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Chapter 4: Reality as a Causal Web or Actuality as Causal Efficacy. D econstructive Postmodernism fulfilled with Constructive Postmodernism. BIG QUESTIONS. W hat holds the world of dynamic, novel events together in an orderly cosmos? (p. 54)

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chapter 4 reality as a causal web or actuality as causal efficacy

Chapter 4: Reality as a Causal Webor Actuality as Causal Efficacy

Deconstructive Postmodernism

fulfilled with

Constructive Postmodernism

big questions
BIG QUESTIONS
  • What holds the world of dynamic, novel events together in an orderly cosmos? (p. 54)
  • Whitehead argued that we believe in causation because we experience ourselves in each moment as arising causally out of the preceding moments…as part of a causal web. (p. 59)
  • What connections enable the flow of experiencing that constitutes an electron or your mind to have identity over time? (p. 54)
  • In each moment, I experience my ”self”(the ‘immediacy of ‘my’ “becoming”) —through perception in the mode of (as)causal efficacy—as arising out of that causal web.(pratityasamutpada) (p. 61)
overview of themes
Overview of Themes
  • 1) Postmodern Thinking x 3
  • 2) Epistemological Background x 9
  • 3) Whitehead’s Epistemology x 3
  • 4) Becoming as Relational Process x 4
  • 5) WH: Experiencing in the mode of “presentational immediacy” x 1
  • 6) WH: Experiencing in the mode of “causal efficacy” x 7
postmodern thinking 1
POSTMODERN THINKING #1
  • Contemporary postmodern thinkers often speak of truth and values and even of our most basic perceptions as social constructs.
  • They tend to emphasize the disconnectedness of these social constructs from the alleged world “out there,”
  • almost as if there were no world at all but only the worlds we construct.
  • How might process-relational thinkers respond? (p. 54)
postmodern thinking 2
POSTMODERN THINKING #2
  • Postmodern thinkers…have shown us how structures of social oppression falsely acquire an air of absoluteness that serves to make oppression seem “natural,” as if it were part of the necessary structures of reality.
  • Instead, they argue, these social values, gender roles, and often our very sensory experiences are social and personal constructs. (p. 54)
postmodern thinking 3
POSTMODERN THINKING #3
  • Unfortunately, in the process of helping us to see the constructed character of our perceptions (Kant’s phenomenal world, p. 57), some postmodernists seem at times to deny that we have any real connection to the world “out there.”(Kant’s noumenal world, p. 57)
  • Sometimes it may seem as if there is no ‘natural’ world out there (noumenal world, p. 57), as if there is only the constructed political and social world (phenomenal world, p. 57) they critique. (p. 55)
epistemological background to understand whitehead s contribution
(Epistemological) Background to understand Whitehead’s contribution
  • HUME - The philosopher David Hume, who helped us clarify the nature of the ‘self’ as a bundle of experiences, was a British empiricist.
  • …the British empiricists emphasized the importance of going out to look at the world. They…argued that all knowledge of what exists in the world depends upon experience.
  • …empiricists acknowledge, that we can learn purely rational processes of logic and math, but reason alone cannot tell us what exists. (p. 55)
epistemological background
Epistemological Background
  • HUME - Consider a simple mathematical truth like 1+ 1= 2. As a truth of reason, it is a purely logical and necessary truth.
  • But reason alone does not tell us whether anything at all exists in the physical world or how the physical world behaves.
  • If you take a drop of water on a surface and add another drop of water, how many drops will you have? (p. 55)
epistemological background1
Epistemological Background
  • HUME – If you set a drop very carefully alongside the first drop, you may end up with two drops—unless they touch. The problem is that the physical properties of water are not captured in the formula 1+ 1= 2. We have to look and see how water actually behaves.
  • We could ‘appear’ to solve the problem by saying something like one drop of water added in the right way to another drop of water will give us two drops of water. In this sentence, what does “in the right way” mean? It can only mean something like “in a way guaranteed to give us two drops of water.”
  • Now it’s a tautology. (pp. 55-6)
epistemological background2
Epistemological Background
  • This is why the British empiricists insisted that all knowledge of this world depends upon experience. Whitehead would agree.
  • HUME - The radical empiricism of Hume…was very narrowly focused on (human) sense experience. Knowledge of the world was taken to depend on what we could see, touch, taste, hear, and smell. The final test of knowledge is usually what we see.
  • David Hume…discovered important difficulties related to causation. (p. 56)
epistemological background3
Epistemological Background
  • HUME - We cannot see (or otherwise sense) causation. We see event A followed by events B and C, but we do not see causation. - If you watch one billiard ball strike another billiard ball, you will then see them move of in different directions, but you will not see causation.
  • Watch as carefully as you can, and you will only see the series of events, not any causing of one by the other.
  • You assume or infer that the earlier events cause the later ones, but all you see is the sequence. (p. 56)
epistemological background4
Epistemological Background
  • HUME - …we are never able, in a single instance, to discover any power or necessary connection, any quality that binds the effect to the cause and renders the one an infallible consequence of the other.We only find that the one does actually in fact follow the other.
  • The impulse ofone billiard ball is attended with motion in the second: This is the whole that appears to the outward senses.
  • …there is not, in any single particular instance of cause and effect, (or) anything that can suggest the idea of power or necessary connection. (pp. 56-7)
epistemological background5
Epistemological Background
  • Hume - acknowledged that he had to work very hard to force himself to admit that he could not experience causation and that the moment he stopped making this mental effort, he immediately reverted to believing in it.
  • KANT – Kant…read Hume’s work and reported that he was awakened from his “dogmatic slumbers.”Hume was right: All experience about what particular things exist in the world is based on experience, but we cannot experience causality. (p. 57) 
epistemological background6
Epistemological Background
  • KANT - Nor, Kant argued, can we experience space, time, or substance. Kant concluded that space, time, substance, and causality are simply ways in which *ourmindsorder our experience*. ( * = key to Kant’s dualism)
  • They (space, time, substance, and causality) do not come from the world; they come from us. 
  • …we can know in advance that whateverexperiencewe have will be shaped by our mindsinto these basic categories.(p. 57)
epistemological background7
Epistemological Background
  • (Consequently)Kant…distinguished between the noumenal world—the world as it is in itself—and the phenomenal world—the world as actually experienced by us. We cannot know anything about the noumenalworld. All we will ever know is the world as we experience it—the phenomenal world. (= dualistic: 2 sep. realities)
  • Yet, as critics have asked, if we cannot know anything about the noumenal world, how can we know that it exists or that it does or does not include space, time, causality, and substance? (p. 57)
whitehead s epistemology
Whitehead’s Epistemology
  • Whitehead agreed that we must be empiricists…He also agreed with Hume that our senses cannot show us causation. And (truth) in Kant’s insistence that we can never step outside of our own experience to see what the world is like on its own.
  • Yet, Whitehead argued, we do experience causation, as well as space and time (though obviously not substance). We experience these, however, at a deeper levelthan our sense experience.(p. 58)
whitehead s 2 level epistemology
Whitehead’s 2-level Epistemology
  • Whitehead distinguished between two kinds of perception: perception in the mode of causal efficacy and perception in the mode of presentational immediacy.
  • The latter, presentational immediacy, is sense experience. Sense experience is rooted in the deeper perception in the mode of causal efficacy.
  • Consider sight. Photons strike the rods and cones of the eyes, and electrochemical messages are transmitted along the optic nerves to the rear of the brain.
  • the cerebral cortex takes over and transforms that raw data into a conscious visual perception so that we see—and know that we are seeing—(p. 58)
whitehead s 2 level epistemology1
Whitehead’s 2-level Epistemology
  • That complex visual experience created by the brain depends upon a causal interaction between the world “out there” and our eyes, an interaction that involves photons.
  • Sight, then, is certainly a product of our own organism and the organism is capable of misinterpretation.
  • So, it is true (with Kant) that we can never step outside of our bodily existence to know what is going on “out there” independently of our bodies, yet our bodies create sight out of a deeper causal interaction with the world.
  • The same (our bodies create sight out of a deeper causal interaction with the world) is true of all of our sense perceptions. (p. 58)
slide19

becoming as relational processes

  • Whitehead’s vision of the character of all becoming as relational processes (is that)..the whole universe, all that is “actual”, is composed of the becoming and perishing(being) of moments of experiencing, experiencing of spatial-temporal relations and experiencing of causal connections. Each moment arises causally out of the prior moments. (p. 58) ( = slide 28)
  • Whitehead argued that we believe in causation because we experience ourselves in each moment as arising causally out of the preceding moment…as part of a causal web. (pratityasamutpada) (p. 59)
becoming as relational processes
becoming as relational processes
  • Experiencing in the mode of causal efficacy (c.e.) is shared by every drop of experiencing. Physicists describe these interactions in the language of energy, chemists … chemical interactions, and biologists(?)…organic behavior.
  • Electrons (are) experiencing the causal force (c.e.)of the other events out of which they arise and respond. Amoebas (are) experiencing their environment and respond to it. So do we.
  • The world is a vast web of causal relationships (pratityasamutpada) —relational processes.
becoming as relational processes1
becoming as relational processes
  • Every act of experiencing has its own unique perspective, its own “actual world.” No two events arise out of exactly the same spatial-temporal situation.
  • Furthermore, each new experiencing involves interpretation of the received data. We interpret those sights in terms of memories, emotions, plans, hopes, fears, and possible reactions.
  • So process philosophers agree emphatically with the contemporary postmodern awareness (that)…all experiencing is from a perspective, and all experiencing involves interpretation. (p. 59)
becoming as relational processes2
“becoming as relational processes”
  • But—and this is crucial—every experiencing has a perspective on the actual world, and every interpretation involves an interpretation of that world. (p. 59)

----“Experiencing in the mode of presentational immediacy”----

* It is a familiar fact that when we look at a star… we never see the star as it is right now; we always and only see it as it was in the past.

* The stars, moon, and sun as we see them are always constructs of our brains, taking our most recent experience and “painting” the world with it.

experienc ing in the mode of presentational immediacy
Experiencing in the mode of “presentational immediacy”
  • What is true of the sky is equally true of the rest of the world…gazing out the window while writing this, my brain uses visual, tactile, and other sensory input from my body to construct my visual and auditory (olfactory, etc.) world of the present.
  • This constructed world of sensory “presentational immediacy”… is a constructed presentation built from data about how the world impacted my body just a moment ago.
  • The paint(past data) my brain uses to create this presentation(presentational immediacy) is my body’s causal interaction with the world around me. (p. 60)
experienc ing in the mode of causal efficacy
Experiencing in the mode of causal efficacy
  • It is finally these more basic perceptions in the mode of causal efficacy against which we test our constructed presentation.
  • …we ultimately test the “painted” world against the causal world. It is perception in the mode of causal efficacy that tells me that I cannot walk through walls..(or) fly.
  • I push and the world pushes back. If I am struck, I feel the presentational immediacy of pain constructed by my nerves and brain…
  • I experience the pain with and because of, arising out of the physical causal energy of what strikes me. (p. 60)
experienc ing in the mode of causal efficacy1
Experiencing in the mode of causal efficacy
  • The world and I causally engage each other in each moment. My body arises out of this web of causal relations, and my mind arises out of the causal interactions of my body.
  • In each moment, I experience my”self” (the ‘immediacy of ‘my’ “becoming”) —through perception in the mode of (as)causal efficacy—as arising out of that causal web. (pratityasamupada)
  • That, Whitehead so persuasively argues, is why we all(even Hume) believe in causation. We believe in causation because we experience it in every moment of our becoming… as being caused by that past world.(p. 61)
experienc ing in the mode of causal efficacy2
Experiencing in the mode of “causal efficacy”
  • Hume was honest. He was honest enough to admit that he did not see causation or know it by any sense experience.
  • Process philosophers have often been critical of Hume for excluding from his philosophy something he knew to be true just because it did not fit his conceptual framework;
  • but we at least recognize that this exclusion arose because he lacked the conceptual framework of perception in the mode of causal efficacy
experienc ing in the mode of causal efficacy3
Experiencing in the mode of causal efficacy
  • Kant had no way to connect this phenomenal world with what he called the “noumenal” world as it is “in itself…”
  • Process thinkers would agree with Kant, and with many postmodern thinkers, that the world of our sensory perception is always a construct…a “phenomenal” world. (p. 61)
  • Whitehead argued that the world “out there,” the world “in itself” does ‘have’ space, time, and causality and that we know this because we experience (them) ourselves as part of that larger causal world through perception in the mode of causal efficacy.
causal efficacy transforms contemporary postmodernism
causal efficacy transforms contemporary postmodernism
  • …because of the heritage of Hume and Kant, they often leave us dangling as if there is simply no connection between our constructed ‘phenomenal’ world and the world that we all know is “out there.”
  • Process-relational thought, especially through Whitehead’s insight regarding our perception in the mode of causal efficacy…
  • …we know that we are part of that world. We know it because we experience it in every moment of our lives… (p. 62)
causal efficacy what do you mean
Causal efficacy, what do you mean?
  • We experience the world “out there” because our ”selves” are created out of ‘it’. The world “out there” becomespart of us; it “becomes” the “in here.”
  • How do we know? Show me an example: Who among us has not felt the jarring physical impact with the ground that came earlier or later than we had expected? Who has not stubbed their toe and encountered the world pushing back?
  • **The argument here is that ‘actual empirical experience’ would not have the character it does have if all that is given in experience from outside itself were sense data. …there is a sense of derivation from the immediate past that is particularly clear in relation to one's own immediately past experiences. Thisdoes not have the vividness of the sense data, and it is rarely attended to, but it remains experiential. WH believes this “experiencing flowing from one occasion into the next” deserves an attention it has rarely received in the history of thought.( = Slide 18)
all of our experienc ing is rooted in causal efficacy
All of our experiencing is rooted in causal efficacy
  • Whitehead’s claim is that all of our experiencing is rooted in causal efficacy. We live and move within(??) it. (p. 62)
  • It is this continually experienced causality that underlies all other experiencing by which we learn to engage the world around us…
  • SO-O-O WHAT? - Feminists rightly show us that “gender” is a social construct enmeshed in struggles of power, wealth, class, and physical violence. Social constructs… carry tremendous weight in shaping our experience.
debrief ing quiz
Debriefing Quiz

1. Although“deconstructionist postmodernism” may seem to conclude there is no natural world “out there”, as if there is only the humanly constructed political and social world, can you describe how process-relational philosophy is “constructive postmodernism”.

2. Say something about Hume and his analysis of causation.

3. Say something about how Kant reacted to Hume concluding that our minds order our experience.

4. Describe “presentational immediacy”.

debrief ing quiz1
Debriefing Quiz
  • 5. Describe “causal efficacy”.
  • 6. Although Hume could not see or sense causation and, yet he believed in causation at a deeper level, why did he exclude it from his philosophy?
  • 7. From a Whiteheadian perspective, what process-relational concept would allow Kant to connect his “noumenal” and “phenomenal” worlds?
  • 8. According to Whitehead, what continuously felt causality underlies/constitutes the experiencingof all moments of becoming?
what is process thought question 6 mcdaniel
What is Process Thought? Question # 6 - McDaniel
  • A Whiteheadian perspective is interested in what people call the common good and in constructive alternatives to the many problems societies face today.
  • A constructively postmodern approach to life has two important qualities. It builds upon the best of modern, industrial ways of thinking while critiquing the worst of those ways of thinking. 
  • And it critiques the best of more traditional or pre-modern ways of thinking, while critiquing the worst of these ways.
what is the best of the pre modern
What is the best of the pre-modern?
  • For most process philosophers the best of agricultural ways of thinking and living include: 
  • Family and Community: a respect for family and community.
  • Ecology: a respect for Earth and other forms of life.
  • Tradition: a respect for tradition and the rituals that hold people together.
  • Patience: a less hurried and more humane way of living in daily life.
  • The Sacred: a respect for the sacred.
the best of modern industrial ways include
The best of modern, industrial ways include -
  • Science: an appreciation of science and the scientific methods.
  • Technology: the application of science to solving human problems.
  • Reason: an emphasis on reason and appeals to evidence when adjudicating disputes.
  • Individuality: an affirmation of the value of individuals and the dignity of each person.
  • Participation: an emphasis on people participating in the decisions that affect their lives.   
constructively postmodern
constructively postmodern
  • Thus, when process philosophies claim to be “constructively postmodern,” they have in mind building upon the best of modernity and also avoiding the worst, while re-claiming the wisdom of pre-industrial and more traditional ways of living. 
  • They believe that people can be “modern” and “scientific” and “rational” in the best of modern ways. 
  • But they also believe that people can be appreciative of tradition, respectful of cultural diversity, grateful for the role of community in human life, respectful of the earth, open to the best of religious wisdom, and sensitive to the wisdom of the arts and other forms of aesthetic wisdom.