Lewis S. Ford is Emeritus Professor at Old Dominion University, and founding editor of Process Studies Periodical (1971 – 1995).
The following article appeared in Process Studies, pp.1-24, Vol. 21, Number 1, Spring, 1992. 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 concerned with the ontological basis for subjectivity. He recounts Whitehead’s various theories about it. Becoming is identified with subjectivity, being with objectivity. Becoming has primary existence, being has derivative existence.
Ordinarily, we think of subjectivity in terms of consciousness. It pertains to our own conscious experience both of the external world and our own inner feelings, and by extension to the conscious experience of others.
Although we know what we mean, further analysis seems impossible. Consciousness seems quite sui generis.
Perhaps we can get at the nature of subjectivity a bit by treating consciousness as a contingent feature of much subjectivity. Then we may see subjectivity as pertaining to the activity of an organism taken as a whole. Particular elements within the organism, as well as external efficient causes, also affect that activity. Unless the subject is a mere spectator and not a contributor, however, these factors cannot completely determine the activity. In order for there to be subjective contribution, there must be some element of self-determination in addition to all partial or external causes. If that is so, then there must be alternative ways in which the partial and external causes can be unified. If subjective decision is not completely random, these alternative possibilities must be differentially valued. Subjectivity is then the capacity to be affected by differing alternative possibilities with the power to decide between them.
In this essay we shall primarily be concerned with the ontological basis for subjectivity by recounting Whitehead’s various theories about it. What is it that provides for the being of the subject and its feelings? One theory is rejected from the start: that the subject is an enduring substance. This theory was replaced by one which will be strange to those schooled in Whitehead’s philosophy: that the being of the subject stemmed from an original datum, containing all the physical input, from which concrescence starts. Because of the shift effected by his later philosophy, this model was abandoned for that of a (nontemporal) subject, itself displaced by a theory of the superject. Finally Whitehead concluded that subjectivity was not a being at all, but sheer becoming.
This final theory has two momentous consequences: (1) Becoming could not be adequately understood on the model of a ‘leaf becoming green’, where there is some being sustaining the activity of change. (2) In all traditional theory being is the primary existence, which means that becoming can only have a derivative existence. Whitehead’s analysis inverts all that, making becoming (and subjectivity as well) primary, with being derivative as the outcome of becoming.
This essay is primarily a voyage of discovery, explaining the way in which Whitehead tried on different theories for size before finally hitting upon the theory of becoming just described. By examining the background and the emergence of the concept ‘subjective aim’, we can get some purchase on his understanding of subjectivity. Such a history of ‘subjective aim’ is possible only because of a compositional idiosyncrasy of Whitehead’s: although he revised his position many times, he tried very hard to preserve the texts of earlier positions in the final version, often by insertions designed to persuade the reader to interpret such texts in the light of later positions. At any rate, it is possible to isolate earlier strata and to determine the order of composition.1 This gives us the necessary context for tracing particular concepts throughout the corpus.
Compositional analysis seeks to determine the various strata and insertions in Process and Reality, and to arrange them in the proper sequence. It is also an endeavor in hermeneutics. Instead of taking the whole of Process and Reality as the unit of interpretation, let alone some larger unit, it seeks to determine the smallest unit of interpretation. On the principle that Whitehead does not yet know what he has not anticipated, it seeks to limit our interpretation to a given stratum and prior strata.
Since our usual understanding of Whitehead is based on his final views, the earliest strata will seem most foreign to us. Also they will seem rather unsatisfactory, precisely because Whitehead found reason to reject them. Nevertheless they are milestones in the quest for a satisfactory resolution of these problems.
The bulk of this essay provides the texts and other justifications for Whitehead’s reflections ordered in eleven steps. While the conclusions are naturally based upon this evidence, some can be stated in summary form, which I present here to give the reader a preliminary orientation. What then follows is an account of the detailed evidence on which these conclusions are based, together with some further reflections of my own.
P.2 Substance: substantial unity. The theory of an enduring substance with essential properties underlying accidental properties was developed primarily for objects, yet could also be extended to subjects. Although objects and subjects differ in many ways, both were conceived as beings. (P0) Since subject-substances were conceived as enduring identically over time, they could only be externally related to their accidents.
Q. Datum: dative unity. The notion of a datum grounding the concrescence seems to be the one Whitehead first develops in Process and Reality, mainly in part II. It is the natural outgrowth of earlier conceptions.
Whitehead’s initial theory of prehension (in SMW) was crafted with the concerns of the events of nature primarily in consideration, but he did want to allow room for mind. Events were constituted by their internal relations or prehensions of all other events. After an abortive attempt to explain mind in terms of objects’ or characteristics of events, he proposed to explain it in terms of the supersession of physical occasions by mental occasions. As concrescence became restricted to the synthesis of mental feelings, his project became one of analyzing the concrescence from its own perspective. From that perspective, the datum presupposed by concrescence, what I shall hereafter call the ‘original datum’, is simply the old physical occasion, which had simply been designated the ‘actual occasion’ (in SMW).
These statements give something of the flavor of this early theory: "the first stage of the process of feeling is the reception into the responsive conformity of feeling whereby the datum, which is mere potentiality, becomes the individualized basis for a complex unity of realization" (PR 113C).3 Or, later, "The objectified particular occasions together have the unity of a datum for the creative concrescence" (PR 210C).
As long as Whitehead had confidence in the adequacy of his early theory of prehension (in SMW), the datum theory of an occasion’s unity held. It provided the being of the occasion, from whence the subject grew. It is becoming based on being, the prior being of the datum. But Whitehead also thought of subjectivity in terms of an experiential synthesis of many feelings, which generated a tension. The datum needed to be determinate enough to provide the unity of being, yet indeterminate enough to allow subjectivity to make further determinations. Or again, the datum must be one datum, yet somehow contain many feelings.
The original datum was intended to account for the physical side of things, concrescence for the mental or subjective side. The more the determinateness of the original datum was stressed, the less scope there could be for the concrescence itself. It could interpret and give meaning to the process, but it could not alter the constitution of a datum already determined, even if not completely so.
On this theory we may suppose the subject to acquire its own unity and being from the original datum, and then be able to persist through the concrescence. It differs from the substantial model, however, in that the feelings affect their subject. They are internally related to it.
The process is understood to be telic (Q1). Since there must be some source, the notion of an ‘objective lure’ was devised from which the occasion could select its Ideal of itself’ (Q2). (At this time it was assumed that the subject had the power to select.)
Once the unity of the original datum was given up, prehension could be interpreted in terms of physical feeling as one element in concrescence which could now be reordered in its final phases. This shift is perhaps the most important to take place within Process and Reality. Roughly, it marks the difference between parts II and III. But it meant that the ontological basis for subjectivity had to be completely rethought.
R. Subject: nontemporal unity. In part III, concrescence begins with many physical prehensions of past actualities, and all conceptual feelings derived from those physical prehensions. The unity and being of the subject can no longer be justified in terms of any single unified datum. It is supposed to be the unity of a whole, yet what is so deemed to be unified is simply a multiplicity of feelings derived from many actualities.
The concrescence is a many becoming one. The problem of the subject was the status of the being (or unity) that the concrescence possessed along the way.
The superject was then conceived as the basis for unity. If the whole process is a many becoming one, then only that which emerges at the end could have unity. It also has the being to affect superseding occasions. The superject could confer secondary being on the process provided only that we do not understand the process overly temporally. For then that which is earlier would lack that which is later. So concrescence is understood, implicitly at least, as nontemporal.
One text (R3) dramatizes how Whitehead must find his way to a new theory of the self in the wake of the shift occasioned by giving up the unity of an original datum. The original eight categoreal conditions seem to be have been propounded before Whitehead devised subjective aim’, so these are scrutinized for their understanding of subjectivity. The first categoreal condition (R4), with its insistence upon strict compatibility of the feelings by virtue of the unity of the subject, makes best sense on the assumption of nontemporality.
Conceptual reproduction (R5) dissolves the ‘objective lure’, for now any conceptual unity must be the result of derivation and synthesis. The importance of the ‘objective lure’ lay in its standing at the outset of concrescence. Reversion indicates that Whitehead had not yet conceived of God as the nontemporal concrescence of all eternal objects. Once he had so conceived God there is part of a paragraph added to revise reversion accordingly. The rest of that paragraph, including the final abolition of reversion, occurs later (T10).
The seventh categoreal condition, and perhaps the eighth, provide the basis for the term ‘subjective aims’ (R6 ).
S. Superject: superjective unity. Since the being of the subject could not be vested in any original objective unity, Whitehead transferred that being to the superject. The superject is "thrown beyond" the concrescent unification of feelings; it is its concrete unified outcome, capable of causally influencing subsequent occasions. The superject undeniably has being, but it was not at all clear how it could bestow any being upon its own antecedent concrescence.
What we have termed the "subject" theory (R) also depended on the superject, either by the subject’s being merging nontemporally with the being of the superject, or with the subject having a sort of proleptic being capable of persisting through the concrescence. At any rate, the assumption underlying his theory seems to have moved imperceptibly from the nontemporal to the temporal, leading to the problematic the ‘subjective aim’ was designed to overcome.
The ‘subject-superject’ (S7) stressed both their identity and the difference. Insofar as the subject differed, it must come before the superject. Implicit here, perhaps not yet fully worked out, is the subject as the occasion in its present becoming, occupying its spatiotemporal region as present, just as the superject, as the past being affecting subsequent occasions, occupies that same region as past.
If so, subject distinguished from superject can only be pure becoming, for it has not yet reached its being. Insofar as the unity has not been achieved, there can only be the many feelings without any subject towards which they aim. But how can they aim at a common subject without any common coordinator? The subject had been that coordinator, but now Whitehead sees that the subject, so carefully specified in the categoreal conditions, cannot come into being until the end of concrescence.
This means that the notion ‘the subject aims’, had to be given up as the common coordinator. To resolve these difficulties, however, Whitehead was able to introduce the ‘subjective aim’ as one of the conceptual feelings of the concrescence (T8). It persists throughout the entire concrescence and is capable of influencing all other feelings to direct them towards a common goal. By successive modification the aim can transform itself into the very goal both sought and actualized. Finally it is the form of the unity of the many feelings constituting that concrescence.
T Becoming: subjective unification. With the subjective aim resolving any immediate difficulties, Whitehead could embrace the notion of ‘subject-superject’. Both sides are essential to his concept. The occasion has being only as superject, but its becoming constitutes that being. The subject is now understood as only one aspect of the subject-superject. The subject is no longer conceived as being but as sheer becoming, not as a unity but as a process of unification.
In this revision Whitehead gives up the attempt to ground concrescence in any final unity, for the subject need not be a being in any sense. This also leads to an important shift in ontological weight, for it becomes possible to conceive of becoming as that which primarily exists, for being can now be derived from becoming, even though being alone affects others.
Yet if the subjective aim is present from the very beginning, where did it come from? Not from prehensions of past actualities, individually or collectively, as the aim is designed to unify that multiplicity. It must come from God (T9).
The prehension of God was unproblematic at the time Whitehead devised nontemporal synthesis of all eternal objects. Shortly, however, he introduced the consequent nature of God, meaning that God’s everlasting concrescence was imprehensible.
It was not until he devised the ‘hybrid physical prehension’ (TJO) that Whitehead felt he had resolved that problem. Such hybrid prehensions were originally devised to explain originality with continuity in living persons, but they also provided the means whereby occasions could directly prehend divine conceptual feelings. They also rendered conceptual reversion superfluous, be-cause each occasion could prehend unrealized eternal objects in God, so the category of reversion, already weakened, was abolished.
PO. The Substantial Self
The doctrine of substance as an explanation of change is rejected by Whitehead throughout Process and Reality:
In metaphysics the concept [of an enduring substance sustaining persistent qualities] is sheer error. This error [consists] in the employment of the notion of an actual entity which is characterized by essential qualities, and remains numerically one amidst the changes of accidental relations and of accidental qualities. The contrary doctrine is that an actual entity never changes. . . (PR 79C).
An actual entity does not change but becomes. Once attained, it always retains the being which it is. Dynamism on the most basic level is not vested in change (the difference between successive occasions), but in becoming, the process resulting in that being. How this process of becoming (concrescence) is to be conceived will be central to this essay, as it is conceived differently at different times.
One difficulty with substance theory is that the substance is externally related to its qualities. This becomes acute when the subject is conceived as a kind of substance. Then feelings inhere in a subject the way qualities inhere in a substance. If the subject-substance is then externally related to its changing feelings, then there would be no way for it to be affected by them. This is clearly a problem for classical theism, yet it also extends to every subject. On the substance view, however, the subject must be externally related to its feelings. Otherwise how could it maintain any self-identity over time?
Whitehead sought for an alternative to this model. Yet it had one clear strength: the subject-substance provided the primary being, and the feelings enjoyed a secondary, derivative being as its feelings. Any alternative must provide a similarly functioning primary being:
The philosophies of substance presuppose a subject which then encounters a datum, and then reacts to the datum. The philosophy of organism presupposes a datum which is met with feelings, and progressively attains the unity of a subject. (PR 155C)
The concrescence is the process of becoming the subject, but this becoming is based on a primary being, the original datum, as proposed by his early theory. This unity of the past world in one datum had to be at the outset of the concrescence in order to provide all the concrescent feelings with their secondary being.
Q1.4 The Original Datum and its Ideal
Initially, in the Gifford’s Draft, the name we shall give to Whitehead’s writings, largely from part II, which conceive the subject as the subjective aspect of the datum from which concrescence begins,5 a few anticipations of subjective aim can be discerned.
On an early theory, there are "four stages constitutive of an actual entity": "datum, process, satisfaction, decision" (PR 149fC). Datum’ here entails dative unity: "the new concrescence starts from this datum" (PR 150C). ‘Decision’ is not a subjective activity pertaining to the concrescence, but means an objective determination of the datum by its world. It looks back to the constitution of an actual occasion by other actualities in terms of internal relations (prehensions) in Science and the Modern World and forward to ‘transition’ (PR 210C).
‘Process’, however, is telic: "Process is the growth and attainment of a final end. The progressive definition of the final end is the efficacious condition for its attainment. The determinate unity of an actual entity is bound together by the final causation towards an ideal progressively defined by its progressive relation to the determinations and indeterminations of the datum. The ideal, itself felt, defines what ‘self’ shall arise from the datum; and the ideal is also an element in the self which thus arises" (PR 150C). Thus ‘self’ is understood as the subjective side of the final satisfaction.
In his analysis of order at the outset of "The Order of Nature" (II.3.1), Whitehead observes that "There is not just one ideal ‘order’ which all actual entities should attain and fail to attain. In each case there is an ideal peculiar to each particular actual entity, and arising from the dominant components in its phase of ‘givenness’." (PR 84C). That is, from the original datum given by the past. The words, "dominant components," do not lead us to expect that God is solely, or even primarily, the source of that ideal.
Q2. Objective lure
While most of our insights concerning the objective lure come from later passages, it seems to be introduced in this careful passage from the chapter on "Propositions" (11.9):
The ‘lure for feeling’ is the final cause guiding the concrescence of feelings. By this concrescence the multifold datum of the primary phase is gathered into the unity of the final satisfaction of feeling. The ‘objective lure’ is that discrimination among eternal objects introduced into the universe by the real internal constitutions of the actual occasions forming the datum of the concrescence under review. This discrimination also involves eternal objects excluded from value in the temporal occasions of that datum, in addition to involving the eternal objects included for such occasions. (PR 185C)
The datum of the primary phase is the datum from which the concrescence starts, being constituted by past actual occasions. It is described as "multifold," however, indicating its complex character. The objective lure is its counterpart. In the final sentence we have the initial suggestions that will result in the principle of conceptual reversion, which are illustrated in the next paragraph concerning the Battle of Waterloo. No mention of the ideal, or its relation to the objective lure, is included.
The other early mention of ‘objective lure’ is from the same chapter. "A proposition is an element in the objective lure proposed for feeling, and when admitted into feeling it constitutes what is felt" (PR 187C, italics his). As yet, however, the possibility of ‘propositional feeling’ (E) has not been mentioned. While the ‘lure for feeling’ is more broadly used, it particularly pertains to propositions, where this quality is more central than truth. Hence, it is more important that a proposition be interesting than that it be true (PR 184fC).
Later the subject will select the ‘ideal of itself’ from the ‘objective lure’, which is the original fund of values and eternal objects it can draw upon. In the meantime, Whitehead provisionally coins the term ‘private ideal’, as in this passage anticipating the incorporation of external data within concrescence.
The first phase [of the process] is the phase of pure reception of the actual world in its guise of objective datum6 for aesthetic synthesis. In this phase there is the mere reception of the actual world as a multiplicity of private centers of feeling, implicated in a nexus of mutual presupposition. The feelings are felt as belonging to the external centers, and are not absorbed into the private immediacy. The second stage is governed by the private ideal, gradually shaped in the process itself; whereby the many feelings, derivatively felt as alien, are transformed into a unity of aesthetic appreciation immediately felt as private. (PR 212C).
The private ideal is gradually shaped in the process itself, but what shapes it? The subject? If so, does it have being throughout the process, or reflect the being of the datum?
This theory can be only provisional in the long run, however, because it proposes two successive acts of unification, the first of mere reception, the second of ideal transformation. This is contrary to the argument for the atomicity of becoming.7
While the other main texts on the objective lure stem from an earlier chapter on "The Order of Nature" (II.3C), closer scrutiny suggests that they belong to a single insertion, made during the transitional period (C+) before Whitehead reconceived concrescence in terms of the prehension of past occasions.8
In the following passage from this insertion Whitehead tells us about an "origination of conceptual feeling," but as in the previous passage and in one to come (R3), he does not specify any datum from whence it is derived. The eternal objects of the conceptual feelings are all interrelated to constitute the objective lure, the source of the ideal of itself.
The analysis of concrescence, here adopted, conceives that there is an origination of conceptual feeling, admitting or rejecting whatever is apt for feeling by reason of its germaneness to the basic data. The gradation of eternal objects in respect to this germaneness is the ‘objective lure’ for feeling; the concrescent process admits a selection from this objective lure’ into subjective efficiency. This is the subjective ‘ideal of itself’ which guides the process. (PR 87C+)
Since no other way is specified, the subject is tacitly endowed with the power of selection. Note that the objective lure and the subjective ideal of itself are both objective, despite their contrasting designations, since both are prehended by the subject. The ideal of itself may be thought to be more intimately connected to the subject, however, because it is the outcome of the subject’s endeavors, and describes the subject’s ideal of itself.
Earlier in this same passage the constitution of the objective lure is spelled out:
First, the conceptual ingression of the eternal objects in the double role of being germane to the data and of being potentials for physical feeling. The second phase is the admission of the lure into the reality of feeling, or its rejection from this reality. The relevance of an eternal object in its role of lure is a fact inherent in the data. In this sense the eternal object is a constituent of the ‘objective lure’. But the admission into, or rejection from, reality of conceptual feeling is the originative decision of the actual occasion. In this sense an actual occasion is causa sui. (PR 86C+)
An eternal object’s relevance is determined by the data, thereby determining the objective lure. But the ‘ideal of itself’ selected from this lure is the result of the self-activity of the occasion. The objective lure itself seems to be constituted from the sum total of eternal objects found in the data from the past occasions. At this point the actualities themselves form a mere multiplicity, but the interrelatedness of the associated forms brings them into a natural unity.
Such an objective lure, however, will not account for novelty, nor for the imaginative penumbra surrounding the sober historical facts of the Battle of Waterloo (PR 185C). So Whitehead is concerned to expand the scope of the objective datum. In the prefatory remarks to the long quotation from Hume about the missing shade of blue, Whitehead calls attention to eternal objects, "unrealized in the datum and yet constituent of an ‘objective lure’ by proximity to the datum" (PR 86C+). Clearly, unrealized eternal objects cannot be realized and hence cannot be part of the datum, but relevant ones could be incorporated into the objective lure.
Consider his description of "the actual world of any actual entity as a nexus whose objectification constitutes the complete unity of objective datum for the physical feeling of that actual entity" (PR 230D). In his final theory physical theories receive their complete integration in the very last phase of concrescence, but this intermediate theory follows naturally enough from earlier concepts in which mental occasions superseded physical ones.
Whitehead further relates the concept of objective lure to the concept of ‘potential difference’ in physics: "In the comparison of two actual entities, the contrast between their objective lures is their ‘potential difference’" (PR 87C+). Again, "[t]he ultimate fact in the constitution of an actual entity which suggests this term [‘potential difference’] is the objective lure for feeling." Is this an ‘objective lure’ pertaining to feeling or simply an ‘objective lure’ of feeling? The first quotation points to the former, but Whitehead’s language shows the close proximity of these two ideas.
R3. Causal Feeling
In the chapter on "Primary Feelings" there is a section (III.2.2) evidently belonging to an earlier stratum than its surroundings. With much fanfare, the first section (III.2.1F) introduces the ‘simple physical feeling’, which is mentioned later in the same chapter, but not in the very next section. Instead, the term used is ‘causal feeling’. Causal feelings and conceptual feelings are both primary, neither being derived from the other: "In each concrescence there is a twofold aspect of the creative urge. In one aspect there is the origination of simple causal feelings; and in the other aspect there is the origination of conceptual feelings" (PR 239D).
From the fact that this section knows nothing about conceptual reproduction, I had earlier concluded that it must belong to the Gifford’s draft (EWM 185). But the text avoids assigning any explicit source for these causal feelings; they simply "originate," without telling us whether they are derived from some original datum which is the basis of that concrescence (as in C) or from the many past actualities of its actual world (later theory). Here Whitehead is being cautious in a sense reminiscent of Hume, who declared that impressions come from he knew not where.
I suspect he was being very cautious because the foundation of his theory of concrescence, the original datum as basis of concrescence, had been shattered. He recognized that it needed to be reconceived in terms of a single act of unification of many prehensions, but just how that revision should proceed may not have been immediately clear. This section is more a minimal statement of what elements he could salvage from the old theory than an attempt to reconstruct a new one.
We may suppose ‘causal feeling’ to be an antecedent term for ‘physical feeling’. ‘Causal’ aptly describes derivation from actuality, and the efficient causation these feelings express, but was apparently deemed not a suitable contrast to conceptual feelings. Physical feelings also have the advantage of relating more readily to the physical pole they constitute, although then it is not clear why we do not have ‘mental feelings’ designated in parallel fashion. The term ‘physical feeling’ seems to be absent from "The Theory of Feelings" (III.1), except for one section (III.1.9), which could be a later insertion.9 Sometime during or just after writing "The Theory of Feelings" we may infer that Whitehead introduced the notion of ‘causal feelings’ (III.2.2), which was then overruled by the more developed theory of ‘simple physical feelings’ (III.2.1).
Just as we are not told the source of causal feelings, we are not told the source of conceptual feelings; they simply "originate." We cannot know whether they derive from the objective lure; moreover, it seems possible that Whitehead was no longer sufficiently certain of that theory to be explicit about it. Alternatively, this section (III.2.2) may antedate the ‘objective lure’ passages and thus have no knowledge of that concept.
This section may have originally contained one more passage than it presently has, which would have belonged between the second paragraph, which introduces the contrasting physical and mental poles, and the third paragraph (at PR 239.35):
The mental pole originates as the conceptual counterpart of operations in the physical pole. The two poles are inseparable in their origination. The mental pole starts with the conceptual registration of the physical pole.10... The mental pole is the subject determining its own ideal of itself by reference to eternal principles of valuation autonomously modified in their application to its own physical objective datum.11 (PR 248.21-24,.34-41a, D in F)
Presently that passage is situated in the next chapter (III.3.3) as part of the explanation of the category of conceptual valuation. There are tensions between the insertion and its present surroundings. The insertion is much closer to ‘causal feelings’ in not (explicitly, at least), deriving conceptual feelings from physical ones, when that is the whole purpose of conceptual reproduction. The insertion speaks of physical and mental poles (otherwise not part of III.3.3), while its surroundings talk of individual feelings.
The problem for Whitehead, expressed in the insertion, is that the mental le was conceived as the subject. The subject was the subjective side of objective being, but what is the being of the whole now that the original datum has been shattered into a multiplicity of data? If the mental pole were derived from the physical pole, what would be the role of the subject with respect to that pole (or those physical feelings) considered by itself?
A provisional answer may be found in the claim "for the subject is at work in the feeling, in order that it may be the subject with that feeling" (PR 224F). This somewhat paradoxical understanding of ‘subject’ as the becoming of what it will be enables Whitehead to assert that all feelings, including physical feelings, have their subjects.
What theory of the ontological basis for subjectivity does Whitehead espouse at this point? This is extraordinarily difficult to say. The safest answer would be that he has no theory, now that the datum theory has been undercut. I provisionally classify it as an anticipation of the ‘subject’ theory, to which we now turn.
R4. The first categoreal condition
On the datum theory (Q), the concrescence had its underlying unity in terms of its initiating datum, and the subject was the subjective aspect of this objective datum (early sense). Since this initiating datum was reconceived in terms of many past actual occasions, the unity and hence the underlying objective being for the concrescence was removed. Whitehead was required to find some other unity of the whole for concrescence, which could only be found in the final satisfaction. If so, how does this final being provide any being for the concrescence which comes before it? Here it seems he resorts to an implicitly nontemporal approach (R). To be sure, this is only made explicit once (R5).
Our study of selected categoreal conditions is intended to draw out some of their implications for the nature of ‘subject’ they presuppose. (For the sake of convenience, we shall distinguish between the ‘categoreal conditions’ as they are called in the chapters on "The Theory of Feelings" [III.1] and "The Transmission of Feelings" [III.3], and the ‘categoreal obligations’ as they were later formulated in "The Categoreal Scheme" [I.2].)
The many feelings which belong to an incomplete phase in the process of an actual entity, though unintegrated by reason of the incompleteness of the phase, are compatible for synthesis by reason of the unity of their subject. (PR 223D)
Rather surprisingly, the first categoreal obligation is worded identically (PR 26). In terms of the final theory, however, we should have expected it to end "by reason of the subjective aim,"12 or even to say:
The many feelings which belong to an incomplete phase in the process of an actual entity, though unintegrated by reason of their incompatibility, are progressively rendered compatible by the decisions of the concrescing subject. 13
Our final theories of subjectivity (R, S and T) place being first in the final superject. There is no subjective being which endures throughout the concrescence, for this presupposes temporal differentiation (R). In the final theory, becoming is not a species of being, for being is first produced by becoming (7)14 Yet when the first categoreal condition was formulated (R), becoming was conceived as a kind of being.
The many feelings must be compatible for every phase, according to the theory of subjective unity Whitehead held when the first condition was formulated, by reason of the unity of the subject. If the physical data was changed in any way from phase to phase, there would be a temporal progression. Since they must be compatible for unity at the end, they must possess this identical compatibility at the start. Thus "the supervention of the later phases does not involve elimination by negative prehensions; such eliminations of positive prehensions in the concrescent subject would divide that subject into many subjects, and would divide those many subjects from the superject" (PR 240F).15
If the subjectivity of the concrescence is conceived nontemporally, "no feeling can be abstracted from its subject. For the subject is at work in the feeling, in order that it may be the subject with the feeling" (PR 223fF). In a teleological process of self-production, which entails aim’, the final subject is one with each feeling, working to obtain its final satisfaction. (It must be admitted, though, that teleological conceptions are more naturally temporal.) The aim, which is what the subject aims, is the precursor of ‘subjective aim’ but is not yet an individual conceptual feeling. We shall encounter it later in terms of categories seven and eight (C6).16
From the vantage point of Whitehead’s final theory, it is very difficult to see how the original datum as conceived in the Giffords draft could ever be significantly modified by the ensuing concrescence. And if it were not, then what could the concrescence achieve by way of being? Now that he has been persuaded that concrescence should initiate from a radical multiplicity of past actualities, it is not readily apparent that his formulation of the first categoreal condition has progressed very far beyond the original datum theory. The first category imposes a compatibility so strict as to insure a virtual unity of data, an objective unity which is necessary to protect the underlying unity of the subject during all phases of concrescence.
Note that subjective unity differs from the substantial unity Whitehead rejects. The subject is internally related to its data, in contrast to the substance which can only be externally related to its attributes. In that sense the subject is not an undifferentiated endurance. On the other hand, all the (fully compatible) data are permitted to do is to achieve greater integration. There seems to be no room for any free determination of alternative ways of ordering the initial objective data which would fashion those data differently from the way they are given in the initial situation.
If in the end Whitehead revised his theory, why did he not revise this statement in the first categoreal obligation, as he did in other instances?
I suspect the answer lies in the ambiguity of ‘compatible for integration’. Strictly, as in the theory of subjective unity, this means ‘compatible for integration’ at every phase, but it can mean simply ‘that which will be made compatible in the final unity’ which is all that is needed for the final theory. I believe Whitehead later on chose to interpret it in the latter sense so the formulation would not require any modification.
R5. Conceptual Reproduction and Reversion
In the absence of any actual unity prior to the end of concrescence, any possibility of an ideal unity at the outset becomes very significant. Also the derivation of that ideal becomes quite essential, particularly as it cannot simply be derived from the original datum, although it can still be said to arise "from the dominant components in its phase of ‘givenness’." (PR 84C). Whitehead can still draw on his concept of ‘objective lure’. He does not say so in so many words, but the objective lure seems to be constituted of all the eternal objects making up the various past actual occasions physically prehended, as these eternal objects are mutually interrelated.
Objective datum and objective lure are clearly parallel notions in the earlier theory. Avoiding all talk of derivation, the objective lure is the ideal counterpart of the factual datum. Once that datum is pluralized as data, it can no longer serve as the ontological basis for the concrescence. For a while there, it appears as though Whitehead may have fashioned a theory of a virtual unity’ unifying the initial data received into an objective datum to which, perhaps, conceptual feelings could then be applied.17
On the other hand, the term ‘objective lure’ disappears once Whitehead makes the shift from datum to data. This is noticeable in the early passage drawn from "The Primary Feelings" (III.2.2: see R3) now imbedded in the account of conceptual reproduction (PR 248). We learn of the ‘ideal of itself’, but not of the ‘objective lure’ from which it is selected. As we shall see, it no longer has a role.
The Category of Conceptual Valuation. From each physical feeling there is the derivation of a purely conceptual feeling whose datum is the eternal object exemplified in the definiteness of the actual entity, or of the nexus, physically felt. (PR 248)
If the occasion begins with a plurality of physical feelings, then the most efficient way to introduce conceptual feelings in terms of which the occasion can actively respond, is to derive them from the former. Moreover, this may be seen as in accord with Hume’s principle, although he recognizes that the empiricists, in their insistence upon representationalism, really neglect physical feelings (PR 248), deriving ‘ideas’, one set of conceptual feeling, from another.
If so, there is no room for a unified objective lure at the outset. The occasion must first derive conceptual feelings, then integrate them. If it is to be self-creative, it must have a hand in fashioning its own ideal. A unified ideal can only emerge at the end, as an ‘ideal of itself’.
Then the ideal cannot serve as that which exists all along to insure the being of the process. Whitehead still talks of an enduring subject, as in his previous theory, but the ontological basis of this subject becomes increasingly problematic.
In the discussion of this category Whitehead appears to have inserted a passage of earlier vintage (III.2.2: 248.21-30 and.34b-41a), which we have considered above (R3). The insertion examined the origination of the mental pole, whereas the discussion of the fourth category concentrates on individual physical and conceptual feelings.
Whitehead appears to have written his basic account quite apart from the insertion, which may have been introduced later. Notice the continuity of the last paragraph if the inserted material (34b-41a) is omitted: "Thus the conceptual registration is conceptual valuation; and conceptual valuation introduces creative purpose. […] The integration of each simple physical feeling with its conceptual counterpart produces ..." (PR 248F).
It may seem unusual to transpose an insertion from one place to another, but Whitehead transposed several others, most notably with respect to "The Ideal Opposites" (V.1.2)18 Why should he have done so in this particular case? Its wording is somewhat ambiguous, and he may have remembered it as deriving the mental pole from the physical pole, thus endorsing the particularization of that doctrine with respect to individual feelings.
Every actual entity is ‘in time’ so far as its physical pole is concerned, and is ‘out of time’ so far as its mental pole is concerned. It is the union of two worlds, namely, the temporal world, and the world of autonomous valuation. (PR 248)
There are too few clues to determine how these sentences fit into Whitehead’s text, but their meaning is quite appropriate to the "nontemporal" understanding of concrescence that was required by the identification of subjective with superjective unity. If feelings were to have temporal adventures in their incomplete phases, they would be bereft of the subject towards which they aim.
Whitehead accounts for time in terms of the data of physical feeling, which is set as compatible for final synthesis from the outset. In contrast, the mental pole, meaning all further stages of concrescence, is deemed to be nontemporal.
He seems genuinely perplexed by the relation between concrescence and time, venturing only the affirmation that concrescence is not in physical time (PR 283M), the time appropriate to the events of nature, analyzable by physics and chemistry. This leaves open whether some other form might be appropriate to concrescence. If Whitehead in later theory allows for elimination within concrescence, then there is a succession of progressively more determinate phases. While every phase called ‘later’ may not be really later (e.g. conceptual reproduction), phases of increasing determinateness would be. We may call this con-crescent time to distinguish it from physical time, which is the succession of equally determinate events.19
We have already seen anticipations of reversion in Whitehead’s discussion of the imaginative penumbra surrounding the bare facts of the Battle of Waterloo (Q2: PR 185C), the incorporation of relevant alternatives to the datum in the objective lure, and the account of Hume’s missing shade of blue (Q2: PR 87fC+). There is probably even an earlier anticipation in his account of the "multiplicity of Platonic forms" which is ‘given’ for a particular actual entity: "This ordering of relevance starts from those forms which are, in the fullest sense, exemplified, and passes through grades of relevance down to those forms which in some faint sense are proximately relevant by reason of contrast with actual fact" (PR 43fC).
The Category of Conceptual Reversion. There is secondary origination of conceptual feelings with data which are partially identical with, and partially diverse from, the eternal objects forming the data in the primary phase of the mental pole; the determination of identity and diversity depending on the subjective aim at attaining depth of intensity by reason of contrast. (PR 249)
(This is the one mention of ‘subjective aim’ in the categoreal conditions [category 8 will be examined later in R6]. I hope to show that all mention of ‘subjective aim’ in the discussion of these categories can be understood as belonging to later insertions. ‘Aim’ at contrast expresses the purposeful activity of the subject, but it is not yet individualized as a specific feeling. From these considerations I also infer that the italicized portion above is also an insertion.)
The cognate relevance of unrealized eternal objects is essential to Whitehead’s explanation of novelty. If there were only the derivation of possibilities from physical feelings, possibility could never rise over achieved actuality. The justification for any relevance extending beyond actuality would have to depend upon the internal relatedness of the eternal objects ordered as a realm, The occasion incorporates these new elements in forming its "ideal of itself by reference to eternal principles of valuation."
As William A. Christian recognized, however, Whitehead abandoned the notion of ‘realm’ for a mere ‘multiplicity’ of eternal objects.20 Yet we must recognize that the question occasioning this shift was not whether the eternal objects were ordered, but what was the justification of that ordering, given the ontological principle. In either case they are interrelated by their relational essences. The ontological principle requires that they be ordered by some actuality, and that would be impossible for pure eternal objects among themselves.
Such an actuality would have to be nontemporal to encompass all eternal objects, so God is conceived as the nontemporal concrescence of all eternal objects. This is a conception of God stronger than the simple principle of the early writings of Process and Reality, but not yet the ‘consequent nature’ of the later writings.21
The final paragraph of this section is strongly at variance with the rest, since it purports to abolish the category of reversion just established. Unlike the preceding discussion, which assumes that the ordering of eternal objects needs no grounding, it explains that ordering by reference to God’s conceptual feeling. Thus eternal objects are mere ‘multiplicities’ apart from their divine ordering. It seems that after the category of reversion was formulated, Whitehead came to reconceive God as the nontemporal concrescence of eternal objects.22 Since all possibilities can now be derived from God, reversion becomes superfluous.
R6. The Subject Aims
It is very short step linguistically from ‘the subject aims’ to ‘the subjective aim’. This is clearly the origination of the term, Conceptually, however, there is an important leap. As long as the subject aims’ at its ideal, and even participates in the shaping of that ideal, the specific means whereby that aiming is accomplished has not yet been clarified. ‘Subjective aim’, on the other hand, points out a definite conceptual feeling, present throughout concrescence, affecting the subjective forms of all its feelings in order to bring them into a final unity.
The doctrine of ‘the subject aims’ was held briefly, transitionally, primarily in the formulation of the seventh and eighth categoreal conditions.
The Category of Subjective Harmony. The valuations of conceptual feelings are mutually determined by their adaptation to be joint elements in a satisfaction aimed at by the subject. (PR 254f)
The last five words give the passive equivalent to ‘the subject aims’. The ‘aim’, which the subject entertains, has already been mentioned in the account of the first categoreal condition: "The feeling is an episode in self-production, and is referent to its aim. This aim is a certain definite unity with its companion feelings" (PR 224: R4). Here the aim does not seem to be a feeling. It is really more akin to the final satisfaction, that which is aimed at.
The aim is also considered in terms of the ‘aim at contrast’ with reference to the category of reversion. Here Whitehead seeks to articulate the ultimate creative purpose towards novelty whereby there can be some effective contrast with that which is, at least in some instances. We shall encounter the subject’s aim further with respect to the eighth categoreal condition.
That this ‘aim’ is not yet the subjective aim is suggested by the later formulation in the corresponding seventh categoreal obligation which substitutes for the italicized words above "congruent with the subjective aim" (PR 27).
In terms of Whitehead’s later understanding of the relation between subject and superject (S7), one formulation in this account is very significant:
For the superject which is their outcome is also the subject which is operative in their production. They are the creation of their own creature. The point to be noticed is that the actual entity, in a state of process during which it is not fully definite, determines its own ultimate definiteness. (PR 255)
Whitehead had distinguished between subject and superject many times before, but not, I believe, with respect to the categoreal conditions. As long as concrescence is (implicitly) understood to be nontemporal, this model will work. Yet if it were to take on a temporal significance, however, it would become problematic. What would be the being which the not yet fully definite subject possesses during the process of concrescence?
As we turn to the eighth categoreal condition, some adjustment of the text is needed. As it is given in the original Macmillan version, it is not even grammatical, let alone fully intelligible:
The Category of Subjective Intensity. The subject aim, whereby there is origination of conceptual feeling, is intensity of feeling (a) in the immediate subject, and (b) in the relevant future. (PR 277/424)
On analogy with ‘the subject aims’ as expressed in the seventh categoreal condition, relying also upon the major role of ‘balance’ in Whitehead’s ensuring account, I reconstruct this as having possibly read:
The Category of Subjective Intensity. The subject aims at balance and intensity of feeling (a) in the immediate subject, and (b) in the relevant future. (EWM 223).23
There follows what appears to be an insertion of two paragraphs (PR 278.6-3 l).24 At the outset it refers to the Category of Subjective Intensity as if it were "the final Category of Subjective Aim."25 But its ending is particularly instructive. Whitehead could think of no more graceful way to effect transition to the body of his text than the clumsy words, "But there must be ‘balance’, and . . ." (PR 278.32). This insertion contains perhaps the first mention of ‘subjective aim’, here meaning no more than the aim of the subject.
There may be further insertions beyond this, but we shall provisionally consider it as one unit.26 To be sure, it mentions ‘subjective aim’ twice, but I suspect that these are later emendations of ‘aim, which we already encountered in the accounts of categories one and five, and which appears here, by itself, three times. Thus "the rule that what is identical, and what is reverted, are determined by the aim at a favorable balance. The reversion is due to the aim at complexity as one condition for intensity" (PR 278). It is the subject which aims at balance and complexity; the notion of a conceptual feeling of ‘subjective aim’ is yet to come (in T8).
S7. The Subject-Superject
At least as early as the Giffords draft, Whitehead had appreciated the role of the superject: "The operations of an organism are directed towards the organism as a ‘superject’ and are not directed from the organism as a ‘subject’" (PR 151C). The nontemporal theory of subject, as we have just seen, leads to their identification: "For the superject which is their outcome is also the subject which is operative in their production. They are the creation of their own creature" (PR 255).
Now in an inserted section (III. 1.3),27 Whitehead coins the term ‘subject-superject’ for this intimate connection, which is introduced here apparently for the first time. Subject and superject are identical in being, but only at the completion of concrescence. Besides this identity there is a difference to be reckoned with. The subject presides over, or perhaps better, is the process resulting in the being which the superject is. Just as earlier there had been a temporal distinction between the original datum and the ensuing concrescence, so there must be a temporal distinction between the subject in concrescence and the resultant superject. To some extent, at least, concrescence must be understood temporally.
A feeling cannot be abstracted from the actual entity entertaining it. This actual entity is termed the [superject] of the feeling. It is in virtue of its [superject] that the feeling is one thing. If we abstract the [superject] from the feeling we are left with many things. Thus a feeling is a particular in the same sense in which each actual entity is a particular. It is one aspect of its own [superject]. (PR 221)
To be sure, where Whitehead wrote ‘subject’ I have inserted ‘superject’, but in the very next paragraph he observes that he has retained ‘subject’ as more familiar. "But it is misleading. The term ‘superject’ would be better" (PR 222). For some of these sentences would be very misleading if we understood ‘subject’ in contradistinction to ‘superject’: "It is in virtue of its subject that the feeling is one thing. Feelings are usually individuated in terms of their data. Here by ‘one thing’ Whitehead does not so much mean ‘one feeling’ as the fusion of all feelings into one being, the superject. These feelings cannot be one in the concrescing subject. "It is in virtue of its [superject] that the feeling is one thing."
The subject-superject is the purpose of the process originating the feelings. The feelings are inseparable from the end at which they aim; and this end is the feeler. The feelings aim at the feeler, as their final cause. The feelings are what they are in order that their subject may be what it is. Then transcendently, since the (superject] is what it is in virtue of its feelings, it is only by means of its feelings that the [superject] objectively conditions the creativity transcendent beyond itself. (PR 222)
Here we see that Whitehead’s identification of subject and superject has relocated the subject at the end of the concrescence, as the recipient of all the feelings of the concrescence. In its immanent role, the superject acts as subject, for it is only as superject that the subject has any being -- on this theory at least, although only provisionally held. Transcendently that same subject acts as superject with respect to superseding occasions.
The central role of the superject as being is effectively brought out by the fourth category of explanation:
(iv) That the potentiality for being an element in a real concrescence ... is the one general metaphysical character attaching to all entities, actual and non-actual; and that every item in its universe is involved in each concrescence. In other words, it belongs to the nature of a ‘being’ that it is a potential for every becoming’. (PR 22)
If we adopt the subject-predicate logic, by which Whitehead means the substantialist view of the self, by which feelings are externally related to the subject, then the feelings would be ultimately accidental and could only be externally imposed upon the subject.
It is better to say that the feelings aim at their subject [superject], than to say are aimed at their subject. For the latter mode of expression removes the subject from the scope of the feeling and assigns it to an external agency. Thus the feeling would be wrongly abstracted from its own final cause. (PR 222)
This is an enigmatic saying that will resist clarification as long as we think of some other subject outside the occasion as doing the aiming. By ‘external agency’ I believe Whitehead meant a subject for that occasion that was not strictly identifiable with the superject. This subject operative within the concrescence could be thought to aim the feelings at the subject-superject. This was precisely Whitehead’s theory up to this juncture, but then the feeling would belong to the concrescing subject and not to its final cause, the superject.
But if this is so, what makes all the feelings, in aiming at their superject, aim together? If the subject only exists at the end, for it has being only as superject, what coordinates the feelings during concrescence? And if there should be no coordination, why should there be any final synthesis achieving unity?
One answer to this problematic presented itself in terms of an insertion referred to above (R4) in conjunction with the first categoreal condition (see note 16):
This category is one expression of the general principle that the one subject is the final end which conditions each component feeling. Thus the superject is already present as a condition, determining how each feeling conducts its own process. Although in any incomplete phase there are many unsynthesized feelings, yet each of these feelings is conditioned by the other feelings. The process of each feeling is such as to render that feeling integrable with the other feelings. (PR 223)
This comment presupposes the strict identity of subject and superject, seeing the subject as the final end. Where we should expect ‘subject’, Whitehead has written superject’: present in the process determining the feelings. Thus he is investing superjective being retroactively, as an activity having a secondary being borrowed from that which is yet to come into being. This is a highly questionable undertaking, requiring the later to cause the earlier.
The way feelings are conditioned by other feelings is stated in a reckless manner. It would certainly be satisfactory for earlier feelings to influence later ones, but no such qualification is made. What about the reverse? What sense are we to make of later feelings influencing earlier ones? Yet it would seem that Whitehead needs some such theory in order to have all feelings interact in order to aim at a common superject.
T8. Subjective Aim (III.1.5 ad)
We have examined the first three paragraphs of this section above (R4), which discussed the subject’s "aim" at "a certain definite unity with its companion feelings" (PR 224F). This brief commentary on the category of subjective unity was expanded by a response to the problematic just rehearsed (S7). Evidently Whitehead deemed it (III.1.5) to be the next available place for such a response (to III.1.3). This long insertion (224.5-225.21G)28 also introduces the term ‘subjective aim’ as a conceptual feeling for the first time, and hence will repay our close attention.
If subjective being were located solely in the outcome, the many feelings of the concrescence have nothing to guide them to this superjective end. Each feeling in process was supposed to converge on that common end, but how could they do this, except accidentally? How can they influence each other, since they are all contemporaries?
Instead of resorting to the somewhat opaque notion of a ‘subject’ which can somehow ‘aim’ these feelings, Whitehead devises a new ‘feeling’ to be understood in terms of the principle he has proposed for feelings. Since what it is directed at is as yet only a possibility, he introduces "a conceptual feeling of subjective aim" (PR 224G). While drawn from earlier language of "the subject aims," ‘subjective aim’ names a feeling rather than the subject. This feeling coordinates other feelings by directing them toward a progressively defined ideal, thereby achieving whatever aiming it achieves for itself.
In order that the aim be active and effective with respect to all the feelings of concrescence, Whitehead "requires that in the primary phase of the subjective process there be a conceptual feeling of subjective aim" (PR 224G). This leads to a conundrum: The categoreal conditions leave the distinct impression that only physical phases belong to the first phase and that all conceptual feelings are derived in a second phase. What is a conceptual feeling doing in the first phase?
While the category of conceptual reproduction derives a conceptual feeling from every physical feeling, it does not consider any underived conceptual feelings. The first phase is a phase of simple reception, which by this passage Whitehead is enlarging to include conceptual feelings.29
In order to insure interaction between the subjective aim and other feelings, Whitehead invokes consideration of "the successive phases of the concrescence (PR 224G). For each phase there corresponds a particular modification of the subjective aim, the ‘subjective end’ of that phase.30 The modification results from the way antecedent feelings influence the subjective end, and that subjective end in turn influences successor feelings. In that way the subjective aim and concrescent feelings reciprocally influence each other without violating the ban on contemporaneous interaction.
Since the subjective aim is required at the outset, it cannot be derived from any inner-concrescent feeling. Nor can it be derived from any one or more actual occasions, for it means to provide the way in which all these prehensions of past occasions can be unified together. Since God is the unity of all ideal possibilities, God would be the natural source. "Each temporal entity ... derives from God its basic conceptual aim,31 relevant to its actual world, yet with indeterminations awaiting its own decisions" (PR 224G).
He immediately recognizes that "in this sense, God can be termed the creator of each temporal actual entity. But the phrase is apt to be misleading (PR 225G). With all the qualifications, this is a remarkable admission. His turn to theism in 1925 had only been possible when he recognized in the principle of limitation a legitimate meaning to God which did not entail that God was the creator of the world. To be creator meant to be omnipotent determiner of all that is. Now in a qualified sense God had to be recognized as creator, yet creating by means of the still small voice of divine persuasion.
T9. Provision of Aim (III.3.1)
This theme of God as the source of initial aims, mentioned heretofore more or less as an afterthought (T8), warrants expansion in its own section.
First, we need to recognize the restraint that Whitehead exercises in specifying the connection between God and the individual occasion. God does not "provide" the aim nor does the occasion prehend God. Instead we have several formulations: (a) "But the initial stage of its aim is an endowment which the subject inherits from the inevitable ordering of things, conceptually realized in the nature of God....Thus the initial stage of the aim is rooted in the nature of God" (PR 244G). (b) "God is the principle of concretion, namely, he is that actual entity from which each temporal concrescence receives that initial aim from which its self-causation starts" (PR 244G).
At this juncture, I believe, Whitehead does not anticipate any difficulty working out the particulars as to how God could influence the world, but then he has not yet proposed the consequent nature with its everlastingness that will pose the major problem (1). The primary reason for restraint, I believe, is to avoid the issue of God as creator, which he may have felt he had sufficiently dealt with (T8). Thus a more impersonal description of God is chosen: the principle of concretion. To be sure, it is given a deeper meaning. Originally as the principle of limitation, the principle of concretion determined which of the eternal objects would be actualizable in the world, now each occasion actualizes itself in terms of God’s gradation of values.
The initial aim is recognized as the initiation of subjectivity, and concrescence is understood in terms of an enlargement of subjective aim: "The subject completes itself during the process of concrescence by a self-criticism of its own incomplete phases" (PR 244G).
The concern for the derivation of subjective aim leads to reflection upon the ontological principle, prompting Whitehead to acknowledge that "the subjective aim limits the ontological principle by its own autonomy" (PR 244G). This limitation is by no means evident in terms of the ontological principle as we know it from Process and Reality, but it was very real in terms of the ontological principle Whitehead was then working with: "That every condition to which the process of becoming conforms in any particular instance has its reason in the character of some actual entity whose objectification is one of the components entering into the particular instance in question" (EWM 323f).
By this formulation reasons are vested solely in actualities, but not "in the character of the subject which is in process of concrescence" (PR 24). Here we see the beginnings of that reformulation, for everything "is either transmitted from an actual entity in the past [which serves as its reason] or belongs to the subjective aim of the actual entity to whose concrescence it belongs" (PR 244G). The subjective aim ought to serve as a reason, together with its modifications, so the ontological principle is subsequently revised.
One sentence links God’s provision of aim with Whitehead’s reconception of God as the nontemporal concrescence of eternal objects: the creativity for the nascent occasion "is conditioned by the relevance of God’s all-embracing conceptual valuations to the particular possibilities of transmission from the actual world" (PR 244G). Those conceptual valuations can only result from God’s inclusive ordering of eternal objects.
It is difficult to conceive, moreover, without some sort of conceptual elaboration as the nontemporal concrescence, how God could serve as the source of the initial aims. They might come directly from the unrealized eternal objects themselves, perhaps by means of conceptual reversion.
I have italicized two words, "particular possibilities," to indicate that Whitehead at this time saw no particular difficulty in connecting God’s very abstract alternatives with the particular concerns of concrescing actual occasions. This particularization could not then have depended on the then unanticipated consequent nature. If it had been, we should expect "conceptually realized in the primordial nature of God" instead of the simple "nature" (PR 244G).
This section mentions subject-superject’ three times. This formulation stresses the identity of subject and superject, although in such a way that while the two concepts are identical in being, ‘subject’ indicates the becoming that leads up to that being. The two must in some sense be identical in order for there to be self-creation, yet the hyphen points to some differentiation. Since the being is lodged in the superject, the subject is free to be the becoming, and the becoming the subject.
T10. Hybrid Physical Feeling (III.3.2)
The justification for the provision of aims is worked out in "The Transmission of Feelings" (III.3.2). "A [simple physical] feeling belonging to this special case has as its datum only one actual entity, and this actual entity is objectified by one of its feelings" (PR 245). The satisfaction is not specified as objectified, or that only feelings belonging to the satisfaction can be objectified. So likewise for hybrid prehensions.
Nor is there here, interestingly enough, any talk of the hybrid physical prehension of the primordial nature of God. Only talk concerning divine conceptual feelings.
We seem to have two different solutions as to how God influences the world, depending on how we understand objectification. If it simply means the influence of one actuality upon another, then the conceptual feelings within God’s on-going concrescence can supply the aims that creatures need for the inner subjectivity. If only that which has achieved being can influence successors, then only that part of God which has being -- the primordial nature -- can be prehended. This seems possible only if the notion of a prehensible partial satisfaction is defensible.
Yet either solution labors under severe difficulty. If the consequent nature cannot participate in the provision of aims, it is very difficult to see how God provides for our particular concerns. To be sure, God can have foreseen every conceivable alternative for the world’s further actualization, matching it with the most appropriate possibility, but such responsiveness would only be apparent, on a par with how the eternal God of classical theism appears to intervene in temporal affairs. What is the point of process theism if its temporal dimension is so ineffective?
Also, it is very puzzling how the nascent occasion -- just coming into being and powerless to make any kind of selection or response -- can select just the sort of aim which is most suitable to it out of the immense complexity of the primordial nature. To be sure, "Those of God’s feelings which are positively prehended are those with some compatibility of contrast, or of identity, with physical feelings transmitted from the temporal world" (PR 247), but how can they possibly be selected? The occasion is too young to do so, and God’s temporal activity seems to be debarred from doing do.
The final paragraph sheds light on how hybrid prehension of God renders the category of reversion superfluous:
But when we take God into account, then we can assert without any qualification Hume’s principle, that all conceptual feelings are derived from physical feelings. The limitation of Hume’s principle introduced by the consideration of the Category of Conceptual Reversion ... is to be construed as referring merely to the transmission from the temporal world, leaving God out of account. (PR 247F)
Although this passage is written much later (F), it was placed in the section just before that on reversion (III.3.3G). So Whitehead could not very well abolish it three pages before it was to be introduced. But if all conceptual feelings could be derived from physical feelings, the category of conceptual valuation would suffice.
Whitehead’s derivation of subjective aim from God thus both accounts for its origination and for any further reversion, but also provides a way in which finite subjectivity could be understood. The earlier doctrine of subject-superject tended to identify the two, at least with respect to their being, still assumed to be its ontological foundation. For any notion which retroactively conferred a secondary being upon the subject-in-process seemed very suspect. The subjective aim was able to take over many of the functions of the subject-in-process, however, and it had the advantage of being present throughout the entire process, affecting every feeling in the process.
Eventually Whitehead comes to recognize that the subjective aim is the occasion’s subjectivity: "The concrescence is dominated by a subjective aim which essentially concerns the creature as a final superject. This subjective aim is the subject itself determining its own self-creation" (PR 69G.+).32
Subjectivity can now be understood as becoming, or better, as the unified directing of the becoming. It is the one focus, at each stage of concrescence, which affects all other feelings with respect to its final goal. On the other hand, it is itself undergoing continual modification, itself being in the process of becoming. Since the becoming results in a determinate actuality capable of affecting other occasions, it is now possible to identify becoming with subjectivity, being with objectivity.
Philosophers conceive being as all-inclusive. Being omits nothing which has the slightest existential claim. Moreover, being is regarded as having a primary, non-derivative ontological status. Yet if becoming results in being, and it doesn’t work to confer ‘being’ retroactively on becoming, the primacy and all-inclusiveness of being is called into question. Whitehead’s theory forces a reconceptualization of our notions of ontological priority. Originally being was Whitehead’s inclusive category for every event considered in the earlier philosophy of nature. But it doesn’t include subjectivity understood as becoming. Whitehead contrasts ‘being’ and ‘becoming’ in order to maintain the principle of relativity, that "it belongs to the nature of a ‘being’ that it is a potential for every ‘becoming"’ (PR 22).
Being as ontologically prior alone fully exists, while all other "entities" only have derivative existence dependent upon such being. The dynamics of concrescence, however, will not permit concrescence to be dependent upon any being of the whole which only emerges at the end. This would require a retroactive bestowal of secondary being from the superject. This is not really possible because the superject does not yet exist when it is needed.
Just because becoming has (as yet) no unified being does not mean that it is therefore nothing. It has a very qualified being as the multiplicity of past beings it has inherited. At any stage in its process of concrescence, it has many beings held in a tentative propositional unity. But only by means of the completion of the concrescence can it become one unified being.
To make this work, becoming must have primary existence, being the derivative existence. Yet it must also be recognized that primary existence is incurably private, and is only effective upon others in terms of the being it produces.
1. Here see my book. The Emergence of Whitehead’s Metaphysics, 1925-1929 (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1984). (Hereafter EWM).
My present conclusions stand at considerable variance from those made in the book. Many more texts have been examined since then. In particular, I had not recognized the importance of the insertions to III.1.5 as the initial locus where Whitehead introduced ‘subjective aim’, nor the role of III.1.3 in setting up the problematic to which III.1.5 was the response.
2. The various theories of subjectivity have been labeled P, Q, R, S. T, in order not to be confused with the various compositional strata (A-M) of Process and Reality outlined in EWM.
The eleven steps have been numbered 0-10, and prefaced by the symbol indicating the theory of subjectivity to which it is seen to belong. The initial step is labeled PO because the substantial subject was never affirmed by Whitehead.
3. Letters after PR citations indicate the probable stratum to which this passage is assigned. C represents the largest stratum, the Giffords draft, intended for deliverance but heavily revised for the Gifford Lectures. C+ stands for relatively late passages in C which prepare the way towards his major revision (conceiving of the initial phase in terms of the multiplicity of past actual occasions), while D through M are the various stages in this revisions.
4. In our classification, letters refer to the kind of subject Whitehead is considering, according to our preliminary sketch. Numbers indicate differences in the objective content which the subject entertains.
We start with B, since A, substantial unity, is a concept he rejects.
5. This theory is analyzed in EWM, chapter eight.
6. Whitehead had an earlier (unfamiliar) meaning for ‘objective datum’ besides the later, more usual one.
After two passages in which he anticipates himself strongly (PR 65C, 152C), White-head adopts the term ‘objective datum’ to designate the datum from which concrescence starts (PR 164C, 212C). If this seems perverse, it must be remembered that there was as yet no contrast with initial feelings, nor indeed any application to feelings at all. Of course this first designation disappears with the overthrow of the Giffords draft theory. By III.1.2, 8-11, we find the customary, second sense of ‘objective datum’ as pertaining to individual feelings.
See EWM 201f, 189-91.
7. While lodged in the chapter on "The Extensive Continuum" (II.2.2), PR 68.2-69.26 seems to be a later insertion, either leading to, or resulting from reflection on, the major shift to D. It replaces four paragraphs, now displaced to PR 3Sf (1.3.3). (69.27-70.4 is a later addition, mentioning ‘subjective aim’.)
8. All these mentions of ‘objective lure’ in II.3.1 seem to come in one insertion. This passage may well include the extensive quotation from Hume on the missing shade of blue, since ‘the principle of relevant potentials’ (86.23), Which Hume’s discussion is meant to illustrate, can only refer to "The relevance of an eternal object in its role of lure as a fact inherent in the data" (PR 86.7). Since one cannot easily refer to a passage not yet contemplated, all of the passage, not just those parts referring to ‘data’ or ‘subjective form (PR 85) should be regarded as a single insertion. The boundaries of the passage seem to be 85.17-87.35, leaving room for several more additions to the section such as 87.35-39, 87.40-88.30. The final paragraph on Kant may belong to the original section, though even it probably has its own insertions.
Our inserted passage has a brief insertion of its own, 85.21b-24, designed to identify the ‘ideal of itself’ with the ‘subjective aim.’
It is somewhat difficult to ascertain what stratum our insertion belongs to. It mentions ‘physical feeling’ and ‘data’, usually reliable signs that this is D or later. I suspect, however, that ‘physical feeling’ does not here mean the prehension of past occasions, such that the term is being used in a less technical sense. Moreover, these are ‘derived data’ (PR 85.28), presumably derived from the datum mentioned at PR 86.24 speaking of unrealized eternal objects which are "unrealized in the datum and yet constituent (by extension] of an ‘objective lure’ by proximity to the datum." Thus I assign it to C+ as inserted in C.
9. There are two mentions of ‘physical feeling’ in the antecedent stratum of C+: 84.4, which is part of a C+ insertion in C, may be a non-technical use of the term before the technical contrast between various physical and conceptual feelings was introduced. 164.14 has "(ii) in conformal physical feeling," while using ‘conformal’ in the surrounding passage at 164.27, 29, 30 and 165.9. It seems likely that Whitehead while later revising this passage added the single word ‘physical’ to conform with his later usage. As it stands ‘conformal physical’ is a bit redundant.
(214.2 might be thought to belong to this, or even an earlier stratum [II.10.4C], but 214.1-2 is most probably a later insertion. Note the continuity of its surroundings without this passage: in this phase, private immediacy has welded the data into a new fact of blind feeling. [. . .] But ‘blindness’. . .")
10. PR 248.24-30 is essentially a digression, which could have been composed when the fourth category was introduced, or later, but it is not likely part of III.2.2 because of its mention of ‘physical feeling’.
11. This last phrase. "physical objective datum," might suggest that this belongs to the Giffords draft as an early designation of the original datum. There does not appear to be, however, any obvious location where this insertion could have been otherwise placed.
I suspect that Whitehead’s first move after the shift to an initial phase of many actual occasions was to resituate the datum as the unity of whole from the beginning to the end of concrescence, and to place it in the satisfaction. So 225.2D, 233.12D (implicit). The ‘satisfaction’ is both the unity of the whole and an individual feeling, from which it is but a short step to apply it to individual feelings.
"Physical objective datum" in its original context probably meant the physical side of the final satisfaction.
12. Compare the seventh categoreal obligation (PR 27) with the seventh categoreal condition (PR 254f).
13. So I reformulated it in "Efficient Causation within Concrescence," Process Studies 19/3 (Fall 1990), pp. 167-80, at p. 175.
14. So Jorge Nobo, "Whitehead’s Principle of Process," Process Studies 4/4 (Winter 1974), pp. 275-84.
15. Although the chapter on "The Primary Feelings" is mostly assigned to E, mention of the seventh category of subjective harmony in this section (III.2.3) suggests that it belongs to F.
l6. I regard the PR 223.36-44 as a later insertion. Note that categories 2 and 3 have only a short one-paragraph explication. 224.5-225.21 is a series of ‘subjective aim’ insertions, to be discussed in terms of T8. The one paragraph explication could be maintained for category I by regarding only the third paragraph (PR 223f) as belonging to it originally.
The doctrine of the third paragraph is more hesitant, vague, yet its claim that "the subject is at work in the feeling" could be developed into the fuller doctrine of paragraph two, claiming that each of the feelings is conditioned by the other feelings, and not qualified against the possible teaching that later feelings could influence earlier ones. We shall see this teaching further concerning the subject-subject (D7).
17. In "Efficient Causation with Concrescence," ibid., pp. 172-75 (section II), I argue further for this notion of ‘virtual unity’. Its first stage corresponds to those stages leading up to T; while the second stage concerns the implications following from T.
18. See the forthcoming study in Process Studies by Denis Hurtubise on the original version of PR, part V.
19. See my essay, "On Genetic Successiveness: A Third Alternative," Southern Journal of Philosophy 7/4 (Winter, 1969-70), pp. 421-26.
20. An Interpretation of Whitehead’s Metaphysics (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959), pp. 258f.
21. See my essay, "When did Whitehead Conceive God to be Personal?", Anglican Theological Review 72/3 (Summer 1990), pp. 280-91.
22. The principal texts proposing, and drawing the implications of, God’s nontemporal concrescence are 40.3-32, 167.7d-12d, 344.3b-12; 31.4-18a, 22-32.3, 32.21-40a; 247.20-27, 257.7b-15, 206f, 244f. Later these ideas are fused with ideas of the consequent nature.
23. ‘Balance’ is not mentioned in the formulation we have, yet its role is evident from Whitehead’s subsequent discussion of this categoreal condition.
24. It, in turn, may include a secondary insertion based on the primordial nature of God, first introduced at I (PR 278.17-27).
25. Whitehead later changed his mind and added a "ninth categoreal obligation," situating it in II.1.4 (PR 46). This is a particularly well marked instance of his rearranging the text by insertion.
26. There is at the end one further insertion, 280.7-37, comparing physical and conscious purposes.
27. The core of this chapter on "The Theory of Feelings" (III.1) seems to be the analysis of the first three categoreal conditions (1.4-7), prefaced by the pivotal section in establishing the shift from datum to data as the starting point of concrescence. 1.3 seems to have been inserted in order to qualify the category of subjective unity (1.5, 1.4 being an introduction the categories). Both are centrally concerned with the question of the unity of an occasion.
28. This insertion itself (G) contains a further insertion, 224.44-225.11, which introduces the later notion of ‘hybrid physical feelings’. Note the way it begins: "But this statement in its turn requires amplification" (PR 224f), the insertion itself providing the necessary amplification. Note also the continuity without the insertion: "Each temporal entity... derives from God its basic conceptual aim. . [. . .] In this sense, God can be termed the creator of each temporal actual entity." We shall be concerned solely with the first insertion in this section.
29. This problem (intensified by means of ‘hybrid physical feelings’, which have not yet been introduced), permits an elegant and rather extreme solution by Jorge Nobo. He takes the subjective process" (PR 224G) to be a distinct process, superseding "the dative phase lacking subjectivity, but consisting of transition, conformal feeling, and conceptual reproduction. Thus the start of the second process corresponds to the phase just beyond conceptual reproduction, where the subjective aim is first needed, for it is needed for the responsiveness to novelty, whereas the initial process automatically unfolded itself. See his Whitehead’s Metaphysics of Extension and Solidarity (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986), esp. p. 149.
I understand "the subjective process" to be simply another description of the one process of concrescence. Rather than, as usual, assign the hybrid prehension of God to the first phase, with the conceptual derivation in the second phase (which would deprive the initial phase of simple physical feeling of any guidance by the subjective aim), we should think of these two terms as referring to the same feeling. It is a ‘hybrid physical feeling’ with respect to its source in the divine actuality, but it is a conceptual feeling with respect to the possibility it contemplates.
30. Although ‘subjective end’ is obviously meant as a technical term, it is not used outside of this passage.
31. This turn of phrase indicates that ‘subjective aim’ has not yet become his commonplace designation, and that his grasp of the "basic conceptual aim" is still fluid and new.
32. I quote here from a G+ insertion 69.27-70A. which is an alternative conclusion to II.2.2C, developing the significance of the argument from Zeno. Although there are no definite indicators, this insertion probably comes from a much later stratum.