Report of the Conference
The Dynamical Ontologies of A.N. Whitehead and N. Hartmannlt
5-7 May 2011, Katowice, Polandl
The conference emThe Dynamical Ontologies of A.N. Whitehead and N. Hartmann/em has taken place in Katowice-Panewniki between the 5th and 7th May 2011. The event was organized jointly by two philosophical societies: the A.N. Whitehead Metaphysical Society from Poland and the Nicolai Hartmann Society from Italy. Besides the representatives of both societies, many scholars from various scientific centers from around the world took part in the conference. The lectures were delivered at the Franciscan Seminary in Katowice-Panewniki that was one of the events co-organizers, joined by the Chair of History of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy of The Pontifical University of John Paul II in Krakow.
During the first day introductory lectures were delivered, whose purpose was to present basic concepts and theses of Whiteheads and Hartmanns ontological systems and to initially discuss some resemblances and differences between them. The first speaker was Roberto Poli from the Nicolai Hartmann Society in Italy who presented a short comparison between the two systems, discussing both the substantial aspects (e.g. the processual basis, the theory of values, the 2+2 ontological structure) and a global meta-philosophical attitude (e.g. the systematic approach, the close connection to science, the ability to distance themselves from their own results).
Subsequently four lectures were delivered that lasted one hour each and were followed by 30 minutes of discussion. The morning session was focused on Whiteheads philosophy. Bogdan Ogrodnik from the A.N. Whitehead Metaphysical Society in Poland summarized the scheme of processual concepts, including the quantized process, the actual entities, their bipolar nature and the idea of their mutual, internal bonds. He discussed a co-presence of atomistic and continuous models of the world, the concept of organism, the vibrational form of existence, and emphasized the meaning of religious and aesthetic experiences for metaphysics. In the second lecture Helmut Maassen from the Deutsche Whitehead Gesellschaft in Germany continued the introduction of the fundamental concepts of Whiteheads philosophy, paying attention to his categorial scheme and to diverse forms of process analyzed in two aspects: genetic and morphological. Introducing the problem of values, he observed that the processualism accepts both the good (as a positive and creative element) and the evil (as a positive and destructive element). The universe as a creative advance into novelty requires both factors for its existence.
Two lectures included in the afternoon session concerned the ontology of Hartmann. Basic domains and types of existence as well as the nature of ontological categories were introduced by Alicja Pietras from the Pomeranian University in S?upsk, Poland. In her comprehensive lecture she distinguished between the moments of existence (Sosein, Dasein), the types of existence (real, ideal and irreal), and the modes of existence (actuality, possibility, necessity). She also presented categories as the principles of being and discussed a number of philosophical mistakes connected with the so-called old doctrine of categories. In his second lecture Roberto Poli continued a preface to Hartmanns thought, discussed four basic ontological theses, different types of categories (fundamental, special, local), and combined them with the problem of ontological levels.lt;/pgt;br /
lt;pgt;The next two days of the conference contained forty-minutes lectures divided into a half an hour talk and a discussion that lasted ca. 10 minutes. The second day was again opened by Roberto Poli, who discussed the two patterns present in the ontology of Hartmann: (i) the first one, exemplified by many pairs of fundamental categories (e.g. matter-form) and by the moments of existence (Sosein, Dasein), and (ii) the second one, concerning the difference between a pure category and a being property, e.g. time and temporality. Predrag Cicovacki from the College of the Holy Cross in USA dedicated his first lecture to the comparison between Kants and Hartmanns concepts of categories. After discussing historical sources of categorial analysis, the lecturer presented Hartmanns attempt to invert the Copernican revolution of Kant. The final part of the talk was an interesting attempt of a reverse critique of Hartmanns approach from the Kantian perspective. Next, Bogdan Ogrodnik introduced the similarities between Whiteheads and Hartmanns concepts of knowing which both reach beyond a simple subject-object distinction. Emphasizing that metaphysical statements have a hypothetical status, he argued that the philosophy of organisms provides such a description of cognition in which it becomes only an exemplification of a more primordial type of metaphysical relation of prehension.
The next interesting attempt of comparison between the two philosophical systems was the lecture, in which Maria-Teresa Teixeira from the Lisbon University in Portugal carefully discussed their aspects connected with the concepts of process, levels of reality and evolution. Revealing similarities between the Hartmanns stratification and the Whiteheads hierarchy of societies, she admitted that both systems have a processual and dynamic character, however the very concepts of process and temporality are understood differently. In the successive lecture Karl-Friedrich Kiesow from the Leibniz Universitat Hannover in Germany compared both thinkers on the ground of the philosophy of nature and their discussion of the mind-body relation. Despite the differences in perceiving the place of mind in the nature, both – Whitehead and Hartmann – tried to bridge the mind and the matter in a new, more constructive way. In the last lecture of the morning session Jakub Dziadkowiec from the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin in Poland introduced conceptual foundations for an ontological theory of the levels of reality. He argued there are mechanisms in both systems that enable a development of stratalism in two aspects: horizontal and vertical, and its connection with the ontological relation of emergence.
The afternoon session began with the lecture of Andrzej Chmielecki from the University of Gdansk in Poland dedicated to proposals of some modifications to Hartmanns ontology. After a short critique of several Hartmanns theses, the lecturer presented: an analysis of the pairs of categories: individual-general and temporal-atemporal; a distinction of the two aspects of existence: in-sistence and per-sistence; and a proposition of the identification of the fifth level of real being, the so-called intelligibilies. In the next lecture Predrag Cicovacki combined the Hartmanns concept of values as ideal beings with the Poppers understanding of values as objects of the third world. Discussing a possibility of ascribing the real type of existence to values, he adduced the arguments by virtue of which Hartmann did not accept the Poppers suggestion. Afterwards, Lukasz Lamza from the Pontifical University of John Paul II in Krakow, Poland, referring to a hierarchical classification of research topics in physics and astronomy (PACS 2008), introduced a proposal of an empirical theory of the levels of reality. Clearly defining his methodology and narrowing his research down to the inanimate part of natural history, he criticized a linear and continuous way of thinking about the cosmic evolution. In the summary he proposed a refreshed classification of the inorganic levels of reality, where common labels like physical, chemical, mineralogical, or biological should be replaced by names pre-nuclear, post-nuclear, solid state, and planetary.
After a short break the floor was given to Piotr Lesniak from the University of Rzeszow in Poland who dedicated his lecture to the concept of time and space in early works of Whitehead. Distinguishing three types of objectivity and identifying Whiteheads position with the so-called natural objectivity, he argued for the thesis that the time is to be searched – by means of the concept of duration that defines an event – within an extra-subjective nature. The next speaker was Vesselin Petrov from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, who demonstrated that the concept of anticipation – gaining its importance in the contemporary science and philosophy – belongs to the essential elements of Whiteheads metaphysics. Analyzing late works of Whitehead, the speaker noticed that the concept of anticipation played its role in a criticism of Cartesian substantialism and was used in the processual concept of society in explaining the place of future in the presence. Its teleological overtone also allowed for a partial denial of the difference between animate and inanimate beings, and strengthened an argumentation for the gradual emergence of life from its inorganic basis. The last lecture of the second conference day was delivered by Olga Stoliarova from the State University Higher School of Economics in Moskow, Russia. She presented the category of possibility in the relation to a concrete being, as well as in two aspects: ontological and epistemological. Conjoining the former aspect with the philosophy of C.I. Lewis, and the latter aspect with the Whiteheads metaphysics, she argued for the revaluation of concrete things in terms of their possibility.
The third day began with the lecture of Artur Mordka from the University of Rzeszow in Poland who discussed the elements of Hartmanns ontology in a context of the aesthetical analysis of the painting. Emphasizing that fundamental categories acquire a distinct meaning at the axiological level, the lecturer distinguished four types of the dependence relation in a structure of a painting. He also claimed that the layer structure of painting and the ontological categories introduced by Hartmann play an important role in the reflection over some phenomena of the contemporary art. The problem of values appeared again in the talk of Piotr Pekala from the A.N. Whitehead Metaphysical Society in Poland, who stated that there is no possibility of discussing values apart from a metaphysical system conjoined with them. He argued that Whiteheads concept of values as organic and internal aspects of everything what actually exists can compete with other axiological studies, ascribing the different type of existence to values. Next, Martin Kaplicky from the Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic, introduced fragments of Whiteheads speculative metaphysics in attempt to characterize the processual aesthetics. Underlining the category of Creativity, he maintained that natural values constitute a key to the metaphysical synthesis of existence. At the same time he proposed a dynamic approach to the processual esthetics.
The subject of the next talk was the relation of processual categories to Indian thought presented by Kurian Kachappilly from the Christ University in Bangalore, India. After discussing some basic concepts and theses of Whiteheads metaphysics, the lecturer combined them successively with Buddhism and with the thought of Ramanuja and Gandhi. In conclusions he noticed the complementarity of proposals of Western and Eastern thinkers, whose comparison exceeds the narrow limits of knowledge, and therefore, broadens the horizon of life. In the next lecture Colin Shingleton from the Swinburne University of Technology in Australia presented his own considerations connected with the process philosophy, as well as with the hermeneutics of Levinas and with a broad philosophical tradition. He maintained, among others, that Whiteheads metaphysics isnt essentially a development of Western tradition, but possesses its own etiology and ontological specification. He traced how the difference between the materialist and the processual metaphysics came to being, and revealed a meaning of the latter in the modern era and in the Anglo-Saxon philosophy. The last speaker of the morning session was Piotr Wilczek from the Poznan University of Technology in Poland who delivered a lecture on the mathematical Platonism of Whitehead. Discussing the concept of mathematical objects as eternal objects and pure potentialities, he underlined the objectivity, generality and immutability enclosed in the concept in question. The lecturer referred to contemporary debates within the philosophy of mathematics and proposed an interpretation of Whiteheads position from the perspective of the so-called many-world ontology in mathematics.
The afternoon session contained just one lecture of Marcin Rzadeczka from the Maria Curie-Sklodowska Univeristy in Lublin, Poland. He presented the Hartmanns ontology of life sciences in relation to the general ontology, and he exhibited its philosophical meaning. The speaker claimed that, unlike the logical positivism, Hartmann did not consider the philosophical consideration about results of natural science a pure analysis of scientific language. He maintained that scientific issues in their phenomenological aspect possess a philosophical meaning, as well as the results of philosophical considerations may be included in the science in a twofold way – at the axiological and at the ontological levels. The conference was ended with the panel discussion entitled Quo vadis Ontologia? Final Remarks on Meaning, Place and Role of the Modern Ontology, in which an open discussion between all participants was filled with insightful remarks on a condition of contemporary ontology and on a meaning of Hartmanns and Whiteheads thoughts in its current development.