The Work of Bowman L. Clarke

Among Philosophers who have been trained and worked within the areas of process philosophy and theology, analytic philosophy, and philosophic logic, Bowman L. Clarke stands out as one of the key figures who have attempted to integrate these three distinct and overlapping fields of 20th Century philosophical inquiry. 

Bowman Lafayette Clarke was born in Meridian, Mississippi, on September 19, 1927. He earned a BA degree from Millsaps College (1948), a BD and MA in Theology from Emory University (1952), a MA in philosophy from the University of Mississippi (1957). and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Emory University (1961). Early in his career, he served as Director of the Wesley Foundation at Georgia State College for Women (1953-54) and at the University of Mississippi (1954-57). He was an Instructor of Philosophy at the University of the South for one year (1959-60) and held a research position at Emory University for one year (1960-61) before joining the Department of Philosophy at the University of Georgia as an Assistant Professor in 1961 where he spent the rest of his career. He became a Professor of Philosophy in 1967 and served as Coordinator of Graduate Studies and as Head of the Department for many years (from 1972-79). He retired in 1990 and died at his home in Athens, Georgia, on November 20, 1996. 

During his distinguished career, Clarke held several important and prestigious offices in various professional societies. He was President of the Georgia Philosophical Society (1968-69), President of the Society for the Philosophy of Religion (1972-73), and a member of the Council (1978-82) and then President of the Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology (1988-89). He served first as Associate Editor of the International Journal for Philosophy of Religion (1970-74) and then as Editor-in-Chief of that same journal for nearly fifteen years (1975-89). During his tenure, the journal not only increased dramatically in circulation, but under his leadership, it also became one of the most recognized and highly regarded journals in the field of the philosophy of religion. He was active in several different professional societies including the American Philosophical Association, the Metaphysical Society of America, the Society for Philosophy of Religion, the Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology, and the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy.

He was the author of Language and Natural Theology (The Hague: Mouton and Co., 1966), a revised and enlarged version of the dissertation which he wrote under Charles Hartshorne during Hartshorne’s tenure at Emory University. He was also the editor or co-editor of several volumes, including, most recently, God and Temporality (edited with Eugene T. Long)(New York: the Paragon Press, 1984). He was also the author of dozens of articles in various professional journals and anthologies, and he delivered numerous papers at various meetings of different professional societies and different universities across the country.

His main contributions to scholarship fall into three areas: first, he was a recognized, leading scholar and interpreter of the works of Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne. In a series of six very important articles, Clarke analyzed and assessed various interpretations and criticisms of Whitehead and Hartshorne and attempted to show clearly wherein their process views were similar as well as different. Representative of these articles is his invited piece in the 25th Anniversary Issue of the International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, entitled "Two process views of God." Secondly, in a series of five articles on the classical arguments for the existence of God, he explored the common logical assumptions and the logical constructions of the different formulations of the classical arguments from Anselm and Aquinas to Plantinga. Especially interesting is his work on Peirce’s abductive argument and the way in which logical abduction provides the first step in formulating the hypothesis of God which must be clarified and justified within a metaphysical theory which assumes the modal criteria of both possibility and necessity. He sees Anselm’s and Aquinas’ work as models of what needs to be done today. A nice summary of his interpretation is "The Logical Roles of Proofs for the Existence of God" in Reason, Experience and God, ed., Eugene T. Long (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, l980). Finally, he made important and novel contributions to what is called "logical construction"--the attempt to use a formal, rigorous, logically constructed axiomatic system to provide a metaphysical explanation of the universe. Using individual variables to range over spatio-temporal regions and the primitive predicate,"x is connected with y" Clarke’s development of the calculus of individuals and qualitative abstraction continued the tradition represented by A. N. Whitehead's Process and Reality, Rudolf Carnap's The Logical Structure of the World, and Nelson Goodman's The Structure of. Appearance. With reference to process philosophy, see his contribution "Logical Construction, Whitehead, and God" in the volume of papers in his honor: Logic, God and Metaphysics: Studies in Philosophy and Religion Volume l5, ed. James Franklin Harris (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, l992) . 

Clarke’s work is exemplary of the highest standards of rigorous philosophical analysis and construction, and for all those who are interested in the advancement of process philosophy and theology, an acquaintance with Clarke’s productive accomplishments is a must. His understanding of Whitehead and Hartshorne, in our judgment, is unsurpassed and his philosophic logic exhibits maximum candor. 

William L. Power
University of Georgia

James F. Harris
College of William and Mary

Vitae for Bowman L. Clarke