Archive for the ‘Reading Assignments’ Category

In “On Whitehead’s Ontological Principle,” Robert Hanna states Whitehead’s notion of “passing on” or “the activity” does not imply “mere flux;” instead, “it is to be taken as the reference to that which involves production or genius.” For Hanna, the “productivity-in-activity” is Whitehead’s underlying notion behind creativity. He refers to Whitehead’s Process and Reality: “It is the abstract language here adopted for metaphysical statement, “passing on” becomes “creativity” in the dictionary sense of the verb create, to “bring forth, beget, produce.” (PR, 213) This idea is nothing new for the artist, or for that matter, any other creative individual. Work comes from work. In order to produce a great work of art, whether it is an abstract painting, a romantic poem, a punk-rock song, or a delicious meal, one must attempt the act of creation, but what is interesting about Whitehead is the point of departure he takes from other thinkers.

Hanna states that Whitehead differs by disagreeing with those thinkers who believe there is an “external creation or genius;” instead, Whitehead believes that creativity “expresses the notion that each . . . being is a process issuing into novelty.” From this, Hanna concludes that Whitehead’s idea of creativity “refers to an internalized production of genesis of beings.” Therefore, for Hanna, “the beings are not wholly produced by another; in some sense they produce themselves.” (112)

When Hanna refers to beings, is he referring to works of art? This is a difficult notion, as Hanna states, for “creativity is not an actual entity” (114).

But what is interesting about Whitehead, as one reads on, is that he manages to incorporate the cosmos into creativity, and in doing so, he destroys the notion of an Absolute, breaking down the Platonic notion of ideal form. Here, he makes way for all people to participate in the creative act.


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Whitehead ideas, similar to Bohm’s, are expansive, sometimes abstract, and intimidating to address. I most certainly detect a physicists mind behind observations on the “pulse” and how it draws from converging threads/syntheses of energy to create infinite and unique effects, which then pay a role in becoming sources for new effects. But this sort of “telos” makes me wonder as to where “traces” initially stemmed from. Some big bang?

Also, if I’m reading him right, it sounds like Whitehead relates existence and experience to beauty (at least a certain type of it) in the idea that a pulse creates its own “final unity” and completes it’s own perspective of the world, bringing “into being a slightly, sometimes substantially, novel pattern of integrated feeling.” This rather sounds like Whitehead is saying that beauty is the frisson created by as a unit (human or otherwise) uniquely conduits an experience, an unwitting and “unconscious aim” present in each moment of our existence. This again leads back to a problem with characterizing the zest that the human soul has. Are souls simply convergences of energy? If so, do rudimentary souls evolve, while others decay? Where did these souls come from and what was their original form? As only dead things are persistent, everything else much participate in the flux. Is there any teleology or ontology in the vast flows of energy, especially in the notion of “concrescence”?

I have a great many questions of Whitehead. Now to get to his books…

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My experiences with Bohm have been multi and mani-fold. I first encountered his work when I began to interest in wholistic philosophies/perspectives on consciousness. In reading “On Creativity” and parts of “The Ending of Time” with Krishnamurti, I suddenly realized that a book that had affected me tremendously, “The Wholeness of Nature: Goethe’s Way of Science,” had been written by a student of Bohm’s, Henri Bortoft. Things came together, so to speak.

I find Bohm’s distinction between imaginativerational insight and imaginativerational fancy useful, though I find it a little hard to think of the term “fancy” as to mean conducting a task as tedious as testing ideas out, one by one, until a match is hit upon. To some extent I suppose that’s how it is with words, when I have a certain important tone/impact resonance/aftertaste I want to achieve, I often must brainstorm proximate words/phrases, and afterwards sit with them in front of me till the right one emerges. Very often, there is somewhat of a recognizable trajectory, a vague sentiment coming into shaper focus, but very often I leap back to restart. When the final word is chosen, if it simply catalogues all desired reverberations, I will probably just have exercised my imaginativerational fancies. However, if the word is one that is invested/embodied with meaning, not only in the immediate text but in the entire narrative, recapturing a theme/tension introduced in the first chapter perhaps, I may have exercised my capacities to engage in imaginativerational insights. This is of course easier to describe this sort of a thing with more narrative expansion, but enough about me. My hand doesn’t fascinate me all that much.

Of course, the imaginativerational fancies idea is expressed similarly in BVSR, bootstrapping, etc?

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I apologize to my fellow classmates and Professor Brown for not being present last week.

I feel I must preface this post by stating point-blank that I have never had the pleasure of being enrolled in a formal course on Philosophy. I have been in courses wherein the heavy hitters (Foucault, Rousseau, Nietzsche, etc.) were touched upon, but were never the main focus.

During my first podcast project (which was lost due to me deleting a file I thought was superfluous) Diane McGurren mentioned that some people exist on a completely different plane. We call them geniuses. Dr. Turner is a prime example.  After reading Victor Lowe’s The Philosophy of Whitehead, it is clear to me that Lowe felt the same way about his former teacher. According to Lowe, “(Whitehead) has become the most quoted and the least accepted of twentieth-century thinkers” (226).

Of the two readings I found Lowe’s more accessible and thought-provoking. This is probably due to the fact that I am not familiar with Whitehead’s work, so some of  Hanna’s in-depth critique flew well over my head. If I had the time and philosophical background to read Whitehead’s work I feel I may have more appreciated Hanna’s work  – but more on that later.

I am not normally a highlighting fiend. However, I found myself highlighting many of Lowe’s lines. Many lines I find beautifully written, such as (on discussing Whitehead’s metaphysics as a modern Platonism) “In truth, this philosophy generalized perfectly, in the terms of the European philosophical tradition, the attitude of that rarest of men–he whose feet are on the ground while his eyes are turned upward” (234).

I appreciate Lowe’s thoughts as to why some are hostile to systematic philosophy.  Although I am not hostile to philosophy per se, I have debated enough philosophers in my years to know that such debates are never won. Lowe offers one explanation for this hostility. “One reason is that practically all philosophers presented their schemes of thought as closed systems, and claimed to arrive in principle at a complete understanding of the world. These claims have been shown up, and so systematic philosophy has received a bad name: we condemn the arrogance of philosophers, with their neat, closed little systems, each sure of his truth and of the error of other philosophers.” Lowe adds that Whitehead once said, “”We must have systems, but we must keep them open.” That was the final word in the philosophy of the wisest man of our period” (239).  I appreciate this quote and believe that such arrogance is not confined to philosophy but is present in nearly every creative field because no one wants to be wrong.

One concept I found particularly interesting is Whitehead’s concept that nothing in the universe is ever  really dead. He also portrays nature in a way I haven’t thought of before. I was also interested in his discussion about the impact of experiences. He writes, “Your present experience, as a whole, is another process–a synthesizing process of feeling this wide environment, that is, of bringing its factors to a new head, self-enclosed and privately enjoyed” (228).

This discussion in particular spawned a daydream of sorts. I began thinking “OK, we create experiences and these experiences are always colored by our past experiences.” Now this past weekend I spent hours editing down 2.5 hours of conversation to 1, in short creating a new experience. This new experience is, in a sense, its own because through editing down the audio no one was present for the experience I created. This all makes perfect sense in my head but I fear I may not be as clear as I need to be.

I found Hanna’s work very challenging. It was as if I couldn’t find a point of entry and at times I thought Hanna was writing in circles. However, it is evident that Hanna did heavy research for this project. Some mentioning of creativity correlated with some points which can be heard in my project. On page 136 Hanna writes “The very meaning of what it is to be an entity is contained in the triad of creativity, many, and one.” During the podcast Diane mentioned that human beings have an innate need to create- whether that be a work of art, a scrapbook, or even a sandwich. However, this line does seem to be in conflict with Lowe. Lowe commented that one way Whitefield was different from his contemporaries was his inclusion of the natural world. So I am interested in what constitutes an “entity” to Hanna, because not every entity is creative (if we are to consider animals entities.) Or do you even need to be animate to be considered an entity? However, it should be noted that in this essay this discussion of entities was part of a discussion of Whitehead’s The Category of the Ultimate, so it is more than likely that I am missing a piece of the puzzle.  On page 139 he writes “… creativity may at once be the “universal of universals” and yet “behind” all the universals is its distinctive universality. I am still working this statement out in my head.

Overall I found both readings worthwhile and am sorry I missed what I am sure was an enlightening discussion. I def. have plenty of questions regarding Hanna’s essay.

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While considering Whithead today, it occurred to me that there an interesting similarity to the Blackfoot Philosophy that we read about in Bohn’s, On Creativity.

Whitehead sees the “unity, which underlies all things as a unity of process, that is, as a temporally continuous whole which is self-unfolding, open-ended, and essentially incomplete.” Whitehead’s unity of process states that “every part is present in the whole and the whole in every part — present in the sense of the essential interconnectedness of all things”.

The Blackfoot philosophy presented in On Creativity includes ideas of constant motion, constant flux, or all creation consisting of energy waves….”  “The constant flux notion results in a ‘spider web’ network of relationships. In other words, everything is interrelated.”

These two concepts seem to run consistently through both philosophies – the idea that creativity always involves continually change and flux, and the interconnectedness of everything.

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While I found the Whitehead readings extremely difficult to understand with zero prior knowledge of his work, or Process Theory, our discussion last Thursday night prompted me to examine what seems like similarities between several Buddhist concepts  and Whiteheads theories.

  1. Perhaps the most obvious similarity between Whitehead’s philosophy and Buddhist doctrines is that both view existence as flowing rather than static. In Buddhism, this idea is expressed in terms of the impermanence of all phenomena; our actual experience is always changing and that all phenomena arise and pass away. We never find anything constant or permanent in our experience. For Whitehead, the final real things of the world are actual entities and these entities are not permanent essences, but rather processes of becoming: “how and actual entity becomes constitutes what that actual entity is. …Its ‘being’ is constituted by its ‘becoming’”. The actual entities of reality are thus never static, but are in a process of becoming and “perpetually perishing.”
  2. Whitehead’s concept of superject is the notion that every impermanent phenomenon, every fleeting drop of experience, does not simply disappear without any trace, but always leaves behind consequences that enter into other moments of experience. In other words, the karmic consequences of each impermanent phenomenon constitute its objective immortality. Another way of stating this is that an entity’s relatedness to other entities (i.e., its emptiness of independent existence) is its permanent aspect.
  3. According to Buddhism, the root of all suffering is our ignorance of dependent arising. Based on this fundamental mistake, we imagine things to be permanent when they are impermanent, we imagine things to have isolated, independent existence when they are actually empty of any such independent existence, and we ignore the causal relationships between things. We then suffer when things change or pass away, or when we experience the unpleasant consequences of our prior actions. This ignorance is so deep that it is normally operative below the level of consciousness. The ultimate purpose of Buddhist practice is to become aware of this ignorance and change the habitual patterns of action that are based upon it. Whiteheads states, “The world is thus faced with the paradox that, at least in its higher actualities, it craves for novelty and yet is haunted by terror at the loss of the past, with its familiarities and its loved ones. It seeks escape from time in its character of ‘perpetually perishing’” Whitehead roots evil in the impermanence itself, while Buddhist doctrine roots suffering not so much in impermanence but in our failure to come to terms with it.

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Bohm makes some interesting points early on in the book, but later I felt, as a whole, the book became a bit too exaggerated and indulgent. Especially in relation to art he uses counterpoints with clear holes to use to prove his own ideas. I agree that beauty stems from order. This is clear just by looking at the patterns found in nature such as the fibonacci sequence which any artist learns in a beginning design class. Using these types of arguments mixed with over glorified phrases such as “…the very existence of any form of life at all on the surface of the earth, is now threatened by the development of technically advanced means of destruction,” made it hard to credit the points being made.

With that said, I gained a tremendous amount of insight from the first chapter of the book. As an extension of what we’ve been learning dealing with connecting seemingly unrelated patterns to solve problems creatively, Bohm brings up an interesting perspective. The idea that two unrelated ideas are similar because they are different from their given context but in a similar way is an interesting way to look at the creative process. Instead of just trying to associate the solution with another solution directly, trying to find the relationship between how the solution is different then other solutions of the same problem and to associate that with the differences of solutions of other problems is no easy task but may prove fruitful. This is something I myself am trying to utilize as I reach very large walls in my creative project.

Another great point made by Bohm that I’ve come to the realization of while trying to figure out the solution to my creative project is the idea of discovery. I’ve been trying to determine if it is possible to help cultivate creativity in a learning module such as a game and if so, how. The best way to help cultivate a concept such as creativity is to have someone discover a solution on their own. This act of discovery tends to happen with the guiding hand of a human. Bohm uses the example of Helen Keller and how the guiding hand of Anne Sullivan helped Keller discover the first crucial connection for communication which is “conceptual abstraction.” So then how can a predefined system of rules (a video game) be used to help a person’s mind begin to move beyond the mechanical and into the creative? This is something I’ve been struggling with and have yet to come to a solution begging the question, is it even possible?

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