Whitehead’s Ontologization of the Quantum Field Theory (QFT)

The art of progress is to preserve order amid change, and to preserve change amid order.

— Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality, 1929.


After his attempt to complete the set-theoretic foundations of mathematics in collaboration with Russell, Whitehead’s venture into the natural sciences made him realise that the traditional timeless ontology of substances, and not in the least their static set-theoretic underpinning, does not suit natural phenomena. Instead, he claims, it is processes and their relationships which should underpin our understanding of those phenomena. Whiteheadian quantum ontology is essentially an ontologization of the structure of orthodox relativistic quantum field theory, stripped of any anthropocentric formulations. This means that mentality is no longer reserved for human beings and higher creatures. Does Whitehead’s ontology contain an inconsistency due to the fact that the principle of separateness of all realized regions will generally not be satisfied in his causally local and separable ontology? This would be true if his metaphysics were traced back only to the theory of relativity, if one did not take into account that his ideas originate from a psycho-philosophical discussion, that his theory of prehension connects all occasions of the contemporary world, and that the concrescence process selects positive prehensions. If one concluded that, then either the causal independence of simultaneous occasions or the distinctness of their concrescence processes would have to be abandoned in order to secure the separateness of all realized regions, and one would have to answer the questions: What does causality mean?

Causality is merely the way in which each instance of freedom takes into account the previous instances, as each of our experience refers back through memory to our own past and through perception to the world’s past.” According to quantum thinking and process philosophy there is no backward-in-time causation. “The basic properties of relativistic quantum theory emerge […] from a logically simple model of reality. In this model there is a fundamental creative process by discrete steps. Each step is a creative act or event. Each event is associated with a definitive spacetime location. The fundamental process is not local in character, but it generates local spacetime patterns that have mathematical forms amenable to scientific studies. According to Charles Hartshorne,

The mutual independence of contemporaries constitutes their freedom. Without this independence, what happens anywhere would immediately condition what happens anywhere else. However, this would be fatal to freedom only if the sole alternative to mutual independence were mutual dependence. And this is not a necessary, it is even a possible, interpretation of Bell’s result. What happens here now may condition what happens somewhere else without measurable temporal lapse, although what happens at somewhere else does not condition what happens here, still retains its freedom since […] no set of conditions can be fully determinative of the resulting actuality.