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Special Focus on Charles Hartshorne




Special Focus on Charles Hartshorne


The current issue of Process Studies, featuring a Special Focus Section on Charles Hartshorne, premiers some writings by the great philosopher that have never before appeared in printfor American readers, at least.


Here, from the table of contents, is a listing of the new material:



Charles Hartshorne

 The Philosophical Principle of Relativity in Whitehead


Charles Hartshorne

 Peirce, Whitehead, and the Sixteen Views about God


Charles Hartshorne

 Determinate Views about the Indeterminate Future


Joseph Zycinski

 How to Naturalize Theology?


Charles Hartshorne

 Response to Zycinski


Joseph Zycinski

 Response to Professor Hartshorne's Response


Charles Hartshorne

 My Religious Beliefs


Focus Section Editor: Donald W. Viney



The first essay—on Whitehead’s principle of relativity—was originally composed by Hartshorne in French for a lecture he gave in Paris at the Sorbonne, and appeared later in the Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale (1950).


The second essay was published in German under the title “Peirce, Whitehead, und die sechzehn Ansichten über Gott” and appeared in the 1991 book, Die Gifford Lectures und ihre Deutung: Materialien zu Whiteheads ›Prozeß und Realität‹.


“Determinate Truths about the Indeterminate Future,” the third essay, has never before been published anywhere. It was written in response to two articles in a 1968 issue of The Review of Metaphysics.


This Special Focus also marks the first publication of the exchange (1990-1991) between Hartshorne and Joseph Zycinski who was Catholic Archbishop of Lublin, Poland.


Donald Viney, the Focus Section editor, recounts how this exchange came into his possession:


Two years ago, in June 2010, Dan Dombrowski and I were at Western Carolina University in North Carolina. Edgar A. Towne, author of Two Types of New Theism: Knowledge of God in the thought of Paul Tillich and Charles Hartshorne (NY: Peter Lang, 1997), was also there. Ed gave Dan and me copies of the Hartshorne/Zycinski exchange. The exchange came into Towne's possession in 2000, sent to him by Tomasz Komendzinski, then of Nikolas Copernikus University in Poland. Komendzinski had asked Towne to comment on the exchange for a volume that he was planning on Hartshorne. That volume was never published but Towne kept the exchange, and eventually gave it to Dan and me.”


“My Religious Beliefs,” the final article, was a sermon delivered by Hartshorne at a Unitarian Church in 1992.


Hartshorne tells a good story about the first essay:


“Giving the French lecture to the Sorbonne philosophers was the hardest two hours work I ever did. Or at least the part of the time spent fielding questions in French was that. It seemed a matter of sheer will to keep my attention on the questions and grope about in my mind for French words with which to answer them. My reward came several years later. I happened upon a French report of the occasion with the following concluding sentence: ‘The many questions only served to show the speaker’s mastery of the subject.’ So if I had tried hard, it was not in vain.”


I will close with five quotes by Hartshorne, one from each of the essays:


 “The Philosophical Principle of Relativity in Whitehead”


By his passivity, God can include the world, as in pantheism, but without depriving the creatures of their own freedom. They are free, not only to decide for themselves, but even to decide a part of the reality of God himself. In this way our actions receive their immortal value. (102)


 “Peirce, Whitehead, and the Sixteen Views about God”


With Peirce (and I do not find Whitehead to contradict this) I believe that all our knowledge, when adequately worked out, has mathematical aspects. I found this in my aesthetics, my study of birdsong, and the metaphysics of religion. Always some mathematical truth (often very elementary as such) turned out to be important. More complex mathematical truths are also philosophically and scientifically important, but here I have been forced by limited skills to rely on others. And that is one reason why my favorite philosophers have been exponents of pure and applied mathematics (by the standards of their time): Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Leibniz, Peirce, Whitehead, especially the first and the last three. (121)


 “Determinate Truths about the Indeterminate Future”


The symmetrical assertion of past and future particulars as now or timelessly real presupposes an imaginary survey of events from above time, and it belongs with what Dewey sagaciously attacked as the spectator view of knowing. One conceives an ideal watching of events by an observer who has no decisions to make. In effect one is taking all events as past, in which case of course there are no further decisions to make. This is precisely how the God of medieval theology knew the world, only today his timeless survey is called “truth.” I have in various writings argued that this is a philosophically and religiously mistaken view, whether of God or of truth. In our human case only past particulars can be surveyed. Memory obviously, and perception only somewhat less obviously, give us the past, not the absolute present, much less the future, in its full particularity. (127)


 “Response to Zycinski”


G. T. Fechner was the first to define the divine perfection as meaning unsurpassable by another, plus an unsurpassable manner of surpassing self with each new creature. The philosophic world ignored this truly great achievement, for Fechner was only a psychologist! That’s the way the human mind tends to work. Snobbery pervades our discussions. (145)


 “My Religious Beliefs”


Before Plato there were others who spoke about interactions between God and animals or people, as one can see in the Book of Job. Missing was the mind-body analogy. Putting together Job, Plato’s Phaedrus and Timaeus, modern philosophy, theology, and science, we can achieve a new synthesis of ancient and modern thought. Hindu, Chinese, and Japanese traditions can be brought in. In the philosophy of religion language game all the cards can now be on the table. In this respect no previous century rivals ours. (160)






Process Thought: The Adventurous Frontier
The pH Factor
Hartshorne's 42 Philosophical Discoveries
Goethe's Process Poem
Hartshorne's New Book: A Cause for Celebration
The Many and the One
Bertrand Russell’s "Portrait" of Whitehead
Special Focus on Charles Hartshorne
Table of Contents: C.S. Peirce's Collected Papers
Hartshorne Entries in The Encyclopedia of Religion
A Logic of Ultimate Contrasts
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