Meaning runs far deeper than designation. We will never be able to think our connection to reality if we think of reality as a collection of things, because meaningful experience is about more than things. Experience is constituted by events. The ontology of an event cannot be captured by the mental representation of material things or structures; rather, Whitehead’s event-oriented ontology replaces traditional notions of substance dualism and mental representation with novel concepts of processual polarity and prehensive unification. Mind and matter are thus not conceived of as separate substances but as poles in dynamic tension with one another, each one contributing to the unification of every actual occasion of experience in Nature. The distinction between mental thoughts and physical things is not denied by Whitehead, but shifted from a spatial and substance-based framework into a genetic and process-relational one. Meaningful experience is constituted by the growing together (or, in Whitehead’s terms, the “concrescence”) of the stubborn facts of the past with the novel possibilities for the future that these facts afford the present. The past lingers in our physical feelings and corporeal habits, even in the very morphology of our skeletal muscles (reflecting the decision of our ancestors to walk upright), while the future goads us ever onward, quickening our minds with youthful ideals as yet unrealized. “Science is concerned with the facts of bygone transition,” that is, with the past, while “[it] is the religious impulse in the world which transforms the dead facts of science into the living drama of history”; it is for this reason, Whitehead continues, that “science can never foretell the perpetual novelty of history.” A new world-picture must acknowledge the scientific evidences of the past as well as the religious evidences of the future. It must account for the meaning of experience, of “being here,” in its full temporal depth (RR, 22).

The above passage is from another recent and remarkable essay by marvelous Whitehead interpreter, Matt Segall. Great stuff.

Paper flower above by Tiffanie Turner

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