Concerning Creativity

A Comparison of Chu Hsi, Whitehead, and Neville

By John H. Berthrong

Subjects: Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Religious Studies
Paperback : 9780791439449, 254 pages, October 1998
Hardcover : 9780791439432, 254 pages, October 1998

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Table of contents



Abbreviations Used in the Text

1. The Problem of Creativity, God, and the World

2. The Development of God

3. Neville's Challenge

4. Introducing the Neo-Confucians

5. A Neo-Confucian Interlude: Chu Hsi on Creativity

6. The World Reunited

7. The Unity of Divine Things

Appendix: The Structure of Archic Analysis



A cross-cultural comparsion of creativity that introduces Neo-Confucian discourse as a sophisticated dialogue partner with modern western speculative philosophy and theology.


This work examines the philosophies and theologies of three thinkers—Chu Hsi, Alfred North Whitehead, and Robert C. Neville—separated by time, space, and culture. In so doing John H. Berthrong provides a suggestive and successful comparison of creativity as a cross-cultural theme while introducing Neo-Confucianism as a sophisticated dialogue partner with modern Western speculative philosophy and theology.

Creativity lies at the heart of the discourse of Chu Hsi (1130–1200) and Alfred North Whitehead. For both, creativity emerges as an attempt to illustrate the organic unity of the world without resorting to an appeal to a source for creativity beyond the concrete actuality of the cosmos. Subtle critics such as Robert C. Neville argue that process thought is fatally flawed because Whitehead separated creativity from the other crucial elements of his system. By interjecting the Chinese Neo-Confucian synthesis of Chu Hsi, it is possible to show how creativity can be re-integrated into process discourse as creative synthesis.

John H. Berthrong is Associate Dean for Academic and Administrative Affairs and is Director, Institute for Dialogue Among Religious Traditions, Boston University School of Theology. He is the author of All Under Heaven: Transforming Paradigms in Confucian-Christian Dialogue, also published by SUNY Press.


"This is an important work. Rarely does one encounter the sophistication exemplified by this author to be able to handle philosophical and theological issues in both Eastern and Western paradigmatic modes. While the book is introduced with emphasis upon Whitehead, Neville, and Chu Hsi, the author moves the work far beyond these three figures by taking his analysis to a point of synthesis. It leaves the reader with a sense of engagement and on-going process that welcomes the next stage of development in the beginning of cross-cultural dialogue. " — Rodney L. Taylor, University of Colorado at Boulder

"This book addresses issues that are of great importance to both process thinkers and Neo-Confucian scholars. I found myself marveling at several points in how well the author brings out neglected or overlooked features of Neo-Confucianism. This work also helped me to better understand Neville's writings on Confucianism. " — Philip J. Ivanhoe, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor