- Propositions in the Making: Experiments in a Whiteheadian Laboratory ed. by Roland Faber, Michael Halewood and Andrew M. Davis
This volume grew out of a conference held in 2016 at the Claremont School of Theology, while the conference itself grew out of "innovative conversations between philosophers, Erin Manning and Brian Massumi, and process philosophers, Roland Faber and Michael Halewood" (ix). Its title in effect conjoins a Whiteheadian conception of propositions and a Jamesian understanding of "things." ("What really exists is," James insists, "not things made but things in the making."1 The facet of propositions upon which the organizers and participants focus is the one thrust into the foreground by Whitehead's characterization of them as "lure[s] for feeling" (ix, 5). As such, a proposition is set forth on behalf of "a collectivity to come," not some antecedently established form of solidarity. Following closely Whitehead's suggestion, "Propositions are to be entertained, more fundamentally than they are to be judged" (5).2 This is as [End Page 192] true for the other contributors as it is for Manning and Massumi, the authors of the essay in which we encounter this proposition. A Whiteheadian lab is, then, not only one in which propositions are playfully entertained but also one that tries to make a gathering of inquiries (the lab itself) into nothing less than "a laboratory of speculative thought" and even (in some cases) oneself into a proposition (ix).
Propositions in the making are ones in which the propositional feelings are predominantly imaginative rather than perceptual.3. In such instances, a "propositional feeling is a lure to creative emergence in the transcendent future," that is, a future transcending the perishing present in its thick actuality.4 The scale of propositions is, as several contributors to this volume clearly show (e.g., Manning and Massumi, as well as Halewood and Faber), variable, ranging from units of discourse to nothing less than the bearers of proper names or collectivities yet to come. The totality of propositions making up this collection of essays might itself have the force of a singular (if not strictly speaking single) proposition, for they aim at honoring Whitehead's genius not by explicating his texts but rather by being animated by such metapropositions, as propositions are lures for feeling, and it is more important for them to be interesting than true.
As is almost always true of such volumes, the quality of essays varies. In this case, however, it does not vary too widely: the distance between the very best contributions and the less well executed pieces is far from great. That is, the very best pieces are truly quite good, while those not of the highest quality do not fall off the mark too far. Each contribution rewards a careful reading, and more than several invite and indeed make richly worthwhile rereading. Specifically, this volume is made up of eleven essays plus an "Editors [sic] Preamble." These are subsumed under three headings. A paper by Erin Manning and Brian Massumi, "For a Whiteheadian Laboratory: How Do You Make Yourself a Proposition?," makes up the whole of part 1, "The Making of Propositions." It is an extremely insightful, engaging, and above all suggestive piece. Part 2, surprisingly entitled "Thinking Propositions," makes up the bulk of the volume: eight of the eleven essays in Propositions in the Making are found here. Why not "Entertaining Propositions"? Of course, this is but the most minor of quibbles. In "Knowing Whitehead?" Halewood interrogates in a fundamental and illuminating manner what we might mean when we claim to know Whitehead (especially if we are endeavoring to know him on his terms), and Faber's "Space, Time, and the Deity of Peace" is, as I have [End Page 193] come to expect from this author, a tour de force. Each of the following essays in part 2 at least competently addresses some important arena of human endeavor, from design (A. J. Nocek) to communication (Andrew Murphie), from risk...