return to religion-online

Whiteheadian Thought as a Basis for a Philosophy of Religion by Forrest Wood, Jr.


Forest Wood, Jr. is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at the University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg. Published in 1986 by University Press of America, Inc. This book was prepared for Religion Online by Harry W. and Grace C. Adams.


Chapter 1: Introduction


Whitehead’s philosophy offers a unique perspective to understanding the problems of philosophy of religion. Through Whitehead’s unique perspective one sees the nature of reality in a radically different way than the mainstream of Western philosophical thought. Western thought has explored the various ways that one can understand the world if one begins with the idea that reality is composed of substances. Whitehead’s perspective is unique because he goes back to Plato and begins again. But he begins with the idea that reality is composed of events.

Before I set out Whitehead’s view, one should note that if his view really is a different way of looking at reality, then we will need to rethink the way we view God, the self, evil, immortality, etc. The purpose of this book is to present his view of reality, to show the development of his thought concerning God, and to explore the implications of his system for the traditional problems of philosophy of religion.

The title of this work indicates that it is a "Whiteheadian" view rather than "Whitehead’s" view: Stated negatively I do not wish simply to present what Whitehead said about a certain topic. Three reasons may be given. First, Whitehead developed his ideas as he wrote his books; he developed his ideas even during the writing of his major work, Process and Reality, exhibiting his view that reality is a creative advance into novelty. Hence to view Whitehead’s work as static is to contradict his fundamental belief about reality. Second, as a student of Whitehead’s works, I want to continue that creative advancement. Hence in the sections on evil, immortality, and the self, I am expressing a Whiteheadian view rather than Whitehead’s view. Third, Whitehead’s thought contains problems yet unresolved. Professor Charles Hartshorne has analyzed many of these problems and has suggested revisions or adopted different opinions concerning them. Professor Hartshorne’s method of doing philosophy is, in my view, the correct way. He is philosophizing. I hope to do the same.

How is religion related to philosophy? And vice versa? Whitehead suggests a reciprocal relationship. He says, "Religion lends a driving force to philosophy. But in its turn, speculative philosophy guards our higher intuitions from base alliances by its suggestions of ultimate meanings, disengaged from the facts of current modes of behavior." (Adventures of Ideas New York: The Free Press, 1967, 25) I will analyse the relationship of religion and philosophy by examining Whitehead’s view of the nature of speculative philosophy, his view of religion, and his view of philosophy of religion.

A. Whitehead’s View of Speculative Philosophy

Most 20th-century philosophers greatly distrust speculative philosophy, abandoning the great systems of the past in their seemingly endless search to express the nature of reality. Each great system had its days of glory and influence, but found lacking, was abandoned. Their lack was not logical inconsistency. Hence Whitehead’s reference: ". . .a system of philosophy is never refuted; it is only abandoned." (Process and Reality, Corrected Edition, ed. Griffin & Sherburne, New York: The Free Press, 1978, 6) Rather their lack came from the rigidity of orthodoxy after their zest for newness dimmed, their abundance of fruitfulness declined, and their spring of inspiration dried up.

While others have rejected the task, Whitehead does what he calls "speculative philosophy." He defines it as ". . .the endeavour to frame a coherent, logical, necessary system of general ideas in terms of which every element of our experience can be interpreted." (Process and Reality, Corrected Edition, ed. Griffin & Sherburne, New York: The Free Press, 1978, 3) The purpose of philosophy is to interpret or to understand our experiences. He says, "The elucidation of immediate experience is the sole justification for any thought." (Process and Reality, Corrected Edition, ed. Griffin & Sherburne, New York: The Free Press, 1978, 4) This stated purpose counters the objection that philosophic speculation is useless. It is not. Its value lies in its helping us to understand our world of immediate experience. "The useful function of philosophy is to promote the most general systematization of civilized thought." (Process and Reality, Corrected Edition, ed. Griffin & Sherburne, New York: The Free Press, 1978, 17)

Whitehead is seeking understanding. He speaks of the study of philosophy as a voyage (Process and Reality, Corrected Edition, ed. Griffin & Sherburne, New York: The Free Press, 1978, 10) and an experimental adventure (Process and Reality, Corrected Edition, ed. Griffin & Sherburne, New York: The Free Press, 1978, 9). It is never final. But it provides important knowledge. In order to understand our experiences, it is necessary to develop a system of general ideas which will interpret these experiences.

A mature system of general ideas faces two demands. It must be coherent and logical (a rational demand), and applicable and adequate (an empirical demand). Coherence in this context means the parts form a whole rather than standing in isolation from each other. Descartes’ division of temporal substances into mind and matter, with each being understood as requiring nothing else but itself to exist, is an example of a fundamental incoherence in his thought. The consequence is that whereas Descartes may explain each part, he cannot explain how the two parts fit together. And the many followers of Descartes have also failed to explain simply because if one begins with incoherence one cannot achieve unity (coherence).

Coherence also means that no entity lies outside the system. The chief culprit in many philosophical systems violating this principle is the concept of God. Whitehead insists, "God is not to be treated as an exception to all metaphysical principles, invoked to save their collapse. He is their chief exemplification." (Process and Reality, Corrected Edition, ed. Griffin & Sherburne New York: The Free Press, 1978, 343) In seeking to understand God then, one must use the same principles that are used to understand everything else. He may exemplify the principles in a unique way, but he must not be an exception to them; otherwise, the system would have two parts, leaving a dichotomy. This underlines the necessity for coherence.

A system of general ideas must also be applicable and adequate. This demand reflects the method which is appropriate for it. The mathematical method is not appropriate. "Philosophy has been haunted by the unfortunate notion that its method is dogmatically to indicate premises which are severally clear, distinct, and certain; and to erect upon those premises a deductive system of thought." (Process and Reality, Corrected Edition, ed. Griffin & Sherburne, New York: The Free Press, 1978, 8) Whitehead used his famous example of the flight of an airplane to illustrate the proper method of doing speculative philosophy. The ground is our experiences of life. The flight is our metaphysical or cosmological constructs (imaginative generalizations). And the landing is the application of those constructs to experience. White-head uses several labels for this method: imaginative rationalization, imaginative construction, imaginative experiment, imaginative generalization (Process and Reality, Corrected Edition, ed. Griffin & Sherburne, New York: The Free Press, 1978, 5), experimental adventure (Process and Reality, Corrected Edition, ed. Griffin & Sherburne (New York: The Free Press, 1978, 9) and descriptive generalization. (Process and Reality, Corrected Edition, ed. Griffin & Sherburne, New York: The Free Press, 1978, 10) He defined philosophic generalization as ". . .the utilization of specific notions, applying to a restricted group of facts, for the divination of the generic notions which apply to all facts." (Process and Reality, Corrected Edition, ed. Griffin & Sherburne, New York: The Free Press, 1978, 5) Natural science uses this method applying paradigms or models derived from some special discipline to interpret larger vistas of data.

Utilizing this method means that certainty is allusive. Thus one obtains ". . .an adventure in the clarification of thought, progressive and never final." (Process and Reality, Corrected Edition, ed. Griffin & Sherburne, New York: The Free Press, 1978, 9) "No metaphysical system can hope entirely to satisfy these pragmatic tests. At the best such a system will remain only an approximation to the general truths which are sought." (Process and Reality, Corrected Edition, ed. Griffin & Sherburne, New York: The Free Press, 1978, 13)

How then is verification of the system of thought possible? Whitehead’s answer is ". . .in its general success. . .." (Process and Reality, Corrected Edition, ed. Griffin & Sherburne New York: The Free Press, 1978, 8) Like the paradigms used in science, the criteria are comprehensiveness (applying to all the facts), consistency (not contradictory in different areas) and fruitfulness (producing further insights not anticipated). He says, "The tests of accuracy are logical coherence, adequacy, and exemplification." (Religion in the Making, Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1960, 86) For example, he believed that his philosophy of organism is consistent with the theory of relativity and quantum physics. Others have joined his view of reality with cybernetics (information theory) and biotechnology. "The new cybernetic model of living organisms is the operational counterpart of Whitehead’s notion of ‘subjective aim.’"1 But Whitehead’s philosophy has been most extensively and fruitfully applied to religion, producing what is generally termed, "process theology." Before considering the application of his speculative philosophy to religion, we must examine his view of religion.

B. Whitehead’s View of Religion

Whitehead’s attitude toward religion changed during his lifetime, and his conception of the nature of God changed so radically in the latter part of his life that his comments concerning religion must be put in autobiographical and historic perspective. A study of his attitude toward religion is useful to provide a background for his later writings on the subject. His comments about religion must be understood in the context of the development of his thought.

He was the son of a Anglican minister and grew up in an English parsonage. His father has been termed, ". . .an Old Testament man. . ."2 Discussing his adolescent schooling at Sherburne he referred to reading the New Testament in Greek commenting, "We were religious, but with that moderation natural to people who take their religion in Greek."3 After he married, Whitehead lived and taught for twenty years (1890-1910) at Cambridge. During eight of these years, ". . .he was reading theology."4 But he abandoned the subject, called in a bookdealer, and sold his sizable theological library. The Whiteheadian family treated religion (Christianity in particular) in a mocking, light-hearted manner.

The death of his youngest son, Eric, an aviator in World War I, had a profound effect on Whitehead. That event may have been a turning point in his attitude toward religion. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to annotate these personal changes since he was such a private person. Victor Lowe, biographer of Whitehead, is very skeptical at this point. For example: Whitehead directed his wife to burn all his unpublished papers at his death. Despite these limitations we know enough to be able to reflect on his thought. Through Lucien Price’s Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead we know some of his personal views and we have his publications.

In 1924 at the age of sixty-three, Whitehead came to Harvard University and turned his attention to new topics. Included in these topics was religion. Toward the end of his life, on the occasion of his receiving the Order of Merit from the British Crown at University Hall of Harvard University, June 6, 1945, Whitehead said that Harvard had made it possible for him ". . .to express ideas which had been growing in my thoughts for a life-time."5 But that growth, especially about religion, had its stops and starts. And his final views were far from tradition and orthodoxy.

Whitehead’s attitude toward religion expressed in the writings of this latter part of his life was positive but qualified. "Religion is by no means necessarily good. It may be very evil." (Religion in the Making, Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1960, 17) The essential point is ". . .its transcendent importance. . .." (Religion in the Making, Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1960, 17) He shared that typical Anglican attitude to avoid "enthusiasm." Whitehead’s reflection in his last years about the Anglican religion included the comment, "The Anglican service is a symbol of the aristocracy’s responsibility for governing a nation. It was not originally in Christianity. The Jewish peasants, out of whose profound moral intuitions Christianity came, had no idea of managing a complex society."6 Earlier in Science and the Modern World he had observed, "The non-religious motive which has entered into modern religious thought is the desire for a comfortable organisation of modern society." (Science and the Modern World, New York: The Free Press, 1967, 191)

Whitehead’s attitude was obviously affected by his candid historical perspective of the role of religion in society. "Indeed history, down to the present day, is a melancholy record of the horrors which can attend religion: human sacrifice, and, in particular, the slaughter of children, cannibalism, sensual orgies, abject superstition, hatred as between races, the maintenance of degrading custom, hysteria, bigotry, can all be laid at its charge. Religion is the last refuge of human savagery." (Religion in the Making, Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1960, 36) With such pronouncements it would seem he was ready to dismiss religion altogether. But he adds, "Religion can be, and has been, the main instrument for progress." (Religion in the Making, Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1960, 36)

From a historical perspective he believed that religion was progressing. He says of the religious vision, "It is the one element in human experience which persistently shows an upward trend. . . .The fact of the religious vision, and its history of persistent expansion, is our one ground for optimism. Apart from it, human life is a flash of occasional enjoyments lighting up a mass of pain and misery, a bagatelle of transient experience." (Science and the Modern World, New York: The Free Press, 1967, 192)

Whitehead rejected a narrow moralism too often associated with religion. He noted that the love expressed in the Galilean origin of Christianity was ". . .a little oblivious as to morals." (Process and Reality, Corrected Edition, ed. Griffin & Sherburne, New York: The Free Press, 1978, 343)

He recognized the value of the Bible. "The Bible is by far the most complete account of the coming of rationalism into religion, based on the earliest documents available." (Religion in the Making, Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1960, 29) But at eighty-one facing the difficulties of World War II, he was asked if there was much help in the Bible. He reportedly replied that there was no longer much of anything in it for him.7 He certainly entertained unorthodox views about the Bible, once suggesting that it should have ended with the Funeral Speech of Pericles rather than with Revelations.8

In this later period Whitehead changed his theological ideas (especially about God). One must take this development into account when considering his comments about religion. The most striking way to illustrate this development is to contrast Whitehead’s Preface to Religion in the Making to his last ten pages of Process and Reality. In the preface to Religion in the Making, he states that the foundation of religion is based on ". . .our apprehension of those permanent elements by reason of which there is a stable order in the world." (Religion in the Making, Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1960, 8) The emphasis is on the permanent element. This is the traditional Western theological perspective of the foundation of religion.

In the last ten pages of Process and Reality, this permanence is combined with change in a most creative and unique expression of the nature and unity of God. This view that change is a part of the nature and role of God must affect one’s view of religion. Affirming value to change, as well as permanence, shifts the role of religion from keeping order or being the basis of order to providing the basis for creativity and originality. Keeping in mind this development, let us examine his view of religion by looking at the one book specifically devoted to religion, Religion in the Making.

Whitehead says that he is applying the same "way of thought" to religion in Religion in the Making that he had applied to science in Science and the Modern World. The way of thought contains both the method and the goal of his speculative philosophy. The method of speculative philosophy as noted above is ". . .the utilization of specific notions, applying to a restricted group of facts, for the divination of the generic notions which apply to all facts." (Process and Reality, Corrected Edition, ed. Griffin & Sherburne, New York: The Free Press, 1978, 5) Religion, following this method, starts from ". . .truths first perceived as exemplified in particular instances." (Religion in the Making, Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1960, 120) These truths are organized into a coherent system, and they succeed or fail, as do other beliefs, by their ability or inability to interpret life.

The goal of religion, as well as the goal of speculative philosophy (and science), is elucidation. Rational religion ". . .appeals to the direct intuition of special occasions, and to the elucidatory power of its concepts for all occasions." (Religion in the Making, Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1960, 31) This goal of elucidation is apparent when he says that rational religion’s aim is to make it "the central element in a coherent ordering of life . . .in respect to the elucidation of thought, and in respect to the direction of conduct. . ." (Religion in the Making, Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1960, 30) Religion’s final product is the provision of "a meaning, in terms of value, for our own existence, a meaning which flows from the nature of things." (Religion in the Making, Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1960, 120)

In summary, he defines rational religion as ". . .religion whose beliefs and rituals have been reorganized with the aim of making it the central element in a coherent ordering of life — an ordering which shall be coherent both in respect to the elucidation of thought, and in respect to the direction of conduct towards a unified purpose commanding ethical approval." (Religion in the Making, Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1960, 30)

One feature of his concept of rational religion is its world-consciousness, which originally arose according to Whitehead by the individual traveling among cultures. World-consciousness produces a change in the concept of rightness. In communal religion, "conduct is right which will lead some god to protect" (Religion in the Making, Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1960, 39-40) the community. The will of God is studied in order to obtain the protection. Hence the relation to God is like that of an "enemy you conciliate." In world-conscious religion, rightness is to be like God. One studies the goodness of God in order to be like him. Hence the relation to God is that of a "companion whom you imitate." (Religion in the Making, Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1960, 40)

World-consciousness is interestingly connected with Whitehead’s insight: "Religion is what the individual does with his own solitariness." (Religion in the Making, Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1960, 16 & 47) In solitariness the person is disconnected from tribal or even social ties; hence universality issues from solitariness. The result is world-consciousness and the recognition, "Religion is world-loyalty." (Religion in the Making, Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1960, 59) The individual understands himself/herself as an individual and as a part of the whole of reality, not just an instance of the tribe. "The topic of religion is individuality in community." (Religion in the Making, Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1960, 86) So the great rational religions are expressions of religious consciousness characterized by universality.

Whitehead argues that religious experience reveals "a character of permanent rightness" (Religion in the Making, Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1960, 60) in the nature of things. There is "a large concurrence" that religious experience ". . .does not include any direct intuition of a definite person, or individual." (Religion in the Making, Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1960, 60) His evidence of the concurrence on this ". . .doctrine of no direct vision of a personal God" (Religion in the Making, Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1960, 61 & 84) is the religious thought of Greece, India, and China as well as Christianity. He argues that in Christian theology the existence of a personal God is based on an inference, not on direct intuition. The consensus is ". . .in favour of the concept of a rightness in things. . ." (RM 65) He also denies that this intuition is "a form of words" rather it is a type of character.

Rational religion is based on the religious insight that the order, value, and beauty of the world are the result of a definite determination (an ordering) of infinite possibilities. The actuality of the world is the result of an ordering of two fundamental components of reality: the creative impulse lying behind all reality and the infinite possibilities of the forms. "There is nothing actual which could be actual without some measure of order." (Religion in the Making, Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1960, 115) Thus the religious insight: this ordering ". . .requires an actual entity imposing its own unchanged consistency of character on every phase." (Religion in the Making, Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1960, 92) "Thus the whole process itself. . .requires a definite entity, already actual among the formative elements, as an antecedent ground. . ." (Religion in the Making, Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1960, 146)

Later in Process and Reality Whitehead presents his categoreal scheme in which he gives what he calls the ontological principle: ". . .the reasons for things are always to be found in the composite nature of definite actual entities — in the nature of God for reasons of the highest absoluteness, and in the nature of definite temporal actual entities for reasons which refer to a particular environment. The ontological principle can be summarized as: no actual entity, then no reason." (Process and Reality, Corrected Edition, ed. Griffin & Sherburne, New York: The Free Press, 1978, 19) The application of this principle to the ordering of the universe (any ordering, not just the order of our present epoch) is that an actual entity must be the reason for the ordering or valuing of the abstract potentialities and the ideal forms from which our actual world arises. This ordering is the divine element in the world.

C. Whitehead’s View of Philosophy of Religion

If the purpose of philosophy is to understand, it follows that the reason to do philosophy of religion is to help a person understand this almost universal experience of mankind. How does one understand the experience of sacredness and worshipfulness through the history of mankind and throughout so many diverse cultures? Whitehead says, "It is the business of philosophical theology to provide a rational understanding of the rise of civilization, and of the tenderness of mere life itself, in a world which superficially is founded upon the clashings of senseless compulsion." (Adventures of Ideas, New York: The Free Press, 1967, 170)

Whitehead explains the need for religion to be grounded in a philosophical understanding: "Religion requires a metaphysical backing; for its authority is endangered by the intensity of the emotions which it generates. Such emotions are evidence of some vivid experience; but they are a very poor guarantee for its correct interpretation." (Religion in the Making, Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1960, 81)

The task at hand then is to provide a rational understanding of religion. Whitehead believes that in this task ". . .theology has largely failed." (Adventures of Ideas, New York: The Free Press, 1967, 170) He suggests the reason for the failure is: "The notion of the absolute despot has stood in the way." (Adventures of Ideas, New York: The Free Press, 1967, 170) Whitehead replaces the characterization of God as an absolute despot with the Platonic conviction ". . .that the divine element in the world is to be conceived as a persuasive agency and not as a coercive agency." (Adventures of Ideas, New York: The Free Press, 1967, 166) This view, Whitehead believes, is ". . .one of the greatest intellectual discoveries in the history of religion." (Adventures of Ideas, New York: The Free Press, 1967, 166) It is obvious that this topic of the nature and activity of God is central to Whitehead’s philosophy of religion. A major part of this book is devoted to how Whitehead developed his ideas concerning the nature of God.

Anselm had a "faith seeking understanding." It is possible to start with less. It is possible to start with the experience of awe, praise, or worshipfulness and seek to understand it within the context of other things we know. If a person shares with Anselm the experience of having a faith, then philosophy of religion is the search to understand that faith.

To understand does not mean to defend. Understanding must come first. Understanding may lead to affirmation, modification, or rejection. The chance one takes is the price of understanding. The loss of a cherished belief (religious or otherwise) may be painful. But the refusal to examine condemns one to dogmatism of an untested belief. The result can be disastrous: ". . .religions are so often more barbarous than the civilizations in which they flourish." (Adventures of Ideas, New York: The Free Press, 1967, 171) Whitehead suggests that we "unflinchingly" (Process and Reality, Corrected Edition, ed. Griffin & Sherburne, New York: The Free Press, 1978, xiv) explore the interpretation of experience in terms of our scheme of thought. Socrates proclaimed that "life without.. .examination is not worth living."’ The question is, "Is a faith without examination worth affirming?"

We sometimes praise people who "have the courage of their convictions." But Nietzsche suggests that an even greater courage is demanded ". . .for an attack on one’s convictions."10 Why should one attack one’s convictions? To determine if the convictions are true. Strength of belief does not determine that something is true. How strong someone believes something tells us something about the person but not about the belief. But it does take courage to attack (in order to test) a cherished belief. The more important the belief, the more difficult it is to question it. And our religious beliefs are important ones. Whitehead says, "For religion is concerned with our reactions of purpose and emotion due to our personal measure of intuition into the ultimate mystery of the universe." (Adventures of Ideas, New York: The Free Press, 1967, 161) Courage is required to formulate carefully in a systematic way the insights gained from these reactions.

Some people defend religious beliefs by arguing that to question religious beliefs is inappropriate. People are called on simply to believe. To question is to doubt and to doubt is the opposite of having faith. But this confuses faith as a commitment to a person or a set of beliefs with faith as a hope that something is true. Religious faith is not a hope that something is true; it is a commitment to a worshipful being, God.

The argument that one needs only to believe is often strengthened by arguing that religious beliefs are revealed by God in a sacred book or through an acknowledged prophet. This latter argument confuses the source of a belief with the question of testing the reasonableness of the idea. Regardless of the origin of an idea, the idea can be tested for validity.

One further step of defensiveness argues that reason is incapable of handling religious ideas. This move may result from believing that reason cannot handle special beliefs, i.e. beliefs that come through revelation. Or one may argue that reason is not sufficient to handle any belief. With regard to the first position Whitehead indicates that the rationalization of religion is the last of the four factors of religion (ritual, emotion, belief, and rationalization), but it is the most important. (Religion in the Making, Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1960,18) The latter is the position of epistemological skepticism — knowledge is not possible. This extreme skepticism is self-contradictory. The claim, "knowledge is not possible," is a claim to know something. If one knows that, then the content of the claim is not true. So the claim is self-contradictory.

Seeking understanding does not mean debating. In debate the person argues for one side knowing that their opponent will argue for the other side. The assumption is that the audience will then determine which side of the argument is correct. But in seeking to understand we are the audience. We do not know what is correct. If we had truth, we would not be seeking it. Hence our mode of seeking is not to take a side and argue for it, but to argue the strengths and weaknesses of all sides of a position. And we expect others who participate in the search to do the same. We are not on different sides, but on the same side: the position of ignorance seeking understanding.

The position of ignorance is the beginning point in the search for knowledge. Unless a person recognizes his ignorance, there is no apparent need to seek knowledge. Socrates made this point clear in the story of his friend Ciaphron asking the oracle at Delphi, "Who is the wisest man in Athens?" To which the oracle replied, "Socrates." When Ciaphron told Socrates the answer, Socrates expressed surprise and disbelief. So Socrates sought to determine if the answer was correct by questioning all the wise men in Athens. When he learned that they could not answer his questions, he realized that the so-called wise men did not know that they were ignorant. Hence Socrates concluded that he was the wisest man in Athens because he knew something that the so-called wise men did not know; he knew that he was ignorant, but they did not know they were ignorant.

The significance of the story is that we are all ignorant, and therefore, we must be students in search of the truth. There are no gurus or experts or wise men who have the truth. Truth with a capital "T" is not possessed by mankind. We have only small "truths," which keep changing. But the point is that to be a seeker of truth is more noble than to have "The Truth." We admire attitudes and dispositions appropriate to seekers: humility rather than arrogance; identifying with others rather than being above them; companionship in seeking rather than dispensing truth to the lowly; tolerance rather than rejection; flexibility rather than dogmatism, etc. The religious feature Whitehead disliked the most is the dogmatic finality historically attached to religious beliefs.

To summarize, the purpose of philosophy of religion is neither to defend nor to debate but to seek understanding. If a person has a faith, the goal is to try to understand that faith. If a person does not have a faith, the goal is to attempt to understand the religious experience of mankind.

 

NOTES:

1. Jeremy Rifkin, Algeny, (Penguin Books, New York, 1984), p. 210.

2. Lucien Price, Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead, (Little. Brown & Co., Boston, 1954), p.4.

3. Price, p. 5.

4. Price, p. 9.

5. Price, p. 374.

6. Quoted by Price, p. 160.

7. Price, p. 182-183.

8. Price, p. 20.

9. Plato, The Collected Dialogues of Plato, ed. Edith Hamilton & Huntington Cairns. (Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1961), p. 23.

10. Friedrick Nietzsche, The Portable Nietzsche, ed. Walter Kaufmann, (Viking Press, New York, 1954), p. 29.

Viewed 60855 times.