2nd European Summer School for Process Philosophy

The Second European Summer School for Process Philosophy took place this past summer from August 5 to 10, at the Katholische Akademie »Die Wolfsburg« in Mülheim an der Ruhr, Germany. The summer school was organized by the German Whitehead Society, directed by Helmut Maaßen with Aljosche Berve as secretary, and it included a number of invited speakers, as well as lecturers from across Europe and the United States. Following the typical summer school format, the invited speakers conducted morning seminars on topics related to Whitehead’s philosophy, including education, language and symbolism, theology and neuroscience, mathematics, and metaphysics, while the afternoons were filled with paper presentations from other participants. The event fostered discussion and collaboration among the gathered European and American Whitehead scholars and created the opportunity for the reconstitution of the European Society for Process Thought.

On the first day of the summer school, Bogdan Ogrodnik and Miroslaw Patalon, two Polish Whitehead scholars, led the morning seminar on education, discussing education as the process of adapting humans to an environment through certain rhythms. Ogrodnik outlined three stages in the rhythm of education and correlated these stages to a model of human consciousness advanced by Jean Geber, while Patalon articulated a pedagogy of ecumenism based on an understanding of education as facilitating encounters for transformation and learning. In the afternoon participants heard lectures from Dennis Sölch (Düsseldorf, Germany), Roland Cazalis (Namur, Belgium), Denys Zhadiaiev (Ukraine), John Pickering (Warwick, UK), and Aljosche Berve (Düsseldorf, Germany).
The focus of the second morning’s seminar was language and symbolism. Maria-Teresa Teixeira from the University of Lisbon in Portugal led the seminar by first differentiating between symbols and signs and, second, by describing Whitehead’s theory of symbolism and symbolic reference, using a series of sketches by French artist René Magritte to illustrate the interplay between perception and meaning. Afternoon lectures were presented by Ella Csikós (Budapest, Hungary), Martin Kaplicky (Prague, Czech Republic), Katelynn Carver (Boston, United States), and Jeremy Fackenthal (Claremont, United States).
On the third day of the summer school, Nathaniel Barrett (Pamplona, Spain) led a seminar on theology, drawing parallels between ancient Chinese thought and aspects of Whitehead’s philosophy. Barrett discussed aspects of harmony and spontaneity in Confucian and Daoist thought before articulating a dilemma or tension between the two poles of narrowness (or intensity) and width (or diversity) within Chinese thought.
In the afternoon participants were treated to a walking tour of nearby Essen, Germany, and a trip to the local Folkwang Museum in Essen, which contains a remarkable collection of works ranging from Impressionism to contemporary art.
Vesselin Petrov of Sophia, Bulgaria, conducted the seminar focused on mathematics on the morning of the fourth day. Petrov read in part from a recent manuscript on Milic Capek and Whitehead, which details theories of space/time that reject the infinite divisibility of time. Stascha Rohmer (Berlin, Germany), Tina Röck (Innsbruck, Austria), Piotr Lesniak (Opole, Poland), Matthias Rugel (Munich, Germany), and Alex Haitos (College Station, United States) each presented lectures that afternoon on various aspects of Whitehead’s metaphysics and ontology.
The conference concluded with a final seminar led by Belgian Whitehead scholar Michel Weber on Whitehead’s metaphysics, cosmology and speculative philosophy. Weber touched on concepts including creativity, eternal objects, Whitehead’s notion of God, and causal efficacy, offering exegesis of some key passages from Whitehead’s corpus.
This Second European Summer School provided opportunities for collegiality and even recreation in the form of spontaneous evening soccer matches and afternoon strolls in the nearby woods. Out of this collegiality came unanimous support for the reconstitution of the European Society for Process Thought as a pan-European endeavor to support scholarship, conferences, and symposia related to aspects of process thought.

Jeremy Fackenthal