“The distinction between men and animals is in one sense only a difference in degree. But the extent of the degree makes all of the difference. The Rubicon has been crossed” (p. 27).
I am really grateful for these two thinkers, colleagues, friends. I am consistently learning from their scholarship and leadership in the course of my blogging development. Blogging has become a landscape of furious production. Overwhelming really. Hyper-involvement, everything possible through script is here or will be.
Still, some worlds seem better than others, and I find my ally-ship sailing after the inspiration – the scholarship – flowing from Matthew Segall and Adam Robert.
There is little risk of ‘missing the mark’ when beginning with a quote from A.N. Whitehead. His contribution to Western thought cannot be underestimated. Perhaps his most significant philosophical contribution is contained in our quote above. In Whitehead’s quote from Modes of Thought, he is emphasizing the notion of degree, more specifically the difference of degree, the matter of change, the formulation of process. Found within the nature of things is process. Process actually becomes the difference of degree that makes Whitehead’s thought a philosophical lubricant for subsequent thinkers.
I am inclined to use the word ‘revelation’ when talking about the importance of Whitehead’s contributions to human thought. There is definitely a place for the mysterious in process, but least we not forget the central point – even Whitehead had his linage, his philosophical ancestry. His contribution was only a difference of degree… but oh… in that degree of difference a threshold was crossed.
This Threshold – Whitehead’s ‘Rubicon’ – is the central concern of Adam Robert’s post. What is this Rubicon? What worlds constituted a “difference of degree” so irrevocable there would be no permit of return. The Rubicon that humanity crossed is at once the difference that reason, imagination, and creativity make in the human AND the difference the Cosmos became when these differences in evolutionary potential emerged into actual occasions, into being human. Fundamentally, the difference becomes a world of objects always, already oriented toward their own ontologies – like us. That the Rubicon has been crossed means that amidst all the worlds of emergence – contested, shifting, interpenetrating, hijacking – we must think ecological. Our ethics is our ontology. The cultivation of our sensitivity to the constant process of change will be a great companion as we feel our way toward cosmopolitical harbors.
The human IS different and this is where Matthew Segall’s insight is crucial. Drawing from both Whitehead and Schelling he speaks to the difference. “Other occasions are “free” to the extent that they are distinct realizations of the creative advance into novelty; but only the human knows that it is free, only the human can withdraw from time and glimpse into the eternal mind of God to envisage as yet unrealized values.” Segall follows Whitehead suggesting that the difference for humanity lies in our religious or moral dimension. With the addition of Schelling’s commentary the human now stands on the other side of the Rubicon with the undeniable perception of Good and Evil.
We are the first over the horizon; we see…
The emergence of humanity is also a concrescence of the internal actualities until now latent within organic evolution. The power of human emergence and our common bond of natural degree seals the point of no return. The human does not get to leave self-awareness. The Cosmos has already looked upon itself through human eyes. Good and Evil mark human history. Time is now a category of human perception. The Rubicon is here to stay.