Growing together (“concrescence”): a unique understanding of causality

“It is arguably this inseparable connection between processuality and internal relationship that also creates the biggest difficulty in Whitehead’s ontology: The process which gives rise to relations of experience exists prior to them neither logically nor temporally. The processual subject only comes into being through its relations with other subjects. This is something that can only be grasped intuitively, if at all, as it requires overcoming the boundaries of language, which demands that a subject exists before its predicates. (…)

Whitehead does not conceive of “concrescence” as the recombination of prehended contents to a new conglomerate as if they were atomic modules. ‘Growing together’ means that the integrated contents are broken down into their elements, which are then synthesized into a new whole. The process is controlled neither by deterministic efficient causation nor by unchangeable ideological final causation. The processual essence of actual entities consists in a self-creation for which the rules and facts of ideal and physical reality (i.e., maths, logic, mental content, the laws of nature, physical facts etc.) only provide the general framework of possibilities without determining the form of its self-creation. Therefore, every process contains a non-reducible spontaneity which results in its autonomous determination of its essence being unpredictable for ontological and not just epistemological reasons.

The idea of concrescence reveals an understanding of causality unique in the history of philosophy.”

Spyridon A. Koutroufinis

Life and Process — Introduction: The Need for a New Biophilosophy