Process As the Unifying Principle of Physical Reality (Part 4.2)

in philosophy •  3 months ago


We have said that in the event of a body falling toward Earth there is no force, only the progression from moment to moment. Let us examine the body at any given present. Force is classically defined as the acceleration of matter, but, as a thing may not be both “here” and “there” in the same way at the same time, there is no motion, and consequently no acceleration of matter in any single present. But, strictly speaking, only the present has actual existence. Therefore, if there is no acceleration of matter in any given present, according to definition, there can be no force.

One may argue, however, that it is incorrect to divide time into particular moments, to divorce a particular instant from the context in which it finds itself. Yet, though the past and the future do exist as we have said above, they exist only in the present. The past exists in the present as an objective datum for re-enaction whereas the future exists in the present as the propositional realization of the necessities inherent in the present-subject. In this way, the present alone possesses the full measure of actuality. The only way, therefore, to examine any actually existing occasion is to examine it as it exists in the present.

It is not possible to speak of the present in any other way than as existing as a single moment. If a thing exists, it must exist at some place and at some time, but only in one place at any one time. If the present were to be any more than one moment, if it were even two moments, then it would be possible to say of a thing that it is, in the present, both “here” and “there,” which is absurd. If a thing could, in the present be both “here” and “there,” it could not be said to be in any one place at all. The thing would be both everywhere and nowhere. Therefore, it is not possible to speak of the present as anything other than a single moment.

When, then, we speak of any occasion existing in the present, we speak of it as existing in a single moment. Consequently, our conclusion concerning the lack of forces in any given actual occasion are justified. All that is needed to reach this conclusion is an analysis of the present subject. No matter how deeply a person may look, he will not be able to observe, directly, any forces inherent in an occasion or coexistent with it. The necessities inherent in the present occasion by which the future must embody it and re-enact it are, on the other hand, directly observable in the present-subject. For these reasons, there are no forces, only the transition from completed concrescence to novel concrescence driven by the fundamental creative urge.

If we again consider an occasion through a succession of moments, we do believe that we perceive the presence of force, in our example, that of gravity. The perception of this force, however, is an illusion derived from the mechanical analysis of what is truly a metaphysical cause. There is no “invisible, physical arm” reaching across space to pull the magnetic bodies together, there is only the existence of the two bodies as the bodies they are and the expression through transition of the necessities inherent in their constitutions.


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