1. Life and Works
The son of an Anglican clergyman, Whitehead graduated from Cambridgein 1884 and was elected a Fellow of Trinity College that same year.His marriage to Evelyn Wade six years later was largely a happy oneand together they had a daughter (Jessie) and two sons (North andEric). After moving to London, Whitehead served as president of theAristotelian Society from 1922 to 1923. After moving to Harvard, hewas elected to the British Academy in 1931. His moves to both Londonand Harvard were prompted in part by institutional regulationsrequiring mandatory retirement, although his resignation fromCambridge was also done partly in protest over how the University hadchosen to discipline Andrew Forsyth, a friend and colleague whoseaffair with a married woman had become something of a localscandal.
In addition to Russell, Whitehead influenced many other students whobecame equally or more famous than their teacher, examiner orsupervisor himself. For example: mathematicians G. H. Hardy and J. E.Littlewood; mathematical physicists Edmund Whittaker, ArthurEddington, and James Jeans; economist J. M. Keynes; and philosophersSusanne Langer, Nelson Goodman, and Willard van Orman Quine. Whiteheaddid not, however, inspire any school of thought during his lifetime,and most of his students distanced themselves from parts of histeachings that they considered anachronistic. For example:Whitehead’s conviction that pure mathematics and appliedmathematics should not be separated, but cross-fertilize each other,was not shared by Hardy, but seen as a remnant of the fading mixedmathematics tradition; after the birth of the theories of relativityand quantum physics, Whitehead’s method of abstracting some ofthe basic concepts of mathematical physics from common experiencesseemed antiquated compared to Eddington’s method of worldbuilding, which aimed at constructing an experiment matching worldfrom mathematical building blocks; when, due to Whitehead’sjudgment as one of the examiners, Keynes had to rewrite his fellowshipdissertation, Keynes raged against Whitehead, claiming that Whiteheadhad not bothered to try to understand Keynes’ novel approach toprobability; and Whitehead’s main philosophicaldoctrine—that the world is composed of deeply interdependentprocesses and events, rather than mostly independent material thingsor objects—turned out to be largely the opposite ofRussell’s doctrine of logical atomism, and his metaphysics wasdispelled by the logical positivists from their dream land of purescientific philosophy.
A short chronology of the major events in Whitehead’s life isbelow.
|1861||Born February 15 in Ramsgate, Isle of Thanet, Kent,England.|
|1880||Enters Trinity College, Cambridge, with a scholarship inmathematics.|
|1884||Elected to the Apostles, the elite discussion club founded byTennyson in the 1820s; graduates with a B.A. in Mathematics; elected aFellow in Mathematics at Trinity.|
|1890||Meets Russell; marries Evelyn Wade.|
|1903||Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society as a result of his workon universal algebra, symbolic logic, and the foundations ofmathematics.|
|1910||Resigns from Cambridge and moves to London.|
|1911||Appointed Lecturer at University College London.|
|1912||Elected President of both the South-Eastern MathematicalAssociation and the London branch of the Mathematical Association forthe year 1913.|
|1914||Appointed Professor of Applied Mathematics at the ImperialCollege of Science and Technology.|
|1915||Elected President of the Mathematical Association for thetwo-year period 1915–1917.|
|1921||Meets Albert Einstein.|
|1922||Elected President of the Aristotelian Society for the one-yearperiod 1922–1923.|
|1924||Appointed Professor of Philosophy at HarvardUniversity.|
|1931||Elected a Fellow of the British Academy.|
|1937||Retires from Harvard.|
|1945||Awarded Order of Merit.|
|1947||Dies December 30 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.|
More detailed information about Whitehead’s life can be found inthe comprehensive two-volume biography A.N. Whitehead: The Man andHis Work (1985, 1990) by Victor Lowe and J.B. Schneewind. PaulSchilpp’s The Philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead(1941) also includes a short autobiographical essay, in addition toproviding a comprehensive critical overview of Whitehead’sthought and a detailed bibliography of his writings.
Other helpful introductions to Whitehead’s work include VictorLowe’s Understanding Whitehead (1962), StephenFranklin’s Speaking from the Depths (1990), ThomasHosinski’s Stubborn Fact and Creative Advance (1993),Elizabeth Kraus’ The Metaphysics of Experience (1998),Robert Mesle’s Process-Relational Philosophy (2008),and John Cobb’s Whitehead Word Book (2015).Recommendable for the more advanced Whitehead student are IvorLeclerc’s Whitehead’s Metaphysics (1958), WolfeMays’ The Philosophy of Whitehead (1959), DonaldSherburne’s A Whiteheadian Aesthetics (1961), CharlesHartshorne’s Whitehead’s Philosophy (1972),George Lucas’ The Rehabilitation of Whitehead (1989),David Griffin’s Whitehead’s Radically DifferentPostmodern Philosophy (2007), and Steven Shaviro’sWithout Criteria (2009). For a chronology ofWhitehead’s major publications, readers are encouraged toconsult the Primary Literature section of the Bibliography below.
Attempts to sum up Whitehead’s life and influence arecomplicated by the fact that in accordance with his instructions, allhis papers were destroyed following his death. As a result, there isno nachlass, except for papers retained by his colleagues andcorrespondents. Even so, it is instructive to recall the words of thelate Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, FelixFrankfurter:
From knowledge gained through the years of the personalities who inour day have affected American university life, I have for some timebeen convinced that no single figure has had such a pervasiveinfluence as the late Professor Alfred North Whitehead. (New York Times, January 8, 1948)
Today Whitehead’s ideas continue to be felt and are revalued invarying degrees in all of the main areas in which he worked. Acritical edition of his work is currently in the process of beingprepared. A first volume, containing student notes of lectures givenby Whitehead at Harvard in the academic year 1924–1925, hasalready been published by Edinburgh University Press in 2017, and morevolumes are on their way.
2. Mathematics and Logic
Whitehead began his academic career at Trinity College, Cambridgewhere, starting in 1884, he taught for a quarter of a century. In1890, Russell arrived as a student and during the 1890s the two mencame into regular contact with one another. According to Russell,
Whitehead was extraordinarily perfect as a teacher. He took a personalinterest in those with whom he had to deal and knew both their strongand their weak points. He would elicit from a pupil the best of whicha pupil was capable. He was never repressive, or sarcastic, orsuperior, or any of the things that inferior teachers like to be. Ithink that in all the abler young men with whom he came in contact heinspired, as he did in me, a very real and lasting affection. (1956:104)
By the early 1900s, both Whitehead and Russell had completed books onthe foundations of mathematics. Whitehead’s 1898 A Treatiseon Universal Algebra had resulted in his election to the RoyalSociety. Russell’s 1903 The Principles of Mathematicshad expanded on several themes initially developed by Whitehead.Russell’s book also represented a decisive break from theneo-Kantian approach to mathematics Russell had developed six yearsearlier in his Essay on the Foundations of Geometry. Sincethe research for a proposed second volume of Russell’sPrinciples overlapped considerably with Whitehead’s ownresearch for a planned second volume of his UniversalAlgebra, the two men began collaboration on what eventually wouldbecome Principia Mathematica (1910, 1912, 1913). According toWhitehead, they initially expected the research to take about a yearto complete. In the end, they worked together on the project for adecade.
According to Whitehead—inspired by HermannGrassmann—mathematics is the study of pattern:
mathematics is concerned with the investigation of patterns ofconnectedness, in abstraction from the particular relata and theparticular modes of connection. (1933 [1967: 153])
In his Treatise on Universal Algebra, Whitehead took ageneralized algebra—called ‘universalalgebra’—to be the most appropriate tool for this study orinvestigation, but after meeting Giuseppe Peano during the sectiondevoted to logic at the First International Congress of Philosophy in1900, Whitehead and Russell became aware of the potential of symboliclogic to become the most appropriate tool to rigorously studymathematical patterns.
With the help of Whitehead, Russell extended Peano’s symboliclogic in order to be able to deal with all types of relations and,consequently, with all the patterns of relatedness that mathematiciansstudy. In his Principles of Mathematics, Russell gave anaccount of the resulting new symbolic logic of classes andrelations—called ‘mathematical logic’—as wellas an outline of how to reconstruct all existing mathematics by meansof this logic. After that, instead of only being a driving forcebehind the scenes, Whitehead became the public co-author of Russell ofthe actual and rigorous reconstruction of mathematics from logic.Russell often presented this reconstruction—giving rise to thepublication of the three Principia Mathematicavolumes—as the reduction of mathematics to logic, bothqua definitions and qua proofs. And since the 1920s,following Rudolf Carnap, Whitehead and Russell’s project aswell as similar reduction-to-logic projects, including the earlierproject of Gottlob Frege, are classified under the header of‘logicism’.
However, Sébastian Gandon has highlighted in his 2012 studyRussell’s Unknown Logicism that Russell andWhitehead’s logicism project differed in at least one importantrespect from Frege’s logicism project. Frege adhered to aradical universalism, and wanted the mathematical content to beentirely determined from within the logical system. Russell andWhitehead, however, took into account the consensus, or took a stancein the ongoing discussions among mathematicians, with respect to theconstitutive features of the already existing,‘pre-logicized’ branches of mathematics, and thenevaluated for each branch which of several possible types of relationswere best suited to logically reconstruct it, while safeguarding itstopic-specific features. Contrary to Frege, Whitehead and Russelltempered their urge for universalism to take into account thetopic-specificity of the various mathematical branches, and as aworking mathematician, Whitehead was well positioned to compare thepre-logicized mathematics with its reconstruction in the logicalsystem.
For Russell, the logicism project originated from the dream of arock-solid mathematics, no longer governed by Kantian intuition, butby logical rigor. Hence, the discovery of a devastatingparadox—later called ‘Russell’sparadox’—at the heart of mathematical logic was a seriousblow for Russell, and kicked off his search for a theory to preventparadox. He actually came up with several theories, but retained theramified theory of types in Principia Mathematica. Moreover,the ‘logicizing’ of arithmetic required extra-logicalpatchwork: the axioms of reducibility, infinity, and choice. None ofthis patchwork could ultimately satisfy Russell. His original dreamevaporated and, looking back later in life, he wrote: “Thesplendid certainty which I had always hoped to find in mathematics waslost in a bewildering maze” (1959: 157).
Whitehead originally conceived of the logicism project as animprovement upon his algebraic project. Indeed, Whitehead’stransition from the solitary Universal Algebra project to thejoint Principia Mathematica project was a transition fromuniversal algebra to mathematical logic as the most appropriatesymbolic language to embody mathematical patterns. It entailed ageneralization from the embodiment of absolutely abstract patterns bymeans of algebraic forms of variables to their embodiment by means ofpropositional functions of real variables. Hardy was quite right inhis review of the first volume of Principia Mathematica whenhe wrote: “mathematics, one may say, is the science ofpropositional functions” (quoted by Grattan-Guinness 1991:173).
Whitehead saw mathematical logic as a tool to guide themathematician’s essential activities of intuiting, articulating,and applying patterns, and he did not aim at replacing mathematicalintuition (pattern recognition) with logical rigor. In the latterrespect, Whitehead, from the start, was more like HenriPoincaré than Russell (cf. Desmet 2016a). Consequently, thediscovery of paradox at the heart of mathematical logic was less of ablow to Whitehead than to Russell and, later in life, now and again,Whitehead simply reversed the Russellian order of generality andimportance, writing that “symbolic logic” only represents“a minute fragment” of the possibilities of “thealgebraic method” (1947 [1968: 129]).
For a more detailed account of the genesis of PrincipiaMathematica and Whitehead’s place in the philosophy ofmathematics, cf. Smith 1953, Code 1985, Grattan-Guinness 2000 and2002, Irvine 2009, Bostock 2010, Desmet 2010, N. Griffin et al. 2011,N. Griffin & Linsky 2013.
Following the completion of Principia, Whitehead and Russellbegan to go their separate ways (cf. Ramsden Eames 1989, Desmet &Weber 2010, Desmet & Rusu 2012). Perhaps inevitably,Russell’s anti-war activities and Whitehead’s loss of hisyoungest son during World War I led to something of a split betweenthe two men. Nevertheless, the two remained on relatively good termsfor the rest of their lives. To his credit, Russell comments in hisAutobiography that when it came to their politicaldifferences, Whitehead
was more tolerant than I was, and it was much more my fault than histhat these differences caused a diminution in the closeness of ourfriendship. (1956: 100)
Even with the publication of its three volumes, PrincipiaMathematica was incomplete. For example, the logicalreconstruction of the various branches of geometry still needed to becompleted and published. In fact, it was Whitehead’s task to doso by producing a fourth Principia Mathematica volume.However, this volume never saw the light of day. What Whitehead didpublish were his repeated attempts to logically reconstruct thegeometry of space and time, hence extending the logicism project frompure mathematics to applied mathematics or, put differently, frommathematics to physics—an extension which Russell greeted withenthusiasm and saw as an important step in the deployment of his newphilosophical method of logical analysis.
At first, Whitehead focused on the geometry of space.
When Whitehead and Russell logicized the concept of number, theirstarting point was our intuition of equinumerous classes ofindividuals—for example, our recognition that the class ofdwarfs in the fairy tale of Snow White (Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy,Bashful, Sneezy, Dopey) and the class of days in a week (from Mondayto Sunday) have ‘something’ in common, namely, thesomething we call ‘seven.’ Then they logically defined (i)classes C and C′ to be equinumerous when there is a one-to-onerelation that correlates each of the members of C with one member ofC′, and (ii) the number of a class C as the class of all theclasses that are equinumerous with C.
When Whitehead logicized the space of physics, his starting point wasour intuition of spatial volumes and of how one volume may contain (orextend over) another, giving rise to the (mereo)logical relation ofcontainment (or extension) in the class of volumes, and to the conceptof converging series of volumes—think, for example, of a seriesof Russian dolls, one contained in the other, but idealized to eversmaller dolls. Whitehead made all this rigorous and then, crudely put,defined the points from which to further construct the geometry ofspace.
There is a striking resemblance between Whitehead’s constructionof points and the construction of real numbers by Georg Cantor, whohad been one of Whitehead and Russell’s main sources ofinspiration next to Peano. Indeed, Whitehead defined points asequivalence classes of converging series of volumes, and Cantordefined real numbers as equivalence classes of converging series ofrational numbers. Moreover, because Whitehead’s basicgeometrical entities of geometry are not (as in Euclid) extensionlesspoints but volumes, Whitehead can be seen as one of the fathers ofpoint-free geometry; and because Whitehead’s basic geometricalrelation is the mereological (or part-whole) relation of extension, hecan also be seen as one of the founders of mereology (and even, whenwe take into account his later work on this topic in part IV ofProcess and Reality, of mereotopology).
“Last night”, Whitehead wrote to Russell on 3 September1911,
the idea suddenly flashed on me that time could be treated in exactlythe same way as I have now got space (which is a picture of beauty, bythe bye). (Unpublished letter kept in The Bertrand Russell Archives at McMaster University)
Shortly after, Whitehead must have learned about Einstein’sSpecial Theory of Relativity (STR) because in a letter to Wildon Carron 10 July 1912, Russell suggested to the Honorary Secretary of theAristotelian Society that Whitehead possibly might deliver a paper onthe principle of relativity, and added: “I know he has beengoing into the subject”. Anyhow, in the early years of thesecond decade of the twentieth century, Whitehead’s interestshifted from the logical reconstruction of the Euclidean space ofclassical physics to the logical reconstruction of the Minkowskianspace-time of the STR.
A first step to go from space to space-time was the replacement of(our intuition of) spatial volumes with (our intuition of)spatio-temporal regions (or events) as the basis of the construction(so that, for example, a point of space-time could be defined as anequivalence class of converging spatio-temporal regions). However,whereas Whitehead had constructed the Euclidean distance based on ourintuition of cases of spatial congruence (for example, of two parallelstraight line segments being equally long), he now struggled toconstruct the Minkowskian metric in terms of a concept ofspatio-temporal congruence, based on a kind of merger of our intuitionof cases of spatial congruence and our intuition of cases of temporalcongruence (for example, of two candles taking equally long to burnout).
So, as a second step, Whitehead introduced a second relation in theclass of spatio-temporal regions next to the relation of extension,namely, the relation of cogredience, based on our intuition of rest ormotion. Whitehead’s use of this relation gave rise to a constantk, which allowed him to merge spatial and temporal congruence,and which appeared in his formula for the metric of space-time. WhenWhitehead equated k with c2 (the square ofthe speed of light) his metric became equal to the Minkowskianmetric.
Whitehead’s most detailed account of this reconstruction of theMinkowskian space-time of the STR was given in his 1919 book, AnEnquiry concerning the Principles of Natural Knowledge, but healso offered a less technical account in his 1920 book, TheConcept of Nature.
Whitehead first learned about Einstein’s General Theory ofRelativity (GTR) in 1916. He admired Einstein’s new mathematicaltheory of gravitation, but rejected Einstein’s explanation ofgravitation for not being coherent with some of our basic intuitions.Einstein explained the gravitational motion of a free mass-particle inthe neighborhood of a heavy mass as due to the curvature of space-timecaused by this mass. According to Whitehead, the theoretical conceptof a contingently curved space-time does not cohere with ourmeasurement practices; they are based on the essential uniformity ofthe texture of our spatial and temporal intuition.
In general, Whitehead opposed the modern scientist’s attitude ofdropping the requirement of coherence with our basic intuitions, andhe revolted against the issuing bifurcation of nature into the worldof science and that of intuition. In particular, as Einstein’scritic, he set out to give an alternative rendering of theGTR—an alternative that passed not only what Whitehead called“the narrow gauge”, which tests a theory’s empiricaladequacy, but also what he called “the broad gauge”, whichtests its coherence with our basic intuitions.
In 1920, first in a newspaper article (reprinted in Essays inScience and Philosophy), and then in a lecture (published asChapter VIII of Concept of Nature), Whitehead made public anoutline of his alternative to Einstein’s GTR. In 1921, Whiteheadhad the opportunity to discuss matters with Einstein himself. Andfinally, in 1922, Whitehead published a book with a more detailedaccount of his alternative theory of gravitation (ATG)—ThePrinciple of Relativity.
According to Whitehead, the Maxwell-Lorentz theory of electrodynamics(unlike Einstein’s GTR) could be conceived as coherent with ourbasic intuitions—even in its four-dimensional format, namely, byelaborating Minkowski’s electromagnetic worldview. Hence,Whitehead developed his ATG in close analogy with the theory ofelectrodynamics. He replaced Einstein’s geometric explanationwith an electrodynamics-like explanation. Whitehead explained thegravitational motion of a free mass-particle as due to a field actiondetermined by retarded wave-potentials propagating in a uniformspace-time from the source masses to the free mass-particle.
It is important to stress that Whitehead had no intention of improvingthe predictive content of Einstein’s GTR, only the explanatorycontent. However, Whitehead’s replacement of Einstein’sexplanation with an alternative explanation entailed a replacement ofEinstein’s formulae with alternative formulae; and thesedifferent formulae implied different predictions. So it would beincorrect to say that Whitehead’s ATG is empirically equivalentto Einstein’s GTR. What can be claimed, however, is that for along time Whitehead’s theory was experimentallyindistinguishable from Einstein’s theory.
In fact, like Einstein’s GTR, Whitehead’s ATG leads toNewton’s theory of gravitation as a first approximation. Also(as shown by Eddington in 1924 and J. L. Synge in 1952)Einstein’s and Whitehead’s theories of gravitation lead toan identical solution for the problem of determining the gravitationalfield of a single, static, and spherically symmetric body—theSchwarzschild solution. This implies, for example, thatEinstein’s GTR and Whitehead’s ATG lead to the exact samepredictions not only with respect to the precession of the perihelionof Mercury and the bending of starlight in the gravitational field ofthe sun (as already shown by Whitehead in 1922 and William Temple in1924) but also with respect to the red-shift of the spectral lines oflight emitted by atoms in the gravitational field of the sun (contraryto Whitehead’s own conclusion in 1922, which was based on ahighly schematized and soon outdated model of the molecule). Moreover(as shown by R. J. Russell and Christoph Wassermann in 1986 and published in 2004) Einstein’s andWhitehead’s theories of gravitation also lead to an identicalsolution for the problem of determining the gravitational field of asingle, rotating, and axially symmetric body—the Kerrsolution.
Einstein’s and Whitehead’s predictions become different,however, when considering more than one body. Indeed, Einstein’sequation of gravitation is non-linear while Whitehead’s islinear; and this divergence qua mathematics implies adivergence qua predictions in the case of two or more bodies.For example (as shown by G. L. Clark in 1954) the two theories lead todifferent predictions with respect to the motion of double stars. Thepredictive divergence in the case of two bodies, however, is quitesmall, and until recently experimental techniques were notsufficiently refined to confirm either Einstein’s predictions orWhitehead’s, for example, with respect to double stars. In2008, based on a precise timing of the pulsar B1913+16 in theHulse-Taylor binary system, Einstein’s predictions with respectto the motion of double stars were confirmed, and Whitehead’srefuted (by Gary Gibbons and Clifford Will). The important fact fromthe viewpoint of the philosophy of science is not that, since the1970s, now and again, a physicist rose to claim the experimentalrefutation of Whitehead’s ATG, but that for decades it wasexperimentally indistinguishable from Einstein’s GTR, hencerefuting two modern dogmas. First, that theory choice is solely basedon empirical facts. Clearly, next to facts, values—especiallyaesthetic values—are at play as well. Second, that the historyof science is a succession of victories over the army of ourmisleading intuitions, each success of science must be interpreted asa defeat of intuition, and a truth cannot be scientific unless ithurts human intuition. Surely, we can be scientific without taming theauthority of our intuition and without engaging in the disastrous raceto disenchant nature and humankind.
For a more detailed account of Whitehead’s involvement withEinstein’s STR and GTR, cf. Palter 1960, Von Ranke 1997,Herstein 2006 and Desmet 2011, 2016b, and 2016c.
4. Philosophy of Science
Whitehead’s reconstruction of the space-time of the STR and hisATG make clear (i) that his main methodological requirement in thephilosophy of science is that physical theories should cohere with ourintuitions of the relatedness of nature (of the relations ofextension, congruence, cogredience, causality, etc.), and (ii) thathis paradigm of what a theory of physics should be like is theMaxwell-Lorentz theory of electrodynamics. And indeed, in hisphilosophy of science, Whitehead rejects David Hume’s“sensationalist empiricism” (1929c [1985: 57]) and IsaacNewton’s “scientific materialism” (1926a [1967:17]). Instead Whitehead promotes (i) a radical empiricist methodology,which relies on our perception, not only of sense data (colors,sounds, smells, etc.) but also of a manifold of natural relations, and(ii) an electrodynamics-like worldview, in which the fundamentalconcepts are no longer simply located substances or bits of matter,but internally related processes and events.
“Modern physical science”, Whitehead wrote,
is the issue of a coordinated effort, sustained for more than threecenturies, to understand those activities of Nature by reason of whichthe transitions of sense-perception occur. (1934 [2011: 65])
But according to Whitehead, Hume’s sensationalist empiricism hasundermined the idea that our perception can reveal those activities,and Newton’s scientific materialism has failed to render hisformulae of motion and gravitation intelligible.
Whitehead was dissatisfied with Hume’s reduction of perceptionto sense perception because, as Hume discovered, pure sense perceptionreveals a succession of spatial patterns of impressions of color,sound, smell, etc. (a procession of forms of sense data), but it doesnot reveal any causal relatedness to interpret it (any form of processto render it intelligible). In fact, all “relatedness ofnature”, and not only its causal relatedness, was“demolished by Hume’s youthful skepticism” (1922[2004: 13]) and conceived as the outcome of mere psychologicalassociation. Whitehead wrote:
Sense-perception, for all its practical importance, is verysuperficial in its disclosure of the nature of things. … Myquarrel with [Hume] concerns [his] exclusive stress uponsense-perception for the provision of data respecting Nature.Sense-perception does not provide the data in terms of which weinterpret it. (1934 [2011: 21])
Whitehead was also dissatisfied with Newton’s scientificmaterialism,
which presupposes the ultimate fact of an irreducible brute matter, ormaterial, spread through space in a flux of configurations. In itselfsuch a material is senseless, valueless, purposeless. It just doeswhat it does do, following a fixed routine imposed by externalrelations which do not spring from the nature of its being. (1926a[1967: 17])
Whitehead rejected Newton’s conception of nature as thesuccession of instants of spatial distribution of bits of matter fortwo reasons. First: the concept of a “durationless”instant, “without reference to any other instant”, rendersunintelligible the concepts of “velocity at an instant”and “momentum at an instant” as well as the equations ofmotion involving these concepts (1934 [2011: 47]). Second: the conceptof self-sufficient and isolated bits of matter, having “theproperty of simple location in space and time” (1926a [1967:49]), cannot “give the slightest warrant for the law ofgravitation” that Newton postulated (1934 [2011: 34]). Whiteheadwrote:
Newton’s methodology for physics was an overwhelming success.But the forces which he introduced left Nature still without meaningor value. In the essence of a material body—in its mass, motion,and shape—there was no reason for the law of gravitation. (1934[2011: 23])
There is merely a formula for succession. But there is an absence ofunderstandable causation for that formula for that succession. (1934[2011: 53–54])
“Combining Newton and Hume”, Whitehead summarized,
we obtain a barren concept, namely, a field of perception devoid ofany data for its own interpretation, and a system of interpretationdevoid of any reason for the concurrence of its factors. (1934 [2011:25])
“Two conclusions”, Whitehead wrote,
are now abundantly clear. One is that sense-perception omits anydiscrimination of the fundamental activities within Nature. …The second conclusion is the failure of science to endow its formulaefor activity with any meaning. (1934 [2011: 65])
The views of Newton and Hume, Whitehead continued, are “gravelydefective. They are right as far as they go. But they omit …our intuitive modes of understanding” (1934 [2011: 26]).
In Whitehead’s eyes, however, the development of Maxwell’stheory of electromagnetism constituted an antidote to Newton’sscientific materialism, for it led him to conceive the whole universeas “a field of force—or, in other words, a field ofincessant activity” (1934 [2011: 27]). The theory ofelectromagnetism served Whitehead to overcome Newton’s“fallacy of simple location” (1926a [1967: 49]), that is,the conception of nature as a universe of self-sufficient isolatedbits of matter. Indeed, we cannot say of an electromagnetic event thatit is
here in space, and here in time, or here in space-time, in a perfectlydefinite sense which does not require for its explanation anyreference to other regions of space-time. (1926a [1967: 49])
The theory of electromagnetism “involves the entire abandonmentof the notion that simple location is the primary way in which thingsare involved in space-time” because it reveals that, “in acertain sense, everything is everywhere at all times” (1926a[1967: 91]). “Long ago”, Whitehead wrote, Faraday alreadyremarked “that in a sense an electric charge iseverywhere”, and:
the modification of the electromagnetic field at every point of spaceat each instant owing to the past history of each electron is anotherway of stating the same fact. (1920 [1986: 148])
The lesson that Whitehead learned from the theory of electromagnetismis unambiguous:
The fundamental concepts are activity and process. … The notionof self-sufficient isolation is not exemplified in modern physics.There are no essentially self-contained activities within limitedregions. … Nature is a theatre for the interrelations ofactivities. All things change, the activities and theirinterrelations. … In the place of the procession of [spatial]forms (of externally related bits of matter, modern physics) hassubstituted the notion of the forms of process. It has thus swept awayspace and matter, and has substituted the study of the internalrelations within a complex state of activity. (1934 [2011:35–36])
But overcoming Newton was insufficient for Whitehead because Hume“has even robbed us of reason for believing that the past givesany ground for expectation of the future” (1934 [2011: 65]).According to Whitehead,
science conceived as resting on mere sense-perception, with no othersources of observation, is bankrupt, so far as concerns its claims toself-sufficiency. (1934 [2011: 66])
In fact, science conceived as restricting itself to the sensationalistmethodology can find neither efficient nor final causality. It“can find no creativity in Nature; it finds mere rules ofsuccession” (1934 [2011: 66]). “The reason for thisblindness”, according to Whitehead, “lies in the fact thatsuch science only deals with half of the evidence provided by humanexperience” (1934 [2011: 66]).
Contrary to Hume, Whitehead held that it is untrue to state that ourperception, in which sense perception is only one factor, discloses nocausal relatedness. Inspired by the radical empiricism of WilliamJames and Henri Bergson, Whitehead gave a new analysis of perception.According to Whitehead, our perception is a symbolic interplay of twopure modes of perception, pure sense perception (which Whiteheadultimately called “perception in the mode of presentationalimmediacy”), and a more basic perception of causal relatedness(which he called “perception in the mode of causalefficacy”). According to Whitehead, taking into account thewhole of our perception instead of only pure sense perception, thatis, all perceptual data instead of only Hume’s sense data,implies also taking into account the other half of the evidence,namely, our intuitions of the relatedness of nature, of “thetogetherness of things”. He added:
the togetherness of things involves some doctrine of mutual immanence.In some sense or other … each happening is a factor in thenature of every other happening. (1934 [2011: 87])See AlsoTema 14 – Los deportes. Concepto y clasificaciones. El deporte como actividad educativa. Deportes individuales y colectivos presentes en la escuela: aspectos técnicos y tácticos elementales; su didáctica. - OposinetProtoboard, ¿Qué es y cómo se usa?[Guía para negocio] Recetas de postres para vender
Hume demolished the relatedness of nature; Whitehead restored it,founded the “doctrine of causation … on the doctrine ofimmanence”, and wrote: “Each occasion presupposes theantecedent world as active in its own nature. … This is thedoctrine of causation” (1934 [2011: 88–89]).
Whitehead also noticed that, in a sense, physicists are even morereductionist than Hume. In practice they rely on sense data, but intheory they abstract from most of the data of our five senses (sight,hearing, smell, taste, and touch) to focus on the colorless,soundless, odorless, and tasteless mathematical aspects of nature.Consequently, in a worldview inspired not by the actual practices ofphysicists, but by their theoretical speculations,nature—methodologically stripped from its ‘tertiary’qualities (esthetical, ethical, and religious values)—is furtherreduced to the scientific world of ‘primary’ qualities(mathematical quantities and interconnections such as the amplitude,length, and frequency of mathematical waves), and this scientificworld is bifurcated from the world of ‘secondary’qualities (colors, sounds, smells, etc.). Moreover, the former worldis supposed, ultimately, to fully explain the latter world (so that,for example, colors end up as being nothing more than electromagneticwave-frequencies).
Whitehead spoke of the “bifurcation of nature into two systemsof reality” (1920 [1986: 30]) to denote thestrategy—originating with Galileo, Descartes, Boyle andLocke—of bifurcating nature into the essential reality ofprimary qualities and the non-essential reality of “psychicadditions” or secondary qualities, ultimately to be explainedaway in terms of primary qualities. Whitehead sided with Berkeley inarguing that the primary/secondary distinction is not tenable (1920[1986: 43–44]), that all qualities are “in the same boat,to sink or swim together” (1920 [1986: 148]), and that, forexample,
the red glow of the sunset should be as much part of nature as are themolecules and electric waves by which men of science would explain thephenomenon. (1920 [1986: 29])
Whitehead described the philosophical outcome of the bifurcation ofnature as follows:
The primary qualities are the essential qualities of substances whosespatio-temporal relationships constitute nature. … Theoccurrences of nature are in some way apprehended by minds …But the mind in apprehending also experiences sensations which,properly speaking, are qualities of the mind alone. These sensationsare projected by the mind so as to clothe appropriate bodies inexternal nature. Thus the bodies are perceived as with qualities whichin reality do not belong to them, qualities which in fact are purelythe offspring of the mind. Thus nature gets credit which should intruth be reserved for ourselves: the rose for its scent: thenightingale for his song: and the sun for his radiance. The poets areentirely mistaken. They should address their lyrics to themselves, andshould turn them into odes of self-congratulation on the excellency ofthe human mind. Nature is a dull affair, soundless, scentless,colourless; merely the hurrying of material, endlessly, meaninglessly.(1926a [1967: 54])
“The enormous success of the scientific abstractions”,Whitehead wrote, “has foisted onto philosophy the task ofaccepting them as the most concrete rendering of fact” and, headded:
Thereby, modern philosophy has been ruined. It has oscillated in acomplex manner between three extremes. There are the dualists, whoaccept matter and mind as on an equal basis, and the two varieties ofmonists, those who put mind inside matter, and those who put matterinside mind. But this juggling with abstractions can never overcomethe inherent confusion introduced by the ascription of misplacedconcreteness to the scientific scheme. (1926a [1967: 55])
Whitehead’s alternative is fighting “the Fallacy ofMisplaced Concreteness”—the “error of mistaking theabstract for the concrete”—because “this fallacy isthe occasion of great confusion in philosophy” (1926a [1967:51]). The fallacy of misplaced concreteness is committed each timeabstractions are taken as concrete facts, and “more concretefacts” are expressed “under the guise of very abstractlogical constructions” (1926a [1967: 50–51]). This fallacylies at the root of the modern philosophical confusions of scientificmaterialism and progressive bifurcation of nature. Indeed, the notionof simple location in Newton’s scientific materialism is aninstance of the fallacy of misplaced concreteness—it mistakesthe abstraction of in essence unrelated bits of matter as the mostconcrete reality from which to explain the relatedness of nature. Andthe bifurcating idea that secondary qualities should be explained interms of primary qualities is also an instance of thisfallacy—it mistakes the mathematical abstractions of physics asthe most concrete and so-called primary reality from which to explainthe so-called secondary reality of colors, sounds, etc.
In light of the rise of electrodynamics, relativity, and quantummechanics, Whitehead challenged scientific materialism and thebifurcation of nature “as being entirely unsuited to thescientific situation at which we have now arrived”, and heclearly outlined the mission of philosophy as he saw it:
I hold that philosophy is the critic of abstractions. Its function isthe double one, first of harmonising them by assigning to them theirright relative status as abstractions, and secondly of completing themby direct comparison with more concrete intuitions of the universe,and thereby promoting the formation of more complete schemes ofthought. It is in respect to this comparison that the testimony ofgreat poets is of such importance. Their survival is evidence thatthey express deep intuitions of mankind penetrating into what isuniversal in concrete fact. Philosophy is not one among the scienceswith its own little scheme of abstractions which it works away atperfecting and improving. It is the survey of the sciences, with thespecial object of their harmony, and of their completion. It brings tothis task, not only the evidence of the separate sciences, but alsoits own appeal to concrete experience. (1926a [1967: 87])
Clearly Whitehead’s philosophy was influenced by electrodynamicsand relativity, but is it correct to claim that it was influenced byquantum mechanics? Charles Hartshorne writes:
When Whitehead came to Harvard in 1924 he felt obliged to spend histime reading and teaching philosophy, rather than the theoreticalphysics he had been teaching in London, after teaching mathematics atCambridge. Consequently his knowledge of physics began to be out ofdate. Although he had seen Heisenberg’s famous article of 1927on the Uncertainty Principle (I know because … I showed it… to Whitehead), there is no evidence that he seriously reactedto the controversy about the “Copenhagen interpretation”… (2010: 28)
Even though Whitehead did not react in his writings to the Copenhageninterpretation, he was up to date with respect to the older quantummechanics (of Planck, Einstein and Bohr), and his philosophyforeshadows some of its present day interpretations. Whitehead was asfamiliar with Jeans’ Report on Radiation and theQuantum-Theory (1914) as with Eddington’s Report on theRelativity Theory of Gravitation (1918), and prior to hisdeparture to Harvard, on 12 July 1924, Whitehead chaired asymposium—“The Quantum Theory: How far does it modify themathematical, the physical, and the psychological concepts ofcontinuity?”—which was part of a joint session of theAristotelian Society and the Mind Society. Today, for example, CarloRovelli’s relational interpretation of the theory of quantummechanics is strikingly Whiteheadian:
In the world described by quantum mechanics there is no reality exceptin the relations between physical systems. It isn’t things thatenter into relations but, rather, relations that ground the notion of“thing”. The world of quantum mechanics is not a world ofobjects: it is a world of events. Things are built by the happeningsof elementary events: as the philosopher Nelson Goodman wrote in the1950s, in a beautiful phrase, “An object is a monotonousprocess.” A stone is a vibration of quanta that maintains itsstructure for a while, just as a marine wave maintains its identityfor a while before melting again into the sea. … We, like wavesand like all objects, are a flux of events; we are processes, for abrief time monotonous … (2017: 115–116)
And Rovelli adds that in the speculative world of quantum gravity:
There is no longer space which contains the world, and nolonger time during the course of which events occur. Thereare elementary processes … continuously interact[ing] with eachother. Just as a calm and clear Alpine lake is made up of a rapiddance of a myriad of minuscule water molecules, the illusion of beingsurrounded by continuous space and time is the product of along-sighted vision of a dense swarming of elementary processes.(2017: 158)
For more details on Whitehead’s philosophy of science, cf.Hammerschmidt 1947, Lawrence 1956, Bright 1958, Palter 1960, Mays1977, Fitzgerald 1979, Plamondon 1979, Eastman & Keeton (eds)2004, Bostock 2010, Athern 2011, Deroo & Leclercq (eds) 2011,Henning et al. (eds) 2013, Segall 2013, McHenry 2015, Desmet 2016d, Eastman & Epperson & Griffin (eds) 2016.
5. Philosophy of Education
While in London, Whitehead became involved in many practical aspectsof tertiary education, serving as President of the MathematicalAssociation, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Chairman of theAcademic Council of the Senate at the University of London, Chairmanof the Delegacy for Goldsmiths’ College, and several otheradministrative posts. Many of his essays about education date fromthis time and appear in his book, The Aims of Education and OtherEssays (1929a).
At its core, Whitehead’s philosophy of education emphasizes theidea that a good life is most profitably thought of as an educated orcivilized life, two terms which Whitehead often uses interchangeably.As we think, we live. Thus it is only as we improve our thoughts thatwe improve our lives. The result, says Whitehead, is that “Thereis only one subject matter for education, and that is Life in all itsmanifestations” (1929a: 10). This view in turn has corollariesfor both the content of education and its method of delivery.
(a) With regard to delivery, Whitehead emphasizes the importance ofremembering that a “pupil’s mind is a growing organism… it is not a box to be ruthlessly packed with alienideas” (1929a: 47). Instead, it is the purpose of education tostimulate and guide each student’s self-development. It is notthe job of the educator simply to insert into his students’minds little chunks of knowledge.
Whitehead conceives of the student’s educational process ofself-development as an organic and cyclic process in which each cycleconsists of three stages: first the stage of romance, then the stageof precision, and finally, the stage of generalization. The firststage is all about “free exploration, initiated bywonder”, the second about the disciplined “acquirement oftechnique and detailed knowledge”, and the third about“the free application of what has been learned” (Lowe1990: 61). These stages, continually recurring in cycles, determinewhat Whitehead calls “The Rhythm of Education” (cf. 1929a:24–44). In the context of mathematics, Whitehead’s threestages can be conceived of as the stage of undisciplined intuition,the stage of logical reasoning, and the stage of logically guidedintuition. By skipping stage one, and never arriving at stage three,bad math teachers deny students the major motivation to lovemathematics: the joy of pattern recognition.
That education does not involve inserting into the student’smind little chunks of knowledge is clear from the description ofculture that Whitehead offers as the opening of the first and titleessay of The Aims of Education:
Culture is activity of thought, and receptiveness of beauty and humanefeeling. Scraps of information have nothing to do with it. (1929a: 1)
On the contrary, Whitehead writes,
we must beware of what I call ‘inert ideas’—that isto say, ideas that are merely received into the mind without beingutilized, or tested, or thrown into fresh combinations, (1929a:1–2)
and he holds that “education is the acquisition of the art ofthe [interconnection and] utilization of knowledge” (1929a: 6),and that ideas remain disconnected and non-utilized unless they arerelated
to that stream, compounded of sense perceptions, feelings, hopes,desires, and of mental activities adjusting thought to thought, whichforms our life. (1929a: 4)
This point—the point where Whitehead links the art of educationto the stream of experience that forms our life—is the meetingpoint of Whitehead’s philosophy of education with his philosophyof experience, which is also called: ‘processphilosophy.’
According to Whitehead’s process philosophy, the stream ofexperience that forms our life consists of occasions of experience,each of which is a synthesis of many feelings having objective content(what is felt) and subjective form (how it is felt); also, thesynthesis of feelings is not primarily controlled by their objectivecontent, but by their subjective form. According to Whitehead’sphilosophy of education, the attempt to educate a person by merelyfocusing on objective content—on inert ideas, scraps ofinformation, bare knowledge—while disregarding the subjectiveform or emotional pattern of that person’s experience can neverbe successful. The art of education has to take into account thesubjective receptiveness and appreciation of beauty and humangreatness, the subjective emotions of interest, joy and adventure, and“the ultimate motive power” (1929a: 62), that is, thesense of importance, values and possibilities (cf.1929a:45–65).
(b) With regard to content, Whitehead holds that any adequateeducation must include a literary component, a scientific component,and a technical component.
According to Whitehead:
Any serious fundamental change in the intellectual outlook of humansociety must necessarily be followed by an educational revolution.(1929a: 116)
In particular, the scientific revolution and the fundamental changesit entailed in the seventeenth and subsequent centuries have beenfollowed by an educational revolution that was still ongoing in thetwentieth century. In 1912, Whitehead wrote:
We are, in fact, in the midst of an educational revolution caused bythe dying away of the classical impulse which has dominated Europeanthought since the time of the Renaissance. … What I mean is theloss of that sustained reference to classical literature for the sakeof finding in it the expression of our best thoughts on all subjects.… There are three fundamental changes … Science nowenters into the very texture of our thoughts … Again,mechanical inventions, which are the product of science, by alteringthe material possibilities of life, have transformed our industrialsystem, and thus have changed the very structure of Society. Finally,the idea of the World now means to us the whole round world of humanaffairs, from the revolutions of China to those of Peru. … Thetotal result of these changes is that the supreme merit of immediaterelevance to the full compass of modern life has been lost toclassical literature. (1947 [1968: 175–176])
Whitehead listed the scientific and industrial revolutions as well asglobalization as the major causes for the educational reforms of thenineteenth and twentieth century. These fundamental changes indeedimplied new standards for what counts as genuine knowledge. However,together with these new standards emerged a romantic anxiety—theanxiety that the new standards of genuine knowledge, education, andliving might impoverish human experience and damage both individualand social wellbeing. Hence arose the bifurcation of culture into theculture of “natural scientists” and the culture of“literary intellectuals” (cf. Snow 1959), and the manyassociated debates in the context of various educationalreforms—for example, the 1880s debate in Victorian England, whenWhitehead was a Cambridge student, between T. H. Huxley, an outspokenchampion of science, defending the claims of modern scientificeducation, and Matthew Arnold, a leading man of letters, defending theclaims of classical literary education.
As for Whitehead, in whom the scientific and the romantic spiritmerged, one cannot say that he sided with either Huxley or Arnold. Hetook his distance from those who, motivated by the idea that thesciences embody the ultimate modes of thought, sided with Huxley, butalso from those who, motivated by conservatism, that is, by ananachronistic longing for a highly educated upper class and an elitisthorror of educational democratization, sided with Arnold (cf. 1947[1968: 23–24]). Next to not taking a stance in the debate onwhich is the ultimate mode of thought, the scientific or the literary,hence rejecting the antithesis between scientific and literaryeducation, Whitehead also rejected the antithesis between thought andaction (cf. 1947 [1968: 172]) and hence, between a liberal, that is,mainly intellectual and theoretical, education, and a technical, thatis, mainly manual and practical, education (cf. 1929a: 66–92).In other words, according to Whitehead, we can identify three insteadof two cultures but, moreover, we must refrain from promoting any oneof these three at the expense of the other two. He writes:
My point is, that no course of study can claim any position of idealcompleteness. Nor are the omitted factors of subordinate importance.The insistence in the Platonic culture on disinterested intellectualappreciation is a psychological error. Action and our implication inthe transition of events amid the inevitable bond of cause to effectare fundamental. An education which strives to divorce intellectual oraesthetic life from these fundamental facts carries with it thedecadence of civilisation. (1929a: 73)
Disinterested scientific curiosity is a passion for an orderedintellectual vision of the connection of events. But the …intervention of action even in abstract science is often overlooked.No man of science wants merely to know. He acquires knowledge toappease his passion for discovery. He does not discover in order toknow, he knows in order to discover. The pleasure which art andsciences can give to toil is the enjoyment which arises fromsuccessfully directed intention. (1929a: 74)
The antithesis between a technical and a liberal education isfallacious. There can be no technical education which is not liberal,and no liberal education which is not technical: that is, no educationwhich does not import both technique and intellectual vision. (1929a:74)
There are three main methods which are required in a national systemof education, namely, the literary curriculum, the scientificcurriculum, the technical curriculum. But each of these curriculashould include the other two … each of these sides …should be illuminated by the others. (1929a: 75)
For more details and an extensive bibliography on Whitehead’sphilosophy of education, cf. Part VI of Volume 1 of the Handbookof Whiteheadian Process Thought (Weber & Desmond 2008:185–214).
Facing mandatory retirement in London, and upon being offered anappointment at Harvard, Whitehead moved to the United States in 1924.Given his prior training in mathematics, it was sometimes joked thatthe first philosophy lectures he ever attended were those he himselfdelivered in his new role as Professor of Philosophy. As Russellcomments, “In England, Whitehead was regarded only as amathematician, and it was left to America to discover him as aphilosopher” (1956: 100).
A year after his arrival, he delivered Harvard’s prestigiousLowell Lectures. The lectures formed the basis for Science and theModern World (1926). The 1927/28 Gifford Lectures at theUniversity of Edinburgh followed shortly afterwards and resulted inthe publication of Whitehead’s most comprehensive (but difficultto penetrate) metaphysical work, Process and Reality (1929c).And in the Preface of the third major work composing his maturemetaphysical system, Adventures of Ideas (1933), Whiteheadstated:
The three books—Science and The Modern World, Process andReality, Adventures of Ideas—are an endeavor to express away of understanding the nature of things, and to point out how thatway of understanding is illustrated by … human experience. Eachbook can be read separately; but they supplement each other’somissions or compressions. (1933 [1967: vii])
Whitehead’s philosophy of science “has nothing to do withethics or theology or the theory of aesthetics” (1922 [2004:4]). Whitehead in his London writings was “excluding anyreference to moral or aesthetic values”, even though he wasalready aware that “the values of nature are perhaps the key tothe metaphysical synthesis of existence” (1920 [1986: 5]).Whitehead’s metaphysics, on the contrary, not only take intoaccount science, but also art, morals and religion. Whitehead in hisHarvard writings did not exclude anything, but aimed at a“synoptic vision” (1929c [1985: 5]) to which values areindeed the key.
In his earlier philosophy of science, Whitehead revolted against thebifurcation of nature into the worlds of primary and secondaryqualities, and he promoted the harmonization of the abstractions ofmathematical physics with those of Hume’s sensationalistempiricism, as well as the inclusion of more concrete intuitionsoffered by our perception—our intuitions of causality,extension, cogredience, congruence, color, sound, smell, etc. Closelylinked to this completion of the scientific scheme of thought,Whitehead developed a new scientific ontology and a new theory ofperception. His scientific ontology is one of internally relatedevents (instead of merely externally related bits of matter). Histheory of perception (cf. Symbolism: its Meaning and Effect)holds that our perception is always perception in the mixed mode ofsymbolic reference, which usually involves a symbolic reference ofwhat is given in the pure mode of presentational immediacy to what isgiven in the pure mode of causal efficacy:
symbolic reference, though in complex human experience it works bothways, is chiefly to be thought of as the elucidation of percepta inthe mode of causal efficacy by … percepta in the mode ofpresentational immediacy. (1929c [1985: 178])
According to Whitehead, the failure to lay due emphasis on theperceptual mode of causal efficacy implies the danger of reducing thescientific method to Hume’s sensationalist empiricism, andultimately lies at the basis of the Humean failure to acknowledge therelatedness of nature, especially the causal relatedness of nature.Indeed, “the notion of causation arose because mankind livesamid experiences in the mode of causal efficacy” (1929c [1985:175]). According to Whitehead, “symbolic reference is theinterpretative element in human experience” (1929c [1985: 173]),and “the failure to lay due emphasis on symbolic reference… has reduced the notion of ‘meaning’ to amystery” (1929c [1985: 168]), and ultimately lies at the basisof Newton’s failure to give meaning to his formulae of motionand gravitation.
In his later metaphysics, Whitehead revolted against the bifurcationof the world into the objective world of facts (as studied by science,even a completed science, and one not limited to physics, butstretching from physics to biology to psychology) and the subjectiveworld of values (aesthetic, ethic, and religious), and he promoted theharmonization of the abstractions of science with those of art,morals, and religion, as well as the inclusion of more concreteintuitions offered by our experience—stretching from ourmathematical and physical intuitions to our poetic and mysticintuitions. Closely linked to this completion of the metaphysicalscheme of thought (cf. Part I of Process and Reality),Whitehead refined his earlier ontology, and generalized his earliertheory of perception into a theory of feelings. Whitehead’sultimate ontology—the ontology of ‘the philosophy oforganism’ or ‘process philosophy’—is one ofinternally related organism-like elementary processes (called‘actual occasions’ or ‘actual entities’) interms of which he could understand both lifeless nature and naturealive, both matter and mind, both science andreligion—“Philosophy”, Whitehead even writes,“attains its chief importance by fusing the two, namely,religion and science, into one rational scheme of thought”(1929c [1985: 15]). His theory of feelings (cf. part III ofProcess and Reality) claims that not only our perception, butour experience in general is a stream of elementary processes ofconcrescence (growing together) of many feelings intoone—“the many become one, and are increased withone” (1929c [1985: 21])—and that the process ofconcrescence is not primarily driven by the objective content of thefeelings involved (their factuality), but by their subjective form(their valuation, cf. 1929c [1985: 240]).
Whitehead’s ontology cannot be disjoined from his theory offeelings. The actual occasions ontologically constituting ourexperience are the elementary processes of concrescence offeelings constituting the stream of our experience, and they throwlight on the what and the how of all actualoccasions, including those that constitute lifeless material things.This amounts to the panexperientialist claim that the intrinsicallyrelated elementary constituents of all things in the universe, fromstones to human beings, are experiential. Whitehead writes:“each actual entity is a throb of experience” (1929c[1985: 190]) and “apart from the experiences of subjects thereis nothing, nothing, nothing, bare nothingness” (1929c [1985:167])—an outrageous claim according to some, even when it ismade clear that panexperientialism is not the same as panpsychism,because “consciousness presupposes experience, and notexperience consciousness” (1929c [1985: 53]).
The relational event ontology that Whitehead developed in his Londonperiod might serve to develop a relational interpretation of quantummechanics, such as Rovelli’s (cf. supra) or one of the manyproposed by Whitehead scholars (cf. Stapp 1993 and 2007, Malin 2001,Hättich 2004, Epperson 2004, Epperson & Zafiris 2013). Butthen this ontology has to take into account the fact that quantummechanics suggests that reality is not only relational, but alsogranular (the results of measuring its changes do not form continuousspectra, but spectra of discrete quanta) and indeterminist (physicistscannot predetermine the result of a measurement; they can onlycalculate for each of the relevant discrete quanta, that is, for eachof the possible results of the measurement, the probability that itbecomes the actual result).
In Whitehead’s London writings, the granular or atomic nature ofthe events underlying the abstractions of continuous space-time andcontinuous electromagnetic and gravitational fields is not madeexplicit. In his Harvard writings, however, “the mysteriousquanta of energy have made their appearance” (1929c [1985: 78]),“the ultimate metaphysical truth is atomism” (1929c [1985:35]), and events are seen as networks (or ‘societies’) ofelementary and atomic events, called ‘actual occasions’ or‘actual entities.’ Whitehead writes:
I shall use the term ‘event’ in the more general sense ofa nexus of actual occasions … An actual occasion is thelimiting type of an event with only one member. (1929c [1985: 73])
Each actual occasion determines a quantum ofextension—“the atomized quantum of extension correlativeto the actual entity” (1929c [1985: 73])—and it is bymeans of the relation of extensive connection in the class of theregions constituted by these quanta that Whitehead attempted toimprove upon his earlier construction of space-time (cf. Part IV ofProcess and Reality).
The atomicity of events in quantum mechanics dovetails with theatomicity of the stream of experience as conceived by William James,hence reinforcing Whitehead’s claim that each actual entity isan elementary process of experience. Whitehead writes:
The authority of William James can be quoted in support of thisconclusion. He writes: “Either your experience is of no content,of no change, or it is of a perceptible amount of content or change.Your acquaintance with reality grows literally by buds or drops ofperception. Intellectually and on reflection you can divide these intocomponents, but as immediately given, they come totally or not atall”. (1929c [1985: 68])
Whitehead’s conclusion reads: “actual entities are dropsof experience, complex and interdependent” (1929c [1985: 18]),and he expresses that reality grows by drops, which together form theextensive continuum, by writing: “extensiveness becomes, but‘becoming is not itself extensive”, and “there is abecoming of continuity, but no continuity of becoming” (1929c[1985: 35]).
In Whitehead’s London writings, he aims at logicallyreconstructing Einstein’s STR and GTR, which are bothdeterministic theories of physics, and his notion of causality (thateach occasion presupposes the antecedent world as active in its ownnature) does not seem to leave much room for any creativeself-determination. In his Harvard writings, however, Whiteheadconsiders deterministic interaction as an abstract limit insome circumstances of the creative interaction that governsthe becoming of actual entities in all circumstances, and hemakes clear that his notion of causality includes both determinationby the antecedent world (efficient causation of past actual occasions)and self-determination (final causation by the actual occasion in theprocess of becoming). Whitehead writes:
An actual entity is at once the product of the efficient past, and isalso, in Spinoza’s phrase, causa sui. Every philosophyrecognizes, in some form or other, this factor of self-causation.(1929a: 150)
Again: “Self-realization is the ultimate fact of facts. Anactuality is self-realizing, and whatever is self-realizing is anactuality” (1929a: 222).
Introducing indeterminism also means introducing potentiality next toactuality, and indeed, Whitehead introduces pure potentials, alsocalled ‘eternal objects,’ next to actual occasions:
The eternal objects are the pure potentials of the universe, and theactual entities differ from each other in their realization ofpotentials. (1929c [1985: 149])
Eternal objects can qualify (characterize) the objective content andthe subjective form of the feelings that constitute actual entities.Eternal objects of the objective species are puremathematical patterns: “Eternal objects of the objective speciesare the mathematical Platonic forms” (1929c [1985: 291]). Aneternal object of the objective species can only qualify the objectivecontent of a feeling, and “never be an element in thedefiniteness of a subjective form” (idem). Eternal objects ofthe subjective species, on the other hand, include sense dataand values.
A member of the subjective species is, in its primary character, anelement in the definiteness of the subjective form of a feeling. It isa determinate way in which a feeling can feel. (idem)
But it can also become an eternal object contributing to thedefiniteness of the objective content of a feeling, for example, whena smelly feeling gives rise to a feeling of that smell, or when anemotionally red feeling is felt by another feeling, and red, anelement of the subjective form of the first feeling, becomes anelement of the objective content of the second feeling.
Whitehead’s concept of self-determination cannot be disjoinedfrom his idea that each actual entity is an elementary process ofexperience, and hence, according to Whitehead, it is relevant both atthe lower level of indeterminist physical interactions and at thehigher level of free human interactions. Indeed, each actual entity isa concrescence of feelings of the antecedent world, which do not onlyhave objective content, but also subjective form, and as thisconcrescence is not only determined by the objective content (bywhat is felt), but also by the subjective form (byhow it is felt), it is not only determined by the antecedentworld that is felt, but also by how it is felt. In otherwords, each actual entity has to take into account its past, but thatpast only conditions and does not completely determine howthe actual entity will take it into account, and “howan actual entity becomes constitutes what thatactual entity is” (1929c [1985: 23]).
How does this relate to eternal objects? How an actual entitytakes into account its antecedent world involves “therealization of eternal objects [or pure potentials] in theconstitution of the actual entity in question” (1929c [1985:149]), and this is partly decided by the actual entity itself. Infact, “actuality is the decision amidpotentiality” (1929c [1985: 43]). Another way ofstating the same is that “the subjective form … has thecharacter of a valuation” and
according as the valuation is a ‘valuation up’ or ‘avaluation down,’ the importance of the eternal object [or purepotentials] is enhanced, or attenuated. (1929c [1985:240–241])
According to Whitehead, self-determination gives rise to theprobabilistic laws of science as well as human freedom. We cannotdecide what the causes are of our present moment of experience,but—to a certain extent—we can decide how we take theminto account. In other words, we cannot change what happens to us, butwe can choose how we take it. Because our inner life is constitutednot only by what we feel, but also by how we feel what we feel, notonly by objective content, but also by subjective form, Whiteheadargues that outer compulsion and efficient causation do not have thelast word in our becoming; inner self-determination and finalcausation do.
Whitehead completes his metaphysics by introducing God (cf. Part V ofProcess and Reality) as one of the elements to furtherunderstand self-determination (and that it does not result in chaos ormere repetition, but promotes order and novelty) and final causation(and that it ultimately aims at “intensity of feeling”(1929c [1985: 27]) or “depth of satisfaction” (1929c[1985: 105])). According to Whitehead: “God is the organ ofnovelty” and order (1929c [1985: 67]);
Apart from the intervention of God, there could be nothing new in theworld, and no order in the world. The course of creation would be adead level of ineffectiveness, with all balance and intensityprogressively excluded by the cross currents of incompatibility;(1929c [1985: 247])
and “God’s purpose in the creative advance is theevocation of intensities” (1929c [1985: 105]). Actually, thislast quote from Process and Reality is the equivalent of anearlier quote from Religion in the Making—“Thepurpose of God is the attainment of value in the world” (1926b[1996: 100])—and a later quote from Adventures ofIdeas—“The teleology of the Universe is directed tothe production of Beauty” (1933 [1967: 265]). Each actualoccasion does not only feel its antecedent world (its past), but Godas well, and it is the feeling of God which constitutes the initialaim for the actual occasion’s becoming—“His[God’s] tenderness is directed towards each actual occasion, asit arises” (1929c [1985: 105]). Again, however, the actualoccasion is “finally responsible for the decision by which anylure for feeling is admitted to efficiency” (1929c [1985: 88]),even if that lure is divine. In other words, each actual occasion is“conditioned, though not determined, by an initial subjectiveaim supplied by the ground of all order and originality” (1929c[1985: 108]).
For more details on Whitehead’s metaphysics, cf. the bookslisted in section 1 as well as Emmet 1932, Johnson 1952, Eisendrath1971, Lango 1972, Connelly 1981, Ross 1983, Ford 1984, Nobo 1986,McHenry 1992, Jones 1998, and Basile 2009.
As Whitehead’s process philosophy gave rise to the movement ofprocess theology, most philosophers think that his take on religionwas merely positive. This commonplace is wrong. Whitehead wrote:
Religion is by no means necessarily good. It may be very evil. (1926b[1996: 17])
In considering religion, we should not be obsessed by the idea of itsnecessary goodness. This is a dangerous delusion. (1926b [1996: 18])
Indeed history, down to the present day, is a melancholy record of thehorrors which can attend religion: human sacrifice, and in particular,the slaughter of children, cannibalism, sensual orgies, abjectsuperstition, hatred as between races, the maintenance of degradingcustoms, hysteria, bigotry, can all be laid at its charge. Religion isthe last refuge of human savagery. The uncritical association ofreligion with goodness is directly negatived by plain facts. (1926b[1996: 37])
This being said, Whitehead didn’t hold that religion ismerely negative. To him, religion can be “positive ornegative, good or bad” (1926b [1996: 17]). So after highlightingthat the necessary goodness of religion is a dangerous delusion inReligion in the Making, Whitehead abruptly adds: “Thepoint to notice is its transcendent importance” (1926b [1996:18]). In Science and the Modern World, Whitehead expressesthis transcendent importance of religion as follows:
Religion is the vision of something which stands beyond, behind, andwithin, the passing flux of immediate things; something which is real,and yet waiting to be realized; something which is a remotepossibility, and yet the greatest of present facts; something thatgives meaning to all that passes, and yet eludes all apprehension;something whose possession is the final good, and yet is beyond allreach; something which is the ultimate ideal, and the hopeless quest.(1926a [1967: 191–192])
And after pointing out that religion is the last refuge of humansavagery in Religion in the Making, Whitehead abruptly adds:“Religion can be, and has been, the main instrument forprogress” (1926b [1996: 37–38]). In Science and theModern World this message reads:
Religion has emerged into human experience mixed with the crudestfantasies of barbaric imagination. Gradually, slowly, steadily thevision recurs in history under nobler form and with clearerexpression. It is the one element in human experience whichpersistently shows an upward trend. It fades and then recurs. But whenit renews its force, it recurs with an added richness and purity ofcontent. The fact of the religious vision, and its history ofpersistent expansion, is our one ground for optimism. (1926a [1967:192])
With respect to the relationship between science and religion,Whitehead’s view clearly differs from Stephen Jay Gould’sview that religion and science do not overlap. Gould wrote:
The lack of conflict between science and religion arises from a lackof overlap between their respective domains of professionalexpertise—science in the empirical constitution of the universe,and religion in the search for proper ethical values and the spiritualmeaning of our lives. (1997)
Whitehead, on the contrary, wrote: “You cannot shelter theologyfrom science, or science from theology” (1926b [1996: 79]). And:“The conflict between science and religion is whatnaturally occurs in our minds when we think of this subject”(1926a [1967: 181]).
However, Whitehead did not agree with those who hold that the idealsolution of the science-religion conflict is the complete annihilationof religion. Whitehead, on the contrary, held that we should aim atthe integration of science and religion, and turn the impoverishingopposition between the two into an enriching contrast. According toWhitehead, both religion and science are important, and he wrote:
When we consider what religion is for mankind, and what science is, itis no exaggeration to say that the future course of history dependsupon the decision of this generation as to the relation between them.(1926a [1967: 181])
Whitehead never sided with those who, in the name of science, opposereligion with a misplaced and dehumanizing rhetoric of disenchantment,nor with those who, in the name of religion, oppose science with amisplaced and dehumanizing exaltation of existent religious dogmas,codes of behavior, institutions, rituals, etc. As Whitehead wrote:“There is the hysteria of depreciation, and there is theopposite hysteria which dehumanizes in order to exalt” (1927[1985: 91]). Whitehead, on the contrary, urged both scientific andreligious leaders to observe “the utmost toleration of varietyof opinion” (1926a [1967: 187]) as well as the followingadvice:
Every age produces people with clear logical intellects, and with themost praiseworthy grip of the importance of some sphere of humanexperience, who have elaborated, or inherited, a scheme of thoughtwhich exactly fits those experiences which claim their interest. Suchpeople are apt resolutely to ignore, or to explain away, all evidencewhich confuses their scheme with contradictory instances. What theycannot fit in is for them nonsense. An unflinching determination totake the whole evidence into account is the only method ofpreservation against the fluctuating extremes of fashionable opinion.This advice seems so easy, and is in fact so difficult to follow(1926a [1967: 187]).
Whitehead’s advice of taking the whole evidence into accountimplies taking the inner life of religion into account and not onlyits external life:
Life is an internal fact for its own sake, before it is an externalfact relating itself to others. The conduct of external life isconditioned by environment, but it receives its final quality, onwhich its worth depends, from the internal life which is theself-realization of existence. Religion is the art and the theory ofthe internal life of man, so far as it depends on the man himself andon what is permanent in the nature of things.
This doctrine is the direct negation of the theory that religion isprimarily a social fact. Social facts are of great importance toreligion, because there is no such thing as absolutely independentexistence. You cannot abstract society from man; most psychology isherd-psychology. But all collective emotions leave untouched the awfulultimate fact, which is the human being, consciously alone withitself, for its own sake.
Religion is what the individual does with his own solitariness. (1926b[1996: 15–16])
Whitehead’s advice also implies the challenge to continuallyreshape the outer life of religion in accord with the scientificdevelopments, while remaining faithful to its inner life. When takinginto account science, religion runs the risk of collapsing. Indeed,while reshaping its outer life, religion can only avoid implosion byremaining faithful to its inner life. “Religions commitsuicide”, according to Whitehead, when do they not find“their inspirations … in the primary expressions of theintuitions of the finest types of religious lives” (1926b [1996:144]). And he writes:
Religion, therefore, while in the framing of dogmas it must admitmodifications from the complete circle of our knowledge, still bringsits own contribution of immediate experience. (1926b [1996:79–80])
On the other hand, when religion shelters itself from the completecircle of knowledge, it also faces “decay” and, Whiteheadadds, “the Church will perish unless it opens its window”(1926b [1996: 146]). So there really is no alternative. But that doesnot render the task at hand any easier.
Whitehead lists two necessary, but not sufficient, requirements forreligious leaders to reshape, again and again, the outer expressionsof their inner experiences: First, they should stop exaggerating theimportance of the outer life of religion. Whitehead writes:
Collective enthusiasms, revivals, institutions, churches, rituals,bibles, codes of behavior, are the trappings of religion, its passingforms. They may be useful, or harmful; they may be authoritativelyordained, or merely temporary expedients. But the end of religion isbeyond all this. (1926b [1996: 17])
Secondly, they should learn from scientists how to deal with continualrevision. Whitehead writes:
When Darwin or Einstein proclaim theories which modify our ideas, itis a triumph for science. We do not go about saying that there isanother defeat for science, because its old ideas have been abandoned.We know that another step of scientific insight has been gained.
Religion will not regain its old power until it can face change in thesame spirit as does science. Its principles may be eternal, but theexpression of those principles requires continual development. Thisevolution of religion is in the main a disengagement of its own properideas in terms of the imaginative picture of the world entertained inprevious ages. Such a release from the bonds of imperfect science isall to the good. (1926a [1967: 188–189])
In this respect, Whitehead offers the following example:
The clash between religion and science, which has relegated the earthto the position of a second-rate planet attached to a second-rate sun,has been greatly to the benefit of the spirituality of religion bydispersing [a number of] medieval fancies. (1926a [1967: 190])
On the other hand, Whitehead is well aware that religion more oftenfails than succeeds in this respect, and he writes, for example, thatboth
Christianity and Buddhism … have suffered from the rise of… science, because neither of them had … the requisiteflexibility of adaptation. (1926b [1996: 146])
If the condition of mutual tolerance is satisfied, then, according toWhitehead: “A clash of doctrines is not a disaster—it isan opportunity” (1926a [1967: 186]). In other words, if thiscondition is satisfied, then the clash between religion and science isan opportunity on the path toward their integration or, as Whiteheadputs it:
The clash is a sign that there are wider truths and finer perspectiveswithin which a reconciliation of a deeper religion and a more subtlescience will be found. (1926a [1967: 185])
According to Whitehead, the task of philosophy is “to absorbinto one system all sources of experience” (1926b [1996: 149]),including the intuitions at the basis of both science and religion,and in Religion in the Making, he expresses the basicreligious intuition as follows:
There is a quality of life which lies always beyond the mere fact oflife; and when we include the quality in the fact, there is stillomitted the quality of the quality. It is not true that the finerquality is the direct associate of obvious happiness or obviouspleasure. Religion is the direct apprehension that, beyond suchhappiness and such pleasure remains the function of what is actual andpassing, that it contributes its quality as an immortal fact to theorder which informs the world. (1926b [1996: 80])
The first aspect of this dual intuition that “our existence ismore than a succession of bare facts” (idem) is that the qualityor value of each of the successive occasions of life derives from afiner quality or value, which lies beyond the mere facts of life, andeven beyond obvious happiness and pleasure, namely, the finer qualityor value of which life is informed by God. The second aspect is thateach of the successive occasions of life contributes its quality orvalue as an immortal fact to God.
In Process and Reality, Whitehead absorbed this dualreligious intuition in terms of the bipolar—primordial andconsequent—nature of God.
God viewed as primordial does not determine the becoming of eachactual occasion, but conditions it (cf. supra—the initialsubjective aim). He does not force, but tenderly persuades each actualoccasion to actualize—from “the absolute wealth ofpotentiality” (1929: 343)—value-potentials relevant forthat particular becoming. “God”, according to Whitehead,“is the poet of the world, with tender patience leading it byhis vision of truth, beauty, and goodness” (1929c [1985:346]).
“The ultimate evil in the temporal world”, Whiteheadwrites,
lies in the fact that the past fades, that time is a “perpetualperishing.” … In the temporal world, it is the empiricalfact that process entails loss. (1929c [1985: 340])
In other words, from a merely factual point of view, “human lifeis a flash of occasional enjoyments lighting up a mass of pain andmisery, a bagatelle of transient experience” (1926a [1967:192]). According to Whitehead, however, this is not the whole story.On 8 April 1928, while preparing the Gifford Lectures that becameProcess and Reality, Whitehead wrote to Rosalind Greene:
I am working at my Giffords. The problem of problems which bothers me,is the real transitoriness of things—and yet!!—I amequally convinced that the great side of things is weaving somethingageless and immortal: something in which personalities retain thewonder of their radiance—and the fluff sinks into uttertriviality. But I cannot express it at all—no system of wordsseems up to the job. (Unpublished letter archived by the Whitehead Research Project)
Whitehead’s attempt to express it in Process andReality reads:
There is another side to the nature of God which cannot be omitted.… God, as well as being primordial, is also consequent …God is dipolar. (1929c [1985: 345])
The consequent nature of God is his judgment on the world. He savesthe world as it passes into the immediacy of his own life. It is thejudgment of a tenderness which loses nothing that can be saved. (1929c[1985: 346])
The consequent nature of God is the fluent world become‘everlasting’ … in God. (1929c [1985: 347])
Whitehead’s dual description of God as tender persuaderand tender savior reveals his affinity with “theGalilean origin of Christianity” (1929c [1985: 343]). Indeed,his
theistic philosophy … does not emphasize the ruling Caesar, orthe ruthless moralist, or the unmoved mover. It dwells upon the tenderelements in the world, which slowly and in quietness operate by love.(idem)
One of the major reasons why Whitehead’s process philosophy ispopular among theologians, and gave rise to process theology, is thefact that it helps to overcome the doctrine of an omnipotent Godcreating everything out of nothing. This creatio ex nihilodoctrine implies God’s responsibility for everything that isevil, and also that God is the only ultimate reality. In other words,it prevents the reconciliation of divine love and human suffering aswell as the reconciliation of the various religious traditions, forexample, theistic Christianity and nontheistic Buddhism. In yet otherwords, the creatio ex nihilo doctrine is a stumbling blockfor theologians involved in theodicy or interreligious dialogue.Contrary to it, Whitehead’s process philosophy holds that thereare three ultimate (but inseparable) aspects of total reality: God(the divine actual entity), the world (the universe of all finiteactual occasions), and the creativity (the twofold power to exertefficient and final causation) that God and all finite actualoccasions embody. The distinction between God and creativity (that Godis not the only instance of creativity) implies that there is no Godwith the power completely to determine the becoming of all actualoccasions in the world—they are instances of creativity too. Inthis sense, God is not omnipotent, but can be conceived as “thefellow-sufferer who understands” (1929c [1985: 351]). Moreover,the Whiteheadian doctrine of three ultimates—the one supremebeing or God, the many finite beings or the cosmos, and being itselfor creativity—also implies a religious pluralism that holds thatthe different kinds of religious experience are (not experiences ofthe same ultimate reality, but) diverse modes of experiencing diverseultimate aspects of the totality of reality. For example:
One of these [three ultimates], corresponding with what Whiteheadcalls “creativity”, has been called“Emptiness” (“Sunyata”) or“Dharmakaya” by Buddhists, “Nirguna Brahman”by Advaita Vedantists, “the Godhead” by Meister Eckhart,and “Being Itself” by Heidegger and Tillich (amongothers). It is the formless ultimate reality. The otherultimate, corresponding with what Whitehead calls “God”,is not Being Itself but the Supreme Being. It is in-formedand the source of forms (such as truth, beauty, and justice). It hasbeen called “Amida Buddha”, “Sambhogakaya”,“Saguna Brahman”, “Ishvara”,“Yaweh”, “Christ”, and “Allah”.(D. Griffin 2005: 47)
[Some] forms of Taoism and many primal religions, including NativeAmerican religions […] regard the cosmos as sacred. Byrecognizing the cosmos as a third ultimate, we are able to see thatthese cosmic religions are also oriented toward something trulyultimate in the nature of things. (D. Griffin 2005: 49)
The religious pluralism implication of Whitehead’s doctrine ofthree ultimates has been drawn most clearly by John Cobb. In“John Cobb’s Whiteheadian Complementary Pluralism”,David Griffin writes:
Cobb’s view that the totality of reality contains threeultimates, along with the recognition that a particular traditioncould concentrate on one, two, or even all three of them, gives us abasis for understanding a wide variety of religious experiences asgenuine responses to something that is really there to be experienced.“When we understand global religious experience and thought inthis way”, Cobb emphasizes, “it is easier to view thecontributions of diverse traditions as complementary”. (D.Griffin 2005: 51)
8. Whitehead’s Influence
Whitehead’s key philosophical concept—the internalrelatedness of occasions of experience—distanced him from theidols of logical positivism. Indeed, his reliance on our intuition ofthe extensive relatedness of events (and hence, of the space-timemetric) was at variance with both Poincaré’sconventionalism and Einstein’s interpretation of relativity: hisreliance on our intuition of the causal relatedness of events, and ofboth the efficient and the final aspects of causation, was an insultto the anti-metaphysical dogmas of Hume and Russell; his method ofcausal explanation was also an antipode of Ernst Mach’s methodof economic description; his philosophical affinity with James andBergson as well as his endeavor to harmonize science and religion madehim liable to the Russellian charge of anti-intellectualism; and hisgenuine modesty and aversion to public controversy made him invisibleat the philosophical firmament dominated by the brilliance of LudwigWittgenstein.
At first—because of Whitehead’s PrincipiaMathematica collaboration with Russell as well as his applicationof mathematical logic to abstract the basic concepts ofphysics—logical positivists and analytic philosophers admiredWhitehead. But when Whitehead published Science and the ModernWorld, the difference between Whitehead’s thought andtheirs became obvious, and they grew progressively more dissatisfiedover the direction in which Whitehead was moving. Susan Stebbing ofthe Cambridge school of analysis is only one of many examples thatcould be evoked here (cf. Chapman 2013: 43–49), and in order tofind a more positive reception of Whitehead’s philosophicalwork, one has to turn to opponents of analytic philosophy such asRobin George Collingwood (for example, Collingwood 1945). Thedifferences with logical positivism and analytic philosophy, however,should not lead philosophers to neglect the affinities ofWhitehead’s thought with these philosophical currents (cf.Shields 2003, Desmet & Weber 2010, Desmet & Rusu 2012, Riffert2012).
Despite signs of interest in Whitehead by a number of famousphilosophers—for example, Hannah Arendt, Maurice Merleau-Pontyand Gilles Deleuze—it is fair to say that Whitehead’sprocess philosophy would most likely have entered oblivion if theChicago Divinity School and the Claremont School of Theology had notshown a major interest in it. In other words, not philosophers buttheologians saved Whitehead’s process philosophy from oblivion.For example, Charles Hartshorne, who taught at the University ofChicago from 1928 to 1955, where he was a dominant intellectual forcein the Divinity School, has been instrumental in highlighting theimportance of Whitehead’s process philosophy, which dovetailedwith his own, largely independently developed thought. Hartshornewrote:
The century which produced some terrible things produced a scientistscarcely second in genius and character to any that ever lived,Einstein, and a philosopher who, I incline to say, is similarly secondto none, unless it be Plato. To make no use of genius of this order ishardly wise; for it is indeed a rarity. A mathematician sensitive toso many of the values in our culture, so imaginative and inventive inhis thinking, so eager to learn from the great minds of the past andthe present, so free from any narrow partisanship, religious orirreligious, is one person in hundreds of millions. He can bemistaken, but even his mistakes may be more instructive than mostother writers’ truth. (2010: 30)
After mentioning a number of other theologians next to Hartshorne aspart of “the first wave of … impressiveWhitehead-inspired scholars”, Michel Weber—in hisIntroduction to the two-volume Handbook of Whiteheadian ProcessThought—writes:
In the sixties emerged John B. Cobb, Jr. and Shubert M. Ogden.Cobb’s Christian Natural Theology remains a landmark inthe field. The journal Process Studies was created in 1971 byCobb and Lewis S. Ford; the Center for Process Studies wasestablished in 1973 by Cobb and David Ray Griffin in Claremont. Theresult of these developments was that Whiteheadian process scholarshiphas acquired, and kept, a fair visibility … (Weber &Desmond 2008: 25)
Indeed, inspired mainly by Cobb and Griffin, many other centers,societies, associations, projects and conferences of Whiteheadianprocess scholarship have seen the light of day all over theworld—nowadays most prominently in the People’s Republicof China (cf. Weber & Desmond 2008: 26–30). In fact, Weberhimself has created in 2001 the Whitehead Psychology Nexusand the Chromatiques whiteheadiennes scholarly societies, andhe has been the driving force behind several book series, one ofwhich—the Process Thought Series—includes thealready mentioned Handbook of Whiteheadian Process Thought,in which 101 internationally renowned Whitehead scholars give animpressive overview of the 2008 status of their research findings inan enormous variety of domains (cf. The Centre for PhilosophicalPractice [Other Internet Resources, OIR] and Armour 2010). Missing in the Handbook, however, are mostWhitehead scholars reading Whitehead through Deleuzianglasses—especially Isabelle Stengers, whose 2011 book,Thinking with Whitehead, cannot be ignored. The Lure ofWhitehead, edited by Nicholas Gaskill and A. J. Nocek in 2014,can largely remedy that shortcoming. Important for Whiteheadscholarship, next to the many book series initiated by Weber, are theolder SUNY Series in Constructive Postmodern Thought, therecent Contemporary Whitehead Studies and the CriticalEdition of Whitehead (cf. Whitehead Research Project [OIR]) as well as the new Toward Ecological Civilization Series(cf. Process Century Press [OIR]). In the Series Preface of the latter series, John Cobb writes:
We live in the ending of an age. But the ending of the modern perioddiffers from the ending of previous periods, such as the classical orthe medieval. The amazing achievements of modernity make it possible,even likely, that its end will also be the end of civilization, ofmany species, or even of the human species. At the same time, we areliving in an age of new beginnings that give promise of an ecologicalcivilization. Its emergence is marked by a growing sense of urgencyand deepening awareness that the changes must go to the roots of whathas led to the current threat of catastrophe.
In June 2015, the 10th Whitehead International Conference was held inClaremont, CA. Called “Seizing an Alternative: Toward anEcological Civilization”, it claimed an organic, relational,integrated, nondual, and processive conceptuality is needed, and thatAlfred North Whitehead provides this in a remarkably comprehensive andrigorous way. We proposed that he could be “the philosopher ofecological civilization”. With the help of those who have cometo an ecological vision in other ways, the conference explored thisWhiteheadian alternative, showing how it can provide the shared visionso urgently needed.
Cobb refers to the tenth of the bi-annual International WhiteheadConferences, which are sponsored by the International ProcessNetwork. The International Whitehead Conference has been held atlocations around the globe since 1981. This is an important venture inglobal Whiteheadian thought, as key Whiteheadian scholars from avariety of disciplines and countries come together for the continuedpursuit of critically engaging a process worldview.