If Chora is to be understood as condition, what is its substance if not form?

Mathematics, usually a quintessential example of universal law above the line of the visible and invisible, is understood by Whitehead as a presentation of the relatedness that inheres in the things through their abstractions. That relatedness happens through what he calls Receptacle, Plato's other name for Chora. Substance dualism according to Whitehead is an intrusion of over-individualization from the early into the later Plato. A self-sufficient realm of abstraction is exactly what Plato challenges and corrects by way of Chora/Receptacle in Timaeus.

The general science of mathematics, according to Whitehead, investigates patterns of connectedness. These patterns are abstracted from particular elements and their particular connections. Patterns are mental and knowable in that they are abstracted but they are also actual in that they inhere.

Like the quantum physics of Whitehead's day, there is something like a subtle form of Aristotle's matter operating. The concept is not just reflecting contingency but creating it, and necessity is nothing if not a material condition.

Relativity establishes relation as a feature of contingents and contingency as a feature of being. The feature/ground dynamic of inherence generates a resonance background that by further inhering, establishes a totality.

“The real point is that the essential connectedness of things can never be safely omitted. This is the doctrine of the thoroughgoing relativity which inflects the universe and which makes the totality of things as it were a Receptacle uniting all that happens. [...] Receptacle imposes a common relationship on all that happens, but does not impose what that relationship shall be.”

-- Adventures of Ideas 150

The Receptacle section of Adventures of Ideas follow a discourse on the question of natural laws, describing law as a certain “smoothness” in an order of things from which observations of “regularity or of persistence or of recurrence” can occur. These patterns in mutual relations are laws of nature, such that “a Law is explanatory of some community in character pervading the things which constitute Nature,” presupposing “the essential interdependence of things.” Since an immanent law depends on the changing character of the things, the law must change. Thus immanent law negates absolute being along with any fixed or permanent conceptions of these laws.

Receptacle as a general principle is the meeting “place” and holding of the collective inheritance of the past and anticipation of the next moment. It is integration and recreation, a receptivity that allows for a return that is never the same, a home that has no settlement; that in accord with Heraclitus, can’t be encountered the same way twice. As such it is the “medium of intercommunication.”

“Receptacle is the most general necessity, empty in itself, without agenda or aim, that represents the necessity that becoming has to keep on going, keep on creating all together.” 1

Whitehead's chora creates difference and ensures connectivity, multiplying and keeping things within a common field of connection. There is individuality in the private nature of concrescence, but there is also community because it is the same past that is prehended. We are not alone in our becoming. And because everything else is becoming too, there are limitations on what we can become.

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The Matter of Mind


1 Luke Higgins, telephone conversation, November 5, 2015. See also Luke B. Higgins, The Time of Ecology: Theological Cosmology for a Postmodern Earth , 2013).

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