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Trinity & Process Redux

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A highly abridged summary of Greg Boyd's PhD dissertation: Trinity and Process: A Critical Evaluation and Reconstruction of Hartshorne’s Di-Polar Theism Towards a Trinitarian Metaphysics (Peter Lang: 1992).
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  1 Trinity and Process:  A Critical Evaluation and Reconstruction of Hartshorne’s Di  -Polar Theism Towards a Trinitarian Metaphysics   (Peter Lang: 1992) What follows is a highly abridged summary of Greg Boyd’s PhD dissertation (Princeton). The purpose of this summary is to make its conclusions more easily accessible. I’ve taken sev eral steps to downsize the work: (1) Footnotes have all been removed, (2) minimal sectional headings have been retained, (3) material I thought one could do without to get the essential points was removed, (4) srcinal pagination is gone, (5) the opening Introduction  and Bibliography are not included, and (6) srcinal wording hasn ’t been tampered with except to correct misspellings and minor grammatical mistakes. It may read as if the paragraphs should have been bulleted. That’s due to having removed material and collapsed what was left. Please be mindful in quoting (better refer to the srcinal) because due to editing some paragraphs appear run-on here which in the srcinal are separated by material. T&P critically appropriates philosopher/th eologian Charles Hartshorne’s Process metaphysics to articulate an underst anding of God that retains both the best of Hartshorne’s  (Process) contributions and essential orthodox Christian beliefs regarding G od. It’s a purely analytic work that seeks to explore what can be known about God and the world based on philosophical reasoning. In the process different aspects of CH’s metaphysics and classical Christian  belief are both surrendered and retained. My interest in doing this summary stems from ongoing conversations I have with people about Greg’s conclusions but who are unfamiliar with this earlier work of his. I hope this will be enough of a summary to give interested readers a clear picture of his essential thesis. For more specifics you’ll have to read the book. Tom Belt Minneapolis, October 2014  2 PART I SIX FOUNDATIONAL A PRIORI TRUTHS OF HARTSHORNE’S SYSTEM  CHAPTER I The First Four  A Priori   Truths There are two aspects to the truths with which metaphysics is concerned: metaphysical truths are both “necessary” and “categorical.”  We shall shortly discuss the six candidates for the status of a priori   truth which constitute the foundation of Hartshorne’s metaphysical system. The first four shall be discussed in the remainder of this chapter, the fifth and sixth in chapter II. The Three Conditions of an A Priori Truth   Condition 1: Idea Implies Reality   The first condition for an existential a priori   truth which Hartshorne shall be employing in this metaphysical system is that an axiom can be considered to be a synthetic a priori   truth only if its mere idea entails its actual existence. If an existential statement is genuinely a priori  , its truth must include necessary existence. Condition 2: Non-restrictive and Existential   The second condition which must be met by any statement before it can be considered a priori   is that it must be a “non - restrictive existential statement.” An a priori truth, since it must be universally exemplified, must be “wholly positive.” Its instantiation must exclude n o conceivable state of affairs. Condition 3: Verifiable but not Falsifiable  The final criterion by which Hartshorne shall evaluate candidates for a priori   truth is that it must be in principle verifiable but not falsifiable. Indeed, if metaphysical statements are to be necessary and categorical, then they must not only be verifiable, but they must be verified in every experience. The First A Priori: “Something Exists”    The first and most fundamental candidate for an a priori   non-restrictive existential truth is, according to Hartshorne, th e statement “something exists.” This a priori   functions as the  fundamental axiom in Hartshorne’s system. Indeed, this a priori   truth is in a sense the only    a priori    in Hartshorne’s system, for everything else in the system is simply an aspect of what it me ans to say “something exists.”   The Second A Priori: “  The Concrete/Abstract Distinction ”    The first step to be taken by way of flushing out the full meaning of the statement “something exists” is, according to Hartshorne, to identify existence with “definiteness,” or as Hartshorne tends to prefer, “concreteness.” To say “something exists” is, for Hartshorne,   to say “something is concrete.” And to be concerned about “existence as such” is nothing other than to be concerned about “concreteness as such. ” “[T]he basic form of reality,” then is, for Hartshorne, by definition “concrete reality.” “Concrete actualities are the whole of what is.”   The Principle of Contrast   According to Hartshorne, the meaning of any proposition is contingent upon the meaningfulness of its contrast. Hartshorne calls this princip le the “principle of contrast.” “ [C]oncrete ness as such,” then,   implies a contrary with “abstraction as such.” To have an idea of what “concreteness” means, we must have some idea of what “abstraction” means in contrast to it. Metaphysics as the “purely general theory  3 of concreteness,” then, must “include a theory of abstractions.”  The a priori    truth that “something exists” impl ies the a priori    truth that “something is concrete,” which in turn leads to the a priori   truth that “something is concrete with abstract features.”   The Asymmetry of the Abstract/Concrete Distinction  Of fundamental importance for an adequate understanding of Hartshorne’s system  is the recognition that the relationship between the concrete and the abstract is not symmetrical  . While the contrast between concreteness and abstractness is an a priori   truth — and in this sense both can be said to be “fundamental truths”— it does not follow, according to Hartshorne, that concreteness and abstractness are symmetrically relation a priori   in the same way. Rather, as we have already seen, concreteness is “the basic form of reality.” “Definiteness is the positive, hence basic idea.” It is the concrete which expresses “the fullness of reality,” while the abstract   only expresses “features, aspects, or relations of it.”   The Third A Priori: “Experience   Occurs”    We now turn to the third fundamental candidate for a priori    truth within Hartshorne’s system: the statement “experience occurs.” Like the second a priori   truth, and like all the candidates for a priori    truth which follow, the contention that “experience occurs” is not, for Hartshorne, separable from the first fundamental a priori  : the necessary truth that “something exists.” It rather is implied in this first a  priori    as an integral part of its meaning. Hartshorne’s contention is that to say “something exists” is ultimately to say “experience occurs.”   The Infinite Flexibility of A Priori Concepts  It is, according to Hartshorne, tautologous to say that non-restrictive existential concepts must linguistically possess “infinite flexibility.” An a priori   existential concept must be capable of being meaningfully generalized to an absolutely universal level. “Existence” and “concreteness” are such concepts because they are inclusive of any conceivable reality whatsoever. Though people and rocks and molecules, etc., all exist, and are concrete in radically different ways, the terms can yet be meaningfully applied to them all. They are flexible enough not only to be applied to all known reality, but to all conceivable reality. This “infinite flexibility” is an inherent feature of all truly non -restrictive concepts. Accordin g to Hartshorne, the concept of “experience” is flexible in just the same manner and degree as are the concepts of “existence” and “concreteness.” It might be argued that we only know experience in human terms, and thus do not know what it would be like to generalize this concept to a universal level. This is, as we shall shortly see, the most common objection to Hartshorne’s “psychicalism.”  It must be acknowledged that we commonly generalize the concept of experience a great deal. We conceive of animals as having experiences, of insects has having some sort of experience, and perhaps even of very simple organisms as having something like experiences. Hartshorne’s question is the question of why we should arbitrarily stop this generalization at some point. And his argument, which we shall shortly examine, is that logic  forbids  us to draw a stopping point to this generalization. Psychicalism: The “Principle of Continuity”   But can we not imagine a state of affairs which exemplifies a zero instance of experience? Indeed, is not our ordinary conception of “matter” just such a concept? Is the concept of “mere matter” really a logical contradiction —as it must be if “experience” is in fact a necessary truth? In other words, is the concept of  4 an “experienceless something” a complete negation, saying nothing positive and hence nothing meaningless? According to Hartshorne, the concept of “mere matter” is indeed just this, and his argument for this contention constitutes what has been called his “panpsychistic” doctrine, or as he prefers, his doctrine of “psychicalism.”  What, H artshorne asks, is the concept of “mere matter,” wholly devoid of mind -like qualities, but the complete negation of human experience and all that could be analogous to it? We know what our own human experience is in all its variety, and we can meaningfully “stretch” by analogy our experience to understand in some measure other human, super-human, sub-human, and even sub-animal experiences. But how can we know, recognize, understand, and meaningfully speak about its complete negation? Negation, as we have already pointed out, is parasitic upon affirmation, or it is meaningless. But the concept of a wholly non- experiential “something” is, it seems, just such a complete negation, and hence it i s meaningless. Thus Hartshorne argues, “I do not know how matter can be interpreted save by analogy with experience as such.” What appears to be “dead matter” must, then, in reality be merely “habit bound mind,” or at least something analogous to it.  The correct view, as Hartshorne sees it, is that while all concrete actuality has, and must have, abstract lifeless features to it, the concrete itself is alive and is constituted by some mind-like experiences. The Fourth A Priori: “  The Asymmetrical Sociality of Experience ”   We now turn to Hartshorne’ s fourth candidate for an a priori   truth which is also simply a working out of the logical implications of the preceding candidates: it is the statement “asymmetrical relations occur.”   Experience As Necessarily Relational   If the concept of experience is indeed non- restrictive and hence “infinitely flexible,” it is necessary to inquire into what its general features are which remains constant through the infinite flexibility of its application. What is it which all   experiences —from God’s experience down to the experience of an electron — must have in common? In asking this, we are once again seeking to distinguish the ontologically necessary from the contingent features of our experience of reality. Experience must be relational. It “cannot generate its own content.” If to be is to be an experience as has been argued, then it is also true that “[t]o be is to be in relation.” Non -relational being is simply non-being. This, in a nutshell, is Hartshorne’s a priori   argument for the necessary sociality of being, and its importance within Hartshorne’s cannot be overstated.  To exist, then, is to be concrete, which is to experience, which in turn, we now see, is to be related. Only the abstract features of this social concreteness can be considered as non-social. The whole of Hartshorne’s metaphysics from this po int on consists in working out of the implications of this sociality. The Asymmetrical Structure of the Sociality of Experience : “Feeling of Feeling”   Having determined that any conceivable experience must be relational, what, we must further ask, is the essential nature of this necessary relationality? What are the necessary a priori   features of the sociality of experience as such? The first thing to be discovered about the sociality of experience is that since to exist at all is to be an experience, what is experienced must itself be an experience. Insofar as “feeling” is a constituent of any experience which can be understood analogously with human experience, Hartshorne can (following

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Jul 23, 2017
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