The Consequences of Prehending the Consequent Nature
by Lewis S. Ford
Lewis S. Ford is Emeritus Professor at Old Dominion University, and founding editor of Process Studies Periodical (1971 - 1995). The following article appeared in Process Studies, pp. 134-146, Vol. 27:1-2, Spring - Summer, 1998. Process Studies is published quarterly by the Center for Process Studies, 1325 N. College Ave., Claremont, CA 91711. Used by permission. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.
"For the perfected actuality passes back into the temporal world, and qualifies this world so that each temporal actuality includes it as an immediate fact of relevant experience" (PR 351). The action of this fourth phase, however, requires that actual occasions prehend the consequent nature of God. Yet it would seem that the consequent nature cannot be prehended. The consequent nature constitutes an everlasting concrescence, having no end (finis), and actual entities cannot be prehended while in concrescence. Yet it seems that if the consequent nature cannot be prehended, it cannot be effective. It could have no influence on any actuality of the world.
The issue is a difficult one. As the preceding essay by Denis Hurtubise shows Whitehead was hard pressed to find an adequate solution, and his successors have tried with little success. Now Palmyre Oomen has proposed a way out. As far as I have been able to determine this is the first fully warranted solution which is able to show how the consequent nature can be prehended.1 I must confess that prior to her essay I really did not think it would be possible.2
Her approach depends upon a very strong primordial nature. God eternally envisages not only the pure possibilities, but also every possible situation in which these pure possibilities might be actualized. Then whatever actual situation God experiences, God already (Or more precisely, eternally) has the conceptual means whereby that situation can be unified. If so, every state in God is at all times determinate, and hence prehensible. The consequent nature is incomplete, because further experiences can be added to it, but this incompleteness does not undercut its determinateness, and this is all that prehension requires.
Besides rendering prehension of the consequent nature possible, her solution explains how we can be conscious of God. Consciousness requires the complex integration of physical and conceptual feelings (PR 266f). Consciousness of the consequent nature, to be sure, is rare. It refers to those "somewhat exceptional elements in our conscious experience -- those elements which may roughly be classed" as religious intuitions (PR 343). John Cobb recently has given a fine account of these prehensions of the consequent nature.3 Without an adequate account of our consciousness of God, here achieved by prehension of the consequent nature, these intuitions would have no rational justification that they really came from the divine. This would seriously weaken their empirical warrant.
Moreover, Oomen’s theory responds to a problem few other accounts have even considered: how are the appropriate initial aims specified for particular occasions? The occasion itself, as yet bereft of any aim, cannot itself select the appropriate initial aim from the multitude of aims God offers. On the societal model, the immediate past divine occasion extends throughout the entire universe. How can the nascent occasion ever hope to select the right aim from this vastness? But it is equally a problem on the entitative model. Yet if, as Oomen proposes, the aim is that valued possibility by which that occasion’s world is unified in the divine experience, then the aim will be the one most appropriate for that occasion.
Nevertheless, there are difficulties inherent in the solution.5 It enlarges the scope of what is nontemporally valued to include not only all pure possibilities but also all real possibilities. Thus, pure possibilities are entertained in terms of all the situations in which they could possibly be actualized. Real possibilities constitute all the possible combinations of past actual occasions which could form the basis for concrescence. If so, nontemporal valuation preempts any role for divine temporal valuation. Then the first phase does the work of the third phase: "The particular providence for particular occasions" (PR 351) is achieved nontemporally, apart from any experience of the actual world. For many of us, the prehension of God’s consequent nature was important precisely for divine temporal valuation. Thus the key question is not simply, can the consequent nature be prehended? Oomen has shown that it can. The key question becomes: can God’s temporal evaluation be effective for initial aims if the consequent nature could be prehended?
In working out my response, I shall be developing what I consider the primordial nature must be if we are to be able to prehend the consequent nature. She did not work this out in detail in her essay, and the extensive account in her dissertation is inaccessible to most of us, since it is written in Dutch. So my portrayal of "her position" is really a reconstructed one, and probably not her own. But I submit that this is what she needs to hold to achieve the goal of her essay.
In a small way, this issue functions like Kant’s thing-in-itself. The post-Kantian German idealists (Fichte, Schelling, Hegel) all sought to reformulate Kant’s philosophy to overcome the difficulties which the thing-in-itself introduced. To do so, however, led them to depart from the master. Post-Whiteheadians, recognizing that an everlasting concrescence could not be prehended,6 modified it into an everlasting order of divine occasions. Neo-Kantians are calling us back to Kant by the expedient of simply bracketing the problem of the thing-in-self. As a "neo-Whiteheadian," Oomen likewise draws back and regroups: her interpretation can explain the text, all except that one little paragraph about the fourth phase. Even this paragraph might be accounted for,7 but only by retreating from the project of showing how God’s on-going experience of the world and temporal valuation can be made effective in the world.
Whitehead has provided us with the logical tools to make the distinction between pure and real possibility precise. A pure possibility is an eternal object, and can be nontemporally prehended. Actual occasions, of course, are temporally prehended. There is, however, a hybrid entity which combines actuality and possibility. A proposition links a pure possibility with a certain set of indicated actual occasions as its subjects. This theory of propositions (PR 184-207) is remarkable for the co-author of Principia Mathematica since it abandons its claim that the subjects of logical propositions can be imaginary. "The present king of France is bald" is a perfectly good proposition for Principia. It is not for Aristotle, who required his subjects to be actual. Whitehead here sides with Aristotle, for a proposition with an imaginary subject is merely a complex eternal object. It is not the hybrid essentially referring to actualities.8
Not all propositions must be real possibilities, but all real possibilities are propositions, indicating for an eternal object all those actual occasions required for its possible actualization. It would make more sense to reconceive initial subjective aims in terms of propositional feelings.9 The indicated logical subjects of the proposition can specify the standpoint (PR 283) whereas a pure eternal object cannot. By forming the requisite proposition God can particularize the aim to its appropriate recipient, which otherwise is quite inexplicable. Yet the exigencies of his system require Whitehead to draw back. He can allow only the nontemporal valuation of eternal objects, because only they are prehensible. Propositional feelings would bring in the consequent nature, and this is problematic. Oomen generalizes her reliance on eternal objects alone for initial aims. In effect, she transforms real possibilities into eternal pure possibilities.
By restricting himself to divine nontemporal valuation, Whitehead seems to undercut many of his best insights about value. Value does not pertain so much to the pure possibility itself as to context of its actualization. Thus, "there is not just one ideal ‘order’ which all actual entities should attain and fail to attain. In each case there is an ideal peculiar to each particular actual entity, and arising from the dominant components in its phase of ‘givenness’" (PR 84). Not the possibility itself, but "Insistence on birth at the wrong season is the trick of evil" (PR 223). "There is evil when things are at cross purposes" (RM 97). "Evil, triumphant in its enjoyment, is so far good in itself; but beyond itself it is evil in its character of a destructive agent among things greater than itself." "We must conceive the Divine Eros as the active entertainment of all ideals, with the urge to their finite realization, each in its season" (AI 277, italics added). Even "the ultimate evil in the temporal world" concerns how present actualities obstruct past ones (PR 340), not pure possibilities. If only Whitehead had found a way to demonstrate the effectiveness of the everlasting concrescence, he could have reaffirmed these insights in his theory of the provision of initial aims.
In fact, it may well be that pure possibilities alone cannot be valued. What does fairness mean in a lifeless world? Are volcanos destructive on the surface of Venus? Should "justice" be conceived in the sweeping terms of Anaximander?
On the other hand, if we were to prehend divine propositional feelings at the same time as we prehend the past, these should synthesize into intellectual feelings. In other words, if aims communicated real possibilities and not simply eternal objects, we ought to be conscious of most of our the aims we receive from God. Then God could warn a passerby of an imminent danger, Sherburne argues, such as a falling piano, or captains of icebergs invading sea-lanes.10 Oomen points out this difficulty, which is not a problem on her view because consciousness of the consequent nature only rarely occurs in exceptional experience.
Cobb also points out that "particular providence for particular occasions" (PR 351) leads not only to theoretical problems for theodicy, but to practical problems in the church, "because particular providence has often been appealed to as justification for many actions on the part of believers that are disruptive of the healthy life of the church" (TIP 14).
If divine aims are propositional, we must explain why it is that we have so little consciousness of them. In the first place, we must have the matching physical prehensions. Suppose that God sees that elusive parking space that we cannot locate. An initial aim directing us to the right place will not generate consciousness of itself; we must also be perceiving it (or the piano, or the iceberg).
Also we must take into account the massive aims which come from our previous selves. Here (the early) Cobb was correct in considering multiple sources for initial aims (CNT 196-203). Whitehead’s paramount concern to make room for novelty may have led him to neglect features coming from dominant occasions in our past which may also co-constitute the aim. Furthermore, the exigencies of his system required him to conceive of the initial aim in terms of single definite form: the "aim determines the initial gradations of relevance of eternal objects for conceptual feeling and constitutes the autonomous subject in its primary phase. . ." (PR 244). Only a single definite form can be the basis of embryonic subjective unity.
The issue of divine temporal valuation transcends these theodical questions, for it concerns the very nature of God as a living God. The Bible certainly portrays God as responding directly to "his" people. The immutabilist assumptions derived the Greek ideals sought to explain this responsive activity as merely apparent: God swore in "his" wrath, that the worshippers of the golden calf would not enter the promised land (Psalm 95:7-11), but recognizing that God appears to be responding to those idolaters then and there, the writer to the Hebrews adds the qualification: "although his works were finished from the foundation of the world’ (Heb. 4:3).11
Thus the action of God could appear to take place in time, even though God knows all future contingents beforehand. Oomen rejects such immutable omniscience, which undercuts any genuine freedom. A strong theory of nontemporal valuation does allow for freedom, but it is a comparable theory in other respects. For God knows from all eternity just what action will be taken under whatever circumstances. In both cases, a fantastic imaginative construct is proposed in order to meet extrinsic concerns: in the first case, divine perfection as classically conceived; in the second, the threatened imprehensibility of the consequent nature. In both cases, genuine temporal divine responsiveness, so graphically portrayed in the Hebrew Scriptures (e.g., Gen. 6.6, I Sam. 15.33, 2 Kings 20), is sacrificed.
From an aesthetic standpoint, there is a certain economy to process omniscience. Instead of knowing from all eternity everything that will happen, God needs only know events as they occur. (Immutabilist knowledge must be incredibly boring, since nothing new can ever be experienced.) Strong nontemporal valuation involves infinitely more events, not only those which have happened or will happen, but also all those events which might happen as well as all those which might have happened. Consider every alternative to the physical structure of the universe. All those possibilities contingent upon each alternative, whether chemical, biological, cultural, historical etc., are possibilities which might have been but can never be actualized in our cosmic epoch. All these eventualities are assumed to be definite possibilities capable of nontemporal valuation, simply because the temporal valuation of those actual events that do occur is not deemed to be effective in the world.
Whitehead recognized the importance of "particular providence" even though he was only able to establish "universal providence." Even before he recognized the feasibility of the consequent nature,12 he speculated on "the relevance of God’s all-embracing conceptual valuations to the particular possibilities of transmission from the actual world" (PR 244, italics added). To be sure, it is possible to interpret those particular possibilities as pure eternal objects, but it seems more likely that Whitehead was contrasting them to eternal objects, but was still groping after their proper ontological status, which I take to be real propositional possibilities requiring divine temporality.
Oomen insists that every real possibility should be a nontemporally valued eternal object, in order to argue that the everlasting divine concrescence at all times is fully determinate, and hence prehensible. If for every situation God nontemporally has its valuation, then it must also be true that God already has available the means of synthesizing that past world within the divine experience. Thus, God’s integration of physical prehensions by means of these real possibilities already entertained must be instantaneous. Every state of the divine concrescence must be determinate; there can be no indeterminate phases.
Yet if God’s experience is at all times fully determinate, there can be no distinction between concrescence and satisfaction. Perhaps we should say that there is no concrescence, because every divine prehension is directly added to the satisfaction. There is "becoming" in the sense that there is growth, for the divine satisfaction is always being added to. But this is not becoming in the more radical sense of "coming into being," for the satisfaction is always in being. There can be no radical "becoming," no divine concrescence which first brings the satisfaction into being.13
Determinate divine phases (thereby insuring prehensibility) seems to blur the distinction between ideal realization and finite actualization. Ideal realization in God usually is conceived as the integration of all physical prehensions by conceptual means into an imaginative construct. But Oomen’s approach requires that this realization be as determinate as that achieved by actual occasions. It must be sufficiently determinate to be physically prehensible. Why is it not also finite?
Whitehead asserts that "every occasion of actuality is in its own nature finite. There is no totality which is the harmony all perfections" (AI 276). Critics, especially Thomistic critics, have concluded that God as a being is then conceived as finite. An everlasting becoming need not be finite, but a succession of determinate phases of divine being would be finite. The succession may well be incomplete, and thus permit additional phases ad infinitum, but each particular phase (with its predecessors) constitutes a finite totality. Whitehead contrasts the primordial envisagement rather than God as a whole with worldly being, but the result is the same: "Conceptual experience can be infinite, but it belongs to the nature of physical experience that it is finite" (PR 345).
The form by which God achieves divine determinateness would have to be as determinate as the final form by which the occasion actualizes itself. Otherwise, it is not capable of unifying the occasion’s past world into a prehensible state. If the same possibility is actualized perfectly in God, why need it be actualized a second time, especially when any possible difference would be less than the first? Ideal realization, on the other hand, merely unifies that world in terms of possibility. I take it to unify that world in terms of all the ways in which it could be actually unified. In this way, divine ideal realization also functions as the basis for the initial aim. Then finite actualization dearly differs from divine unification in that only one definite form is selected from these alternatives (PR 224).
The introduction of divine determinate phases risks the confusion of subjectivity and objectivity. An occasion is either in subjective becoming or objective being. Contemporary occasions (other subjectivities) are in unison of becoming. It makes no sense for an occasion to be able to prehend any aspect of a contemporary occasion. Why should this be true for God? Subjectivity and objectivity pertain to the whole of an actual entity, because concrescence requires the unification of all feeling in order for the act of becoming to bring something into being. A partial unity simply constitutes an element in that act of becoming, not a separate being. Were it a separate being, becoming and being, subjectivity and objectivity, would be hopelessly confused. Whitehead’s genius lay in seeing that this is a temporal distinction between present subjectivity and past objectivity.
A possible exception to the temporal character of this distinction is the primordial envisagement of eternal objects, which escapes its scope by being nontemporal. Whitehead seems to have conceived of the primordial envisagement before anticipating any additional consequent nature (PS 22 , 44-47). As long as he considered God to be purely nontemporal, he did not ascribe subjectivity to God, at least not in Process and Rea1ity.14 Subjectivity for him is inherently temporal. It is the process of reducing the indeterminate possibility to determinate actuality. Once determinate being, it is necessarily objective. If God were always determinate, it is difficult to see how God could be subjectively engaged in becoming.
Oomen interprets the phrase, "always in concrescence and never in the past (PR 31), to mean that God is "always subject, never merely object. God’s becoming and God’s being a subject, therefore, have not perished with God’s being and God’s being a superject." Rather, because God is always subject God is never object. Does the reversal of the poles permit us to evade this inference. She writes, "the reversal of poles entails that satisfaction for God doesn’t mean determinateness and completeness, but determinateness and incompleteness." Incompleteness opens the possibility for further addition, but it does not insure that the incomplete is a subjective experience capable of further enrichment. The world at any particular time is complete, but not for that reason subjective. A determinate divine satisfaction is more like of the actual world rather than the experiential process of determination which must presuppose earlier indeterminate states.
The reversal of the physical and mental poles does mean that God’s aim is formally independent of any experience of the world. In this sense, God "is unmoved by love of this particular, or that particular. In the foundations of his being, God is indifferent alike to preservation and to novelty" (PR 105). "The perfection of God’s subjective aim [is] derived from the completeness of his primordial nature" (PR 345). But we must distinguish God’s general all-inclusive aim from the specific aims needed for particular occasions. Yet complete reversal is not possible, because physical feelings cannot be derived from conceptual feelings. The two poles can interact, however, if both are involved in the production of novel aims.
Oomen proposes that we extend the notion of concrescence to cover God’s ever-growing satisfaction. In the divine case alone, God would be always satisfied (thus determinate) yet always in concrescence. This might be interpreted in terms of nontemporal concrescence. In one passage, Whitehead describes the primordial nature as "the concrescence of a unity of conceptual feelings, including among their data all eternal objects" (PR 87).15 In her interpretation, this nontemporal concrescence is so extensive and complete as to include all possible physical prehensions.
There are two ways of interpreting this nontemporal subjectivity. It might be conceived as the nontemporal aspect of God’s everlasting subjectivity. Or we might contemplate the existence of a distinct divine nontemporal subject. After all, classical theism affirmed such a nontemporal subject. It had to in order to combine the Greek sense of perfection with the Biblical sense of a living, personal God. The union, however, rests on the authority of Scripture; there was no rational basis for it. When Spinoza asserted the authority of reason, the subjectivity of God was lost. Whitehead has recovered divine subjectivity on a rational basis, but precisely by reconceiving God as temporal.
Suppose a Whiteheadian God were to have a nontemporal subject. It could still prehend temporal occasions, but they would be immediately (non-temporally) absorbed into the determinate satisfaction, without benefit of any divine temporal determination. It is as if God were an infinitely programmed computer, capable of "prehending" and integrating those prehensions into a determinate unity at all times. The divine program, nontemporally determined, would include all pure and real possibilities, but it would be subjective in name only. I therefore advocate that nontemporal subjectivity be strenuously conceived as an aspect of temporal subjectivity only.16
As we have seen, Oomen’s proposal conceives God to be simultaneously subject and also object. I argue that these terms are exclusive. If so, she makes the case for God’s objectivity (prehensibility) at the expense of its subjectivity. Now Whitehead expressed his understanding of subjectivity and objectivity in terms of the metaphor of "perishing": "actual entities ‘perpetually perish’ subjectively, but are immortal objectively. Actuality in perishing acquires objectivity, while it loses subjective immediacy" (PR 29).
By this metaphor, the shift from subjectivity to objectivity can be interpreted temporally. According to the theory of special relativity, only the past can be experienced, contemporaries have no influence on each other. The exclusion of contemporaries means that all present activity is concentrated on the occasion coming into being, and that only what has come into being can be prehended. Thus, the transition from subject to object is the transition from present immediacy to past determinateness. The process of subjective immediacy, i.e., the process of unification by which the many prehensions together become one, "perishes," i.e., ceases to be with the attainment of the final unity. Without the loss of subjective immediacy, nothing objective can exist. This is not the perishing of being, for being first arises in the process. It is (subjective) becoming which perishes in the achievement of being.
Unfortunately, Whitehead later used "perishing" in a different sense:
The ultimate evil in the temporal world is deeper than any specific evil. It lies in the fact that the past fades, that time is a ‘perpetual perishing’: Objectification involves elimination. The present fact has not the past fact with it in any full immediacy. The process of time veils the past below distinctive feeling. (PR 340)
This notion of perishing pertains solely to objective being, to the way the immediate past fades as it recedes into the more remote past.
Subjective perishing is metaphysically necessary, as it describes the passage of time. Objective perishing is an empirical, contingent evil, which is ultimately overcome in God, who cherishes each immediate experience in all its vividness forever. This doctrine is popularly termed "objective immortality" yet Whitehead’s term is "everlastingness" (always in quotes, as for example PR 347), because he had already used "objective immortality" for the temporal shift from subjectivity to objectivity.
Whitehead may use "perishing" ambiguously, but he implicitly distinguishes these meanings in terms of that which is on the far side of perishing. The occasion whose concrescent immediacy perishes survives in the form of objective immortality, not in the sense that the concrescent activity will somehow persist forever. Even this objective immortality fades insofar as subsequent occasions prehend it with negative prehension, but such objective perishing is ultimately remedied by divine "everlastingness." Immortality has the connotation of never perishing because it is usually conceived in terms of a soul capable of naturally existing forever, but survival need not necessarily have such permanence.
All temporal experience requires the perishing of subjective immediacy, if there is to be any objective being. The everlasting concrescence should be no exception to this rule.17 Any objectification would require the perishing of subjective immediacy. Since there is no perishing within the divine experience, there can be no objectification either. That which is subjective is never objective, and vice versa. The more we try to conceive divine everlastingness as objective, and hence prehensible, the less we can really affirm its subjectivity.
In Oomen’s essay we have one more attempt, the best attempt so far, to show how the consequent nature is prehensible. Hurtubise’s essay shows the difficulties Whitehead faced with this issue. Rather than seeing this as a defeat, I think we should celebrate it as a victory. If the divine concrescence is imprehensible, then God is a pure subjectivity which cannot also be objectified. Buber and others have proclaimed God to be such a pure Thou; only Whitehead has proven it. All the failed attempts to show how the consequent nature can be prehended constitute an indirect arguments for divine imprehensibility.
The reason this has proved to be such a problem in process thought has less to do with the peculiar nature of Whitehead’s concept of God than with an underlying assumption about prehension. Prehension is taken to be the only way in which one actual entity can influence another. We need to explore the possibility of other avenues of causal influence.
As Hartshorne has pointed out, most prehension asymmetrically relates a datum -- whether a definite eternal object or a determinate occasion -- to a successor prehending subject. The prehending subject, still in process of determination, is internally related to the datum, while it, being incapable of being affected, is only externally related to the prehender. Prehension allows only the more determinate to influence the less determinate.
We need a way in which the less determinate can influence the more determinate. Since a determinate datum cannot be affected, such an influence must affect the present prehending subject. Hence, it must be less determinate than present concrescence. This would be possible for a more universal creativity which became particularized into individual finite concrescences. The form of these particular instances of creativity could be comparable to initial aims. Instead of being definite eternal objects, however, which can be modified only by being replaced by other definite eternal objects (or selected from an infinitely dense array of eternal objects), it could be an indefinite, partially vague form by which creativity was instanced. By means of this creativity, the occasion achieves further determination of aim resulting in a final definite eternal object. A definite eternal object is what it is apart from creativity, while an indefinite form depends upon creativity for its further determination.
The concept of prehension is a breathtaking generalization, a way of understanding physical causation in terms which embrace also perception, conception, and imagination, to mention a few. It achieves this by conceiving the subject to be actively receptive and responsive, the cause as an inactive determinate datum. The restriction of all causal influence to prehension is an effective way to achieve greater coherence. But it is achieved at the expense of adequacy, preventing us from considering how the more indeterminate could influence present subjectivity. It forces us to conceive divine effectiveness only in terms appropriate to past causation.
If we allow for other avenues of influence, then God as pure subjective becoming might be effective in the world. God could then be conceived in terms of a universal creativity which becomes particularized into many present acts of creativity individualized by indefinite subjective aims.18
CNT John B. Cobb, Jr., A Christian Natural Theology, Based on the Thought of Alfred North Whitehead. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1965.
TIP John B. Cobb, Jr., "The Relativization of the Trinity," Trinity in Process. Edited by Joseph A. Bracken, S.J. and Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki. New York: Continuum, 1997, 1-22.
1Marjorie Suchocki’s approach is similar, although less fully developed. Both find a central role for the reversal of poles in God, which Suchocki interprets in terms of a primordial satisfaction and consequent concrescence. Both require a strong interpretation of the primordial envisagement. But Suchocki tends to focus on how God as whole can be prehended. Oomen avoids difficulties concerning divine subjectivity and agency by concentrating on the determinateness and consequent prehensibility of individual divine physical feelings. Then the consequent nature as the totality of these feelings always can be both determinate and incomplete. Suchocki must express herself more paradoxically, if not contradictorily: "Thus the satisfaction of God is complete, since it is the fullness of all possibility and all actuality in transformative union, and yet demands further completion. . ." (The End of Evil [Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1988], 142).
2At least in recent years, since I have become dissatisfied with my own "solution" in "The Non-Temporality of Whitehead’s God," International Philosophical Quarterly 13 (1973), 347-376. See particularly, Section Two.
3John B. Cobb, Jr., "The Relativization of the Trinity," Trinity in Process: A Relational Theology of God, edited by Joseph A. Bracken, S.J. (New York: Continuum, 1997), 1-22 (henceforth cited as TIP).
4Cobb has proposed a solution in terms of the occasion’s past world, which I question in my essay, "God at Work: The Way God is Effective in a Process Perspective," Encounter 57 (1996), 327-340, at 332f.
5To simplify the following analysis, I shall assume (with Whitehead) that prehension is the only form of causal influence between actualities and that all eternal objects are uncreated and hence definite. However, I shall challenge the first assumption at the end 0f this essay. I also question the second assumption: see "The Creation of ‘Eternal’ Objects," The Modern Schoolman 71(1994), 191-222.
6In its own way, the consequent nature is a thing-in-itself. It can be thought, but it cannot be experienced.
7John Cobb explains the fourth phase in terms of two separate prehensions of God, while recognizing that "This seems to be in conflict with Whitehead’s general position that each entity in an occasion’s actual world is felt in a single complex but consistent way" (TIP 15). I would now classify Cobb as a neo-Whiteheadian as well, although his earlier book, A Christian Natural Theology (CNN), epitomizes the post-Whiteheadian endeavor. See my essay, "God at Work" (note 4 above).
8The theory of propositional knowledge for real possibilities has strong affinities with Luis de Molina’s middle knowledge, which is between the knowledge of actualities and the knowledge of pure possibilities. Molina conceives God to have nontemporal, immutable knowledge of real possibilities. For Whitehead, however, while there is nontemporal knowledge of pure possibility, there can be only temporal knowledge of actualities and propositions.
9It will not do, however, to suppose that the subject of this proposition is the occasion now coming into existence. It does not yet exist as actual, and so cannot fulfill the requirement that a proposition combine both actuality and possibility. The logical subjects of the proposition are all those actual occasions constituting its past world.
10Donald W. Sherburne, "Decentering Whitehead," Process Studies 15 (1986), 83-94, at 88f. Cobb’s response, "Sherburne on Providence," Process Studies 23 (1994), 25-29, relies on nontemporal valuation as replacing divine temporal valuation.
11Apparently, he (and his community) could not quite believe that God was utterly atemporal, but he still could reconcile his views with Greek immutability by drawing upon the traditional view of creation in seven days. God was actively laying the foundations of the world during the first six days, but then God rested, a rest which embraces our time. Thus, God is unchanging with respect to our temporality, even if not ultimately.
12For a succinct statement of the three levels of Whitehead’s understanding of God in Process and Reality, see my "The Riddle of Religion in the Making," Process Studies 22 (1993), 42-50.
13As pure being, the divine actuality would differ from the actuality of actual occasions, which have both becoming (as concrescence) and being as concretum, its concrete result. To be sure, the concept of God I espouse also differs, for it conceives the divine actuality as pure becoming. See, for example, my "Notes Toward a Reconciliation of Whitehead and Tillich," Union Seminary Quarterly Review 39(1984), 41-46. Then the question becomes: which state is more appropriate for the divine, pure being or pure becoming? Many philosophers would give the prize to being, and it would allow for God being prehended. Yet for Whitehead, becoming is ontologically prior, being derivative, reversing the traditional ranking.
Whitehead, to be sure, conceived of God both as primordial being, and as everlastingly in becoming (PR 348). But if my argument in "The Creation of ‘Eternal’ Objects" (cited in note 5) is correct, and "eternal objects" are not uncreated but are temporally emergent, the primordial nature is absorbed into the divine everlasting experience.
14A partial exception might be: "Such a primordial superject of creativity achieves, in its unity of satisfaction, the complete conceptual valuation of all eternal objects" (PR 32). On its strength, I ascribed subjectivity to "The Non-Temporality of Whitehead’s God" (see note 2). I now think that was probably in error. While Process and Reality does not assert any divine subjectivity prior to PR V.2 (and some late insertions), the fourth chapter of Religion in the Making uses language which implies it.
15This is the only text conceiving of the primordial nature in terms of concrescence, and it comes after Whitehead has recognized that God as a whole is everlasting. It is the nontemporal aspect of an everlasting concrescence. Concrescence, whether divine or finite, requires temporality. He finds no warrant for any nontemporal subject.
Process and Reality 87.43c and the following paragraph(s) appear to be a late insertion designed to show how God could exemplify the three-fold character of the actual entity (see previous paragraph) in the light of his newly won concept of the consequent nature. His initial response (PR 87.40-43b), lacking this notion, could show only how God was an exception to this three-fold character.
16Here, see my "Nobo’s Eternal Realities and the Primordial Decision," Process Studies 26 (1997), 205-217. It is important also for our understanding of Robert C. Neville’s divine creation as nontemporal determination.
17I once argued, relying on William A. Christian’s An Interpretation of Whitehead’s Metaphysics (New Haven, CN: Yale University Press, 1959), that God was exempt from subjective perishing on the grounds that perishing was absent from the categoreal scheme. But this issue cannot be settled simply on those grounds. Oomen notes my shift on this issue. She cites Process and Reality 81f: "In the organic philosophy an actual entity has ‘perished’ when it is complete." Yet, as she argues, the everlasting divine satisfaction is never complete. Incompleteness of itself, however, does not insure concrescent status. The past also is incomplete, yet determinate at every instant.
According to the 25th category of explanation, "‘becoming’. . . in each particular instance ceases with this attainment." As she points out, the everlasting concrescence never ceases. Should this not mean that God can never be objectified, rather than that in the divine case alone that objectification does not require perishing?
18These ideas are developed partially in "The Divine Activity of the Future," Process Studies 11(1981), 169-179, and "Creativity in a Future Key," New Essays in Metaphysics, edited by Robert C. Neville (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1986), 179-198.