Whitehead's magnum opus is as important as it is difficult. It is the only work in which his metaphysical ideas are stated systematically and completely, and his metaphysics are the heart of his philosophical system as a whole. Sherburne has rearranged the text in a way designed to lead the student logically and coherently through the intricacies of the system without losing the vigor of Whitehead's often brilliant prose. "The Key renders Process and Reality pedagogically accessible for the (...) first time."-- Journal of Religion. (shrink)
The mathematical background and content of Greek philosophy, by F. S. C. Northrop.--The one and the many in Plato, by R. Demos.--An introduction to the De modis significandi of Thomas of Erfurt, by S. Buchanan.--Truth by convention, by W. V. Quine.--Logical positivism and speculative philosophy, by H. S. Leonard.--The nature and status of time and passage, by P. Weiss.--Causality, by S. Kerby--iller.--The compound individual, by C. Hartshorne.--The good, by O. H. Lee.
In addition to his brilliant achievements in theoretical mathematics, Alfred North Whitehead exercised an extensive knowledge of philosophy and literature that informs and elevates all of his works. In this book, he offers undergraduate students and other readers an absorbing exploration of the fundamental problems of substance, space, and time. The Concept of Nature originated with Whitehead's Tarner Lectures of 1919, and its discussions are highlighted by a criticism of Einstein's method of interpreting results, and by the author's (...) alternative development of the celebrated theory of the four-dimensional space-time manifold. 1920 ed. (shrink)
Cognitive science is shamelessly materialistic. It maintains that human beings are nothing more than complex physical systems, ultimately and completely explicable in mechanistic terms. But this conception of humanity does not ?t well with common sense. To think of the creatures we spend much of our day loving, hating, admiring, resenting, comparing ourselves to, trying to understand, blaming, and thanking -- to think of them as mere mechanisms seems at best counterintuitive and unhelpful. More often it may strike us as (...) ludicrous, or even abhorrent. We are. (shrink)
Time’s arrow is necessary for progress from a past that has already happened to a future that is only potential until creatively determined in the present. But time’s arrow is unnecessary in Einstein’s so-called block universe, so there is no creative unfolding in an actual present. How can there be an actual present when there is no universal moment of simultaneity? Events in various places will have different presents according to the position, velocity, and nature of the perceiver. Standing against (...) this view is traditional common sense since we normally experience time’s arrow as reality and the present as our place in the stream of consciousness, but we err to imagine we are living in the actual present. The present of our daily experience is actually a specious present, according to E. Robert Kelly (later popularized by William James), or duration, according to Henri Bergson, an habitus, as elucidated by Kerby (1991), or, simply, the psychological present (Adams, 2010) – all terms indicating that our experienced present so consists of the past overlapping into the future that any potential for acting from the creative moment is crowded out. Yet, for philosophers of process from Herakleitos onward, it is the philosophies of change or process that treat time’s arrow and the creative fire of the actual present as realities. In this essay, I examine the most well known but possibly least understood process cosmology of Alfred North Whitehead to seek out this elusive but actual present. In doing so, I will also ask if process philosophy is itself an example of the creative imagination and if this relates to doing science. I conclude Whitehead's process philosophy falls short of allowing for the actual creative spontaneity of a dynamic (eternal) present. (shrink)
There have been many attempts to retire dualism from active philosophic life, replacing it with something less removed from science, but we are no closer to that goal now than fifty years ago. I propose breaking the stalemate by considering marginal perspectives that may help identify unrecognized assumptions that limit the mainstream debate. Comparison with Whitehead highlights ways that opponents of dualism continue to uphold the Cartesian “real distinction” between mind and body. Whitehead, by contrast, insists on a (...) conceptual distinction: there can no more be body without mind than mind without body (at least at the level of ultimate constituents). Key to this integration is Whitehead’s understanding that mind, at its most rudimentary, is simply the intrinsic temporality of a physical event. Thus, the resulting form of “panpsychism” is more naturalistic than commonly supposed, and it solves both the composition problem (traditionally fatal to panpsychism) and the “hard problem.”. (shrink)
Whitehead’s philosophy is of perennial scholarly interest as one of the relatively few really serious attempts at a systematic metaphysics. But unlike almost all major ‘philosophical systems’ it is not merely an historical curiosity, but retains contemporary supporters actively deploying Whitehead’s viewpoint in discussion of a variety of live philosophical problems. Furthermore, Whitehead’s metaphysics is the sole example of a comprehensive philosophical system which aims to take into account the radical transformation of science which occurred at the (...) beginning of the twentieth century with the development of relativity and quantum mechanics, developments with which Whitehead was, as a first rate mathematician, highly familiar. (shrink)
Phenomenal intentionality and the evidential role of perceptual experience: comments on Jack Lyons, Perception and Basic Beliefs Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11098-010-9604-2 Authors Terry Horgan, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ USA Journal Philosophical Studies Online ISSN 1573-0883 Print ISSN 0031-8116.
This paper considers the attempts put forward by A.N. Whitehead and by Bertrand Russell to ‘construct’ points (and temporal instants) from what they regard as the more basic concept of extended ‘regions’. It is shown how what they each say themselves will not do, and how it should be filled out and amended so that the ‘construction’ may be regarded as successful. Finally there is a brief discussion of whether this ‘construction’ is worth pursuing, or whether it is better—as (...) in today’s mathematics—to prefer a ‘construction’ that goes the other way round, i.e. , to view a region as a set of points. (shrink)
In Process and Reality and other works, Alfred North Whitehead struggled to come to terms with the impact the new science of quantum mechanics would have on metaphysics.This ambitious book is the first extended analysis of the intricate relationships between relativity theory, quantum mechanics, and Whitehead's cosmology. Michael Epperson illuminates the intersection of science and philosophy in Whitehead's work-and details Whitehead's attempts to fashion an ontology coherent with quantum anomalies.Including a nonspecialist introduction to quantum mechanics, Epperson (...) adds an essential new dimension to our understanding of Whitehead-and of the constantly enriching encounter between science and philosophy in our century. (shrink)
Despite its lack of influence in analytical philosophy, and independently of its content as a process philosophy, Whitehead's system in Process and Reality affords a valuable lesson on how to pursue revisionary systematic metaphysics. This paper argues the case generally for metaphysical revision and system, describes the structure of Whitehead's categorial scheme, endorses his idea of an ultimate which is not an entity, and outlines an alternative, “digital” ultimate or basis composed of several analytical factors. [I]n the absence (...) of a well-defined categoreal scheme of entities, issuing in a satisfactory metaphysical system, every premise in a philosophical argument is under suspicion. (shrink)
This paper looks at the history of the problem of individuation from Plato to Whitehead. Part I takes as its point of departure Reiner Wiehl’s interpretation of the different meanings of “abstract” in the metaphysics of Alfred North Whitehead and arrives at a corresponding taxonomy of different ways things can be called concrete. Part II compares the way philosophers in different periods understand the relation between thought and intuition. The view mostly associated with ancient philosophy is that thought (...) and sense-perception target different kinds of objects. The view mostly associated with modern philosophy (although it was introduced by the Stoics) is that thought and sense-perception are different ways of targeting the same objects. These differences have specific consequences for theories of individuation, which are assessed historically in Part III and then applied to Whitehead’s difficult texts in part IV. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that Deleuze's ‘thinking with’ Whitehead gives access to a range of novel conceptual resources that offer a route out of phenomenology and back to life, a movement beyond intentionality and back to things ‘in their free and wild state’. I lay out four conceptual and methodological markers (there are many more) – creativity, event, prehension, empiricism – that characterise Deleuze's metaphysics and provide a guide for showing how these develop through a sustained becoming with (...)Whitehead. I conclude by looking at Deleuze and Guattari's use of the term most famously associated with Whitehead: the concept of ‘process’. (shrink)
It is argued in this paper that recent work on immanence and transcendence in Whitehead scholarship, notably by Basile and Nobo, provides helpful guidelines and ideas for work on problems regarding immanence in Deleuze's philosophy. By following arguments on theism and naturalism in the reception of Whitehead, it argues that Deleuze's philosophy depends on reciprocal relations between that actual and the virtual such that they cannot be considered as separate without also being incomplete. It is then shown that (...) Deleuze's philosophy allows for metaphysical terms such as ‘pure’ without having to concede a separate and self-sufficient pure realm. (shrink)
Deleuze and Whitehead are both centrally concerned with the problem of how to reconcile the emergence of the New with the evident continuity and uniformity of the world through time. They resolve this problem through the logic of what Deleuze calls ‘double causality’, and Whitehead the difference between efficient and final causes. For both thinkers, linear cause-and-effect coexists with a vital capacity for desire and decision, guaranteeing that the future is not just a function of the past. The (...) role of desire and decision can be seen in recent developments in biology. (shrink)
I shall describe the beautiful fit of the ideas of Alfred North Whitehead and William James with the concepts of relativistic quantum field theory developed by Tomonaga and Schwinger.The central concept is a set of happenings each of which is assigned a space-time region.This growing set of non-overlapping regions fill out a growing space-time region that advances into the still uncreated and yet-to-be-axed future.Each happening has both experiential aspects and physical aspects,which are jointly needed to generate the advance into (...) the future.This conception is useful in passing from the pragmatic interpretation of science to a putative understanding of the reality beyond phenomena,and of our role within it. James' ideas about attention and volition are naturally implementable within this framework,and make us into agents that can act eficaciously upon the physical world on the basis of felt values, rational reasons,and conscious understandings. (shrink)
In 1922 in The Principle of Relativity, Whitehead presented an alternative theory of gravitation in response to Einstein’s general relativity. To the latter, he objected on philosophical grounds—specifically, that Einstein’s notion of a variable spacetime geometry contingent on the presence of matter (a) confounds theories of measurement, and, more generally, (b) is unacceptable within the bounds of a reasonable epistemology. Whitehead offered instead a theory based within a comprehensive philosophy of nature. The formulal Whitehead adopted for the (...) gravitational field has been described as involving both the flat metric nu, of Minkowski spacetime and a dynamic metric gu, dependent on the presence of source masses. The ontological relationship between the two must be fleshed out in the context of Whitehead’s philosophy of nature. The relationship is of some importance, not only in casting Whitehead’s theory within its proper metaphysical context vis-d—vis Einstein, but also in judging how the theory has faired empirically with respect to general relativity (GR hereafter). It makes the same predictions as GR with respect to the perihelion advance, the deflection of light rays and the gravitational red-shift; indeed, Eddington (1924) has shown that it is equivalent to the Schwarzschild solution of Einstein’s held equations for the one-body problem. However, it also appears to predict an anisotropy in the locally measured gravitational constant y that is in conflict.. (shrink)
All the authors of the sixteen essays gathered in this volume are concerned, in their different ways, to clarify, criticize, and develop key ideas and insights of Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947), one of the towering figures of twentieth-century speculative thought, whose "process philosophy" has, in recent decades, aroused intense intellectual interest both in this country and abroad. The present volume is intended to complement, but not to duplicate, an earlier selection of important Whitehead studies, Alfred North Whitehead: (...) Essays on His Philosophy, ed. G. L. Kline (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1963). (shrink)
The complexity of crisis situations allows for corporate responses to create multiple interpretations for organizational stakeholders concerning crisis evidence, the organization's intentions, and the locus of responsibility. Hence, organizations have the ability to emphasize an interpretation where the organization is viewed most favorably. Using Jack in the Box as a case study, we apply stakeholder theory to ascertain the ethical implications of employing strategic ambiguity in organizational crisis communication. We conclude that the crisis response provided by Jack in (...) the Box's leaders was ethically questionable in the areas of evidence, intent, and locus because the ambiguity they introduced privileged their financial stakeholders over others. Ultimately, this strategic use of ambiguity diminished the deliberative ability of Jack in the Box's publics. (shrink)
The objective of this article is to show that Whitehead had a very important philosophy of education both on the formal level. The consistency found is well worth noting. I researched many of Whitehead's major works for his formal views and Lucian Price's Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead. In my opinion Price's book is the best available for the purpose of getting Whitehead's candid informal view of education. The paper is divided into sections according to the (...) particular subject matter. Since Whitehead describes education as the study of life and all of its manifestations . It is appropriate to cover some of these areas: the purpose of education, the role of science and speculation, education and civilization, and both the process of education and process education are reviewed. Whitehead's philosophy of education is sweeping in scope. In his philosophy we find the importance of experience, imagination, speculation, generalization, factual knowledge, specialization, relevance, intuition, novelty, curiosity, theory, practice, pleasure, harmony, freedom, discipline, technical and liberal education and unification. He, in fact, unifies all these seemingly different areas into a coherent philosophy of education. (shrink)
Encyclopedia entry for the British mathematician and American Philosopher Alfred North Whitehead. Usefully summarizes his life and work for non-specialists and, more especially, interested persons outside of the philosophical disciplines per se.
The nationally-famous advocate of physician-assisted suicide did not die by his own hand. Dr. Jack Kevorkian died the old-fashioned way in America: in a hospital, with multiple disorders undercutting his life. Kevorkian took up interest in assisted suicide early in his medical career, and he wanted prisoners on death row to volunteer for experiments just before their execution. Kevorkian saw individual consent as the wheel, axle, and grease for all decisions in these matters. He helped many people die, but (...) it is unclear what moral principle guided his decisions to say yes and no to requests for help in dying. His spree in helping people die came to an end, when he himself injected a man with a lethal substance. Because of his single-minded focus on the value of assisted suicide and experimentation before execution, he had little impact on the broader ethical analysis of assisted-suicide and the rights of prisoners. He leaves little legacy in ethics for the analysis of assisted-suicide or in vivo experimentation. (shrink)
Whitehead was critical with respect to Poincaré’s conventionalism. However, Whitehead stood closer to Poincaré than Bertrand Russell when Russellinvoked Poincaré’s conventionalism to highlight that the choice between Arthur Eddington’s orthodox interpretation of Einstein’s general theory of relativity on the one hand, and Whitehead’s alternative interpretation on the other, is not a matter of empirical fact, but a matter of convention. Whitehead shared two of the premises of Poincaré’s conventionalism: the physics-independence of geometry, and the choice of (...) a physical geometry amongst geometries of constant curvature. This contributed significantly to his philosophical critique of Einstein, who held that the geometry of space-time depends on the physical distribution of matter, and that the non-homogeneity of this distribution (e.g., at the scale of the solar system) implies that the appropriate physical geometry is variably curved. Russell’s conventionalism, contrary to Whitehead’s view, did not take Poincaré’s premises into account, was shared by the logical positivists, and led to a philosophical defense of Einstein. (shrink)
The article attempts to clarify the appeal to the Benedictine ideal that Alfred North Whitehead (1861–1947) makes in The Aims of Education and Other Essays as a way to renew the life of the spirit in education. In particular, the essay will consider St. Benedict's three central themes of Whitehead's philosophy: freedom and discipline, the teacher as artist and the art of life, and universities as workshops or homes of creative energy. The aim is to bring about a (...) harmony of thought and action, the mind to the feelings of the heart, to subordinate scientific or critical pedagogy to aesthetic-spiritual instruction. This deserves our attention because today's educational theories and practices emphasize the technical, the critical, and the social sides to the neglect of the aesthetic-spiritual side. On both its practical and theoretical side, the educational theory of Whitehead falls within the Benedictine tradition of ora (meditative reading) and labora (work). (shrink)
Alfred North Whitehead published no book or article strictly on aesthetics. Nonetheless, in his philosophical writings he mentions several times that aesthetic experience is the key to his metaphysics. In fundamental places of his philosophical system, moreover, he uses expressions like ‘aesthetic experience’, ‘aesthetic fact’, ‘aesthetic unity’, and ‘aesthetic order’. These expressions do not, however, refer to human conscious experience alone, but to all entities of the universe. That has led some scholars to the conviction that these terms are (...) used in a purely technical sense and therefore do not refer to the sphere of aesthetics. The author of the current article seeks to demonstrate that these terms do refer to the sphere of aesthetics. The argument set out here consists in three steps. In the first, the author presents Whitehead’s philosophical method of imaginative generalization. In the second step, the author presents the fundamental ontological unit (the actual occasion) of Whitehead’s philosophy, and points out that Whitehead describes it using aesthetic terms that are employed in a broad sense. In the third step the author presents Whitehead’s view of aesthetic understanding. At the end of the article, it is demonstrated that although Whitehead did not develop his analysis of aesthetic understanding into a consistent theory, it forms the background to all his metaphysical books. (shrink)
The epistemic stances of both Whitehead and the Book of Changes are founded on the assumption that process is reality; there are important resonances with respect to perception, meaning and significance. Such a process-oriented approach is productive for developing non-representational and non-dualistic theories in the fields of epistemology, philosophy of language and philosophy of mind. An exploration of these resonances will further provide an appropriate foundation for dialogue between the philosophy of the Book of Changes and that of contemporary (...) Euro-American philosophy. The important differences between the Book of Changes and Whiteheadian philosophy will also become apparent. (shrink)
This essay presents some points of dialogue between process thinking and post-structuralism, particularly in light of the metaphysical cosmology of Alfred North Whitehead and the post-structuralist philosophies of Gilles Deleuze and Jacques Derrida. This dialogue facilitates the emergence of a cosmologicalpostmodernism. Through the creation of concepts that situate the human within the networks, processes, and mutually constitutive relations of the cosmos, cosmological postmodernism re-envisions the worldview of modernity and overcomes its reification and dichotomization of the human and the world. (...) Four concepts that Whitehead, Deleuze, and Derrida contribute to a cosmological postmodernism include “event,” “creativity,” “rhizome,” and “chaosmos.”. (shrink)
Whitehead’s process metaphysics, as developed in Process and Reality, is harmed by the incoherence of his notion of eternal objects as timeless and essentially unrelated entities, which therefore need a primordial agent as their ontological ground and the source of their relatedness and relevance. Such nontemporal entities undermine what is supposed to be a thoroughly temporalist metaphysics. Eternal objects can be understood solely as functions of Creativity, however, as features of a purely temporal process. A notion of God is (...) not required. Whitehead’s Categoreal Obligations specify the necessary conditions for this process, including how the novelty is possible that is needed to account for temporal change and the increased complexity that value enhancement presupposes and makes possible. Adventures of Ideas, especially through the notions of Art and Peace, develops at the level of human civilization this same secular interpretation of the capacity of entities to fashion novel and progressive outcomes. (shrink)
Whitehead’s categoreal scheme in Process and Realitv is so constructed that the several basic notions presuppose one another: despite this, there is good reason to consider “creativity” to be more ultimate than the others. But just how it is that creativity can be a metaphysical ultimate is not initially clear. For Whitehead’s various characterizations of creativity are confused and seemingly conflicting: moreover, and most importantly, creativity comes into conflict with the ontological principle. An analysis of the relation between (...) creativity and the ontological principle reveals a radical turn in philosophic thought: the conception of a metaphysical ultimate which is “ontologically neutral.”. (shrink)
Alfred North Whitehead's treatise Universal Algebra classifies algebras as either non-numerical or numerical according to whether they satisfy the law of idempotency, a + a = a. We undertake a technical critique of this classification scheme and examine how its flaws may reflect certain mathematical and philosophical biases in Whitehead's outlook. We argue further that Whitehead's presumption of immutable foundations for mathematics and his early commitment to the priority of objects over relations may in (...) part account for his relative obscurity as a mathematician. (shrink)
Bernard MacDougall Loomer (1912–1985) is well known for his influence on process theology, or as he preferred, “process-relational” theology. Less well known is his interpretation of the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead (1861–1947) and its influence in the promotion of that philosophy not only among his students but also more recently beyond that circle. He presents his own views as one who has made Whitehead’s his own. Yet he is not uncritical of Whitehead. He has articulated an (...) empirical naturalism in Whiteheadian terms that is theistic and controversial by that fact. The analysis of his interpretation of Whitehead allows us to probe his theistic naturalism and to identify new possibilities in the .. (shrink)
A culture of thought : the bifurcation of nature -- Introducing Whitehead's philosophy: the lure of Whitehead -- "A thorough-going realism": Whitehead on cause and conformation -- The value of existence -- Societies, the social, and subjectivity -- Language and the body: from signification to symbolism -- This nature which is not one -- Capitalism, process, and abstraction.
Whitehead's 1922 theory of gravitation continues to attract the attention of philosophers, despite evidence presented in 1971 that it violates experiment. We demonstrate that the theory strongly fails five quite different experimental tests, and conclude that, notwithstanding its meritorious philosophical underpinnings, Whitehead's theory is truly dead.
This is a brief report on results reported at length in our paper , made for the purpose of a presentation at the workshop to be held in November 2011 in Cambridge on the Principia Mathematica of Russell and Whitehead ([?], hereinafter referred to brieﬂy as PM ). That paper grew out of a reading of the paper  of Kamareddine, Nederpelt, and Laan. We refereed this paper and found it useful for checking their examples to write our own (...) independent computer type-checker for the type system of PM (), which led us to think carefully about formalization of the language and the type system of PM A modern mathematical logician reading PM ﬁnds that it is not completely formalized in a modern sense. The type theory in particular is inarguably not formalized, as no notation for types is given at all! In PM itself, the only type annotations which appear are occasional numerical indices indicating order; the type notation we use here extends one introduced later by Ramsey. The authors of PM regard the absence of explicit indications of type as a virtue of their system: they call it “systematic ambiguity”; modern computer scientists refer to this as “polymorphism”. The language of PM is also not completely formalized, and it is typographically inconvenient for computer software to which ASCII input is to be given. The notation of PM for abstractions (propositional functions) does not use head binders; the order of the arguments of a complex expression is determined by the alphabetical order of the bound variables. For example ˆa < ˆb is the “less than” relation while ˆb < ˆa is the “greater than” relation (this is indicated by the alphabetical order of the variables). In PM , the fact that a variable is bound in a propositional function is indicated by circumﬂexing it. Variables bound by quantiﬁers are not circumﬂexed. A feature of the notation of , carried over into ours, is that no circumﬂexes are used: notations for propositions and the corresponding propositional functions are identical.. (shrink)
In this comment I consider Jack Balkin’s general argument for his method of constitutional interpretation – the question of why interpret (the United States Constitution) in this way (as presented in his book Living Originalism). I contrast this question with the way in which the conclusion of this argument should be implemented with regard to specific clauses – the question of how to interpret (the United States Constitution). While the former question is concerned with the general form of the (...) argument, the latter is concerned with a substantiation of one premise in the argument. (shrink)
Alfred North Whitehead’s metaphysics provides a means for overcoming the dualism embedded in J. Baird Callicott’s “postmodern” axiology. Indeed, the lessons Callicott draws from the new physics and ecology imply Whitehead’s position. While Callicott holds that subjectivity and valuing require consciousness, Whitehead argues that subjectivity and valuing characterize all metaphysically basic entities, conscious and non-conscious. Removing the constraint that valuing requires consciousness is a slight shift, but it makes all the difference. By jettisoning this constraint, we can (...) develop a robust account of intrinsic value that overcomes Callicott’s duality, while retaining his insights that valuing requires a valuer and fluent energy is more fundamental than discrete entities. (shrink)
The sciences and popular views generally consider matter from the bottom up, that is, as the least common denominator underlying all of its various forms and realizations. In Rahner sensibility is matter looked at from the top down, that is, with a view to the highest realization of matter in human beings, and in Christ. In Whitehead creativity is matter, not inert or static but spontaneous and active, and creativity is matter viewed in light of its highest realizations in (...) humans and in God. So, in Rahner and in Whitehead, matter is viewed in much the same way, called sensibility in Rahner, and creativity in Whitehead, and defined in terms of its actualization in human nature. (shrink)
Two essays relating Thomas and Whitehead have recently appeared. Coming To Be by James W. Felt, S.J., modifies Thomas by replacing his substantial form with Whitehead’s notion of subjective aim, the essencein-the-making introduced by God to guide the occasion’s act of coming into being. Felt also substitutes subjective aim for matter as the means of individuation. This is one of Whitehead’s individuating principles, although a case can be made that matter (the multiplicity of past actualities as proximate (...) matter) is another. “God and Creativity” by Stephen T. Franklin develops a reconciliation of these two ultimates by conceiving of God as the source of creativity, and seeing creativity in terms of the Thomistic esse. In my reflections on this project I explore four alternativeswith respect to the source of creativity: (a) creativity as derived from the past; (b) creativity as inherent in the present; (c) God as the source of transitional creativity (Franklin); (d) God as the source of concrescent creativity (Ford). The last two differ with respect to being’s relation to becoming. Does being undergird becoming, or does becoming bring about being, such that apart from it there would be no being? Our theory of creation depends upon this question. (shrink)
An attempt to compare the approaches of Alfred North Whitehead and Jacques Derrida might appear extremely unrewarding from the outset. Derrida has often been hailed (and reviled) as a figure who rejects many key concepts in the philosophical lexicon, amongst them those of subjectivity, rationality, creativity and progress. Whitehead, on the other hand, may seem to hold uncritically to the notion of a metaphysical system in which every element of our experience can be interpreted, so that everything of (...) which we are conscious ‘shall have the character of a particular instance of the general scheme’.1 In our modern world, furthermore, Whitehead argues that it is the business of philosophers and students and practical men ‘to recreate and re-enact a vision of the world...penetrated through and through with unflinching rationality’.2 In this article I wish to show that Whitehead’s understanding of philosophy converges with Derrida’s in certain significant respects, and that this clearly illustrated when we relate both of them to Edmund Husserl. I will begin with brief outlines of Derrida’s account of the philosophical tradition, of his deconstruction or delimitation of subjectivity, and of the way in which his understanding of philosophical openness is influenced by the work of Husserl. I will then proceed to show how many of the ideas found in Whitehead’s metaphysics resemble those of Derrida. Other aspects of this metaphysics would certainly be inimical to the latter, but need not be seen as fixed in stone. This is recognized by Whitehead himself, who has a fallibilistic and revisionary understanding of the philosophical enterprise that is akin to Husserl and Derrida. My conclusion, however, is that Whitehead is closer to Husserl in concentrating on the reconstructive side of philosophy, a side which Derrida has ultimately neglected. (shrink)
David R. Griffin’s new Whitehead’s Radically Different Postmodern Philosophy: An Argument for Its Contemporary Relevance (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2007) contains a chapterlong Whiteheadian response to several criticisms I have leveled against process theology. While encouraging his attempt to promote Whitehead as a preferred alternative to foundationalist modernism and postmodernism, I undertake to rebut Griffin’s arguments through discussions of the following topics: the one and the many (which Whitehead does not treat adequately), the (...) finite versus infinite character of God, creation ex nihilo, the nature of determinateness and the need for every determinate thing to have a creator, the applicability of the Ontological Principle to explaining a complex of first principles, the inclusion of time within ontological eternity, the goodness versus wildness of God, the nature of religious experience, and the uses of religious language. (shrink)
The principal goal of this essay is to examine the manner and extent to which one actual occasion can have value for others according to Whitehead. This question divides into two, depending upon whether we are considering the relation of an entity to its past or to its future. The essay closes with a defense of the monistic interpretation of creativity in Whitehead.
Environmental ethics would greatly benefit from an adequate metaphysical foundation. In an attempt to demonstrate the value of Whitehead’s metaphysical system as such a foundation, I first discuss five central tenets of his thought. I then compare aspects of his philosophy with Peter Singer’s utilitarianism, Tom Regan’s rights theory, Aldo Leopold’s land ethic, and Spinoza's system in order to indicate how aWhiteheadian approach can solve the difficulties of the other views as currently developed, and provide the basis for an (...) environmental ethics which values individual entities in themselves and in their connectedness in a purposive natural order. (shrink)
While most scholars readily recognize that Alfred North Whitehead had deep and penetrating misgivings about the substantial view of individuality, fewer note that these misgivings stem as much from axiological considerations as ontological ones. I contend that, taken in the context of the “classical interpretation” of his metaphysics, Whitehead’s bold affirmation that actuality and value are coextensive introduces a potentially serious problem for the adequacy and applicability of his axiology. For if actuality is coextensive with valuebut actuality is (...) itself limited to subjects of experience, then the objective world can have no intrinsic value. My aim is to demonstrate that, in order to respond to the very serious challenge which the problem of subjectivism represents and save Whitehead’s intendeduniverse of value, we must seek an alternative to the classical interpretation of Whitehead’s metaphysics. I refer to this alternative as the “ecstatic interpretation.”. (shrink)
Biology as a scientific discipline has relied heavily upon advances in chemistry and physics. An inherent danger in this relationship is the reduction of living phenomena to physico-chemical terms. Whitehead's Philosophy of Organism is utilized to examine current methodologies within biology and to evaluate their appropriateness for future research. Hemostatic regulation is employed to illustrate the applications of organistic concepts to biological research. It is concluded that understanding of living entities and their properties as well as possibly life itself (...) will require synthesis of the many analytical elements as informational structures. (shrink)
There is a good deal linking Whitehead’s and Emerson’s deepest in-tuitions, starting with their shared emphasis on intuition and flux—and despite the fact thatin sharp contrast with Whitehead, Emerson carefully avoided anything resembling a metaphysical system. Following Stengers, I distinguish between Whitehead’s “scheme” and his “intentionality”: he is “less the author of the scheme and of the concepts he articulates than he is obliged by them, compelled by them, in a process of empirical experimentation and verification which (...) has about it something of the experience of a trance because the thought in question is taken, captured, by a becoming—something about to be.” The bulk of the essay concerns the central role played by “interstitial wagers” of this sort in Whitehead’s contribution to what he termed “the romance of human thought.”. (shrink)
A rejection of the notion of substance, an emphasis on intraworldly experience and an incorporation of ideas from modern biology are just three of the distinctive features of Alfred North Whitehead’s process metaphysics or philosophy of organism. The last two features give his scheme a heavily naturalistic tinge, despite his positing of eternal objects or universal forms of definiteness, which - together with subjective aims or final causes - are instantiated in a divinity prior to worldly realization.1 Such a (...) naturalism might seem to preclude largely a comparison with the work of Jacques Derrida, with other differences between the two being left aside. Derrida began his career as a student of phenomenology and structuralism, and by far the greater number of his philosophical writings has been devoted to thinkers who are explicitly post-Kantian. Yet this does not mean that he is a transcendental philosopher who abandons experience and the empirical world in favour of language and consciousness. In this paper I argue that Derrida’s work - which has been shown to be heavily informed by systems theory and evolutionary biology - is not in fact shut off from the extra-conscious and extra-linguistic dimensions of actuality. I also suggest that his deconstructive approach is strikingly similar to Whitehead’s in rejecting essentialism, namely, the idea of fixed and determined essences that underlie accidental properties and changes. From a Derridean perspective, one might even see Whitehead’s alternative as insufficiently radical, since it seems to posit not just eternal objects and God, but a cosmology in which the most fundamental beings or “actual entities” undergo no essential changes or mutations in their respective histories. It is arguable, however, that the latter conclusion would only be consequent on a restrictive interpretation of the pathways of process possible in Whitehead’s metaphysics.. (shrink)
What I call ambiguities of system due to the sheer complexity of Whitehead’s metaphysics and his analysis of process in terms of concrescence and transition threaten its coherence in terms of what we know empirically of the quantum and classical dimensions of nature. Ambiguities of equivocation pertaining to Whitehead’s use of the terms “contemporary” and “objectification,” as the latter is employed in relation to prehension and satisfaction, also threaten its coherence. The article proposes ways to reduce these threats (...) and uncertainty about coherence by clarifying ambiguities and by attending to the way Whitehead’s terms are predicated on the quantum and classical dimensions. (shrink)
I first thank Jack Caputo for his superb summary of my position, then call attention to sin as an epistemological category in Aquinas, the (largely undeveloped) resource for a Pauline hermeneutics of suspicion. There follow clarifications of my understanding of Derrida‘s atheism and of my suggestion that he is a natural law theorist. Finally, I argue that my own position of a faith that cannot convert itself into sight a) places no a priori constraints on what we can say (...) about God, however traditional or bizarre, but only on the metaclaims we make about our beliefs, and b) that we do not become more radical by diminishing the substantive content of our belief. (shrink)
We need to distinguish systematically what is culturally creative from the degenerative forces that now rule the world. Whitehead comes closest to defining the creative when he identifies it as freedom on the human side and peace on the divine. Buddhist meditation can go deeper to realize the zero-dimension of the communal life-as-such, which corresponds to Whiteheadean freedom-and-peace as the ultimate wellspring of cultural creativity.
The way in which Stengers thinks “with” rather than “about” Whitehead is explained through an examination of the transformational function of speculative propositions. The article then investigates the significance of the recurrent theme of “coherence” throughout Whitehead’s philosophical and socio-organizational writings. This theme guides and unifies his thought through its various conceptual adventures.
If, after a century of analysis there is a turn to synthesis, Hua-Yan and Whitehead will become important resources. Especially given the radical difference of their historical contexts, their similarity is striking, but they differ on time. Whitehead is clear that relations to the future always differ in kind from those to the past, and Theravada Buddhist agree. But Hua-yan is open to a greater symmetry in enlightened experience.
This book introduces the reader to Whitehead’s complex and often misunderstood metaphysics by showing that it deals with questions about the nature of causation originally raised by the philosophy of Leibniz. Whitehead’s philosophy is an attempt at rehabilitating Leibniz’s theory of monads by recasting it in terms of novel ontological categories.
Following A.N. Whitehead, this book takes up the principal challenge facing a natural philosopher who wishes to engage with Nature while rescuing both Life and Thought from materialistic approaches which rob them of their 'quicknesses'. Selecting certain insights and intuitions from the writings of Peirce, Coleridge, Deleuze and Nietzsche, the author proffers a remedy for the pervasive nihilism of 'the moderns' which illustrates Deleuze's suggestion that philosophy should be imaged as a dynamic collage that is forever in the making.
This paper first identifies briefly several interpretations of the nature of the general order of eternal objects in the Primordial Nature of God (PNG). W.A. Christian describes the timeless ordering in terms of a “general scheme of relatedness,” or “matrix,” or “reservoir of potentiality.” Others, like Hartshorne, introduce the“continuum” concept. Unfortunately, none of the above terms has strict technical or categoreal meaning in Whitehead’s metaphysics. I try to remedy this defect by utilizing the Whitehead ian notions of abstractive (...) hierarchies and contrast. My interpretation supports the idea that there is one fixed and necessary order of eternal objects in PNG. (shrink)
This article was originally delivered as a lecture at the Library of Congress, February 17, 2011, to commemorate the installation of a letter from Whitehead to his student Henry Leonard in the collection of that institution. See the Appendices to Phipps for a copy of the letter and Leonard’s response. The present article summarizes the history, development, and importance of Whitehead’s work for the present and delineates perspectives for potential Whitehead research in the future.
Whitehead’s rejection of a coercive divine lawgiver is well known, but the underlying ethic which led him in that direction needs to be examined. Arguing that he is an ethical naturalist with an aesthetic theory of value, and an act utilitarian, I find that this gives priority to eros over agape, limits moral responsibility, and obscures the depth of moral evil.
The Metaphysics of Experience styles itself as "a Sherpa guide to Process and Reality, whose function is to assist the serious reader in grasping the meaning of the text and to prevent falls into misinterpretation." Although originally published in 1925, Process and Reality has perhaps even more relevance to the contemporary scene in physics, biology, psychology, and the social sciences than it had in the mid-twenties. Hence its internal difficulty, its quasi-inaccessibility, is all the more tragic, since, unlike most metaphysical (...) endeavors, it is capable of interpretating and unifying theories in the above sciences in terms of an organic world view, instead of selecting one theory as the paradigm and reducing all others to it. Because Alfred North Whitehead is so crucial to modern philosophy, The Metaphysics of Experience plays an important role in making Process and Reality accessible to a wider readership. (shrink)
Context: In recent years, the debates surrounding radical constructivism have increasingly paid attention to the problematic dualist logic of radical constructivism as well as that of realism. Mitterer’s non-dualism is an attempt to overcome such approaches. Problem: Although Mitterer succeeds in identifying the flaws of dualism, he takes a reductionist position that does not account for materiality and is therefore not convincing when it comes to describing epistemic processes appropriately. Method: Having identified the conceptual problematic to be found in Mitterer, (...) I introduce Whithead’s basic framework as an alternative non-dualistic approach. I argue that starting from Whitehead’s notion of “prehension” allows for more appropriate accounts of epistemic processes. Results: By following this train of thought, it is possible to develop a position that is non-dualist, realist, and constructivist at the same time. Implications: The article demonstrates the need to develop process theoretical approaches to epistemology and contributes to developing an epistemologically relaxed way of arguing, as was recently called for. This implies the requirement of developing a radical process constructivism that integrates concepts such as performativity and enactment. (shrink)
Although Whitehead’s particular style of philosophizing--looking at traditional philosophical problems in light of recent scientific advances--was part of a trend that began with the scientific revolutions in the early 20th century and continues today, he was marginalized in 20th century philosophy because of his outspoken defense of what he was doing as “metaphysics.” Metaphysics, for Whitehead, is a cross-disciplinary hermeneutic responsible for coherently integrating the perspectives of the special sciences with one another and with everyday experience. The program (...) of such a meta-discipline is challenging to philosophical orthodoxy because it enlarges, rather than narrows, the range of empirical evidence that philosophy must acknowledge. This places Whitehead’s philosophy in a perennial tradition that seeks to resolve fundamental antinomies through synthesis and reconciliation rather than reduction or elimination. (shrink)
The problem causation poses is: how can we ever know more than a Humean regularity. The problem consciousness poses is: how can subjective phenomenal experience arise from something lacking experience. A recent turn in the consciousness debates suggest that the hard problem of consciousness is nothing more than the Humean problem of explaining any causal nexus in an intelligible way. This involution of the problems invites comparison with the theories of Alfred North Whitehead, who also saw them related in (...) this way. According to Whitehead, a tempting but false phenomenology of consciousness obscures temporality and leads to the causation problem, which then makes consciousness itself seem causally inexplicable. Bringing the processual nature of consciousness back into view discloses causation at work in the moment-to-moment emergence of consciousness, and it reveals that causation operates in a logically fuzzy domain where the skeptical critique of causality finds no foothold. (shrink)
Major schools of thought in the 20th century agreed in repudiating metaphysical speculation, but the agreement was superficial, for what they repudiated as “metaphysical” was often one another. Whitehead’s defense of speculative philosophy as “productive of important knowledge” singled him out for scorn from all sides at the same time that it enabled him to move beyond dogmatic standoffs . Employing the same method of speculative generalization that led to the most celebrated theoretical discoveries of the 20th century, quantum (...) theory and special relativity, Whitehead sought to resolve the conflict between objectifying, causal explanations of the world and its inhabitants and the “folk” attitudes defended and elaborated by humanistic psychologies and philosophies. The result was his theory of the “dipolar actual occasion” as the fundamental unit of existence. Recent work by leading scientists continues this effort to elaborate a nonreductive monism that accounts for both meaning and causation. (shrink)
Conventional approaches to consciousness assume that our current science tells us within tolerable limits what physical nature is. Because nature so understood cannot explain consciousness as we seem to experience it ourselves, explaining consciousness becomes a problem. One solution is to rethink what consciousness is so that it becomes the sort of thing our current natural science could in principle explain. Whitehead takes the opposite approach, using the existence of consciousness as a clue to what nature must be if (...) it can generate something like consciousness. The justification for this approach can be found in Whitehead’s implicit indictment of descriptive phenomenology. According to Whitehead, the seemingly insoluble problem of explaining consciousness naturalistically is an artifact created by the assumption that consciousness faithfully samples the world, when in fact it obscures the very aspects of nature that are indispensable to understanding how anything, including consciousness itself, could emerge through a physical process. (shrink)
Pure Land Buddhism ascribes to Amida some of the roles ascribed to God by Whitehead. The failure of Whiteheadians to clarify how God can play these roles also leaves doubtful the claim of Pure Land Buddhism. On the other hand, Whitehead’s emphasis on perpetual perishing reinforces the original Buddhist teaching of impermanence and together they provide the basic insight for authentic life.
_dualism_ (consciousness lies outside knowable science), _emergence_ (consciousness arises as a novel property from complex computational dynamics in the brain), and some form of _panpsychism_, _pan-protopsychism, or pan-experientialism_ (essential features or precursors of consciousness are fundamental components of reality which are accessed by brain processes). In addition to 1) the problem of subjective experience, other related enigmatic features of consciousness persist, defying technological and philosophical inroads. These include 2) the “binding problem”—how disparate brain activities give rise to a unified sense (...) of “self” or unified conscious content. Temporal synchrony—brain-wide coherence of neural membrane electrical activities—is often assumed to accomplish binding, but _what_ is being synchronized? What is being coherently bound? Another enigmatic feature is 3) the transition from pre-conscious processes to consciousness itself. Most neuroscientists agree that consciousness is the “tip of an iceberg”, that the vast majority of brain activities is. (shrink)
In this paper a solution of Whitehead’s problem is presented: Starting with a purely mereological system of regions a topological space is constructed such that the class of regions is isomorphic to the Boolean lattice of regular open sets of that space. This construction may be considered as a generalized completion in analogy to the well-known Dedekind completion of the rational numbers yielding the real numbers . The argument of the paper relies on the theories of continuous lattices and (...) “pointless” topology.
The aim of this paper is to explore the proper content of a formal semantic theory in two respects: first, clarifying which uses of expressions a formal theory should seek to accommodate, and, second, how much information the theory should contain. I explore these two questions with respect to occurrences of demonstratives and pronouns – the so- called ‘deferred’ uses – which are often classified as non-standard or figurative. I argue that, contrary to initial impressions, they must be treated as (...) semantically identical to ordinary, perceptual uses of these expression-types, and that this finding has important repercussions for our view of the scope and limits of a semantic theory. (shrink)
This paper intends to give a philosophical analysis of the concepts of consciousness and rationality, and particularly to display the correlation existing between what is usually called the “normal state of consciousness” and what should be called the “normal state of rationality”. Eventually, it draws consequences for the correlation existing between “altered/aberrant states of consciousness” and “altered/aberrant rationality”. Although it argues from a broad phenomenological perspective, its grounding technicalities belong to the field of process thought, as fleshed out by the (...) later Alfred North Whitehead (1861–1947). (shrink)