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The Concept of Creative Synthesis: An Intersection Point for Science, Metaphysics and Ethics

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Abstract:

Creative synthesis, a fundamental concept in Charles Hartshorne's metaphysics, attempts to provide a way out of a number of seemingly irresolvable dilemmas in philosophical discussions revolving around causality. At the same time, it is grounded in contemporary physics which regards effects as statistical averages rather than fully predictable results of the action of causes and is thus an example of a fruitful interaction between philosophy and science.

This essay will firstly seek to contextualize this concept within the process metaphysics of Charles Hartshorne, establish its basis and develop its implications. Secondly, it will show how the resulting philosophy of action, grounded in the principle of dipolarity, can provide a fresh insight not only into causality but also into ethical responsibility in the human sphere as well as in the whole of reality.

Charles Hartshorne's concept of creative synthesis can perhaps be succinctly described as a metaphysical description of the workings of reality. Given the hostility in some quarters to anything that smacks of meta-physics, it is essential at the outset to add that the term “metaphysical” as used by him is quite different from the usage of that term that has led to the criticisms of those who have opposed any reference to metaphysics in any philosophical discussion.

In Hartshorne's philosophy, “metaphysical” means that the description can be said to be applicable to the whole of reality. He therefore rejects the understanding behind some of the criticisms that such a description refers to reality that is wholly transcendent or supersensible. Instead, he claims that that which is metaphysical is not behind or above the physical or the observable but is in itself included in the physical and the observable as well as everything else. Moreover, in his many writings he has defended the view that the pursuit of metaphysics is rooted in experience and that metaphysical analysis is related to experience. Thus, he maintains, contrary to the views of the critics of metaphysics, that there is actually an intimate and essential connection between the study of metaphysics and the empirical sciences.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5848/CSP.1809.00013

Publication date: January 1, 2010

More about this publication?
  • Ethical Contexts and Theoretical Issues: Essays in Ethical Thinking
    Compared to the traditional approach to the philosophical study of ethics, this book adopts a different strategy. It shows that such ethical thinking, in the concrete particulars, originates in various academic and professional contexts, among others. But inasmuch as theoretical issues require wider and more intensive attention, it argues that ethical thinking needs to be pursued further and that it can be aided by philosophical investigations. In its concluding chapters the book presents an alternative foundation for ethical decision-making. Philosophically grounded, it moves away from an individualistic ethical perspective to a relational one that has been shaped through dialogue with the various contexts in which ethical thinking arises.
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