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Abbreviations—Whitehead .......................................................................... v Abbreviations—James................................................................................. vi 0. Preface .................................................................................................... vii 1. Introduction—Whitehead’s Reading of James and Its Context ............... 1 2. The Creative Advance of Nature ............................................................ 27 3. Panpsychism in Action ........................................................................... 65 4. The Polysemiality of the Concept of “Pure Experience” ....................... 91 5. Religiousness and Religion .................................................................. 115 6. James’ Mystical Body in the Light of the Transmarginal Field ........... 147 7. The Art of Epochal Change .................................................................. 175 8. On Pragmatic Anarchy ......................................................................... 205 9. Conclusion—The Assassination of the Diadoches............................... 243 Bibliography ............................................................................................. 277 Table of Contents ..................................................................................... 279
The Principle of Relativity.. 1964). Cambridge. 1906. 1929 (Free Press Corr. The Organisation of Thought. Essays in Science and Philosophy. 1954 (Mentor Book. Principles of Natural Knowledge.. 1902. The Aims of Education. 1925–1927).” American J. Cambridge. “On Mathematical Concepts of the Material World.” Mind. 1967). 1961. 1967). 1927. Philosophical Lib. 1898. 1967). Symbolism. Dialogues. 1978). “La théorie relationniste de l’espace. Process and Reality. Cambridge. 1929 (Free Press. 1910–1913 (Cambridge. . “On Cardinal Numbers. 1925 (Free Press.. 1982). 1934. 1916. 1922. Classes. Bobbs-Merrill Co. 1907. A Treatise on Universal Algebra.Abbreviations—Whitehead ADG APG AE AI CN D ESP FR ICNV IM IS MCMW MT OCN OT PM PNK PR R RM S SMW TRE UA The Axioms of Descriptive Geometry. Religion in the Making. Its Meaning and Effect. 1947. An Introduction to Mathematics. 1929 (Beacon Press. The Concept of Nature.” Revue de Méta. Cambridge. Williams and Norgate. The Function of Reason. 1926.” 1906. Adventures of Ideas. Macmillan. 1933 (Free Press. Validation. of Mathematics. 1938 (Free Press. 1917. The Interpretation of Science. Edition. 1919/1925 (Dover. “Indication. Principia Mathematica. 1911 (Oxford. The Axioms of Projective Geometry. 1968). 1920 (Cambridge. Science and the Modern World. 1958). 1956). Lucien Price. Modes of Thought. Numbers. 1958). Macmillan.
. Essays and Notes. Press.Abbreviations—James BC CER EMS EP EPR ERE ERM MS MEN MT Letters P PP PU SPP TT VRE WB Perry Psychology. 1892 (Henry Holt. 1920. 1986. Talks to Teachers and Students. Manuscripts. 1909. 1982. The Varieties of Religious Experience. 1911 (Bison Books. Some Problems of Philosophy. Atlantic Monthly Press. 1988. 1935. Longmans. 1916). Longmans. 1920). The Will to Believe. Charles Scribner's Sons. The Principles of Psychology. . Essays in Religion and Morality. Briefer Course. 1899. 1902. Essays in Philosophy. 1911. 1996). Essays in Psychical Research. Essays in Radical Empiricism. Harvard U. Thought and Character of William James. 1897. 1920. Collected Essays and Reviews. Little. 1982. Press. Press. The Letters of William James. Brown. Henry Holt. Pragmatism. Harvard U. 1978. Longmans. 1890 (Dover Pub. 1996). 1909 (Bison Books. Harvard University Press. Exceptional Mental States. A Pluralistic Universe. Harvard U. 1950). Memories and Studies. 1907 (Longmans. 1912 (Bison Books. Longmans. Longmans. The Meaning of Truth. 1996).
Bergson’s (1859– 1941) and Whitehead’s (1861–1947) worldviews has often been noted but rarely studied in detail. Their respective thought developments. That community should be expanded of course 1 James’ review of William Kingdon Clifford’s Lectures and Essays Vol. 1999) and MT vii. 2 philosophy is indeed both akin to algebraic calculus and to poetry… Moreover. that their respective categories can be carelessly put side by side). edited by Randall E. albeit genuinely personal. I have sought to quote the most accessible editions. 2 . 50. 1879) is reprinted in his CER 138. Peirce. 174. James’ (1842–1910). According to the latter.0 Preface In his review of Clifford’s Lectures and Essays. fervor with 1 measure. One could speak of a process pragmatic pluralism to suggest the visionary community that was the direct by-product of the anti-Spencerian Zeitgeist. See the Bergson and Whitehead issue of Process Studies. Bergson and Whitehead. this surely is the ideal.. however. It seems to me that this mysterious unison is nowhere as evident as in Plato. William James has claimed that The union of the mathematician with the poet. London. See the Abbreviations for the references to the editions I am using. spring from a similar radical empiricism feeding a pragmatic method making sense in the very same ontological direction. To think them together offers the possibility of activating one of the very rare possible synergies between first-rate philosophers. Leibniz. MacMillan and Co. 1 (Edited by Leslie Stephen and Frederick Pollock. passion with correctness. Auxier (Volume 28/3-4. the factual systematic correlation and even Wahlverwandtschaften of Peirce’s (1839–1914). a chaosmotic mood that will be sketched during our inquiry. There has not only been some significant influence (direct and indirect) between them but there is also a strong compatibility of their respective visions (which does not mean at all.
Tireless polygraph. Vol. who has kept an archeological temperament of sorts. in Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce. edited by Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss. downstream to J.e. temporal and psychological). after a distinguished career of algebraist and logicist (1891– 1913). Jahrbuch für Philosophie und phämenologische Forschung. Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phämenologische Philosophie. Peirce. § 19.. we are forced to acknowledge the existence of a mysterium conjunctionis between two psychic opposites: on the one hand. 1931. Adirondack Lectures (1905). on the other. Cambridge. of philosopher of natural science (1914–1923). and to more processually eccentric figures such as Philippe Devaux (1902–1979) in Belgium. University College and Imperial College of Science and Technology (London). the pragmatic standpoint. that cannot be severed from the triple opening that defines post-modernity (spatial. Harvard University Press. the one of the State of Massachusetts. the philosophical temperaments differ slightly. § 284. 1. Alexander (1859–1938) and Bertrand Russell (1872–1970). he framed in Harvard a revolutionary ontology in “anti-metaphysical” times par excellence (1924–1947). Max Niemeyer. S.viii Michel Weber to immediate fellows: upstream to James Ward (1843–1925) and G. James’ motto all experiences 1 Such a global contextualization has been attempted in the biographical entries featured by the Handbook of Whiteheadian Process Thought. William James has spent his entire academic career at Harvard. Whitehead has successively taught at Trinity College (Cambridge). Two issues ought to be distinguished— pragmatism and radical empiricism—and in both cases James appears to have framed his argument in dialogue with Peirce and to have made bolder claims than Whitehead. the John Harvard University. For his part. Although it is also present. As a matter of interest. Fechner (1801–1887). 2 3 . where he taught physiology and anatomy (1873). and eventually at the other Cambridge. 1913. On the one hand. i. Halle. t. psychology (1876–1889) and philosophy (1881–1907)—with periods where these fields overlapped. On the other hand. I. If we focus especially on the proximity existing between James and Whitehead. their late philosophical vision is basically the same. Enzo 1 Paci (1911–1976) in Italy and Jean Wahl (1888–1974) in France. Dewey (1859–1952). radical empiricism embodies James’ central trait. has been adopted by numerous scholars in the late XIXth and early XXth century. edited by Michel Weber and Will Desmond and published by ontos verlag in 2008. in 2 Peirce’s phaneroscopy and in Husserl’s imperative to return to thing 3 themselves (“Zurück zu den Sachen selbst” ). to a certain extent. Husserl.
but all of which essays were written in the years 1904–1905). For instance. 878-883. in his letter to Russell of January 5. 15.’ I am creating for the purpose of thought the objects ‘I’ and ‘the landscape’—and so on.” in Encyclopaedia Britannica. Objects are only for thought. XIth edition. In other words. if I proceed to split up the landscape—Now as to truth—there are two essentially dis-tinct 1 2 Most papers are reprinted in The Aims of Education and Other Essays. like Whitehead. Cf. and later reprinted in ESP. Peirce. a little ætiological reminder. 1910–1911. 1908.e. p. 85-89). First. pp. had too much of a systematic temperament and Husserl seemed to be increasingly concerned only with the empirical data disclosed in sense-perception and in rational data produced by ratiocination. “no facts”) seems to me by far their strongest thrust. Although James is very unlikely to have read any of Whitehead’s works—which were mainly mathematical (say logico-algebraical) until the publication of The Organisation of Thought. Educational and Scientific in 19171—Whitehead has read very early James’ Pragmatism (1907)2 and one can speculate that he promptly devoured as well the Varieties of Religious Experience (1902) and the Essays in Radical Empiricism (published in 1912. Alfred North Whitehead.Préface ix and only experiences (ERE) has been throughly enforced only by James himself. heavily relied upon imagination with that regard. James’ pragmatism is also discussed in the unpublished Whitehead-Russell correspondance. Whitehead criticizes Russell’s interpretation of Jamesian pragmatism: Your article on Pragmatism does not quite convince me—perhaps because the alternative you dismiss without discussion (i. vol. Nature of” in the XIVth edition (vol. pp. As soon as I think ‘I perceive the landscape. Cambridge University Press. 17. . only James relativizes the normal state of consciousness through experience. for one. reprinted under the title “Mathematics. 1929. 1929. Whitehead. they are the form by which thought represents the alien complex of sensation. You do no seem to me to touch a theory such as this: The life of sensation and emotion (I don’t know the technical terms) is essentially without thought and without subdivision. London and New York. sub verso “Mathematics. 881. The Preface examines briefly this temperamental contrast in order to open the way to the assessment of their respective pragmatism and particularly of the ontological question of the “bud” or “epochal” theory of actualization. Cambridge.
have made his writing an inexhaustible mine of 1 Quoted by Ronny Desmet’s “A Refutation of Russell’s Stereotype. James’ entire life was crippled by mood swings that sometimes made his social life painful whereas Whitehead enjoyed teaching and gathering around him his colleagues and students (during the then famous “evening at the Whiteheads”—D 15). to Peirce: The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato. All I mean is that 1 I do not see how it is refuted on the lines laid down in your article. I allude to the wealth of general ideas scattered through them. when all is said and done. This contrast is only for heuristic purposes and two further points deserve to be made straight away. they are merely in thought. Secundo. mutatis mutandis. introvert. Applied Process Metaphysics Summer Institute Memorandum. pp. Whitehead. his inheritance of an intellectual tradition not yet stiffened by excessive systematization. I do not mean the systematic scheme of thought which scholars have doubtfully extracted from his writings. an extravert and experimental genius—whereas Whitehead was a British.” in Ronny Desmet and Michel Weber (edited by). the year of Whitehead’s birth. Having said this. imaginative systematiser. Primo. when Whitehead claimed that Plato had intuitioned all philosophical problems and provided hints (even sometimes contradictory hints) to solve them. Louvain-laNeuve. His personal endowments. because the objects themselves are not in fact. 2010. he failed to see that Peirce had done the exact same thing only a couple of decades before he arrived in Harvard! (James and Peirce met in 1861. Perhaps that. as they are in fact. the temperamental contrast can be sketched with the help of the following pairs of concepts: James was a cosmopolitan USAmerican. 172-173. The Algebra of Metaphysics. Éditions Chromatika. . the two philosophers were equally lonely. his wide opportunities for experience at a great period of civilization.) Hence his famous quote could apply. Thus for truth the objects of thought are partly arbitrary within the limits necessary to secure the two harmonies. I am quite prepared to hear that the pragmatist position as thus sketched is too hopeless to require refutation.x Michel Weber indefinable harmonies which constitute the whole of truth (1) the selfconsistency of thought with itself—this is logic: and (2) the consistency of thought with the non-rational complex of sensation— but this does not mean that the relation between objects should be thought of.
” (ESP 14) “Americans are always warm-hearted. intoxications. by James. very eager to vulgarize science. But I do mean more: I mean that if we had to render Plato's general point of view with the least changes made necessary by the intervening two thousand years of human experience in social organization. outgoing. Whitehead really appreciated the zeal for knowledge1 and for freedom2 which underlies the American ethos but he claimed to have remained “a 1 “Today in America. On the other hand.Préface suggestion. and it is why when I meet an American I always expect to like him. always appreciative.” (ESP 114) “I do feel that if a man is going to do his best he ought to live in America. usually in a more pedestrian manner. If it is safe enough to characterize James’ works as “American. there is in all sections of the population a warm-hearted kindness which is unsurpassed in any large social system. there is a zeal for knowledge which is reminiscent of the great periods of Greece and the Renaissance. in science. but they are always shrewd. (PR 39-40) xi To put it differently: all the intuitions that Peirce always tried to systematically unfold and that were put at work. we should have to set about the construction of a philosophy of organism. I am doing no more than expressing the hope that it falls within the European tradition.” (ESP 115) “This is the justification of that liberalism. because of that always delightful mixture of shrewdness and warmheartedness. because there the treatment of any effort is such that it stimulates everything that is eager in one.” (ESP 65) 2 . and that is what makes for me the continual delight of living in America. All he wrote was taped from the depths of his own experiences (some of them being borderline: neurosis. and in religion. that zeal for freedom. fluent in French and German. hypnosis…). Thus in one sense by stating my belief that the train of thought in these lectures is Platonic.” the fact remains that he was truly a citizen of the (Western) world. In such a philosophy the actualities constituting the process of the world are conceived as exemplifying the ingression (or “participation”) of other things which constitute the potentialities of definiteness for any actual existence. perhaps gained a second systematic life in Whitehead. with its intrinsic opacity and even with the danger of its off-limits intercourse. always helpful. in aesthetic attainments. someone who was straightforward. But above all. which underlies the American Constitution and other various forms of democratic government. He was equally in love with experience itself.
but it is a key to understand 3 thinkers such as James and Whitehead (or Einstein ). Perhaps that a well-tempered Nietzschean contrast between Dionysus and Apollo would open more interpretative doors… This also brings in the issue of intuition: the concept of intuition is perhaps not fashionable anymore in philosophy. Both philosophers had strong intuitions and were keen to expand the scope of their fields of expertise at a time when their contraction was more fashionable—but Whitehead the algebraist was always keener to frame these intuitions into a grand scheme. stimulating progress. II. “I believe in intuition and inspiration… At times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason. 97) 2 3 .N. 1931. Moreover. Lowe has aptly claimed that Whitehead was a loner with many good friends but no confidant. Imagination is more important than knowledge. When the eclipse of 1919 confirmed my intuition. Granting that it is altogether of little heuristic value to understand the James-Whitehead lineage as the “genius” and his “epigone. a real factor in scientific research. Schneewind). whereas imagination embraces the entire world. vol. p. strictly speaking. community of vision and legacies allow such an interpretational short-circuit—provided that it remains critical. It is.” (Albert Einstein. Whitehead. A.” the fact remains that their temperamental difference. Both explicitly argued that science depends upon metaphysics: James since “The Knowing of Things Together” (1894) and Whitehead since SMW (1925). merely one of a group. an eminent Cambridge tradition promptly actualized in Harvard. but did so in a less existential manner: experiences that were out of his reach were “simply” imagined. With other Opinions and Aphorisms. The Man and His Work. On Science” in Cosmic Religion.” (ib. Covici / Friede Publishers.2 He certainly accepted the radical empiricism promoted by the life and thought of his illustrious predecessor in Harvard. Lowe. p. Volume I: 1861–1910.xii Michel Weber typical example of the Victorian Englishman. It is not just a matter 1 ESP 115. but probably only in technical materials. giving birth to evolution. 150. “I am exactly an ordinary example of the general tone of the Victorian Englishman. I was not in the least surprised. “Opinions and Aphorisms. 1985 & 1990. B. Whitehead reached through (apparently painless) imaginative generalizations. Maryland and London. Whatever relative truth James digged out through (often painful) experiences. For knowledge is limited. Baltimore. Neither had a real philosophical scholarly background: philosophy was for them primarily a matter of a dialogue with their contemporaries.”1 He read French and German. New York.) Victor A. The Johns Hopkins University Press. Volume II: 1910–1947 (edited by J. In fact I would have been astonished that it turned out otherwise.
His philosophy is not only concerned with life as it is lived and with its pragmatic improvement. pp.’ supposed necessities. Unfortunately. “The Notion of Truth in Bergson’s Theory of Knowledge. ‘categories. on the other. In other words. See the interesting. James is animated by a constant desire to cope with the (individual) total existential risk. pp. but so is the discovery of a complete formalism. starting points for philosophical generalizations. 1961. pp. 2002. James' own philosophical development displays with great strength that this quest is quite dangerous because it puts our entire existence (even our post-mortem existence) at risk. A Key to Whitehead. no. On the one hand. Whitehead’s is a little bit more shy with regard to its existential implementation. Philippe Devaux. but of naming their radical empiricism and the tropism towards systematization that animates their writings. it is pursued for its Emersonian transfigurative virtue. 224-256. Stebbing and Russell couldn’t agree less and the reputation of our thinkers suffered immensely from these ad hominem arguments…1 To repeat: although the radical empiricist premise is plain in both cases. vol. XV.Préface xiii of pointing at Bergson’s influence on both of them. i. In XXth century parlance: neurosis has to be abolished at the risk of psychosis. fruits. Out of this journey.e. 56-57. both wrote in order to recreate these fleeting experiential anchorings in the reader’s mind. two speculative loci appear of particular importance: the ontological status of extension and of propositional functions. fasc. We have here a trait that is constant in the development of his thought: he has contemplated the logico-mathematical field sub specie totalitatis in Cambridge. 1913. 1 Lizzie Susan Stebbing. 64. The concrete many-sidedness of experience is of primordial importance to him. facts” (P 5455).” Tijdschrift voor Filosofie. 217-236. Bradley: “The Speculative Generalization of the Function. analyses of James A.. 253-271. geometry as a physical science in London. principles.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society. “Le bergsonisme de Whitehead.” Revue Internationale de Philosophie. Whitehead’s is piloted by an archaeological quest correlated to his eschatological agnosticism (the same remark holds). At all costs. and metaphysics under the category of creativity in Harvard. “The attitude of looking away from first things. 3-4. Cf. and of looking toward last things. both accepted all experiences as valid matters of facts. XIII. consequences.2 The question of the lure of their thought-development is more straightforward: James’ life and works is the product of an eschatological quest linked to his archaeological agnosticism3 (that went astray in his last years). 2 3 . but partial.
Here is what Hume wrote in his 1758 essay: Nothing appears more surprising to those who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few. it is demonstrably inefficient—and in an age of advanced technology. When we inquire by what means this wonder is effected. inefficiency is the sin against the Holy Ghost. mass imprisonment and mass deportation. of its duty and visionary weights. This involves in practice the destruction of all opinions. . and this maxim extends to the most despotic and the most military governments as well as to the most free 1 and most popular. With an introduction by David Bradshaw. by artificial famine. because they love their servitude. “Foreword”  of Brave New World . 1758 Aldous Huxley. 1994).2 1 2 David Hume. no reason why the new totalitarianisms should resemble the old. as Huxley argued in 1946: There is. But their methods are still crude and unscientific. is not merely inhumane (nobody cares much about that nowadays). To make them love it is the task assigned. Hume provides an early background and Huxley a powerful recent exemplification for this argument. Besides Plato. It is. His concern is amplified by techno-scientific progress. in present-day totalitarian states.xiv Michel Weber One has to leave behind oneself the old social cloak imposed by the political forces of this world and enhance one's awareness of the importance of the present moment. of course. to ministries of propaganda. therefore. Of the First Principles of Government. on opinion only that government is founded. newspaper editor and schoolteachers. Government by clubs and firing squads. we shall find that. as Force is always on the side of the governed. Hammersmith. A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced. the governors have nothing to support them but opinion. HarperCollins. and the implicit submission with which men resign their own sentiments and passions to those of their rulers. the destruction of all lies.
What do we mean by space-time. we must appeal to evidence relating to every variety of occasion. and Sergio Franzese (1963–2010). experience sleeping and experience waking. It will be a pragmatic dialogue looking for two types of synergy: to establish the relevance of a Jamesian background to read Whitehead. the book follows a triadic structure: the first three chapters adopt the vantage point of Whitehead to assess James. We now seek to bring him in dialogue with James. experience intellectual and experience physical […]. “nothing can be omitted. to the memory of T. Ronny Desmet and Anderson Weekes. L. AI 222) . the most enduring ones being perhaps to Pierfrancesco Basile. experience self-conscious and experience self-forgetful. famous for his dogmatic pluralism (!). Over the years. with whom I have created the European William James Project in 2001. (AI 226. Even though Whitehead is obviously. experience drunk and experience sober. created and nurtured by Randall Albright. Sprigge (1932–2007). Whitehead's Pancreativism—The Basics has provided tools to understand Whitehead secundum Whitehead. all social narratives that prevent liberation from the not always obvious oppressive powers have to be obliterated. Peter H.”1 but how do we manage the wealth of data if not through discursive thinking? These are some of the questions that will be treated here.Préface xv Hence. by simultaneity…? For sure. whose untimely death has left an aching void in Italian process pragmatism. for his part. he remains more discrete on these shores. All three were 1 In order to discover some of the major categories under which we can classify the infinitely various components of experience. and to adumbrate how Whitehead can help us understand the stakes of James’ works. Nothing can be omitted. S. In order to keep our argument tight. by immediate senseperception. The basic engine of his radical empiricist speculations is formal: to question the meaning of “simple obvious statements” in order to attain higher orders of abstractions. Hare (1935–2008). I have contracted many intellectual debts. The general train of thought of this monograph has been established in the years 1999–2004. experience drowsy and experience wide-awake. as imperfect as it is. hoping for some transfigurative virtue. the next three chapters seek to understand Whitehead with the help of James’ main intuitions. who was the leading figure of the William James Society (WJS) before the publication of the Society became William James Studies (2006–). the last three chapters provide some applications of that synergy. when I was a regular contributor to the Streams of William James. I would also like to dedicate this book. cf.
Finally. it is important to remember once again Whitehead’s precious warning: everything that is simple (or clear) is false but usable—while everything that is complex (or obscure) is adequate but unusable.” (PP II 369) Speculative philosophy is no easy task.” (“Immortality.” (CN 163) “Exactness is a fake.xvi Michel Weber looking forward to celebrate the centenary of the death of William James and were planning scholarly events that their departure to Hades eventually prevented. 1 “Seek simplicity and distrust it.” in ESP 96.1 Similarly. before launching our argument. James has claimed that “the art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.) .
though the time-order does not correspond. with many others. Pragmatism. or because Russell was not in the mood to mention his former colleague and friend (and although in various places he has insisted on the importance of Whitehead for the development of his own thought). pp. With that regard. on the occasion of the publication of a Festschrift dedicated to him: My general impression of the whole book […] confirms my longstanding belief that in the oncoming generation America will be at the centre of worthwhile philosophy. Precisely the same year. 1995. Oxford / Cambridge. London. the exact same could be said of his former mentor Whitehead.1 Introduction Whitehead’s Reading of James and Its Context When Bertrand Russell visited Harvard in 1936. Have you read Ralph Perry’s book (2 1 So has I. Hilary Putnam. 181-187). and cannot make any worthwhile use of the results of nineteenth century scholarship. It is in chains to the sanctified presuppositions derived from later Greek thought. 1995. either because the essay was written before 1949. It is in much the same position as mediaeval scholasticism in the year 1400 A.P. W. Routledge. My belief is that the effective founders of the Renaissance are Charles Peirce and William James. to Aristotle. is not mentioned at all. B. it is interesting to remember that in Russell’s 1950 essay “Eminent Men I have Known. .” James is said to be “the most personally impressive” philosopher.” Although this claim should be carefully examined in itself. and C. “there were two heroes in 1 his lectures—Plato and James. is the analogue to Plato. and the analogy must not be pressed too far. Blackwell. and “this was in spite of a complete naturalness and absence of all apparent consciousness of being a great man” (Bertrand Russell. 6. Of these men. Russell is explicitely excluding philosophers still alive from this assesment: Whitehead.J. Cohen told H. European philosophy has gone dry. An Open Question.D. Whitehead wrote the following to his assistant Hartshorne. Putnam: cf. Unpopular Essays . p.
Longmans. 1482). but James is its hart. N. Gassendi) and to recover. The Festschrift in question is: Filmer Stuart Cuckow Northrop (et al.J.C. the totality disclosed by the naturalism of Ficinus (Theologia Platonica de immortalitate animae.’s pragmatic descendants have been doing their best to trivialize his meanings in the notions of Radical Empiricism. Whitehead: Essays on His Philosophy (Englewood-Cliffs. philosophical movements articulate themselves around two main characters: the genius who inaugurates them. Campanella (Civitas Solis. London. Pragmatism. Bruno (La cena de le ceneri. the late Whitehead also shows the 1 The letter. W. Rationalization. Grassmann.) on James? It is a wonderful disclosure of the living repercussions of late 19th century thought on a sensitive genius. Peano. 1936. is reprinted in full in Lowe II. But I admit W. Faraday. Philosophical Essays for Alfred North Whitehead. 345 sq. N. [A Collection of Papers by Nine Younger American Philosophers. Whitehead makes three outstanding claims here. it makes plain that philosophy has to be in medias res. Boole.). Whitehead. W. Hamilton. Naturalistic humanism is back. Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University] . extending to Einstein’s theories of relativity (including H. H. his middle period especially tackles electromagnetism (M. Primo. 1623) and Andreae (Christianopolis. Planck. secundo. . Maxwell).N. and the systematiser who gives form and expands the founding intuitions of the former (PR 57 and 73). tertio. was weak on Rationalization. Inc. a third Renaissance is taking place in America in the XXth century. 1584). Prentice-Hall. Descartes. 1963). Green and Co. Poincaré’s and H. Also he expressed himself by the 1 dangerous method of over-statement. According to the author of Process and Reality. G. G. Cantor. Pico della Mirandola (De hominis dignitate.. Bohr). and the complete list of the thinkers he praises (in one way or another) would be quite long: the early Whitehead is particularly sensitive to the recent foundational developments in algebra and geometry (G. Whitehead was too humble to consider himself as more than a systematiser of other’s intuitions.. Leibniz’s and Russell’s shadows should not be forgotten). Minkowski’s and H.2 Michel Weber vols. Riemann. Poincaré’s inflections) and the nascent quantum mechanics (M. Peirce might be the brain of this revolution. 1486). It is reminiscent of the Platonic Dialogues. G. J. The Peircean turning-about of 1878 and its Jamesian echo in 1907 seek to undo the supernaturalism of the second Renaissance (Mersenne. that was first printed in George Louis Kline’s A. 1619).J. volens nolens. Former Students of A.
J. pp.” in A. H. A synoptic survey of Whitehead’s references to James can furthermore be found in Scott Sinclair’s “William James as American Plato?. Santayana and J. however. and. General Background The above list of thinkers is not exhaustive at all. Kant.1.” William James Studies. Nunn. 4. Fall 2003. 2009. This chapter attempts to quote all the explicit occurrences of James in 1 Whitehead’s corpus and to weave them into a synthetic argument. Plato Plato is constantly acclaimed for his numerous flashes of insight and the openness with which he systematically expands them: 1 This chapter constitutes an expansion of my “Whitehead’s Reading of James and Its Context. L. pp. Leibniz. McTaggart. Issue 3. et leurs contemporains. W. Hume. Leibniz. Noesis. These men are Plato. James. Ward.” (ii) “stylistic similarities. as he himself testified: In Western literature there are four great thinkers. pp. 2009. 251-268. 1822 and Volume 5. Galileo. It argues from the texts themselves.). though each of them made important contributions to the structure of philosophic system. Aristotle. Newton and Plato stand out as well. G. 13. Broad. according to the circumstances.” Streams of William James. Benmakhlouf et S. Whitehead.” 1. Dewey. Whitehead puts emphasis on one “supreme master of thought” (PR 39) rather than another. Descartes. . F. pp. the systems of Aristotle. Alexander. T. (MT 2) Let us review each philosopher. Vol. 1.D.1. Quine. P.H. Henderson.Whitehead’s Reading of James and its Context 3 influence of contemporary thinkers: S. factually putting into brackets previous inquiries dealing with Whitehead’s Jamesian legacy. J. The argument unfolds in three sections: (i) “general background. Bergson. whose services to civilized thought rest largely upon their achievements in philosophical assemblage. Spring 2002.1. an obvious fourfold influence on his later speculations. C. Volume 4. Locke. Bradley. There is. Mead. See also my “Whitehead et James: conditions de possibilité et sources historiques d'un dialogue systématique. and William James. J. Issue 1. In the background. 26-31. 111-129.” (iii) “specific impacts.H. G. Poinat (éd.
Luc Brisson and F. his inheritance of an intellectual tradition not yet stiffened by excessive systematization. And the Problem of Scientific Knowledge . (PR 39) Notice his derogatory assessment of the systematization of Plato (something German scholars have been prone to attempt. and expresses his perplexities. He is never entirely self-consistent. when the rare balance of knowledge and perception appears. as finally settled in the later portion of his life. 1 whereas the later could not… The difficulty of communication in words is but little realized.4 Michel Weber Plato's contribution to the basic notions connecting Science and Philosophy. Plato’s Timaeus. PR 70-74. His personal endowments. It is to be found by reading together the Theætetus. He feels the difficulties. of course I could—but how much would remain that couldn’t be put into words. his wide opportunities for experience at a great period of civilization. . definitively more inspiring than Newton’s Scholium. as he repeatedly remarked). as in William James—one who could communicate so much more than most—it is 1 Cf. and then by recurrence to his earlier work. So. the Symposium. (AI 146-147) —hence: The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato. The Big Bang. I allude to the wealth of general ideas scattered through them. have made his writing an inexhaustible mine of suggestion. and the fifth and tenth books of the Laws. has virtues entirely different from that of Aristotle. Whitehead found the Timæus. the Timæus. which he studied very carefully. State University of New York Press. Walter Meyerstein could be said to have followed Whitehead’s vision with their book Inventing the Universe. for the simple reason that the former would have welcomed XXth science into its framework. the Sophist. If I had to write something about your personality. although of equal use for the progress of thought. 1995). No one could be perplexed over Aristotle classifications. and rarely explicit and devoid of ambiguity. whereas Plato moves about amid a fragmentary system like a man dazed by his own penetration. I do not mean the systematic scheme of thought which scholars have doubtfully extracted from his writings.
But in the magnum opus itself. Whitehead is actually endowed with a systematic mind. One last issue deserves to be mentioned (not addressed): the ontological status of the “eternal objects. ESP 127) . Whitehead adopts a rhetorical mode of exposition that leads most commentators to underline his Platonician stance. Aristotle Aristotle receives both due acknowledgement for his decisive impact on the framing of the scientific mind and lament for the speculative cowardliness he showed in key matters.” Before and after Process and Reality. and implication which reaches far.” and of the classificatory logic which this notion suggests. we have a shrinkage. 1. To fill it out would necessarily have made it smaller. Granted.1. being akin to 1 cavalry charges. Later. to join their potentialities. just like James. no dogmatic reductionism involved. (D 271) 5 This cautiousness with regard to systematization does not mean however that the whole enterprise is flawed. he agrees with Heraclitus and James: because we never descend twice in the same experiential stream. There is.” (PR 209) This is exactly where the shoe pinches: 1 Whitehead believes that we can only partially weave into a train of thought what we apprehend in flashes. suggestion. But if he “invented science. but the overall movement is holistic. in other words. when we came to be more explicit concerning some of those implications. Aristotle settled scientific inquiries with his “masterly analysis of the notion of ‘generation’ [… and. Yes. moreover. In Plato’s Dialogues there is a richness of thought.] in his own person expressed a useful protest against the Platonic tendency to separate a static spiritual world from a fluent world of superficial experience. he was the last metaphysician to have approached God’s concept dispassionately (SMW 173). “no two ‘ideas’ are ever exactly the same” (PP I 235).2. these are sometimes as elusive.Whitehead’s Reading of James and its Context perhaps an advantage that his system of philosophy remained incomplete. (cf. but he attempts only to systematize his own experience for his own sake.” (PR 209) Yes.” he “destroyed philosophy” (D 139) in so far as he was “the apostle of “substance and attribute. Plato. does not provide us only with sporadic intuitions that are often apparently contradictory: they also bring hints as to how to assemble them and to bringing them together.
for example—but he was fond of mathematical illustrations. Accordingly. […] In the seventeenth century the influence of Aristotle was at its lowest. 184) . 1963. But the biological sciences. is to measure. Leibniz is not much discussed in Whitehead's corpus. such as Leibniz’s metaphor of his monads engaged in mirroring. which basically means two things. and thus to express quality in terms of numerically determined quantity. The two former were mathematicians. p.6 Michel Weber If you conceive fundamental fact as a multiplicity of subjects qualified by predicates. his ignorance of 1 mathematics did not serve him well.1. you must fail to give a coherent account of experience. Plato and Pythagoras stand nearer to modern physical science than does Aristotle. Whitehead does not seem to have much sympathy for the German philosophical mind—Kant being a notable exception. his impact on the “philosophy of organism” is so deep that it completely fades in Whitehead's categorical landscape. and totally foreign to others. then and till our own time. A Manual of Greek Mathematics. On the one hand. But it is probably 1 “In a sense. New York. Leibniz For his part. and his Logic was “a more superficial weapon” than philosophers deemed it (AI 117). The disjunction of subjects is the presupposition from which you start. he has had a dogmatic influence on Western thought as well as a deceitful one.” (SMW 28-29) “Aristotle was clearly not a professional mathematician. and he throws a flood of light on the first principles of mathematics as accepted in his time. on the other.. Dover Publications. This is after all nothing but a very personal affair: one feels at unison with some authors. 1. whereas Aristotle was the son of a doctor. (R 13) Moreover. and he does not in his works show any acquaintance with the higher branches—he makes no allusion to conic sections. The practical counsel to be derived from Pythagoras. have been overwhelmingly classificatory.3. Aristotle by his Logic throws the emphasis on classification. Inc. from an historical perspective. and you can only account for conjunctive relations by some fallacious sleight of hand. though of course he was not ignorant of mathematics. and mathematics recovered the importance of its earlier period.” (Sir Thomas Little Heath. The popularity of Aristotelian Logic retarded the advance of physical science throughout the Middle Ages. The alternative philosophic position must commence with denouncing the whole idea of “subject qualified by predicate” as a trap set for philosophers by the syntax of language.
1. not interested in sealing an ultimate system. Oxford.” James Stuart Martin. Killed in action over the Forêt de Gobain giving himself that the city of his vision may not perish. Having said this. or—to use the concept that has a medullar virtue in Whitehead's essays—because of their creativity. Boston.4. ) 1. All Honorable Men.” (PR 7). “In its turn every philosophy will suffer a deposition. Royal Flying Corp. Non-contradiction was for them a major concern. His efforts in “imaginative generalization” make his thought belong to both sides. alas. Brown and Co. The two latter are actually known for their systematicity: both were aiming at a full understanding of all the details of the God/World business. an exposé of the Nazi-American Money Plot. Delacorte Press. The German Slump. Little. many conflicts involving German and British people— 1 and Whitehead's youngest son Eric was killed in action in 1918. He obviously considers that he is simply improving the coherence of utterances of geniuses like Plato and James (failing to grasp the importance of Peirce). we are forced to notice that the partition Whitehead uses between “intuitive” and “systematic” thinkers does not really apply to himself. Clarendon Press. their style is usually closer to Whitehead's than Aristotle’s and Leibniz’s. 1983. something that puts him among the “systematisers” or the “coordinators” of past achievements. 1924–1936. only keen to develop local systems as far as possible. 2 . Harold James. perfect in his beauty. he is. 1933–1949.Whitehead’s Reading of James and its Context 7 as well part of the political tragedy of the late XIXth and XXth centuries: there has been. (The issue of the real or imagined hostility between individuals should be understood from the perspective of class struggles: there is no real animosity between British people and German people. The music of his life was without discord. and consequently rigidified their writings as much as they could. but our short pointillist chapter will be busy only with Whitehead's explicit evocations of James (1842–1910). Plato and James receive special appraisal because of their intuitive capacities. 1950. 1918. 1898 to March 13. November 27. 1986. This double tension really requires more development. when all is said and done. In other words. Politics and Economics. New York. but. James Out of these four philosopher-scientists. Charles Higham. as his style demonstrates. As we will see in a moment. Trading with the Enemy. only an engineered one serving the 2 interests of international capitalism. the broader question that is the 1 PNK’s dedication runs as follows: “To Eric Alfred Whitehead.
his magnum opus. our commentary infra on the introduction of the epochal theory of time). The fact is that when a thinker has had a long and enduring influence on another. here is what is said of the latter: 1 Alfred North Whitehead. when Whitehead. sub verso “Mathematics. 122-131. Whitehead refers the reader to James’ Pragmatism (1907) on the old question of “the one and the 1 many. Reprinted in The Philosophical Review. 1936. 2 . Alfred North Whitehead. and James. X. 178-186. and CER 371 sq. A 1936 paper claims that “William James and John Dewey will stand out as having infused philosophy with new life. this is the earliest reference to James in Whitehead’s corpus. Let us first pin point his personal appreciation of James with six major exemplification. It is all the more significant that it occurs in a mathematical discussion and that James’ book has been probably read at Cambridge. Aristotle. this question is relevant since his “The Knowing of Things Together. As far as James is concerned. pp. who does not bother mentioning all of them explicitly. “Remarks to the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association. incisive genius which could state in a flash the exact point at issue. pp. and under the title “Analysis of Meaning). Leibniz. and with a new relevance to 2 the modern world. or then simply quotes from memory.” We have quoted supra MT 2’s commendation of Plato. geometrical and logico-mathematical issues. In one of his 1910 Encyclopaedia Britannica entries.” in ESP 278.” As far as we know. while teaching applied mathematics.” Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association. 178-186.” 1895 (an essay.” (SMW 2 and 147) In a truly crucial passage of Process and Reality. Science and the Modern World speaks of an “adorable genius” who “possessed the clear. 123. was apparently focusing his researches only on algebraic. here p.). cf. he speaks of “the authority of William James” (PR 68. XLVI. 1937. pp.8 Michel Weber “underground” influence of James on Whitehead’s speculations will not be treated here: I will not comb the texts in order to reveal not-so-obvious Jamesian foundations. and later in ESP (without the first paragraph. belonging to his idealistic phase. that is also known under the title “The Tigers of India” and has been reprinted in MT 43 sq. most connections start working in the back of the mind of the writer.
and finally. without any reason he can assign. It is this pragmatic justification. the more proper it is that ideas should copy them. and without any reason so far as Hume can discover. Repetition is capable of more or less: the more often impressions are repeated. Josiah Royce. Among them Palmer's achievements centre chiefly in literature and in his brilliance as a lecturer. The group is a group of 1 “Hume can find only one standard of propriety. often repeated. This ultimate justification is ‘practice’. in the same book. when he cannot fit it into his metaphysics. and in Hume's final appeal to practice. by personal relations with its leading men. Also the frequency of ideas following upon the frequency of their correlate impressions is also attended by an expectation of the repetition of the impression.”(PR 133) . (MT 3) 9 Interestingly enough. essentially a modern man. by the variety of his own studies.” Throughout the Treatise he steadily affirms its fundamental importance. which constitutes the propriety attaching to “repetition. but above all he assembled. lived. for instance. Fortunately. that this expectation is pragmatically justified. not be developed independently—and supplemented—by ad hoc hypotheses drawn from 1 “habitual experience. repetition. The radical importance of direct. complex impressions. are also often copied by their corresponding complex ideas. He had discovered intuitively the great truth with which modern logic is now wrestling. at the root of his criticism of Hume: philosophy must build on life as it is lived. It is a great mistake to attribute to Hume any disbelief in the importance of the notion of “cause and effect.Whitehead’s Reading of James and its Context Finally. He systematized. by travel. Whitehead speaks of Thucydides and Gibbon in a similar fashion: all three displayed an extended practical experience allowing them to understand the deep significance of contemporary events (D 121-122 and 225). George Herbert Palmer. he appeals beyond his metaphysics to an ultimate justification outside any rational systematization.” This is the analysis of the course of thought involved in Hume's doctrine of the association of ideas in its relation to causation. Santayana. William James. constitute a group to be proud of. Münsterberg. he adds: Harvard is justly proud of the great period of its philosophic department about thirty years ago. He knew the world in which he lived. and that is. without metaphysical reason. His mind was adequately based upon the learning of the past. Hume also believes. there is William James. immediately given experience is. But the essence of his greatness was his marvellous sensitivity to the ideas of the present. His intellectual life was one protest against the dismissal of experience in the interest of system.” Later on.
Letter to Charles Hartshorne. and the analogy must not be pressed too far. (MT 174) In 1936. 2 S. I. personnal communication to the author. Of these men. W. Vol. 246. Evidence cannot be found either in his personal notes or manuscripts. Paul Weiss. New York. ) It is not entirely clear what happened to his (rather extended) library. is convinced that he looked into James only when he settled down in the U. of speculation. it is limited and imperfect. upon his request. Whitehead. though the time-order 1 does not correspond. HarperCollins. and C. and coöperation dimly adumbrated in the American Constitution. But as a group they are greater still.” as he used to call himself with humour and modesty. A. The quote is contextualized supra. Even though he remained a “British Victorian. It is a group of adventure. p. It has never been realized in its perfection. (Dwelling within the elite of the “Ivy League. There is no other published evidence that Whitehead read James before he was offered a position at Harvard: James is simply not cited anymore before the 1925 Lowell lectures (whose expansion became SMW). N. activity. in Lowe II. J. Whitehead was exceptionally comfortable in Harvard. Some twenty-two of his books are now in the Milton S. January 2.” (MT 120) Howard Zinn. 2 3 4 5 . whereby bare process is transformed into glowing history. of search for new ideas. who has been one of Whitehead’s assistant in Harvard. such as it is. P. A People’s History of the United States: 1492–Present. he also wrote: my belief is that the effective founders of the American Renaissance are Charles Peirce and William James. And yet. is the analogue to Plato. to Aristotle. most of his hopes for civilization relied upon the 4 ideals and the dynamism of American society. 345. since they have been destroyed after his death. Lowe. The Man and His Work. 08/08/2001. 1936.10 Michel Weber men individually great. For his part. Paul Weiss. Eisenhower 1 Whitehead. the Constitution vaguely discloses the immanence in this epoch of that one energy of idealization. and by its lack of characterization of the variety of possibilities open for humanity.” he was obviously not aware at all of the struggles of 5 the lower classes. by his wife 3 Evelyn. To be a philosopher is to make some humble approach to the main characteristic of this group of men. “There is an ideal of human liberty. 1980.
and “La pensée de Bergson en Amérique.. 1962. one can find the Longmans. 291-321. he died before the completion of the second volume. Milton S. 1929) of the Varieties of Religious Experience—which he might thus have 2 read only in the late twenties. which means that the volume housed in Johns Hopkins is not the first edition he has worked on. This doctrine is the direct negation of the theory that religion is primarily a social fact.” Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale. pp. “why. One of two things: either he has rediscovered Jamesian themes by himself—like 3 the idea that religion is solitariness —or he has read the Varieties no later than on the occasion of writing his Lectures. 526-544. Curator of Manuscripts. it probably makes 1 Lowe is the author of the only bibliography of Whitehead (see a previous footnote). For an inventory of his papers. edition (London. 431. you are never religious.” The Philosophical Review 62. CN (1920) already mentions Bergson and.) “Religion is the art and theory of the internal life of man. Furthermore. see the meticulous inquiries of Milic Capek: “The Reappearance of the Self in the Last Philosophy of William James.Whitehead’s Reading of James and its Context 11 1 Library (Johns Hopkins University). Johns Hopkins University.” Outside the line. he comments.” He has marked many other passages of text. Whitehead placed a vertical line next to the text that begins “But high-flying speculations like those of either dogmatic or idealistic theology. pp. Green and Co. and if you are never solitary.” (RM 16) On the cross-influences of James and Bergson. 1977. Among them. The Johns Hopkins University. 2 3 4 . 05/10/2001. At the end of the second full paragraph on p. 282 and 284. “La signification actuelle de la philosophie de James. a work that he carried on for more than twenty years with the support of Whitehead’s family. but without comments.. Special Collections. that was posthumously published by a non-Whiteheadian colleague. pp. personnal communication to the author. since Bergson and 4 James philosophical developments are so intertwined.” (Margaret Burri. Here is what we have been told with regard to Whitehead's copy of James's Varieties: “Whitehead's copy of James's Varieties contains only one marginal comment. 1953. Eisenhower Library. so far as it depends on the man himself and on what is permanent in the nature of things.” Revue internationale de philosophie 31. Unfortunately. […] Religion is solitariness. 329-350. 67è année. The first thing to be said with regard to his personal edition of the Varieties is that Whitehead has most certainly read them before delivering the Lowell Lectures of 1926 (that became Religion in the Making). consult the Alfred North Whitehead Collection Ms. as a part of the Victor Lowe’s legacy.
27. he was reading theology. T. where he lectured on Bergson and where Bergson himself lectured probably with Whitehead attending. Barrow and Frank J. C. At the expiry of these eight years he dismissed the subject and sold the books. Jack. This was all extracurricular. The Philosophy of Change. one could argue that he has always had time for a little bit of eclecticism and that “Does Consciousness Exist” (1904) might have attracted his attention at the time of its publication or perhaps when it was included in the ERE (1912). autour d'un petit nombre de solutions 3 4 . author of Henri 1 Bergson. Besides. Carr was the Honorary Secretary of the Aristotelian Society. 14 july 1921. together with all sorts of philosophical subject. Tipler. However. there was a correspondence between Whitehead’s friend and Aristotelian Society member Haldane and Bergson with regard to Haldane’s book on Einstein’s 2 theories of relativity. See for instance the letter of Bergson to Haldane. on tourne dans un certain cercle. Vol. p. Lowe reviews 3 that topic. Victor A. Herbert Wildon Carr. pp. Lowe. The Cosmological Anthropic Principle. Whitehead joined the Society in 1915.]. 112-145. Melbourne. Issued with correction as an Oxford University Press Paperback. George Sarton. when he was a member of the elitist Cambridge “Apostles” discussion group. 1911. the well-known historian of science has claimed that “original ideas are exceedingly rare and the most that philosophers have done in the 4 course of time is to erect a new combination of them. MS 5915 / ff. To flesh out a little bit what could appear as a purely gratuitous speculation. religious questions were discussed. 1986. Sarton. the philosopher could not be bothered with that field. op. & E.12 Michel Weber sense to claim that if he knew one he knew the other. Oxford University Press. G. He has perhaps read Sainte Beuve’s Portraits littéraires: “On retombe toujours. Oxford. More than this. K. New York. 68-70. Paris. but does not mention discussions of psychological concepts… besides telepathy. we learn from his Dialogues with Price that “during eight of these years in Cambridge [U.” This could be the 1 2 London/Edinburgh. 1988.. one is forced to conclude that before the 1925 Lowell Lectures. to be found at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh.” (D 13) And it is the case as well that during his student days. C. let us evoke the case of Whitehead’s interest in theology: if one considers only the published evidence. that Whitehead got intellectually acquainted with the Parisian philosopher. I. The story is here that it is through his personal friend. Furthermore. but so thorough that he amassed a sizable theological library. quoted by John D. which included a discussion of PNK and CN. cit.
his non dogmatism. downhill. Starting from that “pure” experience. however. in the history of metaphysics. The unmediated dialogue between experience and reason could then be broken to generate “second-order” speculations drifting from their shimmering experiential soil. 1. we have seen that two main features characterize the late Whitehead’s style: circumambulation and constructive discrimination. we see every so often the daring expression of direct personal insights into the ontological texture of our world. The remaining of this chapter intends to display the stylistic similarities between the two philosophers and the specific impacts of James on Whitehead. j'avouerais bien bas que je m'étonne qu'il le soit si peu. There is a nobleness of reason.2. All four traits are also Jamesian and underline the “atemporal” congeniality between the two philosophers.” (Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. vol. II. the blissful philosopher attempts to engineer a novel system of thought as worthy as possible of the founding event. In the first volume of Whitehead’s Pancreativism. Perhaps any fair assessment of the impact of the “borrowings” made by a given author needs to be preceded by a—hypothetical—answer to these basic hermeneutical puzzlings. rationalization brings forth contrasts and intensity in experience. Uphill. and it is linked with the fate of normal consciousness. The problem is that attempts at rationalization will probably borrow conceptualities and/or itself spur much secondary thinking. but a similar worldview takes shape in their works. On a coutume de s'étonner que l'esprit humain soit si infini dans ses combinaisons et ses portées. 1954.Whitehead’s Reading of James and its Context 13 case in his discipline. Stylistic Similarities Whitehead and James have different philosophical temperaments and backgrounds—the former remained basically an introverted British Victorian whereas the later was through and through an extrovert cosmopolitan—. 466) . p. But when speculations (“first-order” or “second-order”) are (re)directed toward the full thickness of lived experience. Here lies the pathology of thought. we additionally found his radical empiricism and. Whitehead adopts a methodological radical empiricism and considers pluralism as a matter of fact: qui se tiennent en présence et en échec depuis le commencement.
experience anxious and experience care-free. experience drowsy and experience wide-awake. we must appeal to evidence relating to every variety of occasion. Whitehead gives a Jamesian “extensive” definition: In order to discover some of the major categories under which we can classify the infinitely various components of experience. But ultimately your whole task is to satisfy it. “this epithet is. experience self-conscious and experience self-forgetful. Significantly enough. but a deduction through a chain of definitions which. One is to assert the world as a postulate. Nothing can be omitted. in a footnote. The other way is to obtain it as a deduction. of course. lifts thought on to a more abstract level in which the logical ideas are more complex. PR 50 specifying. experience drunk and experience sober. in fact.” and philosophy has to do justice to phenomena as they are given: “you may polish up commonsense. experience anticipatory and experience retrospective. (AE 163-4) His motto is as well “to forge every sentence in the teeth of irreducible and 1 stubborn facts. experience dominated by emotion and 1 2 William James writing to Henry James. which in our speculations we are to conceive as given. not a deduction through a chain of reasoning. rather than theorizing the question. experience intellectual and experience physical. There are roughly two rival explanations. experience happy and experience grieving.14 Michel Weber Fragmentary individual experiences are all that we know […] all speculation must start from these disjecta membra as its sole datum. and their relations are more universal. amid a democracy 2 of fellow creatures. experience religious and experience sceptical. In my view the creation of the world is the first unconscious act of speculative thought. as quoted by SMW 3. It is not true that we are directly aware of a smooth running world.” (AE 107) Now what exactly is given is itself a matter of debate in philosophy. and the first task of a self-conscious philosophy is to explain how it has been done. experience sleeping and experience waking.” “We find ourselves in a buzzing world. you may surprise it.” . borrowed from William James. you may contradict in detail.
3) The polar themes of clarity and vagueness are essential in Whitehead: cf. and retreating the remainder into an omitted background” (AI 43). There should be no pragmatic exclusion of self-evidence by dogmatic denial. the “pragmatic test” of SMW 50. Student Notes 1936–1937. RM 27. and the rare moments when our value notion is so indiscriminating that it is a mere throb of immediacy. 337. PR 13.Whitehead’s Reading of James and its Context experience under self-restraint. the well-known quote of Russell’s Portraits from Memory and Other Essays. by definition. experience normal and experience abnormal.” “pragmatic appeal to consequences” and the like (passim). we must look at all rare moments when we were near angels and near pigs. passim): the function of Reason is to promote the art of life.) Cf. it has been limited by arbitrary specialist assumptions. New York. 1956. To exemplify the circumambulative practice in a paragraph is difficult. Pragmatism is simply an appeal to that self-evidence which sustains itself in civilized experience. p. In much modern thought. 40 (“You think the world is what it looks in fine weather at noon day. (AI 226) 15 Let us furthermore note that the pragmatic consequences of concepts are 2 quite often evoked in his corpus and that the pragmatic function of reason is central in his eponymous book (FR. There is however only one occurrence giving his definition of “pragmatism”: This doctrine places philosophy on a pragmatic basis. Alfred North Whitehead Lecture. Unpublished.” (Frederick Olson. Thus pragmatism ultimately appeals to the wide self-evidence of civilization. because it is made of waves of arguments that are. to consult at Harvard’s Pusey: HUC 8923. or the “pragmatic appeal to the future. a vague feeling as when we fall asleep. the variations in our value experience. spread 1 An alternative formulation can be found in student’s notes taken during Whitehead’s classes: “You must survey all the sides of the universe. and to the self-evidence of what we mean by “civilization.” (MT 106) Adventures of Ideas remarks that “each mode of consideration is a sort of searchlight elucidating some of the facts. I think it is what it seems like in the early morning when one first wakes from deep sleep”—claimed Whitehead. 2 . It would be of course a topic of its own to precisely discriminate the variations of meaning of the concept in James and Whitehead’s respective minds. experience in the light and experience 1 in the dark.368. Simon and Schuster. 181. But the meaning of “pragmatism” must be given its widest extension.
4. The existence of some nonrational “remainder” (VRE 456) is directly linked to the linguistic position just discussed. scale and pace.16 Michel Weber over his entire corpus and do not even always use the same concepts. 22. Whitehead insists on the notion of rhythm: In approaching every work of art we have to comport ourselves suitably in regard to two factors. A rather straightforward example is nevertheless provided by the Function of Reason’s definitions of the “art of life” (cf. By so doing. (PR 4) With that regard. James and metaphysical intuitions are again in the hot seat. 18. quoted supra p. 8. 20). 26). Words and phrases must be stretched towards a generality foreign to their ordinary usage. Of course. According to Whitehead. When carving discriminalities. while discussing James's Varieties of Religious Experience. but his argument is intended to have a broader expressiveness. Mechanical learning of fragments of knowledge does not bring the mastering of knowledge. In his Aims of Education one also finds an interesting argument for a renewed educational expertise essentially consisting of a more focused training in key disciplines: students should get acquainted with a few essential (and interconnected) mathematical tools by actually applying them to various concrete problems. Philosophers can never hope finally to formulate […] metaphysical first principles. and it swings back from the private individual to the publicity of the objectified individual. Plato. Weakness of insight and deficiencies of language stand in the way inexorably.” (PR 151) Constructive discrimination expresses a typical mode of understanding of the nature and function of language. and however such elements of language be stabilized as technicalities. and the Odyssey becomes insipid if you read it at the rate of five lines a day. It is not fair to the architect if you examine St. they remain metaphors mutely appealing for an imaginative leap. he insisted that the difficulty of communication in words is but little realized (see D 271. he is especially concerned with the mathematical curriculum. (AE 70) This notion could furthermore be used to rebuild his entire percolative ontology: “the creative process is rhythmic: it swings from the publicity of many things to the individual privacy. When Whitehead claims that he is . Peter’s at Rome with a microscope. the mind grows far better than with classical training. pp. By the same token. we have to keep in mind the full concreteness of experience.
AI 223) 17 he has obviously in mind a dialectic similar to the one we have named with the trinomial “rational/irrational/nonrational. from a broader perspective. within the literary corpus. prose from poetry. Natural language is intrinsically ambiguous and intentional. as a matter of fact. In philosophical discussion. Of course. its countless equivocations have been very often disparaged. William James. the fully-fledged concreteness remains beyond it. (PR xiv) Speculative language is not glossolalia. This chapter has been mainly concerned with the latter. and orality from literature. screams. how shallow. The former is truly eventful. whatever our rational efforts are (whatever the thought system). which rightly or wrongly has been associated with it. the concept of “nonrational” points at the fact that. Anyway. the merest hint of dogmatic certainty as to finality of statement is an exhibition of folly. and 137). The public use of reason remains fully justified. His reinstatement of vagueness is already noticeable in the vague gestalts of “On Some Omissions of Introspective Psychology” (1884) and in his insistence on “the unclassified residuum” in his 1890 article on psychical research (see WB 299 sq.” The concept of “irrational” pictures the discrepancies of status of a given proposition treated in different thought systems. One of my preoccupations has been to rescue their type of thought from the charge of anti-intellectualism. cf.” metaphysics has still to draw all the consequences from the ultimate rational opacity of the brute facts (WB 90 and 143). (PR xii.Whitehead’s Reading of James and its Context also greatly indebted to Bergson. one has to acknowledge that to profess “irrationalism” per se is to claim that reason has no public weight— whereas the authors here mentioned are reluctant to confer that weight only in the private sphere. and. it makes the most of what one has to transform the emotional vividness of experience into the concreteness of a shared world. The same linguistic constraints do not hang over living speech and weighted writing. even at the speculative height that is PR: There remains the final reflection. and John Dewey. puny. etc.) from orality. and. its constitutive temporality explains its linearity (that can be of course modulated through repetitions and other rhetorical patterns). postures. it is far from being a pure logical entity.. Hence the professed non-dogmatism from which Whitehead never departed. which is like the systematic thunder after the experiential . Logic has been shaken by the existence of “formally undecidable propositions.. (A Porphyrian tree that can be reformed and complexified as one could wish). it is worth distinguishing the faculty of language (that can actualise itself in gestures. and imperfect are efforts to sound the depths in the nature of things.
the efficacy of language comes from its self-effacing ability in front of what it lures us. meaning has not been conveyed. Specific Impacts As far as we know.1.g. For instance. The intentionality opening the propositional entanglement to the world shields language from the danger of barren coherence. like an apathetic screen. p. as V. The intuitive grasping of the power of language is a nocturnal experience that sees the revelation of its faculty of making things rise from their absence. Tübingen. has repeatedly published on the matter but. The organization of a conceptual network revealing the ontological surplus asks a peculiar gesture made of invocatory repetitions and daring crosscheckings. eventually.18 Michel Weber lightning.. Ford. abstractions of all sorts. e. power 1 of manifestation of total anthropo-cosmic experiences. it is just a tissue of mutual cross-references.3. for one. L. the function of language is also apophantic. Epochal Theory of Time There has been—and still is—much fuss about the ins and out of Whitehead's adoption of an “ontological atomism” or “epochal theory of 2 time.” The first point to clarify is that he does not shift from a continuist 1 On the concept of “apophansis. In other words. Solely style can make the reader fall under the author’s spell and thereby lead him/her at the outskirts of an intuitive vision that remains nevertheless private. define anything. 33. a dictionary does not. and the definition of the concept of religion. Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit. Niemeyer. Its multifarious semantic potential is directly correlated with the stylistic managing of polysemiality and interanimation.” see. style stands out as the catalyst of the semantic process. only four explicit conceptual points of contact illustrate the dialogue of Whitehead with James: the epochal theory of time. analysis.S. the functional concept of consciousness. 1. That evocative capacity is a sort of implosive capacity: language has to die to give birth to meaning. out of the three degrees of freedom that have been sketched on their way towards concreteness. 1927. it is an art of the void that is requested. To the contrary. 1. Writing facilitates reflection. If it remains there. the concept of feeling. Lowe remarked straight away: “the result should be presented as no more than a 2 . writing somewhat drags language away from temporality and linearity. Making possible a very technical and variegated use of style. Semantic. properly speaking.3.
” The source is likely to have been Bixler’s Religion in the Philosophy of William James. Ch. 226 reviewing Ford’s The Emergence of Whitehead's Metaphysics. 17. Albany. the latter applies to the past logically possible history” (Lowe. Intellectually and on reflection you can divide these into components. “Ford's Discovery about Whitehead. Bixler. 1 Whitehead quotes Some Problems in Philosophy. then a valid argument remains. of no change. 1977. (PR 68) Whitehead basically agrees with James’ reading of Zeno. Now. p. it is only when the philosopher decides to further question the conditions of possibility of genuine eventfulness that he passes the gates into the ontological field. in connection with the presumption that an actual entity is an act of experience. but adds that if the parts that are the product of inadequate mathematical knowledge are corrected by infinitesimal calculus. Whitehead’s full answer comes with his cautious articulation of genetic and morphogenetic analyses: the former deals with the concrescing actuality and does not allow the use of infinitesimals. The authority of William James can be quoted in support of this conclusion.. 1926. Planck’s quantic thunder. though I do not think that he allows sufficiently for those elements in Zeno's paradoxes which are the product of inadequate mathematical knowledge. He writes: “Either your experience is of no content. State University of New York Press. In support of his contention that there is a “becoming of continuity”—and no “continuity of becoming” (PR 35)—Whitehead especially refers to James’ SPP: These conclusions are required by the consideration of Zeno's arguments.” International Philosophical Quarterly. and James’ interpretation of Zeno’s everlasting antinomies. 1984). In substance I agree with his argument from Zeno. the reason for adopting a (refurbished) ontological atomism is plural but can be easily triangulated with Leibniz’ monadology. Your acquaintance with reality grows literally by buds or drops of perception. the footnote adds: “my attention was drawn to this passage by its quotation in Religion in The Philosophy of William James. But I agree that a valid argument 1 remains after the removal of the invalid parts. 1925–1929. but as immediately given. . by Professor J. S. X. 251-264. New York.Whitehead’s Reading of James and its Context 19 ontology to an atomistic one: his early inquiries outspokenly refuse to question the mystery of the coming-to-be and passing-away. pp. Marshall Jones Co. they come totally or not at all.” James also refers to Zeno. Vol. or it is of a perceptible amount of content or change. Boston.
. More precisely. that James’ Principles of Psychology also featured a revival of the Humean thesis of the relativity and contingency of the laws of nature: “The Laws of Nature are nothing but the immutable habits which the different elementary sorts of matter follow in their actions and reactions upon each other.3. Curiously.g. liberty and novelty. every one of which presents a content which in its individuality never was before and will never be again.” Time keeps building into new moments. for epistemology as well as ontology. the laws of physics are the mere “outcome of the social environment” (PR 204): “The characteristic laws of inorganic matter are mainly the statistical averages resulting from confused aggregates. allowing both for the irruption of the unheard and its echoing in an ever-fluctuating cosmic tissue. by the way. of final and efficient causation. Independently existing “substances” with simple location are replaced by strings of buds of experience (Whitehead speaks of nexuses of “actual entities”). (SPP 147-148) Hence his use of the concept of contiguity in a radical empiricist way (e.” (PP I 104) 1.” (SMW 110) Let us note. thereby allowing a complete reformation of the oldfashioned philosophical substantialism and of its heir. save to bring the different. Process and Reality is entirely built upon the adoption of ontological percolation. As a result.20 Michel Weber actualities and provides the conditions of possibility of the infinite divisibility of actualities in transition.” (FR 26) The problem of the meshing of the discontinuous and the continuous is vital for psychology as well as philosophy. Contiguism According to Whitehead. of freedom and determinism? James saw as well that “novelty seems to violate continuity” and that “continuity seems to involve ‘infinitely’ shaded gradation” (SPP 153): “The same returns not. the atomization of the act of experience is of tremendous importance. ERE 108. From the perspective of the postmodern significance of Whitehead's thought. How is it possible to categorialize the socialization of present and past actualities. PU 359 and MT 175 but also WB 246). and that I . he does not raise here the more fundamental issue that is the theorisation of the fitness (the matchness?) of mathematics to the concrete. and in societies of societies. “it is obvious that pragmatism is nonsense apart from final causation. It seals a mutual requirement between epochality. the actual entities are hierarchized in societies. scientific materialism.2. that is implicitely introduced when Whitehead socializes his epochal actualities.
Consciousness The renewal of the concepts of consciousness and ego-soul is of course in the continuation of the aforementioned issue of the ontological conditions of possibility of a total cosmic processualization. Whitehead has done his homework here: The two modern philosophers who most consistently reject the notion of a self-identical Soul-Substance are Hume and William James. maintaining itself amidst the welter of circumstance.3. The .Whitehead’s Reading of James and its Context 21 have extensively (no pun intended) used myself. Whitehead’s technical answer lies in the asymmetrical structure secured by vector-like relationships.” a concept that expresses for him “the primary activity at the basis of experience. On the occasion of the examination of Bradley's notion of “feeling. To some degree we seem able to lapse into this inarticulate feeling at moments when our tension is entirely dispersed. For example in the first chapter he writes. so far as we have it at all. as it does for the philosophy of organism. this higher consciousness about things is called Perception. 1. The proximity with the Jamesian concept of “pure experience” is plain obvious. (AI 186-187) In other words.” the connection is established with James: I may add that William James also employs the word in much the same sense in his Psychology.” And in the second chapter he writes. His more intuitive conceptualisation lies in his extended use of the concept of feeling. the mere inarticulate feeling of their presence is Sensation. if you allow the destruction of the substantialistic platform. But the problem remains for them.3. Transitions are felt relations. “In general.” he qualifies that naked awareness as an “experience itself in its origin and with the minimum of analysis” (AI 231). “Sensation is the feeling of first things. “Feelings” are the internal-external (vectorial) relationships that grant both the interdependence of all actual entities and their idiosyncratic atomicity. a difficult conceptual reconstruction—the replacement of the entitative concept of consciousness by a functional if not a serial one—has to take place in order to interpret the continuity evidenced by our experience.” (AI 231) The concept of feeling occupies a decisive place in Whitehead's lexicon. Referring to Bradley’s “inclusive whole. to provide an adequate account of this undoubted personal unity.
which he refuses to apply to consciousness. Take for example these two sentences from his essay: “To deny plumply that 'consciousness' exists seems so absurd on the face of it—for undeniably 'thoughts' do exist—that I fear some readers will follow me no farther. The notion of 'entity' is so general that it may be taken to mean anything that can be thought about. but there is a function in experience which thoughts perform. In the sentence which immediately follows the one which I have already quoted. he goes on in comparing Descartes' Discourse on Method with James’ Does Consciousness Exist: No doubt Descartes only expressed definitely and in decisive form what was already in the air of his period. the character which James assigns to consciousness is fully discussed. and the something which is an object of thought may be called an . But. with Descartes' Discourse on Method. James clears the stage of the old paraphernalia. Does Consciousness Exist published in 1904.” Thus James is denying that consciousness is a 'stuff'. admitting this. published in 1637. but to insist most emphatically that it does stand for a function. The term 'entity. Analogously. Whitehead is very level-headed in his reading. are known. he says: “There is.22 Michel Weber death of the Cartesian Ego is evoked in length by Whitehead. But he does not unambiguously explain what he means by the notion of an entity. I mean. or to any one author” (SMW 143). out of which our thoughts of them are made.” (SMW 143) As usual. You cannot think of mere nothing.' or even that of 'stuff. That function is knowing. Let me then immediately explain that I mean only to deny that the word stands for an entity. He further critically remarks: In the essay in question. Although “it is an exaggeration to attribute a general change in a climate of thought to any one piece of writing. no aboriginal stuff or quality of being. in attributing to William James the inauguration of a new stage in philosophy we should be neglecting other influences of his time. 'Consciousness' is supposed necessary to explain the fact that things not only are. there still remains a certain fitness in contrasting his essay. contrasted with that of which material objects are made. and for the performance of which this quality of being is invoked. or rather he entirely alters its lighting. but get reported.' does not fully tell its own tale.
j. I shall for my own purposes construe James as denying exactly what Descartes asserts in his Discourse and his Meditations. They each of them open an epoch by their clear formulation of terms in which thought could profitably express itself at particular stages of knowledge. Notre Dame./Humanities Press Inc.g. Their great merit is of the opposite sort.. This point made. that could be read.: The One and the Many.. in the full sense which Descartes assigns to the word “cogitare. Indiana. is a clear definition and a sharp analysis of the concept of substance that is discarded. the Modern one insists rather on what exists/stands by itself and is directly correlated with a theological hypothesis (God as an independent existent unaffected by time). the other for the twentieth 1 See.” (SMW 144) Following James in this. (SMW 144) 23 What James’ argument lacks. in a “process” 1 fashion. the essence of soul is its cogitation. s. this is not what James had in his mind. The Nature of Physical Existence.Whitehead’s Reading of James and its Context entity. 2001. let us go on: In agreement with the organic theory of nature which I have been tentatively putting forward in these lectures. Whitehead does not really distinguish between these two concepts and mainly attacks the modern one from the perspective of its neglect of time (“fallacy of simple location”) and because of the bifurcations it installs. a function is an entity. Ivor Leclerc. some scholars have argued that it is totally illegitimate to apply the criticism designed for the Modern concept to the Greek or Medieval one. He concludes: The reason why I have put Descartes and James in close juxtaposition is now evident. The Greek concept insists on what is permanent in change (basically. George Allen and Unwin Ltd. Whitehead thus focuses only on the Modern concept. London/New York. The essence of matter is spatial extension. or the last book of William Norris Clarke. says Whitehead. Obviously. it seems. Neither philosopher finished an epoch by a final solution of a problem. . 1972. In this sense. e. Now. one for the seventeenth century. University of Notre Dame Press. matter and soul. But Whitehead is identifying here a “blind spot” laming as well his own writings: one cannot find in the Whiteheadian corpus a discussion of the proximity and differences existing between the shades of meaning of the Greek and Medieval concepts of substance and of the Modern one. A Contemporary Thomistic Metaphysics. Descartes discriminates two species of entities. it is the question of the “ousia”).
do not chiefly direct your attention to those intellectual positions which its exponents feel it necessary explicitly to defend. the debate. Lowe. pp. With these assumptions a certain limited number of types of philosophic systems are possible. they are both to be contrasted with St.2. cit.” in George L. op.24 Michel Weber century. In this respect. the vast majority of philosophical texts use the understanding of the author’s peers to contrast and sharpen a personal vision. 126. Thomas Aquinas. It is mainly Hartshorne who has made that misleading claim—that is totally foreign to Whitehead’s corpus.” A more sophisticated assessment of that crucial question is postponed until section 6. and this group of systems constitutes the philosophy of the epoch. at least so far as concerns their relations to the science of their times. I should be disposed to ascribe these positions to Locke and to Bergson respectively. 1 Victor A. There will be some fundamental assumptions which adherents of all the variant systems within the epoch unconsciously presuppose.). 1 and was not happy when his student—myself for one—did so. “The Concept of Experience in Whitehead’s Metaphysics. p.. as it is settled by Descartes. When you are criticising the philosophy of an epoch—urges Whitehead—. 124-133. (SMW 48) Second. Kline (ed. in opposition with the dogmatic trend discoverable in some thinkers. who expressed the culmination of Aristotelian scholasticism. In many ways neither Descartes nor James were the most characteristic philosophers of their respective epochs. James and Whitehead. There is one remaining question that ought to be treated: quid of the possible influence of Jamesian panpsychism on the late Whitehead? The simplest answer is: since there is no such thing as a Whiteheadian panpsychism. but rather a typical one for two main reasons. trying to specify James’ impact at that level would be like probing a conceptual mirage. . First. Such assumptions appear so obvious that people do not know what they are assuming because no other way of putting things has ever occurred to them.2. remains open. (SMW 147) The debate between Descartes and James is not a final one. Alfred North Whitehead. As Lowe says: “Whitehead did not call his pluralistic metaphysics a panpsychism.
Definition of Religion James’ heuristic definition of religion is well-known: Religion […] shall mean for us the feelings. Religion is what the individual does with his own solitariness. a far more embarrassing one. and if you are never solitary. (VRE 31) Whitehead has meditated that text (to which he refers in his Dialogues: cf.Whitehead’s Reading of James and its Context 25 1. Religion qua social construct does not have the depth of meaning that religiousness has. What furthermore strikes the reader is the common insistence on solitude. But what exactly happens then to the all-embracing interconnectedness both authors argue for? James’ understanding of the homo religiosus is the topic of chapter 5. so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine. This does not mean that religious institutions are not worth debating: it is simply another debate. consciously alone with itself. (RM 16) Both Whitehead and James discard religion qua institution as the object of their thoughts. for its own sake. acts.4.3. that is further qualified as subsidiary. you are never religious. […] All collective emotions leave untouched the awful ultimate fact. so far as it depends on the man himself and on what is permanent in the nature of things. and experiences of individual man in their solitude. […] Religion is solitariness. supra) and so he writes in RM: Religion is the art and theory of the internal life of man. . This doctrine is the direct negation of the theory that religion is primarily a social fact. which is the human being.