We habitually speak of stones, and planets, and animals, as though each individual thing could exist, even for a passing moment, in separation from an environment which is in truth a necessary factor in its own nature.
No can be. Metaphysically speaking. Indeed,
Science is taking on a new aspect which is neither purely physical, nor purely biological. It is becoming the study of organisms. Biology is the study of the larger organisms; whereas physics is the study of the smaller organisms.
To which I would add -- not in any woo woo way, but literally -- the cosmos is the largest organism. And yet, it cannot be ultimate, because organicism is a function of personhood, not vice versa. We'll no doubt come back this principle, if not in this post, then in themes four, five, or six. But "participation" already hints at personhood, since it is an entailment of persons, and persons are by definition irreducibly intersubjective.
Whitehead blows up both biology and physics, at least the orthodox but incoherent view that ether subordinates the former to the latter, or that places a sharp line between them. For, example, the doctrine of evolution "cries aloud for a conception of organism as fundamental for nature." In other words, if organism is fundamental and not just epiphenomenal, then neither biology nor physics are what we (they) think they are.
Can't get more participatory than this: "in a certain sense, everything is everywhere at all times. For every location involves an aspect of itself in every other location. Thus, every spatio-temporal standpoint mirrors the world" (ibid.).
By the way, I don't bring in Whitehead as some kind of appeal to authority. Rather, to common sense.
I suppose we could say that human beings are woven of the limitless and limited; or finitude and infinitude; or absolute and relative. Or, we could say that humans have the privilege of being finite and yet conformed to the infinite, which is what makes knowledge of totality possible but totality of knowledge impossible.
As Clarke describes it, "the immanent One in many is also a many from a transcendent One." This is a key, because what is knowledge -- of anything -- but a kind of participatory oneness-to-oneness in Oneness?
Is that obscure enough for you? If so, put it this way: knowledge of anything presupposes the existence of that single thing under investigation. But the investigation presupposes a single mind capable of knowing this one thing it has selected or abstracted from the whole. And the unification of these two -- intelligible object and intelligent subject -- presupposes a higher unity that is the source of these two, i.e., the unity of the object (that which makes it one) and the unicity (i.e., interior oneness) of the subject.
If things weren't structured in this way, then 1 + 1 would always = a pair of ones instead of a synthetic twoness, to say nothing of transcendent threeness (and all genuine creativity participates in a generative threeness).
The following sounds very much like Whitehead, and not just because it's a run-on sentence. The participatory cosmos
must be seen as a synoptic vision of the universe, in which all beings, from the lowest to the highest, come together to form a single great community, where each holds the common identification card of the act of existence, or active presence, plus its own individual signature as a distinct member of this ultimate club of real being, where everything has secret affinities with everything else from highest to lowest, where nothing real can ever be objectively alienated in any ultimate way (Clarke).
In short, "To be is to be together." And in the end, "psyche mirrors nature and nature mirrors psyche, each in its own way" (ibid.). This isn't a metaphor; rather it is why we have metaphor, or even language itself.