The Philosophy of Organism Part 4: Creativity and The Phases of Concrescence

We are almost at the point in Whitehead’s philosophy where we can begin to move into the world as we know ita world of rocks, trees, birds, and humans. We have set out the primary formative elements (excluding creativity, which will be explained here), and we understand how it is that actual entities relate to each other. The last thing left to be understood on the microcosmic level is simply this: “How do these concrescences  actually concresce?”

This will be the longest part of this series yetperhaps the longest part period, as Whitehead is very rigorousand all of the previously discussed concepts will come into play. Thankfully, the best way to understand the previously discussed elements of Whitehead’s philosophy is to finally see them in action. In a way, the process of understanding how concrescence happens is similar to how concrescence itself happens. You probably will have a somewhat vague, indefinite grasp of the discussed elements, understanding them in a very rudimentary way. Then you start to see how they come together. At first it seems difficult as you’re not entirely certain what each thing means, but as you see them play off of each other and relate, they become more definite, your misunderstandings eliminated. Finally, at the same moment you reach a definite understanding of the elements involved, you will reach a definite understanding of the phases of concrescence, just as when the feelings of an actual entity become entirely definite, its concrescence is satisfied.

This is going to be a bit of a bumpy ride. There is a lot to cover in just one post; the jargon can become nauseating, and sometimes Whitehead is pedantic in the way that only a British Mathematician can be. I’ve attempted to introduce concrete examples to go alongside the highly abstract, almost algebraic examples that Whitehead provides to alleviate this. As a last reassurance, keep in mind that once we are done with this, it is all downhill from here. When we begin to speak of Nexūs and societies, we finally enter into the macrocosmic world that we inhabit, and things become much, much more intuitive. But until then, buckle up and put on your thinking caps.


The final formative element of Whitehead’s system is creativity, the absolute of his system that is simply given. It is the principle of novelty, the becoming itself. It is difficult, if not impossible, to explain the why of creativity. Whitehead himself is only able to shrug and say that this is simply how things are. There is constant change in the world, and we can’t explain that. Metaphysicians from Parmenides to Spinoza have had givens like “being” or “substance.” Spinoza says that his substance is merely “causa sui.” There is no further explanation of it. In Whitehead’s system, the question “why is there creativity?” is simply a reformulation of “why is there something rather than nothing?” Creativity is simply the brute fact that there is a becoming to begin with.

Creativity is, sadly, one of the vaguer aspects of Whitehead’s system and one that he seemed to have changed his mind on over the course of his career. The exact nature and interpretation of creativity is a debate among Whitehead scholars to this day, and as such, I’m not going to go into too much depth. I’ll be offering some small amount of interpretation and will quote at length. Hopefully, creativity can be understood enough that the rest of the system is at least comprehensible. I encourage readers to do their own research about the topic if they have further interest.

Whitehead, on page 171 of Adventures of Ideas offers a formulation of creativity that leads nicely into the topic of the phases of concrescence. He uses terms like “initial phase” and “primary phase” which we will soon be discussing.

“The initial situation includes a factor of activity, which is the reason for the origin of that occasion of experience. This factor of activity is what I have called “Creativity” The initial situation with its creativity can be termed the initial phase of the new occasion. It can equally well be termed the “actual world” relative to that occasion. It has a certain unity of its own, expressive of its capacity of providing the objects requisite for a new occasion, and also expressive of its conjoint activity whereby it is essentially the primary phase of a new occasion. It can thus be termed a “real potentiality” The “potentiality” refers to the passive capacity, the term “real” refers to the creative activity…”

Once an actual occasion is satisfied, it perishes. From where comes the next actual entity that replaces it? The answer Whitehead gives is creativity. Whitehead scholar André Cloots offers this explanation:

Whitehead… conceives of creativity not as “a” but as “the” activity of transcendence, permeating the whole of reality, transcending what is and yet carried by it, leading to ever new becoming. Creativity is nothing more, but nothing less either, than “this factor of activity:” “this factor of activity; (included in the initial situation) which is the reason for the origin of that occasion of experience” (Adventures 179). “The point to remember is that the fact that each individual occasion is transcended by the creative urge, belongs to the essential constitution of each such occasion. It is not an accident which is irrelevant to the completed constitution of any such occasion” (Adventures 193). “[T]he processes of the past, in their perishing, are themselves energizing as the complex origin of each novel occasion” (Adventures 276). In Modes of Thought Whitehead states this again: “The whole antecedent world conspires to produce a new occasion” (164).

Creativity does not have some ulterior motive, as doing so would violate the ontological principle. As such, it must be explained in terms of actual entities. Whitehead’s explanation in PR is rather terse and obscure, but he seems to explain this principle of novelty as a sort of rhythm. The many disjunctive entities enter into concrescence, a novel togetherness. It is an “inescapable fact” for Whitehead that there cannot be a “many” of things without them entering into a unity, a “one.” Indeed, how could there be a many without the one and vice versa? Through the phases of concrescence, a new entity definite entity emerges out of the antecedent world. However, in this concrescence, all that is achieved is a mere addition to the many. There is a new entity, and the process begins anew. This behavior is the ultimate metaphysical fact, as there is no actual entity which fails to meet this description. With this in mind, let’s examine this process whereby the many become one in detail.

The Phases of Concrescence

Whitehead says that “The process of concrescence is divisible into an initial stage of many feelings… subsequent phases of more complex feelings integrating the earlier simpler feelings, up to the satisfaction which is one complex unity of feeling” (Key 36). A key feature of this process, and one that can be difficult to get your head around, is that Whitehead insists it does not take place in physical time. This is immediately counterintuitive. How on earth could there be time if the actual coming together of an actual entity is atemporal?

Whitehead explains this by reversing the relationship. Physical time is not some container in which actual entities emerge, but rather that time is a consequence of this emergence. Once again, it’s best to let him speak for himself:

“The actual entity is the enjoyment of a certain quantum of physical time, but the genetic process is not the temporal succession… each phase in the genetic process presupposes the entire quantum, and so does each feeling in each phase. The subjective unity dominating the process forbids the the division of that extensive quantum which originates with the primary phase of subjective aim” (Ibid.).

In this fashion, physical time is describing certain features of the growth of entities, but not how those features themselves grow. “Concrescence is not in time, but time is in concrescence.”

Furthermore, we come to see that the prehensions making up entities are merely abstractions. Each prehension is merely its subject viewed from some perspective of objectification. The real actuality is the sum of all prehensions in a subjective unity that are coming together into concrete unity.  Whitehead says that we can discover a prehension by taking a component of the objective datum of a satisfaction (the completed actual entity) and comparing it with a subjective form (remember, that is how an entity is felt) of a satisfaction. Through this comparison, a component of the subjective form can be discovered with direct relevance to the datum. In this way, the prehension is located (it may be helpful to refer to part one of this series, which has a helpful diagram). Whitehead admits that this is a merely “intellectual” analysis and that the division of prehensions is to some extent arbitrary. Whether or not this is satisfying (pun intended) is up to the reader.

The Initial Phase

Now it is possible to get into the analysis of the phases proper. Whitehead makes a distinction into three distinct phases. There is an initial phase, followed by two supplemental phases, each with two sub-phases. Whitehead does not divide the third phase, but the Key recommends splitting the final supplemental phase into two sub-phasesthe origination of comparative feelingsand the comparison of those comparative feelings (complex comparative feelings).

(image taken from the Google Books preview of the Key.)

The initial phase of concrescence, the one of conformal feelings. This is the primary stage in which the actual world enters into the novel entity through physical feelings, forming the basis for its individuality. This is simply the principle that “every ‘being’ is a potential for a ‘becoming.'” The first phase is simply the reception of the actual world as a possibility for feeling. From this multiplicity of physical feelings, all the more complex feelings arise in the later stages by their integration with each other and their integration with conceptual feelings. This is how one gets from mere causal experience to complex thoughts.

The feelings that constitute the datum are reenacted by the physical feelings constituting the novel entity. This is their ‘vector’ character. There is a partial identification of cause with effect, the cause is integrated into and becomes a part of its effect. This is the manner in which creativity, while transcending the world, is conditioned by the actuality present in the world. It is both partially free from and partially dependent on the world. Thus, these are the initial “conformal feelings” as the immediate present conforms to the past. The objectively immortal past world is transformed into the subjective feelings of the new entity.

Three Categoreal Obligations

Following the key, “categoreal obligations” will be introduced as they become relevant. “Categoreal obligations” are the name for the laws which the various phases conform to. They are similar to Kant’s categories, though instead of merely structuring conscious experience, they structure the entire world. It must be remembered that experience is not limited to conscious minds in The Philosophy of Organism, but extends throughout the entire world. In this way, the categories of Whitehead lay down not merely the conditions of the possibility of experience, but the conditions for the possibility of worlds.

That being said, the three categories relevant now are as follows (they can be found on 26-28 of PR):

“Category I: The Category of Subjective Unity. The many feelings which belong to an incomplete phase in the process of an actual entity, though unintegrated by reason of the incompleteness of the phase, are compatible for integration by reason of the unity of their subject. “

This should be fairly self-explanatory. This simply the conflicting many being compatible for integration into harmonious and determinate one.

“Category II: The Category of Objective Identity. There can be no duplication of any element in the objective datum of the ‘satisfaction’ of an actual entity, so far as concerns the function of that element in the ‘satisfaction.’

Here as always, the term ‘satisfaction’ means the one complex fully determinate feeling which is the completed phase in the process. This category expresses that each element has one self-consistent function, however complex. Logic is the general analysis of self-consistency.”

The key to this category is in the  the final two sentences. One object has one role; it may not be duplicated.

“Category III: The Category of Objective Diversity. There can be no ‘coalescence’ of diverse elements in the objective datum of an actual entity, so far as concerns the functions of those elements in that satisfaction,

‘Coalescence’ here means the notion of diverse elements exercising an absolute identity of function, devoid of the contrasts inherent in their diversities… In other words, in a real complex unity each particular component imposes its own particularity on its status. No entity can have an abstract status in a real unity. Its status must be such that only it can fill and only that actuality can supply.”

All that is being said here is simply that diverse elements cannot both be merely abstracted to function. They enter into a contrast, and thus each diverse element exercises its function in regards to that particular complex unity that is its subject. The element is merely a key to the particular lock of the subject. WARNING: A “contrast” counterintuitively means “unity” in Whitehead’s terminology; remembering this will avoid much confusion down the road.

An Illustration

Whitehead illustrates the categories with a rather abstract example, claiming that “The importance of these categories can only be understood by considering each actual world in the light of a ‘medium’ leading up to the concrescence of the actual entity in question.” An abridged example is provided below:

Imagine an actual entity called A which feels other actual entities called B, C, and D. These latter entities are thus in the actual world of A. C and D are in the actual world of B, and thus B feels them. D also lies in the actual world of C, and thus C feels D. Here’s where things start getting complicated, so hold on tight. We shift perspective back to A. When A takes B as an initial datum, it is also presented with C and D by the mediation of B, as B is feeling C and D. The same thing happens in C, except now A is presented with a mediated version of D when it feels C. A receives D in three ways. It directly feels D, and also is presented with the meditations of B and C. Whitehead says that, in reality, A would be receiving D both directly and by mediation with all other entities in the actual world which they share. For the sake of simplicity, we will stick to this four-entity world.

Whitehead phrases the situation like this (italics mine):

“There are thus three sources of feeling, D Direct, D in its nexus with C, and D in its nexus with B. Thus in the basic phase of A’s concrescence there arise three prehensions of the datum D.” (Key 44)

Following the first category, these feelings enter into subjective unity, and negative prehensions are produced. D in direct feeling is not completely felt but is objectified, but inconsistencies between the mediated forms of D are eliminated by negative prehensions. D gets filtered by its mediation through other entities. It may be helpful to consider an analogy to a more worldly situation, though this should not be extended too far. Consider how when you are facing north in a room only the north wall of the room is visible to you. If you change your orientation (your relation to other objects in the world) you are able to see different parts of the room. As D is self-consistent necessarily, inconsistencies arise from prehending the subjective forms of the other entities’ prehensions of D.

Whitehead, in an interesting move, says that the negative prehensions which eliminate the inconsistencies also posses their own subjective forms which are integrated into the process. As he puts it, “A feeling bears on itself the scars of its birth” (Key 45). Because of this, what the actual entity has excluded from itself may become an important part of it on its subsequent adventures, and is thus recorded in the process.

The first category, as we said, dealt with the fact that there is a subjective unity in this example to begin with. The fact that there is an integration is described by the category of objective identity, the second obligation. As the same entity cannot be felt twice when all is said and done, the inconsistent feelings must be reconciled and integrated through negative prehension until there is one feeling of that object with a unique subjective form.

The third category’s application is somewhat obscure. It appears to obligate that these diverse feelings obtain a definite role/function with a real definite status to a real definite reality. Whitehead’s explanation is below, though interpreting it is, as has been said before, somewhat difficult:

“The third category is concerned with the antithesis to oneness, namely, diversity. An actual entity is not merely one; it is also definitely complex. But, to be definitely complex is to include definite diverse elements in definite ways. The category of objective diversity expresses the inexorable condition— that a complex unity must provide for each of its components a real diversity of status, with a reality which bears the same sense as its own reality and is peculiar to itself. In other words, a real unity cannot provide sham diversities of status for its diverse components” (PR 227).

Phase II: The Conceptual Phase

Phase one resolves now, and we move on to phase II, in which conceptual feelings (feelings of eternal objects) occur. The origination of physical feelings is the physical pole of an actual entity, and the origination of conceptual feelings is the mental pole. Every actual entity has both physical and mental poles, from God to space dust. This is not necessarily panpsychist, as consciousness is not present at all stages of reality, but it is quite close. Whitehead insists that the physical world cannot be properly understood without the complex world of mental operations. These are the conceptual feelings and the hybrid feelings which integrate the physical and the conceptual.

Phase I, the physical inheritance, is now accompanied by a conceptual reaction. Category I has demanded that the physical feelings be compatible for integration into one feeling, but in order for these feelings to become definite, the subjective forms must determine first through the origination conceptual feelings. The subjective forms of these conceptual feelings are valuations. Valuation can be valuation up or valuation down and constitutes the subjective forms of conceptual feelings. There are two sub-phases involved in this, conceptual reproduction and conceptual reversion, represented by circle b and circle b’ respectively. We have to go on a bit of a digression in order to explain these before we continue.

Two More Categories

These two sub-phases correspond to two new categoreal obligations:

Category IV: The Category of Conceptual Valuation. From each physical feeling there is the derivation of a purely conceptual feeling whose datum is the eternal object determinant of the definiteness of the actual entity, or of the nexus, physically felt.”

This should be self explanatory. Every physical feeling is followed by a conceptual feeling of a corresponding eternal object. The eternal object is recognized as being immanent in the constitution of the actual entity and then is “pried out” and recognized in a transcendental manner; this is what arrow x represents. When I see something blue in the world, I physically feel that blue entity and also have a conceptual feeling of “blue,” or “blueness” if you prefer. My feeling of the blue object is circle a on the diagram, and my feeling of “blue” is circle b.

“Category V: The Category of Conceptual Reversion. There is secondary origination of conceptual feelings with data which are partially identical with, and partially diverse from, the eternal objects forming the data in the first phase of the mental pole. The diversity is a relevant diversity determined by the subjective aim.

Note that category (iv) concerns conceptual reproduction of physical feeling, and category (v) concerns conceptual diversity from physical feeling.”

This confusingly phrased category is actually quite simple. It is what allows for novelty to enter the world and for “relevant alternatives” to be conceptually prehended. Conceptual reversion is the feeling of eternal objects that are related/relevant to the eternal object felt in the previous category. This is what allows for someone to see two shades of blue and imagine a shade that is in between. This is circle b’ on the diagram. Eternal objects have order and graded relevance to each other through God’s conceptual feeling of them. A temporal actual entity obtains this through a “hybrid” conceptual feeling. A hybrid physical feeling is essentially a feeling of another actual entity by one of that entities conceptual feelings. Whitehead claims that there are two types of hybrid feelings: those that feel conceptual feelings of temporal actual entities and those that feel God’s conceptual feelings. For our current discussion, the latter are the most relevant.

Hybrid feelings of God are key to both subjective aim and conceptual reversion:

[In the primary phase there] is a hybrid physical feeling of God, in respect to God’s conceptual feeling which is immediately relevant to the universe ‘given’ for that concrescence. There is then, according to the Category of Conceptual Valuation, i.e., Categoreal Obligation IV, a derived conceptual feeling which reproduces for the subject the data and valuation of God’s conceptual feeling. This conceptual feeling is the initial conceptual aim referred to in the preceding statement.

The initial aim is obtained by a kind of reversion, but notice that the category of reversion is in fact superfluous. It can be explained entirely in terms of God and Category IV. It is merely the conceptual prehension of a hybrid feeling of God in the original primary phase, which is physical. In this way, Hume’s assertion that all concepts are arising out of physical experience arise. It is useful however as it emphasizes the idea of relevance, how the positive prehensions of God are those which are compatible with, or have an identity with, the physical feelings transmitted in from the physical world.

Finishing up Phase II: Valuation

After that necessary digression, we can finally explain valuation. There are physical feelings that must acquire determinate subjective forms. In order for this to happen, it’s necessary to bring in eternal objects through conceptual feelings, which originate in the ways we just specified. These conceptual feelings possess their own subjective forms. The subjective form of a conceptual feeling is “valuation.” Whitehead gives valuations three characteristics paraphrased below:

  1. A valuation is dependent on the other feelings in the phase where it originates.
  2. The valuation determines the status the eternal object has ingressing into subsequent feeling.
  3. The valuation values up or down to determine the intensive importance of the datum eternal object by the subjective form of subsequent feeling. In this manner, the importance of the datum eternal object is enhanced or attenuated.

Essentially the valuation changes how important an eternal object is to the actual entity, valuing up or down from the initial feelings it is derived from.

Even More Categoreal Obligations

This discussion brings us to two more categories, listed below. Category VI has been left out; it will be discussed in the next article on the nexus. Remember, a “contrast” is a unity of feelings. In the subsequent stages, feelings will begin to be grouped together into “contrasts” as they are integrated, until the final integration and satisfaction.

“Category VII: The Category of Subjective Harmony. The valuations of conceptual feelings are mutually determined by the adaptation of those feelings to be contrasted elements congruent with the subjective aim.

Category (i) and category (vii) jointly express a pre-established harmony in the process of concrescence of any one subject. Category (i) has to do with data felt, and category (vii) with the subjective forms of the conceptual feelings. This pre-established harmony is an outcome of the fact that no prehension can be considered in abstraction from its subject, although it originates in the process creative of its subject.”

The second paragraph is merely a complex way of saying that these categories both express the fact that the concrescence eventually reaches a unity, the satisfaction.

“Category VIII The Category of Subjective Intensity. The subjective aim, whereby there is a origination of conceptual feeling, is at intensity of feeling (α) in the immediate subject, and (β) in the relevant future.

This double aim – at the immediate present and the relevant future – is less divided than appears on the surface. For the determination of the relevant future, and the anticipatory feeling respecting provision for its grade of intensity, are elements affecting the immediate complex of feeling. The greater part of morality hinges on the determination or relevance in the future. The relevant future consists of those elements in the anticipated future which are felt with effective intensity by the present subject by reason of the real potentiality for them to be derived from itself.”

Whitehead claims here that a subjective aim, initially obtained from God, always aims at intensity of feeling in the immediate subject and in the relevant future. He does not view these as conflicting, as the anticipatory feelings of the possible future influence the intensity of feeling in the subject. As such, a balance will be sought. “Balanced complexity is the outcome of this final category of subjective aim” (Key 53). Complexity is simply the realization of contrasts and the contrasts of contrasts, while balance is “the absence of attenuations due to the elimination of contrasts which some elements in the pattern would introduce and other elements inhibit” (Ibid.).

By category I, and the two categories introduced here, it becomes clear that the origination of feelings is governed by “the subjective imposition of aptitude for final synthesis.” These are the categories for the possibility of a creature that is truly causa sui. These are the categories for the possibility of creativity and self-determination. As Whitehead notes:

“…The actual entity, in a state of process during which it is not fully determinate, determines its own ultimate definiteness” (Key 52).

Whitehead claims that this is how moral responsibility emerges, conditioned by the limits of data and the limits of the categoreal conditions.  In order for there to be a high degree of autonomy though, there must be many reversions being made so that the entity is able to bring new things into the world independently, which is the role of Category VIII.

Contrasts of reversions are produced for fulfilling the aesthetic ideal. They urge towards realizing as many eternal objects as possible under limit of the conditions of contrast. These conditions of contrast are the demand for balance; the demand that the realization of an eternal object eliminates potential contrasts of other realized eternal objects. By category IV, eternal objects are valuated so as to produce the most favorable balance in the present subject, the balance that will produce the most intense integral feeling. These reversions are also what allows for anticipation of the future. The feeling of eternal objects in the present, and the reversion, allows for the consideration of alternate possiblities, both of how things are, and of how things could be.

To summarize phase II, it should be said that physical feelings in phase I give rise to conceptual feelings, which in turn give rise to conceptual feelings that are reversions. These reversions emerge from a hybrid feeling of God in the first phase. The reversions emerge as a bid for complexity, allowing relevant alternatives to be considered, and for new contrasts of feelings. These conceptual feelings obtain a subjective form by their valuation, which is made in order to obtain a balance that allows for the greatest intensity of feeling. The obtaining of subjective form in the conceptual feelings allows for the completion of the subjective forms of the basic physical feelings originating in phase I.

Phase III: Simple Comparative Feelings

With the two types of basic feelingsconceptual feelings and simple physical feelingscomplete, they now enter into a simple comparative feelings, which compare or hold in contrast physical and conceptual feelings. These are special kinds of physical feeling. Typically, the simple physical feeling is compared with the conceptual counterparts that emerged in reaction to it. Circle c in figure 2 represents a simple physical feeling and bracket y the datum of the feeling. These feelings are also called “integrated datum” or “integral comparative feelings.”

There are two types of these feelings: physical purposes and propositional feelings. While the former are terminal and end in the third phase, the latter are lures for further feeling and thus go on to a fourth sub-phase before satisfaction is reached. We’re almost done here.

Physical Purposes

The physical purpose is the simple integration of the actual fact of the physical feeling with the abstract possibility represented by the conceptual feeling. According to whether or not the conceptual feeling was valuated up or down, the physical feeling is more or less compatible respectively. If it is incompatible, then the physical feeling will lose importance, and tend to not be reproduced in subsequent occasions/entities.

It can be seen that the conceptual feelings are playing a dual role yet again. They are involved in the origination and development of subjective aim of the entity, but also through determining the importance physical purposes. In this way, they determine the creative advance beyond the entity into new entities, and the conceptual feelings truly become purposes through this integration with the physical feelings.

This explanation provides imagination as the origin of self-determination. The actual world flows into the subject with its own strength, and must be re-enacted by the new subject in a mere conformation. But there is more than just conformation:

“The subjective valuation is the work of novel conceptual feeling; and in proportion to its importance, acquired in complex processes of integration and reintegration, this autonomous conceptual element modifies the subjective forms throughout the whole range of feeling in that concrescence and thereby guides the integrations” (Key 57).

Physical purposes, when integrated merely with their conceptual counterparts, have little in the way of autonomous energy. These are physical feelings of the first species. The second species occurs when a conceptual feeling and a reverted conceptual feeling are paired with their relevant physical feelings. It is from these kind of purposes that low-level freedom is able to emerge in significant levels. A conceptual reversion with a relatively high valuation, a more complex physical purpose, emerges:

“There is now the physical feeling as valued by its integration with the primary conceptual feeling, the integration with the contrasted secondary conceptual feeling, the heightening of the scale of subjective intensity by the introduction of conceptual contrast, and the concentration of this heightened intensity upon the reverted feeling in virtue of its being the novel factor introducing the contrast” (PR 279).

Now, the conceptual reversion will enter into future entities as a physical feeling, and the pattern of the original feeling appears as the datum in the reverted conceptual feeling. This causes a chain of alternating contrasts. As long as these reversions continue to reintegrate, they will swap places like this in each new entity and gain in intensity. Whitehead claims that this is the origin of “vibration” in the physical sciences. Rhythm and vibration arise from the conditions of for intensity and stability.

Propositional Feelings

Propositions arise in a similar manner to physical purposes via an integration of a physical feeling with a conceptual feeling. However, the objective datum of this kind of feeling is a proposition. These are heavily linked with eternal objects. However, whereas an eternal objects are abstracted from all actual entities, only found by their potential to enter into any actual entity while not being bound to particular actualities, a proposition is referent to actual entities in a definite fashion. An eternal object “tells no tales about it’s ingressions.” A proposition gives us tales that might be told of some particular entities. They are true or false according to some reason, and that reason, in accordance with the ontological principle, must be one or more actual entities.

An eternal object thus cannot be true or false, but a proposition takes the indeterminateness of an eternal object and at the same timeabstracts certain actual entities. It is an entity in its own right, a complex abstraction of actual entities constituting it, and an eternal object entering into it. It is true or false depending on the constitution of the abstracted entities, but tells no tale about itself. An equal sign can only tell you something when you put numbers on either side, and indeterminate “equality” can never be true or false. The proposition in a sense adds a question mark to the eternal object and applies it to particular actual entities.

Again, like a physical purpose, a propositional feeling emerges from a physical feeling of an actual entity or a nexus (group) of actual entities. The conceptual feeling’s datum is, like in the physical purpose, an eternal object. The integrated actual entities become the logical subjects of the proposition. The eternal object is restricted to these particular logical subjects. It may be restricted to referring to any of the entities in the set provided or it may refer to the entirety of the set. (True or False) = True, but (True A and False) = False. The eternal object of the conceptual feeling forms the predicative pattern which the logical subjects singled out by the physical feeling. The actual entities become abstracted from their role in the world in a propositional feeling, instead being reduced to bare, abstract multiplicities, becoming “food for a possibility.” The sheer matters of fact are translated into a potentials for the realization of a predicative pattern. In short, a propositional feeling applies an eternal object to a set of actual entities considered in abstract and uses this integrated feeling to locate a proposition to feel.

However, the proposition does exist independent of the feeler briefly. The truth or falsehood of a proposition is not determinable by the proposition itself, but only by a feeler, a “prehending subject.” The proposition is located in the actual world of any actual entity who includes the logical subjects of the proposition in its world. When this occurs, the proposition is able to function as an element in the “lure for feeling” of that entity. It follows that in any given actual entity’s world there are an indefinite number of propositions, as there is an indefinite number of actual entities and eternal objects. Not all propositions will enter into feeling though. The only propositions that will be felt will be those whose corresponding eternal object has not been eliminated at the end of phase two. Then, the propositional feeling will occur, as the actual entity has admitted it into its concrescence.

If a proposition is true, that is, it conforms to the world, then it merely emphasizes some fact in the world. There may be accession or diminution of emotion. Telling you that this article was written at 4 o’clock is unlikely to produce any great emotional response in you. But a non-conformal proposition, while “false,” is not inherently evil. Fact is synthesized with potential alternatives, and this can be creative or destructive. Whitehead emphasizes that the non-conformal is a novelty whereas the world-conformal is not, as a non-conformal proposition puts old forms into new functions. Whitehead has an interesting attitude here, believing that merely viewing propositions as matters for judgment has been disastrous. Rather, propositions should be considered for what they possess and where they might take us. He goes so far as to say that “In the real world, it is more important that a proposition be interesting than it be true” (Key 64).

Judgment, he says, is a rare occurrence in the world, as is consciousness. No audience upon hearing “To be or not to be…” does any judging about the truth of the statement, but rather submits to the aesthetic pleasure in following the lure for feeling. Whitehead is somewhat similar to Deleuze in that he values new ways of looking at things for their own sake. He abhors any philosophy that would seek to stifle the freedom of ideas that we all posses. The proof that Whitehead is correct in this way of thinking is that it is impossible to act merely on the basis of how things are, rather, action is always an attempt to make something in the world that is non-conformal conformal. Saying “we should lower crime rates” already involves the consideration of the (non-conformal) proposition that crime rates are low. Our feeling gives us desire, and our discovery of its falsehood moves us to action.

Phase IV: Complex Comparative Feelings

This (sub)phase is the final stage before the satisfaction. The complex comparative feelings are represented by circle D. Bracket Z represents the datum for these feelings. This is the stage where intellectual feelings and consciousness emerge. Here, the “theory” of the proposition gets checked with reality. The propositional feelings are compared and enter into a contrast with some nexus of actual entities. What might be is contrasted with what there is in fact. Whitehead calls this the “affirmation-negation” contrast.

Whitehead makes an interesting claim that consciousness is rising out of experience. This is in direct opposition to Kant. While in Kant’s system the world arises out of the transcendental subject, the reverse is true for Whitehead. His argument for it, if correct, undermines almost the entirety of post-Kantian idealist philosophy and has been criminally overlooked, but that will wait for the discussion of what Whitehead terms “causal efficacy.”

The Satisfaction

We now come to the end of the concrescence. One big, final, determinate feeling. The many datum of the primary phase finally come together with a complex subjective form. All incompatibility and indeterminacy has been purged and evaporated. The satisfaction has a definite “yes or no” link to each entity in the universe. But in this achievement of definiteness, the process ends, and thus the actual entity “never really is.”

Each satisfaction may have different levels of “order” or “disorder,” which promote intensity or lack of intensity respectively. This definite feeling, relatively intense or otherwise, now passes on as a “given” objective datum for entities. It becomes objectively immortal as soon as it “perishes” by becoming a part of the constitution of a creative advance beyond itself. Thus, the process repeats itself, with the new entity now passing on from being self-creator to being part-creator of the world.

“In its self-creation the actual entity is guided by its ideal of itself as individual satisfaction and as transcendent creator” (Key 71).

This completes the microcosmic level of Whitehead’s philosophy, and if you’ve made it this far, things get much easier from here on out. We can now enter into the complex world of enduring objects that we see in our day-to-day lives. It is there where Whitehead’s philosophy gains a definite relevance to our lives and can help us think about everything from atoms and cells to friendships and human societies.



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