© 2010, Alexander Haitos


[From the introduction}

Genuine novelty is the introduction and creation of new things, relations, and affections in the world. Human experience constantly confronts us with novelty, in surprising, intimate ways (spotting new freckles, a great cup of hot chocolate, budding flowers), and in more time-extended, sweeping ways (invention of the automobile, the Little Ice Age, the development of homo sapiens). And yet things are the same. The novel always contains what has already been as a component, but with some modification.

Generically, all novelty is the outcome of some creative act, and all creative acts beget some novelty. Apart from this, the concept of novelty is not homogenous. There can be novel items – individual and unique things. There can be novel kinds: new sorts of things or states of affairs, new types of events. There can be novel problems and questions and concepts. All novelty involves a measure of unpredictability and a measure of breaking from the status quo. And novelty is a pervasive element of human experience.

I want to take this aspect of human experience seriously when doing metaphysics; I do not want to make the world of human experience secondary to some ineffable realm. Because our experience is an aspect of the real world, an account of novelty must acknowledge that the novel things that emerge in the course of events are “genuine.” That is, they are metaphysically significant and ontologically real. I want to construct a metaphysic that accommodates pervasive change and novelty, one that accommodates radical novelty.

This is, however, a drastic change from much contemporary metaphysical work. Often, the way change is dealt with metaphysically renders our most intimate interactions and feelings an unimportant component of reality (if it is a component at all). Thus the reworking of many fundamental notions is required in order to make sense of the ideas of ‘change’ and ‘novelty.’ One of these notions is ‘possibility.’ Commonly held notions of possibility, such as an existence-less form (a “possible object” – a plaid apple, for example), or possibility as a rearrangement of the elements of actuality (taking what actually exists and putting it in new combinations – horse + horn = unicorn), drain all significance from the notion of novelty. In this paper, I attempt to revise our notion of possibility using Bergson and Whitehead by creating a picture that does not entail “possible objects,” but allows for a creative actuality and radical novelty. This modified view of possibility will provide a basis for understanding higher and more complex and coordinated forms of novelty. [...]

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