Disassembling the Mantra:
Part/Whole Equivocation in the Category of the Ultimate

Category of the Ultimate

A discussion with Lewis Ford on:
Part/Whole Equivocation in the Category of the Ultimate



Introduction to Philosophy
Text Book

Refections on


Philosophical Publications




Back to:
Disassembling the Mantra: Part/Whole Equivocation in the Category of the Ultimate

The following contains my comments interspersed in Lewis Ford's email.

Lewis: This is a penetrating essay, and gets at the heart of central issues.

Duane: Thank you for the complement. I appreciate your grasp of Whitehead, making the complement even more appreciated. The only significant disagreement we seem to have, is over the concept of divinity, tho this is no small thing. But our differences, I believe, have helped both of us to get clearer on where we stand.
I may be reading into your comments on parts/wholes, but I feel your reluctance to see process as the only true whole stems from your concern to maintain God as one actual entity. All conjecture apart, I’m sure we will have many more exchanges trying to sort this out.

Lewis: The part/whole conceptuality primarily pertains to beings.

Duane: This may be true historically, but this does not, in my mind, express the heart of a process philosophy: Wholes refer to the most basic, self-caused unities, and in a Whiteheadian process philosophy, these are actual entities, not the satisfactions/beings created by actualities.

Lewis: From this perspective, past occasions, while wholes in themselves, are parts in subsequent wholes.

Duane: Of course, you know that this point of view is what I’m challenging. "Wholes" as determinate are always parts of partially indeterminate, creating wholes.Your expression sounds to me like the way people are taught Gerunds: "A word that is a verb but is also a noun." (One must distinguish parts and wholes to understand the grammar of verbals. Such a gerund is a verb used in a clause that as a whole is used as noun.)

Lewis: The problem is how to extend the meaning of 'whole' to apply to becoming (concrescence). There are two possibilities:
1. Yours: Concrescence does not create wholes, but is a whole (6.3). They are wholes at the outset, and remain that same whole to satisfaction. If there were any alteration of its parts, they would change, but occasions never change (AI 205). But they do become and perish.

Duane: So far we agree that you have reflected my view, tho I no longer call becoming "concrescence because it misleadingly assumes the parts are not together as the process begins. Years ago when I sent you an essay for consideration for PS, "Creativity in the Shadow of Parenides: The Failure of Whitehead's Theory of "ingression," I was struggling to get this clear in my mind.

Lewis: What does the becoming consist of if the parts all remain the same? How is it creative?

Duane: I’m not quite sure at this point what you are asking, since you agree that parts of a whole cannot change and have the same whole. Becoming is creativity. Creativity is making new specification that did not exist before, nowhere, nohow, as the Lion says in the Wizard of Oz. Creativity is not the ingression of something previously (eternally) specified in God’s primordial envisagement. Creating is far more radical than arranging or rearranging or modifying parts (even if it made logical sense). Democritus tried this, as have many since in their own way. Nothing new is created unless new forms, new specifications are determined that are only found in earlier objects in generic form. How creativity is creative, how new specification comes to be, seems to me like asking how/why metaphysical necessities are necessary. This is the Category of the Ultimate where only description is possible.

Lewis: 2. Mine: The parts do remain the same; that is why the simple physical feelings at the outset, that by which past actualities are present to the occasion, must be integrated in the final satisfaction.

Duane: Agree. But the expression "simple physical feelings" might be taken to mean " individual feelings gathered in isolation from each other," which I could not agree with. The many others are always simultaneously felt along with the contrasts that the many set up amongst themselves. Relationships are not added to their terms; they come with the terms. A point Hartshorne also makes in DR.

Lewis: But this is a dynamic whole which takes time [Duane: better, temporal extension?] to be. A whole is the unity of a totality of elements. The totality is prehended at the outset, but its unity is very indeterminate. It is only the possibility of a unity proposed by the aim.
(I agree that it should be a continuum of alternatives, the valuation of every way in which that totality could possibly be unified.)

Duane: Sorry to jump in here again. I agree that "a whole is the unity of a totality of elements." But the totality is not prehended at the onset. The prehender, not the prehended, is the totality. That which prehends is always more than that prehended, and the whole is all that exists. The whole is a dipolar union of previously actualized entities (now objects) and present indeterminateness (subject). A whole or totality is an actual entity, that is, the process of actualizing, not just the actualized (which the actualizing whole contains). This is true because the indeterminate that contains the determinate is more than determinateness alone. Why isn’t the whole all that there is?

Lewis: Yes, all these prehensions are together in the experience of concrescence, but this does not mean actual unity, but their presence in the process of bringing them to unity. Actual unity is to be found in the satisfaction, when the form has been devised that will unite that particular totality.

Duane: I don’t understand in what sense you can say the "prehensions are together in the experience" unless they are in something of which they are parts. I simply think an actual entity is actual. It does not become actual at the end of the process. Granted there is a constant equivocation in how Whitehead uses this word, still the fully real is the process, and process is meaningless without actual unity, that is, without a single aim and a wholistic response to the many prehensions/objects. What is found in the satisfaction is the temporal end boundary of the whole. The creating ceases and offers its creation to other wholes as a part. A satisfaction is the terminus-boundary of a whole: it is the subject/whole as ended and the beginning of other wholes that grasp it as a part of themselves.

Lewis: When that unity comes into being, then its being comes into being. This is creation by which the occasion creates itself.

Duane: When the determinateness is created, then, yes, a new being is now in being, and no longer is that coming to be which brought it into being. This is a new being inclusive of the old ones it began with. But the determinateness of the satisfaction is the end of the unity, not the unity itself. To say determinateness is the unity, is far too much of a concession to nonprocess philosophies it seems to me. Being is not a whole; it is not fundamental enough. It is always contained by something else as a part, and that something can only be a whole.

Lewis: Concrescence is the determination of indeterminateness, but this is not an alteration of the parts that go to make up the whole.

Duane: Agreed.

Lewis: These parts, as previous dynamic wholes, are themselves determinate.

Duane: I don’t mind adding the word "dynamic" to "whole," even though I think this is the only completely literal use of "whole."

Lewis: What is indeterminate is how they should relate to one another. Their unity (relatedness) is initially indeterminate, becoming determinate only at the conclusion.

Duane: What is indeterminate is how the past fits into the new creation: not how the items in the past are finally related to each other. Whitehead clearly says that relationships are contrasts and the contrasts are prehended with the objects. He is not a nominalist. He was arguing against the naïve realist’s Sense Data (the prehended). The prehensions carry with them their feeling content (or better, they are the feelings) and also how they contrast to other feelings, so structure is also prehended.
What is indeterminate at the onset of an actual entity is how important each initial feeling will be in determining the new complex satisfaction which is a new feeling for superseding feelers/wholes. Some will be nearly dismissed; others amplified, but all are there in the dynamic whole contributing their part in the making of a new part for others to feel.

Lewis: We agree that the concrescence is the whole, but I champion a dynamic whole which first comes to be over time. To be sure, the satisfaction can be regarded as only one phase, but it is not for that reason a part or an abstraction. It is rather the whole as past in contrast to the concrescing whole as present.

Duane: I am rather nonplused at this comment, since I thought I was the one who is championing wholeness as dynamic process. You seem to want to say both that a process is a whole and that the end of a process is a whole. The end of a process is only a whole in the sense that the end of a pencil is the pencil. Two pencils end-to-end touching each other are not one pencil even though there is no extension to the boundary "between" them. Of course, this is a spatial analogy for temporal extension to show that the boundary between wholes is not something in addition to the two wholes themselves.
Every phase is an abstraction. The "whole as past" is not a whole. It is a part; it can never be found existing on its own. Only by maintaining the past is not a whole will we avoid the confusion many have about the reality of the past. The past is not subjective. It is object. The whole dies, but death, of course, is not destruction. One of Whitehead’s major insights was to see that only in perishing, only in death, is there any thing of value for others. A whole feels others’ lives but not as alive, so too a whole, satisfied, is not a whole.

Lewis: If whole takes time to be, I don't see why there cannot be an everlasting concrescence which takes all time to be. It is simply that here the domain to be integrated is not merely a very thin spatiotemporal slice, but one which is very, very thick.

Duane: The domain/duration to be integrated is not "very, very thick." You cannot have a thickness because it never lends itself to the possibility of measurement. Thickness is a finite term. You can only measure what is determinate. This should alert you to what I see as an equivocation on the meaning of "actual entity." All actual entities must begin by prehending others’ creations; and all actual entities must come to be. Process is coming to be; and anything that does not ever have the possibility of coming to be is not an actual entity. Actual entities create beings. They are wholes that create parts for other wholes. If this does not happen, if this cannot happen, then it is not an actual entity, or there are two very different meanings of the term. And if there are two different meanings, we don’t have one metaphysic.

Lewis: There are problems with this, particularly how it can influence the world, and Hartshorne's society of divine occasions was designed to meet this. But not because of the need for epochal dipolarity within God. I believe your real reason is that every new (set of) occasions are parts of a new whole, and those wholes must be successively experienced by God.

Duane: Well, as you know I don’t think any real wholes can be prehended; only the determination made by a whole is prehensible. If I follow you here, I think these are the same. Epochal dipolarity is the necessary for an actual entity to be an actual entity as I tried to show above. To be an actual entity, it must begin with a set of actualized actual entities, that is, objects, that are included within its creative subjectivity. And it must end with an accomplishment, a being. Those that are in the divine’s personal nexus are no different.

Lewis: Perhaps so, on your analysis of the as a whole, but not necessarily if (a) concrescence is the unification of the many (b) the many need not be merely spatially but spatiotemporally specified.

Duane: Are you saying God/dess does not need to experience successively because the world’s actual entities are specified temporally for God? If so, how does this differ from the classical attempt to refer to omniscience? I don’t claim to yet understand how your definition of "God" makes sense, but I keep having the feeling you are making far more concessions to scholasticism than one should if one is to be true to the the logic of process metaphysics. Hartshorne claims (PSG 274) that Whitehead finally came to the realization that only as a personal series can God make sense as an enduring reality.


The following exchange was on the process philosophy listserve.

Lewis Ford: Duane Voskuil has made a strong case for concrescence being the whole. It is certainly a unified whole that the initial multiplicity lacks, and it's true that the becoming terminates in being which is directly taken up as part of a new whole.
The actual entity aims at being [purports to be] an abstract (as metaphysically general) account of what is most concrete. It is a concrete whole. Why not consider that whole as concrescing in the present, as concretely determinate in the past?

Duane: Do you mean "concretely determinate when it is past"?

Lewis:: For W, it takes time to be. If so, it could take time to be whole.

Duane: A whole does "takes time." This is what it means to say process is more fundamental than being. A whole is time: (spatial and) temporally extended. A whole takes temporal extension to become a new determination. A whole requires temporal extension to come to be (a being). All beings are parts, not a wholes. It is the whole that creates itself into new determinate specification (being) that is then a part of other wholes.

Lewis: Both the concrescing and the concrete occupy the same spatiotemporal region, one when present, the other as past.

Duane: I don’t follow this. The concrescing is the concrete (the fully actual). And the actual entity as past, that is, as a being and not as a process making a being, is not concrete. It is located within superseding process/wholes. Its continuing temporal extension is not its own. It only survives as a part (an aspect or abstractions) of another’s spatio-temporal extension, providing part of the spatial extension for the whole it is in.

Lewis: The satisfaction is a unified whole of all the occasion's prehensions. The concrescence is that same whole in process of unification.

Duane: I find this way of speaking playing too fast and loose with terminology. The concrescence cannot be the same (whole) as the satisfaction. One is a subject; the other an object. One is partial indetermination striving for a new specification for determination; the other is fully determinate.

Lewis: This is the becoming and the being of an actual entity. The being, the satisfaction, relative to its own concrescence, is a whole. It need not be understood simply as part of the concrescence.

Duane: I agree. The satisfaction is not part of the concrescence that brought it into being. It is a part of superseding wholes in process. It is new spatiality not found in the whole that created it. It is the end boundary of the temporal extension that brought it into being and part of the initial boundary of new comings to be.

Lewis: It is a part insofar as it is its final phase. But it is not part of the ordered multiplicity it unifies. Here it is as much a whole as the concrescence, although in a different sense.

Duane: I would say it is so different a sense that it is equivocation to use the same word.

Lewis: To be sure, it directly becomes part of a new, supervening whole. Perhaps we should make a distinction. The being of satisfaction is a whole for itself, while the actual entity as superject is part of new wholes. Satisfaction and superject denote the same being, only as relative to different occasions.

Duane: A satisfaction is never a whole "for itself." It is what the whole that created it brought into being, but that whole never possesses it or experiences it. Just as the whole is about to feel it, it is gone. As you say, it is a being, and being is quite different from coming-to-be.

Lewis: I agree with Duane that [dynamic, concrescent] wholes are imprehensible. It's also the case that it takes time to be. God is such a whole, but taking all time. God describes Boethius' definition of eternity: an endless life whole and perfect in a single moment. Here the moment, the concrescence, is everlasting.

Duane: Wholes cannot be endless. A single moment is not a moment unless it has an end (and a beginning). God/dess may have an endless life, but "God/dess," just as anyone’s name, refers to the life history of a temporal nexus of moments (each perfect in its way, tho exclusive of other possible ways). All wholes come to be. Only a series can be infinite, that is, never have an end (nor first moment). No single moment can be perfect in the sense Boethius and the scholastics wanted, that is, to contain all possibilities simultaneously in one moment. Perfections, or possible states of affairs, are amongst themselves incompatible simultaneously. To be actual is to be this rather than all the other infinite thats that could have been.
God/dess is at any moment unsurpassable and complete in the sense that nothing that is is excluded. But reality is always making new determinations. Only a new whole can contain them. Old wine skins cannot hold new wine. God/dess must be reborn as is any enduring individual. On the other hand, only a new Whole’s determinate satisfaction can be available to charm the world anew: To influence the world to achieve the most enrichment possible given the new circumstances created by previous moments.
By not distinguishing God/dess’s acts (which are concrete) from God/dess (a name for a nexus), I think you commit the Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness. Either that or you are allowing a whole to alter with the input of new data/parts. The Unsurpassable must respond to new circumstances as they happen since in a truly creative world, what happens is logically impossible to be contained (to be fully known) by one perfect moment before the happening is created.

Back to:
Disassembling the Mantra: Part/Whole Equivocation in the Category of the Ultimate


Home   Introduction   Refections   Letters   Publications   Resumé   Feedback