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fluidity [s]

The phrase πάντα ῥεῖ (panta rhei) “everything flows”[35] either was spoken by Heraclitus or survived as a quotation of his. This famous aphorism used to characterize Heraclitus’ thought comes from Simplicius,[36] a neoplatonist, and from Plato’s Cratylus. The word rhei (cf. rheology) is the Greek word for “to stream”, and is etymologically related to Rhea according to Plato’s Cratylus.[37]

The philosophy of Heraclitus is summed up in his cryptic utterance:[38]

ποταμοῖσι τοῖσιν αὐτοῖσιν ἐμβαίνουσιν, ἕτερα καὶ ἕτερα ὕδατα ἐπιρρεῖ.
Potamoisi toisin autoisin embainousin, hetera kai hetera hudata epirrei
“Ever-newer waters flow on those who step into the same rivers.”

The quote from Heraclitus appears in Plato‘s Cratylus twice; in 401d as:[39]

τὰ ὄντα ἰέναι τε πάντα καὶ μένειν οὐδέν
Ta onta ienai te panta kai menein ouden
“All entities move and nothing remains still”

and in 402a[40]

“πάντα χωρεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει” καὶ “δὶς ἐς τὸν αὐτὸν ποταμὸν οὐκ ἂν ἐμβαίης”
Panta chōrei kai ouden menei kai dis es ton auton potamon ouk an embaies
“Everything changes and nothing remains still … and … you cannot step twice into the same stream”[41]

Instead of “flow” Plato uses chōrei, “to change place” (χῶρος chōros).

The assertions of flow are coupled in many fragments with the enigmatic river image:[42]

Ποταμοῖς τοῖς αὐτοῖς ἐμβαίνομέν τε καὶ οὐκ ἐμβαίνομεν, εἶμέν τε καὶ οὐκ εἶμεν.
“We both step and do not step in the same rivers. We are and are not.”

Compare with the Latin adages Omnia mutantur and Tempora mutantur (8 CE) and the Japanese tale Hōjōki, (1200 CE) which contains the same image of the changing river, and the central Buddhist doctrine of impermanence.

However, the German classicist and philosopher Karl-Martin Dietz interprets this fragment as an indication by Heraclitus, for the world as a steady constant: “You will not find anything, in which the river remains constant. … Just the fact, that there is a particular river bed, that there is a source and a estuary etc. is something, that stays identical. And this is … the concept of a river”[43]

Hartshorne’s Principle of Dual Transcendence [s]

Hartshorne’s neoclassical theology is governed by his “principle of
dual transcendence” (OOTM, 44). In contrast with dual transcendence,
classical theism offers a half-truth—a single transcendence. In Omnipotence
and Other Theological Mistakes (1984), Hartshorne identifies “Six
Common Mistakes About God” (chapter 1) which, taken together,
describe classical theism. Classical theism is characterized by mistaken
conceptions of (1) divine perfection, (2) divine omnipotence, (3) divine
omniscience, and (4) divine sympathy, plus mistakes about (5) human
immortality and (6) human reception of divine revelation.

(1) The classical conception of divine perfection is maximally antisocial
in holding a perfect God must be wholly immutable and nonrelative
in every respect. For neoclassical theism, God is the surrelative
“subject of all change” (MVG, 251). Whereas classical theism affirms
divine immutability and denies divine change, neoclassical theism
affirms both, with change including immutable aspects.
(2) The classical conception of divine omnipotence errs in holding
that God is wholly determinative of all actual events. Such talk is nonsense,
void of coherent meaning. Neoclassical metaphysics holds that
nothing is wholly determinative of anything else. For neoclassical theology,
omnipotence means God is partly determinative of all actual
events, and partly determined by all actual events; where, by contrast,
less powerful entities are partly determinative of some actual events,
and partly determined by some actual events.
(3) The classical conception of divine omniscience wrongly holds
that whatever happens must have been eternally known as wholly
predetermined in every respect by God. Neoclassical theology holds
that omniscience means all-knowing, and knowing all things as they
really are means knowing the actually determined as actually determined
and knowing the not yet fully determined (not yet actual) as not
yet fully determined. Classical talk of knowing the partly indeterminate
as already wholly determined is logical nonsense.
(4) The classical conception of divine goodness wrongly holds that
God is impassible or unsympathetic, an “unmoved mover” (Aristotle)
who does not suffer. Rather than conceiving of God as an unmoved
mover, neoclassical theology conceives of God as unsurpassably
moved (and unsurpassably moving). Neoclassical theology holds that
divine goodness includes supreme and unsurpassable sympathy. The
all-inclusive one experiences every experience, suffering every pain
and joy fully.
(5) Classical theism frequently errs in conceiving of human immortality
as “a career after death” (OOTM, 4).19 Instead of the classical
view of “subjective immortality” as a never-ending, after-death career,
Hartshorne holds to a Whiteheadian doctrine of “objective immortality”
according to which “an entire career, with all its concrete values,
is an imperishable possession of deity” (OOTM, 40).20
(6) Classical theism is marked by an erroneous conception of infallible
special revelation (OOTM, 5). Logically, divinely inspired humans
cannot produce wholly infallible documents or doctrines because any
synthesis of the wholly infallible and the partly fallible must yield a
partly fallible product.
By emphasizing necessary divine absolutes and denying or ignoring
divine relativity, the single transcendence of classical theism produces
a supremely anti-social (nonrelative) conception of God—God
as a wholly other, immutable, unmoved mover. By contrast, the dual
transcendence of neoclassical theism yields a supremely social-relational
conception of God. Hartshorne says, “Maximizing relativity as
well as absoluteness in God [dual transcendence] enables us to conceive
him as a supreme person” (DR, 142). Logical metaphysical analysis
confirms the religious idea of God as the supremely relative person.

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Creative Process and Social Relations in the Metaphysics of Nature [s]

Whitehead on Creative Process

In Process and Reality (1929), Whitehead describes his method:
The true method of discovery is like the flight of an aeroplane. It starts from
the ground of particular observation; it makes a flight in the thin air of imaginative
generalization; and it again lands for renewed observation rendered
acute by rational interpretation. (PR, 5)
Whitehead starts by observing experience. Whitehead finds that every
occasion of experience is partly (largely) determined by previous occasions
of experience, and partly determined by the experiencing self.
Whitehead sees the process of occasions of experience contributing to
subsequent occasions of experience as a creative process wherein each
present occasion makes its own novel contribution to other future occasions.
Then, by imaginative generalization, Whitehead hypothesizes that
all reality consists of actual occasions experiencing inheritances from the

past in partly self-chosen (self-creative) ways, thereby making somewhat
novel-creative contributions to future occasions of experience.

In each
actual occasion of experience, “The many become one, and are increased
by one” (PR, 21). Whitehead holds that “creativity” is an ultimate category—“
the universal of universals” (PR, 1)—applicable to every actual
occasion in some measure, however slight. Although Whitehead’s own
designation for his philsophy was “philosophy of organism” (PR, 18), his
philosophy came to be called “process” because it emphasized the necessarily
creative “process of becoming” (PR, 24, 29).
Relative to “process,” Whitehead’s designation has the advantage
of more nearly explicating a metaphysical connection between reality
and experience. Individual organisms are experiencing entities. They
feel and interact with others. They are social beings in the creative
process of contributing to other becomings.

Thus, an organic conception
of reality denies the mechanical view of nature as mostly bits and
particles of inert matter.

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Modernity in Postmodern and Black Atlantic Views [s]

Slavery is not a major theme in any of the essays in Spirituality and
Society, and therefore it does not appear in the index. But there is an
important mention of slavery where Griffin identifies it as one of the
“disastrous” and “destructive consequences” of modern dualistic thinking
about “the nature of nature” (SSPV, 146).

Griffin says that dualism’s
materialistic view of nature” was “a major cause of colonization
(including neocolonization), mass enslavement, and war in modern
times,” and that dualistic ideas were used “to justify the enslavement
and even decimation of ‘primitives,’ in order to allow the ‘fully human’
Europeans to populate the planet and develop it” (SSPV, 146–47).

Griffin is correct in noting that modern dualism had “destructive
consequences” that included justifying colonialism and mass enslavement.
Additionally, consider the temporal priority of early transatlantic
slavery. Fifteenth- and sixteenth-century slaveholders and slave
traders required a worldview that could reconcile their increasing
commitment to enslaving others with their increasing commitment to
liberty for themselves. This morally duplicitous requirement encouraged
the development of dualistic thinking. Then, in the seventeenth
century, dualistic worldviews were further developed and widely
embraced. And, as Griffin notes, seventeenth-century dualism encouraged
the continuation and expansion of slavery and colonialism.
When we analyze modernity without reference to early modern
slavery, it appears that modern theory was leading practice. And
indeed Ferré says that premodern theory “follows rather than leads
practical success,” but in the modern era “verifiable theory began to
lead technological practice” (SSPV, 135).

However, when our analysis
includes study of early modern slavery, then we see that early modern
practice was a major cause of modern dualistic theory.
Beyond Griffin’s brief mention, Spirituality and Society includes
almost nothing about slavery. Similarly, of ten contributors describing
modern society in Postmodern Politics for a Planet in Crisis (1993), only
Roger Wilkins discusses slavery and “the contemporary burden of its
legacies” (158).28

From among constructive postmodern scholars, Wilkins, Thandeka,
and Cobb are the most attentive to the formative influences of slavery
upon modern self-understandings. In Learning to Be White: Money, Race
and God in America (1999) Thandeka offers an analysis of the construction
of white identity that is fully attentive to the influences of slavery.
In Postmodernism and Public Policy: Reframing Religion, Culture, Education,
Sexuality, Class, Race, Politics, and the Economy (2002) Cobb draws
upon Thandeka’s work and his own heritage as “a Southern white
whose ancestors owned slaves” (PPP, 162) to offer a postmodern deliberation
on domestic race and class relations. Cobb says:

Until whites recognize how deep is their self-identification as whites, they will
not understand the problems they create both for themselves and for those
whom they define as not white. The racial problem in the United States must
be redefined as that of the social construction of the white race. Until that is
deconstructed, there is no possibility for those who have been excluded from
whiteness to have equal opportunity. (PPP, 155–56)

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preservation of the past [s]

Through the desire of Renaissance artists reading Pliny to emulate Apelles, and, if possible, to outdo him, Venus Anadyomene was taken up again in the 15th century: besides Botticelli‘s famous Birth of Venus (Uffizi Gallery, Florence), another early Venus Anadyomene is the bas-relief by Antonio Lombardo from Wilton House (Victoria and Albert Museum, London).

Titian‘s Venus Anadyomene, c. 1520, formerly a long-term loan by the Duke of Sutherland, was 2003’s acquisition of the year at the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh. It depicts Venus standing in the sea, wringing out her hair. The scallop shell is merely symbolic, as it does not interact with Venus.

The Birth of Venus, executed by William-Adolphe Bouguereau in 1879, reimagines Botticelli’s composition, and is another testament to the theme’s continuing popularity among the academic painters of the late 19th century. It was shown at the Paris Salon of 1879, and was bought for the Musée du Luxembourg. Venus’ nude figure takes up the center of the composition, with many admirers gathered around her.

Alexandre Cabanel’s painting of the same name reworking the then recently discovered Pompeii fresco, was shown at the Paris Salon in 1863, and bought by Napoleon III for his own personal collection. Venus lies naked on the waves ambiguously, with putti flying above her. Robert Rosenblum, comment on Cabanel’s painting is that “This Venus hovers somewhere between an ancient deity and a modern dream… and the ambiguity of her eyes, that seem to be closed but that a close look reveals that she is awake… A nude who could be asleep or awake is specially formidable for a male viewer”[5]

Such a highly conventionalized theme, with undertones of eroticism justified by its mythological context, was ripe for modernist deconstruction; in 1870 Arthur Rimbaud evoked the image of a portly Clara Venus (“famous Venus”) with all-too-human blemishes (déficits) in a sardonic poem that introduced cellulite to high literature: La graisse sous la peau paraît en feuilles plates (the fat under the skin appears in slabs).

Pablo Picasso recast the image of Venus Anadyomene in the central figure of his seminal painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), a modernist deconstruction of the icon, and one of the foundation stones of Cubism.

Venus Anadyomene offered a natural subject for a fountain: the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC has a lifesize bronze plumbed so that water drips from Venus’ hair, modelled by a close follower of Giambologna, late sixteenth century. Rococo sculptures of the subject were modestly draped across the hips, but bolder nudes appealed to male nineteenth-century patrons: Théodore Chassériau executed the subject in 1835 and Jean-Auguste-Dominique IngresVenus Anadyomene, completed after many years in 1848, is one of the painter’s most celebrated works (Musée Condé, Chantilly, France).