Hartshorne on the Ultimate Issue in Metaphysics

by John D. Gilroy

John D. Gilroy, jr. is a Resource and Policy Analyst with the University of Illinois-Chicago,OVCHS,414 AOB, 1737 W. Polk, Chicago, IL.60612. He is the author of a review of Hartshorne’s Insights and Oversights of Great Thinkers (Zygon 20/1) and a Jamesian critique of Karl Popper’s “World 3 Theory” (The Modern Schoolman LXII/3).

The following article appeared in Process Studies, pp. 38-56, Vol. 18, Number 1, Spring, 1989. 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 challenge of explaining reality’s ultimate features, which seems especially difficult to those who view all of reality, including God, in terms of process or becoming.

Christian thinkers have long reacted with wonder as well as reverence to the thought of God embodied in a specific human form. Why would divinity choose to be specially manifested in just this instance of humanity rather than in others? A similar but less partisan question is the philosophical one asking why it is that the ultimate explanatory structure of reality, if such a structure exists and whether or not it is divine, should happen to be just as it is. Of course, however the Christian Incarnation might be thought to relate to time, this ‘structural incarnation’ need not be assumed to be temporal in the sense of resulting from some great decision, emanation or evolution in cosmic history; what must be recognized initially is simply that it is a perennial peculiarity that reality has or even must have the exact basic order that it does.

Yet the problem of explaining reality’s ultimate features may seem especially challenging to those who view all of reality, including God, in terms of process or becoming. In Colin Grant’s simple words, "insofar as God too is emerging, he cannot constitute the standard for emergence" (TS 584). Certain critics of Charles Hartshorne have questioned how this foremost living advocate of process philosophy could resolve what may be termed the ultimate issue in metaphysics. In this article, I shall offer an interpretation of Hartshorne’s position on the ultimate issue and defend that position against attacks from Robert Neville, David Pailin and Houston Craighead. I shall argue that his position requires belief in the ability of contingent divine states to necessitate indirectly a certain basic structure for reality. While Hartshorne has never expressed his approval of that belief, I will try to show that it is both credible in itself and compatible with certain basic doctrines of his, including his theory of causality, his Peircean view of temporal relations and his dismissal of ‘nothingness’ as an impossibility.

Let us begin by reformulating the ultimate issue in Hartshorne’s terms through a sketch of his metaphysics derived largely from his Creative Synthesis and Philosophic Method. The core of Hartshorne’s system is his account of the categories, summarized in Chapter 6 of that work through a table of ‘metaphysical contraries’ (CSPM 100-101). For Hartshorne, a category is a concept or abstraction which, unlike empirical concepts such as "blue" or "dog," is necessarily illustrated in every portion of reality or at least in every fully definite unit of reality. Given his panpsychism or "psychicalism," Hartshorne holds that the ultimate units of reality are, in the broadest sense, feelings, or that feeling is a "cosmic variable" which can range from the most primitive, unconscious aesthetic reactions of subatomic particles to their environment to the most elaborate conscious experiences of God’s. It follows that each feeling in reality from the divine to the subatomic will have manifested a certain relativity, absoluteness concreteness, and so on. In theological language, these categories are "transcendentals" or attributes of God as well as of the subdivine, though only to God can they be applied in the most literal and eminent sense.

According to Hartshorne, the categories form pairs of logical opposites with the "r-term" or category involving relativity or dependence always including as a more abstract part of itself its corresponding "a-term" or category involving absoluteness or independence. Hence the concrete is said to contain the abstract, the contingent to contain the necessary, and so on. Hartshorne complains that almost all thinkers until recently have tended to treat r-terms as less important than or derivative from or, at best, of equal status with a-terms. In theology this has meant a tendency to attribute to God only a-terms or perhaps only a-terms in some mysterious "super-eminent" sense, while treating r-terms as more characteristic of the subdivine. For Hartshorne, the only way to achieve an intelligible contrast within each of these paired categories is to reverse the asymmetry prevalent in classical thought and give priority to the r-terms.

Theologically, this means treating God as dipolar or as having contingent states as well as an immutable categorial essence which each of those states contains. We could say in summary then that both a-terms and r-terms apply in eminent fashion to God’s essence (or to themselves), both apply in a different sort of eminent fashion to each of God’s feelings, and both apply in noneminent or surpassable fashion to each feeling of each subdivine individual.

Given this outline of Hartshorne’s system, we can restate our ultimate issue as follows -- if Hartshorne is correct in depicting these categories as a "cosmic double helix" or skeleton of every pulse of feeling in reality, then why does reality have just this categorial structure rather than some other one or none at all? In fact, since modal concepts are among the categories, we should ask why must reality have just this structure? Whence the necessity of this necessary essence? Whence even the possibility of this essence or of the concrete entities which manifest it? If these questions are indeed meaningful, how, if at all, can they be answered by a thinker such as Hartshorne who gives priority to such traditionally denigrated entities as contingent feelings?

I. An Interpretation of Hartshorne’s Position on the Ultimate Issue

To construct a response to the ultimate issue on Hartshorne’s grounds, it is first necessary to note the two sorts of causality and corresponding two sorts of explanation he recognizes for concrete entities. On the one hand, Hartshorne holds that the past affects the future in the sense that previous cases of becoming can influence later cases of becoming; previous feelings of one’s own, of God’s and of one’s body cells can be felt or inherited by one’s later feelings. This inheritance constitutes the process equivalent of "efficient causality" and yields one obvious sort of explanation recognized by Hartshorne. To explain in this traditional sense is to identify the prior causal factors which have contributed to an event. On the other hand, Hartshorne has given classic expression to the doctrine of self-causality, claiming that each new feeling in reality literally creates itself out of prior causal factors. Each instance of self-creating is said to be free to the extent that it has not been defined in advance by the now crystallized cases of freedom it inherits from the past.

The interweaving of these two modes of causality is represented in the upper pail of Figure One, where a human feeling, "X," is depicted as creating itself out of a mass of causal factors, marked by the diagonal rows of small case letters, and where X will serve in turn as a causal factor for subsequent feeling "Y." The self-creating element of this account constitutes the process equivalent of "final causality," with each feeling realizing a brief and at least minimally valuable purpose or aesthetic goal. According to Hartshorne, no amount of explanation in terms of efficient causality can account for the precise eventual character of a new creative synthesis; such historical explanations are valuable only in explaining the general outline and predictability of the future and the necessity of each new feeling having had its own specific causal

Figure One

Process As an Accumulating of Feelings or Creative Syntheses, Represented along with Charles Peirce’s Three Metaphysical Categones As Modes of Time

factors. But feelings do not occur in general, and the only way to account for the specifics of a feeling is in terms of a "self-explanation" or an admittedly somewhat barren reference to the fact that the feeling decided how to create itself in response to a mass of efficient causes.

How then should we interpret these two modes of causality and explanation to relate to the categories in Hartshorne’s thought? The remainder of this section will defend the interpretation that: 1) strictly speaking, the categories are neither causes nor effects in terms of either efficient or final causality as those modes of causality are manifested by the concrete; 2) nevertheless, there is a sense in which the categories always require a current divine final cause; 3) furthermore, there is a sense in which the categories always require all previous divine (and subdivine) efficient causes (and hence all previous final causes); 4) finally, there is a sense in which the categories always constitute what may be termed "quasi-efficient causes" and "quasi-efficient effects."

The first of these conclusions follows from the preceding discussion in a relatively unproblematic way. If the only possible efficient or final causes are fully concrete units of reality -- that is, feelings -- then the most abstract of abstractions -- that is, the categories -- cannot be causes in either sense. (Admittedly, Hartshorne sometimes speaks of this categorial structure in language suggestive of self-causality, describing it as "its own ground" (CSPM 252) or "self-grounded" (AD 296), but even in one of these cases he adds the remark "since it is uncaused" (CSPM 252), and he more typically refers to it as "uncreated," "ungenerated," or "unconditional" [MVG 26, 348; LP 208; AD 10, 80f, 295; 8: 89].) Likewise, if the only possible effects or resultant units of efficient or final causality are feelings, then categorial abstractions cannot be effects in either sense.

What makes conclusion one true is the categories’ supreme tolerance or nonexclusiveness of the concrete. It is true that the categories taken together are unique enough to distinguish just one individual, God, and Hartshorne has acknowledged that they can in that sense be described as "determinate" (PS 10:95). Yet, he continues to stress that no category has the "particularity" or detail which each feeling has in endless abundance and which excludes all other particularity.

Despite their supreme abstractness, the categories have their place in the causal order in the several respects affirmed by conclusions two through four. What conclusion two alludes to is Hartshorne’s quite explicit assertion that the categories always require some contingent divine final cause or other through which to be manifested:

God cannot be limited to His merely necessary being; He is the individual that could not fail to be actualized in some contingent particular form. This implies an immeasurable superiority; but what actualizes the superiority is God-now, or God-then, not just God at any time or as eternal, which is a mere abstraction. (LP 102) What "has" the divine perfection is not the divine individuality, in its fixed, eternally identical character; for that is not an instance, but is the divine perfection itself. It is the de facto states which "have" or instance perfection, rather than "being" it. (LP 66)

There are no decisions in particular that the necessary needs; yet there must be some decisions or other. (LLF)

While the creativity of each divine feeling is crucial then, it is also constrained by two major factors, one of which is the categories themselves. Each divine final cause must be deciding whether to be particular in these ways or those, but it cannot be deciding whether or not to manifest the categories. If categorial necessity has any clear meaning, then a divine final cause can no more choose to revise or terminate the categories than it could have chosen to create the categories in the manner of a concretion. Hartshorne seems to suggest this in his remark that creativity, the categories taken as a unit, could never have been created or fail to be expressed in what is created:

The abstract essence of creativity as such, well characterized by Whitehead, is not producible. It eternally is. It is determinate in its extremely abstract definiteness but is not determinate in the sense of having been de novo determined. God, the eternal abstractor, necessarily and always envisages It as an aspect of any and every concrete actuality. It has not been determined in the sense of having been made but is the identity of making as such. (PS 10:95)

Given his dipolar theism, Hartshorne must also be interpreted in this passage as affirming not that the "eternal abstractor" has an immutable vision of the categories in every actuality but that each divine feeling recognizes anew that it bears a categorial essence which will also have been borne by all other divine feelings.

Conclusion three refers to the second sort of constraint on each divine final cause, namely, the efficient causes to which that cause must respond aesthetically. For the categories to be illustrated with each new divine feeling, there must obviously be those efficient causes (or there must have been others in place of them) to provide the content for the new creative synthesis; that all preceding efficient causes, divine and subdivine, will always have been required to provide that content will be argued below.

The fourth conclusion is the one whose meaning, plausibility and compatibility with Hartshorne’s explicit position is the most difficult to make clear. In what sense could it be argued that Hartshorne’s categories resemble efficient causes and effects? Consider first what is here being termed "quasi-efficient causality."

As noted above, it is feelings which are, strictly speaking, the units of causality or final-causes-turned-efficient-causes. Yet each causal unit is a synthesis of countless factors, all of which were earlier causal units or abstractions from such units. Hence for any case of efficient causality, it seems equally fitting to attribute that causality either to the most recent causal unit pressuring a new feeling or to some pertinent aspects of earlier causal units and of the most recent one. In fact, if we try to explain our current dispositions of thought, action or emotion, we typically choose to describe only a series of relevant feeling-aspects from our past, not the series of whole feelings which contained them. For example, if asked to explain at length my current musical tastes, I would feel justified in mentioning only certain pertinent fragments of the units of experience, ranging from Bach to the Beatles, which have shaped those tastes. As long as it is acknowledged that the influence of those fragments on future feelings’ self-creation had to be conveyed through whole feelings, it seems quite appropriate to treat those fragments as efficient causes.

Now in the case of God, it appears that there are two sorts of causally significant feeling-aspect, the noncategorial and the categorial, and two sorts of resultant disposition, which can be termed "emergent habits" and (with apologies to ordinary language) "eternal habits," respectively. Those disposition types correspond to the two types of universal Hartshorne identifies -- those which emerge in cosmic history, such as "lover of Shakespeare," and those which are nonemergent, such as the categories (CSPM 58f). An emergent habit in God would consist largely in God’s aesthetic reaction to subdivine individuals but would be at least as amendable as the course of their history. For example, several centuries ago, God may indeed have become a "lover of Shakespeare" insofar as Shakespeare’s works were experienced by human beings; yet, it is also possible that God’s appreciation of Shakespeare’s artistry (though not of the feelings of Shakespeare or his audience) declined as new literary figures and forms appeared.

Eternal habits would differ from emergent ones above all by resulting from the totality of prior feeling-aspects of the pertinent sort rather than from merely some of that sort. Shakespeare’s plays have influenced God’s literary preferences for a mere four centuries, but the categories have influenced God’s general character from all eternity. As a result, it can be conjectured that while the pressure from God’s past literary preferences on God’s future ones is limited, the pressure from God’s past general character on God’s future one is irresistible. In other words, the cumulative forces of various divine feeling-aspects must differ in kind depending on the uniformity of those aspects up to now in cosmic history. Aspects which have been absolutely constant throughout time and space must be maximally abstract, merely "determinate" and invariable; all others must be to some extent concrete, "particular" and variable. Thus, whatever details they may actualize, all divine (and hence all subdivine) feelings must follow the most basic procedure of manifesting the categories.

It is through their inexorable momentum then that the categories can be said to be quasi-efficient causes. At the same time, the categories are similar to the effects of efficient causality in that each categorial manifestation has resulted from a certain pressure from the past, though in this case the pressure is directly from the most abstract aspects of prior feelings (as well as indirectly from the most concrete aspects noted in conclusion three).

This interpretation of the categories as quasi-efficient causes and effects may appear more plausible if we consider some of the obvious objections it may engender.

1) If the categories are intertwined with the concrete causal order in the manner defended here, doesn’t that imply the paradox that a new divine essence must be created with each new divine feeling? On the contrary, the essence of God is a single event-framework with an indefinitely great number of instances. As with a noncategorial habit, those instances do not involve the mere repetition of identical though numerical distinct entities but the actual inheritance of one entity from the past in the present. That single entity, distinguishable into the categories, has new instances by extending into the future actualities whose existence it necessitates.

2) Doesn’t this interpretation of Hartshorne make the categories dependent on divine decision, when Hartshorne, as Lewis Ford and David Griffin have noted, must view God’s eternal, necessary nature as "beyond all decision, even God’s" (HDW 47)? The problem with this objection is that ‘beyond all decision’ is doubly ambiguous. In the first place, that expression could refer to what transcends the ability of either any single decision (or limited number of decisions) or else all decisions up to the present in cosmic history. Ford, at least, clearly intends the former:

For Hartshorne every decision must be a temporal decision, and it makes no sense to suppose that any temporal decision, no matter how remotely past, could determine the metaphysical principles. Such a decision either initiates the temporal process, thereby contravening the everlastingness of creativity whereby every event grows out of an actual past, or it presupposes a past domain in which the metaphysical principles did not hold sway, contrary to their absolute universality. (WDH 68)

Ford is correct that Hartshorne cannot affirm a primordial decision without rendering inconsistent his notion of time, and his notion of possibility as well, since such a decision would presuppose the modal framework it would impose. But the theoretical options here are not exhausted by one divine decision (or some such decisions) and none, and if all divine decisions are involved in the status of the categories, then a unique sort of coherence in Hartshorne’s system can be acknowledged for the first time. Hartshorne has broken with classical thought by depicting the noncategorial aspects of God as supremely dependent on or sensitive to the noncategorial dimensions of all past feelings; in analogous fashion, my reading of Hartshorne breaks with classical thought by depicting the categorial aspects of God as supremely dependent on or "sensitive to" the categorial aspects of all past feelings. In fact this analogy is one of the central arguments for my interpretation. If the analogy is denied, what relevance does the cosmic history of causality, involving an infinity of decisions, have in Hartshorne’s (or anyone’s) system for the modal status of necessity? Absolutely none? Have we no theoretical option but sheer incoherence? On the contrary, just as Newton’s worldview provided the means for interweaving the two traditional realms of natural philosophy, terrestrial and celestial, Hartshorne’s worldview, as interpreted here, provides the means for interweaving the two traditional realms of metaphysics, contingent and necessary.

A second ambiguity in Griffin’s phrase is that "beyond" could mean outside the influence of either all modes of causality whatsoever or merely those modes of causality, final and efficient, which are fully concrete or "causal" in the conventional sense of the term. Only in the latter sense is it true that the categories are "beyond all decision," for it is indeed impossible for God ever to choose whether to sustain or revise what will always have been the parameters of possibility; as Hartshorne has noted, for God even to attempt or want to attempt to revise those parameters would imply some divine confusion incompatible with omniscience (LLF). Nevertheless, as argued above, it is plausible to think that those parameters owe their inevitability indirectly to divine decisions by having been fringes of those decisions which will always have had an irresistible momentum from an unbroken record of manifestations throughout cosmic history.

Hartshorne is right to deny that the categories, as common to all possibilities, have any genuine alternative (LLF). Yet that denial is as indecisive of the ultimate issue as Griffin’s ambiguous claim. It remains to be explained why there are such things as categories which are common to all possibilities and hence without alternative. My whole interpretation of Hartshorne is an attempt to provide an answer to that question. It seems to exhaust the theoretical options to say that such an answer must be achieved by reference to either: 1) the categories themselves; 2) the noncategorial aspects of events; 3) both categorial and non categorial aspects of events; 4) some alleged factor (e.g., a God, Platonic Forms, "nothing") other than the categorial aspects of events; or 5) by nothing (i.e., by no alleged factor at all, including "nothing"), so that the ultimate issue is meaningless or at least unanswerable in principle.

It is not clear to me at present which of these options Hartshorne would accept. Option 4 is clearly unavailable to him, since he correctly holds that reality includes only the categorial and noncategorial aspects of events. Option 2 can likewise be rejected, for reasons cited by Ford. Hartshorne may mean to suggest his acceptance of option 1 when referring to the categories as "interdependent" (LLF) or self-caused or of option 5 when referring to them as uncaused or requiring no particular decision. If the latter, it seems peculiar for Hartshorne to hold that some aspects of events (the noncategorial) require an explanation (in terms of final and efficient causality and categorial structuring), while others (the categories) require none; perhaps that conclusion is true, but such appeals to inexplicability should always be a last resort. If the former, then Hartshorne seems guilty of a rare instance of incoherence by leaving ontological necessity and causality in the contingent order as "mutually irrelevant, as whales to forest trees" (CSPM 41). If we are to abide by the Whiteheadian ideal of coherence, as Hartshorne so typically does, it seems that the categories’ status must be explained in part by some sort of reference to the noncategorial order, as option 3 suggests and as my interpretation of Hartshorne attempts to do. After all, if Hartshorne can accept conclusion 2 of my interpretation -- that any given manifestation of the categories depends on some decision or other, is it so far-fetched to conjecture that the perennial necessitation of the categories always depends indirectly in the manner described here on all decisions up to now in cosmic history?

3) Doesn’t this rendering of Hartshorne’s position fall headlong into paradoxes surrounding the doctrine of an actual infinity of past states? Whether that doctrine really involves ineradicable paradoxes, either in itself or for my reading of Hartshorne, is a question too complex to be treated in this context. It can only be noted that there have been no Machiavellian intentions here to commit all the needed intellectual atrocities at once through that doctrine, which Hartshorne accepts despite its "baffling" implications (CSPM 65). If the actual infinity doctrine were found to be among the "really fatal" (CSPM 88) paradoxes which Hartshorne warns of, then radical changes would of course need to be made in his position under my interpretation.

It should be noted, however, that that doctrine is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the truth of that position, as I read it. The claim that eternal habits are irresistible rests on the concept of completeness as much as on that of infinity. As Hartshorne notes, the difference between the divine and the subdivine lies primarily in God’s being whole or all-inclusive rather than fragmentary, not in God’s being infinite rather than finite (NTT 7). Eternal habits presumably and perhaps paradoxically do involve an infinity of past divine feelings and categorial feeling-aspects. Yet the inexorability of those habits derives from the total uniformity of those feeling-aspects throughout time and space, not from their infinity per se.

4) If eternal habits owe their necessity to their absolutely uniform manifestation in the past, does that imply the questionable empirical thesis that the power of an emergent habit in the future is always proportional to its uniformity of manifestation in the past under pertinent conditions? While the proportionality thesis might be true, it is probably of indeterminable truth value and is in any case not asserted or implied by the position defended here. All that is claimed here is that eternal habits have absolute power to manifest themselves, while emergent habits have less than absolute power, which might or might not be proportional to their past regularity of manifestation.

Experience may indeed suggest that entrenched habits are more difficult to break than ones only rarely manifested, for "old habits die hard." Yet there are reasons for doubting this conclusion or at least the full-blown proportionality thesis. If my interpretation of Hartshorne is true, the categories’ manifestations in the concrete are the sole instances in which the power of the past to express itself can be perfectly distinguished from and hence measured against the power of the present to create itself as it wishes. In such instances, the past has all the power involved and the present none. The power of the noncategorial past, on the other hand, seems impossible to distinguish with perfect clarity from the power of the present, though the two seem obviously able to vary in strength independently of each other.

For one thing, it is not clear from whose perspective the power of the noncategorial past should be measured. Human introspection is hardly capable of identifying all the efficient causes of a past feeling, let alone weighing the power of each relative to each other and to that feeling’s final causality; God in turn would seem to have no impartial information or standards by which to conduct such comparative weighings with perfect precision. Also, it is not clear when the past’s power should be measured, since an efficient cause provides no actualized pressure on the present until the present is already deciding how much to conform to that cause. Finally, it is unclear how salient an efficient cause must have been and how decisively a new feeling must conform to that cause in order for us to say in a precise and nonarbitrary way that an emergent habit has been manifested under "pertinent conditions."

When studying the strengths of noncategorial dispositions then, introspection, like natural and social science, seems bound to be measuring an amalgam of final and efficient causality, whose relative contributions to a given feeling are probably impossible in principle to distinguish, even for omniscience. Hence the proportionality thesis does not seem to have a determinable truth value.

This same point can be expressed with the aid of Hartshorne’ s comparison of the creative (i.e., final causal) and postcreative (i.e., efficient causal) aspects of a feeling to the elements of a ratio.

I sometimes think of an individual’s freedom as the fraction of which the numerator is the momentary experience of the individual, and the denominator is the past of the universe so far as effectively involved. The value of this fraction is small, but still not zero. (LP 180)

What I am maintaining is that an individual’s freedom during a new feeling, "X," could be more comprehensively expressed as 0/Cx + Fx/Ex, where Cx stands for the quasi-efficient causality of the categories on X, Fx for X’s final causality and Ex for the aggregate efficient causality pressuring X. During subsequent feeling "Y," the first numerator (representing "quasi-final causality") would remain at zero, since there would still be no freedom to circumvent the categories; however, there would be a new instance of final causality, "Fy," of unpredictable strength, a new expression of categorial momentum "Cy" equaling Cx plus the categorial portion of (Ex/Ex) and a new case of efficient causality "Ey," each strand of which would equal some fraction of (Ex + Ex/Ex). Each new case of creativity is limited absolutely by the most abstract of conditions, which are always increasing maximally in strength from their preceding manifestations, and limited partially by concrete conditions, which increase in strength erratically. The categorial limitations are again the sole feeling-aspects with respect to which all freedom is always zero. Hence it is only regarding them that God could know how much power the creative and postcreative aspects of a feeling would have, namely, none and all that there could have been at that point in cosmic history, respectively. 2

If this suffices to show the general plausibility of Hartshorne’s position, as I interpret it, let us consider next some recent attacks on that position.

II. A Defense of Hartshorne’s Position Against Some Recent Critics

One recent challenge to process philosophers has come from Robert Neville and has involved a vigorous critique of Hartshorne’s stance on the ultimate issue (CG 36-76; PS 11: 1-4). Neville identifies two basic problems in metaphysics which largely coincide with that issue. The "cosmological" problem is one of explaining the determinateness of cases of becoming, while the "ontological" problem is one of explaining the existence of such cases. Neville credits Whitehead with having distinguished the two problems and with having provided a plausible answer to the former in terms of his "ontological principle," which states that all instances of becoming derive their determinateness from the decisions of actual entities. Neville charges, however, that neither Whitehead nor Hartshorne has provided an adequate answer to the latter problem.

According to Neville, Whitehead treats the ontological problem by an appeal to the "Category of the Ultimate" or, more specifically, to the principle of creativity, whereby every plurality of actual entities is said to undergo creative unification into a new actual entity. Yet if that principle is meant in a normative sense, Neville finds it too indeterminate to explain why any specific creative unification of a plurality must occur. And if that principle is meant as an empirical generalization-which seems more likely -- then it appears merely to describe the situation to be explained. Whitehead’s fault then, according to Neville, lies in his adopting a "rationalist" answer on the ultimate issue or trying to achieve a final explanation in terms of first principles which are themselves determinate but not in need of explanation. Neville espouses an "empiricist" answer on the issue or an extension of the ontological principle to necessary existents, thereby requiring even the categories to be explained by reference to some sort of decision. In particular, he concludes that the categories, and hence indirectly all actual entities, have been created ex nihilo by an initially indeterminate source which "in the act of creation . . . constitutes itself as creator and as one relative to many" (CO 44).

Now Neville’s critique is peculiar in depicting Hartshorne as a more obvious "rationalist" than Whitehead (CO 46, 61f, 63f; PS 11: 4), though correctly recognizing Hartshorne’s Aristotelian position on universals (CO 57-76), which would hardly be expected to overemphasize the efficacy of abstract principles. As we shall see, however, Neville has reason to think that the categories cannot be fully "contained" in each concrete divine state, as Hartshorne suggests; hence Neville has persuaded himself that the only plausible way to interpret an Aristotelian of Hartshorne’s sort is as affirming the reality of a divine being or nature which transcends and necessitates the existence of divine states in time. However, this effort to save Hartshorne’s position seems in vain to Neville, for it terminates the explanation of the existence of reality in a transcendent individual who consists of or at least causes the illustration of the categories; for Neville, such an individual needs an explanation as much as any other instance of order, and the fact that no explanation can be found on Hartshorne’s grounds simply shows again the futility of "rationalism" on this issue.

But is there not a more favorable way to interpret Hartshorne’s position? Is it not more plausible to construe that position as diverging from Neville’s by being a different sort of "empiricism" on this issue rather than by being a form of "rationalism?" Does it not strengthen Hartshorne’s position to view it as an attempt to explain the categories indirectly in terms of all past divine decisions in time regarding the concrete rather than in terms of a nontemporal decision by a source so indeterminate that it renders all talk about itself meaningless (PS 10: 95-97)?3

Part of the reason for Neville’s less plausible interpretation is his commitment to a Platonic view of universals, which leads him to formulate the ultimate issue in a way that Hartshorne would presumably not accept. Whatever significance the distinction between "cosmological" and "ontological" problems may have had for Whitehead, it tempts Neville here into the traditional sin of counting the world twice in order to explain it once and for all. Contrasting these problems in the way that he does suggests that Neville would expect a mousetrap to kill both mice and the existence of mice. As I read Hartshorne, "ontological" questions are merely more abstract versions of "cosmological" ones, and all attempts to give an ultimate explanation of reality’s details in terms of the "formal possibility" (CG 60, 61) of concrete interactions is simply misguided.

Neville complains that Aristotelians aim to explain merely the appearance of universals in time, while

from the Platonists’ side, the interesting question is why certain forms of togetherness are coherent and others not, why certain forms have great harmony and others little or none. Unless this kind of question is addressed, the ontological structure of the world is taken for granted, not made intelligible. (CG 61)

Yet what does this passage indicate if not that Neville’s support for the ontological principle is really so weak that he must search beyond the decisions of actual entities for an explanation of the world’s determinateness and find that explanation in some vague "coherence" or "harmony" of "forms of togetherness?" And how curious it is that these sources of formal coherence, these eternal objects as "norms, indeterminate in themselves, but determinate as measures of how the particular components of a complexity ought to go together" (CG 58f), always seem to ordain just the exact sorts and degrees of togetherness which actual entities themselves appear to decide to realize.

This Platonic mode of explanation (if the mature Plato did sanction such an approach) seems as misguided as an attempt to explain the motions of football players by reference to the "coherence" or "formal possibility" of the interactions of their shadows. Neville’s claim that Platonism is supported by a religious intuition of the "irreducible dualism between Form and chaos" (CG 67) in reality is simply unconvincing; every metaphysics acknowledges the contrast between order and disorder, but there is no reason to think that that contrast -- as experienced -- is any more genuine or vivid for a Platonist than for an Aristotelian.

In any case, if Neville’s Platonism has led him to formulate the ultimate issue in a misguided manner, his dubious interpretation of Hartshorne stems also from an objection which he (CG 63-66) and David Pailin (PS 4: 194f) have raised independently against Hartshorne’s position. Both critics have found it paradoxical for God’s necessary existence to be treated as dependent on each contingent divine actualization. They grant that each divine state which happens to actualize may illustrate the categories but ask why any such state must actualize. What would prevent the series of divine states from ceasing to have new members, so that neither God nor anything else would have to manifest the categories?

An answer to this objection can be constructed on Hartshorne’ s grounds if it be recalled that the units of becoming are not wholly discrete or atomic or that continuous as well as discontinuous relations exist between the present and the nonpresent. Hartshorne sometimes explains this by reference to what Whitehead termed the fallacy of simple location (CAP 110, 187; CP 468; PS 10: 94; OP 301f), but he also illustrates the point through Charles Peirce’s theory of categories (CAP 74-91, 103-113; CP 455-474; RNR 215-224). This powerful, though notoriously difficult, theory can be stated briefly as follows. All relations in reality are reducible to either one-term, two-term or three-term relations, and these three irreducible sorts of relation are manifested as aspects of every experience. Specifically, monadic relations consist in quality of feeling or the relation of some feeling-tone to itself, dyadic relations consist in sense of reaction or the relation of some feeling to what it feels, and triadic relations consist in mediation, habit or, in cognitive individuals, thought or the relation of one feeling to another through a third.

Hartshorne has recently argued that Peirce’s categories should be distinguished not according to the number of terms they involve but according to the types of dependence which Peirce rightly identified with each (CAP 77-84, 106f; (ICE 324). What I take to be Hartshorne’s conclusions about the illustration of Peirce’s categories in experience are symbolized through our sample feeling ‘X’ and the lower half of Figure One. Proceeding chronologically, "Secondness" is the category whereby X owes its concrete content to specific prior feelings which had in turn been perfectly independent of X. Next, "Firstness" is evidenced by the fact that X has a certain feeling-quality which is externally related to whatever subsequent feelings occur. Finally, "Thirdness" is illustrated insofar as X is interpreting its dependence on specific feelings independent of it to some feelings or other yet to be actualized, such as

These Peircean categories ale important in the present context in showing that for my interpretation of Hartshorne, the temporal character of events is not merely discrete or atomic, not merely a case of Firstness, which would indeed be locked into the present. On the contrary, the Secondness and Thirdness of an event unite it in several crucial respects with the past and with the past and future, respectively (CAP 78-84; CSPM 61-68; WP 80f, 85f; CP 458-474; RNR 219-224) (though only Thirdness involves literal "continuity" or a continuum of possibilities with the nonpresent). Thanks to its Secondness, X is the subjective pole or spatiotemporal focal point of an event whose many objective poles had each been the focal point of an earlier event; of course, this is not to say that X "happened in the past" or that those objective poles are "happening now" in the sense that they once were but only that their having happened survives as an element of X-happening-now.

Likewise, the Thirdness of X insures that certain features from the past are being assimilated or converged in the present and thereby extended into the otherwise indefinite future. That is, I assume, why Hartshorne claims that individuals with consciousness always experience within present events a taste of futurity or possibility (CSPM 61f; WP 80f; RP 597f). Again, this is not to suggest that an event such as X "will occur" in the future in the same sense that it has occurred in the past but only that the present occurrence of X will remain an unalterable feature of at least some subsequent feelings. In that sense, the still unactualized future has literal existence or reality in the present.

Contrary then to what Neville and Pailin suggest, the efficacy of the present always penetrates into the future insofar as the present always defines the array of options from which the future must select in actualizing itself. Noncategorial cases of Thirdness, however, cannot necessitate the existence of the feelings whose character they will affect if those feelings do actualize; my present emergent habits offer no assurance that I or anyone else, including God, will exist tomorrow to be affected by them. Eternal habits, on the other hand, not only affect how the future will be but in so doing ordain irresistibly in the present that a future will be.

Hence there is no paradox in divine necessity and the other categories being contained in God’s contingent states, as long as the categories are understood to be uniquely capable of necessitating the existence as well as the basic character of future feelings. Each divine state, as it becomes, absorbs the full momentum of all previous divine states and transmits that momentum, increased by that state’s own quasi-efficient weight, to future divine and subdivine feelings. If contingent divine states were unable to explain categorial necessity, those who are fully committed to Whitehead’s ontological principle would find that explaining made no easier whatsoever by timeless abstractions transcending the contingent order.

In response to an earlier draft of this article, however, Neville has insisted that whatever advantage the present interpretation might provide to Hartshorne’s position, it would make eternal habits inconsistent with the genuine independence or creativity of feelings. According to Neville, if those habits were truly able to account for categorial necessity, all Firstness and Secondness would collapse into a divine eternal Thirdness, which, with no truly independent forthcoming actualities to grow through, would actually be a mere static, all-inclusive First. If such were the case, Hartshorne’s social conception of God would have to be forsaken for the more Whiteheadian view of God as a single actual entity.

On the other hand, argues Neville, if the creativity involved in divine and subdivine actualities is really their own, then the original Neville/Pailin objection recurs and the categories must be viewed as merely contingent cosmic customs, not necessitators of that creativity. If so, then divine "eternal" Thirdness might well cease to be manifested if actualities should ever cease to choose to create themselves.

This dilemma posed by Neville loses its sting if the appropriate distinctions are maintained between the creative and postcreative contributions to a new feeling. God’s eternal habits necessitate that some feelings or other will erupt into the world displaying a certain basic structure; God’s emergent habits provide in turn some contingent pressures on those feelings, but the creativity of those feelings is still required to complete their self-specification in response to divine and subdivine pressures. To appreciate the limited but crucial role of final causality, consider again the contrast between Firstness/Secondness and Thirdness. The former are those aspects of a feeling whereby its many objective poles in the past are synthesized by a single future-independent subjective pole in the present; the latter is that aspect of a feeling whereby its many objective poles may be synthesized by many subjective poles in addition to itself, either in the past or in the future. Clearly then it is neither necessary nor possible to interpret the former aspects of feelings as reducible to the latter under the present reading of Hartshorne; in fact, the converse error is closer to the truth, since the latter is simply the former’s active availability to the future. As such, the former could not depend on the latter -- that is, a concrescence could not define itself by the impact it will have had on the future -- unless Firstness were indeed an illusion.

This is especially true with eternal cases of Thirdness, for which all feelings throughout cosmic history will have had to serve as both subjective and then objective poles. If Firstness/Secondness were reducible to eternal Thirdness, as the first horn of Neville’s dilemma would have it, then every concrescence would face the impossible task of creating itself by reference to an indefinitely great number of feelings not yet actualized. While it is now true that those unactualized feelings will manifest the categories, it is not true that that "future" fact explains the categories’ manifestation in the present or in the future; rather, as argued above, it is the past in its ever-increasing entirety which will always have provided that explanation.

The second horn of Neville’s dilemma errs by depicting eternal Thirdness as wholly dependent on the instances of final causality which contain it and which happen to have emerged thus far in cosmic history. Process thinkers have made it clear that being contained as a noncategorial aspect of a feeling -- for example, as an object in a perception -- could not mean being wholly dependent; likewise with categorial aspects of feelings, the dependence, except for the debt of actualization itself, lies in the opposite direction. Hence Neville’s objection to the present reading of Hartshorne rests on a false dilemma.

If the preceding shows the plausibility of Hartshorne’s position, as I interpret it, with regard to the future, a further objection might still be raised with regard to the past. This further objection rests on the alleged possibility that there might have been nothing or that all conceivable entities might have been nonexistent. According to this objection, even if it were correct that the categories must be illustrated everlastingly because of contingent divine states, it has not shown that the categories must have been illustrated from all eternity because of those states. A critic could conjecture that reality’s structure and concreteness arose in some primordial instance of creation, though not from the purely indeterminate, which is Neville’s dubious thesis, but from absolutely nothing. Since I, like Hartshorne, have granted the difficulty of conceiving of an eternal past, should I not be especially receptive to the hypothesis that all of reality, including God and possibility itself, was the result of some pure creation ex nihilo, after which reality’s structure may have been sustained through contingent divine states? Many philosophers have accepted the assumption on which this objection rests -- that there might have been nothing or that the existence of a world is cause for amazement -- but it is Houston Craighead who has, in effect, aimed this line of argument against Hartshorne in a critique of the ontological argument (PS 1:9-24; RTE 33-37).

Craighead’s position rests on the two claims that the existence of nothing would be possible even if unknowable directly (PS 1:14-16; RTE 33-36) and, furthermore, that the existence of nothing is conceivable or knowable indirectly (PS 1:1 6f, 21-23). Concerning the former claim, Craighead proposes that even an omniscient being could be expected to know all positive possibilities only, not the sole non-positive but still meaningful possibility of absolute nothingness; in addition, he accuses Hartshorne of inconsistency for holding that while neither the future nor the existence of nothing is knowable, the former is possible while the latter is not. Concerning the conceivability of nothing, Craighead asserts that there is no logical or practical difficulty in our thinking of every contingent item of our experience becoming nonexistent and then not being replaced by anything else; in fact, he holds, the reason we can appreciate a magician’s trick or the steady-state theory of cosmology is that we can indeed conceive of a rabbit or of hydrogen atoms appearing out of absolutely nothing.

Now to Craighead’s first claim, Hartshorne has responded directly that it is contradictory to affirm the being of nonbeing or the possibility of no possibility; likewise, it is contradictory to imply with phrases such as "There is nothing" or ‘There might have been nothing" the spatiality or temporality of that with no location in space or time (CSPM 58, 245, 283; LP 149; WP 80; NTT 83f; DR 73; PS I: 25, 26; IDE 88-93). Furthermore, it seems incorrect to charge Hartshorne with inconsistency for denying that an unknowable "nothingness" could exist while affirming the possibility of the unknowable future. What Hartshorne states is that the future is possible now because it already has generic traits which are known by God, though God does not know now the details it will later have; "nothingness," however, would have neither generic nor specific traits to be known, so that even God could not know it to correspond to or be made true by anything real (PS 1:26). "Knowing about nothing" then would seem to be the same as "not knowing." And if discourse about a context devoid of objects is absurd, so must be discourse in a context devoid of subjects; the expression ‘There might have been nothing" could hardly be meaningful when no conceivable knower, not even God, could exist to confirm its truth (CSPM 57f; NTT 79, 83f; LP 87f).

But what of Craighead’s second claim that nothingness is conceivable or knowable indirectly through a process of mentally subtracting each of the items of our experience? Unfortunately, Hartshorne’s explicit response to Craighead on this point consists in the true but premature remark that all argument rests ultimately on intuition and that he trusts his own intuition more than his opponents’ (PS 1:26f). It seems that there are further basic arguments which Hartshorne could level against Craighead’s claim, charging, for example, that it is a fallacy of composition to assert that because we can conceive of the nonexistence of some things we can conceive of the nonexistence of all things.4 Craighead has in fact anticipated that fallacy charge as it applies in this issue (ECCC 122f). While granting that wholes may have properties which their parts lack, Craighead denies that existence can ever be such a property. A collection of dots might appear green as a whole though the individual dots were blue or yellow, yet that green whole could never have existence unless those individual dots had it also. Likewise, argues Craighead, the universe may have traits which its parts lack, but existence could not be among those traits.

What Craighead fails to consider is that a whole of contingent parts may exist necessarily if those parts, when passing out of existence, are bound to be replaced by other contingent parts. Why should it be assumed that every whole in reality, including reality itself, could have all its parts display their contingency in unison by ceasing to exist before replacements would appear for any of them? That assumption constitutes a second fallacy of composition, invalidating Craighead’s argument for the uniqueness of the trait of existence.

However, even if Craighead’s generalization involved no fallacy, it would be in error concerning that from which he claims to be generalizing. Craighead depicts us as encountering conceptual samples of nonbeing when we conceive of a familiar object, such as a tree, becoming nonexistent and then not being replaced by anything else (PS 1:21f). From these conceptual samples -- a little nothing here, a little nothing there -- he holds that we can conceive of an all-encompassing nothing which might come to be or might have been. Yet this seems to misrepresent our powers to conceptualize and the perceptual experiences on which they rest. For any perceptible object, there seem initially to be four possibilities: 1) remaining perceptible; 2) becoming imperceptible though still existent; 3) becoming nonexistent and being replaced by other things; 4) becoming nonexistent and not being replaced by other things. Despite its apparent innocence, number four could never be known to be more than a verbal possibility, for observation is in principle always of presences, not absences. As Hartshorne maintains, echoing Karl Popper (CSPM 160; AI) 63, 203), absences are always inferred from the observation of objects whose presence is incompatible with the presence of the absent objects. When a tree has been removed from a familiar landscape, what we perceive is always something else instead of the tree, such as a new building or grass or sky that had previously been blocked from our view. Even for God, however, it is impossible to perceive a parcel of absolute nonbeing surrounded by a remainder of existing objects. Hence we cannot perceive or conceive of a perceptible object becoming such a parcel.

Hartshorne expresses this point in a slightly different manner in what may be termed the "principle of perceptual limitation," an epistemological rule implicit in his comment that it is not always possible to distinguish cases in which perception fails to show the presence of some entity from cases in which perception shows the absence of that entity (CSPM 64, 79). Unless it can be independently known that the entity under consideration could be present only in a perceptible manner, we should concede that the question of the entity’s presence has been left open rather than decided negatively. For instance, if we have no way of knowing that any sort of feeling which might reside in the microscopic units of nature would have to be perceptible, then it is unjustified to conclude, as Craighead and common-sense seem to (PS 1:16f), that perception has decided the issue in the negative.

Likewise, it is unjustified to conclude that an object which is no longer perceptible has actualized number four above. In the first place, present imperceptibility does not even imply future imperceptibility, let alone imply or illustrate nonexistence without replacement. Experience provides many examples of an object becoming imperceptible and then returning to perceptibility due to further changes in the object or the percipient or both. Yet while such "encounters with nothing" are thereby shown to have been merely relative -- that is, cases of the second sort -- how in principle could any perception show that such encounters were absolute -- that is, cases of the fourth sort -- or establish that future perceptions would find nothing for as long as anyone tried to perceive it, that would not illustrate that cases of the fourth sort have a perceptual meaning distinct from that of cases of the second sort. All alleged perceptual evidence for absolute nonbeing is ipso facto evidence for merely relative nonbeing, but the latter sort of evidence never constitutes genuine evidence for absolute nonbeing. Secondly, as Hartshorne’s principle suggests, even perpetual imperceptibility does not imply nonexistence. Cases of numbers two and three can be distinguished from each other perceptually, but only when the "other things" in three are found to be perceptible. Finally, nonexistence does not imply non-replacement. The fourth sort of case would be a perceptually meaningful alternative to the third only if the "other things" were known independently to be inherently perceptible in the latter, yet all efforts to establish that knowledge-claim appear to be question-begging. By failing to recognize all this, Craighead has answered a crucial perceptual question with a negative conclusion which is unwarranted in principle.

More precisely, Craighead has violated a corollary of Hartshorne’s perceptual rule, which might be termed the "principle of conceptual limitation," by claiming to conceive of a pure absence or negation which could not have been derived from or suggested by any possible case of perception. Since Craighead can cite no perceived instance of absolute nonbeing, he cannot plausibly claim the ability to conceive of such an instance, for conceivability rests in certain basic respects on perceivability. Of course, it might be argued that in enjoying or discussing a magic act, for example, we are implicitly acknowledging the conceivability of a rabbit arising from absolute nonbeing even while not believing that such a transition has in fact taken place. Yet judging from my own abilities at least, the attempt to make that alleged acknowledgement explicit leads either to an obvious case of merely relative nonbeing, such as the black background of my imagination, or to an unfulfilled and apparently unfulfillable intention, such as that involved in the attempt to conceive of a round square. If nothingness can be "conceived" only as an impossibility which we try vainly to picture or mean, then that seems equivalent in the most important sense to saying that nothingness is inconceivable.

Craighead does allow for an alternative, existentialist origin of the conception of nothing, citing Sartre’s example of going to a cafe to meet Pierre, only to find the nonbeing of Pierre pervading the cafe (EN: 9ff). In such cases, Craighead holds, "one does not just perceive other objects, one actually perceives the nonbeing of Pierre" (LIG), showing that perception and consequent conception of nothingness are possible.

There are obvious questions that could be raised about this alleged perception of nonbeing: would those not seeking Pierre perceive it too or would it look any different to me if I had gone to another cafe by mistake and perceived it there amidst different objects? However, to those of us not well versed in the adventures of Continental nonbeing, Sartre’s account appears to be just a loose way of expressing the important truth that our desires determine the significance of the objects we encounter more than those objects determine our desires. If I were "desperately seeking Pierre" some day, his absence from the cafe might well occupy my attention much more than the objects there, but my perceptions would still be of those objects, not nonbeing. Even Sartre seems to acknowledge that fact, contrary to Craighead, and to treat nothingness as a mood experienced upon realizing that one’s desires conflict with one’s circumstances.

The problem of "nothing" is best treated by recognizing that negation, even in cases involving existence, consists in Platonic "othering." Even Craighead seems to accept William Reese’s claim that "denial in the predicate" involves replacement of a trait by its "other" or complement, so that "Socrates is not ill" means "Socrates is well" (PS 1:19). Yet Craighead rejects Reese’s attempt to interpret "denial in the subject" as a case of othering in terms of replacement of the world by a mental construct of some subject not present in the world. What Craighead fails to consider, perhaps because Reese himself had already dismissed it (NBNR 316), is the possibility that denial in the subject involves replacement of a subject by other subjects because existence is inherently competitive. To say that ‘Socrates does not exist’ is to imply that Socrates has been replaced, not by absolute nonbeing or a mere mental construct of Socrates, but by other human or subhuman organisms. If the existence of Socrates were to imply the nonexistence of other such subjects who would have lost out in the battle for existence, then clearly the nonexistence of Socrates implies that "Some subjects or other than Socrates exist," whether or not most people have actually intended that implication when denying Socrates’ existence.

By applying Platonic othering to denials in the subject, the claim that nothing is conceivable can be seen to be unnecessary as well as untenable and to be just as unsuccessful as Craighead’s other main claim at showing that reality could have arisen out of (or could pass into) nothing. Hence it leaves intact the thesis that the categories will have always been the necessary byproduct of a beginningless series of contingent divine states.

Hartshorne, of course, may still wish to be dissociated from part or all of the interpretation defended here. Nevertheless, I am convinced that it is true to his thought and constitutes a more clear, coherent and plausible "empiricist" answer to the ultimate issue than Neville and many others have provided.



AD -- Charles Hartshorne. Anselm’s Discovery: A Re-examination of the Ontological Proof of God’s Existence. La Salle: Open Court, 1965.

BN -- Jean-Paul Sartre. Being and Nothingness: An Essay in Phenomenological Ontology. Special Abridged Edition. Trans. Hazel E. Barnes. Secaucus, NJ: Citadel Press, 1956.

CAP -- Charles Hartshorne. Creativity in American Philosophy. Albany: SUNY Press, 1984.

CG -- Robert Neville. Creativity and God: A Challenge to Process Theology. New York: Seabury, 1980.

CP -- Charles Hartshorne. "Charles Peirce’s ‘One Contribution to Philosophy’ and His Most Serious Mistake." Studies in the Philosophy of Charles Sanders Peirce. Second Series. Ed. Edward G. Moore and Richard S. Robin. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1964.

CSPM -- Charles Hartshorne. Creative Synthesis and Philosophic Method. La Salle: Open Court, 1970.

CTCE -- Charles Hartshorne. "Categories, Transcendentals, and Creative Experiencing." The Monist 66:3 (July, 1983): 319-335.

DR -- Charles Hartshorne. The Divine Relativity: A Social Conception of God. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1964.

ECCC -- Houston Craighead. "Edwards, Cox and Cosmological Composition." New Scholasticism 50:1 (Winter, 1976): 122-124.

HOW -- David R. Griffin. "Hartshorne’s Differences from Whitehead." Two Process Philosophers. Hartshorne’s Encounter with Whitehead. Ed. Lewis S. Ford. Tallahassee: American Academy of Religion, 1973.

IDE -- Charles Hartshorne. "Is the Denial of Existence Ever Contradictory?" Journal of Philosophy 63:4 (February 17, 1966): 85-93.

LJG -- Houston Craighead. Letter to J. Gilroy. April 14, 1986.

LLF -- Charles Hartshorne. Letter to L. Ford. October 19, 1985.

LP -- Charles Hartshorne. The Logic of Perfection. La Salle: Open Court, 1962.

MVG -- Charles Hartshorne. Man’s Vision of God and the Logic of Theism. Hamden: Archon Books, 1956.

NBNR -- William L. Reese. "Non-Being and Negative References." Process and Divinity: The Hartshorne Festschuft. Ed. William L. Reese and Eugene Freeman. La Salle: Open Court, 1964.

NTT -- Charles Hartshorne. A Natural Theology for Our Time. La Salle: Open Court, 1973.

OP -- Charles Hartshorne. "Ontological Primacy: A Reply to Buchler." Explorations in Whitehead’s Philosophy. Ed. Lewis S. Ford and George L. Kline New York: Fordham University Press, 1983.

RNR -- Charles Hartshorne. "The Relativity of Non-Relativity: Some Reflections on Firstness." Studies in the Philosophy of Charles Sanders Peirce. Ed. Philip P. Wiener and Frederic H. Young. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1952.

RP -- Charles Hartshorne. "Real Possibility." Journal of Philosophy 60:21 (October 10, 1963): 593-605.

RTE -- Houston Craighead. "Response to ‘Twelve Elements of My Philosophy’." Southwestern Journal of Philosophy 5:1 (Spring, 1974): 33-37.

TS -- Colin Grant. "The Theological Significance of Hartshorne’s Response to Positivism." Religious Studies 21: 573-588.

WDH -- Lewis S. Ford. "Whitehead’s Differences from Hartshorne." Two Process Philosophers: Hartshorne’s Encounter with Whitehead. Ed. Lewis S. Ford. Tallahassee: American Academy of Religion, 1973.

WP -- Charles Hartshorne. Whitehead’s Philosophy: Selected Essays, 1935-1970 Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1972.



1This paper was inspired by some critical comments of Michael J. Vater of Marquette University concerning my address on Hartshorne to the Marquette Philosophy Department in April, 1984. I am indebted also to Robert Neville, Houston Craighead, Lewis Ford and Charles Hartshorne for their very helpful and gracious comments on an earlier draft of the paper.

2If the ultimate moral assessment of subdivine moral agents requires a precise knowledge of those agents’ "freedom ratio," my conclusion suggests the paradox that such an assessment is impossible in principle due to an unavailability of the crucial information even to omniscience. Perhaps God can derive that information from a source other than our sloppy, self-interested human consciousness, such as our subconscious or neuronal conditions. Or perhaps precise knowledge of the effort expended is no more necessary for God’s assessment of the moral beauty of a drunkard’s refusal of a drink than precise knowledge of the circumference of the waterlily pads is necessary for our assessment of the artistic beauty of a Monet painting.

3 David Pailin (PS 4: 196f) also argues that Neville’s concept of God is theoretically and religiously vacuous. Neville (CG 65f) returns the charge against Pailin without appreciating its applicability to his own position.

4 See DR 73 where Hartshorne comes close to using this argument explicitly.