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Keywords:

  • Henri Bergson;
  • Celia Deane-Drummond;
  • empirical effects;
  • nonempirical causes;
  • Paul Ricoeur;
  • LeRon Shults;
  • Jerome Stone;
  • Alfred North Whitehead

Abstract

Using a process-oriented understanding of the relation between actions and agents, the author argues that an ontological agent is the ongoing effect or by-product rather than the antecedent cause of actions. Applied to the relation between natural and supernatural in philosophical cosmology, this allows one to claim, first, that agents (whether natural or supernatural) are not sensibly perceived, but only inferred from the ongoing observation of empirical actions; second, that the distinction between the natural and the supernatural is then conceivably a distinction between interrelated processes rather than between independently existing agents; and third, that a higher order process of supernatural origin could be operative in a lower order empirical process without interference even though its existence and activity could only be established on the basis of a faith commitment, not empirical evidence. What Paul Ricoeur referred to as a “surplus of meaning” over and above the scientific explanation of an event would be in play with the claim of divine guidance for the cosmic process.