Conversations in Process
Conversations in Process
Matt Segall – The Intricacies and Insights of Whitehead’s Process Thought

On this episode of Conversations in Process, Jay is joined by Professor Matthew Segall to discuss the finer details of Alfred North Whitehead’s process philosophy and theology, and to draw connections between Whitehead’s thought and other important thinkers and religious traditions. 

Matt is Assistant Professor in the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness program at California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco where he teaches graduate level courses on process philosophy and German Idealism. His recent book, Physics of the World-Soul: Alfred North Whitehead’s Adventure in Cosmology, put Whitehead’s process cosmology into conversation with various contemporary scientific theories, such as general relativity and quantum theory. This book is exemplary of much of Matt’s recent work, which puts ideas from process philosophy into conversation with the natural sciences.

In this conversation, Matt begins by sharing a bit of his own intellectual journey, telling how he came to Whitehead through Terence McKenna. He talks about his own spiritual background, growing up in a mixed religious family and coming to appreciate eastern religious sensibilities at a young age. Along with guidance from mentors, he eventually discovered that the spiritual insights from dharmic religions which had captivated him in his adolescence actually had equivalents within Western spiritual and religious traditions. Discovering these sources of Western wisdom was what eventually led Matt to encountering Whitehead’s own work, first exploring Adventures of Ideas before diving into Process and Reality

At this point, Matt and Jay dive into some of the finer details of Whitehead’s philosophical vision, spending some time dwelling on his conception of God, considering how this differs from previous understandings of the divine and subverts certain Western philosophical tendencies generally. he also shares his perspectives on God as both the divine lure and the divine companion in Whitehead’s thought, and also emphasizes how Whitehead’s God is something that may appeal to more scientifically-minded folks due to the strong empirical emphasis in Whitehead’s thought. Another important aspect to Whitehead’s philosophy is his insistence on “organic realism,” which Matt presents as an alternative to either idealism or materialism.

Matt and Jay conclude this conversation with a discussion of how Whitehead’s thought interfaces with other important traditions such as Neoplatonism, shamanism, Buddhism, and Jung’s depth psychology. Matt and Jay both emphasize that these two-way dialogues are always fruitful and that these are areas ripe for further research and conversation. Matt will be returning to Conversations in Process later this season to continue this dialogue and explore the ways in which process thought can contribute to contemporary social, cultural, and ecological issues. Stay tuned!