This House
Dust Bowl: ACL 2005


When I left Oklahoma early Tuesday morning, it hadn't registered that this weekend while I'm in Texas, I'll be dealing with the hurricane. And I'll be at an outdoor rock festival! Phil, Nathan, and I are going this afternoon to buy supplies in preparation for this new turn in the plot.


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smarty pants

mohler on foucault today

Kevin Sinclair

Have a gret time at Austin City Limits! By the way, I think I'm intellectually ready to learn about Process Theology. It's all the rage around these parts but with an old school 19th Century Liberal twist. I've got a lot of questions for someone whose personal theology I trust so much when we are both in Dallas next time.

Scott Jones

Okay, Kevin. I just remembered that I forgot to call you back this weekend! Oops.

Robert Asbell

I have questions about process theology too.
I've read very little about it but was wondering if it generally seeks to replace substance metaphysics with process. So God is not substance but continually changing. If this is anywhere close to being on the right track, does this spill over into personhood too? What about Bibliology? 1. Is the bible more accurately interpreted to reflect process metaphysics or substance metaphysics..(I've heard arguments that say that the bible doesn't reflect that the soul is substance). 2. If one is even open to the notion that the bible is inspired by God, how does process theology affect one's interpretation of it (in regards to Theology proper, anthropology, soteriology, even eschatology)?

Scott Jones

I have never pretended to be a Process Theologian. I'm a Process philosopher (my theological influences are from a different school of thought). My basic metaphysics is process (or "organic" as Whitehead himself called his system).

Last January I blogged a lot on this metaphysical issues -- after the tsunami. I wrote extensively about God issues there, so you might check. is where it starts. They are all in the theology section and may be in philosophy as well. I found this one by looking in the January archive.

Yes, God is in process, meaning that all aspects of God's nature are not complete (as in finished). Many theologians jumped on this philosophical idea (Whitehead wasn't the only or even first philosopher to suggest this idea) and felt that it more closely fit with the Hebrew concept of God and that the traditional substance-metaphysics concept of God had more to do with Greek philosophy than Hebrew theology.

The soul as a substance is really from Descartes (at least that is the most significant influence on what people mean when they use either term -- "soul" or "substance"). The idea has history going back to at least Plato, though I think he and pretty much everyone between him and Descartes meant something different than what Descartes and those who came after him meant.

My understanding of Hebrew thought is that soul is basically the breath (ruach), the life force. Which is not all that different from the original Greek idea of psyche.

The Whiteheadian concept of the mind is that the mental is the subjective and the physical is the objective. As such, I think it has great commonality with ancient understandings of "soul" as "lifeforce."

Anyway, look at those old posts, so I don't repeat myself. They talk about God, time, causation, being/becoming, etc. I'd HAPPILY discuss other issues (especially mind and body) if someone's interested in that.

Robert Asbell

Scott, Thanx for the response. I've been reading a book that makes a case that a solid exegesis of old Testament anthropological terms reflects substance dualism. I haven't yet decided if I find this convincing. What I do find interesting is there often seems to be a connection between the ontology of divine agency and human agency (ala Dan Dennett - God is dead, and so are notions of the self) or on the other side: (Alvin Plantinga - God and other minds- If Realism of Other Minds is rational, then Realism of God is Rational. It would be interesting to see if the Old Testament Scriptures reflect process metaphysics for God but Substance Metaphysics for human agency.......and all the questions that would ensue from that realization. again, Thanx for the dialogue.

Scott Jones

My own view is that substance metaphysics is doomed to some sort of eliminative materialism. My dissertation took Jaeqwon Kim's work on mind as the best in the analytical tradition. I defended him against all his other critics. But, Kim leaves you with a dilemma: either you get consciousness or mental causation, but not both. Since our fundamental experience is of both, an empirical argument shows that the analytic tradition and its presuppositions (including a substance metaphysics) are wrong. Can a better case be made that fits with contemporary science AND explains our fundamental experience? Yes, Whiteheadian metaphysics does that.

That's the basic jist of the dissertation, at least.

Robert Asbell

I think I would agree that reconciling substance metaphysics with contemp. science would probably lead to something like Paul Churchland. In high school abandoning the authority of science would have been irrational and I couldn't do it if even if I wanted to lie to myself. But if science is limited to natural causes, (a debatable philosophical position) in my mind it is in no position to comment on metaphysics. I wonder if philosophers (or theologians) will ever stop looking at themselves as the bastard children of "science". Incedently, the book I mentioned before proceeds, epistemically raising philosophy and theology above science (not in general, but for metaphysical queries) to defend its version of substance dualism. I don't mean to throw the baby out with the bath water but I think there are cases when science claims to serindipitously have shown a certain metaphysical position outdated. I call this copernican rhetoric .....where science proceeds in its research program disinterested in metaphysics or worlview issues. Once its research is complete, the scientist looks to its left and says OH! such and such superstition is overturned by science. Hooray enlightenment! But I think many times the research program itself is looking for maybe science needs a new definition. And if science as an institution refines itself to natural causes, good for them. I'll do my science with a more robust epistemology. In short, you give me the inference free data and I'll take it from there. Go ahead a push your naturalistic explanation to their limits. As long as scientists are hell bent on naturalizing everything maybe they should invite other intellectuals not committed to naturalizm a priori, to audit the books. Anyway, I have to ask why I feel hellbent on protecting my pet little substance metaphysics........maybe I should just give up....peace out...................(those who search for comfort before truth will find neither....C.S. Lewis)

Robert Asbell

BTW, I havn't read Kim at any length (just little snippets here and there on the internet). But I was wondering what is the difference between reductionism and supervenience. I don't have any dialog with other people about phil of mind....and with no philosophical training, I have to read higliddy pigliddy and try to under stand what I can.

Scott Jones

I wasn't elevating science above philosophy, but science is part of the information that philosophy must take seriously. I think it is science that generally defines what the physical is, though even that has limitations where metaphysics must step in.

Part of the problem with much philosophy of mind is that it assumes we have some sense of what the physical is. But we don't. Of recent philosophers, David Chalmers raises this issue. I addressed it at length in my dissertation.

I find that in many ways the discussions of mind-body in contemporary philosohpy of mind assume a roughly Cartesian view of the physical, when we have moved way beyond that (even a Newtonian view is vastly different, much less how the physical would be conceived post Einstein and quantum mechanics).

Kim seems to think that there is more of a difference than there really is. Because he can't save both consciousness and mental causation, there really isn't much of a difference. So what if you get mental states that supervene on physical states. They don't do anything, so that's not what the issue was to begin with. And if you get mental causation, then it is as the expense of any qualitative, subjective states and, in a sense, is simply reduction.

Instead of a supervenience or reductive relationship, I think the simple solution is one posed by many philosophers of the late 19th and early 20th century who were considered realists, Whitehead among them. They held that the physical is the objective description of an event/state/or substance and the mental is the subjective. It is a physicalism, but not a reductive or eliminative one. Furthermore, it says that even this distinction is not sharp and that subject and object are relative to one's point of view in the world.

Robert Asbell

Is there any way I can take a gander at your dissertation (manuscript, pdf, any format). It would be neat to see your take on the range of choices. This is subject matter over my head but I find fascinating and important. I have a lot to learn from someone with a better grasp and more focused survey of the literature. I'm hoping to get a stronger foothold on the ideas so I can dig deeper into the literature. BTW, I didn't mean to come off as aggressive to your position. I've started to entertain a more holistic view of knowlege instead of a compartmentalized model with naturalistic science ruling the roost. This has opened up my understanding of the world and I've grown leaps and bounds. It's also freed me of the nihilism I secretly held in high school and later years.
I never admitted it to anyone (or even myself) and I never boasted of my ability to bravely face the puposelessness of the universe because I was sensitive to the fact that pride could only provide a temporary band aid to the despair. So I kept quiet and waited and hoped for cracks in my thinking to appear. So part of me is jubilant on a renewing of my mind. But part of me is bitter not only because of the existential angst I experienced in my youth but I feel I was imbibed with a certain epistemic attitude by the educational system and even my home and church family. This compartmentalized thinking failed to capture my imagination and I have suffered because of it. I completely failed as a music major....but just kept wasting my time with it and ended up in poverty with no where to go. God in his mercy gave me a new beginning and granted me a job as a musician in the Navy. I'll be debt free in two months including student loans. And I will complete a computer science degree before my enlistment ends. Anyway, I felt I needed to share that with an old friend and someone I've always looked up to. Thanx Scott.

Scott Jones

Thanks Robert.

Yeah, I had to drop the compartmentalization while receiving my liberal arts education in college.

You are the second person this summer to ask to see the dissertation (with a third raising questions about it). I never thought anyone would care. I'm particularly fond of it, of course. Now, it isn't currently anywhere anyone can get to it.

But, here's what I might do. It is all on my computer (and various floppy discs) in Dallas. It needs to be put in a new format and made more easily retrievable (Why didn't I do that before?). So, maybe what I'll do is create a separate web-page and put the entire thing up. Then I can link to as need be.

After all, I can only legitimately claim that I am one of the world's sole experts in only one extremely limited area of human knowledge -- the Whiteheadian critique of Jaegwon Kim! So why not flaunt it!

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