Alfred North Whitehead

Alfred North Whitehead

Overview
Alfred North Whitehead, OM FRS (15 February 1861 – 30 December 1947) was an English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 mathematician
Mathematician
A mathematician is a person whose primary area of study is the field of mathematics. Mathematicians are concerned with quantity, structure, space, and change....

 who became a philosopher. He wrote on algebra
Algebra
Algebra is the branch of mathematics concerning the study of the rules of operations and relations, and the constructions and concepts arising from them, including terms, polynomials, equations and algebraic structures...

, logic
Logic
In philosophy, Logic is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science...

, foundations of mathematics
Foundations of mathematics
Foundations of mathematics is a term sometimes used for certain fields of mathematics, such as mathematical logic, axiomatic set theory, proof theory, model theory, type theory and recursion theory...

, philosophy of science
Philosophy of science
The philosophy of science is concerned with the assumptions, foundations, methods and implications of science. It is also concerned with the use and merit of science and sometimes overlaps metaphysics and epistemology by exploring whether scientific results are actually a study of truth...

, physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

, metaphysics
Metaphysics
Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world, although the term is not easily defined. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:...

, and education
Education
Education in its broadest, general sense is the means through which the aims and habits of a group of people lives on from one generation to the next. Generally, it occurs through any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts...

. Whitehead supervised the doctoral dissertations of Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic. At various points in his life he considered himself a liberal, a socialist, and a pacifist, but he also admitted that he had never been any of these things...

 and Willard Van Orman Quine
Willard Van Orman Quine
Willard Van Orman Quine was an American philosopher and logician in the analytic tradition...

, thus influencing logic and virtually all of analytic philosophy
Analytic philosophy
Analytic philosophy is a generic term for a style of philosophy that came to dominate English-speaking countries in the 20th century...

. He co-authored the epochal Principia Mathematica
Principia Mathematica
The Principia Mathematica is a three-volume work on the foundations of mathematics, written by Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell and published in 1910, 1912, and 1913...

with Russell.

Whitehead was born in Ramsgate
Ramsgate
Ramsgate is a seaside town in the district of Thanet in east Kent, England. It was one of the great English seaside towns of the 19th century and is a member of the ancient confederation of Cinque Ports. It has a population of around 40,000. Ramsgate's main attraction is its coastline and its main...

, Kent
Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

, England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

. Although his grandfather, Thomas Whitehead, was known for having founded Chatham House
Chatham House
Chatham House, formally known as The Royal Institute of International Affairs, is a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in London whose mission is to analyse and promote the understanding of major international issues and current affairs. It is regarded as one of the world's leading...

 Academy, a fairly successful school for boys, Alfred North was educated at Sherborne School
Sherborne School
Sherborne School is a British independent school for boys, located in the town of Sherborne in north-west Dorset, England. It is one of the original member schools of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference....

, Dorset
Dorset
Dorset , is a county in South West England on the English Channel coast. The county town is Dorchester which is situated in the south. The Hampshire towns of Bournemouth and Christchurch joined the county with the reorganisation of local government in 1974...

, then considered the best public school
Public School (UK)
A public school, in common British usage, is a school that is neither administered nor financed by the state or from taxpayer contributions, and is instead funded by a combination of endowments, tuition fees and charitable contributions, usually existing as a non profit-making charitable trust...

 in the country.
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Quotations

There is a quality of life which lies always beyond the mere fact of life; and when we include the quality in the fact, there is still omitted the quality of the quality.

Religion in the Making (February 1926), Lecture II: "Religion and Dogma"

The aim of science is to seek the simplest explanations of complex facts. We are apt to fall into the error of thinking that the facts are simple because simplicity is the goal of our quest. The guiding motto in the life of every natural philosopher should be, "Seek simplicity and distrust it."

The Concept of Nature (1926)

We do not require elaborate training merely in order to refrain from embarking upon intricate trains of inference. Such abstinence is only too easy.

Symbolism: Its Meaning and Effect (1927)

The mentality of mankind and the language of mankind created each other. If we like to assume the rise of language as a given fact, then it is not going too far to say that the souls of men are the gift from language to mankind. The account of the sixth day should be written: He gave them speech, and they became souls

Modes of Thought (1938)

The study of mathematics is apt to commence in disappointment... We are told that by its aid the stars are weighed and the billions of molecules in a drop of water are counted. Yet, like the ghost of Hamlet's father, this great science eludes the efforts of our mental weapons to grasp it.

ch. 1

Philosophy, in one of its functions, is the critic of cosmologies. It is its function to harmonise, refashion, and justify divergent intuitions as to the nature of things. It has to insist on the scrutiny of the ultimate ideas, and on the retention of the whole of the evidence in shaping our cosmological scheme. Its business is to render explicit, and — so far as may be — efficient, a process which otherwise is unconsciously performed without rational tests.

Preface

It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious.

p. 4
Encyclopedia
Alfred North Whitehead, OM FRS (15 February 1861 – 30 December 1947) was an English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 mathematician
Mathematician
A mathematician is a person whose primary area of study is the field of mathematics. Mathematicians are concerned with quantity, structure, space, and change....

 who became a philosopher. He wrote on algebra
Algebra
Algebra is the branch of mathematics concerning the study of the rules of operations and relations, and the constructions and concepts arising from them, including terms, polynomials, equations and algebraic structures...

, logic
Logic
In philosophy, Logic is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science...

, foundations of mathematics
Foundations of mathematics
Foundations of mathematics is a term sometimes used for certain fields of mathematics, such as mathematical logic, axiomatic set theory, proof theory, model theory, type theory and recursion theory...

, philosophy of science
Philosophy of science
The philosophy of science is concerned with the assumptions, foundations, methods and implications of science. It is also concerned with the use and merit of science and sometimes overlaps metaphysics and epistemology by exploring whether scientific results are actually a study of truth...

, physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

, metaphysics
Metaphysics
Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world, although the term is not easily defined. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:...

, and education
Education
Education in its broadest, general sense is the means through which the aims and habits of a group of people lives on from one generation to the next. Generally, it occurs through any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts...

. Whitehead supervised the doctoral dissertations of Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic. At various points in his life he considered himself a liberal, a socialist, and a pacifist, but he also admitted that he had never been any of these things...

 and Willard Van Orman Quine
Willard Van Orman Quine
Willard Van Orman Quine was an American philosopher and logician in the analytic tradition...

, thus influencing logic and virtually all of analytic philosophy
Analytic philosophy
Analytic philosophy is a generic term for a style of philosophy that came to dominate English-speaking countries in the 20th century...

. He co-authored the epochal Principia Mathematica
Principia Mathematica
The Principia Mathematica is a three-volume work on the foundations of mathematics, written by Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell and published in 1910, 1912, and 1913...

with Russell.

Life


Whitehead was born in Ramsgate
Ramsgate
Ramsgate is a seaside town in the district of Thanet in east Kent, England. It was one of the great English seaside towns of the 19th century and is a member of the ancient confederation of Cinque Ports. It has a population of around 40,000. Ramsgate's main attraction is its coastline and its main...

, Kent
Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

, England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

. Although his grandfather, Thomas Whitehead, was known for having founded Chatham House
Chatham House
Chatham House, formally known as The Royal Institute of International Affairs, is a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in London whose mission is to analyse and promote the understanding of major international issues and current affairs. It is regarded as one of the world's leading...

 Academy, a fairly successful school for boys, Alfred North was educated at Sherborne School
Sherborne School
Sherborne School is a British independent school for boys, located in the town of Sherborne in north-west Dorset, England. It is one of the original member schools of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference....

, Dorset
Dorset
Dorset , is a county in South West England on the English Channel coast. The county town is Dorchester which is situated in the south. The Hampshire towns of Bournemouth and Christchurch joined the county with the reorganisation of local government in 1974...

, then considered the best public school
Public School (UK)
A public school, in common British usage, is a school that is neither administered nor financed by the state or from taxpayer contributions, and is instead funded by a combination of endowments, tuition fees and charitable contributions, usually existing as a non profit-making charitable trust...

 in the country. His childhood was described as over-protected, but when at school he excelled in sports, mathematics and was head prefect of his class.

In 1880, Whitehead matriculated at Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

, where he was fourth wrangler and gained his BA in 1884. Elected a fellow of Trinity in 1884, Whitehead would teach and write mathematics at the college until 1910, spending the 1890s writing his Treatise on Universal Algebra (1898) and the 1900s collaborating with his former pupil, Russell, on the first edition of Principia Mathematica
Principia Mathematica
The Principia Mathematica is a three-volume work on the foundations of mathematics, written by Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell and published in 1910, 1912, and 1913...

.

In 1910, he resigned his position at Trinity College to protest the dismissal of a colleague because of an adulterous affair. He also ran afoul of a Cambridge by-law limiting the term of a Senior Lecturer to 25 years.

In 1890, Whitehead married Evelyn Wade, an Irish woman reared in France; they had a daughter and two sons. One son died in action while serving in the Royal Flying Corps
Royal Flying Corps
The Royal Flying Corps was the over-land air arm of the British military during most of the First World War. During the early part of the war, the RFC's responsibilities were centred on support of the British Army, via artillery co-operation and photographic reconnaissance...

 during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. Meanwhile, Russell spent much of 1918 in prison because of his pacifist
Pacifism
Pacifism is the opposition to war and violence. The term "pacifism" was coined by the French peace campaignerÉmile Arnaud and adopted by other peace activists at the tenth Universal Peace Congress inGlasgow in 1901.- Definition :...

 activities. Although Whitehead visited his co-author in prison, he did not take his pacifism seriously, while Russell sneered at Whitehead's later speculative Platonism
Platonism
Platonism is the philosophy of Plato or the name of other philosophical systems considered closely derived from it. In a narrower sense the term might indicate the doctrine of Platonic realism...

 and panpsychism
Panpsychism
In philosophy, panpsychism is the view that all matter has a mental aspect, or, alternatively, all objects have a unified center of experience or point of view...

. After the war, Russell and Whitehead seldom interacted, and Whitehead did not contribute to the 1925 second edition of Principia Mathematica.

Whitehead was always interested in theology
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

, especially in the 1890s. His family was firmly anchored in the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

: his father and uncles were vicars, while his brother
Henry Whitehead (bishop)
The Rt Rev Henry Whitehead, DD was an eminent Anglican clergyman in the last decade of the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th.He was born on December 19, 1863 and educated at Sherborne and Trinity College, Oxford. Ordained in 1879 his first post was as a preacher at St Nicholas, Abingdon...

 would become Bishop of Madras
Bishop of Madras
The Bishop of Madras was the Ordinary of the Anglican Church in Madras from its inception in 1835 until the foundation of the Church in India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon in 1927; and since then head of one of its most prominent Dioceses.-External links:*...

. Perhaps influenced by his wife and the writings of Cardinal Newman, Whitehead leaned towards Roman Catholicism. Prior to World War I, he considered himself an agnostic. Later he returned to religion, without formally joining any church.

Concomitantly, Whitehead developed a keen interest in physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

: his fellowship dissertation examined James Clerk Maxwell
James Clerk Maxwell
James Clerk Maxwell of Glenlair was a Scottish physicist and mathematician. His most prominent achievement was formulating classical electromagnetic theory. This united all previously unrelated observations, experiments and equations of electricity, magnetism and optics into a consistent theory...

's views on electricity
Electricity
Electricity is a general term encompassing a variety of phenomena resulting from the presence and flow of electric charge. These include many easily recognizable phenomena, such as lightning, static electricity, and the flow of electrical current in an electrical wire...

 and magnetism
Magnetism
Magnetism is a property of materials that respond at an atomic or subatomic level to an applied magnetic field. Ferromagnetism is the strongest and most familiar type of magnetism. It is responsible for the behavior of permanent magnets, which produce their own persistent magnetic fields, as well...

. His outlook on mathematics and physics was more philosophical than purely scientific; he was more concerned about their scope and nature, rather than about particular tenets and theories.

He was president of the Aristotelian Society
Aristotelian Society
The Aristotelian Society for the Systematic Study of Philosophy was founded at a meeting on 19 April 1880, at 17 Bloomsbury Square which resolved "to constitute a society of about twenty and to include ladies; the society to meet fortnightly, on Mondays at 8 o'clock, at the rooms of the Spelling...

 from 1922 to 1923.

The period between 1910 and 1926 was mostly spent at University College London
University College London
University College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and the oldest and largest constituent college of the federal University of London...

 and Imperial College London
Imperial College London
Imperial College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom, specialising in science, engineering, business and medicine...

, where he taught and wrote on physics, the philosophy of science, and the theory and practice of education. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society since 1903 and was elected to the British Academy in 1931. In physics, Whitehead articulated a rival doctrine to Einstein
Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history...

's general relativity
General relativity
General relativity or the general theory of relativity is the geometric theory of gravitation published by Albert Einstein in 1916. It is the current description of gravitation in modern physics...

. His theory of gravitation
Whitehead's theory of gravitation
In theoretical physics, Whitehead's theory of gravitation was introduced by the distinguished mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead in 1922.-Principal features of the theory:Whitehead's theory is said to feature a prior geometry...

 is now discredited because its predicted variability of the gravitational constant G
Gravitational constant
The gravitational constant, denoted G, is an empirical physical constant involved in the calculation of the gravitational attraction between objects with mass. It appears in Newton's law of universal gravitation and in Einstein's theory of general relativity. It is also known as the universal...

disagrees with experimental findings. A more lasting work was his Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Natural Knowledge (1919), a pioneering attempt to synthetize the philosophical underpinnings of physics. It has little influenced the course of modern physics, however.

Whitehead's Presidential address in 1916 to the Mathematical Association of England The Aims of Education in the book of the same title (1929a) pointedly criticized the formalistic approach of modern British teachers who do not care about culture and self-education of their disciples: "Culture is activity of thought, and receptiveness to beauty and humane feeling. Scraps of information have nothing to do with it."

In 1924, Henry Osborn Taylor invited Whitehead, who was then 63, to implement his ideas and teach philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 at Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

. This was a subject that fascinated Whitehead but was also one that he had also not previously studied or taught. The Whiteheads spent the rest of their lives in the United States. He retired from teaching in 1937. When he died in 1947 in Cambridge
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, in the Greater Boston area. It was named in honor of the University of Cambridge in England, an important center of the Puritan theology embraced by the town's founders. Cambridge is home to two of the world's most prominent...

, Massachusetts
Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

, U.S.
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, there was no funeral, and his body was cremated.

Whitehead had opinions about a vast range of human endeavors. These opinions pepper the many essays and speeches he gave on various topics between 1915 and his death (1917, 1925a, 1927, 1929a, 1929b, 1933, 1938). His Harvard lectures (1924–37) are studded with quotations from his favourite poets, Wordsworth
William Wordsworth
William Wordsworth was a major English Romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature with the 1798 joint publication Lyrical Ballads....

 and Shelley
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Percy Bysshe Shelley was one of the major English Romantic poets and is critically regarded as among the finest lyric poets in the English language. Shelley was famous for his association with John Keats and Lord Byron...

. Most Sunday afternoons when they were in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Whiteheads hosted an open house to which all Harvard students were welcome, and during which talk flowed freely. Some of the obiter dicta Whitehead spoke on these occasions were recorded by Lucien Price, a Boston journalist, who published them in 1954. That book also includes a remarkable picture of Whitehead as the aged sage holding court. It was at one of these open houses that the young Harvard student B.F. Skinner credits a discussion with Whitehead as providing the inspiration for his work Verbal Behavior in which language is analyzed from a behaviorist
Behaviorism
Behaviorism , also called the learning perspective , is a philosophy of psychology based on the proposition that all things that organisms do—including acting, thinking, and feeling—can and should be regarded as behaviors, and that psychological disorders are best treated by altering behavior...

 perspective. Another student influenced by Whitehead was Charles Malik, the drafter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly . The Declaration arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled...

’s preamble, and later president of the UN General Assembly
United Nations General Assembly
For two articles dealing with membership in the General Assembly, see:* General Assembly members* General Assembly observersThe United Nations General Assembly is one of the five principal organs of the United Nations and the only one in which all member nations have equal representation...

. Malik wrote his PhD dissertation about Whitehead, in which Malik compared Whitehead’s Metaphysics of Time to that of Martin Heidegger
Martin Heidegger
Martin Heidegger was a German philosopher known for his existential and phenomenological explorations of the "question of Being."...

 .

A two volume biography was written by Victor Lowe (1985) and Lowe and Schneewind (1990); Lowe studied under Whitehead at Harvard. A comprehensive appraisal of Whitehead's work is difficult because Whitehead left no Nachlass
Nachlass
Nachlass is a German word, used in academia to describe the collection of manuscripts, notes, correspondence, and so on left behind when a scholar dies. The word is a compound in German: nach means 'after', and the verb lassen means 'leave'. The plural can be either Nachlasse or Nachlässe...

; his family carried out his instructions that all of his papers be destroyed after his death. There is also no critical edition of Whitehead's writings.

Ideas


The genesis of Whitehead's process philosophy
Process philosophy
Process philosophy identifies metaphysical reality with change and dynamism. Since the time of Plato and Aristotle, philosophers have posited true reality as "timeless", based on permanent substances, whilst processes are denied or subordinated to timeless substances...

 may be attributed to his having witnessed the shocking collapse of Newtonian physics, due mainly to Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history...

's work. His metaphysical views emerged in The Concept of Nature (1920) and were expanded in Science and the Modern World (1925), also an important study in the history of ideas
History of ideas
The history of ideas is a field of research in history that deals with the expression, preservation, and change of human ideas over time. The history of ideas is a sister-discipline to, or a particular approach within, intellectual history...

 and the role of science and mathematics in the rise of Western civilization
Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

. Indebted to Henri Bergson
Henri Bergson
Henri-Louis Bergson was a major French philosopher, influential especially in the first half of the 20th century. Bergson convinced many thinkers that immediate experience and intuition are more significant than rationalism and science for understanding reality.He was awarded the 1927 Nobel Prize...

's philosophy of change, Whitehead was also a Platonist who "saw the definite character of events as due to the "ingression" of timeless entities."

In 1927, Whitehead was asked to give the Gifford Lectures
Gifford Lectures
The Gifford Lectures were established by the will of Adam Lord Gifford . They were established to "promote and diffuse the study of Natural Theology in the widest sense of the term — in other words, the knowledge of God." The term natural theology as used by Gifford means theology supported...

 at the University of Edinburgh
University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1583, is a public research university located in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The university is deeply embedded in the fabric of the city, with many of the buildings in the historic Old Town belonging to the university...

. These were published in 1929 as Process and Reality
Process and Reality
In philosophy, especially metaphysics, the book Process and Reality by Alfred North Whitehead sets out its author's philosophy of organism, also called process philosophy...

, the book that founded process philosophy, a major contribution to Western metaphysics
Metaphysics
Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world, although the term is not easily defined. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:...

. Proponents of process philosophy include Charles Hartshorne
Charles Hartshorne
Charles Hartshorne was a prominent American philosopher who concentrated primarily on the philosophy of religion and metaphysics. He developed the neoclassical idea of God and produced a modal proof of the existence of God that was a development of St. Anselm's Ontological Argument...

 and Nicholas Rescher
Nicholas Rescher
Nicholas Rescher is an American philosopher at the University of Pittsburgh. In a productive research career extending over six decades, Rescher has established himself as a systematic philosopher of the old style and author of a system of pragmatic idealism which weaves together threads of...

, and his ideas have been taken up by French philosophers Maurice Merleau-Ponty
Maurice Merleau-Ponty
Maurice Merleau-Ponty was a French phenomenological philosopher, strongly influenced by Karl Marx, Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger in addition to being closely associated with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir...

 and Gilles Deleuze
Gilles Deleuze
Gilles Deleuze , was a French philosopher who, from the early 1960s until his death, wrote influentially on philosophy, literature, film, and fine art. His most popular works were the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus , both co-written with Félix...

. In poetry, the work and thought of American Charles Olson
Charles Olson
Charles Olson , was a second generation American modernist poet who was a link between earlier figures such as Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams and the New American poets, which includes the New York School, the Black Mountain School, the Beat poets, and the San Francisco Renaissance...

 was strongly influenced by Whitehead's concepts. Olson referred to him variously as "the cosmologist" and as the "constant companion of my poem."

Process and Reality is famous for its defense of theism
Theism
Theism, in the broadest sense, is the belief that at least one deity exists.In a more specific sense, theism refers to a doctrine concerning the nature of a monotheistic God and God's relationship to the universe....

, although Whitehead's God differs essentially from the revealed God of Abrahamic religions
Abrahamic religions
Abrahamic religions are the monotheistic faiths emphasizing and tracing their common origin to Abraham or recognizing a spiritual tradition identified with him...

. Whitehead's Philosophy of Organism
Philosophy of Organism
Philosophy of Organism or Organic Realism is how Alfred North Whitehead described his metaphysics. It is now known as process philosophy....

 gave rise to process theology
Process theology
Process theology is a school of thought influenced by the metaphysical process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead and further developed by Charles Hartshorne . While there are process theologies that are similar, but unrelated to the work of Whitehead the term is generally applied to the...

, thanks to Charles Hartshorne, John B. Cobb, Jr
John B. Cobb
John B. Cobb, Jr. is an American United Methodist theologian who played a crucial role in the development of process theology. He integrated Alfred North Whitehead's metaphysics into Christianity, and applied it to issues of social justice.-Biography:John Cobb was born in Kobe, Japan in 1925 to...

, and David Ray Griffin
David Ray Griffin
David Ray Griffin is a retired American professor of philosophy of religion and theology. Along with John B. Cobb, Jr., he founded the Center for Process Studies in 1973, a research center of Claremont School of Theology which seeks to promote the common good by means of the relational approach...

. Some Christians and Jews find process theology a fruitful way of understanding God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 and the universe
Universe
The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary and similar terms include the cosmos, the world and nature...

. Just as the entire universe is in constant flow and change, God, as source of the universe, is viewed as growing and changing. Whitehead's rejection of mind-body dualism is similar to elements in traditions such as Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

.

The main tenets of Whitehead's metaphysics were summarized in his most accessible work, Adventures of Ideas (1933), where he also defines his conceptions of beauty, truth, art, adventure, and peace. He believed that "there are no whole truths; all truths are half-truths. It is trying to treat them as whole truths that plays the devil."

Whitehead's political views sometimes appear to be libertarian
Libertarianism
Libertarianism, in the strictest sense, is the political philosophy that holds individual liberty as the basic moral principle of society. In the broadest sense, it is any political philosophy which approximates this view...

 without the label. He wrote:
On the other hand, many Whitehead scholars read his work as providing a philosophical foundation for the social liberalism of the New Liberal
Social liberalism
Social liberalism is the belief that liberalism should include social justice. It differs from classical liberalism in that it believes the legitimate role of the state includes addressing economic and social issues such as unemployment, health care, and education while simultaneously expanding...

 movement that was prominent throughout Whitehead's adult life. Morris wrote that "...there is good reason for claiming that Whitehead shared the social and political ideals of the new liberals."

Works by Whitehead

  • 1898. A Treatise on Universal Algebra with Applications. Cambridge Uni. Press. 1960 reprint, Hafner.
  • 1911. An Introduction to Mathematics. Oxford Univ. Press. 1990 paperback, ISBN 0-19-500211-3. Vol. 56 of the Great Books of the Western World series.
  • 1917. The Organization of Thought Educational and Scientific. Lippincott.
  • 1920. The Concept of Nature. Cambridge Uni. Press. 2004 paperback, Prometheus Books, ISBN 1-59102-214-2. Being the 1919 Tarner Lectures
    Tarner Lectures
    The Tarner lectures are a series of public lectures in the philosophy of science given at Trinity College, Cambridge since 1916. Named after Mr Edward Tarner, the lecture addresses 'the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Relations or Want of Relations between the different Departments of...

     delivered at Trinity College
    Trinity College, Cambridge
    Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

    .
  • 1922. The Principle of Relativity with Applications to Physical Science. Cambridge Uni. Press.
  • 1925 (1910–13), with Bertrand Russell
    Bertrand Russell
    Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic. At various points in his life he considered himself a liberal, a socialist, and a pacifist, but he also admitted that he had never been any of these things...

    . Principia Mathematica
    Principia Mathematica
    The Principia Mathematica is a three-volume work on the foundations of mathematics, written by Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell and published in 1910, 1912, and 1913...

    , in 3 vols. Cambridge Uni. Press. Vol. 1 to *56 is available as a CUP paperback.
  • 1925a. Science and the Modern World. 1997 paperback, Free Press (Simon & Schuster), ISBN 0-684-83639-4. Vol. 55 of the Great Books of the Western World series.
  • 1925b (1919). An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Natural Knowledge. Cambridge Uni. Press.
  • 1926. Religion in the Making. 1974, New American Library. 1996, with introduction by Judith A. Jones, Fordham Univ. Press.
  • 1927. Symbolism, Its Meaning and Effect. The 1927 Barbour-Page Lectures, given at the University of Virginia. 1985 paperback, Fordham University Press.
  • 1929. Process and Reality
    Process and Reality
    In philosophy, especially metaphysics, the book Process and Reality by Alfred North Whitehead sets out its author's philosophy of organism, also called process philosophy...

    : An Essay in Cosmology
    . 1979 corrected edition, edited by David Ray Griffin and Donald W. Sherburne, Free Press. (Part V. Final Interpretation)
  • 1929a. The Aims of Education and Other Essays. 1985 paperback, Free Press, ISBN 0-02-935180-4.
  • 1929b. Function of Reason. 1971 paperback, Beacon Press, ISBN 0-8070-1573-3.
  • 1933. Adventures of Ideas. 1967 paperback, Free Press, ISBN 0-02-935170-7.
  • 1934. Nature and Life. University of Chicago Press.
  • 1938. Modes of Thought. 1968 paperback, Free Press, ISBN 0-02-935210-X.
  • 1947. Essays in Science and Philosophy. Runes, Dagobert, ed. Philosophical Library.
  • 1947. The Wit and Wisdom of Whitehead. Beacon Press.
  • 1951. "Mathematics and the Good" in Schilpp, P. A., ed., 1951. The Philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, 2nd. ed. New York, Tudor Publishing Company: 666-81. Also printed in:
    • in The Philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, 1941, P. A. Schilpp, Ed.;
    • in Science & Philosophy; Philosophical Library, 1948.
  • 1953. A. N. Whitehead: An Anthology. Northrop, F.S.C., and Gross, M.W., eds. Cambridge Univ. Press.
  • Price, Lucien, 1954. Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead, with Introduction by Sir Ross David. Reprinted 1977, Greenwood Press Reprint, ISBN 0-8371-9341-9, and 2001 with Foreword by Caldwell Titcomb, David R. Godine Publisher, ISBN 1-56792-129-9.

Works about Whitehead and his thought

  • Browning, Douglas and Myers, William T., eds., 1998. Philosophers of Process. Fordham Univ. Press. ISBN 0-8232-1879-1, contains some primary texts including:
    • "Critique of Scientific Materialism"
    • "Process"
    • "Fact and Form"
    • "Objects and Subjects"
    • "The Grouping of Occasions"
  • Chul Chun: Kreativität und Relativität der Welt beim frühen Whitehead: Alfred North Whiteheads frühe Naturphilosophie (1915–1922) - eine Rekonstruktion, mit einem Vorwort von Michael Welker
    Michael Welker
    Michael Welker is a German Protestant theologian and professor of Systematic theology .Biblical Theology and “general theory” are the main focus of his research...

    , Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag 2010, ISBN 978-3-7887-2352-1
  • Contemporary Whitehead Studies
    Contemporary Whitehead Studies
    Contemporary Whitehead Studies is an interdisciplinary, international book series for contemporary and innovative approaches to Alfred North Whitehead studies...

     (book series). Rodopi.
  • Durand G., 2007. "Des événements aux objets. La méthode de l'abstraction extensive chez A. N. Whitehead". Ontos Verlag.
  • Grattan-Guinness, Ivor
    Ivor Grattan-Guinness
    Ivor Grattan-Guinness, born 23 June 1941, in Bakewell, in England, is a historian of mathematics and logic.He gained his Bachelor degree as a Mathematics Scholar at Wadham College, Oxford, got an M.Sc in Mathematical Logic and the Philosophy of Science at the London School of Economics in 1966...

    , 2000. The Search for Mathematical Roots 1870-1940. Princeton Uni. Press.
  • ------, 2002, "Algebras, Projective Geometry, Mathematical Logic, and Constructing the World: Intersections in the Philosophy of Mathematics of A. N. Whitehead," Historia Mathematica 29: 427-62. Many references.
  • Griffin, David Ray, 2007. "Whitehead's Radically Different Postmodern Philosophy. An Argument for Its Contemporary Relevance", New York: State University of New York Press.
  • Hartshorne, Charles (1972). Whitehead's Philosophy: Selected Essays, 1935-1970. University of Nebraska Press
  • Henning, Brian G. The Ethics of Creativity: Beauty, Morality, and Nature in a Processive Cosmos. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005.
  • Holtz, Harald and Ernest Wolf-Gazo, eds. Whitehead und der Prozeßbegriff / Whitehead and The Idea of Process. Proceedings of The First International Whitehead-Symposion. Verlag Karl Alber, Freiburg i. B. / München 1984. ISBN 3-495-47517-6
  • Johnson, A. H. (Allison Heartz), Ed., (2007) The Wit and Wisdom of Alfred North Whitehead. Kessinger Publishing.
  • Kneebone, G., 2001, (1963). Mathematical Logic and the Foundations of Mathematics. Dover reprint: ISBN 0-486-41712-3. The final chapter is a lucid introduction to some of the ideas in Whitehead (1919, 1925b, 1929).
  • LeClerc, Ivor, ed., 1961. The Relevance of Whitehead. Allen & Unwin.
  • Lowe, Victor, 1962. Understanding Whitehead. Johns Hopkins Uni. Press.
  • ------, 1985. A. N. Whitehead: The Man and His Work, Vol. 1. Johns Hopkins U. Press.
  • ------, and Schneewind, J. B., 1990. A. N. Whitehead: The Man and His Work, Vol. 2. Johns Hopkins U. Press.
  • Martin, Richard Milton
    Richard Milton Martin
    Richard Milton Martin was an American logician and analytic philosopher. In his Ph.D. thesis written under Frederic Fitch, Martin discovered virtual sets a bit before Quine, and was possibly the first non-Pole other than Joseph Henry Woodger to employ a mereological system...

    , 1974. Whitehead's Categorial Scheme and Other Essays. Martinus Nijhoff.
  • Mays, Wolfgang, 1959. The Philosophy of Whitehead. Allen & Unwin.
  • ------, 1977. Whitehead's Philosophy of Science and Metaphysics: An Introduction to his Thought. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.
  • Mesle, C. Robert, 2008. Process-Relational Philosophy: An Introduction to Alfred North Whitehead," Templeton foundation Press. ISBN 978-1-59947-132-7
  • Nobo, Jorge L., 1986. Whitehead's Metaphysics of Extension and Solidarity. SUNY Press.
  • Willard Quine, 1941, "Whitehead and the rise of modern logic" in Schilpp (1941). Reprinted in his 1995 Selected Logic Papers. Harvard Univ. Press.
  • Rapp, Friedrich and Reiner Wiehl, eds. Whiteheads Metaphysik der Kreativität. Internationales Whitehead-Symposium Bad Homburg 1983. . Verlag Karl Alber, Freiburg i. B. / München 1986. ISBN 3-495-47612-1
  • Rescher, Nicholas
    Nicholas Rescher
    Nicholas Rescher is an American philosopher at the University of Pittsburgh. In a productive research career extending over six decades, Rescher has established himself as a systematic philosopher of the old style and author of a system of pragmatic idealism which weaves together threads of...

    , 1995. Process Metaphysics. SUNY Press.
  • ------, 2001. Process Philosophy: A Survey of Basic Issues. Univ. of Pittsburg Press.
  • Siebers, Johan, 2002. The method of speculative philosophy: an essay on the foundations of Whitehead's metaphysicis. Kassel: Kassel University Press GmbH. ISBN 3-933146-79-8
  • Schilpp, Paul A., ed., 1941. The Philosophy of A. N. Whitehead (The Library of Living Philosophers). New York: Tudor.
  • Smith, Olav Bryant, 2004. Myths of the Self: Narrative Identity and Postmodern Metaphysics, Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, [ISBN 0-7391-0843-3], contains a section called 'Alfred North Whitehead: Toward a More Fundamental Ontology' that is an overview of Whitehead's metaphysics.
  • Stengers, Isabelle, 2002. Penser avec Whitehead. Seuil.
  • Weber, Michel, 2006. Whitehead's Pancreativism—The Basics. Frankfurt: Ontos Verlag.
  • Will, Clifford, 1993. Theory and Experiment in Gravitational Physics. Cambridge University Press.

See also


  • Fallacy of misplaced concreteness
  • Inert knowledge
    Inert knowledge
    Inert knowledge is information which one can express but not use. The process of understanding by learners does not happen to that extent where the knowledge can be used for effective problem-solving in realistic situations....

  • Panexperientialism
  • Philosophy of Organism
    Philosophy of Organism
    Philosophy of Organism or Organic Realism is how Alfred North Whitehead described his metaphysics. It is now known as process philosophy....

  • Process philosophy
    Process philosophy
    Process philosophy identifies metaphysical reality with change and dynamism. Since the time of Plato and Aristotle, philosophers have posited true reality as "timeless", based on permanent substances, whilst processes are denied or subordinated to timeless substances...

  • Whitehead's point-free geometry
    Whitehead's point-free geometry
    In mathematics, point-free geometry is a geometry whose primitive ontological notion is region rather than point. Two axiomatic systems are set out below, one grounded in mereology, the other in mereotopology and known as connection theory...

  • American philosophy
    American philosophy
    American philosophy is the philosophical activity or output of Americans, both within the United States and abroad. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes that while American philosophy lacks a "core of defining features, American Philosophy can nevertheless be seen as both reflecting and...

  • Whitehead Research Project
    Whitehead Research Project
    The Whitehead Research Project is dedicated to the research of, and scholarship on, the texts, philosophy, and life of Alfred North Whitehead. It explores and analyzes the relevance of Whitehead's thought in dialogue with contemporary philosophies in order to unfold his philosophy of organism and...


External links