EOs and OO
An Equivalence of Process and Software Engineering
Rev. John A. Mills, 2001
Alfred North Whitehead in Process and Reality (Corrected Edition) (PR) introduces the notion of "eternal object (EO)". This specific term and notion disappears from later Process literature. But the notion of EOs is important to understand Process' relationship to the holosynchronal Implicate order of Bohm. Process ontologically is spatiotemporal, but at the moment of concrescence, an actual entity is "processing" in a timeless, spaceless state. At that infinitesimal instant, an entity encounters the Implicate order populated by Plato's forms, Jung's archetypes, and now Whitehead's EOs.
In PR, Whitehead describes EOs as pure potentials (p22) much like Plato's forms (p44) or Locke's ideas (p52) (he never mentions Jung or archetypes). They are the potentials for the process of becoming and are neutral as to physical manifestation (p44). EOs are qualities with "perspective introduced by extensive relationships (p61)", such as colors, sounds, bodily feelings, tastes and smells, and the relations between entities (p194). They are the templates that mediate the world for us (p62, p64) and are the instruments of novelty (p45).
EOs are "ingressed" into an actual entity during concrescence (p23, p149), at which instant, an EO is objectified or particularized or instantiated by and into the entity (p194). The potentiality of the EO is realized in the actuality (p23, p25, p149). EOs, bearing the divine, are the actualities that connect the spatiotemporal with the holosynchronal. "The things which are temporal arise by their participation in things which are eternal … By reason of the actuality of this primordial valuation of pure potential, each eternal object has a definite, effective relevance to each concrescent process (p40)." When an EO is ingressed into an actuality, it is particularized for that actuality, but its own nature and existence remains independent and available to be instantiated in other actualities (p29).
EOs exist in the Primordial Nature of God (PNG) which is similar to the Platonic world of forms (p46). The PNG is the unconditional conceptual valuation of the entire multiplicity of EOs (p31,p32), the complete envisagement of EOs (p44). "[God] is the actual entity in virtue of which the entire multiplicity of eternal objects obtains its graded relevance to each stage of concrescence (p164)." Cobb and Griffin explain that "… God is that factor in the universe which establishes what-is-not as relevant to what-is, and lures the world toward new forms of realization (p.43)." Further, they explain that the PNG is God as creative love, the source of novel order and ordered novelty in the world as the Logos incarnated, the Christ, in creatures as the initial aim whose actualization provides the greatest joy and integrates discordant elements creatively into contrasts (p98-99). "In place of an ultimate ground of being Whitehead speaks of creativity as ultimate. But creativity, far from having eminent supratemporal reality, has no existence in itself and is to be found only in actual instances of the many becoming one … he speaks of a primordial, eternal nature of God, but this envisagement of possibilities is an abstraction from the actual process that is God (p141)." And Barbour suggests that God is the primordial ground of order structuring the potential forms of relationship before they are actualize and the ground of novelty ordering particular potentialities (p175f).
Now give this synopsis of EOs, I propose that the software engineering Object-Oriented (OO) model is a contemporary and easier understood construct for EOs. The OO model concerns classes, objects, instances, methods, encapsulation, inheritance, and polymorphism (s. Taylor).
An object is a set of related procedures or methods and data. An object invokes another object by sending it a message, which is the name of a method in the receiving object plus appropriate data or parameters. A class, then, is a template defining methods and variables to be included in a particular type of object. An object belonging to a class is an instance of the class. Many objects can be instantiated from a class. A class can be defined in terms of another class. It inherits the methods and variables of the superclass and can modify these or define additional methods and variables. There is no limit to the depth of the class hierarchy. For example, suppose that there is a part class. Possible subclasses are motor, chassis, and connectors. There are two subclasses of motor: drive motor and stepping motor. Polymorphically, a method can be supported by more than one object, each handling it differently to suit its context.
Now equivalence between EOs and OO can be made. A class is an EO. The highest class in a class hierarchy is a simple EO and subclasses are complex EOs. Objects are the objectification of EOs in actualities. Polymorphically, an actuality in its own prehension of a class may instantiate the object to suit itself. Thus, a class is the potential and an object is the actual.
But where is the PNG? It is in the mind, intent, and skill of the designer. Though, physically, the multiplicity of classes would reside in one or more class libraries, these are just static repositories. The conceptual valuation of the EOs is from the designer. The designer constructs the classes to model his or her world and in this manner, the designer as mediator of the physical world determines the primordial nature undergirding the set of classes.
As an example, our designer is designing a video game and must model a cyberworld. One task is to animate a human figure. The figure is an object of objects. The individual objects are instantiated from classes, which are templates for the head, the arm, the leg, and the body. For a specific figure, one head, two arms and legs, and one body are instantiated, each with their own attributes. Additionally each object has "logic" defining how it moves. When our designer defines a start key frame and an end key frame, the modeling infrastructure (equivalent to the Laws of Nature?) interpolates a series of frames instantiating the figure and its associated objects through a set of discrete temporal frames.
Each frame provides spatial dimensions and the sequence of frames provides the temporal dimension, thus defining the spatiotemporal process. The computation of each frame is holosynchronical and is a process of concresence. The individual frame is then an actual occasion. If we add artificial intelligence (AI) to the interpolation of each frame, such that in the concrescence of each frame, the figure has free will, and if we include as inputs into the concrescence a weighted influence from all other objects in that frame (i.e., all objects send messages to the figure), then we can simulate Process.
Thus, the equivalence of EOs and OO is a potentially rich source of understanding Process, concrescence, and holosynchronality. This equivalence can be developed with further examples from OO, from AI, and from computer animation techniques. An actuality can be modeled as a free-will automaton (a theomaton) and the PNG can be further developed using various software engineering models.
Barbour, Ian G.; When Science Meets Religion Meets Religion: Enemies, Strangers or Partners; HarperSanFrancisco ©2000.
Cobb, John B. and David Ray Griffin; Process Theology: an Introductory Exposition; The Westminster Press: Phil ©1976.
Taylor, David A. Ph.D.; Object-Oriented Technology: A Manager's Guide; Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., Inc. ©1990 by Servio Corporation.
Whitehead, Alfred North; Process and Reality (Corrected Edition); edited by David Ray Griffin and Donald W. Sherburne ©1978 The Free Press, NY. Also see the contextual index for EOs from the Japan Process Center athttp://www.asahi-net.or.jp/~sn2y-tnk/eternal.htm.