Psychology and Physics Reconciled: Whitehead’s Vision of Metaphysics

In Franz Riffert Michel Weber (ed.), Searching for New Contrasts: Whiteheadian Contributions to Contemporary Challenges in Neurophysiology, Psychology, Psychotherapy and the Philosophy of Mind. Peter Lang (2003)
Anderson Weekes
Fairfield University
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.
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