Chapter Two: Value and Creativity
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15 2 Value and Creativity Before one makes value judgments about specific lines of research in science and particular applications of scientific research to technology, one should have some preunderstanding of what is meant generically by the term “value.” For example, is value ultimately based on broad consensus with respect to subjective desires and purposes or on something objective in the natural order to which appeal can be made in evaluating the merit of various value judgments? In this chapter, I will briefly sketch an ontology of value based on an evolutionary worldview as opposed to a more classical understanding of value arising out of a God-given or some other relatively fixed plan or design for the way that the world should operate. My thesis is that creativity is the origin of value and that the degree of creativity at work in individual cases is the basis for objective value judgments. This has some affinity with Stuart Kauffman’s proposal in his recent book Reinventing the Sacred that creativity is the most appropriate symbol for reinventing (or, I would say, rediscovering) a sense of the sacred in modern life.1 But whereas Kauffman seems to regard creativity as Ultimate Reality in its own right, I would side with Alfred North Whitehead in his book Science and the Modern World that God is “the principle of limitation ” for the operation of creativity, given that creativity is so unpredictable in its ceaseless activity.2 Whitehead would agree with Kauffman that creativity is “the universal of universals characterizing ultimate matter 1. Stuart Kauffman, Reinventing the Sacred: A New View of Science, Reason, and Religion (New York: Basic Books, 2008), 281–88. 2. Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World, 2nd ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1967), 179. 16  Part One: Philosophical Cosmology / Natural Theology of fact.”3 But more precisely than Kauffman, Whitehead likewise makes clear that creativity is not in any sense an entity (e.g., nature as a whole for Kauffman4 ) but simply a principle of activity that is actual only in the entities that it enables to exist.5 It is, in other words, the hidden nature of things, their Aristotelian physis, which empowers them to be creative both in their own self-constitution and in their impact upon other entities. In this respect, creativity is the equivalent in an evolutionary worldview of the concept of being in classical metaphysics, provided that one understands being as a verb or participle rather than as a noun. In both cases, a principle of activity is what is primarily intended. Thomas Aquinas, to be sure, seems to have understood being primarily as a noun rather than as a verb or participle . For example, the philosophical description of God for Aquinas is ipsum esse subsistens.6 Grammatically, esse subsistens (subsistent being) is a noun, not a verb. In my view, this is an unintentional confusion of what exists (entity) and that by which something exists (its nature or essence). However, since God for theists is believed to be transcendent of being in the conventional sense and yet the origin or source of all created beings, one does not readily notice an otherwise obvious distinction. Ironically, this logical mistake allowed medieval theologians like Aquinas, influenced no doubt by the writings of Plotinus and other neoplatonists, to establish a graded hierarchy of entities, from God as pure actuality to prime matter as pure potentiality. This, in turn, allowed them to set up a relatively fixed hierarchy of values. That which has more being has more value. Value is based on actuality rather than potentiality. Potentiality is equivalently a disvalue until it achieves actuality in terms of the perfection of its nature or essence. Change thus constantly takes place in the natural world but only within predetermined limits. Individual entities come into existence, endure for a while, and then pass out of existence; but the basic structure of the world remains unchanged with the passage of time. Moreover, relationships between entities are contingent events, “accidents” with respect to the enduring substantial reality of those same entities.7 Only with respect to the doctrine of the Trinity in his Summa 3. Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology, corrected edition, ed. David Ray Griffin and Donald W. Sherburne (New York: Free Press, 1978), 21. Cf. Kauffman, Reinventing the Sacred, 287–88. 4. Kauffman, Reinventing the Sacred, 288. 5. Whitehead, Process and Reality, 31. 6. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae (Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 1955...


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Subject Headings

  • Causation.
  • Cosmology.
  • One (The One in philosophy).
  • Many (Philosophy).
  • Philosophical theology.
  • Providence and government of God.
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