In process thought, things, properties and even the most universal of natural regularities are somewhat repeatable ways of newly interacting, “eddies in the constant flux of process.” No matter how stable or fixed they look, they never fully describe the novelty involved in every concrete interaction.

This radically reframes how we approach the usual debates about determinism and human freedom. Process thinkers don’t equate freedom (creativity) with sheer indeterminacy or unpredictability (how are you free if you have no idea what you’ll do next?). While there are always relatively indeterminate and unpredictable aspects, there are also determinate and predictable aspects involved in what Whitehead called “the production of novel togetherness,” the newly influenced capacity to be newly influential.

On these terms, we’re no longer asking how to fit creativity into an otherwise closed system of causes and effects. Seemingly closed systems of any sort are abstractions from unclosed “eddies in the constant flux of process.” They’re not just constructions or projections, as some versions of postmodernism allege. They outline real influences, but they’re still abstractions. No matter how widely they apply, they never exhaust all that is creatively happening, whether on a human level, a quantum level or any other level.

From another angle one might go so far as to say that process thought actually reverses the way we think of cause-and-effect: a cause is a cause only as its concrete effects are actively internalizing it; effects always “transcend” their causes in various ways. (If we ignore these transcending aspects, we are speaking of effects in abstraction from their concrete happenings.) So it can be said that the causes are passive, the effects active.

Representing the Stanford School in philosophy of science, John Dupre (who seems only recently to have discovered his affinities with Whitehead) makes a similar case: “Few, if any, situations have a complete causal truth to be told about them. Causal regularity is a much rarer feature of the world than is generally supposed. And the real solution to the problem of freedom of the will … is to recognize that humans, far from being putative exceptions to an otherwise seamless web of causal connection, are in fact dense concentrations of causal power in a world where [causal regularity] is in short supply. The solution to the problem of human autonomy that I propose, then, is a complete reversal of traditional … approaches.” (online here)