Charles Hartshorne on Love and Process

From The Philosophy of Charles Hartshorne, 700: My ultimate intuitive clue in philosophy is that "God is love" and that the idea of God is definable as that of the being worthy to be loved with all one's heart, mind, soul, and entire being. This definition I owe to Paul Tillich. I conclude that therefore love in its most generalized sense is the principle of principles. It is creativity, stressing one of its aspects. Whitehead says that "Love, imperfect in us is perfect in God." It is with his help that I have been able to generalize this to apply to nondivine actualities generally[;] Peirce hints strongly in the same direction and so does Bergson.

Page references below are to Whitehead's Philosophy: Selected Essays, 1935-1970; emphasis added.

[161] It may seem that Whitehead's system is not particularly new. Thus he is a theist, an epistemological realist, a pluralist, an indeterminist, a metaphysical idealist or psychicalist-in the sense of denying any mere matter ("vacuous actuality") irreducible to mind or experience as such-and have there not been many theists, realists, pluralists, indeterminists, psychicalists? . . .

[162] Pluralism is indicated by "the many." There are numerous realities, not just one . . . But what pluralist [before Whitehead] ever clearly stated that it is the destiny of the many to enter into a novel unity, an additional reality, which, since we are dealing with a principle, not a mere fact, must in its turn be united with the others in a further unity, and so on without end? We have here an admission not merely of emergence, but of emergent or creative synthesis as the very principle of process and reality. . . . Each item of reality has the destiny of forming material for endlessly compounded and recompounded acts of synthesis-producing new and more complex realities.

. . .The many are not one, they become one. . . . First an item is, on its own, through its own unification of its presupposed items; then it is included in, possessed by, subsequent items. In other terms, relationships to prior entities are internal to the given entity, but not conversely. . . .

Again, the "many" are not existing individuals or substances, in the usual sense, but "actual occasions" or unit-events. "Actual" is opposed to "potential," and in any individual thing or person there are always both the actual individual past and the potential individual future. In an occasion, however, there is only the actuality, so far as that unit of reality is concerned. It is indeed a "potential" for subsequent becoming; but the actualization of this potentiality can never be the possession of the occasion itself, but only of later occasions. The occasion is, it does not have, the potentiality, and it is contradictory for a potentiality to be or have its own actualization.

In other language, it is not the items of actuality which change; change is merely successive becoming . Here Whitehead takes a step beyond Leibniz . . .

[168] It is my conviction that in Whitehead Western metaphysics moved appreciably closer than ever before to a technical language capable of formulating without inconsistency the content of the ancient saying, "God is love." This could not be accomplished so long as the magnificent achievements of the Greeks blinded men to the grave limitations and defects of the platonic (or perhaps pseudoplatonic) exaltation of the fixed and impassible. The "many become one" only because the new unity is one of "feeling of feeling," sympathetically appropriating the feeling content of the previous entities. Experience is never merely of some insentient "object," but is always experience of others' experience. But what is the root idea of love but this, participation by one subject in the life of others? This is the very process of realization, in Whitehead's system. . . .

Almost the whole of Greek ethics is based upon the notion of substances which never overlap in their being. In one way or another the attempt is made to derive love from self-interest, for instance as a means of remedying deficiency by comparison with the absolute model of beauty. But if value is essentially found in participating, in living the life of another, then supreme value must be the supreme form of such integration of the many into one, and then there cannot be an absolute case, for there can be no final stage. There can only be an inexhaustible progress of the divine life as summing up ever anew the de facto actualities. . . .

The material above is excerpted from here

For much of David Ray Griffin's exposition of Hartshorne's philosophy, click here.

For numerous links leading to sites dealing with process philosophy, click here.

Created Sept. 24, 2000
by Alan Anderson
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