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2. Whitehead, Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Creativity

Updated: Aug 26, 2019

Section heads: Rodrigo Petronio, Martin Kaplicky



1. Never Ending Wonder: Whitehead as Film Theorist

Julio Bezerra – Universidade Federal do Mato Grosso do Sul, Brasilia

For A. N. Whitehead thought is capacious, open, and creative. It never reaches any sort of completion or closure. No formulation is definitive. On the contrary: every philosophy is subject to revision, including his own. “Philosophy”, says Whitehead, “has been haunted by the unfortunate notion that its method is dogmatically to indicate premises which are severally clear, distinct, and certain; and to erect upon those premises a deductive system of thought. But the accurate expression of the final generalities is the goal of discussion, and not its origin”.

This is not just a matter of philosophical method. Philosophical speculation has no finality, because the world within which and about which the philosopher speculates has no finality. Whitehead’s thought does not offer us any firm conclusions. “Philosophy begins in wonder”, he says, but in the end, “the wonder remains”. Wonder never goes away. For him, speculative philosophy is part of a greater adventure, one that dissolves the old boundaries and allows new connections, a new kind of “nomadic freedom”, as Stengers so beautifully describes.

Whitehead published no book or article strictly on aesthetics, much less on film. Nonetheless, and that is what we are set out to do, thinking with Whitehead might open us to new ways of reading, understanding and practicing film theory - a field of investigation marked by everlasting dualisms, which have been insistently producing divides between what should matter and what should not. Thinking with Whitehead, film theory should abandon the idea of theory as attaining a Truth that would be independent of its own specific means. Films are then not defined by a silent question transcending the passionate diverse and interested ways we have of relating to them.

What is outlined on the horizon is the possibility of a thought that defies all dichotomies, in a meticulous, serious, and always to be resumed undertaking. Thinking about film means accepting an adventure from which none of the words that serve as our points of reference can emerge untouched, but none of which will be disqualified or denounced. We should not try to mitigate contradictions and make compatible what is defined as conflictual. The success of a theoretical proposition is not to resist objections. Its purpose should not be to deduce and impose ideas on what cinema is or should be, but rather to show more clearly how cinema escapes and disturbs these ideas.

2.The individuation process of art objects in Whitehead’s and Susanne Langer’sPhilosophy

Joaquim Braga – University of Coimbra, Portugal

As can easily be inferred from her Feeling and Form, Susanne Langer relies deep on the Whiteheadian process philosophy to sustain the idea that works of art have an organic appearance given by the tensions and contrasts among the aesthetic elements that constitute them. “Living form” is, in this sense, the conceptual expression coined by Langer to serve as a synonym for such organic appearance of art objects. The seminal Whitehead’s thesis expressed in Adventures of Ideas and according to which art, in general, “should aim at the production of individuality in the component details of its compositions”, is in turn followed by Langer, who sees the work of art animated by an internal individuation that differentiates it from other aesthetic objects, as, for example, those of the decorative design. In order to show the internal dynamics that permeate aesthetic feelings, Whitehead, in his accounts on art objects, refers precisely to the articulation between the “parts” and the “whole”. Although he assumes that in art the parts are structurally subordinated to the whole, he warns, however, that such processs is never linear or total. There is, in his view, a value of discord between the parts and the whole which, in turn, enhances the autonomous and singular re-entry of the parts into the whole. Therefore, this value of discord is pivotal to apply a principle of individuation to art objects and to also understand, on a strictly theoretical level, why Langer conceives artistic symbols as unconsummated symbols. These two dimensions will be the main thread of my paper.

3. Whitehead, Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Creativity

Katelynn E. Carver – University of St Andrews

Whiteheadian philosophy actively seeks to unite apparent contrasts so as to yield creative forms of novelty; it not only makes sense, but also intentionally fulfils the mandate set by Whiteheadian metaphysics to apply a process framework to postsecular literary studies. The inherent openness of process studies on the topic of theology—from its structure as a philosophy to its own branch of theological writing ranging from formal theology to religious naturalism—lends itself to the postsecular bent of an age of being, acting, and creating that is beyond the dichotomization of the religious and the secular, manifesting what is arguably a more honest reflection of the human spirit and condition than anything so limited as the former attempts at exclusivity of form and function. In order to facilitate multivalent conversation between these foci, I have chosen Virginia Woolf’s oeuvre, as someone who writes at the liminal space of the spiritual and secular and does so (evidentially unintentionally) with deeply Whiteheadian language and thematics. By delving deeper into Woolf’s writing we can highlight the unique function and breath of impact of process studies by applying it to an opening of the 1) interplay between the sacred and secular, 2) reading secularly-typified text as sacred and vice-versa, 3) redefining the meaning of sacred outside of the co-opting of the church establishment in order to apply to human experience and literature at large, and 3) suggest the universal human experience reflected by Whiteheadian thought outside of process studies as a specific, categorized field. In using Woolf’s The Waves, To The Lighthouse, and Mrs Dalloway, I will illustrate how the modernist novel’s focus on experience and reflection are examples writ large and transitively to writing and creative pursuits across the spectrum, ushering Whitehead formally into these arenas with a solid foundation of comparative research and underscoring of the creative advance as immutable, and present in all human interaction via the novel tension of contrasts.


4. The Aesthetic Vector Field Reconsidered

Ondřej Dadejík – Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic

In the context of process philosophy, the philosophy of art of Andrew Paul Ushenko is in the shadow of two more famous and influential ways of thinking about the subject: John Dewey’s social philosophy of art and Alfred North Whitehead’s thinking about the relationship between art and life. The connecting point of all three of these theories is, in my opinion, a view according to which an aesthetic experience stands out in contrast to human experience of nature (or everyday life in general), and yet they are not discontinuous. In the first step I will try to show Ushenko’s main intention on the background of the opposition between isolationism and contextualism as two main tendencies in the field of aesthetic theory. With the help of Melvin Rader’s distinction, we can formulate the difference between the two as follows: an isolationist theory insists that art is distinct or even separate from the rest of life, whereas a contextualist theory maintains the integrality of art and life. I argue that these tendencies are implausible if considered separately, and that Ushenko was able to use them – as Whitehead and Dewey, however in an original way – to good purpose in his theory of art by the employment of his metaphysics of potentiality.

In his Power and Events: An Essay on Dynamics in Philosophy (1946) Ushenko introduced the principle of power, that was intended by him as the central idea for the future of philosophical inquiry. One of the implications of Ushenko’s metaphysical vision was that the substance of art consists in “a dynamic equilibrium of powers”. The continuity between nature (or life) and art, according to Ushenko, is ensured by the principle of potentiality. The contrast between the two experiences lies in the fact that the everyday experience remains “comparatively indeterminate”, whereas the experience of artwork is perceptually “more specific, explicit, and articulate”. In order to grasp this contrast within continuity, Ushenko employs in his Dynamics of Art (1953) the central concept of aesthetic vector field. The second part of the paper will be focused on re-examining of Ushenko’s distinction between the egocentric, the double-centred, and aesthetic vector field in light of the current aesthetic theories and their critique of traditional aesthetics, namely (1) its dualistic nature that disqualifies “lower faculties”, such as sense, feeling, and mood, as legitimate sources of aesthetic phenomena; (2) its „hermeneutizing‟ and purifying of everything that is not fit for interpretation; and (3) the neglect of wide range of natural, environmental and everyday aesthetic values.


5. One Definite Note: Listening, Contrast and Beauty in Whitehead’s Philosophy

Andrew Goodman – Latrobe University and The University of Melbourne

In Whitehead’s opus Process and Reality devotes slightly more than one page to the question of the audition of sound (1978: 233-5). Whitehead slyly defines this as a ‘simple’ example that avoids any ‘unnecessary complexity’, but the example hints at the fact that to attempt to follow all the threads that go to make up a seemingly simple event is to confront the ‘social effort’ of the whole universe that has gone into the event’s makeup (233). Whitehead clearly positions the audition of the note as a creative act in itself rather than a simple act of reception of information. That is, I argue, it is an autonomous act of composition. The act is ecological in that through the patterning and valuation of contrasting feelings to compose the note, the auditor grasps, though largely not in a conscious way, a whole world or ecology of relations in-composition. These prehensions are held not to resolve difference, but as a sustained series of resonant and productive contrasts across many registers, whose intensity is held in the beauty, if not always the harmony, of the definite note. I propose that Whitehead’s concept of major beauty is exemplified in the vividness and depth of the ‘one complex feeling’ of audition rather than in the aesthetic taste of any particular style of composition or performance.

In order to unpack the intensive and extensive differential relationships involved in the event of audition of one definite note and examine them in greater depth, I draw on a performance of avant-garde composer Alvin Lucier’s SO YOU (Hermes, Orpheus, Eurydice) (2017) for clarinet, cello, voice, sine waves and 9 ancient wine amphora, as performed in at the Athens Conservatoire in June 2017 during documenta 14. Here I pay particular attention to the role of the wine jars as both auditors of the sounds and as decidedly non-human musicians in their own right, in order to extend the concept of creative audition to the larger ecology.


6. Everyday Aesthetics, Everywhere Process

Alexander Haitos - Southern Connecticut State University

Whitehead’s metaphysical outlook is bound up with his account of experiencing, living, and valuing, and these activities have an explicitly aesthetic valence. My task in this paper is to clarify what aesthetics means in a Whiteheadian context and how it serves as a groundwork for the interpretation of Whitehead’s philosophy. To give a summary version: aesthetics in a Whiteheadian sense is the concrete study of relations and composition. Indeed, we can say that aesthetics is, (i) the study of relations (and separations) as felt, as experienced; (ii) the study of the composition of parts that make an organic whole; and (iii), in case we are tempted to take composition in a static sense, aesthetics is the study of forms of process, as these processes are related to one another in activities of composition.

There is much that needs to be unpacked in the above. In particular, I argue that, if we are really to see and appreciate the full metaphysical and existential thrust of Whitehead’s aesthetics, we must also understand William James’s radical empiricism and its way of rendering and helping us read our experience. The account of experience opened by James, and followed with some variation by Whitehead and by John Dewey, makes possible the close connection between aesthetic experience and metaphysics that we find in Whitehead’s writings.

This connection between aesthetic experience and metaphysics is important, for the promise of Whitehead’s metaphysics lies precisely in its aesthetic core. Whitehead’s broad understanding of aesthetics allows us to take what might at first pass seem like obscure, dense metaphysical speculation and see its rich practical—that is, existential, political, ethical, and scientific— implications. In fact, I hold that Whitehead’s aesthetic sensibility can help attune us to everyday objects, things, and encounters. While I cannot fully flesh out these practical implications in a short paper, I hope my ideas are suggestive.


7. Rhythm, Reason, and Spirit: Rhythm analytical Notes on Augustine and Whitehead

Conor Heaney - King’s College London

In Science & the Modern World, Alfred North Whitehead notes that ‘The Middle Ages formed one long training of the intellect of Western Europe in the sense of order’ (1967b: 11); but what if from it we can also extract notions of creativity and novelty? This question forms the central problematic of this paper, and will be pursued through a reading of Whitehead’s conceptualisation of Reason as related to the injection of novelty into nature (a process he describes as The Way of Rhythm in The Function of Reason (1929)) alongside St. Augustine’s famous reflections on time and memory in the Confessions as well as his lesser-examined reflections on rhythm in De Musica.

Augustine’s interests in these two texts turned towards the nature of perception and of time-consciousness, but also in which he offered an entire typology of rhythm which operate from the material vibrations of the body to epistemic rhythms of thought required for judgment (Wiskus, 2016: 333-334). In these investigations, Augustine offered a vision of time-consciousness as one of continual processual flux, and was concerned with harmony in the order of nature, in such a way that the world of sense could be connected to the world of spirit, according ontological and divine significance to rhythm in our thinking of both order and novelty (Squire, 1954: 479-481).

Whitehead’s conceptualisation of rhythm pertains both to the method through which Reason actualises its processual creativity (enabling both order and novelty) but also in his rhythmanalysis of pedagogy and educational development (elucidating how it is rhythm which enables discipline (order) and freedom (novelty)) (1967a). Like in Augustine, such a rhythmic method of education is spiritualised for Whitehead: explicitly claiming that the essence of education is ‘religious’ (1967a: 14) insofar as it is concerned with the inculcation of duty and reverence for life.

This proposed paper would therefore develop a comparative reading of the notion of rhythm in both Whitehead and Augustine on both metaphysical and phenomenological levels. The purpose of the paper is three-fold. One, to independently contribute to research on the field of rhythmanalysis generally. Second, to contribute to discussions on the notion of rhythm within Whitehead specifically. Third, to consider Whitehead’s own relationship to the thought of the Middle Ages in relation to various comments he made with regard its dominant modes of thought.


8. Whitehead, Langer and Ushenko on Art

Martin Kaplický – Charles University Prague, Czech Republic

Although Alfred North Whitehead did not write any book on aesthetics, his aesthetic theory is involved in implicit way in his philosophical works. He mentions the relevance of aesthetic experience, beauty and art at the crucial places of his philosophical and cosmological system and they relate strongly to his concept of creativity as the “Category of Ultimate” (cf. for example PR 1978, p. 21 – 22). In Religion in the Making he even writes, that “the metaphysical doctrine, here expounded, finds the foundations of the world in the aesthetic experience, rather than as with Kant in the cognitive and conceptive experience” (RM 1927, p. 91). But his concept of aesthetic experience is much broader than the traditional aesthetic use of that term, because it matters not only to human experience, but every actual occasion of experience. It is related to inanimate entities and even to physical entities, such as electrons.

It the proposed paper I will concentrate on Whitehead’s understanding of art and I will proceed in three steps.

1) I will try to show, that Whitehead’s use of the concept of art is also extremely wide and we should read the excerpt from Adventures of Ideas, where he states, that “consciousness itself is the product of art in its lowliest form” (AI 1947, p. 348-349) in this context.

2) I will try to interpret his considerations on the relations of beauty and truth in the context of art. On one hand he states that beauty is more fundamental concept than truth and truth can even diminish beauty (AI, p. 341-341), on the other he states that final purpose of art is “Truthful Beauty” (AI, p. 344). My goal in this step is to concretize the type of truth required for the successful art.

3) The considerations in the third step will focus on the ideas of Susanne Langer and Andrew Ushenko. At this stage I aim to interpret Langer’s concept of „nondiscursive symbol” and Ushenko’s concept of “aesthetic vector field” and show that they can be understood as a kind of later answers to the question of the relation of beauty and truth in the works of art.


9. Creativity as Expressive Activity: Between Whitehead and Nishida

Abubakr Khan – Information Technology University of the Punjab in Lahore, Pakistan

For Whitehead’s philosophy of organism and process, creativity is the ultimate. It is the primordial truth of all that is, i.e., all that happens. In Process and Reality, Whitehead proposes that creativity exists only via its accidents. He emphasizes that the ultimacy of creativity does not refer to any sort of transcendence. Nor does creativity refer to any substantial reality. Whitehead was, of course, wary of substance-oriented philosophies because they fail to account “for actual entities being conceived of as activity” (Masao Abe, “Substance, Process, and Emptiness: Aristotle, Whitehead, and Zen”, 87). Even though Whitehead calls creativity an “abstract principle,” what matters to him is actual creativity. He thus states that his notion is an alternative rendering of Aristotle’s ‘matter’. However, Whitehead’s notion does not refer to something passive. Matter itself is creative. This sense of immanent creativity shares an interesting link with Nishida’s concept of hyōgen sayō, i.e., expressive activity. As a fundamental principle of reality, this refers to the self-forming formlessness that is the activity of the world. There is no substratum to this activity. “It is that activity, that doing, as which what is exists.” (William Haver, Ontology of Production: Three Essays by Nishida Kitarō, 18) Inspired by the Zen idea of nothingness, Nishida invokes the ‘radical impermanence’ at the ground of everything. This, however, does not imply an empty, uncreative nothingness. For Nishida, the mutual determination of everything in the world of life “happens as creative expression” (Lucy Schultz, “Nishida Kitarō, G.W.F. Hegel, and the Pursuit of the Concrete: A Dialectic of Dialectics”, 327). This cannot be attributed to subjects or substances. It is the world’s work. It is the work itself. Furthermore, all activity is inter-activity. And it brings about actors and activators. Similarly, for Whitehead, creativity implicates all existents, but it cannot be explained away by the subjectivity of any kind of subjects or superagents, e.g., human beings. All creativity is co-creative. Actual occasions, including the becoming-events that constitute humans and their capacities, share in the creative processes inherent in nature. As the immanent ultimate, creativity is obliged to “take the risk that is proper to empiricism” and affirm everything that happens (Isabelle Stengers, Thinking with Whitehead: A Free and Wild Creation of Concepts, 255). Rather than the transcendent, Whitehead and Nishida privileged the configuration of lived actuality. And yet, both conceived of the divine as immanent in all actual occasions that constitute the becomingness of nature. In an attempt to grasp the immanently divine, I bring together Whitehead and Nishida to study creativity via the sense of the self-expressive activity that constitutes the world.


10. Vibrations: Music and Ontology

Helmut Maassen – Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf, Germany

Aesthetics in general and the aesthetics of music in particular play a marginal role in the philosophical discourse. However, a proper analysis of the structure of music can demonstrate and explain the dynamic character of reality as a whole. Music allows cross references to psychology, language, neuroscience and ontology. In this paper, I would like to demonstrate how Whitehead’s metaphysics are intertwined with the dynamic character of classical as well as modern forms of music.


11. Creativity and Formalism: the Adventures of Whitehead and Xenakis

Fernando Maia – University of Leipzig

We can call Manneirists those who are not satisfied with the established distributions like attributes and substances, they are those who look for the how: how it is constituted, how it persists… It is so because there is a question that involves the Manneirist: what are the conditions of creativity? What are the conditions of the novelty? And they notice that these conditions come in act in the immanence of the encounters. They know that these encounters are prior to the individuals, are prior to the language, that is, are prior to the effects of the encounters (we can say only too late and in second hand about substance and attributes, about language and conditions of possibility. And still later about Being, World, Mankind and Consciousness).

We think that is accordingly this sense of Manneirism that the experiences of thought made by Whitehead and Xenakis work.

Whitehead proposes that creativity is the universal of universals, at the same time he proposes that in all philosophy theory there is an ultimate that is actual in virtue of its accidents. Therefore, Whitehead closes any possibility of referring the creativity to some order strange to the way the disjunctive diversity becomes an universe in conjunction. The productive activity is self-productivity governed by the need for novelty (the greatest function of reason is increase life with new possibilities). Hence the creativity is conjugated with immanence and self-creativity. Resounds here the empiricist notion: everything happens in the middle, there is no principle governing the adventure of actual entities.

The music of Xenakis isn’t based on musical notes organized by linear orientation governed by a project that distributes them in ordered subsets. The trajectories of singularities are the stuff of this music. Clouds of sounds, place of randonic encouters (the notes are only defined by these randonic encouters) disclose a complex network of autonomous circulations constituted by dense zones and by white gaps. We hear with these clouds the many becoming one, we hear the background noise of the world in the making, we identify the sporadic sounds, for example: pizz., with molecules; we obtain a homomorphic transformation from the physical sphere to the sphere of sound. The individual movement of sounds does not count. This is the whiteheadian universe that becomes sonorous and the same manneirist question round both thoughts: how the many becomes one?


12.Plastic Block

Jonathan Martin – University of the Arts London

In setting out the creative endeavour of Process and Reality, Whitehead utilises language that resonates strongly with the plastic arts practitioner; as does his idiosyncratic deployment of terminology to present his insights within the general scheme. Notions of framing, interpretation, applicability, abstraction and coherence, for example, are factors in arts discourses, under a variety of synonyms. More directly, the principle of novelty can be considered in terms such as originality, inspiration, synergy, synthesis or serendipity. As a factor in creative endeavour, novelty is attendant on other occasions of production, which include contextual observation and interrogation, material and technical interaction, the ‘vision’ of objective. Sherburne’s considerable ‘essay in aesthetic theory’ (1961:8) explores the theoretical fecundity of Whiteheadian philosophy. But as an artist researching and practising with Whitehead, my interest in these creative ontologies is especially piqued when experiencing ‘block’: the aspect of creative practice when advance is ceased and nothing seems to produce.

For my practice-based research, located within a university of the arts, Whitehead is the ideal thinker through whom to view this enquiry, due to the elevation of process in his speculative cosmology. Identification of the role of imagination in epistemological production (at the commencement of PR) is perhaps the greatest recommendation to the arts practitioner, drawing syntheses of experiences into the vision of aesthetic and conceptual intention. However when focussing on a process hiatus, the freedom of speculation, albeit conditional, feels unaccessible; so another lens must be sought. Considered as contested mode/state between vision and plastic artefact, a ‘creative block’ is an amorphous proposition, to which my work attempts to give form. The mathematician Edmund Whittaker (1948) explicates a relationship between Whitehead’s creativity and the chōra of Plato’s Timaeus. I find the connection is useful, since ‘third genus’ chōra (explored by thinkers including Kristeva, Irigaray, Derrida and Grosz) may be deemed as formless stuff, indeterminate space, bearing vessel; whilst creativity is the channel by which actual entities become. I suggest that creative processes involve intervals; and that the relationship between these concepts can be constructively framed.

This paper presents elements of my research, including printmaking practice, as concrescence of experience, theory and response to creative concerns. It will generate debate about Whitehead’s intervention in the practical application of thought.


13. The Transformative Vision of John Ford`s Fort Apache

Leslie Murray – Curry College, Milton, MA, living in Claremont, CA

In Whiteheadian process thought, God “lures” momentary experiences, human and non-human, to realize themselves in their fundamental interdependence with all each other. This lure is offered in the form of what Whitehead calls “propositions,” an idea that has been pivotal to the development of process-relational hermeneutics and one that is central to the denouement of this paper. A proposition is a combination of the actual and the possible. The actual in propositions may include people, places, colors, smells, landscapes --as well as stories and narratives. These are all things with which we can readily identify and which draw us into the larger narratives.

To me as process thinker, poems, novels, plays, all forms of literature, movies, TV shows are propositions . They deal with actual characters, imaginary though they may be, actual places, stories, etc. that arouse the imagination and empower unanticipated possibilities.

Poetry, novels, all forms of literature, and movies deal with philosophical questions: “Who am I?;” “What is the meaning of life?;” “What is human nature, if there is such a thing?” Poetry, novels, movies address these questions in ways that are far more evocative and speak to deeper recesses of our being than the rationality of philosophical tracts.

In this paper, I explore John Ford's movie Fort Apache, the first in his cavalry trilogy. My summary of the plot is designed to be a proposition “luring” the listener to a different, larger world. In telling the story, I make use of some other Whiteheadian process-relational hermeneutical keys as well. The first is Nature/God. As is the case with a number of his movies, Ford filmed Fort Apache in Monument Valley. The scenery is breathtaking. Whenever I see it, Jay McDaniel’s idea of the “The God of Open Spaces” comes to mind. It is a though Monument Valley is an additional character in the movie. Its beauty makes its attraction to Native American and EuroAmerican alike understandable. Which leads to the next hermeneutical key: allusions to different views of the land on the part of Native Americans, who saw the land as sacred, and EuroAmericans, who saw the land as property, as a commodity. While Ford clearly admires EuroAmerican pioneers who survived in spite innumerable hardships, he is way ahead of his time in his treatment of Native Americans, which is our next point. For one thing, Ford is unsparing in his depiction of the tragedy of Native Americans. Most importantly, he affirms Native Americans as real human beings; as smart instead of stupid (the Chiricahua Apache Chief Cochise speaks Spanish), capable of developing military strategies that defeat (at least temporarily) the Euro-Americans. I would call the hermeneutical key that summarizes the affirmation of Native Americans unity-indiversity or genuine pluralism: genuine acceptance of the Other with a genuine affirmation of the Other’s differences. This can also be seen in the tension between WASP-ish Custer-like Colonel Friday, the Commanding Officer, and Lt. O’Rourke, of Irish origin, and the Irish non-commissioned officers, including O’Rourke’s father.

The unity/diversity hermeneutical key can also be seen in attempts at reconciliation between North and South, as Captain York reaches out to the sergeant of Southern origin, who is his interpreter, and makes sure he feels included, that he has a place in the post-Civil War army and American society. In the terminology of H. Richard Niebuhr, quite compatible at this point with process thought, it is an effort to make what has been treated as “outer history” our very own “inner history.” Finally, the last scene is a wonderful, realistic, sophisticated treatment of how the oral tradition embellishes and enlarges stories beyond actual occurrences as best as they can be remembered, the embellishment eventually taken for historical “fact. “


14. Alfred North Whitehead's Theory of Perception: between Organism, Process and Complexity

Rodrigo Petronio – Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado (FAAP)

From Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology (1929), the concepts of preensibility, novelty, creativity, perception, and organism are in the core of Alfred North Whitehead’s philosophy. They find analogies and resonances with the symbolism of the Symbolism: Its Meaning and Effect (1927), resurface in Adventures of Ideas (1933) and attain their most significant position as a meaning of creativity in Modes of Thought (1938). However, perceptual meanings, demarcated from his innovative approach to the prehensity structures, can also be understood from one of the author's most important work: The Concept of Nature (1920).

The process conception of nature developed by Whitehead is near a concept of perception. In his theory of bifurcations and extensive abstraction, we can identify a causal notion of nonlinear systems (Isabelle Stengers and Ilya Prigogine) and aspects of recursivity present in systemic theories (Ludwig von Bertalanffy and Niklas Luhmann), in process philosophy (Gilles Deleuze, Peter Sloterdijk and Gregory Bateson) and in complexity theories (Edgar Morin, Michel Serres and Jean-Pierre Dupuy). In turn, many lines of theory and art of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have had based on the concepts of nonlinearity, coevolution, and recursivity as ways of understanding the creative processes of nature and art.

This communication intends to trace the following items: 1. Stabilize a meaning for the concept of perception in Whitehead's thought, articulating it to the concept of nature. 2. Bring concepts of nature and perception to contemporary debate and in their approaches current authors who understand aesthesis and creativity as central components of thought. 3. Understand to what extent the concept of perception, developed within the philosophy of the process and the organism, can relate to theories of systems and complexity, extending Whitehead's influence and pioneering to some of the most important issues of our time.


15. What Music is - Confronting Sherburne and Dalton

Lennart Posch

Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf, Germany

In his Whiteheadian Aesthetic, Sherburne attempts an integrative aesthetic theory that depends on his notion of the aesthetic object as a proposition. His microcosmic approach concerning the consequential understanding of music will be critically discussed. With regard to his more macrocosmic approach I want to show how Dalton provides a necessary extension and modification of this theory for a more adequate understanding of music as an art object.


16. A Feijoada e a Dança Situada: Desvios entre Figura e Fundo através da Filosofia procesual

Bianca Scliar – PPGT Programa de Pós-Graduação em Teatro. CEART-UDESC.

Um corpo é aquilo o que sente. Tal afirmação tensionou a dança ao longo do século XX, que oscilou entre variações de uma expressividade formalista e preceitos que consideravam uma ordem de estados emocionais como base do treino e da composição. Tal compreensão entre um vocabulário de poses ou estados emocionais pouco se aproxima da filosofia processual de Whitehead que nos oferece uma reversão desta polarização. Whitehead define o sentimento como aquilo que não pode ser rastreado, ou como uma absorção total do evento. Assim um objeto não viria antes da sensação que temos dele. Este paradigma proposto na filosofia do processo sugere que um objeto seria um potencial para um sentimento, em forma, mas que não contém um sentimento em si. Quando Whitehead escreve que a sensação da pedra está na mão em Processo e Realidade (1978), infere que a sensação não está subordinada à aparência de um objeto e nem à maquinaria perceptiva de um corpo estabilizado rendido. Tal aferições alteram significativamente preceitos críticos que estabilizaram a tradição de estudos da dança e da performance no século XX, sugerindo revisões a respeito de dois eixos cruciais para o estudo do movimento: força e forma e figura e fundo (ação e site).

A partir da analogia com a feijoada enquanto processo, propomos uma aproximação aos diversos tipos de ordem de satisfação, negociações de vontades que ocorrem no campo da composição de uma dança situada. Aproximamo-nos destes dois eixos para indicar considerações sobre o corpo em movimento a partir da ideia de fabulação, atravessando a filosofia processual de Whitehead, Massumi e Bergson. Recorremos à “fabulação” através de Bergson e Manning, como uma habilidade de ação e composição do mundo ( e não do sujeito, evitando o regresso à individualidade enquanto unidade mínima da experiência), para acionar o substrato pré-individual e assim situar a dança em um campo de acontecimentos onde a experiência ocorre em fases anteriores à fase receptiva, aos dados implicados no "tomar forma".

Como pensar uma pedagogia da dança a partir destes preceitos sobre a experiência sugeridos por Whitehead? É possível coreografar a partir da noção de pré-aceleração? Onde inicia-se a ocorrência do movimento composto, se considerarmos o que Whitehead aponta como o "equívoco humano que se dá na experiência" (pg.117)? Quais os esforços nos processos criativos da dança hoje para sublinhar a opacidade entre figura e forma na origem dos eventos da experiência?


17. Actual Entities & Occasions of Experience

Andrzei Tarasiuk

In 2014 I came across Alfred North Whitehead’s “Process Philosophy” in course of my research into how we perceive change and how that informs our relationship with nature. Whitehead’s ideas, especially “actual entities and occasions of experience” connected with my own artistic pursuit of portraying "reality as a fluid mass of individual yet interconnected parts, always changing and moving." Since, in my work I have been looking at my surroundings through the lens of process attempting to connect the visible features of an area with the natural and human processes which give it shape.

Fluidity: Actual Entities & Occasions of Experience is a showcase of twelve abstract-representational watercolour works on paper, (each 213cm x 457cm), displayed as free-standing sculptural installations. Through their relatively large scale, free-form S-curve shape, and unified compositions, the works convey a palpable sense of energy and flow. By treating the concept of fluidity as an aesthetic that can be frozen and manipulated, the works continue an investigation into a re-centralization of the existential. The nature of existence is addressed head-on and reality is treated as an inherently dynamic and ever-expanding process. The works embrace contradiction and ambiguity, both in their own multi-modality (activating the gallery space as both painting and sculpture at once) and in the way their content actually speaks to an outright rejection of physicality. By representing a perpetual redefining of both itself and the space it occupies, the repeated use of the water motif functions as a perfect metaphor for life in a constant state of flux. As viewers, we are invited to navigate our way around each piece and enjoy the way that our perception changes as our position does. This viewing experience challenges the common perception that there is a separation between objects and the energy. The works ask us to consider our mind’s insistence on viewing reality as a static state.


18. Whitehead, Creativity, and Social Transformation

Madeline Wells – Department of Comparative Thought and Literature (the Humanities Center) at Johns Hopkins University



In Whitehead’s story of becoming, a story of endless adaptation and reinvention at every scale of life, there is nothing extraordinary about creativity and novelty. As Isabelle Stengers, Steven Meyer, Steven Shaviro, and David Rambo have shown, creativity for Whitehead is a neutral process; the novelty it introduces is not exceptional, but “generic,” even “banal.” To be novel is merely the condition for existing in the world. “Life,” after all, “means novelty.” And “the ultimate which is actual in virtue of its accidents” is “creativity” (Process and Reality 7).

But in a neoliberal society, where the pursuit of novelty and creativity (often synonymous with innovation and disruption) is nothing short of virtuous, Whitehead’s account might strike us as radically anti-capitalist, or at least obtuse. (This is not to say that there is any latent political stance in Process and Reality to be uncovered.) In this paper, I attempt to clarify the role of creativity and novelty first within the relative limits of Whitehead’s metaphysical system; then, turning from his generalized schema to the “actual world,” I consider how Whitehead’s understanding of creativity and novelty both agrees with and problematizes a Leftaccelerationist view of social transformation (I use “creativity” and “novelty” as a convenient shorthand for the larger set of concepts that includes creative advance, creative function, novel entities, novel situations, the novel one, etc.).

If, as Whitehead explains in Modes of Thought, “the language of literature breaks down precisely at the task of expressing in explicit form the larger generalities—the very generalities which metaphysics seeks to express” (11), is it possible—as a philosopher, a novelist, or a political theorist—to get a “hold” on the process of concrescence? I suggest that accelerationism can be understood as a response to this challenge: that is, how to philosophize about—and perhaps shape—processes that can never be called an object, from a perspective that cannot be called subject. Taking up Shaviro’s No Speed Limit as a case study, I compare Whiteheadian metaphysics with aesthetic accelerationism and find them, ultimately, to be incompatible insofar as the latter makes creativity one and the same with capitalism, leaving no room for the “life [that] lurks in the interstices of each living cell, and in the interstices of the brain”—and the socially transformative potential such life holds (PR 105).


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