Can Prehension Lead to Truth?

By  Arlette Poland

The actual occasion, as it is becoming actual, prehends information from the past. It determines what to eliminate or keep or ignore. It is as if the occasion matches the energy of the past and thus decides what to accept or not into its becoming. It is like an emotional response of attachment, detachment or avoidance. Is that the way to truth?

Well, putting the issue of ‘what is truth anyhow?’ aside for now, within Process thought there is a sense that there is access to truth within. It sometimes means we must reach for the newest idea, however. Presuming that truth is accessible within, then the activity of prehending is one activity of ferreting into the truth. Whitehead posited in his biological model of becoming that all of the past is presented to the becoming event with the filters of the past. How, then, is there a way to do anything but repeat the past? Novelty. That was Whitehead’s answer to the movement of life. Is novelty the bearer of truth? If that is the case, then the becoming event has the responsibility to prehend in ways that allow truth and novelty to emerge.

So, if novelty is ignored, rejected or reshaped then maybe that translates into an entirely relative truth that depends on each event as it becomes. One event accepts one bit of information as true and the other event does not. Those events then pass their truth on to the next becoming event.

Well, that does seem to be how our world works out, don’t you think? Religions like to allege that they have an absolute truth when they explain their dogma or belief system. People like to allege they know the truth when they speak their belief system. Countries allege they have the truth when they hold onto their belief systems about government.

What decides the truth? Does the prehending event decide when it finds similarity or familiarity? Like minded people like to find each other and validate the truth they have found. All of this is normal in the human world. It is also similarly played out in many other worlds such as with most non-human animals and even some plants. Maybe it is like this also on a microcosmic level?

For this month, however, maybe we could look at the ‘truth’ spoken in the media. We could ask if there is any truth there. We could ask if this is a source for all the truth. We could ask if this source has its own idea of truth and wishes to bring you into its fold of like minded humans. We could ask if we are the thinker thinking these truthful thoughts.

What does this have to do with Process thought? Whitehead asserted that change is life. If we do not allow and nurture truth to move with us as we humans grow, we die. So ask, shift your thinking and live!


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