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Geology and a cosmology of the obvious

Obvious after many years of study,
a lifetime of field geology
and subsurface exploration,
and an education as a boy to look at things
as they are.

We overlook the obvious, pass and go on,
searching strange abstractions.
The obvious is still there for all to see.
Turn back and try to see.
I did
it was not easy.

(H.J. MacGillavry)

5    As is evident from my 1965 lecture on
     perception (see bibliography).
6    A.N. Whitehead, `Science and the Modern
,Macmillan, New York, 1925 (W1)
     Idem, `Process and Reality',
     Macmillan, New York, 1929 (W2)
     Idem, `Adventures of Ideas',
     Macmillan, Londen, 1933 (W3)
     Idem, `Essays in Science and Philosophy',
    1947 (W4).
7    Cf W1, Chapter III.

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(website version 2.30 - august 2007)


     1. introduction
     2. continued
     3. my proposal

In 1930, as a student of geology, I joined a five-months fieldwork party to the Netherlands Antilles, organized by our professor Rutten. In such circumstances I take a book with me, that can last me through those five months. I took Whitehead's `Science and the Modern World'. Not only has it lasted me through those months, but it has been in the background of my thinking ever since. 5
Nevertheless the cosmology presented here, though clearly grown from Whitehead's approach, has evolved into a personal synthesis, in which I leave him at the last.

I will first present a concise account of Whitehead's views as gleaned from his texts, numbering his books chronologically W1 to W4. 6
(the headings in italics above the quotations are mine)

pre-Whitehead philosophy
"Philosophical thought has made for itself difficulties by dealing exclusively in very abstract notions, such as those of mere awareness, mere private sensation, mere emotion, mere purpose, mere appearance, mere causation. These are the ghosts of the old `faculties', banished from psychology, but still haunting metaphysics. There can be no `mere' togetherness of such abstractions. The result is that the philosophical discussion is enmeshed in the fallacy of `misplaced concreteness'." (W2, p. 27). 7

"Actual entities - also termed `actual occasions' - are the final real things of which the world is made up. There is no going behind actual entities." (W2, p.27).

"That how an actual entity `becomes' constitutes what that actual entity `is', so that the two descriptions of an actual entity are not independent. Its `being' is constituted by its `becoming'. This is the `principle of process'." (W2, p. 34-35).
"The actualities of the Universe are processes of experience, each process an individual fact. The whole Universe is the advancing assemblage of these processes." (W3, p. 199).

no existent future
"The future is immanent in each present occasion, with its particular relations to the present settled in various degrees of dominance. But no future individual occasion is in existence." (W3, p. 195).
"In the present, the future occasions, as individual realities with their measure of absolute completeness, are non-existent." (W3, p. 194).

doctrine of organism
"This doctrine involves the abandonment of the traditional scientific materialism, and the substitution of an alternative doctrine of organism." (W1, p.116).

no separation between living and non-living organisms
"The gap between living and dead matter is too vague and problematical to bear the weight of such an arbitrary assumption, which involves an essential dualism somewhere." (W1, p. 115).

hierarchic structure
"The concrete enduring entities are organisms, so that the plan of the whole influences the very characters of the subordinate organisms which enter into it." (W1, p. 115).

"In each concrescence there is a twofold aspect of the creative urge. In one aspect there is the origination of simple causal feelings, and in the other aspect, there is the origination of conceptual feelings. These contrasted aspects will be called the physical and the mental poles of an actual entity. " (W2, p. 366).
"We should start from the notion of actuality as in its essence a process. This process involves a physical side which is the perishing of the past as it trans-forms itself into a new creation. It also involves a mental side which is the Soul entertaining ideas." (W3, p. 274).


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