The Journal of Speculative Philosophy 15.4 (2001) 329-331
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Transforming Process Theism
Transforming Process Theism. Lewis S. Ford. SUNY Series in Philosophy, ed. George R. Lucas, Jr. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000. Pp. xxii + 402. $81.50 h.c. 0-7914-4535-6; $28.95 pbk. 0-7914-4536-4.
The method of compositional analysis aims at discovering the creativity and process at work in the development of a composition. In Transforming Process Theism, Lewis S. Ford analyzes the layers of meaning implicit in the creation of Alfred North Whitehead's philosophical works about God. It seems fitting that through an analysis of the process of Whitehead's composition, Ford radically transforms Whitehead's process theism as a whole. The title simultaneously [End Page 329] refers to Whitehead's ongoing transformations of his own concept of God and to Ford's novel thesis.
Most extraordinary works of metaphysics are radical and even mystifying to common sense. Ford's book is no exception. He takes on the age-old questions of metaphysics--ontological priority, temporality, and, of course, God. Ford defines God as creativity, the pure becoming that inhabits an active, unified future. His language and terms are clear and consistent. His reasoning is a challenge, but a rewarding challenge for any Whitehead scholar insofar as Ford points out some inconsistencies in Whitehead's conception of God.
The book contains three sections: an analysis of the emergence of Whitehead's concept of God, a short survey of the scholarly options available to that concept, and Ford's own alternative--divine futurity. Ford abstracts from Whitehead's works three concepts of God: the early concept of God as a nontemporal actual entity, the middle concept of God as nontemporal and concrescent, and the final concept of God as temporal and concrescent. The first section builds upon parts of Ford's earlier Emergence of Whitehead's Metaphysics, with his own amendments to Whitehead's concept in mind. This, together with the second section, which summarizes and briefly exposes problems in the alternative views about Whitehead's theism, is a helpful introduction to Ford's task, but it is tedious and scholarly in contrast to the bold beauty of his own thesis. What the reader gains most is the notion that Whitehead's final concept of God contains both a primordial, subjective nature, which is the conceptual envisagement of eternal objects and the origin of initial aims, and a consequent, objective nature, which is God in his mode of everlasting prehension of the world. However, one wonders along with Ford what the benefit of the consequent nature is if, as object, it cannot influence the world. Whitehead's ditheistic scheme demands some metaphysical adjustment.
Among Ford's transformations of Whitehead's system is a revision of the concept of eternal objects. Where Whitehead sees them as uncreated and eternal, Ford views them as emergent abstractions, atemporal rather than eternal. Employing an argument comparable to Leibniz's identity of indiscernibles, Ford argues that the qualities of eternal objects that Whitehead calls uncreated are no different from those of the atemporal forms that Ford argues are temporally emergent. He claims that in Whitehead's system there is no way of accounting for novel eternal objects. Ford does so by arguing for indefinite forms as initial aims, provided by God. Those forms gain determinacy as the occasion approaches satisfaction. From these satisfied occasions, also called past actualities, definite eternal objects may be abstracted. The objective novelty of eternal objects exists in those satisfied occasions prior to their abstraction. Ford's masterstroke comes in his claim that "Such being is already a first-order abstraction from becoming, and hence from temporality" (216). Therefore, when the emergent object is abstracted from the past actuality, it is posterior to the formative concrescence. Hence, eternal objects are of a divine and a creaturely origin: they are not uncreated. [End Page 330]
Ford's reasoning, in his determination that eternal objects are emergent abstractions, surfaces as a result of his larger ontological scheme. He uses this scheme to troubleshoot...