Society for the Study of Process Philosophies
Founded: 1966 - Member: International Process Network

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History of the Society

The Society for the Study of Process Philosophies began as a forum for papers and discussion—a Morning Group—at the annual summer conference of the Society for Values in Higher Education. Merle Allshouse and George Allan, both faculty at Dickinson College, were the organizers of this group. After a couple of successful summers, it was given a small grant by SVHE to see if it could function on its own.

Allshouse and Allan turned the Morning Group attendee lists into a membership list and founded a new society, complete with checking account. The title was explicitly plural to indicate that advocates of process philosophies of any sort were encouraged to contribute papers, that although Whitehead’s thought would likely be a central concern his ideas were by no means to be privileged. SSPP held its first meeting in conjunction with the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association in 1967. At that time there were only two other groups routinely attached to the Eastern Division: the Personalist Society, and the Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy.

Some of the papers given during the Morning Group sessions were collected as volume 50 (1967) of the Christian Scholar (as Soundings was then called): papers by William Christian, Donald Crosby, Lewis Ford, David Griffin, Richard Hocking, T.R. Martland, Ralph Norman, Howard Parsons, Herbert Reinelt, and Donald Sherburne.

In the 1970s, SSPP expanded to include an annual session in conjunction with the Metaphysical Society of America, coordinated by Bob Neville. We are the only society ever to convince Paul Weiss that its presence was compatible with the aims of the group he founded. The SSPP also began to hold sessions in conjunction with Central Division meetings of the APA in 1970s, coordinated by Bill Hamrick. In the late 1970s a fourth annual session was added, in conjunction with the Pacific Division of APA, coordinated by George Lucas.

Over the years there have been changes in coordination of the specific programs, and periods of time when the Central and Pacific meetings were not held. Merle Allshouse dropped out of the Society soon after its founding. George Allan continued as overall coordinator until 1988 when he was replaced by Joe Grange. In 1998 Jude Jones assumed the overall coordinator role.

The pattern of SSPP meetings has been fairly constant over its 32 years. Copies of the paper for discussion are circulated in advance. The author, maybe two of them, is given a few minutes to highlight main points and arguments. A commentator, maybe two, lays out concerns or points up issues for exploration. This takes no more than half the allotted time, the remainder being devoted to questions from the audience and often conservation among them. SSPP encourages papers-in-progress, papers with positions still not fully formed and so particularly vulnerable to, and so likely to benefit by, the enduring discussion.

(Society History generously provided by George Allan)