The Open UniversitySkip to content

Whitehead and Liminality

Stenner, Paul (2018). Whitehead and Liminality. In: Stenner, Paul and Weber, Michel eds. Orpheus’ Glance. Selected papers on process psychology: The Fontarèches meetings, 2002–2017. Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgique: Les Editions Chromatika, pp. 213–228.

Full text available as:
PDF (Accepted Manuscript) - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (192kB) | Preview
Google Scholar: Look up in Google Scholar


Although he did not use the term, A.N. Whitehead’s philosophy of organism provides a way of thinking liminality in an ontological way. In making the case for ontological liminality, the chapter begins by considering Whitehead’s claim that human beings ‘became artists in ritual’ and from there proceeds to unfold the sense in which the philosophy of organism is a philosophy of limitation. For Whitehead, finitude, in its most general sense, is a species of limitation. From its partial perspective, each finite actual occasion of experience implicates the whole of reality within itself such that ‘each event signifies the whole structure’ (Whitehead, 1922, p.26). This means that no event is inherently isolated. The ontological liminality at play in this philosophy of limitation helps to make broader sense of the anthropological account of liminality advanced by Arnold van Gennep, Victor Turner and others within the social sciences, where the word 'liminal' refers to the middle, 'transitional' phase of a rite of passage. The aim is to lodge their peculiar type of processual social psychology within a broader process ontology. From this perspective, rites of passage and other rituals show up as
particular ways of ‘occasioning’ liminal experiences of becoming.

Item Type: Book Section
Copyright Holders: 2018 Author
ISBN: 2-930517-54-9, 978-2-930517-54-4
Keywords: A.N.Whitehead; process philosophy; liminality; Victor Turner; ritual
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) > Psychology and Counselling > Psychology
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) > Psychology and Counselling
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS)
Related URLs:
Item ID: 55358
Depositing User: Paul Stenner
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2018 13:08
Last Modified: 10 Aug 2019 04:41
Share this page:

Download history for this item

These details should be considered as only a guide to the number of downloads performed manually. Algorithmic methods have been applied in an attempt to remove automated downloads from the displayed statistics but no guarantee can be made as to the accuracy of the figures.

Actions (login may be required)

Policies | Disclaimer

© The Open University   contact the OU