By Donald A. Crosby

An eloquent case for relating to nature itself as religion-as the metaphysical final deserving spiritual dedication.

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36 Concept of Nature Whitehead’s distinction between generic and derivative notions, which also implies a priority of pattern to process, is vulnerable to at least two basic criticisms. ” The distinction is unempirical because it purports to lay down a structure for all possible universes, past, present, and future, but the only universe we have to work with is the one we presently have, the one available, directly or indirectly, to experience. The best we can do is seek generic traits of this universe, that is, the most general features and interrelations of those features implicit in all that we experience.

THE STATUS OF NATURE It may seem odd to ask whether there is such a thing as nature, but this is an important question about the metaphysical status of nature, that is, is it real, and if it is, what sort of reality can it be said to be? Closely connected to this metaphysical issue is the epistemological one of how or whether we can be said to know nature. If there is no way in which we can attain reliable knowledge of such a thing as nature, it is pointless to ask about its metaphysical status, since that will be unknowable as well.

That structure is the requisite “nature,” so to speak, of all changes within or of nature, the eternal, defining essence of nature in all of its guises. Nature fundamentally understood, then, is just this permanent umbrella of possibility within which its changes take place. The latter are notions consistent with the categoreal scheme but not required by it. The derivative notions happen to be pervasive traits of what Whitehead calls the present “cosmic epoch,” which he construes as only one of a succession of such epochs, each with its own distinctive characteristics, principles, and laws, which have emerged in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

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