North Whitehead, Alfred – 16 Aggregates as bills of materials and the limitations of the Cartesian model
Type of Spiritual Experience
Agglomeration is the grouping together of organisms for the purpose of achieving higher levels of functionality. It is a major part of the strategy of the Great Work. By doing this one obtains aggregates. There are four types of agglomeration that have been used:
- Permanent Physical Agglomeration – for example, mammals or insects, that are permanent agglomerations with relatively stable functions
- Temporary Co-operation of organisms – for example, we have viruses, bacteria, simple cells which are generally simple functioned, but which can be 'organised' and given additional functionality as and when needed
- Temporary Synergistic co-operation - for example, insects such as ants and bees or termites form same species co-operating agglomerations, as does man and many other primates. The wolf pack, for example, is a more effective hunting machine than a lone wolf, as is a lion pride.
- Symbiotic relationships – for example the border collie and his shepherd
Here, Whitehead discusses permanent physical agglomerations – aggregates – and the relation of these to the ideas of ‘concrescence’.
What we may term a body is a physical aggregate of some complexity – organs with their various systems, then cells with their various systems and if we breakdown the components of a cell their systems. In other words, the human body is a bit like a bill of materials where we can gradually break it down into smaller and smaller components. Eventually we get down to the level of chemical compounds, atoms and molecules, thus biology becomes chemistry. But dividing the problem into biology and chemistry hides the fact that the same principle is at work. To make water one takes one oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms. To make a human body one takes one heart, two lungs, two kidneys, one liver, and so on. All living and chemical things are essentially describable using the equivalent of a bill of materials.
Furthermore, a great deal of reusability of components takes place, or as one philosopher has said God is both an engineer and an artist.
At each new level of aggregation, new functions can be added. Thus oxygen has functions of its own, but then so does water – and these are entirely different to those of oxygen. As we increase the complexity of the aggregate, a heart has functions different to each of the cells of which it is formed.
Whilst part of the aggregate, the cell behaves functionally like a heart cell, but separate it out and it becomes simply a cell, it changes its behaviour – functions.
Thus there is a duality of function and form which is not simply mind and body, but a duality that exists at every level of the bill of materials right down to atom level, and which is only made apparent to us once an execution of the processes has produced a time slice of concrescence –crystal based ‘hardware’.
The body is thus a bill of material of sub-assemblies with their functions being constantly executed, and each execution of the entirety produces a new time slice – some slice of which we regard as the present, but some slices of which are the past and not capable of being perceived with the 5 senses. Only via spiritual experience can we see the past states of the ‘body’ at that moment.
Although there may be a general bill of materials for the type of thing [eternal entity], each actual thing [actual entity or entity occurrence] has its own unique bill of materials. There is thus a template, but also an actuality.
Furthermore every single component, assembly and sub-assembly is held together by the existence of an immortal part of it that holds it together over the time slices. We have called this the Higher spirit, but as we know it has numerous other names including the immortal soul.
A description of the experience
PART II Discussions and Applications
Chapter III - The Order Of Nature
The Cartesian philosophy is based upon the seeming fact— the plain fact— of one body and one mind, which are two substances in causal association. For the philosophy of organism the problem is transformed.
Each actuality is essentially bipolar, physical and mental, and the physical inheritance is essentially accompanied by a conceptual reaction partly conformed to it, and partly introductory of a relevant novel contrast, but always introducing emphasis, valuation, and purpose. The integration of the physical and mental side into a unity of experience is a self-formation which is a process of concrescence, and which by the principle of objective immortality characterizes the creativity which transcends it. So though mentality is non-spatial, mentality is always a reaction from, and integration with, physical experience which is spatial. It is obvious that we must not demand another mentality presiding over these other actualities (a kind of Uncle Sam, over and above all the U.S. citizens). All the life in the body is the life of the individual cells. There are thus millions upon millions of centres of life in each animal body. So what needs to be explained is not dissociation of personality but unifying control, by reason of which we not only have unified behaviour, which can be observed by others, but also consciousness of a unified experience.
A good many actions do not seem to be due to the unifying control, e.g., with proper stimulants a heart can be made to go on beating after it has been taken out of the body. There are centres of reaction and control which cannot be identified with the centre of experience. This is still more so with insects. For example, worms and jellyfish seem to be merely harmonized cells, very little centralized; when cut in two, their parts go on performing their functions independently. Through a series of animals we can trace a progressive rise into a centrality of control. Insects have some central control; even in man, many of the body's actions are done with some independence, but with an organ of central control of very high-grade character in the brain.
The source of the experienceNorth Whitehead, Alfred
Concepts, symbols and science items
Permanent physical agglomeration
Strategy of the Great Work