The Brightman-Hartshorne Correspondence, 1934-1944

by Robert A. Gillies

The Rev. Robert A. Gillies is University Chaplain in Dundee, Scotland. As a Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, he studied Edgar Sheffield Brightman and has recently published on Brightman in The Expository Times.

The following article appeared in Process Studies, pp. 9-18, Vol. 17, Number 1, Spring, 1988. 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 follows the correspondence between Edgar S. Brightman and Chalres Hartshorne over a number of years. They tried to converge on fundamental issues, but there were some basic differences. In particular in their epistemology, the two were separated by the ancient perspectives of monism and dualism.

This essay traces the course of a correspondence between Edgar Sheffield Brightman (1884-1953) and Charles Hartshorne (born 1897) over a ten year period beginning in 1934. Brightman taught philosophy at Boston University and Hartshorne philosophy at the University of Chicago. This correspondence is significant for two main reasons. First, it has not been documented before. Second, and more importantly for researchers, it shows that though there is much in common between the two men their thought failed to converge on fundamental issues. As will be seen there was a basic divide in their metaphysical understanding, despite their urgent seeking for common ground.

Our discussion of their thought on epistemology and the metaphysics of God will expose this divide.

The correspondence which is the subject of this examination is held in the Brightman Archive at the Mugar Memorial Library, Boston University. The author is grateful for the permission granted him by the library authorities to research the Archive.

Most of the letters through the ten year period were typewritten. Brightman used his secretaries who included file references in the script. Hartshorne, it would seem, did his own (much untidier) typing and of the two dispatched the longer letters. Hartshorne added copious marginal, head and tail notes often in longhand, which is difficult to read. By and large the correspondence is substantially complete -- indicating, at least, a thoroughness in Brightman’s office management.

The correspondence began (despite my immediately previous remarks) with a now lost or uncopied note and some articles from Brightman. Hartshorne acknowledges these on Oct. 18, 1934:

Thanks for your note and articles. I have been aware for some time that we are not far apart in theology, since reading The Problem of God, in fact.

He goes on to remark that the only thing that seriously worries him in Brightman’s philosophy, "is the idea that other selves are merely inferred but never given." By saying this Hartshorne is challenging the fundamental axiom around which Brightman’s whole philosophical system revolves. This is his concept of the person. Without injustice to the magnitude of Brightman’s writing on the person his position can be readily summarized.

Brightman considers that each person is defined by an immediate awareness or experience that characterizes that person alone. One cannot have direct experience of another, but another’s existence may be inferred as a reasonable hypothesis to account for the coming and going, and for influences upon personal experience. This immediate experience of the person is connected to past and future by memory and anticipation.

Over against this Hartshorne expressed his own belief that, "literal participation in each other’s being is about my strongest belief," though he did grant "that other human selves are, for practical purposes known indirectly." He asks, "are we not parts of each other, members of one another?" Souls for Hartshorne, "literally overlap, and some cement is needed to bind them together, and what binds them must itself overlap." We need not trouble here with Hartshorne’s definition of the soul, except to say that in the context of this correspondence it may be taken synonymously with that which he calls the "self."

In his letter of December 10, 1934 Brightman shares Hartshorne’s worry, "that other selves are merely inferred but never given," and goes on to present his own empiricist colors "I’d like to be able to make sense out of the idea of a literal participation in other selves . . . whenever I try, I find myself landed in contradiction, in epistemological chaos, and in unfaithfulness to experience . . . ." Brightman’s argument is that any "intuition" (for him a synonym for "experience"), "is exclusively a member of me," but the object of that intuition is "always problematic and distinct from the conscious experience which refers to it." He offers an illustration: "I cannot say that the flower is the same as the soil . . . which nourishes it." For Brightman a sharp epistemological dualism separates cause from effects. However urgent the necessity of the relationship of effect upon its cause, this relatedness implies otherness, not absorption.

Brightman argues that a statement from Hartshorne’s letter, "other persons are necessary to my existence . . . and hence can be inferred from my existence" and that "necessary to my being and part of my being are the same," seems to Brightman "to surrender the empirical and psychological to the logical too completely." Brightman makes, "a sharp distinction between my actual self and its causes."

Hartshorne’s comment, in an untidy reply (February 10, 1935) upon Brightman’s position is that he seems to, "presuppose the logic of absolute differences even while arguing for a particular application of that logic." He goes on:

To say the self is given but other-selves are not, i.e. absolutely not, is to assert such an absolute difference. You defend this by assuming that its denial would mean that other-selves are given just as much and in the same way as the self. My and Whitehead’s position is that the self is given under a limitation, and that other selves are given under different limitations, that the difference is relative, not unreal.

By ‘given’ both mean the direct experience of oneself in personal experience. Hartshorne’s view is that the givenness of one’s own personal experience and that of others is distinguished only by a difference of degree. He defined ‘sociality’ as a "sharing of creative experience." He considered that "Human neighbors are mostly imagined and inferred, but then so is my own self, very little of which is distinctly intuited at any moment. Degrees of vagueness in intuition are vital to the [i.e., Hartshorne’s] doctrine." Hartshorne’s effort in presenting his case to Brightman is to attempt to explain the distinction "between a thing and its causes." He believes it is a distinction to be explained and not to be taken as ultimate. This last is Brightman’s stance. Hartshorne’s explanation is that of Whitehead:

The only explanation the wit of man appears to have devised is Whitehead’s notion of causality as identical with memory plus the essentially structural character of the unity of consciousness. This means that the cause is a part of its effect via memory construed as real preservation of the past itself into the present.

How does Brightman respond? He does so briefly (May 30, 1935) by restating his own position. namely, that immediate experience ("givenness") is a "unique, irreducible, brute fact." For Brightman there is an "absolute difference . . . between what is given as myself . . . and all other selves." Brightman refuses to admit that because "my own past and future have to be inferred (this) does not place them in the same category as other selves." He continues "they (-- my past and future --) are inferred as what has been or will be given to a self which experiences itself as the same as the other self of the specious present." Hartshorne’s closing remarks in his previous letter that the differences between them are "partly verbal" sounds gravely inadequate as Brightman challenges a fundamental move offered by Hartshorne:

You say that bodily cells or molecules are the other self most completely intuited on the Whiteheadian view, while human neighbors are mostly imagined or inferred. But must not the bodily cells also be imagined and inferred? . . . Can I strictly intuit anything except the content of the specious present . . .?

Thus Brightman distinguishes other selves (within which category he includes one’s own physical make-up) from inferences about the past and future of one’s own self because these inferences concern immediate experiences (either actual or hypothetical) of one’s own self alone. By this move Brightman attempts to reinforce his absolute distinction between the experiencer and other selves (including one’s own body) as the object of that experiencing.

Hartshorne, each time he replies to Brightman, tries to move him away from his "absolute" bifurcation of experience and its object. His statements "are all acceptable" (Dec. 22, 1938) and the distinction between the two becomes "technical," "not so substantial," (Jan. 30, 1938); "purely verbal" (July 31, 1937).

There is some correspondence missing between 1935 and 1938, but an interesting point to note is that, though Hartshorne replies to Brightman’s letter of May 30, 1935 on July 19. 1935, he writes on Dec. 22, 1938 apologizing for not having replied to Brightman’s letter of "three years ago." The content of Hartshorne’s letter make it quite clear he is referring to Brightman’s of May 30, 1935! Evidently he has forgotten the interim communications. Thus, even though there are gaps in the Archive between 1935 and 1938, the correspondence is resumed in 1938 as though there were not.

Hartshorne (Dec. 22, 1938) develops his argument that in experience there are gradations of awareness, such that in experience "faintly given is the whole past, including the past of other individuals, particularly those composing the body." In an earlier letter (July 19, 1938) he cites a link with Leibniz’s "gradations of awareness" to indicate the intellectual origin of his own position. For Hartshorne past presents, though given in the present, are "nevertheless past because they are the less definite parts of the present." The presence of future experiences in the present similarly fall into place in this gradational scheme. Thus the immediate moment of experience, the specious present, includes all the preceding presents of the self but the succeeding ones only in the vague outline constitutive of futurity. In this way past, present and future experiences all form part of the self "givenness of past in present is what is meant by the endurance of the ‘identical’ self." In an interesting aside he remarks that this view was the "crowning achievement of ANW."

Developing this theme Hartshorne considers that other selves are also "integral to my present in that theirs has to enter into it." In this sense he contends "I am identical not only with my past self but with other past selves. But not in the same degree and pattern." Our observations concerning Hartshorne’s view of gradations of experience would lead us to expect such words from him. He explains that consistent with this metaphysics, "Empirical facts easily distinguish my past from yours." Thus "The own-self is the only individual distinctly given." Other selves, though given, are "made much more distinct . . . [by] inference and imagination . . . than the self."

Hartshorne’s objection to Brightman resides in the latter’s insistence that whilst other selves are "necessary to" (January 30, 1938) my experience they are not "part" of it. Hartshorne knows of no difference between these "in the broadest logical sense." In experience, "what is given" to two people, say, is the same, and what "is given to you is itself, with some grade of relevance or vividness, given to me." Hartshorne describes (Dec. 22, 1938) this "feeling by one feeler of the feeling of another" as "love in one aspect" (also Feb. 10, 1935). It involves "duplication of states with differences of distinctiveness between individuals." It is precisely this area that Brightman cannot accept: "Distinctions of clarity and faintness in the given . . . [are valid] to the limit" (January 1, 1939). But he argues that his "knowledge of the past (does not) correspond to the vague areas of consciousness." He goes on:

When I know the past at all it seems to me that there are the same distinctions of clarity and faintness in it as in my knowledge of the present.

Thus far the differences between Brightman and Hartshorne may seem to be relatively resolvable by more appropriate vocabulary. But such ready resolution is not available:

. . . when you say that the whole past is faintly given, it seems to me that the word given is experiencing so complete a change in meaning as to be unwarranted. Not even faintly do I remember some of yesterday’s deeds; or if I do remember faintly in spite of having not the faintest consciousness of so doing, then faint givenness is really ungivenness.

Brightman then is interpreting Hartshorne’s own understanding of gradations of experience in the terms of his own metaphysical framework where "given" means literal content of experience. Brightman can make no sense of Hartshorne’s statement that "faintly given is the whole past." How can it and "the past of other individuals" be faintly given, asks Brightman? Most of these past experiences of other selves will not be given at all to me, he argues. They cannot constitute a "given" to me when I am not conscious of them. To interpret "given" in the way he sees Hartshorne doing is to say that "a given is not a given." Thus, "your view must take as a postulate that there is a faint givenness, so faint that it is for the most part totally absent from the given."

Brightman is on strong ground, at least empirically speaking. If something is in one’s consciousness, one will have experience of it -- it will be "given" in experience. In other words, if this something’s presence is so faint as to be incapable of experience then what sense is there in saying it is given in experience? Why not say it is absent? Hartshorne’s panpsychism seems to require him to take his concept of the participation of selves in one another to speculative limits that seem, to Brightman, empirically indefensible.

Brightman enlarges upon his criticism of Hartshorne by referring to his own interpretation of interaction. For there to be interaction, it "is meaningless unless two beings are involved." How can there be two beings if they participate in one another’s being? This would be Brightman’s question, and it reminds us of his earlier refusal to admit identity of a cause with its effect and vice versa. For Brightman individuality of selves is fundamental. But being an individual in no way implies an inability to interact with other individuals. Using Leibnizian language he writes:

. . . a monad may be genuinely private without being absolutely independent. It may be in constant interaction with other monads and dependent for its very being on the monad of monads without being a part of any other monad in any respect whatever.

In his reply (May 8, 1939) Hartshorne writes, "I understand better now why you are so interested in maintaining a distinction between what is necessary to and what is part of a thing."

The force of Brightman’s challenge has brought about the need for a precision of reply from Hartshorne that hitherto has been lacking. Much the more diffuse of the two in style, Hartshorne offers the following (in the same letter) both to meet this requirement and to make his position more clear vis a vis Brightman’s:

. . . my friends are not obviously parts of me because my vivid awarenesses of them are really awarenesses of the state of my brain in acts of perception and imagination. The direct relations are very faint. But I include my bodily parts rather vividly, and they include light rays, etc, and these include in their meager Isic] way the quality of their source. So I include the whole chain.

He adds:

But only low grade monads can directly and vividly include their neighbors, have social relations primarily direct rather than imaginative, with equals. This enslaves them, they have little independence.

This will satisfy Brightman’s insistence on the uniqueness and irreducibility of persons. Hartshorne’s comments are also intended to go some way towards rapprochement of their interpretations of the ways that the self is an individual in interaction with others. But is what Hartshorne saying sufficient? An initial reading of Brightman’s reply might lead us to think it might be. Indeed, for the first time, he writes, "It almost seems to me as though our difference were more verbal than real" (May 12, 1939). But further reading leads us to conclude that these opening remarks were based more on rhetorical enthusiasm than on sound reason. Brightman writes:

"If we are directly aware of the sun it is a part of us," you say. This is at the heart of epistemology. My heart is dualistic, yours monistic. For me, I am directly aware only of my own experience. What we (confusedly) call direct awareness of the sun is really a direct awareness of myself-as-believing-in-sun, or as referring-to-sun. No part of me is any part either of the sun or of God. I thoroughly accept your dictum that "‘Part’ is [has?] no meaning fixed independently of direct awareness," but regard direct awareness as always and only of myself, when it is purely direct. Usually it (or what passes for it) is a judgment that there is an object, one of whose properties is to produce a recognizable effect in my consciousness; but I do not judge this effect to be any part of the object.

This counters Hartshorne’s position directly. Brightman adds:

Your further thesis, that "nothing I am wholly unaware of directly can be necessary to me, seems to me to need many qualifications. I’d say that nothing that I have never been and never shall be aware of is a part of me; yet I must add that much that I cannot in any meaningful sense be said to be aware of directly . . . is still necessary to a coherent interpretation of the world with which I interact.

At an earlier point in this letter he writes, helpfully developing the implications of his dualist empiricism:

. . . the empiricist in me finds it necessary to distinguish between actual experience and the (epistemologically) hypothetical entities to which my actual experience refers . . . implies . . . or with which it interacts . . . Among such entities I should count my body, my subconscious, society, the natural order, and God. My fundamental category is not ‘in-ness’ but rather purpose. I can understand my universe only in terms of the purpose that there shall be otherness, which at the same time is a purposively cooperating otherness. Hence I deny windows through which parts of anything else can come in or go out, but not windows through which purposes may interact.

At this juncture the correspondence lapsed for three years. It is therefore an appropriate point to offer an interim conclusion. We have here two thinkers in the idealist, theistic Christian and process traditions of philosophy, both earnestly wishing to seek and achieve agreement. But both seem separated (despite earnest goodwill that was not to last) in their respective epistemologies by the ancient chasm of dualism and monism. For these two men convergence in this historic area proved as impossible in 1939 as it was to later in 1944.

Their letters from 1942 are more convoluted and to a degree more confused. Their presentation becomes more voluminous and passionate as they engage each other in a number of areas. Of necessity we shall be selective.

In what we can call the second phase of their correspondence issues that remain from the first re-emerge. They do so, however, with a turn in direction. Theistic material is introduced. On Jan. 22, 1942 Hartshorne wrote to Brightman replying to the latter’s review of Moral Values and the Idea of God. In the relevant section of his letter for our present purposes he discussed Brightman’s criticisms of his treatment of part and whole. He begins, "I still think that it is untenable to infer from, x includes y and all its properties, that x has as its own all the properties of y. Hartshorne applies this to his doctrine of God. For him, since all individuals are part of the deity, it follows that God also has these beliefs as part of his whole. So "the actively erroneous beliefs are ‘included in’ God but are God’s only in the sense of beliefs he includes, not those he believes." In the relevant section of his own reply Brightman does little more than restate his refusal to identify content of experience with the object to which that experience testifies. Thus in Hartshorne’s terms of reference Brightman writes, "I cannot believe that God’s knowledge of me is ontologically identical with my actual being for myself."

Hartshorne (Sept. 23, 1942) seems exasperated in his reply:

You say over and over that if there is belief -- say some erroneous belief of mine in God, then he believes an erroneous belief. I say, over and over, that I do not admit that to have a belief as part of oneself is necessarily to believe the belief . . . . . To embrace false beliefs within one’s being and to believe falsely are, I say, no more the same than to embrace smallness as property of a part and to be small as a whole.

Equally including volition in one’s experience, "is not necessarily in all cases to will in the ways in question." He adds, "One may suffer the volitions of others as parts of one’s being, but not one’s own volitions, except in the sense in which the smallness of a part belongs to a large whole. Not merely is the volition not all of the whole’s volition, it is not its at all in the same sense or mode as it is the volition of the part." Relating this to God this means he "feels our volitions directly, and they are parts of him, as that to which one is passive is a part of the passive state, logically inseparable from its being as a whole." He makes what he believes is a concession to Brightman:

On one point I admit what may seem the principle of your argument. I admit that the sufferings of the parts belong as sufferings of its own to the whole. But even here there is a change of mode. What is overwhelming suffering, nearly the whole content, of the past, is in the whole only as a very different proportion of its total value-state. The reason that the whole nevertheless does suffer in the sufferings of the parts is that suffering remains that, whether it is active or passive.

This he distinguishes from volition, "To feel the suffering of others is to suffer whereas to feel the volitions of others is not to will them." How does Brightman respond? In a letter of September 25, 1942 he writes, "I agree entirely with all that you say about parts and wholes. I also grant that there are the different modes of inherence to which you hold." So far, so good. But for Brightman the vital point now emerges": "If a belief inheres in God without his believing it and the same belief inheres in me while believing it, everything is hunky-dory [sic]."

Brightman accepts that much of what Hartshorne says is not in dispute: "There is no contradiction in saying that parts are small and the whole is great, or even that parts are bad and the whole good." But he is still in dispute with Hartshorne on the content of the divine mind and the human mind: "there is contradiction in declaring that a perfect mind entertains contradictory beliefs about the same belief." Our own reading of these letters leads to the impression that Brightman has not taken Hartshorne’s point nor yet has he even answered his criticisms. This too is Hartshorne’s own impression, who "still can’t see [Brightman’s] vital point as a point":

It is precisely my belief in my belief, or rather, in a certain proposition or state of affairs, that is in God without for all that being God’s believing. My real believing is a property of his part but not a property or state of himself as a whole, analogously to the smallness of the part belonging to the whole only as its parts property not as its property; state or act.

This is essentially a restatement of Hartshorne’s position, noted above, that "God has the activity of my belief as an activity of his part, but this is passivity of himself, as a whole, to the part, and thus the belief is felt and enjoyed but not believed, except by the part."

Brightman is angered: "I cannot see the intelligibility of your premise"; "I am not at all satisfied with the state of our discussion." He sees Hartshorne to be involved in what his own teacher, Borden Parker Bowne, called "Picture Thinking." From this Brightman contends that, "What is true of space relations is not tine of a thinking mind." Some analogies are offered (October 31, 1942):

If I get the point, it is that you think that a small line can be part of a large surface, without any contradiction between the smallness of the line and the largeness of the surface. From that analogy you argue that a false belief of a small mind may be in a large mind without the large minds accepting the false belief.

Hartshorne (Nov. 9, 1942) offers, "another try," being cautious and exact in his considered reply:

The exact point in dispute seems this: can my really believing P be within God without his really believing P? In other words, does "within" necessarily imply "of" or "by" God? Can my act of "assertion" be part of God though he makes no such act himself? Must one perform an act oneself to have it as part of one’s being? Of course to contain the act as something one acts oneself one must perform it. But the question is not whether God contains by believing as his act but whether he can contain it as mine, and as "his" only in the sense in which what belongs to a part, in a different sense belongs to the whole?

He argues that the properties of parts do not belong to wholes, that "A part can move, while its whole does not . . . the fading out of one of my sensations is not my fading out . . ." He writes:

for God to have my believing, it cannot be necessary for him to believe as I do, merely by virtue of some general proposition about part and whole . . . So your insistence that human believing within God must mean human believing by God, must rest on some special law of mind as a whole, not on a general law of wholes.

Hartshorne’s position seems quite straightforward and clear. Yet Brightman disagrees and claims to do so on empirical grounds. Brightman replies, January 31, 1943, "believing P cannot be within God unless God believes P . . . every act in a mind is an act of that mind." For Brightman when the mind, as a unity of consciousness acts, the whole mind acts:

I do not agree that a part of a mind can perform an act which the whole mind does not perform, for the simple reason that I experience mind and its action as an indivisible, although complex, whole.

The alternative to this for Brightman is to conceive mind as an "assemblage, not a real unity, as I experience it to be. Relating this to a doctrine of God, he writes, "If God contains my act as mine, but not as his, then my act is not his act in any personal sense, and the verb ‘contain’ is being used in an impersonal sense."

If Brightman was the clearer of the two writers in their earlier correspondence, it is now Hartshorne who takes that role. Our reading gives the impression of Hartshorne patiently reworking and rewording his metaphysic to enable his interlocutor to understand him more fully. Brightman either fails to understand Hartshorne’s position within Hartshorne’s terms of reference or fails to comprehend that it is a tenable position at all. With regard to the former alternative one has some sympathy with Hartshorne when he criticizes Brightman for not considering the "distinction between pantheism and panentheism" when he attempts to refute Hartshorne whom he implies holds a pantheist position. With regard to the latter we consider Hartshorne justified when he says, "I haven’t chiefly attacked your position but protested as though you had a refutation of my position. If you have it you have not stated it . . ." (Nov. 9, 1942).

To attempt to clear the air Hartshorne draws up a list of some things they do agree upon:

(1) God knows all things perfectly, including our acts.

(2) What we do, our acts, are done by us not by God.

(3) Would you also say that in so far as we are active God is passive, that he suffers what we do? (June 5, ‘43)

Is God’s experienced knowledge of my beliefs inferential? Hartshorne considers it is. If so God’s knowledge would not be perfect, Brightman could object, "for inferential knowledge can be adequate only to abstract objects." For Hartshorne, "perfect knowledge must have some sort of unity with its object." God’s knowledge seems to Hartshorne "in our experience always a unity of knowing and known, except so far as there is inference." Hartshorne has drawn to the limits his notion of experience and inference and from this develops his earlier thesis of parts and wholes, arguing from his position that, when the whole acts, the whole does act and that when the parts act the whole need not. Certainly, "every property of the part makes a difference to the whole and that suffering parts mean a suffering whole." His stance is such that Brightman must react or retreat. For Brightman’s benefit and at his request Hartshorne outlines what he means by panentheism.

Brightman replies (July 12, 1943) that there can be no perfect knowledge, only the "best possible" knowledge that the circumstances allow. Hartshorne’s seeming application of perfect knowledge to analytical judgements is, for Brightman misleading and therefore concludes that "I see no possible way of knowing a concrete object (other than my present self) without inductive inference." It seems to Brightman that "this is the nature of knowledge -- to refer, to describe, to understand, to infer -- rather than to be." Thus God knows us "by description" (Hartshorne used the word "inference"): "No mind can . . . have acquaintance with anything but itself." Further, "God obviously cannot know our doing as we know it, if this be true. What God does not do he cannot know himself as doing."

This last quotation clarifies some of the earlier confusion. For Brightman the human person cannot be a part of that of which God is the whole, therefore God cannot experience our acts. He has knowledge by description of them. If he experienced the acts they would be his, not ours, on Brightman’s terms. We have thus a dualist metaphysics of reality displayed in Brightman. The content of God’s consciousness extends to the "physical universe" for which he accepts "panentheism." But with respect to other selves (minds) there is no "direct or indirect evidence" for one self being contained within another. In these terms the unity of consciousness which Hartshorne raised previously is explained by Brightman in interactive terms between distinct consciousness and not in terms of a continuum (my word) of one single consciousness.

Hartshorne responds by defining more clearly (what Brightman was to describe [September 5, 1943] as the "clearest statement of the thing we are puzzled about that one could well ask for") what he means by part and whole. In this letter (not dated but probably September 1, 1943) by "part of a thing in the widest sense" is meant "whatever must be described if the thing is to be fully described." For Brightman this is the "real nub of the matter" (September 5, 1943). A "part" of the person is not for Brightman its cause but "consciousness less than the whole," for the whole of the person "would be the completed series of that consciousness -- a situation never empirically attained -- i.e., there is always future and immortal consciousness. Thus for Brightman consciousness, the essence of what it is to be a person, can be nothing other than the consciousness itself. He repeats again something with which we are now familiar, namely that the brain, nervous system, air, sun or anything else cannot be a part of one’s consciousness.

Hartshorne differs: "I am no part of Jane Austen, though she is part of me. Also, we are parts of God as he is now but not as he once was and as he might have been now" (Jan. 13, 1944).

This constitutes the divide between Hartshorne and Brightman. For the former a monism of Mind in the universe is fundamental, because "The Divine Mind preserves the absoluteness of the "whole being . . . independent of what parts there may be" acting on and in it. For the latter a fundamental dualism of human and divine mind with mutual interaction but not inclusion characterizes the unity between them. Inevitably from this perspective their correspondence moved into what each meant by the terms and language they were using.

In a very brief letter of May 19, 1944 replying to Hartshorne’s long communication of Jan. 13, Brightman wrote that acting under his physician’s direction "Dire physical necessity compels me to lag in our discussion, while agreeing our differences are linguistic." On this note the correspondence ended.

The present author has to conclude the differences were more than linguistic. Though Hartshorne repeatedly urged they were linguistic Brightman only said as much twice through the ten year period of their writing. As with the discussion on epistemology, the two were separated by the ancient perspectives of monism and dualism. In their metaphysics of the content of God’s mind as with their respective epistemologies this fundamental divide prevented them achieving convergence. Such a divide cannot be bridged by claiming a linguistic difference when all the evidence they offer suggests the difference resides in diametrically opposed ontologies.1



PG -- E. S. Brightman, The Problem of God. The Abingdon Press: New York, 1930.



1Reflecting on this correspondence, Hartshorne comments: "I should have used and emphasized ‘feeling of feeling’, in this duality of experience is precisely my difference from Brightman. He thinks we just feel [only] our own feelings."