Experiencing Reality Alive: Bergson and Whitehead on Engaged Experience

Tina Rock (Lead / Corresponding author)

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

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    Any understanding of how we can engage and interact – in digital as well as real worlds – presupposes an understanding of experience. And experience is one of the most formidable philosophical problems. Experience is the basis for all our interactions with the world, our integration in the world and understanding of the world. There is no position outside of experience from which we could investigate experience objectively, we always already are experiencing beings. To make matters worse, insofar as we as experiencing subjects are part of this objective world, this radically subjective experience does not only grant us knowledge of the (objective) world, it is also an actual part of objective reality. This intricate structure, if taken seriously, undercuts the distinction between subjective experience and objective science, between mind and matter – and possibly the distinction between the virtual and the actual. In this chapter I will argue that two of the most prominent process thinkers in the 20th century, Alfred North Whitehead and Henri Bergson, have investigated this Gordian knot of experience tying the real, the subjective, the virtual and the objective together in a similar fashion, providing similar reasons and tools to cut across these traditional distinctions. In the first part of the talk, I will use arguments provided by both thinkers to outline why objective science, traditional philosophy and common sense make it difficult to understand experience. The ultimate reason being that our practical interests and concepts motivate and distort the way we interpret experiences. I will then outline the idea of a philosophy of creativity that emerges from a transformed understanding of engaged experience. This transformed experiential engagement is based on intuition in Bergson and in Whitehead that it rests on causal efficacy, i.e. experiences, feelings and sympathy.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationUnderstanding Digital Events
    Subtitle of host publicationBergson, Whitehead, and the Experience of the Digital
    EditorsDavid Kreps
    Place of PublicationOxford
    Number of pages15
    ISBN (Electronic)9780429032066
    ISBN (Print)9780367144463
    Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2019

    Publication series

    NameRoutledge Studies in Science, Technology and Society

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Social Sciences


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