By Maggie Froelich, Theology Librarian
Process thought is a diverse field of philosophy and theology that emphasizes the dynamic nature of reality. Compared to other strands of Western metaphysics, process holds that “the dynamic nature of being should be the primary focus of any comprehensive philosophical account of reality and our place within it” (Johanna Seibt, “Process Philosophy,” SEP). According to process, things can and should be described with respect to becoming, change, and relationality, not simply with reference to “states” or static being.
Process theology, which stems from the process philosophical work of Alfred North Whitehead, was developed in part by John B. Cobb, Jr., Claremont School of Theology emeritus professor. The Center for Process Studies (CPS), founded in 1975 by Cobb and fellow CST professor David Ray Griffin, is a faculty institute that promotes both scholarship and community dialogue in process studies. Over the years, the Center has amassed the world’s largest collection of books, articles, theses, and unpublished papers on or relevant to process philosophy and theology, and the published books from that collection are now housed at Hatfield.
The strength of the CPS collection is its diversity. Process thought has implications for, and is informed by, physics, ecology, psychology, history, theology, religious studies, and many other fields. The three books below offer a taste of some of the interesting, thought-provoking, and sometimes iconoclastic materials you can find in the collection.
You can find the CPS collection on the first floor of the Mark O. Hatfield Library. To access the Process Center’s unpublished materials, take a look at their digitized papers here, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Fragility of Things by William E. Connolly
This book on political and social theory turns its attention to biology, geology, and climate science to discuss the finely tuned systems that make up our world and are ignored or devalued by neoliberal political and economic policy. Connolly ultimately promotes a marriage of ethics, spirituality, and democratic activism as a remedy to modern crises of ecology and society.
The End of Modern Medicine by Laurence Foss
(Also available as an ebook)
Despite its provocative title, this book doesn’t propose that we all stop trusting in scientific approaches to biomedicine. Rather, Foss urges laypeople and medical professionals alike to rethink our modern notions of the separation between empirical science and “softer” or less falsifiable aspects of human life, like culture, psychology, and cognition. Although the book was published in 2003, before the recent emphases on “mindfulness” and “self-care” in American culture, it carries the message that undergirds that movement: our well-being is not only a function of dispassionate physical and chemical processes, but is a holistic result of our bodies, minds, communities, environments, and cultures interacting.
Mindful Universe by Henry P. Stapp (second ed.)
We’ve all heard that observation changes the thing that’s observed (and the observer!), but for most of us this adage is usually more at home in the field of anthropology than of physics. Quantum mechanics, however, challenge that preconception. Stapp examines the twentieth-century shift from Newtonian to quantum physics to explain events far outside of the usual scales of human life and interaction. In two chapters new to the second edition, he explores how quantum principles can contribute to discussions of the placebo effect in medicine and to philosophical inquiries about free will.