Thursday, May 1, 2014

Re-Post: Whitehead On Fluency & Permanence

"It is as true to say that God is permanent and the World fluent, as that the World is permanent and God is fluent."- From PROCESS AND REALITY

Remember the way in which Whitehead thought God and the world interacted. Each epochal occasion, each experience (act, thing, event- all of these are equivalent to 'experience' for Whitehead), is given by God an 'ideal image' of what it should be, in relation to everything else. Things 'lurch towards' that image, that ideal, and what they do is evaluated relative to it. Thus something is judged by God 'good' or 'bad' depending on how close or far it is off that mark of the 'ideal' that God apprehends for it. Whatever value is actually produced, whatever 'good' is in fact actualized, is remembered by God and becomes immortal in His memory. He doesn't only remember it from the outside, as we remember things 'from the outside'. It isn't like some fact God knows. God remembers what it was like to BE that epochal occasion, in that moment, to the degree that occasion actualized any value at all. God remembers the joy of the good for each epochal occasion, He remembers the endurance of suffering, and the pure experience of just learning something new.

These moments are not lost the world, either, however. God, in countless ways, uses the good of the past to move the future along. It is because God IS, that causal relations make any sense at all. In this sense Whitehead was looking forward to Hilary Putnam's contention that all judgments of causal relationship are subtly intentional. For Whitehead there is not mystery in this, his panpsychism and his positing of God means that intentional causal relationships are exactly what we should expect from the world. God confronts the world with a best possible image of what it could be. But this best possible image is not somehow divorced from the past. God cannot call the world to a better place that is impossible for it. Remember, the world limits God's power by limiting what facts God has to work with when making up His 'ideal image' of what the world should be (see the second link in the list above.) This entry of the world 'into God' is both positive negative. It is negative in that it means God's power to influence the world is truly limited by what the world does. It is positive, in that every value that is genuinely created in the world is not only immortalized in the mind of God, but will forever have some influence, however small, in the world as it is continuing to be built, for that value is used by God to expand possibilities for the future.

The immortalized facts of the world are the form of God's power. They limit how God can use His power. In a very real sense, God Himself exists AS, the ideal image that God presents to the world. The fulfilled image that God 'pours into' this world, is the very being or becoming of God. The image is form of the character of the universe, and God is the character of the universe, in a very real sense. Since this image is constantly being created, and sent into the world, it is being destroyed by the world, since the world does not conform perfectly to the image. And even if it did, the image would still be updated, for a world that has fulfilled all positive possibilities in this moment, opens up new possibilities in the next. There is a sense, then, in which God is ever changing. God's character never changes, but how that character is expressed in the ideal image, is always changing.

Yet that ideal image contains within it, every moment that actualizes real value in the world. The world's actualization of God's ideal is never lost, for it exists in some form forever in God's ideal image. Thus, in a real sense what is truly immortalized, what truly never changes, what stands forever as a testament to it's own value, is a memory of a particular moment in the world. That in God which never changes, that part of the ideal image that is forever, is from the physical universe. The only truly changeless part of God's form, is the memory of the world.

And yet the physical world, that ground into which God pours godself, is of course, always changing, since it never fully actualizes the ideal that God is. World is constantly passing into death, even as what is of value in the world is retained forever. And that retention, that in the world which is retained, is retained only because it expresses God's character. That which exists changeless in the form of God is from the world, but it is not of the world. It's immortality is found in it's conformity to the character of God. Since that character is never-changing, and its expression is what is retained, it is also true that God is changeless and the world ever-changing. 

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