Process Philosophy: Experience Is Creative

The process philosophers, specifically Alfred North Whitehead, propose a universe that is always changing, versus the essentialist tradition of the Platonists, where everything, particularly truth, is fixed and eternal.

I think there is a benefit to thinking about truth as essential and inherently fixed, stable, especially in a world with Postmodern proclivities. I find essentialism useful in many ways, in how we look at the value of ourselves, for instance. If we have an unchanging, stable essence, then we can see ourselves as more than material, as the materialists would have us believe.

But what process philosophy has to offer that I think is very interesting is the idea that things, particularly life, is subject to change. Niels Bohr comments that we can’t explain life, and so we don’t in science: Taking this claim further, we could say that life is essentially creative, and we could use the process philosophers to come to this conclusion.

Alfred North Whitehead, the most prominent process philosopher, made the distinction between the potential and the actual. According to Whitehead, there is what is actually in the world (actual entities), and there is the potential, what hasn’t happened yet but can.

For Whitehead, the highest manifestation/representation/expression of this idea of the potential is creativity. For Whitehead, creativity is abstract, and indeed, hasn’t happened yet, but can do anything.

From this, we can deduce the idea that experience is essentially creative. Whitehead even has a similar idea to this in his philosophy, specifically when he talks about how experience isn’t a “thing,” an “actual entity,” which means experience is in a sense an abstraction. With this in mind, we can certainly deduce that experience is creative.

The conclusion we can make from this philosophy and metaphysical assertion is the idea that we don’t have to perceive experience in any specific way, and that experience is related to our free will, which leads to freedom of existence, an ontology of becoming rather than being. As Whitehead would probably agree, we are moving towards becoming, meaning we are beings who are creating via our actions and choices, thoughts and subjective realities.

I have said before that existence is a compilation of subjective realities, but this was never meant to be a relativist, subjectivist stance. So I would qualify and amend the statement to including the idea that subjective realities are what push us further: By engaging with other subjective realities, we are engaging in a process of an overall becoming.

Now of course, all of this is very abstract and metaphysical, but what I really want to hammer home is the sheer possibility that exists, with creativity and our existence, our becoming and our experience. We like to think of experience as fixed, not aware that it is something that is happening every moment of our lives, and can be subject to change by reflecting on our experience, and making a series of choices that would differ from what the “experience” would normally dictate. This is hard to do, but process philosophy, with its brilliant emphasis on process, creativity, and the ontology of becoming, allows us to break down some of these limitations. I have always been a proponent of infinite potentialities, and process philosophy strengthens these claims. While the problem with this is it might seem like a confirmation bias, I think it’s important to keep in mind I’m not “proving” or “seeking to prove” infinite potentiality: I’m simply offering an alternative to the deterministic, clockwork way in which we view the universe, and specifically, our place within it. There is a lot that we can do, a lot that is possible, and creativity is the means to be able to achieve this.

So remember that, and don’t be fooled, despite what the naysayers say: Experience is creative. It may take you places, and get you out of the rut that this world desperately tries to keep us in, with fixed beliefs and confusion, determinism and the clockwork.

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