Mind in Nature: the Interface of Science and Philosophy

by John B. and David R. Griffin Cobb, Jr.

John B. Cobb, Jr. is Professor of Theology at the School of Theology at Claremont, Avery professor of Religion at Claremont Graduate School, and Director of the Center for Process Studies. David Ray Griffin teaches Philosophy of religion at the School of theology at Claremont and Claremont Graduate School and is Executive Director of the Center for Process Studies.

Published by University Press of America, 1977. This book was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.


(ENTIRE BOOK) A collection of essays by prominent physicists, biologists, geneticists, zoologists, philosophers and other thinkers about the relationship between science and philosophy, particularly the teleological versus the mechanistic explanation of the universe. Special emphasis is given to the writings of Alfred North Whitehead and Process Theology. Contributors include John Cobb, Jr., Theodosius Dobzhansky, Charles Hartshorne, and Arthur Koestler.


  • Preface

    These papers come from a conference held in Bellagio, Italy in June, 1974. The hope underlying the conference was that, if aspects of Whitehead’s form of process philosophy were effectively communicated to scientists who in turn could help philosophers understand the nature of their current problems, both philosophers and scientists would benefit. Although communication between the two communities is far from easy, this volume suggests that it is possible and that, when it occurs, it is mutually fructifying.

  • Chapter 1: The Frontiers of Biology — Does Process Thought Help? by W. H. Thorpe and Response by Bernhard Rensch.

    The reduction of chemistry to physics, of biology to chemistry, of animal conscious or subconscious experience to biology, and of consciousness itself and the creativeness of the human mind to animal experience, are all problems that are unlikely if not impossible to succeed.

  • Chapter 2: Can Evolution be Accounted for Solely in Terms of Mechanical Causation? by L. Charles Birch

    The metaphysical background of process thought is far more germane to the evolutionary picture provided by biology than is the mechanistic philosophy. The only sort of universe in which evolution of organisms can occur is one in which the entities have subjective aim.

  • Chapter 3: From Potentiality to Realization in Evolutiony by Theodosius Dobzhansky

    The transcendence of life and human mind were evolutionary from the non-living to living entities, but scientific knowledge is quite insufficient to give satisfactory accounts of these transitions. An explanation is intractable and unsolved thus far.

  • Chapter 4: Emergence in Evolution: (Response to Birch and Dobzhansky) by Ann Plamondon

    In materialistic philosophy, “higher order” is an aggregate, and it cannot be said to be of greater complexity than its constituents. But the author proposes that in evolutionary development the higher-level order must have been contained in some sense in the lower-level constituent(s). Thus when higher levels of order exhibit properties not belonging to their lower-level constituents, the correct inference is not that something has been added to the lower-level constituents but, rather, that they exhibit different properties when they organize the higher-level order.

  • Chapter 5: The Process Theory of Evolution and Notes on The Evolution Of Mind by C. H. Waddington

    The author proposes a solution to the dilemma of considering the beginning of the evolutionary process as, on one end, depending on nothing but atoms, forces and physicochemical factors, and the other end, as involving something of a totally different character we call ‘mind.’

  • Chapter 6: Some Whiteheadian Comments by John Cobb, and Response by W. H. Thorpe

    The most complex machine will not exhibit any purposiveness, yet the determinist and the teleological arguments are intertwined into the very roots of nature. Self-conscience human purpose is found in the higher orders, thus the author opposes a reductionist interpretation of emergent novelties.

  • Chapter 1: The Implicate or Enfolded Order: A New Order for Physics by David Bohm

    The author uses an analyses of quantum theory and how it needs a fundamentally new notion of order to show a development that is capable of making full contact with modern science, yet assimilates common experience, to give a single, whole, unfragmented world view.

  • Chapter 2: Three Counter Strategies to Reductionism in Science by Francis Zucker

    Three research programs that are motivated by opposition to physical reductionism.

  • Chapter 3: Temporal Order and Spatial Order: Their Differences and Relations by Milic Capek

    Our instinctive tendency is to believe that the relations of succession can be adequately symbolized by geometrical relations. The persistence of this belief has had disastrous influence through the centuries on philosophical and theological thought, and upon physical theories as well.

  • Chapter 4: Free Will in a Hierarchic Context by Arthur Koestler, Responses by Charles Hartshorne and Bernhard Rensch

    The degrees of freedom in the hierarchy increase with ascending order, and each upward shift of attention to higher levels, each handing over of decision to higher echelons, is accompanied by the experience of free choice. But is it merely a subjective experience? The author thinks not, since freedom cannot be defined in absolute, only in relative, terms, as freedom from some specific constraint.

  • Chapter 5: Some Whiteheadian Comments by John B. Cobb, Jr.

    Reductive determinism mistakenly holds the view that when prediction of behavior and thought is not possible, this is because of the complexity of the determining factors rather than because of indeterminacy or freedom.

  • Chapter 1: Arguments for Panpsychistic Identism by Bernhard Rensch and Response by Charles Hartshorne

    All psychic phenomena (sensations, mental images, feelings, thoughts and processes of volition) are merged in our stream of consciousness. All psychic experience is therefore part of a process. Many considerations speak in favor of this “panpsychistic identism.”

  • Chapter 2. Panpsychism and Science by Sewall Wright

    In addition to the necessarily deterministic and probabilistic interpretations of the material world of science, there is the primary but private knowledge which each of us has of his own stream of consciousness, more or less continually directed toward the finding of an acceptable course through the difficulties of the external world by means of voluntary actions.

  • Chapter 3: Physics and Psychics: The Place of Mind in Nature by Charles Hartshorne

    Since physics and chemistry have demonstrated how limited in penetration our mere sense perceptions are, how radically they fail to disclose what is really there in nature, it follows that the entire traditional foundation for both materialism and dualism has been destroyed by the advance of knowledge. All concrete or physical things (a) are minds of some high or low kind, or (b) are composed of minds. However, only active singulars are individually sentient.

  • Chapter 4: Some Whiteheadian Comments by David Ray Griffin

    The author discusses the similarities and differences between the insights of Bernhard Rensch, Sewall Wright, and Charles Hartshorne, from a Whiteheadian point of view.

  • Chapter 1: Some Main Philosophical Issues in Contemporary Scientific Thought by Ivor Leclerc

    Previously, biology was conceived as reductive to chemistry and chemistry as reductive to physics. But today these sciences have distinct features. Biology, as an example, by virtue of its structure, makes possible the requisite degree of conceptual origination, having the characteristic of “life,” which is not true of chemistry or physics.

  • Chapter 2: Whitehead and the Philosophy of Science by Ann Plamondon and Response by Bernard Rensch

    Metaphysics has an essential role in the philosophy of science — that of the understanding and the grounding of scientific concepts and methodology. That is, the fundamental concepts of a metaphysical system should give an analysis of the foundational concepts of the sciences in such a way that these concepts themselves provide a grounding — a general logic — of the methodology of the sciences.

  • Chapter 3: Whitehead’s Philosophy and Some General Notions of Physics and Biology by David R. Griffin

    A discussion of Whitehead’s understanding of: 1) metaphysics and it’s relation to science; 2) the fundamental categories to all of reality; 3) the implications in his understanding of fundamental categories in the objects of physics; and 4) non-reductionistic biology which avoids dualism, including vitalism.

  • Chapter 4: Can Whitehead Help Us Learn What We’re Talking About? by Richard H. Overman

    The proper interpretation of Lamarckian notions in genetics depends fully on knowing ‘what’ we are talking about. All new patterns of efficient causation in animal bodies can be traced to some occasions’ subjective aims.

  • Chapter 5: Whitehead and Modern Science by C. H. Waddington

    If we approach science from the Whiteheadian point of view, the fortress which the anti-scientists will have to attack is not what they think it is, and may be capable of mounting a rather devastating counter-attack.

  • Chapter 6: Concluding Editorial Comments by John B. Cobb, Jr.

    From the sixteenth through the eighteenth century, philosophy and science developed in close connection. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries they have become quite separate. The disciplines of cosmology and philosophy of nature have fallen between the stools. Alfred North Whitehead is the major twentieth-century exception to this breakdown of an ancient and fruitful relation. C.H. Waddington believes that scientific thought is “just about now beginning to catch up with the first phase of Whitehead’s thought,” and that science will proceed in the general direction Whitehead moved in his later work. The editors believe that the advance of science can be facilitated by an ongoing discussion with Whitehead’s philosophy of nature, and hope that more philosophers and scientists will join in the discussion.