead had originally meant ‘subjectivist principle’ to be his new term for the ‘subjectivist doctrine’ (of II.9.2) he adopts, then it would generate an (unnoticed?) conflict with the ‘subjectivist principle’ he rejects (in II.7.1). Perhaps he needs to fall back on subjectivist bias,’ although ‘subjectivist bias’ does not seem to be part of his philosophical vocabulary any longer. At any rate the editorial revision of this section (II.7.5) seems never to have been carried out. It appears as if Whitehead made the first notation to remind himself that the whole section needed revision, and then neglected to do so.
In his response to Lindsey (PS 7:27-36), David Ray Griffin recognizes that Whitehead uses ‘subjectivist principle’ in two different senses: SPd as to the datum, which he rejects, and SPr as to reality as a whole, which he adopts. Assuming that all these passages form a coherent unity, and seeking to save the text as much as possible,7 Griffin is obliged to make some very careful distinctions between subjectivist bias, SPd, SPr, and reformed subjectivist principle.8 He does identify ‘subjectivist doctrine’ with ‘subjectivist principle’ (i.e. SPr), as we do also, although Whitehead carefully distinguishes between these in his first essay (II.7.1). If this were a unified text, we should expect him to maintain some distinctions throughout.
On the other hand, if this material was written in three or four tries over a span of more than a year, which were not carefully coordinated, we need not expect that every earlier distinction would be maintained. I agree with Griffin that Whitehead has two notions both named ‘subjectivist principle’ (SPd and SPr), but take the second (also named ‘subjectivist doctrine’) to be the result of further ruminations on this theme one year later, when memory of the first has been overlain by additional considerations.
My genetic reconstruction here proposed sees a lineal descent from ‘subjectivist bias’ (II.7.2) by way of subjectivist doctrine’ (II.9.2) to the subjectivist principle’ Whitehead accepts (i.e. SPr in II.7.5). Unfortunately in the later two instances the doctrine/principle is not defined in its generality, but is discussed in terms of particular versions thereof, Whitehead’s and others. Whitehead’s own version is the "reformed version of the subjectivist doctrine" (PR 189/288),9which in its later formulation becomes the ‘reformed subjectivist principle.’
Let us attempt to reconstruct the section which initiates this whole discussion in Whitehead, the first section of "The Subjectivist Principle" (117.1) as it stood as part of the Gifford’s draft of the summer of 1927, and then examine the other two pertinent passages from a genetic perspective:
A Since this section (7.1) is in all probability part of the Giffords draft, but the chapter to which it now belongs was not (EWM 182-88),10 we may suppose it belonged elsewhere, perhaps as the concluding section to either "Locke and Hume" (II.5.6) or "From Descartes to Kant" (II.6.6).
The mentions of the "reformed subjectivist principle" are quite superficial, and can be supposed to have been added later. Let me quote the two suggested insertions in italics with the surrounding context so that we can see how the original text flowed without these insertions:
(a) "It is usual to combine the two [i.e., ‘the subjectivist principle’ and the sensationalist principle’] under the heading of the sensationalist doctrine’; but two principles are really involved, and many philosophers -- Locke, for instance -- are not equally consistent in their adhesion to both of them. The philosophy of organism denies both of these doctrines, in the form in which they are considered in this chapter. though it accepts a reformed subjectivist principle ( cf. sect. V11 below and Part II, Ch. IX). Locke accepted the sensationalist principle, and was inconsistent in his statements respecting the subjectivist principle" (PR 157/238).
(It might be thought that only the last clause is inserted, but this would ignore the way doctrines’ in the insertion rides roughshod over the careful distinction between doctrine’ and ‘principle’ in the original, and it undercuts the continuity of the original discussion of Locke.)
(b) "In contrast to Hume, the philosophy of organism keeps this stone as gray in the datum for the experience in question. It is, in fact, the ‘objective datum’ of a certain physical feeling, belonging to a derivative type in a late phase of a concrescence.12 But this doctrine fully accepts Descartes’ discovery that subjective experiencing is the primary metaphysical situation which is presented to metaphysics for analysis. This doctrine is the ‘reformed subjectivist principle,’ mentioned earlier in this chapter. [I.e. at (a).] Accordingly, the notion ‘this stone as gray’ is a derivative abstraction, necessary indeed as an element in the description of the fundamental experiential feeling, but delusive as a metaphysical starting-point" (PR 160/243).
In addition to these insertions, which were not part of the original text, there could well have been a passage which was, but which is now placed elsewhere:
Immediately following upon the discussion of Descartes and Hume in this section (11.7.1), Whitehead may have included two paragraphs, one on Kant, the other summing up the difficulties of the subjectivist doctrine, material now found in the chapter on "Propositions" (II.9.2: 190.8-33/289.6-38).13
This passage may also have included the first three sentences of the next paragraph: "The philosophy of organism admits the subjectivist doctrine (as here stated), but rejects the sensationalist doctrine: hence its doctrine of the objectification of one actual occasion in the experience of another actual occasion. Each actual entity is a throb of experience including the actual world within its scope. The problems of efficient causation and of knowledge receive a common explanation by reference to the texture of actual occasions" (PR 190/290).
Because of its present location in the insertion (in II.9.2, to be discussed under C), let us designate it as the middle segment. Its paragraphs are roughly of a piece with our section (II.7.1), but they fit rather less well in their present context. I suspect Whitehead drew upon them here because the second paragraph mentions "the components which are together in experience," while the primary emphasis of the first two paragraphs of this section (II.9.2) is on "togetherness in experience." But the new emphasis these paragraphs introduce concerns the activity of the subject in unifying the given components, although the first paragraph simply repeats earlier analysis of the components of experience in terms of universals and particulars. 14
On the other hand, they represent slightly later thinking by Whitehead than his initial material (II.7.1) because now he supplements the sensationalist doctrine’ (constituted by subjectivist and sensationalist principles, both rejected) with a ‘subjectivist doctrine’ he now accepts. This doctrine appears to affirm the subjectivist bias, and is acceptable when not combined with the ‘sensationalist doctrine.’ This seems to be an intermediate step on the way to reconceiving the subjectivist principle, as the next passage indicates.
B. A passage originally placed just after this initial discussion15 consists in all of the final section of "The Subjectivist Principle" (II 7.5), except for these two insertions:
(c) "The reformed subjectivist principle adopted by the philosophy of organism is merely an alternative statement of the principle of relativity. This principle states that it belongs to the nature of a ‘being’ that it is a potential for every ‘becoming.’ Thus all things are to be conceived as qualifications of actual occasions. According to the ninth Category of Explanation, how an actual entity becomes constitutes what that actual entity is. This principle states that the being of a res vera is constituted by its ‘becoming.’ The way in which one actual entity is qualified by other actual entities is the ‘experience’ of the actual world enjoyed by that actual entity, as subject" (PR 166/252).16
(d) "Finally, the reformed subjectivist principle must be repeated: that apart from the experiences of subjects there is nothing, nothing, nothing, bare nothingness" (PR 167/254).
These four editorial insertions are the only passages naming our famous principle by its standard name! If we remove them, our chapter (II.7) has nothing to say about it, and needs to be read by itself as not involving any contrast between unreformed and reformed subjectivist principles. At the time of initial writing Whitehead had most probably no developed thoughts about "togetherness in experience," nor did he have a concern to contrast this with the ‘subjectivist principle.’
On the other hand, he appears dissatisfied with the narrowness of his initial definition of the subjectivist principle, for this he can only reject, allowing him no scope to express the sense in which he accepts a subjectivist orientation. (If so, another writer would simply modify what he had first written, but not Whitehead! What is written for publication stays written.) He modifies his position by what he writes further, not by modifying the original text. Thus he comments: "According to the philosophy of organism, it is only by the introduction of covert inconsistencies into the subjectivist principle, as here stated, that there can be any escape from what Santayana calls, ‘solipsism of the present moment’" (PR 158/240). The words I have italicized suggest that there might be an alternative formulation of the subjectivist principle not subject to those difficulties.
The subjectivist principle he rejects, "that the datum in the act of experience can be analyzed purely in terms of universals" (PR 157/239), was a staple of Whitehead’s lectures.17 Yet, as he recognizes, that particular form of the principle, expressed in terms of universals, follows from three assumptions, only the third of which he accepts (PR 157f/239). The third, the reorientation to subjective experience as the primary datum of philosophy, is isolated and named the subjectivist bias: "This is the famous subjectivist bias which entered into modem philosophy through Descartes. In this doctrine Descartes undoubtedly made the greatest philosophical discovery since the age of Plato and Aristotle" (PR 159/241).
On the other hand, Whitehead recognizes that Descartes’ discovery on the side of subjectivism requires balancing by an objectivist’ principle as to the datum of experience" (PR 160/243). As Nobo points out, this cannot be done in terms of a subjectivist principle defined solely in terms of universals, for particulars are needed. But if we ignore all intrusive references to a reformed subjectivist principle, we may see Whitehead working towards a more general version of the subjectivist principle.
The final section (7.5) provides that generalized approach: "The subjectivist principle is that the whole universe consists of elements disclosed in the analysis of the experiences of subjects" (PR 166/252).18 This is not yet the reformed subjectivist principle, because the emphasis is upon what is disclosed to subjects rather than upon their unifying activity, but it is a reformulation of what he had originally termed ‘the subjectivist bias.’ Let us call this revision the revised subjectivist principle,’ which is not yet the reformed subjectivist principle.
This strategy means that Whitehead no longer rejects ‘the subjectivist principle’ but only the other philosophic assumptions made in affirming it. "The difficulties of all schools of modem philosophy lie in the fact that, having accepted the subjectivist principle,19 they continue to use philosophical categories derived from another point of view" (PR 167/253). These other categories were specifically the first and second premises (the acceptance of substance/quality approach and the dictum that a primary substance is always a subject and never a predicate) that were integral parts of the subjectivist principle as initially defined (PR 157/239). Now that they have been removed from the definition, it contains nothing objectionable from a process perspective.20 Whitehead here has shifted his understanding of the ‘subjectivist principle,’ but it has left considerable confusion because he did not then go back and revise his original account (7.1) in line with his new definition,21 nor were assertions about the revised subjectivist principle well integrated with the old context.
C. To determine the original meaning of the reformed principle, however, we must turn to a passage tucked away as an insertion in the chapter on "Propositions" (II.9.2) which doesn’t mention the principle by name. The insertion spans two pages, from the middle of the first paragraph (PR 189.30/288.16) to the seventh paragraph (PR 191.11/290.30). The initial part of the first paragraph concerns the truth and falsehood, "and the account of the intuitive perception of truth and falsehood. The former concerns propositions, the latter concerns judgments." The seventh paragraph immediately picks up with this theme: "[Thus a] a judgment is concerned with a conformity of two components within one experience. It is thus a ‘coherence’ theory. . . . 22
The first paragraph illustrates Whitehead’s practice of including new material within the same paragraph, even though the two topics may be widely divergent. From these concerns about truth and falsehood in the first half, the second half concerns ‘togetherness in experience,’ which is then elaborated upon in the rest of the insertion as the "reformed version of the subjectivist doctrine" (PR 189/288), from which it is but a short step to ‘the reformed subjectivist principle.’23
This makes for a very strange first paragraph, for there is no real connection between the original talk of propositions and the intrusion of talk about ‘togetherness inexperience.’ It is an independent reflection of Whitehead’s, not growing out of his work with propositions, or with the subjectivist principle either. Its source, I suspect, stems from his attempt to understand how composite unity (the way he understands actuality) can come into being. Originally this is ‘prehensive unity’ or ‘prehensive unification’ (5MW), but in that context it simply meant the way an event was constituted by its relations to all other events; all notions of the subjectivity of prehension are foreign to that context (EWM 23-31). Then it could include efficient causation: others could act upon the actuality in question and form its composite unity, at least in part. In the Giffords draft, the subject in concrescence played an increasingly large part in its determination, but it was always qualified by the other-causation of transition (as then conceived), which constituted the original datum from when the concrescence started.
Within the Giffords draft, to be sure, there is a concern with composite actuality which anticipates some of the features of the reformed subjectivist principle: "In the philosophy of organism it is assumed that an actual entity is composite. ‘Actuality is the fundamental exemplification of composition; all other meanings of ‘composition’ are referent to this root-meaning. But ‘actuality’ is a general term, which merely indicates this ultimate type of composite unity: there are many composite unities to which this general term applies. There is no general act of composition, not expressible in terms of the composite constitutions of the individual occasions" (PR 147f/223f). As yet, however, that composition is not rooted in subjective experience.
The reformed principle begins to emerge as nearly possible with the shift to the final revisions (D), which replaced the unity of an original datum brought about purely by past efficient causes with the multiplicity of the past actualities themselves24 If so, it is up to the experiencing subject to unify them, or bring them together, within concrescence. Before the shift, there were at least two kinds of togetherness, two ways of achieving composite unity: transition, bringing together the objective components of actuality, and concrescence, their subjective unification. After the shift only one, experiential togetherness, was necessary, and that is here generalized to claim, quite boldly, that all (originative) forms of togetherness had to be experiential, subjective in character. The subject is the primary agent of unification. If this is the basic meaning of the reformed subjectivist principle, then it denies any prior stage of transition as essential to becoming, as proposed by Whitehead in the Giffords draft and championed by Nobo. (This, however, does not speak to those meanings of ‘transition’ prevalent in the literature which have been devised on the basis of Whitehead’s final position (in part III of PR).
At this stage, however, Whitehead did not yet conceive God as having physical temporal experience of the world (first reached in stage I: EWM 227-29). Prior to then he not only conceived God to be wholly nontemporal, but it is not generally appreciated that this meant God was nonsubjective as well.25 Hence there was one outstanding exception to the reformed subjectivist principle: the togetherness of the eternal objects was not achieved by any subjective experience. Once God was reconceived as subjectively experiencing, the principle could be asserted.
There might be a few transitional passages conceiving of God as both purely conceptual and yet concrescent, and one of these could be the first section of "Some Derivative Notions" (PR 1.3.1) in its original version. There Whitehead gives an alternative formulation of the ontological principle as: "All real togetherness is togetherness in the formal constitution of an actuality" (PR 32/48). He uses this generalization to argue that God provides "the ultimate, basic adjustment of the togetherness of eternal objects on which creative order depends" (PR 32/48). Previously the ontological principle had concerned actual entities in their composition (see EWM 323f), now Whitehead turns his focus to their composing, their concrescence, their formal reality. For the justification for the composite outcome is to be found in the process of composition.
This notion of togetherness in concrescence is then considered from an epistemological perspective in terms of ‘togetherness in experience.’ The togetherness White-head wishes to speak of will have "that special peculiar meaning of ‘togetherness in experience"' (PR 189/288), since ‘experience’ is the only way we have a purchase on concrescence, the formal reality of anything. Whitehead here identifies the claim that denies any meaning of togetherness not derived from ‘togetherness in experience’ as "the ‘subjectivist doctrine,"’ but it is really his version of the subjectivist orientation of modern philosophy.
These few paragraphs, now buried as the first segment of the insertion in "The Propositions" (II.9.2), tentatively identify his insight as a "reformed version of the subjectivist doctrine" (PR 189/288). It reforms the original subjectivist doctrine (the combination of the subjectivist and sensationalist principles he rejected) by not only repudiating sensationalism but also by reconceiving subjectivity. The newness of his insight is better expressed more precisely, however, by ‘the reformed subjectivist principle’ as reconceiving the second version of the subjectivist principle, i.e. the revised subjectivist principle he accepts, that "the whole universe consists of elements disclosed in the analysis of the experiences of [by] subjects" (PR 166/252). It builds on this principle about the contents of experience while adding to it the subjective activity of bringing the contents together.
Armed with his new principle, named in a way relevant to "The Subjectivist Principle" (II.7), Whitehead is prepared to make a few editorial changes in that chapter. The first (a) merely mentions that the new principle will be discussed later (PR 157/238). Whitehead shows a tendency to confuse his second version of the subjectivist principle with the newly discovered reformed version, to think that what he had already articulated in the second section was the reformed version, and could be labeled as such.
The second version (b) states that "the whole universe consists of elements disclosed in the analysis of the experiences of subjects" (PR 166/252)26 It is an alternative statement of the principle of relativity, as stated by our third mention of the reformed principle (c). For if every ‘being’ is a potential for every ‘becoming,’ then every becoming (i.e. every subject) will have every being within its experience. The principle of relativity was already part of the Giffords draft27 and did not need the reformed subjectivist principle.
That is not true, however, with respect to the next mentioned principle of process, "the ninth Category of Explanation, how an actual entity becomes constitutes what that actual entity is. This principle states that the being of a res vera is constituted by its ‘becoming’" (PR 166/252). Yet the first sentence just quoted is also found in the list of metaphysical principles undergirding the Giffords draft (EWM 323). "How an entity becomes" comprises two stages in the Giffords draft, first a stage of transition constituting the original datum, then a stage of concrescence whereby it is subjectively appropriated. This double process gives us the final being of the actual entity. Given the shift in Whitehead’s thinking, expressed by the reformed subjectivist principle, the ‘becoming’ is now identified with the ‘concrescence,’ which is an activity of experience. Then the being, i.e. the objective outcome, is formed by the concrescence: all elements of the composite unity are then formed in the togetherness of experience.
Yet whether or not the other mentions of ‘the reformed subjectivist principle’ refer to that principle or another, the final reference (d) is unmistakable: "Finally, the reformed subjectivist principle must be repeated: that apart from the experiences of subjects there is nothing, nothing, nothing. bare nothingness" (PR 167/254). The first and second versions of the subjectivist principle were basically epistemological, analyzing the contents of experience. This reformed principle is ontological, denying any objective being without a correlative subjective becoming.
We may summarize this genetic analysis by suggesting that the ‘reformed subjectivist principle’ is not organically concerned with the epistemological intricacies of the ‘subjectivist principle’ but intrudes upon that discussion from wider, ontological concerns. It signals the deepening of Whitehead’s panpsychism (every actuality has a mental as well as a physical pole) into pansubjectivity (no actualization apart from subjectivity)28 To see how that deepening occurs we need to sketch briefly the history of the concept of subjectivity in Whitehead’s writings.
1. In the early books on the philosophy of nature, such as The Concept of Nature (1920), Whitehead intentionally excluded subjectivity (or mind) from the focus of his concern, which was nature. "Nature is that which we observe in perception through the senses. In this sense-perception we are aware of something which is not thought and which is self-contained for thought. This property of being self-contained for thought lies at the base of natural science. It means that nature can be thought of as a closed system whose mutual relations do not require the expression of the fact that they are thought about" (CN 3).
2. Yet Whitehead was very much aware that, if he were to generalize his philosophy of nature as a metaphysics, some place for mind would have to be found in nature. Many readers have found in his first metaphysical work, Science and the Modern World (1925) a full-blown panpsychism, but this is largely due to the fact that ‘prehension’ in that work is understood in terms of ‘prehension’ in Process and Reality, where every prehension necessarily has its subject. Earlier ‘prehension’ simply meant a concrete fact of relatedness constituting (in part) an event or actual occasion. seems to have been derived as the obverse of extension (cf. EWM 23-31).
Science and the Modern World shares with Process and Reality the idiosyncrasy of containing a major shift, and hence of having been written from two points of view (EWM 2-12). The earlier point of view is embodied in the Lowell Lectures for 1925, which understand events to be infinitely divisible, and to be included within ever larger events without end. The later point of view is to be found in the added material which espouses the temporal atomicity of actual occasions, which cannot actually be further subdivided. Nearly all the passages suggesting panpsychism are to be found in the Lowell Lectures.29 If we applied panpsychism to events of all sizes, then we should have such absurdities as the Spanish and American War enjoying its own subjectivity, as well as the corner grocery, etc. What Whitehead was concerned with in these lectures was to find room for mind in some events, not to claim that it characterized all events.30
One strong reason for supposing that Whitehead is already a panpsychist (in SMW) is the problem of overcoming dualism. Hartshorne has proposed panpsychism as the only alternative to materialism and dualism.31 Since Whitehead denies both materialism and dualism (and its variant in biological theory, vitalism), does he not affirm panpsychism? Only if these are the only alternatives. What Whitehead proposes is an ‘event,’ which is perfectly neutral as to what is physical and what is mental, which therefore can be either. His dominant account analyzes the properties of physical actual occasions, but there is also room for the characterization of some events as ego-objects (SMW 151f/218f).
3. (a) Events characterized by ego-objects are reconceived as mental occasions in Religion in the Making (1926), now contrasted with ‘physical occasions,’ descendants of the ordinary actual occasions of the previous book. Mental occasions simply designate those events which we normally consider to be minds having consciousness. There are routes of mind (mental occasions) and routes of matter (physical occasions). As an empirical fact, "routes of mind and routes of matter [occur] in the very closest connection" (RM 106/110), but the question whether there are any purely spiritual beings other than God, mental routes without attending physical routes, is left open. It is not claimed here that every mental occasion must be derivative from some physical occasion.
(b) Whitehead is also concerned to explain the creative advance into novelty in Religion in the Making (RM 107ff./111 ff.), for which he introduces the contrast between ground and ideal consequent. The ground is simply that which is already actual as entering into the birth of the new occasion (RM 109/112f.) Yet if there is to be any novelty whatsoever, there must be a new set of ideal forms to be actualized. David Ray Griffin then asks, "How could ideal possibilities be relevant to events, devoid of mentality?"32 Knowing the answer from Whitehead’s later writings, we may wonder, "How, indeed?" But we need to remember that prehension was not generalized to include conceptual prehension until later (PR). At this time forms merely ‘ingress.’ Neither conceptual prehension nor the requirement that conceptual prehension presupposes that mentality is present here.
The first example that Whitehead draws upon in illustrating the contrast between ground and ideal consequent is vibration (RM 111f/ 114f). This is a favorite example, for it is a very widespread phenomenon in the physical world (electromagnetic radiation, waves of all kinds) which Whitehead was quite familiar with from his early studies. It propagates a definite pattern, such that every other event is the same, yet contrasting with the intervening ones. Vibrations involve novelty -- minimal, to be sure -- but the two-paragraph analysis makes no mention of mentality whatsoever.
Then Whitehead selects an example of novelty from the opposite end of the spectrum, the mind: "Both mind and body refer to their life-history of separate concrete occasions" (RM 112/116). ‘Mental occasions’ are introduced to designate such occasions of the mind or consciousness. He does recognize that ‘immediate experience’ may have either of two meanings, depending on whether it refers to the body or the mind: "It may mean a complete concretion of physical relationships in the unity of a blind perceptivity. In this sense ‘immediate experience’ means an ultimate physical fact. But in a secondary, and more usual, sense, it means the consciousness of physical experience. Such consciousness is a mental occasion" (PR 113f/118).
It is clear that ‘blind perceptivity’ is not conscious, but this may still suggest that it is somehow subconscious, and therefore still subjective. Whitehead is primarily interested in excluding consciousness and does not explicitly address the issue of subjectivity. "A concretion of physical relationships," a pattern of efficient causation, however, is not normally very subjective, and "a unity of blind perceptivity" is simply another way of describing ‘prehensive unity’ (SMW) without introducing that neologism. ‘Perception’ (as used in RM), especially when blind, does not entail subjectivity, despite its ordinary connotations.
Another indication of Whitehead’s nonpanpsychistic leanings in Religion in the Making is his use of ‘mental occasion’ and ‘physical occasion’ to name particular kinds of actual occasions. The term ‘occasion’ becomes ambiguous, meaning either a concrete whole or one of its parts, once these terms merely designate aspects, as they do in "Time." Whitehead is not likely to have devised such terminology except as the outcome of a previous theory having distinct types of actual occasions.
4. The (September) 1926 essay on "Time" does espouse panpsychism insofar as "each occasion is dipolar, and . . .one pole is the physical occasion and the other pole is the mental occasion" (EWM 303#3).33 By identifying ‘ground’ with ‘physical occasion’ and ‘ideal consequent’ with ‘mental occasion,’ Whitehead effected considerable simplification of theory, further specifying it. It assigned a mental occasion to every physical occasion, and vice versa, and made every mental occasion derivative from its physical occasion. The concept of a ‘mental occasion’ was considerably enlarged by this generalization.
We need to recognize that it was the problem of novelty, and not the problem of overcoming dualism, that led Whitehead to embrace panpsychism. Novelty is no casual adjunct of his theory. Each occasion is self-creative (RM 98f/101f), and whatever is created is to that extent new. The ‘ideal consequent’ named this novel element, but did not explain its effectiveness. ‘Mental occasion’ as an aspect of every actuality at least provides a way of accounting for novelty: the new can first be entertained in the mind before it is actualized concretely.
That is as far as the texts permit us to go, but we may speculate a bit further. Ideal forms cannot directly, or better, unilaterally affect physical occasions, in contrast to efficient causes. Forms are effective only through the medium of a mind that can entertain them, and be influenced by them. This influence is not automatic, but depends upon the responsiveness of the mind to the forms. This is a form of indirect or multilateral causation which is only effective by means of a combination of different types of causation -- in this case, the ideal forms and the responsive mental occasion.
As we shall see, one of Whitehead’s major contributions to philosophy is the notion of multilateral causation. It is present in germ in the theory of "Time" (1926), but in a mixed form, because it is combined with a traditional understanding of unilateral efficient causation. That would change with the introduction of the reformed subjectivist principle.
5. As long as there were physical occasions that were independent actual occasions (perhaps with negligible mentality), ego-objects could be reconceived as contrasting mental occasions. Once every actual occasion was constituted by both a physical occasion and a mental occasion, the ‘occasion’ comes to mean both a concrete act of becoming and a phase in that becoming. Gradually Whitehead came to abandon that terminology for a new way of conceiving the act of becoming from the standpoint of the mental phase, for that was the way in which the new occasion was self-creative. This is the activity which makes the occasion concrete; hence it is a ‘concretion,’ or a ‘concrescence’ according to the preferred term.
From the standpoint of the concrescence, conceived as an integration of subjective feeling, the previous physical occasion appears only as an achieved datum for that concrescence. "This datum is ‘decided’ by the settled world. It is ‘prehended’ by the new superseding entity. The datum is the objective content of the experience. . . the new concrescence starts from this datum" (PR 150/227; cf. EWM 189-91).
Thus from ‘actual occasion’ and ‘ego-object’ Whitehead proceeds to ‘datum’ and concrescence’ in the Giffords draft, by way of ‘physical occasion’ and ‘mental occasion.’ That intermediate usage has almost completely disappeared from the pages of Process and Reality.34
Except for having clearly situated the creative self within what had been the ‘mental occasion,’ the conceptuality of the Giffords draft does not advance Whitehead’s theory of subjectivity. Like its predecessor, this theory is panpsychist in the sense that every actuality enjoys mentality as a way of accounting for novelty, but there are still processes by which composite unity is achieved which do not involve subjectivity. In particular there is the act of transition achieving the original datum from whence the concrescence starts.35
6. All of this is reconceived at the outset of part III (of PR). Instead of proceeding from a single unified datum, the initial phase finds the concrescent subject itself prehending a multiplicity of past actual occasions. The way these are to be unified and integrated into the final satisfaction is the task of the subject working through various phases of conceptual reproduction, reversion, transmutation, etc. The past multiplicity is not first unified and then appropriated, but the process of subjective appropriation is the means of achieving such unity.
The earlier ‘mental occasion,’ and its successor in the notion of ‘concrescence’ in the Giffords draft made use of the notion of multilateral causation, however implicitly, because two different factors were required: (a) the novel forms, and (b) the response of the subject as to how the novel forms would be actualized. It seems that any novelty requires multiple types of causes, for any unilateral causation would simply reiterate in the effect what was already in the cause. Even if there were many causes of the same type, they would only produce a combination of those causes, not a new effect.
On the other hand, this multilateral causation in the achievement of novelty was hemmed in by the unilateral causation of efficient causation, which Whitehead retained with respect to the determination of the original datum of concrescence. The transformation of this datum into data for unification made it possible to conceive of concrescence as a pure instance of multilateral causation, in which efficient causation from the past is balanced by final causation in the integration of these efficient causes. Also, the unification of all causal factors in an act of becoming can now be vested in its subject.36
Once God is reconceived as achieving the togetherness of the eternal objects in experience,37 Whitehead can generalize his findings: all togetherness is togetherness in experience (i.e. within concrescence). ‘Togetherness’ had been used by Whitehead previously to mean the unity of the concrete, i.e., that which has grown together (in concrescence): "Actuality is through and through togetherness -- togetherness of otherwise isolated eternal objects, and togetherness of all actual occasions" (SMW 174/251). But now the stress is not so much on unity as on the (subjective) process of unification, the growing together. This sort of togetherness only happens within concrescence. Since concrescence necessarily depends upon subjectivity for the unification of its elements, there can be no such togetherness except in subjective experience for actual occasions. This rules out the old meaning of ‘transition,’ whereby there was a purely objective unification of the past to obtain an original datum from whence concrescence starts (as in the Giffords Draft: EWM 177-210).
In his final reflection on the nature of creativity,38 Whitehead remarks:
"‘Together’ is a generic term covering the various special ways in which various sorts of entities are ‘together’ in any actual occasion. Thus ‘together’ presupposes the notions ‘creativity,’ ‘many,’ ‘one,’ ‘identity’ and ‘diversity.’. . . The novel entity is at once the togetherness of the ‘many’ which it finds, and also it is one among the disjunctive ‘many’ which it leaves. . ." (PR 21/32). The ‘many,’ in themselves do not constitute a togetherness, but the many are felt (experienced) as together within concrescence, which brings them together to form a new composite unity. Individual actual occasions are composite unities, but only as the result of experiential togetherness. "The contrary doctrine, that there is a ‘togetherness’ not derivative from experiential togetherness" leads to such difficulties that Whitehead rejects it (PR 190/288).
7. Meanwhile, when Whitehead was still drafting the Giffords, and had not yet undergone the shift he was to characterize in terms of the reformed subjectivist principle, he expressed his rejection of what he called "the subjectivist principle" of the seventeenth and eighteenth century philosophers (II.7.1). This was a complex and overly cumbersome principle, since it not only reflected Descartes’ subjectivist turn which Whitehead endorsed, but additional Cartesian substantialist assumptions he rejected.
There seems to be no anticipation of a contrasting subjectivist principle Whitehead could endorse, other than the claim that it should be balanced by some sort of objectivist principle. Whitehead’s rhetorical position on the subjectivist principle seems to be: let’s stamp it out.
Later, however (in II.7.5), he does draft a version of the subjectivist principle he can endorse, which limits itself to the subjectivist bias while excluding other assumptions. At this stage, however, he does not tell his readers that there is a difference between the principle he now accepts and the earlier principle he rejects. In formulating the latter discussion, the former does not seem fresh in his mind.
Still later, this oversight is "corrected" by labeling his second subjectivist principle the reformed subjectivist principle, using the device of four insertions introduced after the major shift.
The problem is that the second subjectivist principle is not the same as the reformed subjectivist principle. The second principle asserts "that the whole universe consists of elements disclosed in the analysis of the experiences of subjects" (PR 166/253), while the reformed principle holds that the process of togetherness can be found only in subjective experience. Yet since both express facets of Whitehead’s radical emphasis upon subjectivity in his philosophy, we can readily understand why one eager to read later interpretation into earlier statements may have supposed that his second principle expressed what he meant by the reformed principle, and why this title, derived from the struggles about how to formulate precisely the process of actualization, could be superimposed upon a subjectivist principle born out of Whitehead’s epistemological debate with his philosophical predecessors.
Now we are in a position to appreciate the significance and implications of Whitehead’s reformed subjectivist principle:
It is the basis of his pansubjectivity, that every actual entity enjoys its measure of subjectivity, and its way of being affected by other actualities and entities is by means of subjective prehension.
This is a form of panpsychism in the sense that every actuality has a mental pole of conceptual prehension and a physical pole of physical prehension, but it is more than this. Pansubjectivity is a deepening of panpsychism. While earlier every actuality had its mental occasion, its corresponding physical occasion was unaffected by subjectivity. Now the subject prehends both conceptually and physically. Previously there was no novelty without subjectivity; now there can be no actuality without subjectivity. For actuality is the composite unity resultant upon concrescence or experiential togetherness.
Pansubjectivity also places subjectivity within nature in a much more thoroughgoing way than panpsychism. Panpsychism reconciles mind and nature, but leaves freedom solely to mind. Nature is the domain of efficient causation, and can be quite deterministic. If subjectivity underlies both physical and conceptual prehension, and is the indispensable means for their integration, then freedom (the scope of subjectivity) is a minimal prerequisite for all actuality.
While Whitehead seems not to have made this fully explicit, experiential togetherness enables us to understand ‘present’ and ‘past’ in terms of their metaphysical qualities. We clearly experience in the present; the only questions are whether experience also applies to the past, and whether present immediacy can be identified with the subjectivity of concrescence.
The earlier theory of ‘mental occasion’ and ‘physical occasion’ offers here no sure guide. While ‘mental occasions’ may be present, a past mental occasion seems no contradiction in terms. If there is first a physical occasion superseded by the mental occasion (EWM 303f), then the physical occasion had to be present before the mental occasion could be present. So we can have both past mental occasions and present physical ones.
Experiential togetherness means, however, that the present concrescence must result in composite unity. More importantly, all composite unity must be the result of concrescence, since there is no togetherness not derivative from experiential togetherness.39 Whatever results from present concrescence must be past, the objective datum of prehension. Nothing subjective could be past, for to be subjective means to be engaged in a process of growth into one determinate actuality, and the past would lack the subjectivity of becoming. Whatever is to be prehended of actuality, i.e. an actual datum, must lack subjectivity of becoming. In some such way we can justify Whitehead’s practice of never permitting the prehension of other subjectivities or unfinished actualities. If so, we can summarize these findings: whatever is objective, is past, and vice versa; while whatever is subjective, is present, and vice versa.
Because it entails that there is no unilateral causation, since all actualization requires the subjective integration, the reformed subjectivist principle requires that we rethink creation. Whitehead did not wait until he had that principle firmly in mind before criticizing inherited notions of creation. Opposition to unilateral divine causation, which is epitomized in the traditional conception of creation ex nihilo, was a very large factor in his earlier atheism, and he did not introduce ‘God’ into his philosophy (SMW) until he had devised a concept (the principle of limitation) which was not simultaneously the creator of the world. Nevertheless, though it plays no role in Whitehead’s own development, the reformed subjectivist principle does by itself entail the rethinking of any unilateral act such as creation.
Creation and actualization have been traditionally separated in order to preserve creation as a purely divine act producing being, which is then capable of further actualization. Multilateral causation integrates creation and actualization, requiring efficient (or material) causes from the past, novel forms from God, and subjective integration. This is usually considered simply as actualization, but it is really creation: the coming into being of an occasion which heretofore had no being. Becoming for Whitehead, by the time he arrived at the reformed subjectivist principle, was not merely dynamic activity contrasted to static rest, but creation as opposed to mere existence. Yet this was hardly creation as traditionally conceived. Instead of being one unique transtemporal act by an external creator, it was pluralized and temporalized as an infinite series of immanent finite acts in the world.
If all unification is subjective, then there can be no unified being somehow underlying the concrescent activity, as is explicitly held in substance-theory, and which implicitly guided the theory of Giffords draft. There the original datum could function as the one unified being for the concrescent process. To be sure, there are beings ingredient in the concrescence as understood by the final theory. It is becoming, not a sheer nothing. But these beings are the prior actual unities prehended. They constitute the many which must become one before the being of the concrescence itself arises. Self-unification in the sense of being the unification of itself can only emerge as a result at the end, not underlie the process. Self-creation is not possible in the sense of having a being exist before it was created. It is possible only if the becoming of this being can be conceived as the agent of this process. If so, becoming can be understood in terms of becoming, but not m terms of being.
Ordinary theory holds that a being which enjoys subjectivity is simultaneously subject and object. Whitehead has diffracted these properties into their temporal modes, such that subject is not yet object, and object is no longer subject. If we accord the object the status of being, the subject is not yet being although not for that reason nothing, but that which is becoming being.
The clearest expression of the reformed subjectivist principle is to be found in Adventures of Ideas: "Every meaning of ‘together’ is to be found in various stages of analysis of occasions of experience. No things are ‘together’ except in experience; and no things are, in any sense of ‘are,’ except as components in experience or as immediacies of process which are occasions in self-creation" (AI 304).
These are some of the ways in which pansubjectivity, enunciated by way of the reformed subjectivist principle, goes beyond what can properly be assigned to panpsychism, which for Whitehead asserts that every actuality has both a physical and a mental side. Panpsychism was introduced to account for mind in nature, and to explain novelty, but pansubjectivity goes to the very heart of actualization itself.
For a principle which makes such a brief appearance upon the stage of Whitehead’s thought, the reformed subjectivist principle epitomizes much with far reaching implications.
EWM -- Lewis S. Ford. The Emergence of Whitehead’s Metaphysics. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1984.
KPR -- A Key to Whitehead’s Process and Reality. Donald W Sherburne. New York: Macmillan, 1966.
PS 6 -- James E. Lindsey, Jr. "The Subjectivist Principle and the Linguistic Turn Revisited." Process Studies 6/2 (Summer 1976): 97-102.
PS 7 -- David Ray Griffin. "The Subjectivist Principle and its Reformed and Unreformed Versions." Process Studies 7/1 (Spring 1977): 27-36.
RG -- Schubert M. Ogden. The Reality of God. New York: Harper and Row, 1966. WM -- Ivor Leclerc. Whitehead’s Metaphysics: An Introductory Exposition. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1958.
WMES -- Jorge Luis Nobo. Whitehead’s Metaphysics of Extension and Solidarity. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986.
1Ogden’s own interpretation is somewhat at variance from this prevalent interpretation. He seems to interpret Whitehead’s "nothing apart from subjects" to mean "nothing but subjects": "According to this principle, we can give an adequate answer to the metaphysical question of the meaning of ‘reality’ only by imaginatively generalizing ‘elements disclosed in the analysis of the experiences of subjects.’ In other words, the principle requires that we take as the experiential basis of all our most fundamental concepts the primal phenomenon of our own existence as experiencing subjects or selves" (ibid.).
Michael Welker suggests that Ogden’s interpretation "resembles less an element of Whitehead’s theory than an assertion of Fichte or of Tillich." Universalitaet Gottes und Relativitaet der Welt (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1981), p. 149.
2While EWM analyzes thirteen the major shifts (A-M) in Whitehead’s philosophy during the composition of PR, it fails to appreciate the role of the reformed subjective principle in this process.
3I discuss this book in detail in "Recent Interpretations of Whitehead’s Writings," The Modern Schoolman 45/1 (November 1987), 47-59.
4The meaning of that claim is clarified with respect to Aristotle in Sheilah O’Flynn Brennan, "Substance Within Substance," Process Studies 7/1 (Spring 1977), 14-26.
51n line with this editorial revision, Whitehead may have also made three additions to his original discussion of experient togetherness (in II.9.2): "This reformed version of the subjectivist doctrine is the doctrine of the philosophy of organism" (PR 189.430. Also the clarification in the next sentence, "that there is a ‘togetherness’ not derivative from experiential togetherness," (PR 190.1-2), and "(as here stated)" (PR 190.34). Without these passages it seems evident that Whitehead was thinking of different versions of the subjectivist principle, not of a reformed subjectivist principle, in the initial conceptual revision.
61t is the sort of pithy saying that might have occurred to Whitehead anytime, which he then anchored in his text at the end of that section. (Then there could have been even later additions.) But the saying could not have been formulated this way until after the terminology of ‘reformed subjectivist principle’ had been introduced.
7Close scrutiny of the text leads him to substitute ‘subjectivist’ for ‘sensationalist’ (principle) at PR 158.13/239, a suggestion adopted by the corrected edition.
8In particular, the distinction between SPr and the reformed subjectivist principle seems over subtle. It obliges Griffin to seek the referent for ‘this doctrine’ other than in ‘this doctrine’ in the previous sentence (PR 162.20-26/242.9-18; see PS 7:30 and n. 4.) To be sure, "Descartes’ discovery that subjective experiencing is the primary metaphysical situation" is the ‘subjectivist bias,’ but it is also its lineal descendent, SPr. This may be a broader principle, but Whitehead identifies it with his version of it, i.e. the reformed subjectivist principle.
9Griffin (PS 7:33) suggests that Whitehead use "the reformed version" instead of "this reformed version" as given in the text. While Whitehead was probably thinking about the ‘subjectivist doctrine’ in broad terms that could be affirmed by other philosophers (e.g. Kant: PR 190/289), he had as yet only talked about his understanding of the subjectivist doctrine in terms of experiential togetherness. The demonstrative "this" indicates, rather awkwardly, that the subjectivist doctrine just described is the reformed version of that doctrine. A simple "the" would suggest that the subjectivist doctrine just described was the subjectivist doctrine in general, of which there are different versions.
101t appears to be a chapter formed primarily by editorial decision, since the middle sections (7.2-4) on consciousness and subjective form have little organic connection with the end-sections (7.1, 7.5) embracing them.
11According to the original Macmillan edition, Whitehead had originally written ‘II’ (CPR, corrigenda to 189.18). He may have originally intended this material to follow the first section, later using it as 7.5 to "sandwich" the other material (7.2-4) in this newly formed chapter.
12While this sentence does not entail the reformed subjectivist principle, its use of physical feeling’ suggests it is later than the Gifford’s draft (EWM 213-17). It may or may not have been inserted together with the sentence mentioning the principle.
13I take the original sentence to be transitional, so the passage originally began with the second sentence "Kant adopted a subjectivist position."
14The first paragraph on Kant is rather puzzling in its present context (as part of 11.9.2). It appears that Whitehead wanted to include the second paragraph on togetherness here, but included the paragraph before it either inadvertently or for editorial reasons.
15See the previous note.
16The reason the entire passage, and not just the first sentence is deemed an insertion is that, although the Gifford’s draft had the fourth category of explanation, and probably the ninth, it did not refer to them this way. The fourth category of explanation, for example, was then the third metaphysical principle (PR 212/324).
17Thus lecturing to his students at Harvard on December 3, 1927, Whitehead defined the subjectivist principle as "The data can (must) be characterized in terms of universals." Those same notes define the sensationalist principle as "These universals involved in data are of the sort whose ingression into experience is called sensation," which is quite at variance with the definition given in the book (PR 157/239). Since the latter definition depends heavily on the concept of subjective form, a late idea in the Gifford’s draft (EWM 205-207), I propose that this section was originally composed in the summer of 1927 with a definition of the sensationalist principle like that of these notes.
I am quoting from the manuscript notes made by Edwin L. Marvin of Whitehead Lectures 1927-1928, and available at the Library of the Center for Process Studies, Claremont, California 91711, p. 64. Prof. Rosina Schmitt, St. Benedict’s College, called this to my attention.
18See the emphatic comment at 166.36 by the editors of the Corrected Edition that this is not the original subjectivist principle.
19This does not mean they have accepted the revised subjectivist principle, as a reading of this section (7.5) in terms of its opening and closing inserted remarks, and in opposition to the first section (7.5), might indicate. Few philosophers before Whitehead, if any, have accepted the revised principle.
20James E. Lindsey, Jr., "The Subjectivist Principle and the Linguistic Turn Revisited," Process Studies 6/2 (Summer 1976), 97-102 argues on the basis of the definitions of the first section (7/1) that ‘subjectivist principle’ [originally rejected by Whitehead] should be replaced by ‘subjectivist bias’ [which he accepts] in the final section (7.5). David Ray Griffin, then in process of editing the Corrected Edition, argues for the original text: "The Subjectivist Principle and its Reformed and Unreformed Versions," Process Studies 7/1 (Spring 1977), 27-36. I agree with both accounts by recognizing that Whitehead shifted his understanding of ‘subjectivist principle’ between the two accounts.
21Jorge Nobo observes: "The terminological carelessness with which Whitehead presents his views on the subjectivist doctrine and the subjectivist principle is truly incredible (WMES 416n6).
22The text now reads "This judgment. . .", slightly altered to fit its present content. The bracketed portion seeks to formulate a possibly original form.
23Yet why is this not part of Whitehead’s explicit discussion of "The Subjectivist Principle" (11.7.1 or 11.7.5) instead of being struck away in an obscure passage on propositions? I suspect it may well be a case of the tail wagging the dog, and that we can best understand the nature of this insertion from its ending. It ends with a paragraph containing this sentence: "The theory of judgment in the philosophy of organism can equally well be described as a ‘correspondence’ theory or as a ‘coherence’ theory" (PR 190/290).
Whitehead had already proposed both a coherence and a correspondence theory in the next paragraph (returning to the original passage beyond the insertion), but here he sought to introduce another formulation of the correspondence theory, based in part on the notion that we experience particulars as well as universals. This in turn is tied to Whitehead’s claim that we really experience actualities and not just sensations of them, which includes in its wake the first part of that paragraph as well as the two preceding ones.
Thus this insertion consists of three segments: (1) 2 1/2 paragraphs on ‘experiential togetherness; (2) 2 1/2 paragraphs which fit by doctrine the initial discussion of the subjectivist principle (11.7.1) and may have originally belonged there (see A); and (3) an alternative correspondence theory. The first segment, because of its (somewhat superficial) resemblance with "the components which are together in experience" (PR 190/289) of the second, may have led Whitehead to pinch off the middle segment from its original locus. Then the tie-in between the second and third segments, and the relevance of the new correspondence theory to the old, would have led him to introduce all of this material, all three segments, into his chapter on "The Propositions" (II.9.2).
24EWM 211-17. The details of this central transition, which involve the introduction of subjective form, the distinction between negative and positive prehension, the identification of feeling with (positive) prehension, and an analysis of the key section (PR III.1.2), are explored in "The Concept of ‘Process’: From Transition’ to ‘Concrescence,"’ pp. 73-101 in Whitehead and The Idea of Process, ed. Harald Holz and Ernest Wolf-Gazo (Freiburg: Alber Verlag, 1984).
The revised subjectivist principle does not seem to be a factor precipitating this transition. Rather it can be construed as reflective generalization based upon the results of the transition.
25The prevailing opinion appears to hold that Whitehead adopted personalistic theism in RM; at least that was my contention in EWM, chapter 6. Detailed examination of the issue has now convinced me otherwise: Whitehead generally held God to be either nontemporal and therefore nonsubjective (so Plato) or temporal and therefore subjective. See my essay, "When did Whitehead Conceive God to be Personal?," forthcoming in the Anglican Theological Review.
26This passage already connects the subjectivist principle with the ontological principle, but it lacks the thrust of later claims. The quotation continues: "Process is the becoming of experience. It follows that the philosophy of organism entirely accepts the subjectivist bias of modern philosophy. It also accepts Hume’s doctrine that nothing is to be received into the philosophical scheme which is not discoverable as an element in subjective experience. This is the ontological principle" (PR 166/252f.)
Yet according to the original ontological principle, all reasons were vested in prior actualities, and these prior actualities had to be received into experience to be effective (EWM 3230. Nothing here requires the augmentation of the ontological principle by vesting reasons in the concrescing actuality, which is the basis for the later connection to the reformed subjectivist principle based upon Whitehead’s later shift.
275ee note 19.
28This systematic difference between panpsychism and pansubjectivity is explored in the middle section of my "Afterword" (pp. 322-31) to Explorations in Whitehead’s Philosophy, ed. Lewis S. Ford and George L. Kline (New York: Fordham University Press, 1983).
29The one exception is the fourth paragraph from the end of the chapter on "Abstraction": "So far I have merely been considering an actual occasion on the side of its full concreteness. It is this side of the occasion in virtue of which it is an event in nature. But a natural event, in this sense of the term, is only an abstraction from a complete actual occasion. A complete occasion includes that which in cognitive [i.e. conscious] experience takes the form of memory, anticipation, imagination, and thought" (SMW 170/246). There is ambiguity here: is a natural event, since fully concrete, an independent actuality, or is it only an aspect of a complete actual occasion having some mind, which alone is independent? From the standpoint of Whitehead’s later philosophy, to be sure, the second alternative will be preferred, but from where he was in the argument then, the first is more probable. More likely Whitehead was deeply divided on the issue, and let this studied ambiguity express his stance.
We should notice that the very same ambiguity is present a year later: "The most complete concrete fact is dipolar, physical and mental" (RM 114/118). It does not say that every concrete fact is dipolar, or every concrete fact must be complete in this sense.
30See my essay "From Pre-Panpsychism to Pansubjectivity," pp. 41-61 in Faith and Creativity: Essays in Honor of Eugene Peters, ed. by George Nordgulen and George W Shields (St. Louis: CPB Press, 1987) for the further development of this theme. In EWM I used the term ‘pansubjective’ to indicate these elements placing mind within nature, but I think that was an error, for the Lowell Lectures do not attempt to generalize mind’ at all, and ‘pansubjectivity’ better expresses the position Whitehead latter achieved with the reformed subjectivist principle.
31This is forcefully argued in Eugene H. Peters, Hartshorne and Neoclassical Metaphysics (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1970), chapter 3.
32David Ray Griffin, Critical Study of Ford, The Emergence of Whitehead’s Metaphysics, Process Studies 15/3 (Fall 1986), 197f.
33This is not panpsychism in the Leibnizean sense of pluralistic idealism, where matter is conceived as the aggregation of tiny minds.
Nor is subjectivity differentiated yet from mentality.
34His Harvard Lectures for the fall of 1926 did continue the conceptuality of physical and mental occasions. See EWM 311#13f.
35I earlier argued that a reconception of Zeno’s arguments led to the abandonment of the conceptuality of physical and mental occasions (EWM 153), but I no longer believe that would be necessary. The issue hinges principally on whether PR 68.18-69.26 (106.7-107.35), in which Whitehead lays out his analysis of Zeno in terms of acts of becoming, is a later insertion in "The Extensive Continuum" (11.2.2). The rest of the section is clearly an insertion based on the notion of ‘subjective aim’ (G), but the middle material is more problematic. If this reflection did motivate Whitehead to abandon the terminology of mental occasions, it would have to be very early, since that term has vanished from the book.
On the other hand, in the paragraph just preceding that portion, Whitehead writes as if he were not going to expound the argument there, but simply refer to earlier expositions of it. The portion may have been inserted when Whitehead reflected on the significance of his basic shift for the epochal theory. According to that shift, there were not two acts of becoming, an act of transition and an act of concrescence for every occasion, but only one, an act of togetherness in experience. Thus he sums up: "The conclusion is that in every act of becoming there is the becoming of something with temporal extension; but that the act itself is not extensive, in the sense that it is divisible into earlier and later acts of becoming. . ." (PR 69/107). What is denied are not the phases of becoming into which he proceeds to analyze concrescence, but the act of becoming which transition, in his earlier theory, had provided.
36There remains a vestige of unilateral causation with respect to the first categoreal obligation of Subjective Unity. There is perspectival elimination from the data prehended for the concrescing occasion, although it is not clear by whom.
375ee my forthcoming essay, "When did Whitehead conceive God to be personal," and section I.C above.
38Whitehead’s discussion of the category of the ultimate may very well have been his final contribution to the composition of Process and Reality. It is absent from student notes as late as October 1928 (EWM 240).
39There may be one exception: complex eternal objects. Whether this exception exists or not depends on whether nontemporal concrescence is really possible, and if so whether it is the divine envisagement which brings about the formation of such complex eternal objects. Here Whitehead may well be hampered from achieving unrestricted generalization by his independent doctrine that the eternal objects are uncreated.