A Visual Representation of Prehension

The figure below illustrates prehensions establishing "perception in the mode of causal efficacy" (the intertwined arrows) and "perception in the mode of presentational immediacy." I take the interwined arrows to represent our non-local, non-conscious interaction with the world as quantum organisms, a form of direct 'perception.' Our conscious interaction with the world, mediated by the senses, is represented by the short, single arrows. The five colored circles represent the phenomenal world as perceived from the perspective of emodied consciousness.

Cobb on Whitehead, Perception, and Postmodernism

David Cobb gives a good summary of some aspects of Whitehead's difficult philosophy in Griffin, David Ray, Cobb, John B. Jr., Ford, Marcus P., Gunter, Pete A.Y., and Peter Ochs, Founders of Constructive Postmodern Philosophy: Peirce, James, Bergson, Whitehead, and Hartshorne, Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1993. He notes that Whitehead distinguished between three modes of perception, the mode of causal efficacy, which is primary, the mode of presentational immediacy, which relates to the conscious content of perception, and the mode of symbolic reference, wherein the former two modes are combined (integrated) to produce a full-blown conscious "feeling" (perception) of what would ordinarily be called a 'sense object.'

Cobb aptly describes the mode of causal efficacy: "Perception in the mode of causal efficacy is not limited to that part of the external world that acts on our sensory organs. These organs magnify particular types of influence in the world upon us, and generally their data dominate our consciousness. But one's whole body is affected by its environment in complex ways. Further, there is no ontological necessity that all external events affecting human occasions of experience be mediated through bodily events. Each occasion of experience is affected by its entire past..." (pgs. 180-81, italics added). He goes on to say, "Perception in the mode of causal efficacy - that is, nonsensuous perception - is primary even in sense-experience. Nonsensuous perception is certainly not limited to causal efficacy of the world on or through the sense organs. Hence, much of the causal efficacy of the past upon human experience is extrasensory. Whether physical feelings are only of contiguous occasions, with all other causal efficacy of the past mediated through these, or whether there are also physical prehensions of noncontiguous occasions, is a purely empirical question" (pg. 181, italics added).

Cobb succinctly summarizes the argument against destructive postmodernism: "The inconsistencies involved in the description and defense of conceptual relativism should open people to re-examination of the analyses that support it. At its foundation is the primacy of sensation ... If all human experience arises from sensation, and if sensation is understood as what Whitehead calls "perception in the mode of presentational immediacy," then indeed each of us is shut in to her or his immediate experience. The fully consistent implication of sensationalism seems to be solipsism, the doctrine that each person's experience is self-enclosed and makes no reference to any wider context at all. ... The rejection of the correspondence theory of truth, so widespread in late modernity, is primarily the denial that our thoughts or language could correspond to something physical, lying beyond our sensory experience. (pg. 183)

"Physical feelings are feelings of other actual occasions, and most of these occasions make up what we call the physical world. We are not shut off in our private experience, in the human world in general, or in particular cultural-linguistic systems. We live in the natural world as well.

From this it follows that one main reason for rejecting the correspondence theory of truth is overcome: we do directly experience actualities beyond our present moment of experience." (pg. 183)

"Human beings are part of nature, and our relation to the remainder of nature is continuous with our relations with one another. Every atomic entity is a subject in its moment of occurrence and passes into objectivity for subsequent occasions." (pg. 183)