From Lorenzen Through Husserl to Whitehead

by Hiroshi Endo

Hiroshi Endo is Professor of Philosophy at Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan, and Director of the Japan Society for Process Studies. His publications are mostly in Japanese, but he has also published in German and English.

The following article appeared in Process Studies, pp.235-239, Vol. 19, Number 4, Winter, 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 author is haunted by the question: What is the mechanism involved in our encounter with eternal objects?

My philosophical background which drives me today to metaphysical speculation seems to be rooted in my past access to: (I) the theories of proto-logic and proto-mathematics in the Erlangen school and (2) the intuitionistic, constructivistic approach to the logical foundations of mathematics, which became one of the post-Husserlian phenomenological movements. Paul Lorenzen, founder of the Erlangen school, attempted to bring to light the genesis of logical and mathematical objects from concrete objects like bricks or stones (OLM 9). Edmund Husserl, the progenitor of phenomenological movements, was absorbed in delineating anonymous processes of the geneses of objects in general (EJ 197 ff.). Treated in his phenomenological descriptions are abstract formal ontological and formal logical objects, as well as concrete objects like the chair Whitehead’s dog jumped onto (S 4).

To make an incidental remark, Whitehead’s theories of causal efficacy and symbolic reference are too basic for the elucidation of the multiple higher order structures of sedimentated objective meanings Husserl ultimately aimed at.

As for Lorenzen’s relationship to phenomenology, I would indicate just one point, namely, that Lorenzen was influenced by his predecessor, Hugo Dingler, who started his theoretical reconstruction of science from das Unberührte (the untouched) which he had found in Heidegger’s In-der-Welt-Sein (Being-in-the-world) (PHD 7).

Thus, my main interest has been in the problem of genesis. I spent one year at the University of Pennsylvania, where Mervin Farber, former assistant of Husserl, taught. After that I went to the University of Freiburg, where I attended Husserl’s disciples’ seminars, made it a rule to look at the portrait of Husserl in the seminar room, and often strolled up and down Loretto Hill, where Husserl used to go for a walk. But, unlike Husserl, I could not gain any penetrating insight into philosophical truth.


Now, firstly, Lorenzen’s logic, by which he intended to overcome the conflict between logicism and intuitionism, turned out finally to be only within the boundary of intuitionism, when he introduced into his system the so-called dialogical constructivistic criteria; that is to say, he took solidarity into consideration. Secondly, I heard in Freiburg that Eugen Fink had declared himself an authentic disciple of Husserl’s rather than Heidegger’s. According to Fink, Husserl’s phenomenology is dependent upon not a few operative concepts, the meaning of which he assumes and does not explicate. Transcendental subjectivity, and stream of consciousness are among such concepts. And when solidarity became problematic, transcendental intersubjectivity rather than transcendental subjectivity came to the fore as an operative concept. It is here that phenomenological analysis found itself in an insurmountable predicament.

To make a lengthy argument short, it is because the so-called dialogical operation is irreversible that Lorenzen’s operative logic turned out to be intuitionistic logic which does not accept the principle of the excluded middle. To speak in Whiteheadian diction, irreversible dynamic process cannot produce eternal objects. In other words, eternal objects cannot be reduced to process. Husserl asserts that the time-continuum constitutes itself. It corresponds to Whitehead’s becoming. However, self-constitution presupposes, as Husserl says, something which cannot but be alluded to by the metaphor ‘flux.’ Husserl’s sentiment is so subjectively-oriented that he identifies the flux with absolute subjectivity. It is absolute, for it is beyond constitution (H X § 36). Here Husserl ‘s phenomenology transformed itself into metaphysics, a point which I once discussed in relation to Whitehead.1


It is exciting to find the similarity between Oskar Becker’s (Husserl’s disciple) scheme to explicate transfinite’ and the scheme Whitehead used in his theory of extensive abstraction (CN 74f, ME 100). This might have motivated me into immersing myself in Whitehead.

Now, Whitehead is great in that genesis and solidarity are equalibrated and harmonized perfectly in his metaphysics. As for the epochal theory of time, it is not peculiar to Whitehead. Lorenzen’s step-by-step development of logical operations (e.g., piling up bricks) is epochal and Husserl’s lebendige Gegenwart (present-to-be-lived) is also epochal; but both Lorenzen and Husserl, especially the latter, were too sensitive of the process of concrescence in which they found themselves at the moment they existed. They further believe that they can have direct consciousness only of this process.

I dare say, they lacked the Whiteheadian imaginative leap. They did not know there is something they cannot even einklammern (bracket). Accordingly, the thinkers in Erlangen and Freiburg may well strive to nourish their imagination. In 1983 when I stayed in Germany, I found the textbook of one seminar in Erlangen to be Science and the Modern World and that of one seminar in Freiburg to be Process and Reality.

But we must be very careful when we supplement operative and phenomenological philosophies with Whiteheadian speculation. My impression is that Whitehead’s theory of concrescence does not have much to add to Husserl’s theory of passive and active synthesis. Husserl seems to know better about concrescence, especially in its supplementary phases, than Whitehead does. And moreover, as I mentioned above, Husserl in his later period stands closer to Whitehead in that he thinks human experiences throughout history are integrated into one person’s consciousness and his actual world is intersubjectively constituted (H VI 365ff).

Now, the distinguishing character of the Whiteheadian theory of perception over against that of Husserl and Lorenzen’s view on operativeness, is that in Whitehead a percipient event is a bodily life of mind (CN 107). Therefore, the doctrine of solidarity plays the central role in it. According to it, a bodily life is a society consisting of innumerable corpuscular societies and countless non-corpuscular societies. A society is primarily not the product of concrescence in the subject for which the society is an object. Why can a society be real rather than phenomenal? Because it is the assemblage of superjects into an organic whole not necessarily presupposing a regnant society. Actual occasions superject themselves into a nexus. It is not by being prehended and concrescenced by a dominant occasion that a nexus is brought forth. Thus far I agree with Bracken when he says,". . every society, whether it contains a presiding occasion or not, possesses an objective unity in virtue of the dynamic interrelatedness of its constituent occasions from moment to moment" (PS 18:162). Symbolically, my body exists before I recognize it as my body.

More precisely, the superject of an occasion (a) is not identical with an initial datum of a succeeding occasion (b) in the sense that the initial datum presupposes the existence of (b) while the superject does not. Let me clarify this by illustrating sense-perception.

For the present nascent sense-perception, the whole preceding bodily life is initial data. It prehends the data, objectifies them in the foreground-background structure by transmutation and brings them finally into affirmation-negation contrast. When (becoming) comes at last to (having become), then everything vanishes out of my perceptual screen. But if we are lucky enough to survive, we can re-prehend it together with other new data. James in his radical empiricism is so optimistic that he includes transition into his direct experience; but if so, he cannot explain why it is impossible for us to prehend a momental occasion of falling into sleep, still less of death. The reason is clear. Our present occasion superjects. But it cannot be prehended in the occasion itself (PR 85/130). In order to prehend it, we must prepare another occasion at least by surviving enough for that. Solidarity is real and public because it is the product of super-jections, not that of concrescences. Therefore, solidarity is beyond intuitionism and phenomenology. They cannot even bracket it. The characteristic of process philosophy is that it concludes in itself such a moment which cannot by principle be phenomenologically internalized.

Here phenomenologists may pose a question on the relationship between mind and body. But let me take up a point made by Davidson (EAE 207ff), an analytic philosopher, because it is founded on the same principle as Whitehead’s view. Briefly, a mental event and what is usually called its corresponding physical event are, according to Davidson, identical as a token; but they are of two different generic types. And there is no identical law under which these two types are connected. Davidson is right in that he regards patterns, i.e., eternal objects, as something crucial for the identification of mental events as well as of physical events. For Whitehead, likewise, the identification is the identification of sameness (CN 143f). Accordingly, an individual event itself cannot be recognized. Therefore, it is possible to maintain that a percipient occasion is physiological, and at the same time, psychological, if you like.2

Now, the other problem of dynamic process in the ultimate sense of the word, that is to say, the problem of creativity, is enigmatic also in Whitehead and process philosophy in general. I dare say, dynamic process is presupposed, rather than explicated. According to Whitehead, what has been originated publicly pervades the world, promoting feeling (PR 310/472). This promotion, rather than inertness, is presupposed. Moreover, the gap between promotion and being actually felt is tacitly put out of the question.

However, Whitehead’s adventurous theory-making is remarkable and, I would say, exquisite. He attempts to elucidate the metaphysical basis of temporality in terms of non-temporality. For example, my percipient occasion is temporal, while the with-ness of my body is an ever-present element in my perceptions of presentational immediacy. Phenomenologists talk about the aboriginal present which is at once standing and flowing. I interpret this to be an expression of the ever-presentness of the above with-ness. And in the feeling of this ever-present bodily efficacy does a complex eternal object have ingression (PR 312/475). I would say in our human existence the complex eternal object is non-temporally present, bringing forth the efficacy. For Whitehead, depth of experience is gained by concentrating on the systematic structures in the environment. Every element of systematic structure is emphasized; every individual aberration is pushed into the background (PR 318/ 485f). Thus, the delicate network of the complex eternal object extends over the strain-locus, while the background is a shadow of a pile of negatively prehended eternal objects.

Thus considered, the relish of life, though accompanied by a faint feeling of stubborn facticity, seems to consist mainly of eternal objects, whether simple or complex, shifting their modes of being from pure to real potentiality. It is to be noted that each shift is itself not an occasion, because it is too abrupt to include in itself where-in, wherefore and how. Indeed, Whitehead’s concept of eternal object’ is fascinating. The hybrid physical prehension gives personal order to my life, and the so-called two-way-functioning of eternal objects sustains the continuity of my life.

But what on earth are eternal objects metaphysically? What is the mechanism of our encounter with eternal objects? When eternal objects make up a beautiful object, I wonder, with Santayana, what the relation is between the constitution of the object and the excitement of our susceptibility. Eternal objects face us always. Is it a sort of blasphemy to try to see the rear sides of them? In other words, am I not allowed to consider the genesis of eternal objects in a Peircian way (CP 6. 189-209)?

I pondered over these questions, walking down the slope from the guest-house of the University of Heidelberg on an autumn day in 1983. I thought that whatever counter-factual worlds I might imagine, they would have by necessity something in common with the actual world, and accordingly there must be absolutely heterogeneous eternal objects even beyond the extent of our ability to conceive, which might consequently be entirely free from every paradox the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries had discovered. Far below I could command an enchanting view of the winding River Neckar flowing. It was then that I felt I saw God in the primordial nature, and a sort of Wittgensteinian metaphysical event occurred, i.e., my actual world shrank to a point, through which the vast realistic world opened (TLP 5.64). I felt I was absolutely passive in that process. This may perhaps be the logic of creativity.

However, my actual world is still haunted by the query. What are eternal objects?



CP -- Charles S. Peirce. Collected Papers, Vol. 6. Ed. C. Hartshorne and P. Weiss, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1935.

EAE -- D. Davidson. Essays on Actions and Events. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980.

EJ – Edmund, Husserl. Experience and Judgment. Trans. Churchill and Ameriks. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1973.

H -- Edmund Husserl. Husserliana. Bd. I-XXVIII. Haag: Nijhoff, 1950-1988.

ME -- Oskar Becker. Die Mathematische Existenz. Max Niemeyer, 1927.

OLM -- Paul Lorenzen. Einführung in the Operative Logik und Mathematik. Berlin: Springer, 1955.

PHD -- W. Krampf. Die Philosophie Hugo Dinglers. München: Eidos, 1955.

PS18 -- Joseph A. Bracken. "Energy-Events and Fields." Process Studies 18/3. (Fall 1989): 153-65.

TLP -- Ludwig Wittgenstein. Tractatus Logico-philosophicus. London: 1922.



1. At the international conference held at Nagoya, Japan. 1983, 1 presented the vague dipolarity of Hussel’s God and attempted to show all the accomplishments of Husserl’s efforts of phenomenological description as a subsystem of Whitehead’s metaphysics. (See Hiroshi Endo, "The Metaphysics of Time in Husserl and Whitehead," in Proceedings, International Conference-Process and Reality, East and West. (Tokyo: The Japan Society for Process Studies, 1984). p. 230.

2.The mind-body problem cannot be solved by the dipolar character of every actual occasion. The brain process is dipolar and the fully supplemented conscious occasion is dipolar but it can still be questioned whether or not both of them are identical. The theory of token identify is a sort of answer, although it is completely impractical in use.