#1183: From Kant to an Organic View of Reality: Scaffolding a Process-Relational Paradigm Shift with Whitehead Scholar Matt Segall

Virtual Reality represents a paradigm shift for how I’ve come to understand the nature of reality, and there’s a corresponding paradigm shift in philosophy in the move from substance metaphysics to process-relational metaphysics that I’ve previously explored with Alfred North Whitehead scholar Matt Segall, in a discussion about 13 process-relational philosophers with Grant Maxwell, and in a talk that I gave on Process Philosophy & VR to The Virginia Philosophy Reality Lab. I invited Segall back on for a Part 2 of discussion to help build some metaphoric scaffolding to help understand this paradigm shift to Process Philosophy, and to talk about his latest book Crossing the Threshold: Etheric Imagination in the Post-Kantian Process Philosophy of Schelling and Whitehead (releasing on April 22, but available for pre-order). Segall frames Kant as a guardian of the threshold, explains how both the German Idealists and Whitehead found inspiration for a more organic philosophy coming out of Kant’s work, and picks up some loose threads about how to understand the role of imagination as a crucial organ to interfacing with the underlying creative processes that form underlying fabric reality according to Whitehead’s cosmology.

Here’s how the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy describes it:

Process philosophy opposes ‘substance metaphysics,’ the dominant research paradigm in the history of Western philosophy since Aristotle. Substance metaphysics proceeds from the intuition—first formulated by the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Parmenides—that being should be thought of as simple, hence as internally undifferentiated and unchangeable. Substance metaphysicians recast this intuition as the claim that the primary units of reality (called “substances”) must be static—they must be what they are at any instant in time. In contrast to the substance-metaphysical snapshot view of reality, with its typical focus on eternalist being and on what there is, process philosophers analyze becoming and what is occurring as well as ways of occurring

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Process Philosophy

This is a pretty big deep dive into unpacking some of the more wonky jargon and neologisms of Whitehead’s process-relational philosophy, but on the other side is a new lens into understanding the nature of reality that is perhaps more aligned with some of the contextual and relational dynamics of virtual reality. I’d recommend this interview about Marshmallow Laser Feast’s Evolver for a specific example of a piece of work that’s leaning heavily into more of an process-relational, interconnected, and organic view of reality. Going back to the Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article, they say, “If we admit that the basic entities of our world are processes, we can generate better philosophical descriptions of all the kinds of entities and relationships we are committed to when we reason about our world in common sense and in science: from quantum entanglement to consciousness, from computation to feelings, from things to institutions, from organisms to societies, from traffic jams to climate change, from spacetime to beauty.” And I would add in contextual integrity philosophy of privacy, identity, and notions of presence within virtual reality.