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The Enigmatic "Passage of the Consequent Nature to the Temporal World" in Process and Reality: An Al

by Denis Hurtubise

Denis Hurtubise is Lecturer in Systematic Theology at Saint Paul University, 223 Main Street, Ottawa, Canada, K1S 1C4. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on the concepts of God in Whitehead’s Process and Reality. The following article appeared in Process Studies, pp. 93-107, Vol. 27:1-2, Spring-Summer, 1998. 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.


In the penultimate paragraph of Process and Reality,1 Whitehead introduces2 a new feature in his concept of God, making thereby possible a fourth phase, never mentioned before in the book,3 in the universe’s accomplishment of its actuality: "But the principle of universal relativity is not to be stopped at the consequent nature of God. This nature itself passes into the temporal world according to its gradation of relevance to the various concrescent occasions" (PR 350.33-35) (??check notes!!) Clearly, Whitehead states that the consequent nature passes into the temporal world. What is less clear is the meaning of that statement. As a matter of fact, Whitehead offers no description of that passage in order that its modalities be understood. Even in PR 351.4-13, where he discusses the fourth phase, all one finds are repeated assertions of that passage and images evoking its effects in the world.

What, then, did Whitehead mean when he wrote about a passage of the consequent nature into the world in PR 350.33-35? How did he conceive of this passage taking place? Many authors have tackled that question, trying to infer answers based on different frameworks. Without pretending to take into account each and every answer given to those questions since the time Whitehead’s writings became objects of scholarly exegesis, I first propose, in the following pages, reconstructions of the main interpretations of the word "passage" in PR 350.33-35. Second, I provide a critique of these interpretations, preparing the way for an alternative interpretation.

I. Several Interpretations

Towards the end of the fourth chapter of A Christian Natural Theology, when John B. Cobb, Jr. is about to conclude his reconstruction of the Whiteheadian doctrine of God as expounded in Process and Reality, he mentions a "final feature" of the consequent nature of God that is treated in the last two paragraphs of Whitehead’s book: "It is demanded by the principle of universal relativity that just as God in his consequent nature prehends us, so also we prehend God’s consequent nature" (CNT 164).

Evidently, Cobb is commenting on PR 350.33-35: the structure of his argument is identical to the one Whitehead proposes in those lines, that is, asserting that the principle of universal relativity applies to the consequent nature, then stating the result of such an application.4 According to Cobb, the consequence of the application of the principle of universal relativity to the consequent nature of God, that is, the passage of the latter into the temporal world, must be understood through the concept of prehension: God’s consequent nature passes into the temporal world by being prehended by us.5

A very similar interpretation of PR 350.33-35 can be found in Forrest Wood’s Whiteheadian Thought as a Basis for a Philosophy of Religion:

One hardly expects, even in Whitehead, to find a new idea in the next-to-last paragraph of a 350-page book. Yet that is the case. His fertile mind kept developing his principles. Whitehead saw a new implication of the principle of universal relativity[...] This principle applied to God as an actual entity means that God’s consequent nature is prehended by actual occasions. (WTB 50)

As Cobb did, Wood reads into the reference in PR 350.33-3 -- a passage of the consequent nature into the temporal world -- the assertion of a prehension of the consequent nature by the actual occasions. But whereas Cobb mentions this prehension without drawing any inference from it for an understanding of Whitehead’s views about the relations between the world and God, Wood uses it to support the assertion that God’s impact on the actual occasions is not restricted to the provision of initial aims. Rather, he contends, the consequent nature, because it is prehended by the actual occasions, has an effect on the actual occasions that comes as its response to each of them:

So God’s consequent nature has an effect on the temporal world: "each temporal actuality includes it as an immediate fact of relevant experience" (PR 351). Whitehead says this is God’s love for the world expressed in "the particular providence for particular occasions." So God’s impact on an actual occasion includes more than just providing the initial aim, for it includes his consequent nature being prehended by each actual occasion. The initial aim is a more general, reflecting appetite toward novelty. The prehension of God’s consequent nature (how God has prehended the past actuality of that occasion) reveals a specific response to the past occasion. So Whitehead concludes, "...God is the great companion -- the fellow-sufferer who understands" (WTB 50-51)

A variation on this interpretation of the notion of passage in PR 350.33-35 is evident in Thomas Hosinski’s "The ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ and the Development of Whitehead’s Idea of God" (KH 203-215.) In a series of comments about PR 350.33-351.13, Hosinski mentions Whitehead, stating - Hosinski refers here, obviously, to PR 350.33-35 -- that "the principle of relativity allows us to deduce or predict that the consequent nature of God must somehow be immanent" (KH 212). Even though Hosinski warns that Whitehead has never solved the technical problem of how this immanence can be understood in metaphysical terms, he nevertheless contends that God as a whole (the result of the integration of God’s two natures) is prehended by the actual occasions of the temporal world.

Thus in Process and Reality the immanence of the "kingdom 0f heaven is conceived as the prehension of the fullness of God. God’s "superjective" character makes present to the actual occasions of the temporal world the integrated primordial and consequent natures of God. (KH 212)

According to Hosinski, then, the immanence of the consequent nature -- its passage to the temporal world -- is to be conceived in terms of its prehension by the actual occasions. However, as opposed to Cobb’s and Wood’s interpretation, for Hosinski the consequent nature does not pass into the temporal world by being prehended as isolated from the primordial nature, but as integrated with it. Given Hosinski’s remarks about PR 350.15-24a, PR 345.43- 346.21a and PR 347.40 - 45a (KH 209 - 211), this means that the passage of the consequent nature into the temporal world takes place through the prehension of the result of the transformation of the temporal world that occurs in the consequent nature as the actual occasions are integrated with the primordial nature.6

A somewhat different interpretation of PR 350.33-35, specifically of the way the consequent nature of God passes into the temporal world, is found in David Griffin’s God, Power and Evil: A Process Theodicy. The conclusions he draws from PR 351.7b-1a7 are now of special relevance: "Hence, there is no basis for a dichotomy between the overcoming of evil in God and in the world. In fact, since it is ‘overcome’ in God’s consequent nature in the sense that it is responded to with an initial aim which aims at restoring goodness in the world, this ‘overcoming’ in God is precisely for the sake of overcoming evil in the world" (GPE 305).8

Griffin contends that the overcoming of evil through the "transformation of a worldly fact into a ‘perfected actuality’" (GPE 304) that takes place in the consequent nature is meant to affect the world, since the overcoming of evil is followed by the provision of ideal aims destined to restore goodness and harmony in the world.

Griffin thereby states implicitly his understanding of the way the consequent nature passes into the world: since the overcoming of evil that takes place in the consequent nature may also happen in the world through the provision of ideal aims, and since the ideal aims are derived, according to him, from the primordial nature,9 this means that somehow the consequent nature influences the primordial nature so the latter ends up providing the ideal aims. Does the "self-determining response by God" mentioned earlier take place in the consequent nature, simultaneously with the "purely receptive response"? Or does it rather happen in the primordial nature, as a counterpart and following the latter? Griffin offers no explanation of this matter. However, it is clear that somehow the overcoming of evil in the consequent nature determines the provision, by the primordial nature, of ideal aims destined to overcome the evil in the world -- the consequent nature thereby passes into the world.*

II. A Critique

Both interpretations expounded above have been reached on the basis of inference. The one held by Cobb, Wood and others uses the theory of prehensions as conceptual framework in order to deal with the problem of the immanence of the consequent nature of God. From the premise that any immanence, in Whitehead’s metaphysical system, involves the conceptual triad "objectification, feeling, prehension," these authors conclude that the only possible way the consequent nature passes into the temporal world is through its prehension by the actual occasions. Griffin also uses a deductive approach, deductive in a sense similar to that of Cobb and others, that is, by selecting one of the theories developed in Process and Reality as a conceptual framework for the interpretation of the word "passage" in PR 350.33-35. In Griffin’s case, however, it is the theory of initial aim that guides the interpretation, rather than the theory of prehensions. As a matter of fact, Griffin describes the divine activity of restoration of goodness in terms of provision of initial aims, regardless as to whether this activity is performed by the primordial nature or the consequent nature. Moreover, there is a relationship, according to Griffin, between the overcoming of evil performed in the consequent nature and the overcoming of evil in the world: the former makes possible the latter, since the initial aim the consequent nature elicits as response to a specific evil and the initial aim provided by the primordial nature in the context of this evil are one and the same. From such premises, the passage of what is done in the consequent nature -- implicitly, the passage of the consequent nature to the temporal world -- must be understood in terms of the provision of initial aims.

It is not wrong to attempt to infer the meaning of a word when no indication whatsoever is given about it in a text. However, one has to ensure the conceptual framework chosen will not determine an interpretation such that the inferred meaning of that word would be incoherent with other concepts or theories of the conceptual system of which both this word and that conceptual framework are part. In the case of the word "passage" in PR 350.33-35, the conceptual framework has to be "wide enough" that the inferred meaning is compatible with the concepts or theories expounded in Process and Reality. Presupposing as we do, Whitehead’s coherence as a philosopher and his ability to express his system in a coherent way, any incompatibility between an inferred meaning of the word "passage" and a concept or a theory discussed in Process and Reality invalidates the interpretation as inadequate for the task of conveying the meaning of that word in PR 350.33- 35. As a matter of fact, since the word "passage" is considered by Cobb, Griffin and others as expressing an aspect of Process and Reality’s concept of God, its reconstructed meaning must be coherent not only with the other components of the concept of which it is considered a part but also with the other concepts and theories expounded in Process and Reality.

Therein lies the problem with the two interpretations outlined earlier: neither of them has been inferred on the basis of a wide enough conceptual framework. This is particularly obvious with the interpretation proposed by Cobb, Wood, Barineau and Hosinski, according to which the consequent nature passes into the temporal world by being prehended by the actual occasions. Inasmuch as those interpretations suppose, and actually posit, a prehension of the consequent nature by the actual occasions, they are incompatible with Whitehead’s theory of prehension as expounded in Process and Reality. In effect, God’s consequent nature is an everlasting process of self-realization, as Whitehead says in PR 346.8-10a: "Always immediate, always many, always one, always with novel advance, moving onward and never perishing." Since the consequent nature is perpetually ongoing, it is everlasting and never perishes nor reaches the state of satisfaction. There are always new objectively immortal actual occasions to be prehended, yet in Whitehead’s conceptual system the satisfaction of an actual entity is the condition sine qua non for its prehension by subsequent actual occasions:

All relatedness has its foundation in the relatedness of actualities; and such relatedness is wholly concerned with the appropriation of the dead by the living -- that is to say, with "objective immortality" whereby what is divested of its own living immediacy becomes a real component in other living immediacies of becoming.10

Given the theory of prehensions expounded by Whitehead in Process and Reality, the consequent nature cannot be prehended by actual occasions. Any interpretation of the word "passage" that posits such a prehension, as Cobb’s and others’ do, must therefore be considered inadequate.11

Griffin’s interpretation has also been inferred from an insufficiently wide conceptual framework. Though the notion of an indirect passage of the consequent nature to the temporal world seems promising, it nevertheless contradicts one aspect of God’s primordial nature clearly stated in Process and Reality; namely, its completeness. As a matter of fact, one of the six qualifications given to the primordial nature in PR 345.29b-30a is "complete" (PR 345.29c). Its meaning is made clear by the passage in which it appears, that is, the second chapter of the fifth part of Process and Reality, more precisely PR 343.38-39, where Whitehead describes the primordial nature of God as "the unlimited conceptual realization of the absolute wealth of potentiality": since it realizes conceptually and in an unlimited way each and every possibility, the primordial nature is complete in that nothing -- neither any possibility, nor any new realization of any possibility -- can be added to its constitution. Insofar as such a completeness precludes any novelty in the primordial nature, it amounts to immutability, something Whitehead clearly acknowledges in PR 12.40b-13.1a, where, what’s more, Whitehead states that the consequent nature’s process does not affect the primordial nature: "Such representations compose the ‘consequent nature’ of God, which evolves in its relationship to the evolving world without derogation to the eternal completion of its primordial nature."

By admitting an influence of the consequent nature on the primordial nature, as Griffin does by holding that the overcoming of evil in the consequent nature determines the provision, by the primordial nature, of ideal aims destined to overcome the evil in the world, Griffin contradicts an aspect of Whitehead’s conceptualization of God in Process and Reality; namely, the completeness of the primordial nature. Moreover, he also contradicts Whitehead’s statement, in PR 12.40b-13.1a, to the effect that the primordial nature cannot be influenced by the consequent nature. Such an incompatibility between, on the one hand, the meaning of the word "passage" as interpreted by Griffin and, on the other, aspects of the conceptualization of God made by Whitehead in Process and Reality, makes Griffin’s interpretation inadequate.

III. An Alternative Interpretation

The preceding assessment of two current interpretations of the word "passage" in PR 350.33-35 strikingly narrows down the field of that word’s possible meanings. By showing the impossibility, in Process and Reality, of a passage of the consequent nature into the temporal world either through its prehension by the actual occasions or through the more indirect channel of an influence of the consequent nature on the primordial nature’s activity of providing initial aims, we have eliminated what would have been the two alternative modalities of a passage of the consequent nature into the temporal world in the framework of Whitehead’s metaphysical system as expounded in Process and Reality. In such a framework, the normal route for the passage of an entity to another is the prehension of the former by the latter. Also, an indirect passage can occur without involving the prehension of the passing entity by the entity which is at the receiving end of the passage. In this case, the prehension, by the receiving entity, of an entity that has prehended the passing entity makes such a passage possible, the elements of the passing entity that have been included in the concrescence of the mediating entity becoming object for the prehensions of the receiving entity. The interpretation shared by Cobb and others was based on an application of the normal route to the relationship between the consequent nature and the actual occasions, whereas Griffin opted for an application of the indirect passage to the same relationship. We have seen that those applications simply collapse, conceptually, because of the contradictions they entail with other aspects of the metaphysical system expounded in Process and Reality, Therefore, it is impossible, in the framework of the metaphysical system developed in Process and Reality, to conceptualize the way the consequent nature passes into the temporal world. What did Whitehead mean, then, when he wrote that "this nature itself passes into the temporal world according to its gradation of relevance to the various concrescent occasions?" (PR 350.34b-35).

Three possible answers to that question may be considered. The first is based on two considerations: (1) the position of the word "passage" in Process and Reality, in the next-to-last paragraph of the book; (2) the impossibility, demonstrated earlier, of conceptualizing the way the consequent nature passes into the temporal world in the framework of the metaphysical system developed in that book. Given these considerations, it may be suggested that the word "passage" expresses a concept of the consequent nature’s immanence in the world that would have become possible in a renewed version of Whitehead’s metaphysical system. Such a renewed version would have been such that articulating a passage of the consequent nature to the temporal world in its framework would not cause contradictions with other aspects of it. Whitehead would have developed it extremely late in the process of writing Process and Reality, one of its manifestations in that book, maybe the only one, being 350.33-35, more widely 350.33-351.13.

This hypothesis, however, has to be rejected. In order to be verified, it would have needed to be substantiated by a demonstration of the existence of a concept of "passage" enshrined in a renewed version of Whitehead’s metaphysical system. His writings that followed Process and Reality, especially the third book in a trilogy in which Whitehead expresses his ‘understanding of the nature of things,"12 that is, Adventures of Ideas, should include some mention of this concept. This is not the case, however: no such concept appears in either Adventures of Ideas, or in the books that followed, such as Modes of Thought. And not only is the word "passage," as taken in the context of a discussion of the relationship between the consequent nature and the world, absent, but there can be found nowhere in those books any conceptualization of the way the consequent nature passes into the temporal world.13 Actually, in a conversation that took place between him and A. H. Johnson in 1936, Whitehead acknowledged that he did not make any attempt towards such a conceptualization:

JOHNSON: "If God never ‘perishes,’ how can he provide data for other actual entities? Data are only available after the ‘internal existence’ of the actual entity ‘has evaporated’ (PR 336).’’ WHITEHEAD "This is a genuine problem. I have not attempted to solve it."

A second possible answer to the question of the meaning of the word "passage" in PR 350.33-35 could be based on the admission that Whitehead’s conceptualization of God was incoherent. In the later stages of the composition of Process and Reality, when he tried to complement his concept of God with a new dimension, a divine responsivity, Whitehead would simply have asserted, though he was aware that his metaphysical system did not allow him to do so, that the consequent nature passes into the temporal world in the sense that it is prehended by the actual occasions, or that it influences the primordial nature’s provision of initial aims. In such a case, quite ironically, the two interpretations discussed earlier could be considered appropriate, given their faithfulness to Whitehead’s actual - but incoherent-conceptualization of God in 350.33-35.

Besides the unlikeliness of such blatant incoherence in Whitehead’s conceptualization of God, there is an important limit with this second approach: it assumes that "passage" is a sub-concept in relationship with Process and Reality’s concept of God; just like "consequent nature," "passage" is taken to be an aspect of that concept, which is developed -- as the concept is -- in the framework of Whitehead’s metaphysical categories. As we know, however, from Whitehead’s own admission to A.H. Johnson, he never attempted to solve the problem of the immanence of the consequent nature, that is, to conceptualize its passage into the temporal world. Process and Reality is no exception. In it such a passage is evoked, but not discussed and certainly not described, in Whitehead’s metaphysical categories, in an effort to construct a sub-concept designated by the word "passage." Interpreting PR 350.33-35 in terms of the theories of prehensions or initial aims elevates the word "passage" to the level of a concept, something Whitehead never did.

If the word "passage" in PR 350.33-35, does not refer to a sub-concept in Whitehead’s metaphysical system, how can it be interpreted? Furthermore, what is its status and what did Whitehead mean when he wrote about a passage of the consequent nature to the temporal world? Two considerations can be brought in as guidelines towards an answer to that question. On the one hand, even though there is no concept of passage in Process and Reality, it has to be acknowledged that the word as such is used in a context where Whitehead still expounds his concept of God. In PR 350.33-351.13, as a matter of fact, Whitehead proposes a final synthesis of the part of his metaphysical system that concerns the relationship between God and the world. On the other hand, there is an obvious elusiveness in the language surrounding his use of the word "passage": Whitehead’s reflections on the fourth phase in PR 351.4-13, that are meant to develop the assertion of a passage of the consequent nature into the temporal world, are expressed in a non-technical language. Especially from PR 351.7b and following, Whitehead leaves aside his metaphysical categories, using instead various images in a prose that leans towards poetry:

For the kingdom of heaven is with us today. The action of the fourth phase is the love of God for the world. It is the particular providence for particular occasions. What is done in the world is transformed into a reality in heaven, and the reality in heaven passes back into the world. By reason of this reciprocal relation, the love in the world passes into the love in heaven, and floods back again into the world. In this sense, God is the great companion -- the fellow-sufferer who understands. (PR 35l.7b-13)16

I propose, then, that the word "passage" expresses a pre-concept of the immanence of the consequent nature in the world. Whereas a concept can be defined as an intellectual representation of an object made through a set of categories, and here we are speaking of Whitehead’s metaphysical categories, a pre-concept is an assertion about an object that is not developed in those categories. The word "passage" in PR 350.33-35 is a pre-concept: Whitehead simply asserts the immanence of the consequent nature in the temporal world without describing it in the framework of his system, that is, without giving any indication about the way the consequent nature is supposed to pass into the temporal world. What else could he do, since his metaphysical system did not allow him to conceptualize such a passage?

When he wrote about a passage of the consequent nature to the temporal world, then, Whitehead meant only that somehow the consequent nature is (or has to be) immanent in the world, nothing else.17 Thereby, he lets his readers know what kind of a God he is trying to conceptualize, that is, a God who (or which) is engaged in a "spiral" relationship with the world. He wants a responsive God, a God whose influence on the world is determined by his internal reaction to worldly events, that is, by the harmonizing process occurring in the consequent nature. But in doing so, Whitehead candidly reveals an important limitation of his metaphysical system as developed in Process and Reality, that is, its inability to offer a philosophical framework in which a concept of a fully relational God can be constructed.

* * *

As Lewis S. Ford has said in a comment about Process and Reality’s final section, where PR 350.33-35 appears, a "problem has been bequeathed [by Whitehead] to his followers"(EWM 229). But contrary to Ford, I contend that the problem concerns the conceptualization of the consequent nature’s prehension by actual occasions.18 To be sure, finding ways to conceptualize this prehension would solve the problem of the consequent nature’s immanence and, ultimately, make a fully relational God possible in a Whiteheadian philosophical environment. However, focusing on the problem of the consequent nature’s prehension, as many scholars seem to be doing currently, may lead one to channel in a too narrow path efforts towards reconceiving some aspects of Whitehead’s metaphysical system and thus to overlook other ways to reach that goal.

 

References

CNT John B. Cobb, Jr., A Christian Natural Theology. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1965.

EWM Lewis S. Ford, The Emergence of Whitehead’s Metaphysics. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1985.

GPE David Ray Griffin, God, Power and Evil: A Process Theodicy. Westminster, 1976, and Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1990.

KH Thomas Hosinski, "The ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ and the Development of Whitehead’s Idea of God," Process Studies 16 (1987), 203-215.

WTB Forrest Wood, Whiteheadian Thought as the Basis for a Philosophy of Religion. Lanham. MD: University Press of America, 1986.

 

Notes

1New York, Macmillan Publishing Co., 1929. For sake of precision, the references are according to page, line and line segment (the latter delimited by any two punctuation signs). As does Process Studies, I use the Corrected Edition, edited by David R. Griffin and Donald W. Sherburne (New York, Free Press, 1979).

2The verb "introduce" is appropriate here, since Whitehead evoked only once, and very early in Process and Reality, the problem that is dealt with in PR 350.33-35, that is, the immanence of the consequent nature in the temporal world: "Thus God has objective immortality in respect to his primordial nature and his consequent nature. The objective immortality of his consequent nature is considered later (cf. Part V)" (PR 32.6-8a).

3Up to that point, Whitehead had spoken of a process in three phases. In PR 346.21b-25a, he claimed that "the universe includes a threefold creative act composed of (i) the one infinite conceptual realization, (ii) the multiple solidarity of free physical realizations in the temporal world, (iii) the ultimate unity of the multiplicity of actual fact with the primordial conceptual fact." He addressed the same topic in PR 349.29-41, where he went as far as qualifying the third phase as "final", "This final phase of passage in God’s nature is ever enlarging itself" (PR 349.39b-40a).

4 This is being reinforced by the comment that follows immediately in Cobb’s book and the quotation from Process and Reality introduced thereby. Indeed, after having said that "This [i.e., the content of PR 350.33-35] prepares the way for Whitehead’s final summary of the interactions between God and the world," he quotes PR 350.36-351.7a:

There are thus four creative phases in which the universe accomplishes its actuality. There is first the phase of conceptual origination, deficient in actuality, but infinite in its adjustment of valuation. Secondly, there is the temporal phase of physical origination, with its multiplicity of actualities. In this phase, full actuality is attained; but there is deficiency in the solidarity of individuals with each other. This phase derives its determinate conditions from the first phase. Thirdly, there is the phase of perfected actuality, in which the many are one everlastingly, without the qualification of any loss either of individual identity or of completeness of unity. In everlastingness, immediacy is reconciled with objective immortality. This phase derives the conditions of its being from the two antecedent phases. In the fourth phase, the creative action completes itself. For the perfected actuality passes back into the temporal world, and qualifies this world so that each temporal actuality includes it as an immediate fact of relevant experience.

5Cobb revisited this topic in "Sherburne on Providence," Process Studies 23 (1994), 25-29. In a extremely carefully-crafted text, he refutes a particular interpretation of the notion of a passage of the consequent nature to the world. Speaking about PR 350.33 -- 35 1.13, in particular about PR 350.33 -- 35 as can be gathered from the quote that follows, he states that Whitehead "does not say that when the Consequent Nature passes back into the world, this affects the aim derived from God by individual occasions" (26). However, Cobb would not commit himself to an alternative interpretation. Rather, he simply says that "what is clearest from this paragraph is that there is some sense of the reality and presence of ‘the great companion -- the fellow-sufferer who understands’" (26).

6As Hosinski writes in a comment about PR 350.15 -- 24a:

Here the symbol "kingdom 0f heaven" is being applied to the relationship between God and the world which is established in God’s experience and "transmutation" of each temporal actuality. Thus the symbol refers to God’s reception of each temporal actuality and the integration 0f that actuality with the primordial nature. There is no clear reference in this passage to God’s physical prehensions or to the integration of them with the primordial nature, but it seems legitimate to understand this passage in light of those ideas. (KH 210)

7Griffin quotes PR 351.7b -- 11a: "For the perfected actuality passes back into the temporal world, and qualifies this world so that each temporal actuality includes it as an immediate fact of relevant experience. For the kingdom of heaven is with us today. What is done in the world is transformed into a reality in heaven, and the reality in heaven passes back into the world" (GPE 305).

8Griffin argues in a similar, but more precise way:

The self-determining response by God (in distinction from God’s purely receptive response to the values achieved in the previous moments of creation) which brings the greatest immediate enjoyment to God is the provision of ideal aims which will influence the future state of the world towards the greatest good open to it. (GPE 305)

9Griffin states:

All pure possibilities, termed by Whitehead "eternal objects," are contained in the "primordial nature" of God. This primordial nature is an envisagement of these ideals or eternal objects, with the urge toward their actualization in the world [...]. Each actual occasion begins by prehending God and therefore this divine urge for the realization of possibilities. Each occasion thereby receives from God an "ideal aim" or "initial aim." (GPE 280)

10PR xiii.38b -- xiv. La. See also PR 220.4b -- 9a:

Its own process [of an actual entity], which is its own internal existence, has evaporated, worn out and satisfied; but its effects are all to be described in terms of its ‘satisfaction." The "effects" of an actual entity are its interventions in concrescent processes other than its own. Any entity, thus intervening in processes transcending itself, is said to be functioning as an "object."

11In The Lure of God (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1978), Lewis S. Ford argued against the notion of a prehension of the consequent nature of God, stating that "only that which is complete, either a completely definite primordial nature, or a completely determinate actual occasion, can be objectified. But the consequent nature is never complete, since there are always new occasions for God to prehend" (110). A very similar argument is proposed by Stephen D. Ross in Perspective in Whitehead’s Metaphysics (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1983): "If Whitehead means that each occasion prehends this consequent nature directly and objectively, his position is incompatible with the principle of subjective unification, since until God has been completed, he cannot be prehended objectively" (254).

12As Whitehead says in the preface to Adventures of Ideas: "The three books -- Science and the Modern World, Process and Reality, Adventures of Ideas -- are an endeavour to express a way of understanding the nature of things, and to point out how that way of understanding is illustrated by a survey of the mutations of human experience."

13Whitehead limits himself to evoke an immanence 0f the consequent nature in the temporal world. In Adventures of Ideas (295), he writes about an "Immanence of the Great Fact including this initial Eros and this final Beauty," the latter term referring to the consequent nature. In Modes of Thought (128), the divine "unified composition," which includes what corresponds to the consequent nature in that book, is a "datum" for the world.

14Johnson refers to the original version of Process an4 Reality. In Griffin and Sherburne’s corrected edition, the passage he alludes to can be found on page 220.

15Quoted from A.H. Johnson, "Some Conversations with Whitehead Concerning God and Creativity," in Explorations in Whitehead’s Philosophy, edited by Lewis S. Ford and George L. Kline (New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 1983), 9-10.

16In "Two Process Views of God" (International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 38 [1995], 61-74), Bowman L. Clarke mentions other cases, in Part V of Process and Reality, where Whitehead moves from a technical to a poetic language in order to discuss the consequent nature of God. He cites (71) PR 346.24-25a ("the ultimate unity of the multiplicity of actual fact with the primordial conceptual fact"), PR 346.13b ("the completed whole"), PR 346.13c-15 ("the image -- and it is but an image -- the image under which this operative growth of God’s nature is best conceived, is that of a tender care that nothing be lost"), and PR 345.23c-25 ("the primordial nature is conceptual, the consequent nature is the weaving of God’s physical feelings upon his primordial concepts").

17Even the quite moderate statement that follows is unfair to the meaning of PR 350.33-35, since it implies an equation between the words "passage" and "prehension": "We are not told, however, how God as an everlasting concrescence [reference is made here to the consequent nature] can ever be objectified for the world in a system where concrescences must be completed in determinate unity before they can be prehended. This is an example of Whitehead’s proleptic writing, where his intuitions outrun his concepts" (EWM 229).

18Thomas Hosinski presents the problem as being the problem 0f the immanence of God. It is clear, however, that in keeping with his interpretation of 350.33-351.13, he sees this problem as the problem of the prehension of the consequent nature of God by actual occasions: This is, however, only a partial resolution of the problem concerning the immanence of God. It is partial because it leaves unanswered the technical problem of how God, as a single actual entity, can have "objective immortality" (see PR 32/47) and be prehended by concrescing occasions without "perishing." Whitehead states that the principle of universal relativity allows us to deduce or predict that the consequent nature of God must somehow be immanent (PR 350/532), [...] but he never solved the technical problem of how this was to be understood with metaphysical precision. (KH 212-213)

End Notes

*End Notes [Editor’s note: these endnotes are inserted here, rather than as footnotes, due to the extraordinary number of notes and the length of some of them, both of which caused formatting difficulties]

*1. The complete text of the penultimate paragraph of Process and Reality (PR 350.33-351.13) is the following:

But the principle of universal relativity is not to be stopped at the consequent nature of God. This nature itself passes into the temporal world according to its gradation of relevance to the various concrescent occasions. There are thus four creative phases in which the universe accomplishes its actuality. There is first the phase of conceptual origination, deficient in actuality, but infinite in its adjustment of valuation. Secondly, there is the temporal phase of physical origination, with its multiplicity of actualities. In this phase full actuality is attained; but there is deficiency in the solidarity of individuals with each other. This phase derives its determinate conditions from the first phase. Thirdly, there is the phase of perfected actuality, in which the many are one everlastingly, without the qualification of any loss either of individual identity or of complete. ness of unity. In everlastingness, immediacy is reconciled with objective immortality. This phase derives the conditions of its being from the two antecedent phases. In the fourth phase, the creative action completes itself. For the perfected actuality passes back into the temporal world, and qualifies this world so that each temporal actuality includes it as an immediate fact of relevant experience. For the kingdom of heaven is with us today. The action of the fourth phase is the love of God for the world. It is the particular providence for particular occasions. What is done in the world is transformed into a reality in heaven, and the reality in heaven passes back into the world. By reason of this reciprocal relation, the love in the world passes into the love in heaven, and floods back again Into the world. In this sense, God is the great companion -- the fellow-sufferer who understands.

*2. This interpretation has been put forth again recently by Maurice Barineau in The Theodicy of Alfred North Whitehead A Logical and Ethical Vindication (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1991). The key notion, in this case, is that of "God’s superject nature." Barineau contends that God’s consequent nature reaches satisfaction, and therefore can be prehended, and so does the envisagement of the potentialities relevant to the actual world embodied in that satisfaction. God’s superjective nature is God’s consequent nature as it "passes into the temporal world according to its gradation of relevance to the various concrescent occasions" (87). Such a passage occurs though the prehension of the envisagement mentioned above, hence though the prehension of the consequent nature: "The envisagement of God for the actual world becomes an object for the prehension of emergent actual occasions, and Whitehead refers to this objective efficacy of God as the ‘superject nature’" (87).

*3. Other scholars since have proposed that Whitehead, in Process and Reality, posits an involvement of the consequent nature in the provision of initial aims. However they apparently do not ground their interpretation on PR 350.33 -- 35 or, more generally, PR 350.33-351.13, as Griffin does. Donald W. Sherburne refers instead to PR 345.24b-25 ("the consequent nature is the weaving of God’s physical feelings upon his primordial concepts") m the recapitulation of how God functions in the world which he uses as point of departure for the case he makes for a "decentered Whitehead," that is, a Whitehead without God, in "Decentering Whitehead" (Process Studies 15 [1986], 83- 94). It is that weaving of the prehensions of the consequent nature upon his primordial grasp 0f pure possibility, as he states later in the article (88), that makes it possible for God to offer each actual entity the most appropriate aim given the situation in which it emerges in the world:

In Whitehead’s centered universe, God affects the world by providing each emerging actual occasion with its subjective aim. What exactly is a subjective aim? As we learn in the last chapter of Process and Reality, God prehends a given generation of actual entities, absorbs those entities into his consequent nature, "weaves" the resulting consequent nature "upon his primordial concepts," and from the resulting contrast discovers those possibilities for the next generation of actual entities which, were they to be actualized in that next generation, would be the best in the sense that when God came to absorb that generation into his consequent nature his experience would be the richest possible. God then proceeds to offer each emerging actual entity of that next generation that program for its own becoming which, if accepted and realized, would lead it to make the maximal contribution to the best new generation of actual entities possible given the limitations 0f the actual world from which it arises.

In The End of Evil: Process Eschatology in Historical Context (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1988), Marjorie H. Suchocki also contends that in Process and Reality, Whitehead held that the consequent nature plays a role in relationship with the initial aim:

Whitehead has suggested at the beginning of Process and Reality that both the primordial and consequent natures of God are involved in the initial aim, but he gives little explicit attention to the role of the consequent nature. However, it would appear that the reality of the world as felt though the consequent nature establishes the relevance of the possibilities from the primordial vision to the ongoing world.

As she confirms in a footnote, she bases this interpretation on PR 32.6-7a: "Thus God has immortality in respect to his primordial nature and his consequent nature."


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