International Philosophy Congress Probes Ideas For Peace Among Religions

2009-01-16 18:44:04
Philosophers who took part in an international congress say ideas of the late British philosopher Alfred North Whitehead can help create peace in a multi-religious society such as India.
Carmelite Father Kurian Kachappilly, the convenor of the convention.
About 200 philosophers and intellectuals from Asia, Africa, Europe and the United States attended the Church-organized Seventh International Whitehead Conference, held Jan. 5-9 in Bangalore, 2,060 kilometers south of New Delhi. Whitehead (1861-1947) developed "process philosophy," which views all reality, including metaphysical reality, as part of an ongoing process and thereby subject to change. "The flexibility of this philosophy can accommodate almost everything," Claretian Father Joseph Mappilaparambil, a conference participant, told UCA News on Jan. 12. The philosophy, also called "ontology of becoming," does not regard change as accidental to reality. This view contradicts classical thinking, which says the core of reality remains unchanged. Carmelites of Mary Immaculate priests organized the event to mark the silver jubilee of the philosophy department of their Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram, a major seminary in the city. The philosophy department of Christ College, a university they manage, helped organize the program. Previous conferences on Whitehead have been held elsewhere in the world every two years. ia_bangalore.gifCarmelite Father Kurian Kachappilly, conference convener, told UCA News Whitehead´s thought has much to offer the modern world, where religion has become a source of conflict. He said the latest conference, on "Process, Religion and Society," examined how Whitehead´s philosophy can bring about peace in India´s multi-lingual, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society. One of the 100 or so paper presenters is Jan Van Veken, who examined the idea that people´s interpretation of God is a process. He said it is imperfect and always evolving, so people need not be hostile to others who have other interpretations of God. Whitehead´s philosophy "does not make anyone hostile to others but rather unites (them) in love," he told UCA News. "Christianity presents God as love, and this love is in process to make us free." Fang Huan-fei, a philosophy professor at China´s Zhejiang University, spoke of Jesus Christ as the continuation of "God, the finest being." In seeing God as a process, he told UCA News, "we have to recognize him in our context and polish our attitudes, behavior and philosophy of life accordingly." Fang also stressed that in the process of life, one need not hold a certain position or belief permanently because "life is what we make and not what is inherited." John Cobb, 85, from the United States, stressed relationships and community living as keys to peaceful coexistence. Life is "a process," he argued in his presentation, and it is meaningful only if we actively participate in it through human relationships in communities, not just as "spectators." The idea of seeing everything as part of a process helps societies stress love, compassion and responsibility, he said. Emphasizing community living, Cobb said people in America and Europe have become "panicky" during the current economic recession, but people in India and China did not panic "because of their communitarian culture of living." Helmut Maaben, a German philosopher, looks on God as a companion and "co-traveler in the process of making our life an event." Thus viewing God, he told UCA News, "helps give more meaning to life, particularly in multi-religious societies." Swami Sukhabhodannada, a Hindu ascetic who inaugurated the conference, told participants that communal disharmony results from not being aware of the presence of God in various forms. END
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