Students focusing on Process Philosophy will gain an appreciation for the history and contemporary application of the process-relational mode of thought while also developing the creative, flexible, and transdisciplinary scholarly skillset essential for thinking through the complex conceptual entanglements typifying our planetary moment.
"The vitality of thought is in adventure. Ideas won't keep. Something must be done about them." —Alfred North Whitehead
As is evident in the Process Philosophy curriculum linked below, the track includes courses on the broad history of the approach, courses focused on Whitehead's cosmological and theological innovations (including an Advanced Seminar on his magnum opus, Process & Reality), and courses exploring the applications of process thought across a number of fields, including consciousness studies, ecology, and feminism, among others.
Process Philosophy Curriculum
MA in Philosophy and Religion with a concentration in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness, Process Philosophy Track (Online)--36 units
I. Residential Intensives--0 units
Student are required to participate in three intensives at CIIS in San Francisco. The first two intensives occur at the start of each Fall semester in late August; the third intensive takes place at the end of the final Spring semester in mid-May.
Intensive I (Fall)
Intensive II (Fall)
Intensive III (Spring)
II. Introductory Course--3 units
Introduction to Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness
III. Process Philosophy--15 units
1. Historical Context (choose 3-6 units)
Philosophies of Becoming: Ancient, Medieval, and Early Modern Western Traditions
Philosophies of Becoming: Modern and Postmodern Western Traditions
Mind and Nature in German Idealism
Hegel, Wilber, and Morin: Foundations of Integral Inquiry
2. Whitehead's Thought (choose 3-6 units)
Whitehead's Adventure in Cosmology: Toward a Physics of the World-Soul
Advanced Seminar: Whitehead's Process and Reality
3. Applications (choose 3-9 units)
Process Approaches to Consciousness
Process and Difference in the Pluriverse
Evolutionary Cosmology and Process Philosophy
Archetypal Process: Process Philosophy and Archetypal Cosmology
IV. General Electives--15 units
Choose 15 units from general PCC courses or from any CIIS program offering online courses.
V. Culminating Coursework--3 units
VI. Optional Thesis--0 units
Advisor approval required.
Thesis/Dissertation Proposal Completion
What will I learn in the Process Philosophy Track?
The Process Philosophy track articulates an evolutionary view of the cosmos and a relational way of knowing, perspectives that are central to the PCC vision. Process philosophy was articulated primarily by Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) and has been creatively carried forward by contemporary philosophers like Catherine Keller, Isabelle Stengers, Donna Haraway, Bruno Latour, William Connolly, and Roland Faber, among others. It offers a compelling transdisciplinary perspective bridging science, art, and religion into a comprehensive and integral cosmological scheme. Process philosophy allows for a return to metaphysics and big picture thinking, but without dogmatically or violently collapsing alternative points of view into its own. Pluralistic and creative relationality in the context of irreducible difference, as well as open-ended conceptual experimentation, are central to the whole approach. This approach opposes the main current of traditional Western metaphysics, which tends to value monological, substance-based, and self-enclosed systematization.
"Process-relational" philosophy, as it is often called, has profound pedagogical implications. Whitehead famously remarked that "no thinker thinks twice," meaning that knowledge itself is always in process and so remains open to further revision. Learning, in other words, is always ongoing such that knowledge should never be thought complete. A fluid and flexible approach to knowledge production is thus be modeled by instructors during intensives and in live webinars and online discussion forums.
Process philosophy has been present since the beginning of the Western tradition in ancient Greece, with its roots traced to Heraclitus' famous statement "all things flow." There are also many conceptual parallels with Buddhist thought that will be explored in the track's course offerings (e.g., dependent origination, impermanence, etc.). Because it challenges the Western tradition's dominant substance ontology (for which reality is said to be made of independent things) and abstract epistemology (for which knowledge is described as the conceptual recognition of static essences), the process approach has been a heretical and marginalized stream until quite recently. In place of the dominant ontology that sees reality as a collection of independent things, the process-relational approach perceives reality as composed of interpenetrating events. In place of the dominant epistemology seeking certain knowledge of static essences, the process-relational approach offers an open-ended way of knowing rooted in aesthetic encounters with living processes.
In the last several years, interest and appreciation for the approach has exploded in the English-speaking world, Europe, and especially in China, largely due to the perception that the severity of the ecological crisis warrants a ground-up re-evaluation of the modern modes of thought that have caused it. Process philosophy is a natural fit with PCC's planetary mission and alternative vision of philosophy.
PCC Faculty and Students Present at International Whitehead Conference
In June of 2015, PCC students and faculty participated in a track at the International Whitehead Conference devoted to imagining an ecological civilization. Videos of their presentations are viewable below.
Additional Resources on Process Philosophy
If you are looking for further reading about process philosophy, there are several places to start:
PCC Adjunct Professor Matthew D. Segall's monograph Physics of the World-Soul: The Relevance of Alfred North Whitehead's Philosophy of Organism to Contemporary Scientific Cosmology (2016)
- The Whitehead Research Project
- The International Process Network
- The Wikipedia entry on Process Philosophy
- The Wikipedia entry on Alfred North Whitehead
- The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Process Philosophy
- The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Alfred North Whitehead
- The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Process Philosophy
- The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Alfred North Whitehead
- The Process Studies Supplements Journal