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Physics and Whitehead

Quantum, Process, and Experience

Timothy E. Eastman, Hank Keeton

Publication Year: 2004

Featuring discussions and dialogue by prominent scientists and philosophers, this book explores the rich interface of contemporary physics and Whitehead-inspired process thought. The contributors share the conviction that quantum physics not only corroborates many of Whitehead’s philosophical theses, but is also illuminated by them. Thus, though differing in perspective or emphasis, the contributions by Geoffrey Chew, David Finkelstein, Henry Stapp and other scientists conceptually dovetail with those of Philip Clayton, Jorge Nobo, Yutaka Tanaka and other process philosophers.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Constructive Postmodern Thought (discontinued)

Physics and Whitehead

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiii

The Center for Process Studies in Claremont, California held a conference on Physics and Time in August 1984 with David Bohm, Ilya Prigogine, HenryStapp, and other leading scientists and philosophers. During that conference, a spontaneous conjunction of energies emerged from a conversation between two participants who also appear in these pages (Stapp and Keeton). Stapp presented ...

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Series Introduction

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pp. xv-xix

The rapid spread of the term postmodern in recent years witnesses to a growing dissatisfaction with modernity and to an increasing sense that the modern age not only had a beginning but can have an end as well. Whereas the word modern was almost always used until quite recently as a word of praise and as a synonym for contemporary, a growing sense is now evidenced that we can and...

Part I. Physics and Whitehead

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1. Introduction to Process Thought by Philip Clayton

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pp. 3-13

Metaphysics is not new to the twentieth century. The authors in this volume who engage in metaphysical reflection or who speak of A. N. Whitehead as one of the great metaphysicians of this century are part of the heritage of a tradition running back at least 2,400 years. Various treatments of metaphysics in general, and of Whitehead’s work in particular, have emphasized the connections with...

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2. Duality Without Dualism by Timothy E. Eastman

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pp. 14-30

It is a matter of common sense that the world is composed of a multiplicity of discrete, separable objects. Indeed, this worldview of perceptual objects is practical and essential for everyday life. As the atomic theory of matter emerged, it was rather natural to assume that atoms were small-scale counterparts of everyday objects. Indeed, such a simplistic, philosophical atomism became an accepted ...

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3. Whitehead as Mathematical Physicist by Hank Keeton

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pp. 31-46

To appreciate the depth of Whitehead’s engagement of mathematics and physics, we need to set a detailed context for his work. In 1880 Whitehead was enrolled at Trinity College, Cambridge, and continued his association there for the next 30 years. His biographer, Victor Lowe, has published a comprehensive history of Whitehead’s life in Whitehead: The Man and His Work (WM&W) and I am indebted ...

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4. Evidence for Process in the Physical World

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pp. 47-55

From the world of the extremely small (atoms, nuclei, and their constituents), to nonlinear self-organizing systems on a human scale, and finally to the vast regions of the cosmos itself, at every level we find interconnectedness, openness, creativity, and increasing order. These are fundamental tenets of process thought through its description of events, or occasions of experience, which the process philosopher ...

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5. Dialogue for Part I

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pp. 57-59

The dialogue presented below occurred in response to John Jungerman’s paper. Stapp: At the beginning of your talk, you mentioned “increase in order,” whereas the normal idea is that entropy increases and that, on the whole, order decreases. In your opinion, is there any evidence against the normal idea ...

Part II: Order and Emergence

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6. Constraints on the Origin of Coherence in Far-from-Equilibrium Chemical Systems

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pp. 63-73

Consideration of how dynamic coherences arise from less organized antecedents (“concrescence”) is one of the central concerns of Whitehead’s thought.1 Other chapters in this volume consider how his concepts may apply in various branches of physics, including quantum mechanics. But many of the coherences that are of human interest are macroscopic. Earlier interpreters generally regarded ...

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7. Whitehead’s Philosophy and the Collapse of Quantum States

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pp. 74-83

The January 1963 issue of Reviews of Modern Physics contains a paper by J.M. Burgers titled, “The Measuring Process in Quantum Theory.”1 The first four sections of the paper are, indeed, devoted to the quantum measurement problem. However, in the fifth and last section, “Philosophical Excursion,” the author points out that Alfred North Whitehead’s philosophical system is uniquely...

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8. A Historical Reality That Includes Big Bang, Free Will, and Elementary Particles by Geoffrey F. Chew

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pp. 84-91

This chapter forecasts development of a “natural science” based not on material reality but rather on a Whiteheadian ‘historical reality.’1 Such a science would come to grips with the hitherto-inaccessible phenomenon of free will. The term free will, as used here, means any influence on universe history not describableas “materialistic”—i.e., not describable in terms of “matter” controlled by local...

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9. Whiteheadian Process and Quantum Theory

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pp. 92-102

Quantum theory has been formulated in several different ways. The original version was Copenhagen quantum theory, which was formulated as a practical set of rules for making predictions about what we human observers would observe under certain well-defined sets of conditions. However, the human observers themselves were excluded from the system, in much the same way that...

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10. Dialogue for Part II

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pp. 103-126

The dialogue presented below occurred in response to presentations by Shimon Malin, Geoffrey Chew, and Henry Stapp. Stapp: Let me ask about your vacuum. In Whiteheadian thought you have the impression that experiential or objective events are at work here, so is there any possibility that experience as we know it would be understandable and explainable as a property of your vacuum? Ordinarily, physicists ...

Part III: Fundamental Processes

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11. The Primacy of Asymmetry over Symmetry in Physics

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pp. 129-135

Charles Hartshorne includes in one of his books (1970, pp. 205–226) a chapter,“The Prejudice in Favor of Symmetry,” in which he discusses the symmetry and asymmetry of logical relations. Here are some extracts from the chapter,not in their original order. I think they give the essence of what Hartshorne ...

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12. Spacetime and Becoming: Overcoming the Contradiction Between Special Relativity and the Passage of Time

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pp. 136-163

Modern science has taught us that the passage of time doesn’t really fit into physical reality. In the world of our experience, there is an obvious difference between the facts of the past, the acuteness of the present, and the open possibilities of the future. But in the universe disclosed by modern physics, the notion of a “now” seems to be ...

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13. The Individuality of a Quantum Event: Whitehead’s Epochal Theory of Time and Bohr’s Framework of Complementarity

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pp. 164-179

The distinction between two modes of analysis of an actual occasion, i.e., genetic and coordinate, is fundamental to Whitehead’s “epochal” theory of time. Genetic analysis divides the “concrescence” (the process of becoming concrete), and coordinate analysis divides the “satisfaction” (the concrete thing).The concrete is in its ...

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14. Physical Process and Physical Law

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pp. 180-186

I would like to thank the conveners for this chance to recall some of my debts to Whitehead. I am no disciple, but I was certainly influenced by his thought, more than I realized at the time. I will tell the story in roughly chronological order. ...

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15. Dialogue for Part III

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pp. 187-195

The dialogue presented below occurred in response to presentations by David Finkelstein and Yutaka Tanaka. John Lango: The question I have is about the relevance to Whitehead’s metaphysics. Whitehead is primarily influenced by relativity theory, a subject he worked on, and only tangentially influenced by quantum theory. Many of the radical developments of quantum ...

Part IV: Metaphysics

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16. Whitehead’s Process Philosophy as Scientific Metaphysics

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pp. 199-222

This chapter tries to explicate some parallels between analytic philosophy and process philosophy. It is intended to show that process thought and analytical convictions may be quite consonant on a formal-methodological level. But since there is not just one process philosophy and even less one analytic philosophy, we first have to adjust our task, limiting our undertaking to two concrete...

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17. Whitehead and the Quantum Experience

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pp. 223-257

Toward the end of their 1996 book, The Nature of Space and Time,1 physicists Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose take opposite sides in a discussion of whether quantum theory should be interpreted epistemologically or ontologically. Of immediate interest is the fact that Penrose, in arguing for an ontological interpretation, considers ...

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18. Dialogue for Part IV

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pp. 258-273

Chew: I sometimes like to say that reality is “electromagnetic.” A particular feature of electromagnetism which has often impressed me is the role of electric screening in creating boundaries for objects. For example, the fact that I can think of this soda can as a separate object is due to the fact that the can has a huge amount of electric ...


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pp. 275-286


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pp. 287-297


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pp. 299-301

Note on Supporting Center

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pp. 303


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pp. 305-319

SUNY series in Constructive Postmodern Thought

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pp. 321

E-ISBN-13: 9780791485996
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791459133
Print-ISBN-10: 0791459136

Page Count: 342
Illustrations: 4 tables, 5 figures
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: SUNY series in Constructive Postmodern Thought (discontinued)