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This nOde last updated September 19th, 2003 and is permanently morphing...
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Whitehead, Alfred North
Whitehead (hwìt´hèd´, wìt´-),
British mathematician and philosopher. A founder of mathematical logic, he wrote _Principia Mathematica_ (1910-1913) with Bertrand Russell.
Whitehead, Alfred North
Whitehead, Alfred North (1861-1947), British mathematician and metaphysician, generally recognized as one of the greatest 20th-century philosophers. Born in Ramsgate, Kent, he was educated at Trinity College, University of Cambridge, where he taught mathematics from 1885 to 1911. He also taught at the University of London and Harvard University.
A brilliant theoretical mathematician, Whitehead also had a deep knowledge of philosophy and literature. He studied the foundations of mathematics and the philosophy of science, and he developed symbolic logic. He collaborated with British mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell to write the three-volume Principia Mathematica (1910-1913), one of the world's greatest works on logic and mathematics.
Whitehead explored and explained fundamental natural concepts in scientific terms in order to formulate a philosophy of natural science. He did this by examining concepts that, although acceptable to the pure scientist as unexplained hypotheses, had to be explained and verified through his method of philosophical analysis. In his later work Whitehead studied metaphysics, religion, and the principles of knowledge. His concepts of knowledge created a revolution in epistemology.
Art is the imposing of a pattern on experience, and
our aesthetic enjoyment is recognition of the pattern.
Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947), British philosopher. Dialogues, 10 June 1943 (1954).
Life and Living
Life is an offensive, directed
against the repetitious mechanism of the Universe.
Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947), British philosopher. Adventures of Ideas, pt. 1, ch. 5. (1933).
Every philosophy is tinged
with the colouring of some secret imaginative
background, which never emerges explicitly into its train of
Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947), British philosopher. Science and the Modern World, ch. 1 (1926).
There are no whole truths; all truths
are half-truths. It is trying to treat them as whole truths that plays
Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947), British philosopher. Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead, Prologue (ed. by Lucien Price, 1954).
Biology is the study of the larger organisms, whereas physics is the study of the smaller organisms.
'Creativity is the principle of novelty. Creativity introduces novelty into the content of the many, which are the universe disjunctively. The creative advance is the application of this ultimate principle of creativity to each novel situation which it originates. The ultimate metaphysical principle is the advance from disjunction to conjunction, creating a novel entity other than the entities given in disjunction. The novel entity is at once the togetherness of the 'many' which it finds and also it is one among the disjunctive ' many' which it leaves; it is a novel entity, disjunctively among the many entities which it synthesises. The many become one, and are increased by one. In their natures, entities are disjunctively 'many' in process of passage into conjunctive unity... Thus the 'production of novel togetherness' is the ultimate notion embodied in the term concrescence. These ultimate notions of 'production of novelty' and 'concrete togetherness' are inexplicable either in terms of higher universals or in terms of the components participating in the concrescence. The analysis of the components abstracts from the concrescence. The sole appeal is to intuition.' (Process and Reality, p. 26)
"the major advances in civilization are processes that all but wreck the societies in which they occur."
It seems more likely to me that all this complexity is better directed toward the end of the cycle when, after billions of years of evolution, everything finally comes together. Alfred North Whitehead proposed this same idea. He said that history grows toward what he called a "nexus of completion." And these nexuses of completion themselves grow together into what he called the "concrescence." A concrescence exerts a kind of attraction, which can be thought of as the temporal equivalent of gravity, except all objects in the universe are drawn toward it through time, not space.
As we approach the lip of this cascade into concrescence, novelty, and completion, time seems to speed up and boundaries begin to dissolve. The more boundaries that dissolve, the closer to the concrescence we are. When we finally reach it, there will be no boundaries, only eternity as we become all space and time, alive and dead, here and there, before and after. Because this singularity can simultaneously co-exist in states that are contradictory, it is something which transcends rational apprehension. But it gives the universe meaning, because all processes can be seen to be seeking and moving in an effort to approximate, connect with, and append to this transcendental object at the end of time.
- Terence McKenna - _Timewave Zero and Language_
This is an idea that will not die but it's practitioners end up in footnotes. They do not have a happy fate. Certainly Henri Bergson, with his idea of the elan vitale, this is an effort to preserve the idea of a world soul and yet the fate of Berkson, his influence on modern philosophy is certainly minimal. Alfred North Whitehead is my great favorite. I think that he's the cat's pajamas and he has this idea of the living cosmos - that life and vitality extend right down to the electron yet in spite of his mathematical contributions, the fact that he wrote _Principia Mathematica_ with Bertrand Russell, Whitehead is not taught. I think there's one university in this country where they take him seriously. Modern philosophy is a desert for my money. Who cares about it? Nobody cares about it. Who's living their life according to the perceptions of modern philosophy? Nobody, as far as I can see. But yes, vitalism was this impulse in biology that persisted right up to the 1920s with embryologists like Dreche and his school and mechanical biology has been at great pains to suppress that. That's why Rupert Sheldrake is such a breath of fresh air, because he can be seen as a person carrying the vitalist message back into science. His new book on the greening of science and nature is nothing more than a manifesto for the recognition of the presence of the world soul.
- Terence McKenna lecture on Alchemy
"Almost all really new ideas
have a certain aspect of foolishness when they are first
produced." -- Alfred North Whitehead