HyC Adventures
The Poetics of Perception
Hartshorne Entries in The Encyclopedia of Religion




Hartshorne Entries in

The Encyclopedia of Religion



Charles Hartshorne has 34 entries in The Encyclopedia of Religion, the reference book edited by Vergilius Ferm. Some of the entries, such as the one on “cause” that runs over 2,000 words, qualify as mini-essays. One of my favorites, “God, as personal,” stands out as a model of clarity. All are characterized by Hartshorne’s buoyant lucidity, both of thought and expression.


The following table lists the 34 titles of the entries composed by Hartshorne:






Aristotle, Aristotelianism


Berkeley, George



Copernican astronomy





foreknowledge, Divine

Gerson, Levi ben

God, as personal

Hume, David


Kant, Immanuel







Peirce, Charles Sanders

perfect, perfection

Ptolemaic astronomy

Renouvier, Charles

Spencer, Herbert

Spinoza, Benedict



Whitehead, Alfred North



And here is my digitization of the 34 entries:



(Gr. a, priv.; kosmos, world)

Doctrine that the universe is unreal. E.g., Shankara and F. H. Bradley saw nothing as real save the ineffable super-cosmic One, of which all in space, time, and finite experience is mere maya or appearance




(Gr. ana, according to; logos, ratio, proportion)

A similitude in relationship. Thus, to say that God is to his creatures as a father to his children is to describe him by analogy, or proportionally; and similarly, when it is said that God is the poet of the world (Whitehead), or that the world is a divine poem (Peirce). Other theological analogies are: ruler of the universe, heavenly king, “light whose smile kindles the universe” (Shelley), soul of the universe “whose body nature is and God the soul” (Pope). Even such terms as “creator” or “maker of all things” or “first cause” are analogical; for they mean that as the artist to the statue, or as the farmer to his crops, or any agent to the results of his activity, so (with whatever qualifications or differences) is God to all things other than God. The earliest known monotheism, the sunworship of Ikhnaton, seems to have been an implicit analogy: as are the sun’s light and warmth  to the growth and happiness of living things on earth (assuming that the sun is a conscious being aware of what it does), so is God to men and all beings. Since the natures of things are essentially relational, except perhaps for such simple qualities of feeling as redness or sweetness (Peirce), there is probably no sharp line between analogical and not-analogical similarity. Hence when it is said (as by Thomas Aquinas) that qualities cannot be ascribed to God and the creatures in the same sense but only analogically, it may be asked if this is not usually the case when properties are ascribed to diverse things. Is not all similarity “with a difference” and in relation to something? Men and dogs are fathers, not in the same sense but analogically. The “kindness” of a wife and a business partner are not wholly the same. The problem is always to define the exact scope and limits and relational reference to each resemblance. But whatever the qualifications, some abstract feature or ratio in common is implied, and this common feature must not be denied if anything is to be left of the analogy. If God is Father, he must not at the same time be in every specifiable respect other than fatherly, on pretext that similarity to a father in such respects would be “anthropomorphic.”


The theological use of analogy is exposed to failure in three ways: through vagueness, through inappropriateness, and through self-contradiction. The last arises through the effort to avoid the first two. For example, there are many sorts of fathers, and no one would think that there was any complete proportion between the relations, child-father and creature-creator. Hence the fatherhood of God, if not further explained, has at best only vague meaning. But by thinking of a quite definite sort of human father, say the best one knows or can imagine, it is possible to give definite meaning to “heavenly father.” However, this definiteness may be at the expense of the mode of superhuman excellence or perfection which also one wishes to ascribe to God. Thus an inconsistency or vacillation arises, by which one avoids a too vague analogy only by falling into an objectionably anthropomorphic one, and then, when the anthropomorphism is noted, takes refuge again in the vagueness. The intellectual integrity of theology stands or falls with the finding or failure to find a remedy for this too long customary but scandalous procedure. The proposition that God knows and loves the creatures and has purposes for them can be given definite meaning; but if at the same time it be insisted that God is totally immutable and unaffected by anything temporal or contingent, and thus is exactly as he would be did the creatures not exist at all, then what is left of the definiteness? One who purposes something is one whose anticipatory plan precedes the something in time; with God, it has been usual to say, there is no such precedence, since he possesses the fulfillment of his plan from all eternity. One might go on with other features of the theological analogy, as traditionally treated, and show that all are similarly nullified. As Kant showed, all our meanings involve space and time, and if God (as Kant believed, though here without proof) is simply non-spatial and non-temporal, then he is for us unknowable, even by analogy. Scholars are beginning to recognize that there is a way of avoiding this result, namely to admit that in some analogous if not univocal sense God is temporal and spatial (and dependent and complex) as well as conscious and good and purposive and powerful. Not that God is mutable or extended or dependent in just the way and degree we are, any more than he is good or powerful in just the way we are, but always with a difference or in some proportional way. It is illogical to admit subtle analogical meanings for the one set of concepts while insisting upon a crude univocalness—and therefore a denial of their applicability to God—for the other set. If God has a body, it will not be as a fragment of reality surrounded by an external environment; but all the universe of things other than God will be this body. A partial, localized being (see Omnipresence) will have a partial, localized body; the inclusive, cosmic being will have an inclusive, non-localized body. Moreover, the integrity of the universe must be supposed adequate to the divine perfection; for instance, the cosmic organism is to be conceived as the sole that is indissoluble, all dissolution being rearrangement of parts or creation of new parts within the cosmos, which throughout retains its essential unity.


The above does not mean that God must be admitted in all respects mutable, extended, or dependent. Even man has an aspect (“the soul”) which is relatively or imperfectly fixed, inextended, independent of contingencies; analogously, in God there may be a perfectly fixed, non-spatial, and independent or necessary aspect, his “essence,” whose logical status may and must, in consistency, be supposed different from that of his accidents. (See Transcendence.)


The three key analogies are perhaps the social analogy (prominent in the idea of the divine fatherhood), that God is to us as a superior and benevolent human being is to other human beings; the mind-body analogy, that God is the soul of the universe as a man is the soul of so much of nature as is included within his skin; and the artist analogy, that God creatively produces and shapes the universe. Each analogy has its defects. Thus father and child are mutually external, and conceivably may cease to have anything to do with each other or to know of each other’s doings; the mind seems to have a non-social relation to the body, a relation of use or exploitation rather than a social relation of mutual sympathy and understanding; and the artist analogy involves both the externality of the first analogy—the artist and his product (once created) being separable and potentially independent of each other—and involves also the non-sociality of the second analogy. A perfect or the most perfect possible analogy must somehow combine the merits and avoid the defects of these analogies. This can be done by supposing a relationship as intimate and constant as that between mind and body, as sympathetic as that between the ideal father and his child, and as active as that between artist and his materials. Thus God must be the world-soul, but in such fashion that he loves each creature as a cell within his own body, and that he molds the life of the entire organism consciously with regard to its inner health and value. It may be maintained that the mind-body relation in some degree has these characters even in us. For, while we do not think lovingly of individual cells within our bodies, it may be that we do feel something of their feelings sympathetically, so that, for example, our suffering is our confused sense of pains endured by groups of our bodily cells at the time, and our acts of volition do mold the lives of cells, even though without our clear awareness of these cells as individuals. In God the “cells” become all individuals within the world-body, and instead of feeling mere masses of cells he has clear sympathetic awareness of individuals composing these masses.


See God as personal; omnipresence; panentheism; perfect; Whitehead.


“Analogy” in J. Hasting’s Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics (1908-27); “Analogy” in D. Runes, Dictionary of Philosophy (1942).




(Gr. anthropos, man; pathein, suffer)

Ascription of human feelings to the non-human. Ruskin’s “pathetic fallacy” disparaged the process as applied to inanimate nature. Ruskin condemned the attribution, not of all mental states to nature, but only of specifically man-like states. So, to ascribe feeling to God is not necessarily to ascribe human feeling to Him.


See anthropomorphism; God as Personal.



 Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) and Aristotelianism

A great biologist, moralist, logician, and metaphysician, who came closer than any other thinker to imprisoning mankind within the confines of his system. According to this system, the world is a many of substances. A substance is something which corresponds to the subject of a proposition and can never properly be treated as a predicate. A predicate is in a substance, but a substance is in itself. [Is it not also in the world?] Substance has two aspects, matter and formplus “privation,” or the absence of this or that particular form. There can be no matter without form (except as a mere idea in the mind) and no form without matter (except in the case of God, an exception which threatens the consistency of the system). The matter is that by which the same substance can have, now one form, now another, and by which several substances can have the same form. Matter is potentiality as contrasted to actuality; for its nature is to be capable of forms beyond those which it actually has. On the other hand, forms are actual or nothing; forin contrast to Plato’s system (as Aristotle interprets it)there is no such thing as a mere form unembodied in matter (except for God, who perhaps in a sense is embodied in the world, a doubtful point in the system, however you take it), so that the only real forms are those which have their matter, whereas there may be matter which is lacking nearly all its possible forms. Yet Aristotle says that the generic form is matter to the species, the relatively universal potential to the relatively particular. Nor is this the only indication that “matter” and potentiality are not really equivalent. For the non-material side or form of a man, for example, his soul, is said to be his actuality, although it seems clear that the unrealized potentialities of the soul surpass those of the physical as such. The doctrine seems to be that it is the physical stuff which in the case of man takes on soul or becomes actually conscious, sentient, etc. But (in modern scientific terms) do electrons, say, think human thoughts? They become associated with such thoughts in some way, and must previously have had the capacity for such association, but they never had nor can have the capacity to think, which the soul has. The final expression of the idea that the superior or spiritual is the actual as such, in contrast to the potential as such, is in the idea of God as pure actuality or pure form, without potency or becoming. God has no matter or particularity in Him, but only pure form, taken as pure spirituality, and hence he knows nothing but this very spirituality (all his thinking is of thinking itself). Were he to know mere material things, this would introduce potency and inferiority into the content of his immediate intuitions, and so contradict his perfection. It is a momentous paradox, to use no stronger word, that Medieval thinkers (with the honorable exception of Levi ben Gerson) attempted to combine the doctrine of God as pure actuality with the doctrine that God knows contingent particulars, particulars, as existent. To put such entities, as existents, with their matter, into the content of divine knowledge seems utterly contrary to the Aristotelian principles proclaimed by those who indulged in the procedure. (See Omniscience, Perfection.) And the evidence of experience is that each level of being has potencies which are just as expressive of its superiority to lower levels as are its actualities. A man can think and experience many things he does not actually think, and these things an atom or an ant could not think. Similarly the highest being, or God, must be capable of thoughts and experiences he does not actually enjoy and of which no lesser being is even capable. In no other way can the reality of possibilities and of time for God be maintained, and, since Omniscience measures reality, to deny potency to God is to deny that potency (and particularity) exists. Here Aristotelianism and, by the usual interpretations, Platonism also, misled theology for over two millennia.


Aristotelian ethics has played a similarly dubious role in historical theology. The Aristotelian view of substance as what belongs to itself not to another thing is suitable to an ethics (or pseudo-ethics) of self-interest, not to an ethics which makes love the absolute divine principle of all things. Substances are precisely not “members one of another.” For a strict Aristotelian, a cell is not a real individual in the individual human being, nor an atom in the cell, and Aristotle scarcely dreamt of either cells or atoms as they are now known to exist. His is the physics and biology of the naked eye, unaided by any lucky guess as to what more powerful instruments would reveal (partly because Aristotle detected certain philosophical errors in Greek atomic theory, and was too busy refuting these to explore more philosophical versions). Plato, on the contrary, thought of the world as an organism, as nearly as possible ideally perfect, of which all lesser organisms are members, and so by implication, through their interdependence in one organism, also members one of another. Yet Plato also kept slipping into a self-interest ethics, and never fully developed the doctrine of reality as composed of organisms organic to one another.


The theory of separate substances not organic to one another results in a dilemma which sums up much of the difficulty in later philosophy. Either the totality of the real is not a substance, or else this totality is the only substanceon the assumption that a substance can have no other substances as its parts. (Aristotle expressly denies that an organism has real parts.) If we take the first horn of the dilemma, the universe as not a substance, we have, among other difficulties, that the most stable of all orders, the cosmic order, belongs to a whole which has no substantial unity at all. If we take the other horn, and suppose the whole to have substantial unity, then all other apparent substances must be held unreal; for the world substance by hypothesis has no substantial parts. Thus assuming Aristotelianism, we have either a world-whole without parts (Spinozism) or a world of parts without real wholeness (the doctrine of Hume). In more theological terms: if God is not the substance of which others are members (and thereby members of each other) then besides God we have the totality of the creatures forming, with God, the super-totality, God and the creatures, and either this super-totality is more than God, greater than the greatest being, or else the creatures, being neither in God nor additional to him, are just nothing. The violence of medieval attacks upon “pantheism” are to be explained partly by the inability of Aristotelianism to construe God either as including the world or as not including it.


The theological employment of Aristotle’s concept of God as “unmoved mover” overlooked the possibility that the unchanging might be an abstract aspect of a being which concretely or as a whole changes. (See transcendence, time.) It was argued that what moves tends toward an end and if the end is reached motion ceases, while if the end is not reached there is imperfection. This overlooked the inexhaustibility of possible values, their absolute infinity as possible, and their necessary finitude as actual (since possible values are partly incompossible, cannot all be realized together—Berdyaev and Whitehead).


Aristotle’s works cannot be dated. Among them are: Organon (the Treatises on Logic); Physics; The Soul; Metaphysics; Nicomachean Ethics; Politics; Poetics. These and others are conveniently available with an introduction in The Basic Works of Aristotle (1941). ed. by Richard McKeon. See eudemonism; hylomorphism; mean. Aristotelian; metaphysics; soul.




(Gr. axioun, think worthy; from agein, lead, weigh)

A proposition taken as self-evident or beyond question, at least for a given inquiry. Present-day philosophy is reluctant to admit the absolute self-evidence of any proposition, partly because it has been found possible to dispense with one of the axioms of Euclid. Some hold that self-evident means not absolutely, but intrinsically, evident, evident from the mere meaning of the terms involved, whether this intrinsic evidence be conclusion or not. Peirce, in his “Critical Commonsensism,” posited indubitable beliefs, but held that they are vague, and that when put into sharply definite language they become open to doubt. For example, “nature is not without order,” when given the more specific rendering, “nature is wholly orderly.”



 Berkeley, George (1685-1753)

Irish Bishop, founder of subjective idealism (also set forth, perhaps independently, by Jonathan Edwards). All thought depends upon concrete data, which are essentially “ideas” (also “notions,” see below), entities given only as data-for-subjects. Data as they would be if not given at all, data as not ideas, are incapable of being given, hence also of being thought. “Matter,” taken as independent of mind, is self-contradictory, since its properties are all ideas. We know ourselves as subjects by a special form of givenness yielding a “notion” rather than an idea (for it is active, not passive); and somehow we know from the pattern of our own data that there are other human subjects. Physical reality or nature is the fixed and shareable order of data. Ideas that are merely ours are under control of our wills, whereas what we perceive physically is forced upon us all according to a common system. The only force we know from the given is will. The only adequate will-cause of the orderly constraint we feel in perception is God. Thus all data are signs in a single vast language by which God communicates to us.


See idealism, metaphysical.


G. Berkeley, Treatise on the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710); Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous (1713), Siris (1744). Also J. Wild. George Berkeley (1936).



 Carneades (c. 215-125 B.C.)

Gr. philosopher, founder of the Third Academy, the outstanding sceptic of ancient times (Zeller) and the first to bring out the difficulties in the idea of God (when defined as living and rational but also absolute and immutable). Held that logic must take account of free will and the probable indeterminateness of the future; thus “x will occur” must be neither true nor false, since there may at present exist no cause to make it so. Really, “x will occur” and “x will not occur” are both false if the truth is, x may-or-may-not occur. As Levi ben Gerson insisted, where there is no determinate reality, all determinate assertions are false. (See foreknowledge, divine. No writings survive.


See E. Zeller, Philosophie der Griechen, III.I, pp. 514ff. (1909).




(Lat. causa)

Something whose existence is a precondition of the existence of something else; a sine qua non or “necessary condition” of an existent. “The” cause of anything is sometimes defined as its necessary and sufficient condition. Taken absolutely, this definition implies determinism, for it means that the cause suffices to ensure the effect and thus uniquely determines it. The definition also implies that there is no ultimate distinction between possible and actual existence; for if the necessary and sufficient condition be lacking the effect is impossible, and if it be present the effect is inevitable and its non-occurrence impossible. Thus necessary occurrence and necessary non-occurrence are alone permitted. A definition which admits a distinction between necessary and merely possible existence and does not exclude determinism is as follows: the cause of a thing is the necessary and sufficient condition of the possible existence of the thing. As for its actual existence, perhaps that involves no further condition, but is a sheer contingency or creative addition to possibility, something that may or may not occur, and the knowledge of whose occurrence or nonoccurrence is to be had (even by Omniscience) only by “waiting to see.” Thus the effect would require and imply the cause, but the cause would not absolutely require or imply the effect. An intermediate or in one sense deterministic, in one sense indeterministic, conception is that the cause is sufficient condition, not indeed of the existence of any one determinate or individual effect, but of “some one or other” of a class or kind of possible effects. Thus the cause would guarantee that some effect or other of a certain general sort would follow, but not just which one of the possible variations of the sort it would be. Current physics seems to conceive such a limited guarantee to obtain in both directions between cause and effect, so that neither cause nor effect is uniquely and determinately inferable from the other, but only statistically and probably. The class of the effect is given if the cause is given, and vice versa; and it is assumed that there must be some real member of the class. However, our sense that the past is determinate, in contrast to the future, which is a matter of option between still open alternatives, seems to imply that—whatever it may suit the technical convenience of physics to suppose—the past, the cause, is unique or determinate when the present, the effect, takes place; and thus that the effect requires the cause individually, while the cause requires the effect only generically or approximately, leaving some free or creative option, however slight.


The deterministic version of cause when applied to theology makes the creator require his creation as definitely as the creation requires the creator. Given God, the world must be; just as, given the world, God must be. Each is necessary to the other. Since there are no degrees of necessity, the least creature, being indispensable, would be as important as God.


The purely indeterministic view would mean that, given God, there need be no world at all. From God’s existence nothing would follow at all as to the world. God might have perfect self-knowledge, and yet know nothing of the world (except as a mere possibility of existence) since as existent the world would not be involved in his own being. (The failure to see or admit this is common in the tradition, though the usual view of God as totally “independent” in every way is precisely the pure indeterministic view of causality in its theological application.)


The intermediate or qualifiedly indeterministic view of God as cause is that His existence makes it inevitable that there be some world or other, but not just the world which in fact exists. Thus God’s independence is of the particular world, not of world-as-such. (Even of the particular world, he is independent only in his essence, not in his total being, which must contain just the actual world, if he is to know this world and love it. —See omniscience; panentheism; perfection; transcendence). The intermediate view makes it possible to exempt God from responsibility for the details of the world and its evils, and yet to regard him as “the” cause of the world. His existence makes it inevitable that there be some world but only possible that there be just this world.


Causes are often divided into efficient and final, and Aristotle spoke also of formal and material causes. All of them are conditions of their effects. A statue would not exist had the plan in the mind of the artist not existed, or had there been no material from which to make it. But a final cause is somewhat indeterministic in a special way, in that the same desired outcome may be reached by more than one route. The final cause is indeterministic also in that success is not guaranteed, since the material may not prove altogether pliable. But further, a final cause does not even intend to fully determine its effect. To know exactly what one desires would be to have it, since knowledge of value is possession in the most literal sense. One would never go to the theater if he knew precisely and vividly what was to occur there, for then he would be enjoying the play already. And the artist sees his form with full precision and detail only when his work is finished. Theologians have striven to avoid applying this principle to God, or have simply overlooked the problem; but it seems doubtful if it means anything to speak of divine purposes in regard to the world if God enjoys its values in advance or in eternity. Even if it be said that his purposes are purely disinterested or altruistic, this only evades the issue, not only because we have no meaning for altruism other than a taking pleasure in promoting the pleasures of others, or an interest in satisfying their interests, but because it cannot be a good that the interests of the creatures should be satisfied when, should the creatures not exist at all, all possible values would exist anyway in God. It is superfluous to promote the welfare of superfluous beings, whether from a disinterested or from an egoistic standpoint, since even a disinterested survey must perceive the futility of trying to add values to existence as including absolute value eternally. As Bergson, Peirce, Whitehead, and others have been reminding us, the only conceivable purpose of creation is to achieve new values, and if really new they must be new for omniscience, the measure of reality. God requires that there be a world, if the value of His life is to be enriched. And a God whose life cannot be enriched must either achieve all possible value eternally—which is a contradiction, since there are incompossible values—or he must be eternally limited to some arbitrary quantum or degree of value less than is possible, in which case he is in no significant sense perfect. Thus a God simply independent of the world is unintelligible in terms of final causation. But a God dependent absolutely upon just this world which exists, rather than simply upon world as such, is equally unintelligible, for the idea implies an enrichment every detail of which is involved in the being to be enriched, and this is a contradiction. Thus the intermediate or qualifiedly indeterministic view of the cause-effect relation is no less applicable to the divine as final than as efficient cause.


David of Dinant identified God and “matter” or potentiality, thus making God the universal material cause. Aquinas called this view crazy; but it is so only if Thomism is assumed as the norm of sanity. The ultimate potency which is molded into actual form is the uniquely flexible, uniquely modifiable life of deity. For consider, whatever may become real, if and as real it will be known by omniscience and loved by the perfect love. But knowledge and the known, loving and the loved, must in some way correspond to each other, and God must therefore be ready to correspond to whatever can occur, and this potential correspondence is part of the potential being of the things. To make a creature, X, is for God to make Himself to know and care for X as an actuality, for were X not actual, God would not know and love it as actual. (See Gerson, Levi ben.) Thus, in creating, God creates states of himself, and thus treats his being as matter to be given form.


Cause, First or Prime: The cause which is first in a logical sense, supreme or universal among causes, the one which is required for any and all effects. To affirm it does not involve denying the infinity of past causes. It is enough that the supreme cause be supposed to have sustained the series of secondary causes through its perhaps infinite past. The supreme cause is thus not necessarily first temporally except that it must be the only cause that has operated at all past times, however remote. It is thus temporally earlier than each and every but not perhaps than all secondary causes (if these be infinite in number). Nor does the argument for a first cause depend for any of its force upon an assumed or demonstrated finitude of the series of second causes. The argument is as follows. Ordinary causes are always logically arbitrary or contingent in their very existence. If there is nothing but the sum of such contingent causes, then that anything at all exists is sheer accident. Yet this cannot be, for “it might be that nothing exists” is an absurdity, since there would “be” at least the fact of the non-being of everything. Though all details of being are contingent (and, as Peirce showed, a non-contingent detail would be a contradiction in terms), it cannot be contingent that there are details of being, some details or other. But what is the being which must receive some details or other, what is the ground of alternatives such that not all of them can be unrealized? The being which will be there no matter what else is there is the universal being, the first cause. The ground of alternatives which makes it impossible that none be realized is not itself a member of an alternative, but rather the being to whose existence there can be no alternative, the necessary or self-existent being which requires that there shall be some non-necessary actualities or other. Thus the first cause is not in every sense independent of other causes, but rather in its essence it depends upon (in the sense of necessitating or omnipotently requiring) the class of contingent beings as such, while in its accidents the necessary being (necessary only in essence and as to having some accidents or other)

depends upon just which contingent beings in fact exist.


The traditional procedure of inferring a necessary being from contingent beings held to be in no way involved in the necessary being which was supposed to explain them was self-contradictory and a chief cause of scepticism and atheism. The absurdity of denying a first cause lies precisely in the implication that contingent predicates inhere only in contingent subjects, that accidents happen only to the accidental. The absurdity is avoided only by regarding accidents as contingent phases of the life of a Being as in essential reality not accidental but the necessary recipient of all accidents, the non-alternative medium of all open alternatives. To make the contingent being merely contingent, and the necessary being merely necessary, is to evade the essential question: how are they together one reality? “The contingent-and-the-necessary” must form some sort of whole (all reality, all that is what it is whether human beings know what it is or not) and this whole cannot be exclusively contingent or exclusively necessary. Nor can it be less than God, the supreme cause but, for that very reason, also the supreme effect; the one being who (in his essence) has always been and always will be involved in all causation, and equally the one being who (in his accidents) always has been and always will be enriched by every effect, garnered without loss in his loving omniscience.


See concursus; fatalism; fate; Hume, David; omnipotence; pantheism; transcendence.


A. N. Whitehead, Process and Reality (1929). especially the last chapter.



 Copernican astronomy

Copernicus (Polish astronomer, 1473-1543) pointed out the superior mathematical coherence of the view that the earth moves around the sun, and is thus not the motionless center of things it was held to be in Ptolemaic astronomy. The sun, however, in the new astronomy assumed the role from which the earth was displaced. (Newton later denied centrality even to the solar system.) That the earth moves had been suggested long before, as early as 250 B.C., and that mathematical elegance and unity are to be looked for in nature was taught by Italian neo-Platonists who influenced Copernicus, and by the ancient Pythagoreans. Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and Newton effected the shift from a teleological to a mathematical way of interrogating nature. Or at least, the telos or end that is made primary by these men is no longer human welfare, but the abstract and universal end of mathematical rationalitythe glory of God as cosmic mathematician, rather than as cosmic ally and judge of humanity.


N. Copernicus, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (Ed. of 1873), Ger. trans. by Menzzer (1879). L. Prowe, Nicolaus Coppernicus (1883-84).




(Lat., aeternus for aeviternus, akin to Gr. aion, lifetime, age)

Existing or obtaining primordially and forever, without beginning or ending in time. It is often taken as synonym for changeless, but this usage is questionable, for it tends to obscure the fact that “ever-existing” and “never-changing” are logically quite independent ideas. For, on the one hand, the unchanging need not exist forever. Thus, according to Bergson, Whitehead, and other philosophers and theologians, every event, or portion of process, once it has come to be, is changelessly itself (see time). It is immortal, not eternal; temporally without ending, but not without beginning. Further, some thinkers believe that abstract qualities can be created at a given moment in time, and yet remain ever after fixed and self-identical. On the other hand, what exists forever might change, provided it never began and never ceased to change, and provided the change was in its accidents, never in its individual essence. (The denial that these conditions can be met is too controversial to be put into the definition of so commonly used a term as eternal.) Thus the unchanging may or may not exist forever, and the ever-existent may or may not be unchanging. The ever-existent which is ever-changing may be called “everlasting.” Since it embraces both self-identity and self-difference, both permanence and change, whereas the other form of eternity abstracts from self-difference or change, it is difficult —in spite of tradition—not to see in it the concrete and ultimate form of eternity, of which the unchanging form is an abstract aspect and not the whole.


See omniscience; perfection; transcendence.


E. S. Brightman, “A temporalist view of God,” Jour. of Relig. (1932), 12, 545-55; A. E. Garvie, The Christian Faith (1937), p. 105.




The state of being eternal. Has been conceived in three ways. 1) The absence of time and change: timelessness, immutability (the view of Aquinas and many others). 2) The inclusion, in one unique, determinate state or “single now,” of all time taken as a fixed total of events (Royce, et. al.). The totality of mutations is thus taken as immutable. However, it is doubtful if they could really be mutations, since every item, in its place in the whole, simply is what it is, and no item changes. Such a view “spatializes time” (Bergson) or contradicts the distinctive character of time as the dimension of creation, not of mere being. 3) The inclusion in a protean, partially indeterminate, state of all time taken as a growing totality of events, each of which is first indeterminate (within limits), and then determinate; or is first future and incomplete in its reality, and then present and complete. Each event as it becomes complete or present is an addition to the previous totality of complete events. Thus eternity as 3) is the summation of all actual or elapsed events in an ever-growing present, to whose increase there is neither beginning nor end. The content of such a present, so far as acquired, is henceforth immutable; the only mutation being the acquisition of new content, or the change from the potential and indefinite to the actual and definite. Thus 3) combines elements of 1) and 2), and in addition is able to account for time as real change within the eternal being; whereas 1) leaves the relations of time and eternity unintelligible, being able to construe time-and-eternity neither as a temporal nor as an eternal wholes and 2) puts time within eternity only through denial of its temporality.


See foreknowledge; omniscience; time; Whitehead.




(Lat., aether; Gr., aither, upper air, sky)

In physics, the all-pervasive “fluid” formerly assumed as medium of impalpable radiations, e.g., light, magnetism. Today one admits that no fluid nor other palpable body gives much idea of the property of space (or of reality in space) whereby wave-phenomena are transmitted through otherwise vacuous regions.



 etiology, aetiology

(Gr., aitia, cause)

Theory of causes



 foreknowledge, Divine

Traditionally, God’s view of events, to us future, from His super-temporal standpoint. According to Thomism, God knows our future acts, even though they are free, because he knows events, not through their conditions in earlier events, but directly, in themselves. He is as the center of a circle, equally near to every point of time. This assumes that events to us future are yet in themselves real and determinate, or that time is analogous to a circle and not to an endless line whose points are added to it from moment to moment and form no completed sum. Scotists reject the Thomistic view, but hold that God knows the future because its determining conditions are in his will; but thereby human freedom is contradicted. Ockham held that the philosophically reasonable view is that the future, being more or less indeterminate or free, cannot be known determinately, even by God; but revelation, he thought, forces us to renounce this view. Yet the Socinians and others later adopted it as precisely the one supported by Scriptural religion. Many philosophers and theologians now hold that only past events—inclusive of the present—are fully real or determinate, so that for God to “know” “all” events as determinate would be for him to know some of them falsely or as they are not. Future events being indeterminate, not merely in relation to earlier events, but intrinsically, it follows that perfect knowledge grasps the past inclusive of the present as determinate, but the future only with such determinacy as it really has—this depending upon the not unlimited extent to which past conditions already determine it. Any determination beyond that can exist and be known as existent only, it is held, when the future comes into full being as a present, new in itself and for all true knowledge. Time is not a complete whole, to be viewed in one complete vision, but a whole ever-to-be-increased-somehow-or-other, that is, in a way not determined either in advance or eternally. (“What will be will be” begs the question of whether time consists wholly of will-be’s and will-not-be’s, rather than, in part at least, of may-or-may-not-be’s reducible to determinate being only by their creation as present events. If time be such, then omniscience is only possible as itself temporal—as knowing new facts when there are new facts to know, but always knowing all the facts there are at the time. See eternity; perfect; predestination; reprobation; time.


See G.T. Fechner, Zendavesta Ch. 11, (1851); O. Pfleiderer, Grundriss der Christlichen Glaubens- und Sittenlehre (1888); A.E. Garvie, The Christian Faith (1957)



 Gerson, Levi ben (Gersonides) (1288-1340)

Jewish theologian and astronomer. A bold, rigorous thinker, unflinchingly Aristotelian in theology. God does not know matter or particularity; not that His knowledge is imperfect, but that the formal, rational order of things alone is worth knowing or fully real. Also, man’s will being free, and acts he might, in future, perform or not perform being thus indeterminate, the divine or true knowledge, which sees things as they are, will see these acts only as indeterminate or possible. (See foreknowledge, divine; and Carneades.) This second argument implies that past and present events, being determinately particular, must by divine knowledge be known as such, but G. overlooks this because (equally with Maimonides, the chief object of his polemic) he believes God to be immutable and devoid of contingency, whereas, he argues, only what is in some way contingent and changing can know the contingent and changing. The premise is that an object of knowledge “substantializes” the knowing (were the object not actual, the knowing of it as actual would be potential only). This Maimonides had conceded of human knowing, and he had conceded further that if the contingent objects of God’s knowing are similarly required for the actuality of his knowledge of them (as actual), then part of God’s actuality must be contingent. M. avoided this conclusion by denying any and all analogy between humanly conceivable and divine “knowledge” (or other attributes). G. points to the theological havoc wrought by this denial, and proposes instead the denial that God knows contingent objects, except in their non-contingent, providential, immaterial elements or aspects. This denial, held to be none, of omniscience is a heroic effort to save the purely absolutistic conception of God (see cause; perfect; omnipotent; personal, God as) while avoiding the paradox of a knowing which is necessary through and through although what it knows exists to be known (as existent) only contingently. It did not occur to G.—or to other medieval thinkers—that if God’s knowing is really analogous—with whatever sublime differences—to man’s, it may, like man’s, though in radically superior fashion, involve elements of contingency and change.


See time, L. Gerson, The Wars of God (in Hebrew; Ger. trans. by B. Kellermann, 1916). See I. Husik, A History of Jewish Philosophy (1916).


I. Weil, Philosophie religieuse de Levi ben Gerson (Paris, 1868); M. Joel, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Philosophie (Breslau, 1876); I. Husik, “Studies in Gersonides,” Jewish Quarterly. vol. III. (1917-18); J. Guttmann, Die Philosophie des Judentums (Münich, 1933); J. Karo Kritische Untersuchungen zu Levi ben Gersons Widerlegung des Aristotelischen Zeitbegriffes (Leipzig, 1935).



 God, as personal

Persons as we know them are social, that is, they enjoy personal relations. A “personal God” suggests one who can respond to prayer. But we may distinguish two forms of response, local and cosmic. God, if a cosmic being, can “answer” one man’s prayer only as he simultaneously and without foolish bias takes account of other men’s prayers and of all cosmic needs. God may nonetheless respond to the universe with full regard to the individuals which actually compose it, and in this sense may enjoy personal relations (See omnipotence and perfection.)


Since a person is a conscious individual, an impersonal deity must lack either consciousness or individuality (or both). Both have been often denied to God, and for the same reason: that they imply limitations. To be conscious of something is to be subject confronted by object, determined by it, and with it constituting a whole greater than either subject or object alone. Again, to be an individual is to be one member of a class or species rather than another, is to be this while failing to be that, for example, here and now in space and time rather than there and then. Men are individuated from one another, it is argued, by their defects and inabilities; but the being with all power and value must be being and value as such, “pure” being, rather than this or that being or personality in particular. It is also often said that God is not conscious or individual because he is super-conscious, super-personal. It may be doubted, however, if “super” has here any meaning; since value is an affair of valuation and enjoyment, and superior value can only be superior satisfaction for some valuer, and a “super-personal valuer” seems only verbally distinguished from a superior type of person.


The limitations inherent in “personality” are of two kinds, only one of which need apply to a personal God. 1) Men are individuated partly by their localization in space-time, by the fact that they are parts of a larger whole, able to deal effectively with but a small portion of this whole. But suppose a being able to deal effectively with all portions of reality and in this sense non-localized. (See omnipresence.) 2) Such a being would still have a kind of limitation, in that it would deal with reality as it is and not as it might be. Even the whole of actual reality is limited, by comparison with the logically possible; and the being who, in non-localized or universally efficacious fashion, deals with all actual things as actual, can yet deal with possible things only as possible, until they too have been actualized (and not all of them can be at once—see perfection), and so he must lack whatever value would be found in dealing with these possible things as actual, should they become actual. Our human individuality is that of parts of the cosmos; the divine individuality may be that of the cosmos itself as integrated into a single self-identical life. (See panentheism.) If the parts of the universe have individuality, the whole cannot be mere being in general. However, it may be asked if the whole has sufficient unity to be personal; for the individual is contrasted not only to the general but to the ununified or unintegrated. The universe has integrity at least in the sense that it is the only whole whose literal dissolution seems unthinkable. The pervasive laws of nature also suggest cosmic unity. If in us a precarious and imperfect integration of activities, easily disrupted, has for its internal reality a fitful and imperfect individual awareness, the seemingly inviolable integration of all cosmic activities into the grand pattern studied by science (a pattern which, as Fechner likes to insist, is omnipresent and unfailing) may mean a perfect consciousness. Thus, on the one hand, one may argue from the cosmic body to the cosmic all-ordering mind. On the other, we have no analogy by which to conceive God as an individual mind or person unless we impute to him a body adequate to his cosmic functions. What but the cosmos itself could be such a body? True, the cosmic body has defects, since its parts have defects. However, the perfection of an integrated whole is in principle of a different order from the sum of the values of its parts. God cannot, in every sense, escape limitation and yet have a cosmic body (or a cosmic mind, in any sense that is humanly conceivable, even dimly); but he may very well escape our forms of (localizing) limitations, and thus may enjoy a unique kind of perfection, though not in every sense an, absolute one. And though the cosmic body must inevitably bring tragedy into the life of God—for there is discord in the life of that body—this fact, so far from contradicting the religious perfection of God, may be its very expression. For it means that our tragedies are not matters of mere indifference to the perfectly loving being, nor yet matters of pure (and ethically monstrous) bliss, but of sympathetic sorrow tingeing the divine blessedness, though not overcoming it. (For this reason Whitehead speaks of the “heroic” character of God, and says that to impute mere happiness to him is a profanation.)


The purely absolute and wholly unlimited God of the main philosophical and theological tradition is scarcely to be termed personal, if words are to retain any meaning. The positing of the “persons” of the Trinity, even when combined with the doctrine of the Incarnation of one of the persons, seems not to remove the basic contradiction between individuality and the sheer absence of limitation. Since philosophy is now inclined to doubt the consistency of the traditional absolutism, regardless of whether or not this absolutism be combined with a personal view of God, and since the limitations inherent in personality as such are no more than are implied by the concept of the universe as an integral whole, the supposition that a more philosophical view of God is attained by sacrificing his personality is seen to have been an error.



 Hume, David (1711-76)

Scottish philosopher, probably greatest modern sceptic. Following the Occasionalists, Locke, Berkeley, and ancient sceptics, Hume dissolves experience into a shower of “impressions,” fading off into mere “ideas,” and without any unity or coherence except a mysterious “custom” or “association of ideas.” Causation is regularity in the flow of impressions, which by habit we expect to continue. Knowing no objective principle of causation, we cannot infer a divine mind as cause of the world-order. Matter and mind alike fail to explain orderliness, since the impressions by which we know them are essentially separate, and how the mind controls even its own ideas, if it really does so, is a mystery. Hume’s critique of theology depends also upon his assumption that though causality is inexplicable, it yet has absolute sway, forbidding all freedom of open alternatives. Hence a world-orderer, if there be such, must be responsible for all details of events—thus the problem of evil appears insoluble. In the Dialogues, Cleanthes rejects, as “really atheistic,” the purely absolute, timeless character imputed to God by “all the orthodox divines almost.” Theism means that man is not wholly dissimilar to the supreme cause, and there can be no analogy between the human mind and a sheer absolute (see also Gerson, Levi ben). But no definite alternative is suggested, other than a crudely finite deity. (See finite God.)


Hume’s fine treatment of ethics rests upon the idea of sympathetic or disinterested approval and disapproval. His view of religion stands or falls largely with the atomistic concept of experience, the assumption of determinism, and the apparent assumption that there can be no higher synthesis of absolute and relative in the idea of God (see Perfect). Whitehead and others have recently challenged all three assumptions. Kant’s famous answer to Hume effects some reform of the first.


See cause.


D. Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40); Enquiry Concerning the Human Understanding (1748); Enquiry Concerning Morals, (1751); Natural History of Religion (1757); Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779). Also N. K. Smith, The Philosophy of David Hume (1941).




(Lat. infinitus, not bounded)

In mathematics, a multitude so far as capable of one-to-one-correspondence (“equality”) with some of its parts. An infinite number is not a member of the series, 1, 2, 3, etc., but is at least equal to the entire series itself. It may be greater, according to most mathematicians, who accept the theory of a hierarchy of infinites. However, it has been contended (by Felix Kaufmann) that the “higher infinites” are not legitimate conceptions; and “finitist” philosophers of mathematics maintain that mathematics has no need of infinity except in the sense of an unlimited possibility of addition. Thus infinity would not be a number, but merely the law that any number can be exceeded by other numbers.


It has been contended by many (e.g., Renouvier, Parker) that an actually infinite plurality is impossible, that the concept is contradictory. It must be a whole some of whose parts are equal to it, although to be a part is by definition to be less than the whole. Again, the infinite must be an endless or never-completed series which nonetheless is complete. However, it can be argued that the contradictions are only apparent. The part is “equal” to the whole only in a technical sense, “one-to-one-correspondence,” and the definition of part need not deny equality in this sense. The whole must by definition be the part and something else besides; this is true even of infinite wholes. The-odd-numbers-and-the-even-numbers are capable of one to one correspondence with the odd numbers alone; but they are nonetheless the odd numbers and other things besides. Again, one need not and mathematicians do not define an infinite series as one which cannot be completed, if by that is meant one whose members are not all there, or not all actual.


There is, however, at least one application of the idea of an actual infinite which leads to contradictions, the famous contradictions embodied in Zeno’s paradoxes. It cannot be that a finite stretch of time contains an infinity of actual parts. If the parts have no temporal or spatial length, their sum can have none; if they have length, their sum will have infinite not finite length. Besides, it would be impossible to reach one part from another. A series which has not been entered and which cannot be begun, since it has no first member, cannot be entered and hence cannot be completed. Now the series: one minute past five, preceded by 1/2 minute past five, preceded by 1/4 minute past five, and so on, is a series which, at five o’clock, has not been entered, has no first member with which to begin, and which hence cannot be begun, and a fortiori cannot be completed. The solution of this difficulty is given by the “epochal theory of time” (Whitehead), according to which the “and so on” above is subject to a limit beyond which time is not actually divided into real units or events. One may mathematically conceive divisions of time beyond the limit; but they represent only things which might happen, not things which in a given case do happen. In other words there is a least portion of time in which, after a given moment, anything actually happens. This is a generalization of the “specious present” of human consciousness described by James. It implies that after five o’clock there is a first real division of time, 1/nth minute past five, with which one may begin in passing from five to a minute past five. Spatial subdivision is treated in the same way. The theory rests upon the recognition that potentiality is a real mode of being (see Time), that to be infinitely divisible is not the same as to be infinitely divided, and yet is something quite real.


The most plausible application of the idea of an actuality numerically infinite is that to the series of all past events. Here there is no problem of entering or beginning the series; for at no time was anyone or anything outside “all events” waiting to get into it. Kant’s attempt to prove a contradiction here presupposed that infinite must be defined as endless, a supposition which is mathematically untrue. The most one can say is that it is difficult to see how the idea of the infinite past can have any basis in direct experience or intuition. We cannot distinctly intuit or imagine each member of an infinite series. But perhaps we can indistinctly intuit the infinity of the past, for when we attempt to conceive the past as finite we seem to collide with the intuitive content of the idea of time, suggesting that we may not be utterly without the intuition of infinity. After all, very little of our awareness is wholly distinct.


In philosophy and theology, the term is often used in a non-quantitative sense, meaning absence of limitations or deficiencies, in some given, or in all, respects. Total absence of limitations, infinity in all respects, is a common conception or pseudo-conception of God. Its meaningfulness or consistency is doubtful. Its object must be that which lacks no positive being or value that could be present anywhere. But the question is whether what “lacks nothing in particular” could possess anything in particular. “Determination is negation,” but indetermination is also negation, so how can a purely positive being be other than nonsense? To be this is not to be that, possibilities are often incompatible. From the realm of pure potentiality no one thing is missing more than another, because everything determinate and actual is missing, and what is there is precisely the impartially deficient mode of existence, potentiality. The doctrine that the deficiency can be, and in God is, impartially and exhaustively remedied has never been shown consistent with what we know of the meaning of potential and actual. Besides, there is the dilemma: either the finite, including man, makes no difference to the infinite being, and man’s efforts are worthless; or the finite, in making differences to the infinite, somehow limits it (although perhaps not in all respects or aspects—see Transcendence). In other terms, if the impartial deficiency of pure potentiality is impartially and exhaustively overcome in God it is inconceivable why there should also be the partial and non-exhaustive realization of potencies in the creation. The wholly unlimited-and-the-limited cannot be more than the wholly unlimited by itself, or in any intelligible way distinguished from it. Nor is the problem solved by saying that the true infinite is what is limited only by itself. For it is by the creatures that God must in some fashion be limited, and in any case self-limitation is still in some sense limitation. The conclusion seems to be that the denial of limits requires itself to be limited, if it is to be consistent.


See omnipotence; perfect; transcendence. D. H. Parker, Experience and Substance (1941).



 Kant, Immanuel (1724-1804)

Kant dealt with all branches of philosophy and some of science, but his chief aim was to harmonize cognitive and ethical interests. He said he had been forced to limit knowledge to make room for faith. But the faith was also limited, a “religion within the bounds of mere reason” (the title of one of his books). God was posited as cosmic judge and policeman to secure the happiness of the virtuous; immortality was an inconceivable timeless essence of the soul (as noumenon or thing in itself); freedom was not choice of open alternatives within time, but an unthinkable ability of the timeless self to have chosen an alternative temporal world. Yet faith, though beginning where knowledge ended, was neither irrational nor based upon mere intuition. It was based upon ethics, and Kant’s ethics was the most rationalistic possible; for its principle was, act from precepts capable of rational generalization, valid, like truths of pure reason, for all thinking beings. Even the motive of ethical action is “respect” for rationality of will, not desire for happiness, whether our own or others’. A frequent misunderstanding takes this to mean we are to ignore probable consequences of our acts for human welfare. Kant says rather: man, by instinct, or without ethics, makes happiness a goal, and this goal can be rationalized or ethicized only by generalizing it to include the happiness of all. As ethical, we want to be rational in all things, therefore also in happiness-seeking. The whole of practical hedonism is included in Kant’s system, save that certain methods of promoting the general happiness are vetoed as incapable of rationalization, even though their goal be rational. Thus if all men accepted the principle of lying in the general interest, this would destroy mutual trust, and the lies, not being believed, would serve no interest whatever. Yet, since life is based on probability, the chance that a man might be saying truth would perhaps give his words significance, even in the case supposed.


Kant’s famous theory of knowledge is as follows. Experience, therefore positive knowledge, is temporal through and through. This temporal character supports a priori knowledge: the unity of time grounds causal connectedness; space, inseparable from time, grounds geometry; while we know a priori what time is, since it is the inherent pattern of our own intuitive perceptions, our innate way of seeing all things. Time and space must be viewed as dimensions, not of things, but only of our experience of things. For: if time and space were real apart from us, we could not know a priori, as, with respect to geometry, arithmetic, and such principles of science as causality, we must and do know it; further, time and space are self-contradictory ideas (involve antinomies) when construed as real totalities; again, if the temporal side of things is real then the soul is not free, since time is causal through and through; finally, if time and space are ultimately real, then God, the ultimate being, must be temporal and spatial—for Kant, as for nearly all his predecessors, an absurdity. Upon these four arguments the system largely rests. Recent thought tends to undermine all of them. Many philosophers now hold that time and space can be conceived as attributes of a real totality; that time is not causal in a strict or deterministic sense; and that God and the soul are in process (or process is in them)—see eternal, eternity. A priori knowledge might still, in Kantian fashion, be viewed as involving innate forms of possible experience given to us by intuition, but such forms, e.g., space (not, however, as Euclidian) and time, may be applicable to all things because they are dimensions not simply of human but even of divine experience (with which we are in intuitive contact), and because things as objects of divine experience and things as real are identical. (See omniscience). Post-Kantian Idealism (from Fichte to Royce or Bradley) reconstructs Kant in some such way, but confusedly or without freeing itself from unreconstructed (and inconsistent) elements.


See autonomy; epistemology; heteronomy; infinite.


Immanuel Kant: Critique of Pure Reason (1781); Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morality 1783); Critique of Practical Reason (1788); Critique of Judgment (1790), Kant’s views on aesthetics and teleology; Religion Within the Bounds of Mere Reason (1793-4).




(Lat., omnis, all; potens, powerful)

Power over all things, the perfect form of power. It is sometimes viewed as a monopolistic concentration of power—the wielding, by one agent, of all the power there is or could be. This implies that all other beings are powerless. But if “being is power” (Plato), then power over being is power over power, and the ideal or perfect agent will enjoy the optimal concentration of efficacy which is compatible with there being other efficacious agents. This is the social view of being and power, according to which even the greatest possible or perfect power (see perfection) “influences,” rather than coerces or fully determines, the partly self-determined actions of others. The non-social or monopolistic view seems to be involved when it is said that omnipotence conflicts with human freedom, or that the omnipotent must be able to prevent all evil, that is, render others powerless to produce it.


The social conception of divine power implies two things: 1) the reality of secondary causes, causes other than the supreme cause; 2) the ability of secondary causes to produce effects even upon the primary agent himself. 1) was denied by Occasionalism, but asserted by Thomism and most theologians. 2) was until recently generally denied. God was said never to be passive or acted upon in any relation. But this meant that secondary causes produced no effects that were real as measured by the being of God, since their effects made no difference to him, and thus, since his omniscience is the measure of reality, the effects could not be real after all. To avoid this and other paradoxes or contradictions there is today a strong tendency to combine 1) and 2), making influence between God and creatures a fully social relation.


It is often held that “omnipotence” cannot be used for the social view, since the term means “power to do all things”—absolute or unlimited power—whereas power which is shared is limited or relative. But if power is in principle shared, then the ideal power, though in a sense relative, need not be “limited” if this means, “less than the greatest possible.” The greatest possible power cannot be absolute or monopolistic, if being is essentially social. The possibility of an absolute monopoly is too controversial to put into the definition of so universally used a term as omnipotence. Furthermore, ideally great social power may be truly absolute in goodness, the “unqualifiedly righteous” as well as the greatest possible power, relative only in the sense of involving some sort of partial dependence upon others for the effects it achieves (including effects upon its own being). One may question whether all-powerfulness, as a religious idea, ever has meant unqualified power to do all things, leaving nothing else for others to do. For instance, it has not meant power to commit sins or to repent of sins. There has always been a distinction between God’s power and the power or powers that effect evil. Finally, to say, with the high religions, that God “loves” us, accords ill with denying that we make any difference to him by our actions, or effect in him any joy or sorrow which he would not as well have had without us. Just as the greatest possible power may be the same as the optimal form and degree of power, but not the same as a power-monopoly, so the greatest possible independence, or freedom from effects produced by others, may be the same as the optimal or best way and degree of suffering (or enjoying) such effects, but quite different from the zero degree. To be influenced, no matter how appropriately and excellently, by others, will seem a defect only to one who sees no meaning to “ideally appropriate reception of influences.”


Omnipotence is influence (and susceptibility to influence) ideal in quality, degree, and scope, so that all beings are subject to its optimal (not absolute) control. This control is “irresistible” in the sense that no being can simply withdraw from its reach, and that nothing can prevent it from continuing its beneficent work everlastingly. Thus the idea of some skeptics that it is at least barely possible that all existence should cease, vanish into non-entity, is a denial of the omnipotence of God, who exists necessarily, and whose continued existence in some sphere of activity or universe cannot fail.


Since a social result is jointly produced by mutual influences, the best possible power will not be best in that no greater results than it achieves were possible, but in that such better results were possible, not because the supreme power might have been more supreme, but because the lesser powers might have been less inferior. Thus a best possible power in God need not imply a best possible world; for any possible world is in part self-determined, a world of partly self-made and self-making constituents. Further, if the very meaning of power is social interaction, then mechanical analogies should give way in theology to those drawn from the higher life of man. God does not, then, “make” the world as a carpenter makes a table, with the alleged difference that his material is “nothing” rather than wood; he leads the world as a father leads his children, the good father being he whose sensitiveness enables him also to be led by each child in proportion to the ability of each to contribute to life, including even, or especially, the life of the father. If this proportionality of passivity admits ideal perfection—and why should it not—then only God could possess such perfection. And proportional passivity, not the traditional impassivity, seems to describe God as the being imitation of whom constitutes the ideal for human striving. Mere independence of others seems not a valid ideal, but a caricature of the error of Stoicism.


See attributes of God; cause; God as personal; infinite; perfect; transcendence.


G. T. Fechner, Zendavesta (1851), Chapter 11; A. E. Garvie, The Christian Faith (1937); O. Pfleiderer, Grundriss der Christlichen Glaubens- und Sittenlehre (1888).




Property (of deity) of being in all places and things. Sometimes, said (as by Kant) to be merely virtual, a presence as to power or control, not as to being; but others hold that space and time being essentially patterns of interaction, where a thing acts (and is acted upon) is where it actually is. So far as two things interact directly, without time lapse or mediation by other things, they are, on this view, in the same place. “My neighbor is he with whom I intimately interact.” (Peirce). Omnipresence is opposed, not only to total, but also to partial, absence, or localization—action upon this thing and not upon that (unless perhaps ineffective, negligible action).


Except God, entities are present only partially or locally, so that when it is said God is not really in space, it may be meant that he suffers no localization, no limitation upon his active relations with things.


Presence relatively without localization is a common phenomenon. The human mind seems to be in many parts of the brain at once, not in some one atom or point. This gives analogical basis for conceiving strict omnipresence. If all things are to God’s mind as brain cells, that is, each directly contributing and receiving influences to and from his consciousness, then God is strictly everywhere, present but non-localized. Newton’s “Space is the sensorium of God” seems to point in this direction. Even Thomism uses this analogy.


The reason more was not made of it is that God was supposed, by nearly all theologians until recently, to act but not to interact, to impart influences but receive none. On this, see G. W. Leibniz, Correspondence with Clarke—Opera philosophica (ed. by Erdmann, 1840), 746 ff.


See infinity; omnipotence; transcendence.




(Lat., omnis, all; scire, know)

Knowledge of all things, perfect knowledge. Traditionally, “all things” was taken to include future events as determinate in every detail, whereas many recent thinkers deny that there are any such entities as determinate future events and hold, with Gerson, Socinus, et. al., that God knows the future as it is, as more or less indeterminate. As the future becomes present, or the indeterminate determinate, there will be new facts for God to know. Thus “knowledge of all facts” does not necessarily imply in the knower, either foreknowledge in the traditional sense or immutability; for the “all” may not be a sum eternally complete, but a growing totality which must be known temporally if at all.


An explanation of omniscience sometimes given is that the Cause of all, in knowing himself and his power, necessarily knows what he is able to produce, hence knows all things. But this would imply only that God knows all possible worlds as possible, and not that he knows just which world, of those he might produce, he actually does produce. If knowledge-of-the-world-as-actual is contained in God’s self-knowledge, then the actuality of the world must be part of the divine being, and if this actuality is contingent, then there must be contingency in God. It seems, indeed, self-evident, that infallible knowledge-of-X must have X as part of its own being. Human knowledge seems often not to contain its objects, but human knowledge is in large part highly indirect, and for this very reason highly fallible.


Perfect immediate knowledge can hardly have the actuality of its objects simply outside itself. This does not imply “pantheism” in the usual sense; for there may be two aspects of God, only one of which knows or contains contingent things (see pantheism, panentheism, transcendence).


The knower of all facts must know the facts of evil. Does this make evil a part of God? To know the quality of suffering, it seems that one must suffer. An idea of a feeling depends for its content entirely upon possession, at some time at least, of a feeling of the kind in question. It may seem that we can know as a fact that another is suffering without ourselves suffering at the time, but this knowledge is pale and abstract, and even it is dependent upon past suffering of our own. Traditional treatments of omniscience (as “impassive”, wholly independent, etc.), seem to imply that God’s knowing is akin to our most abstract and indirect awareness of things, a “knowledge about” not a “knowledge by acquaintance,” remote not intimate, and by implication fallible and inadequate in the highest degree. And even so the implication remains that if God knows about suffering he must also in some measure be acquainted with it, that is, feel it. Thus the idea of a suffering God, who knows our sorrows by sharing them, is the only consistent, as it is the most religiously inspiring, conception of the Omniscient.


Though to be acquainted with suffering is to suffer, to be acquainted with sin is not to sin, for moral evil is not a quality but the absence of one. (See perfection.) It is the wilful failure to give adequate place in one’s awareness (at the moment of choosing a course of action ) to the interests of others. It is a kind of ignorance, though a voluntary and perhaps momentary one. To know ignorance it is not necessary to be ignorant, any more than to understand “not large” one must be small. If God sees the future (truly) as indeterminate, he can understand ignorance, for ignorance is an indeterminate awareness (or absence of determinate awareness) of what in itself is determinate, and thus ignorance is subjectively like knowledge of the future except that in true knowledge of the future the object is itself indeterminate and given as such. Thus ignorance is the double privation: absence of determinate awareness and absence of awareness that the object is similarly indeterminate. Hence God can know by acquaintance all the positive elements of ignorance and of sin without being ignorant or sinful. But there are no negative elements out of which the feeling of suffering can be constructed. Pain does not consist in the absence of pleasure. Thus the omniscient must suffer but he may and must be sinless.


A. E. Garvie, Christian Faith (1937); O. Pfleiderer, Grundriss der Christlichen Glaubens- and Sittenlehre (1888); O. Fock, Der Socinianismus (1847), pp. 437ff.




(Gr. pan, all; en, in; theos, god)

The view that all things are within the being of God, who yet is not merely the whole of actual things. If God were merely the system of actual things, then, should a different system be possible, it would be possible that God should not exist, or should not be himself. Hence either God must be a purely contingent being, and anything might happen to him, including his destruction, or all things, just as they are, are necessary. On either construction God and other things are upon the same metaphysical level, whether of pure contingency or of pure necessity. Panentheism holds, on the contrary, that the self-identity of God is independent of the particular things which exist and the particular totality they form, and that consequently God may exist necessarily, although all other beings exist contingently. God exists, to be sure, in a different state for every difference in the existing whole, for he is that whole, but it is a different state of the same being, or of the whole as having a flexible selfhood, the individual essence of which is unaffected by the accidents of existence. This makes the inclusive whole analogous to a human personality, which contains many things not essential to its self-identity. A man is the sum of things which fall within his experience, but he is more than that sum, and many an item could have been missing (or have been replaced by another) without making his self-identity impossible. Panentheism claims to reconcile the legitimate motives of ordinary pantheism (God is simply the de facto—or the eternal—whole of things) and the contrary extreme (things other than God are in no way parts of his being). Panentheism admits that there is in God some thing independent of particulars, but holds that this something is merely the “essence” of God whose entire nature includes also accidents, each of which is the integration of all the accidental being in a given state of the universe. Panentheism sees in God not just another example of whole or totality, unity in multiplicity, but the supreme and most excellent example, as He is the most excellent example of “goodness,” “knowledge,” and other conceptions. This supreme example as such deserves to be interpreted with care, and not (as commonly happens) according to casual associations, of such words as “all,” “universe,” “whole,” “parts.”


The earliest clear-cut panentheism (though without use of the term) seems to have been that of Fechner. The theological views of Montague and Whitehead are recent examples.


See God as Personal; omniscience; pantheism; perfection; transcendence.


G. T. Fechner, Zendavesta (1831) Chapter 11; W. P. Montague, The Ways of Things (1940) Chapter 6; A. N. Whitehead, Process and Reality (1929), last chapter; V. Ferm s article, Panentheism, in the Dictionary of Philosophy (1941). ed. by D. Runes.




(Gr., pan, all; logos, word)

Describes Hegel’s doctrine, “the real is the rational, the rational the real”; hence logic (theory of thinking) coincides with ontology (theory of being).




(Gr., pan, all; theos, god)

The doctrine that the universe, the all of reality, is God. Unless further defined, the doctrine is exceedingly vague. What sort of unity and character has the cosmic whole which is equated with God? Is it a growing or a forever-fixed totality (see eternity)? Is it conscious? Do the parts possess freedom in relation to the whole, or the whole in relation to the parts? To which of the parts is the whole most analogous in character? Such questions are not answered by the mere identification of universe (in some sense) with God (in some sense). Confusion must result, therefore, from the employment of the term (without careful qualification) as synonym for an “impersonal” God, as though the universe as a whole could not possibly possess personality; or for the absence of freedom in man, as though a whole must coercively control its parts; or for sin and ignorance on God’s part, as though properties of parts may automatically be ascribed to their wholes, so that, for example, a small part would mean a small whole! Such usages are attempts to smuggle highly controversial doctrines into the mere definition of a term in common use.


The phrase, “all is God,” has two chief meanings, according as we construe the “all.”


1) The totality of actual being, just as it stands, is simply God. In that case, God is completely bound by actuality, and actuality is completely bound by God. (See transcendence.) Neither God nor anything else has an identity distinguishable from that of other things, all is simply one and one is simply all. This view does indeed deny personality to God, and indeed it denies all definite character to anything; contradicting freedom, making it impossible to absolve God from responsibility for evil, at the same time making man as necessary to all the good in the world, and so by implication as much its creator, as God (there being no degrees of necessity). Spinoza’s philosophy is the classic example of this type of pantheism.


2) The totality of actual being and of potential being, this totality viewed as having a “flexible self-identity” independent of its actual parts, is God. On this view, actuality is not an eternally fixed sum but a variable, and God is the being who alone preserves his essential self-hood no matter what else may or may not be actual, or who has enjoyed and will enjoy “himself” at all times whatever. Not that God is in all respects the same no matter what his parts may be, but that he is in all cases the same individual, as a man (though here not in all circumstances) is the same person through the variety of his experiences. On this view there is an individual essence of God which is not identical with the whole of actuality, nor is any actual thing part of this essence; even though God as a whole, essence and accidents, is the same as actuality as a whole. (See transcendence.) This second form of pantheism is better called panentheism. The first form might be called “traditional” pantheism, since it is usually, though perhaps not often clearly and unambiguously, intended by the term.


See David of Dinant; immanence; omniscience; perfect; theism; Toland.


Wm. James, A Pluralistic Universe (1909); W. P. Montague, The Ways of Things (1940); B. Varisco, Know Thyself (1915).



 Peirce, Charles Sanders (1839-1914)

American philosopher and scientist. Recognized by William James as the originator of philosophical Pragmatism, a theory of meaning which sees the import of concepts in their “conceivable practical bearings” (the emphasis is on “conceivable” a concept need not be actually useful to have meaning, provided one can imagine a use for it). Peirce also influenced James (and Royce) through a daring cosmology, which regarded the laws of nature as merely the most stable habits of nature, not absolute or immutable, but evolving from an aboriginal chaos in the infinitely remote past toward perfect regularity in the infinitely remote future. Matter he held to be “mind hide-bound by habit,” the portion of nature in which creative spontaneity is slight, hence largely without consciousness, though not without feeling. There is a continuum of all possible (though not of all actual) forms and qualities, so that differences commonly regarded as of kind (such as that between a color sensation and a sound sensation) are really differences of degree (theory of Synechism). The whole of evolution is a “divine poem.” In a few passages of Peirce’s writings it seems to be suggested that God is in some manner enriched by the world process, himself a temporal being, but in others God is referred to in traditional fashion as wholly independent of time and the world.


Primarily a logician, Peirce thoroughly revised many portions of logic and was one of the chief creators of symbolic logic. Among the matters best worked out in his fragmentary and often difficult writings are his frequency theory of probable reasoning, his theory of the categories (also called Phenomenology), and his studies of the kinds and uses of signs.


The categories are First, Second, Third; or Feeling-quality, Reaction and Representation. A mere feeling, abstracted as much as possible from contrast and relation, is monadic or first; an experience of effort-resistance or passivity-activity, is dyadic or second; a sign, involving something meant, something by which it is meant, and a state of mind or mental habit for which the meaning obtains, is triadic or third. Signs or thirds themselves can be classified according to the same triadic system. Thus if a sign means primarily through its quality or internal character it is called an Icon (or resemblance); if through its reaction with something else, an Index; if through a mental habit, a symbol. An Icon tells us what something might be like; an Index that something exists; a Symbol that something is thought. In combination these elements yield propositions, arguments, and all the logical forms (never before so completely analyzed by one simple key idea.)


Peirce published only articles in his lifetime. Six volumes of Collected Papers, edited by C. Hartshorne and P. Weiss, appeared in 1931-35. They contain all the philosophical articles published in Peirce’s lifetime, and, in greater quantity, writings found among his remains. On Peirce’s theological views see Hartshorne, “A Critique of Peirce’s Idea of God,” Philos. Rev., L (1941). 516-23.


The best life of Peirce is by Weiss, in the American Dictionary of Biography (1928-36), ed. by A. Johnson and      Malone.


Material on theory of the Categories is chiefly in Vol. I on Pragmatism in Vol. V, on Metaphysics and Philosophy of Religion in VI, and on Logic in II.



 perfect, perfection

(Lat., per, through; facere, do, make)

Literally, finished, made thoroughly. Since God is generally viewed as not made at all, his “completeness” requires special analysis. Traditionally it is explained as the total absence of “defects,” or the presence of all possible positive values. But many thinkers deny that all possible values are “compossible,” capable of realization in one actuality. An alternative to the traditional view is that in God all actual values are present actually, and all possible ones are bound to be present if and when actualized. Thus God would pool the values of existence, the actual as actual, the potential as potential. Any possible being other than he must then in its value be but a fragment of his value, and thus he must surpass any even possible being other than himself. Yet he could also surpass himself; for, as hitherto potential values became actual, his own actual value would increase. So the perfect would be “the self-surpassing being who surpasses all conceivable others than himself.” This may be called “dynamic perfection,” since it admits change in the perfect—though only change toward more value. Perfection is perfectibility (Tsanoff). The other, or static, form of perfection is, “the un-self-surpassing being who surpasses all conceivable others.” This has been the usual view, defended by the query, how can the perfect, that which lacks nothing, have any further value to acquire? But if the total absence of potentiality of further value, or the total realization of possible actuality in a “pure actuality,” is itself not possible, then the “failure” to possess it is not a defect in he proper sense—the “it” being here meaningless, a mere absurdity.


Dynamic and static perfection contradict each other only if applied to the same being in the same respect, since there is no formal contradiction in the idea of a being dynamically perfect in respect R and statically perfect in respect A. Thus God may be self-surpassingly happy or blissful, yet happier than all others than himself; but at the same time, un-self-surpassingly good or benevolent, while more benevolent than all others. For, as the world which his goodness cherishes gains new values, his satisfaction in this world may increase. This assumes a genuine indeterminacy in the future as known by God (see foreknowledge); but the traditional view of omniscience as a seeing of the real as it is at all times, or from the standpoint of eternity, also involves an assumption, namely that there exists a final sum of reality, complete once for all, and capable of being known “in a single now.” This assumption is now widely challenged.


The perfect as static-dynamic enjoys both self-identity and self-difference. As self-surpassing, the perfect enjoys self-contrast; as un-self-surpassing, he enjoys self-equality. If unity with difference is the obvious trait of concrete experience, from which mere unity or mere difference is abstracted, then static perfection must be abstract, and reflexive all-surpassing or dynamic perfection must be perfection in its concreteness. Abstractions naturally cannot surpass themselves; only concrete subjects or persons can do that. (See God as personal) The static perfection of God means that his abstract aspect surpasses all other abstractions; while his dynamic perfection means that he, as self-surpassing, surpasses all other concrete beings or self-surpassers. For example, only he grows without ever decaying, takes on new values without ever losing any—since his being pools all actuality, and since the past has the mode of actual, and only the future the mode of potential, reality. (See time).


Are there negative values in the perfect? Just as the total absence of potentiality may be impossible, so may the total absence of evil, suffering, for instance, be impossible. And if the perfect pools the actual, it must contain suffering. But whereas suffering is a positive quality, not the mere absence of one, moral evil, like ignorance, is a non-quality—namely a (wilful) not-taking-account of the interests of others. It is non-interest in interests. True, it is deliberate, but the evil is not in the deliberateness, but in the deliberate non-interest. The being which is perfect in knowledge (see omniscience) can no more be uninterested in, than it can be ignorant of, any real interest. The whole-value no more includes, as its own property, the absence of qualities in this or that part than a whole is small because its parts are so. Thus the traditional theory of the negativity of evil is applicable to evils of ignorance and neglect, but not to suffering; for it is precisely positive knowledge of and attention to the sufferings of others that compels, and indeed consists in, sympathetic suffering of our own.


As static, the perfect is immutable, independent, simple, unextended, absolute in knowledge, goodness, and power—nearly all the traditional attributes.           As dynamic, the perfect is mutable (though only through additions to his reality; dependent (though only for the particular degree and kind of accidental values it attains, not for his existence or basic character as static-dynamic); he is complex (though incapable of dissolution into parts); he is identical with the whole of the real in space-time, ever gaining new objects to know and exert his goodness upon, and thereby reaching new satisfaction (tinged with suffering).


In sum, the perfect is superior to the non-perfect in all positive abilities, including the ability of self-enrichment through the enrichment of others, or the enrichment of others through self-enrichment. He surpasses the very essence of others, but only in accidents can he surpass himself.


See infinite; omnipotence; omniscience; panentheism.


R. A. Tsanoff, Religious Crossroads (1942); E. S. Brightman, The Problem of God (1930); C. Hartshorne, Man’s Vision of God (1941).



 Ptolemaic astronomy

For fourteen centuries the leading theory of the movements of heavenly bodies, until Copernicus, Kepler, and Newton constructed a superior one. Claudius Ptolemaeus (fl. in Alexandria, 127-151) held that each of the bodies, other than the earth, in the solar system moved in a small circle or “epicycle” whose center moved in a large circle around the earth. The theory was fitted to the new facts which became known during the Middle Ages by complicated additions of epicycles—or epi-epicycles. Thus the axioms, the earth does not move, and the heavenly motions are circular (this being the most perfect form of curve), could nominally be retained. Ptolemy had the merit of attempting to find mathematical order in nature, and thus he carried out the first part of the Whiteheadian injunction, “Seek simplicity, and then mistrust it;” the Arabians accumulated facts which showed that the simplicity was deceptive; and Copernicus achieved a new simplicity which, having been distrusted by Kepler, gave way to still a newer and subtler one—and so on.


C. Ptolemaeus, Syntaxis (Heiberg’s ed. of the astronomical works of Ptolemy, 1899-1907); A. Berry, Short History of Astronomy (1898); Sir Wm. Smith’s Dictionary of Gk. and Rom. Biog. (1849).



 Renouvier, Charles (1818-1903)

French philosopher; held that reality consists of phenomena, experiences of subjects. Influenced by Kant and Leibniz, he rejected the thing-in-itself of the first and the causal determinism of both earlier thinkers. Probably the first modern to do justice to the aspect of contingency in experience (followed in this by Wm. James), and one of the first to break with the absolutistic conception of God, who was, he held, perfect in goodness and intelligence, but not in every respect unlimited. A radical finitist, he affirmed a first moment of time—an actually infinite series being logically impossible.


See finite God; infinite.


C. Renouvier, Essais de critique générale (1851-64); Le Personnalisme (1903); Uchronie (European history as it might have happened, had human freedom chosen another alternative) (1857).



 Spencer, Herbert (1820-1903)

English philosopher. Trained in engineering; one of the first to make bold use of the idea of evolution, applying it to all the fields of inquiry. He enjoyed a great vogue, but his ideas were comprehensive rather than exact: his claim to deduce evolution from the conservation of energy is a curiosity of intellectual history. Proclaiming Mansell’s doctrine of the inconceivability of God’s nature, he tried to reconcile science and religion in the one proposition that the ultimate is unknowable. Evolution was from simple homogeneity to complex heterogeneity. Spencer in part anticipated, in part echoed, Darwin.


See sociology.


H. Spencer, System of Synthetic Philosophy (First Principles of Biology, Psychology, Sociology, Ethics) (1862-92); On Moral and Physical Education (1861); etc.      



 Spinoza, Benedict (1632-1677)

“God-intoxicated” to some, “atheist” to others; a monist, affirming there is but one substance or reality. Substance, “God or nature,” is “absolutely infinite,” perfect. So-called substances are merely “modes” of Substance. Neither they nor Substance act freely in the sense of having alternatives for action. Substance can only act out its nature; freedom is self-determination. We can be free by seeing ourselves as part of God’s self-determined being. “Intellectual love of God” is salvation, which, through Bible and churches, even common men can obtain. Spinoza was one of the first to apply scientific scholarship to the Bible (in his Tractatus). Atheistic or not, his views are deductions from Substance, defined as independent existence, (existence in se) and God, defined as absolutely independent, self-active being. (See omnipotence.) The purely self-active can he only active toward us, while we remain passive toward it; hence, since substantiality means self-activity, in relation to God we are insubstantial. So God loves only himself, not us. Spinoza forced into his system many precious ethical insights. He wrote chiefly in Latin, otherwise in Dutch.


See Enlightenment, pantheism.


B. Spinoza, Tract. Theol. Politicus (1670); Ethics, demonstrated in geometrical order (1677); etc.




(A.S. tima, akin to A.S. tid—origin of tide—and Dan. time, hour)

As quantity, the “measure of change” (Aristotle); more generally, the system of relationships which change involves, such as before, after, and contemporary. Before and after are usually left undefined. However, Augustine attempted to define them as follows: the past (or what is before the present event) is the remembered as such; the future, the anticipated as such. This makes time essentially psychological. Augustine inferred from this theory that time does not apply to God, but he seems not to have reflected sufficiently upon the fact that creaturely memory and anticipation seem far from coextensive with past and future, and that most of the past might be defined as that which we fail to remember (unless in deep subconsciousness). Only with a perfect memory could past and remembered be identical, and who unless God could enjoy such a memory?


The psychological theory explains the difference between before and after through the difference between memory and anticipation. The explanation can be carried further. Bergson, Whitehead, and others hold that memory is awareness of the determinate and actual, while anticipation is awareness of the more or less indeterminate and potential. “Time is a species of objective modality.” (Peirce.) It is the way in which the actual or determined is related to the potential or indeterminate-determinable. “Time is creation or nothing.” (Bergson.) Events become, but there is no corresponding unbecoming of events. A happening, once it has occurred, evermore or “immortally” has occurred (Whitehead). This modal or creation theory of time, when combined, as it has often been, with the psychological theory, implies that past events are somehow, by someone, remembered forever; but that future events are anticipated (even by Omniscience) only as more or less indefinite possibilities, this being what they really are so long as future. (See Gerson, Levi ben.) The modal theory explains time’s “arrow” (Eddington) or directional character, since it makes the basic temporal relations asymmetrical or irreversible. If B remembers A while A has no memory (conscious or unconscious feeling whose object is determinate) of B, then A’s actuality will be involved in B’s as its past, but B’s actuality will not be involved in A’s. Thus the modal theory may also be called the “snowball” theory (Bergson).


Relations of contemporary things are defined by their symmetry or mutuality of involvement, either as mutually involving or mutually not involving each other. The latter or negative view is held by Whitehead and by relativity physics, according to which contemporaries are without effect on each other. Perhaps, however, there is such effect, but it is too slight or unsystematic to be verified in human perception and inference.


Ancient thought failed to state clearly either the psychological or the modal theory of time, and saw in change a puzzling and melancholy mixture of being and not-being. It was not observed that past events, at least, need not be classified as non-entities. Change, to have positive meaning, must involve creation of the previously unreal, but it need not involve destruction of any previous reality. Addition, though without subtraction, of reality is real change and sufficient for the reality of time. And though for human consciousness the past is for the most part no longer possessed, the psychological theory of time need not measure change by human psychology. The cosmos or God need not be so forgetful as man, whose mind is precisely not cosmic or divine. Thus the non-psychological or supposedly objective theory of time, in its usual form, has been perhaps unwittingly subjective in a peculiarly narrow sense, in that human forgetting was taken a proof of the unreality or cosmic forgottenness of past events.


Some objectivists (as Santayana) as well as some idealists suppose that future, past, and present events are all real in the same sense. But then time, or the order of change, is really the order of an unchanging totality, “all events,” each of which, in its place in the totality, or in “eternity” simply is, rather than becomes. This is the attempt to reduce becoming to mere being, to deny all difference in principle between memory and anticipation or between actuality and potency. It is a “spatialization” of time (Bergson) which explains it away.


The reality of time has been questioned on the ground that it involves contradictions. For example, it is held both necessary and impossible to conceive a first event of time. Some answer that a first event is conceivable, others that an actually infinite past involves no strict inconceivability, although a kind of unimaginability. Again, it has been argued (by Bradley and McTaggart) that, since an event which is before another event retains this position when both are in the past and already enjoyed it when both were in the future, the happening of the event changes nothing in its relationships and hence effects nothing and is unreal. The assumption is that future events are real and have real relations. The creation theory denies this, holding that there are no determinate future events, and that what are called such are dates on the calendar, or rather, items in the abstract schema which distinguishes the future as relatively indeterminate from the pure indeterminacy of possibility in general. An event comes into being as involving (remembering) earlier events, and thus as related to them, but such relations do not in their full determinateness exist in advance. Time is not a mere relation of becomings but a becoming of relations. The determinate present is related to the determinate past, not vice versa. We have to do with George Washington as an individual; he had not and (unless in heaven) still has not to do with us as individuals but only as the vague class, “my (Washington’s) posterity.” Washington is past to us not because we do not have his full actuality as content of our present awareness, but because, so far as we are aware of him, it is as having nothing to do with us while we do have to do with him. Were we to retain him in our awareness ever so perfectly, he would still be past to this awareness so long as his non-relationship to it was given. What is past is not what is unreal now but what, as real now, does not contain in its nature the relationships in which it stands. These belong to the present as such, which alone stands in no relations except those which it intrinsically involves.


The denial that the past is real now implies that statements ascribing determinate characters to past events cannot be true, for truth is correspondence to the real. The inactuality of the future means that statements ascribing wholly determinate characters to it are all false. (See Gerson, Levi ben.)


Even so destructive an agency as war does not remove from actuality any events actually elapsed or any experiences actually experienced, but only cuts off the hope of certain additional experiences which otherwise might have been enjoyed. The vast scope of human forgetting, by a natural anthropomorphism, tends to make us feel that the values of the present, as apparently not containing those of the past, plus the values of the near future, make up almost the sum of values to be taken into account. This anxious absorption in the present and near future may be the real “defect” of “temporal” existence of which Berdyaev and so many have complained, but it is a defect of human temporality not of temporality as such. To dismiss time as of merely creaturely concern without exploring the possibility of a super-creaturely form of time is as illegitimate as to deny personality to God merely because creaturely personality, like creaturely anything, is imperfect. (See analogy; God as personal).


If all experience is indestructible, then, as is often said, we are immortal not just in the future but in our present being. Our present self-realization contributes to the real not some deposit or mere effect, it contributes itself. If there be a divine form of temporality, such that God is able to receive new content, then our “service” to hint is to become, and help our fellows to become, as precious additions to the divine being as possibly. A purely timeless God could receive no addition and could not in any way be served or advantaged. The history of theology must have been vastly different than it has been had the modal-psychological theory of time been clearly thought of two thousand or even five hundred years before Bergson.


See cycles of times; Zurvan.


Augustine, Confessions; A. N. Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas (1933); DeWitt H. Parker, Experience and Substance (1941); C. D. Broad, Mind and its Place in Nature (1925). (The last gives a criticism of the type of theory set forth above.)




(Lat., trans, across; scandare, to climb)

Used especially for the superiority and independence of deity, and in contrast to immanence. But the two may be so defined as to be capable of inhering in the same being. God may be both “in” and “beyond” the world. If he is merely beyond, then he is not in; if merely in, then not beyond; but remove the merely, and he may be both. Sheer transcendence, God merely outside the world, suggests that the world is equally outside God, sheer separation being a mutual relation. Transcendence would thus not be unique to deity. But non-exclusive transcendence, God both in and beyond things, may be non-mutual and unique; for things may be in God yet not beyond him. If so, he is whole and they are parts (see panentheism); and if the things are contingent, God will have accidents. But he may also have an essence which is purely necessary, and this may be “in” the world while the world is not in it. (What is as a whole accidental may yet involve a necessary part or factor; but the necessary factor can contain no accident.) A necessary essence may be beyond the world, in the sense of being independent of just what world exists. God as both essence and accidents contains the world, but even in his accidental aspect is beyond it in being a whole greater than the parts through an over-all integrity or “whole-quality” (Wertheimer) that expresses, not just the world, but himself as possessing the world. Thus the transcendence of the divine essence is abstract (see perfection), the world being external to it; the transcendence of God’s total being, essence and accidents, is concrete, the world and all reality being internal to it. The one is mere Cause, abstracting from all effects; the other is Cause-with-effects.


The denial of abstract or essential transcendence is what many mean by “pantheism.” Such denial destroys freedom and self-identity in God; for he then has no essential nature independent of the world, just as it is, and either all difference between what is and what might be disappears, since all is necessary, or else all is contingent, and God may become utterly undivine at any moment (where nothing is necessary, anything may happen).


The denial of concrete transcendence might be called deism (but most traditional “theism” would have to be so classified). This denial destroys the inclusiveness of God. God-and-the-world becomes a whole which is more than God—for how, on the assumption, can it be less, or merely equal to him? Concrete transcendence banishes the paradox by identifying “God and the world” with “God in his total being,” in which total being the world is included as content of the divine knowledge and love. The insistence of religion upon the superiority of God is not more marked than its teaching that we are within, not outside, his “love and care.” If it be said that this does not mean, within his reality, it must be replied that then either God’s love and care are not parts of his reality, or else their direct objects are entirely external to the love and care which embraces them. It hardly seems that the infallible adequacy of God’s awareness to its objects is compatible with such externality.


Transcendence and immanence have abstract and concrete aspects thanks to which the seeming mutual opposition between the two disappears in a complementary contrast. Not only is God both in and beyond the world, but the world is both outside of and within God; for it is not involved in his necessary essence, but is in his total being as also accidental. The world is not beyond God; for where it is, there is he; whereas he is where the world is not, for example, actually in some other, say, earlier world, and potentially in some other possible world.


See infinite; omnipresence; pantheism; theism.


R. A. Tsanoff, Religious Crossroads (1942); A. N. Whitehead, Process and Reality (1929), last chapter; G. T. Fechner, Zendavesta (1851). chap. 11.



 Whitehead, Alfred North (b. 1861)

British-American philosopher. Taught mathematics and theoretical physics at Cambridge, 1911-14, and at University College, London, 1914-24. Professor of philosophy at Harvard University from 1924 until retirement in 1938, during which time his chief philosophical works appeared (earlier writings being either mathematical or near the boundary between mathematics [or physics] and philosophy). Whitehead’s system has been called “the most large-minded synthesis since Hegel” (Lovejoy). It includes a conception of cosmic evolution recalling views of Bergson, Peirce, Alexander, or Lloyd Morgan; a Platonic doctrine of forms or “eternal objects;” a theology which, like much recent Protestant thought, conceives God as receiving enrichment from the world process and so in some sense temporal. But the central and most original feature is the theory of “societies of occasions.” The unit of reality is neither mere being nor mere becoming, but the “experient occasion,” as a social union of a number of such occasions, and having aspects both of being and of becoming. Occasions immediately “prehend” or feel other occasions, and this prehension is sympathetic, a “feeling of feeling.” There is no hard core of dead matter, such as could neither have feelings itself nor furnish content to the sympathetic feelings of others. A man, for example, feels his own just past feelings in immediate memory, but he also feels feelings just previously felt by his bodily cells or other entities in his body. All such entities are constituted by streams of experience on some level, however primitive. Each such stream (or “society with personal order”) is made one by its feeling of feelings in its own past. But also, by feeling of feeling it is united to other streams. Self-identity and unity with others do not differ absolutely. Egoism and altruism have the same root in the immediate sympathy of the occasion for other occasions. Time and space are only the relational structures into which the “of” is articulated in the becoming of feelings of feelings. The past consists of occasions prehended in a given occasion a, but not prehending it; the future, of occasions not prehended in a, but such that, if they occur, they are bound to prehend a. The non-immanence of future occasions in the present gives freedom or indetermination. Strictly, no future events exist, but only certain potentialities from which events can be created. This holds even for God, who knows events as fully determinate only as the events occur, and who himself is in process (or process is in him) of a uniquely perfect kind by which he inherits all the richness of past events. Thus in God our experiences, though they “perish, yet live forevermore.” God is perfect in his power of synthesizing events into the most meaningful whole they are capable of forming, but just what events shall occur as material for this synthesis depends partly upon the inherent freedom or self-determination which is the essence of every event-unit of reality. God can set limits to the discords or conflicts resulting from the plurality of freedoms, and in this way he is the “ground of order” or “harmony” in the world. But he cannot destroy freedom, and he does not wish to diminish it below the point at which decreased risk of conflict would mean an equally increased risk of the opposite evil, namely “tedium,” loss of “zest” in the occasions. God has two natures, 1) the Primordial, which is “infinite,” “unconditioned,” “unchanged,” and the home of the eternal forms, objects of his “conceptual feelings”—in so far, like the God of Thomist and other traditional theologies—but is not “eminent in actuality,” rather by itself is “abstract,” “deficient in actuality;” 2) the Consequent Nature which is finite, “conditioned by the creative advance of the world,” and thus “fluent”, “in a sense temporal,” “concrete,” “conscious.” It is by the consequent nature that there is a “reaction of the world upon God.” Thus God illustrates the chief categories of the system, in that his actuality, like all actuality, is essentially a sympathetic union of experiences responsive to the feelings of others and literally prehending them; and in that he consists neither of mere being nor of mere becoming, but of a) indeterminate but determinable future potentialities, b) the process of creative advance from determinable to determinate occasions, and c) the treasury of past becomings, past events, as “living forevermore,” “immortal” in their indestructible being. The units of change do not change, events do not alter, they only become, but having become they belong always thereafter to the wealth of reality, which is enriched, never diminished, with temporal passage. The final tragedy is not loss of what has been actual, but rather the occurrence of suffering as actual, and also the non-occurrence of what might have been actual had the various freedoms been more fortunately exercised. Such tragedy is inherited by the consequent nature of God to whom it is “profane” to attribute “arbitrary power [see omnipotence) or mere happiness.” Rather God is the “fellow-sufferer who understands,” whose joy has an “heroic” tinge, since it involves sharing in our sorrows.


See infinite; time.


Principal works: A Treatise on Universal Algebra (1898); (with Bertrand Russell) Principia Mathematica (1910-1913); Religion in the Making (1926); Process and Reality (1929); The Aims of Education (1929); Adventures of Ideas (1933); Modes of Thought (1938). The Philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead (1941), ed, by P. A. Schilpp, contains Whitehead’s Ingersoll Lecture on Immortality and Lecture on the Good, also essays by various authors on Whitehead’s philosophy, including “Whitehead’s Philosophy of Religion” by J. S. Bixler and “Whitehead’s Idea of God” by C. Hartshorne. Probably for most readers Adventures of Ideas (especially parts Three and Four) is the best account of the Whiteheadian philosophy, though for the theology the final chapter of Process and Reality is essential.



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