[OPE-L:8001] Process Philosophy

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Wed Nov 13 2002 - 14:49:45 EST

I received this statement from Professor Kleinbach. While this 
summary in no way confirms my hunch of a possible overlap between 
process philosophy and John's critical theoretical work, it is an 
interesting filiation of ideas in its own right.
Yours, Rakesh

Russ Kleinbach.  Marx Via Process.  University Press of America, 1982


The specific problem of this study is to analyze the category of 
consciousness as developed in Alfred North Whitehead's philosophy of 
organism and to explore critically the possible contribution of this 
category to Marxist theory at the point where Marxist theory deals 
with the capacity of humans to intervene creatively and consciously 
in the process of human history. It is important to note that the 
category "Marxist theory" as used in this study does not refer to a 
closed or finished theory or system, or to the theory of only Marx 
and Engels, but rather to the continually developing political, 
economic and social theory which is rooted in the writings of Marx 
and Engels.

The primary source for Whitehead's contribution to this problem will 
come from Process and Reality, and not from the books and studies on 
Whitehead and process philosophy. This is true because to my 
knowledge neither Whitehead nor his students have developed the 
implications of efficient causation, i.e., the "materialist" side of 
his scheme, in balance with his "idealism," as found in final 
causation and developed in Adventures of Ideas. Most particularly 
this has not been done with respect to its implications for 
social-political theory.

Most Marxist theorists are determinists up to a point. But most if 
not all of them give some leeway for humans to interfere consciously 
with their history though they differ on the degree of freedom and 
the weighting and function of the other determining factors which 
influence human history (i.e., geographical-ecological environment, 
structures of productive and social relations, technology, and 

In the social production which men carry on they enter into definite 
relations that are indispensable and independent of their will; these 
relations of production correspond to a definite stage of development 
of their material powers of production. The sum total of these 
relations of production constitutes the economic structure of 
society-the real foundations, on which rise legal and political 
super-structures and to which correspond definite forms of social 
consciousness. The mode of production in material life determines the 
general character of the social, political and spiritual processes of 
life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines the 
existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence determines 
their consciousness.

It is important for radical theorists in the Marxist tradition to 
clarify the issue(s) of the relationship of consciousness to 
existence, particularly as we search for an increasingly enabling 
theoretical understanding of our capacity to intervene consciously 
and creatively in the process of our own history. What should be 
helpful to this effort is a developed theoretical statement, which 
analyzes the potentiality, limits, relations to other determining 
factors, and timing of conscious intervention, which persons or 
groups must take into account if they wish to intervene in their own 
history. Whitehead's analysis may incorporate into the Marxist 
discussion a conception of the relationship of consciousness to 
existence that is developed in the tradition of relational thinkers 
such as Spinoza, Leibniz and Hegel, out of a modern physical science 
and early twentieth century philosophical tradition, and within an 
inclusive, holistic, and non-dualistic world view.

Whitehead's understanding of consciousness can make a fruitful 
contribution to Marxist theory because Whitehead incorporates within 
his understanding of consciousness the time, place and conditions 
wherein emerges the capacity to make judgments for the future. These 
judgments use the determinant data of the past and the present, and 
include an awareness of the relative determinedness of the process of 
history.  The judgments also include an awareness (negative 
judgments) of what the past and the present are not, and an awareness 
of the possibilities of what might be.

Images of the possibilities of what might be are drawn from the 
exclusiveness of what is, creative imagination, and knowledge of the 
nature of reality. This understanding of consciousness provides the 
possibility of contributing to Marxist theory some theoretical 
statements that help to clarify how and when persons and groups can 
intervene and direct the relatively determined historical process of 
which they are a part.

The implication of this study is the possibility that, on this 
question, Whitehead's developed theory may contribute to Marxist 
theory in the following ways:
(i) by enabling the materialist-idealist and freedom-determinism 
questions to be answered or by-passed, by accounting for all of the 
factors in one coherent scheme,
(ii) by further developing the Marxist epistemology in a way which 
affirms a direct human relationship to the real world and also 
accounts for error in human conceptualization,
(iii) by adding the understanding that the quality of subjective 
experience is the locus of value, and by adding an emphasis on the 
social nature of reality to the Marxist concern for human development 
and the overcoming of human alienation, thus clarifying and balancing 
the implicit normative referent in Marxist theory,
(iv) by providing a theoretical scheme which accounts for and makes 
mutually supportive, the dual affirmation that social existence 
determines consciousness and that consciously willed action can 
determine social existence, and
(v) by utilizing the notion of compatibility, derived from Whitehead, 
in conjunction with his more developed theory of causation, to make 
the "materialistic" focus more holistic.

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