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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The fallacy of misplaced concreteness distorts modern leadership study and practice: Four principles of process proposed by Alfred North Whitehead reform four modernist abstractions
by Conger, Joan Elizabeth, Ph.D., Fielding Graduate University, 2016, 444; 10244140
Abstract (Summary)

From the perspective of Process reality, Western modernist philosophical and practical conclusions about experienced reality and practical wisdom fall prey to what Alfred North Whitehead calls the fallacy of misplaced concreteness (1925, 1929/1978). The fallacy misplaces, or abstracts, substance assumptions from a flow reality, more specifically such assumptions as the fallacy of the bifurcation of nature, the fallacy of substance-thinking, and the fallacy of simple location from the perspective of the Ideal and the perspective of the Real. From such abstractions cascades the familiar problem of the dualist-materialist world knot creating and exacerbated by forced, and false, choices arising between realism and idealism. However useful they may be, these choices ignore the more fundamental processual reality, and within their distortions effectiveness in a world of inherent change eventually becomes untenable. Committing, instead, to a processual world solely consistent of experiential unitivity and creative advance changes fundamental assumptions about the Ideal, ranging from formal rational choice to formative emancipatory development. Similarly, committing to a world made solely of relationality and emergence changes fundamental assumptions about the Real, ranging from subjective social constructions to objective material processes. Process reality does not, however, require the negation and rejection of misplaced abstractions but converts them to a Jamesian (1912) “radical empirical” order of understanding—a greater breadth of grasp and a more complex and thus more effective understanding and pragmatic engagement of flow, not substance, reality. This dissertation explores this reform through four Whiteheadian principles of Process reality (1929/1978): the ontological principle, the principle of relativity, and the principles of process from the empirical perspective of vectored change and the formative perspective of change through concern. This dissertation also considers the fallacies of misplaced concreteness from the special case of contemporary leadership study and practice, specifically the fields of strategic planning, organization development, managerial influence, and organization design. To embark on the study and practice of leadership in the contemporary global conditions of fundamental volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity requires a grasp of processual reality’s dynamic experiential creativity. A Process grasp of reality will fundamentally reform Ideal and Real metaphysical commitments of research and theory as much as practice and outcome. A Process grasp of reality will allow the breadth of choice and engagement necessary for the understanding and performance of effective leadership.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Shapiro, Jeremy J.
Commitee: Bradbury, Hilary, Guilarte, Miguel G., Kennedy, Ruth, Lopes, Milton E.
School: Fielding Graduate University
Department: Human and Organization Development
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 78/06(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Philosophy of Science, Organization Theory, Organizational behavior
Keywords: Process philosophy, Theory reform, Whitehead, Alfred North, Wisdom
Publication Number: 10244140
ISBN: 978-1-369-43642-6
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