What is Called ‘Process Thought’: A transdisciplinary process ontology for psychosocial studies

Stenner, Paul (2022). What is Called ‘Process Thought’: A transdisciplinary process ontology for psychosocial studies. In: Frosh, Stephen; Vyrgioti, Marita and Walsh, Julie eds. The Palgrave Handbook of Psychosocial Studies. Cham.: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 1–28.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-61510-9_43-1


Transdisciplinary in nature, psychosocial work has drawn on a range of theoretical inspirations. This contribution builds on prior theoretical work to make the case that ‘process thought’ is a good candidate for inspiring the sort of ‘metatheory’ that is not only helpful to researchers concerned with the psychosocial relation, but also for integrating different research traditions. ‘Process thought’ is here used to name a tradition of thinking, like the expression ‘continental thought’. The purpose is to give content to what is called ‘process thought’ and to show its relevance to the psychosocial domain. The event-centred relational ontology of process thought is outlined, along with its epistemology of ‘deep empiricism’. Process thought is presented as a ‘tradition’ of thought for which a history of the present is directly relevant, and A.N. Whitehead’s work is discussed as an exemplar. The sources of process thought are traced philosophically in the tension between endurance and flux and an account is given of the adventures of ‘substance thought’ from Greek philosophy to modern scientific materialism. The explicit emergence of process thought in the West is traced to the nineteenth century, and its entanglements with the emergence of modern psychology (including that of Freud) in Europe and North America are highlighted, along with its attack by new forms of substance thought in the early twentieth century.

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