Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
John C. Robertson, Jr
In this dissertation I examine some possible areas in which Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Alfred North Whitehead share similar interpretations of the nature of cosmos and the nature of God. Further, I seek to illustrate areas of their cosmological-theistic interpretations where they offer distinctive views.
Several recent authors have made references to apparent similarities between specific areas contained in the writings of Whitehead and Teilhard. For the most part these references are made somewhat in passing and are, therefore, undeveloped.
However, two articles by Ian Barbour deal at some length with a comparison of Whitehead and Teilhard. The first "Five Ways of Reading Teilhard," (in the Teilhard Review, III (1968) I, 3-20) is an attempt to show "....that Teilhard's most significant intellectual contribution is a 'process theology' which combines Christian theology and process philosophy." The second article, "Teilhard's Process Metaphysics," (Journal of Religion, 49 (1969) 2, 136-159) is an exploration of "some of Teilhard's metaphysical categories which reflect both evolutionary and biblical assumptions." While each of these articles is a clear interpretation of Teilhard's thought and of significant value for anyone interested in comparing Whitehead and Teilhard, nevertheless, they tend to describe Teilhard as closely allied to the general scheme of Whitehead's 'process' philosophy. While I agree with Dr. Barbour on many of his points, I am led to challenge an interpretation which too closely allies Whitehead and Teilhard. Therefore, while a number of authors have suggested some similarities between Whitehead and Teilhard, no one (to my knowledge) has presented a developed comparison of their thoughts. Among the many possible areas for comparison, I have chosen to concentrate on two; namely, their respective interpretations of the structure and activity of the cosmos and their respective interpretations of the nature and activity of God. While noting several similarities between the thoughts of these two thinkers, I have been led to conclude that their distinctive Interpretations are of greater importance. Briefly, I maintain in this study that each describes the universe as having a different structure and guided by God described as having a different nature and function.
Hopefully, this dissertation will have scholarly significance not only because of its 'pioneer' quality, i.e., because it raises issues others might wish to challenge and pursue further, but also, because of its concentration on specific pivotal issues, this dissertation might be useful to those suspecting some alliance of these two systems with one another.
STRUCTURE AND DEVELOPMENT
In Chapter One, I seek to organize Teilhard's cosmological ideas. In Chapter Two, I consider Whitehead's cosmological categories and present a preliminary comparison between his cosmology and that of Teilhard. Next, in Chapter Three I turn my attention to Teilhard's 'theism,' examining what his cosmological proposals lead him to say regarding the existence of God. Also, within this chapter, I take note of the 'theological' interpretation of God which Teilhard appears to incorporate into his system. In Chapter Four, I turn my attention to Whitehead's 'theism,' noting his discussion of God's existence and activity relative to the cosmos. Also, in this chapter I offer a preliminary comparison of the 'theisms' of Teilhard and Whitehead. Next, in Chapter Five, I consider, in summary, the principle areas in which Teilhard and Whitehead agree and, specifically, where their interpretations differ. The latter portion of this chapter is devoted to what might be a central critique of Teilhard's scheme from a Whiteheadian point of view. Finally, in an Appendix I consider Teilhard's "Christology," asking whether his interpretation of Christ provides a theme indicating that Teilhard's God is mutable (i.e., passive) and asking, further, whether Teilhard's interpretation of Christ revises the cosmological issues of irreversibility and infallibility I found so prominent in Teilhard's system.
Homlish, John Stephen Jr, "The Cosmos and God According to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Alfred North Whitehead" (1974). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 3006.