A Whiteheadian Laboratory:

Featuring Erin Manning, Brian Massumi, and the SenseLab

Conference Theme

The Idea

How does the work of A.N. Whitehead help us to not just think differently, but also act, live, communicate, and learn differently? This question is the topic of WRP’s latest conference. A more specific way of putting this question is to ask: How Do We Make Ourselves a Proposition?

A proposition, for Whitehead, is not a logical assertion. It is "a matter of fact in potential" (Process and Reality, 22). Not confined in the interiority of a subject, it "awaits" in the world for "a subject to feel it" (259). "In fact, many subjects may feel it" (259). It is also potentially collective. A proposition is a "lure for feeling" for a collectivity to come (25). As such, it cannot be reduced to its verbal content or any judgment upon it (11). "It is more important that [it] be interesting than that it be true" (263). Directly experienced, it is "dominated by valuations, rather than consciousness" (PR 263).

During the course of this conference, we will try to develop new approaches not by presenting completed ideas or arguments, but by activating propositions.

The Challenge

If a proposition is a "lure for feeling" for a collectivity to come, what would a conference look like were it to take Whitehead's propositions about propositions seriously? It would look more like a laboratory of speculative thought, we propose, than a "marketplace" of ideas. A matter of fact in potential, directly experienced, is enacted, not exchanged. What would it mean to make the conference form "propositional" in the way that process philosophy understands it? We have invited the SenseLab to assist with experimenting with a more "propositional" form apt to produce more, and more intense, collective openings.

The Format

Instead of papers, we invite the participants to choose one of the following propositional forms to work on a problem that is either found in one of Whitehead's texts or inspired by his philosophy:

a paradox or temporary impasse in your work, life, thinking, or creative practice that might become newly productive if staged in a way that opens it to a collaborative exploration in or between language and other modes of expression.

a known conjunction reopened for further exploration through new techniques, thus reconfiguring its potential. Such a juncture might be a given theoretical perspective, a set of established techniques informing a particular practice, an already-operating collaboration or project, or an existing disciplinary, interdisciplinary or intermedia platform, restaged with a new inflection.

a move out from known junctures into a wander-line that is oriented by a proposition, and in that sense directionally constrained, but at the same time open-ended in way that invites new takings-form on the fly.

Presenters will present their knot, juncture, or vector in panels (via three presentations in 90 minute sessions). Please let us know if you have any special needs (e.g., the kind of space and its configuration). Unlike other WRP conferences, there will be no papers distributed. Nonetheless, prior to the conference we would like presenters to send in one page describing their chosen problem and the way in which they are wrestling with it. We are hopeful that these experimental modes will help to generate new ways of thinking about such problems, and hence new ways of acting. A book project reflecting these insights might yield an interesting outcome.