Michel Weber Whitehead's Pancreativism Jamesian Applications Process Thought volume VIII

Contents
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!

1922. 1906. Principia Mathematica. The Interpretation of Science. 1929 (Free Press. 1934. 1898. 1925–1927). Philosophical Lib. The Function of Reason. The Principle of Relativity. Religion in the Making. Cambridge. A Treatise on Universal Algebra. Principles of Natural Knowledge. 1967). 1919/1925 (Dover. Edition. Macmillan. “On Cardinal Numbers. 1978). 1982). 1917. 1958). Cambridge. 1925 (Free Press. of Mathematics. 1967). 1961. Macmillan. 1933 (Free Press. 1927. 1907. Bobbs-Merrill Co. 1929 (Beacon Press.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.” American J. 1926. . 1956). 1967).” Mind. 1911 (Oxford. Williams and Norgate. 1920 (Cambridge. Validation. “On Mathematical Concepts of the Material World. 1954 (Mentor Book. 1902. Classes. 1929 (Free Press Corr. The Organisation of Thought. 1910–1913 (Cambridge. Modes of Thought. Numbers.” 1906. The Axioms of Projective Geometry. Dialogues..” Revue de Méta. 1958). Symbolism. Process and Reality. Science and the Modern World. The Aims of Education.. “La théorie relationniste de l’espace. The Concept of Nature. 1916. Cambridge. Essays in Science and Philosophy. 1947. An Introduction to Mathematics. 1964).. 1968). Cambridge. Its Meaning and Effect. Lucien Price. 1938 (Free Press. Adventures of Ideas. “Indication.

1920. Harvard U. Briefer Course. Little. 1996). Exceptional Mental States. Collected Essays and Reviews. 1911. Atlantic Monthly Press. Some Problems of Philosophy. Manuscripts. 1935. Memories and Studies. Essays in Radical Empiricism. 1920. 1912 (Bison Books. Longmans. 1996). Charles Scribner's Sons. Press. Brown. Essays in Philosophy. 1907 (Longmans. 1892 (Henry Holt.. The Meaning of Truth. 1982. Press. 1988. 1982. Press. 1986. Essays in Religion and Morality. 1916). A Pluralistic Universe. 1902. 1909. 1996). 1897. 1911 (Bison Books. 1890 (Dover Pub. Essays and Notes. Harvard U. 1920). 1950). Talks to Teachers and Students. Harvard University Press. The Principles of Psychology. The Varieties of Religious Experience. Pragmatism. Henry Holt. The Will to Believe. Longmans. 1899. Longmans.Abbreviations—James BC CER EMS EP EPR ERE ERM MS MEN MT Letters P PP PU SPP TT VRE WB Perry Psychology. . 1909 (Bison Books. 1978. Essays in Psychical Research. Longmans. Longmans. Harvard U. Thought and Character of William James. The Letters of William James.

1 (Edited by Leslie Stephen and Frederick Pollock. I have sought to quote the most accessible editions. this surely is the ideal. however. London. Their respective thought developments. 174. One could speak of a process pragmatic pluralism to suggest the visionary community that was the direct by-product of the anti-Spencerian Zeitgeist. 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. 1879) is reprinted in his CER 138. spring from a similar radical empiricism feeding a pragmatic method making sense in the very same ontological direction. According to the latter. 2 . Bergson’s (1859– 1941) and Whitehead’s (1861–1947) worldviews has often been noted but rarely studied in detail. passion with correctness. Peirce. See the Abbreviations for the references to the editions I am using. the factual systematic correlation and even Wahlverwandtschaften of Peirce’s (1839–1914). albeit genuinely personal. To think them together offers the possibility of activating one of the very rare possible synergies between first-rate philosophers. See the Bergson and Whitehead issue of Process Studies. It seems to me that this mysterious unison is nowhere as evident as in Plato.. Auxier (Volume 28/3-4. 1999) and MT vii. that their respective categories can be carelessly put side by side). Bergson and Whitehead. fervor with 1 measure. MacMillan and Co. William James has claimed that The union of the mathematician with the poet. a chaosmotic mood that will be sketched during our inquiry. 2 philosophy is indeed both akin to algebraic calculus and to poetry… Moreover.0 Preface In his review of Clifford’s Lectures and Essays. James’ (1842–1910). edited by Randall E. Leibniz. 50. That community should be expanded of course 1 James’ review of William Kingdon Clifford’s Lectures and Essays Vol.

the John Harvard University. § 19. Peirce. Although it is also present. Whitehead has successively taught at Trinity College (Cambridge). on the other. Dewey (1859–1952). I. we are forced to acknowledge the existence of a mysterium conjunctionis between two psychic opposites: on the one hand. 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. in 2 Peirce’s phaneroscopy and in Husserl’s imperative to return to thing 3 themselves (“Zurück zu den Sachen selbst” ). has been adopted by numerous scholars in the late XIXth and early XXth century. On the one hand. downstream to J. 2 3 . temporal and psychological). 1. Cambridge. the pragmatic standpoint. As a matter of interest. Tireless polygraph. edited by Michel Weber and Will Desmond and published by ontos verlag in 2008. University College and Imperial College of Science and Technology (London). Enzo 1 Paci (1911–1976) in Italy and Jean Wahl (1888–1974) in France. Max Niemeyer. and eventually at the other Cambridge. S. their late philosophical vision is basically the same. Jahrbuch für Philosophie und phämenologische Forschung. 1931. § 284. Harvard University Press. that cannot be severed from the triple opening that defines post-modernity (spatial. Adirondack Lectures (1905). the one of the State of Massachusetts. he framed in Harvard a revolutionary ontology in “anti-metaphysical” times par excellence (1924–1947). where he taught physiology and anatomy (1873). Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phämenologische Philosophie. and to more processually eccentric figures such as Philippe Devaux (1902–1979) in Belgium. i. who has kept an archeological temperament of sorts. radical empiricism embodies James’ central trait. edited by Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss. to a certain extent.e.. Halle. after a distinguished career of algebraist and logicist (1891– 1913). 1913.viii Michel Weber to immediate fellows: upstream to James Ward (1843–1925) and G. psychology (1876–1889) and philosophy (1881–1907)—with periods where these fields overlapped. On the other hand. William James has spent his entire academic career at Harvard. the philosophical temperaments differ slightly. If we focus especially on the proximity existing between James and Whitehead. Alexander (1859–1938) and Bertrand Russell (1872–1970). For his part. Husserl. Fechner (1801–1887). James’ motto all experiences 1 Such a global contextualization has been attempted in the biographical entries featured by the Handbook of Whiteheadian Process Thought. of philosopher of natural science (1914–1923). t. in Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce. Vol.

XIth edition. Whitehead. vol.” in Encyclopaedia Britannica.’ I am creating for the purpose of thought the objects ‘I’ and ‘the landscape’—and so on. p. 85-89). heavily relied upon imagination with that regard. 15. pp. London and New York. Alfred North Whitehead. As soon as I think ‘I perceive the landscape. like Whitehead. In other words. 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. 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. Objects are only for thought. pp. 1929. 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. a little ætiological reminder. First. 881. only James relativizes the normal state of consciousness through experience. For instance. Cf. Cambridge. 1908. 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. 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. but all of which essays were written in the years 1904–1905). Cambridge University Press. James’ pragmatism is also discussed in the unpublished Whitehead-Russell correspondance. 1929. 1910–1911. 17. “no facts”) seems to me by far their strongest thrust. in his letter to Russell of January 5. . sub verso “Mathematics. for one. 878-883. and later reprinted in ESP.e. Peirce.Préface ix and only experiences (ERE) has been throughly enforced only by James himself. 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. Nature of” in the XIVth edition (vol. they are the form by which thought represents the alien complex of sensation. reprinted under the title “Mathematics. 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.

This contrast is only for heuristic purposes and two further points deserve to be made straight away. . imaginative systematiser.” in Ronny Desmet and Michel Weber (edited by). Having said this. Thus for truth the objects of thought are partly arbitrary within the limits necessary to secure the two harmonies. All I mean is that 1 I do not see how it is refuted on the lines laid down in your article. when all is said and done. Secundo.) Hence his famous quote could apply. 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. I allude to the wealth of general ideas scattered through them. the two philosophers were equally lonely. 2010. pp. his wide opportunities for experience at a great period of civilization. mutatis mutandis. 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). they are merely in thought. Applied Process Metaphysics Summer Institute Memorandum. 172-173. Whitehead. introvert. Perhaps that. when Whitehead claimed that Plato had intuitioned all philosophical problems and provided hints (even sometimes contradictory hints) to solve them. his inheritance of an intellectual tradition not yet stiffened by excessive systematization. an extravert and experimental genius—whereas Whitehead was a British. as they are in fact. because the objects themselves are not in fact. Primo. His personal endowments. The Algebra of Metaphysics. Éditions Chromatika. Louvain-laNeuve. I am quite prepared to hear that the pragmatist position as thus sketched is too hopeless to require refutation. the year of Whitehead’s birth. I do not mean the systematic scheme of thought which scholars have doubtfully extracted from his writings. have made his writing an inexhaustible mine of 1 Quoted by Ronny Desmet’s “A Refutation of Russell’s Stereotype. to Peirce: The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.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. the temperamental contrast can be sketched with the help of the following pairs of concepts: James was a cosmopolitan USAmerican.

He was equally in love with experience itself. hypnosis…). All he wrote was taped from the depths of his own experiences (some of them being borderline: neurosis.Préface suggestion. there is in all sections of the population a warm-hearted kindness which is unsurpassed in any large social system. intoxications. which underlies the American Constitution and other various forms of democratic government. there is a zeal for knowledge which is reminiscent of the great periods of Greece and the Renaissance. with its intrinsic opacity and even with the danger of its off-limits intercourse. But above all. very eager to vulgarize science.” (ESP 114) “I do feel that if a man is going to do his best he ought to live in America. but they are always shrewd. always helpful. we should have to set about the construction of a philosophy of organism. because of that always delightful mixture of shrewdness and warmheartedness.” (ESP 65) 2 . usually in a more pedestrian manner. and that is what makes for me the continual delight of living in America. 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. Thus in one sense by stating my belief that the train of thought in these lectures is Platonic. outgoing. by James. in science.” (ESP 14) “Americans are always warm-hearted.” the fact remains that he was truly a citizen of the (Western) world. and it is why when I meet an American I always expect to like him. (PR 39-40) xi To put it differently: all the intuitions that Peirce always tried to systematically unfold and that were put at work. because there the treatment of any effort is such that it stimulates everything that is eager in one. fluent in French and German. always appreciative. 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. someone who was straightforward.” (ESP 115) “This is the justification of that liberalism. 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. If it is safe enough to characterize James’ works as “American. On the other hand. I am doing no more than expressing the hope that it falls within the European tradition. perhaps gained a second systematic life in Whitehead. that zeal for freedom. and in religion. in aesthetic attainments.

97) 2 3 .” (Albert Einstein. Neither had a real philosophical scholarly background: philosophy was for them primarily a matter of a dialogue with their contemporaries. 150. Volume I: 1861–1910. “I believe in intuition and inspiration… At times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason. giving birth to evolution.”1 He read French and German. Lowe. vol. In fact I would have been astonished that it turned out otherwise. I was not in the least surprised. strictly speaking. The Johns Hopkins University Press. p. whereas imagination embraces the entire world. Whatever relative truth James digged out through (often painful) experiences. 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. Granting that it is altogether of little heuristic value to understand the James-Whitehead lineage as the “genius” and his “epigone. 1985 & 1990. “Opinions and Aphorisms. It is not just a matter 1 ESP 115. stimulating progress. but it is a key to understand 3 thinkers such as James and Whitehead (or Einstein ).” the fact remains that their temperamental difference. A.” (ib. but probably only in technical materials. New York. It is. Schneewind). Both explicitly argued that science depends upon metaphysics: James since “The Knowing of Things Together” (1894) and Whitehead since SMW (1925). Maryland and London.xii Michel Weber typical example of the Victorian Englishman. community of vision and legacies allow such an interpretational short-circuit—provided that it remains critical.N. With other Opinions and Aphorisms.) Victor A. Volume II: 1910–1947 (edited by J. II. When the eclipse of 1919 confirmed my intuition.2 He certainly accepted the radical empiricism promoted by the life and thought of his illustrious predecessor in Harvard. 1931. merely one of a group. an eminent Cambridge tradition promptly actualized in Harvard. Moreover. For knowledge is limited. Whitehead. Covici / Friede Publishers. Whitehead reached through (apparently painless) imaginative generalizations. Baltimore. Lowe has aptly claimed that Whitehead was a loner with many good friends but no confidant. B. The Man and His Work. On Science” in Cosmic Religion. p. Imagination is more important than knowledge. but did so in a less existential manner: experiences that were out of his reach were “simply” imagined. 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. a real factor in scientific research. “I am exactly an ordinary example of the general tone of the Victorian Englishman.

2 3 . 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. i. 3-4. and metaphysics under the category of creativity in Harvard.” Tijdschrift voor Filosofie. but partial. no. James is animated by a constant desire to cope with the (individual) total existential risk. pp. 1913.Préface xiii of pointing at Bergson’s influence on both of them.e. analyses of James A. On the one hand. pp. 253-271. 2002. See the interesting. 1961. both accepted all experiences as valid matters of facts. ‘categories. Whitehead’s is piloted by an archaeological quest correlated to his eschatological agnosticism (the same remark holds).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). At all costs. In other words. “The attitude of looking away from first things. Bradley: “The Speculative Generalization of the Function. 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. XIII. “The Notion of Truth in Bergson’s Theory of Knowledge. fasc. 64. “Le bergsonisme de Whitehead. it is pursued for its Emersonian transfigurative virtue. The concrete many-sidedness of experience is of primordial importance to him. 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. vol. In XXth century parlance: neurosis has to be abolished at the risk of psychosis. Out of this journey. principles. 56-57. both wrote in order to recreate these fleeting experiential anchorings in the reader’s mind. facts” (P 5455). and of looking toward last things. two speculative loci appear of particular importance: the ontological status of extension and of propositional functions. geometry as a physical science in London. Unfortunately.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society. XV. Philippe Devaux.. Whitehead’s is a little bit more shy with regard to its existential implementation. Cf. starting points for philosophical generalizations. 217-236. His philosophy is not only concerned with life as it is lived and with its pragmatic improvement. but of naming their radical empiricism and the tropism towards systematization that animates their writings. 1 Lizzie Susan Stebbing. on the other. pp.” Revue Internationale de Philosophie. A Key to Whitehead.’ supposed necessities. but so is the discovery of a complete formalism. consequences. 224-256. fruits.

Of the First Principles of Government. is not merely inhumane (nobody cares much about that nowadays). because they love their servitude. on opinion only that government is founded. no reason why the new totalitarianisms should resemble the old. in present-day totalitarian states. as Force is always on the side of the governed. 1758 Aldous Huxley. This involves in practice the destruction of all opinions. Hammersmith. the governors have nothing to support them but opinion.2 1 2 David Hume. Besides Plato. 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. as Huxley argued in 1946: There is. When we inquire by what means this wonder is effected. to ministries of propaganda. mass imprisonment and mass deportation. It is. therefore. But their methods are still crude and unscientific. newspaper editor and schoolteachers. 1994). His concern is amplified by techno-scientific progress. the destruction of all lies. of its duty and visionary weights. and this maxim extends to the most despotic and the most military governments as well as to the most free 1 and most popular. 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.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. . we shall find that. Hume provides an early background and Huxley a powerful recent exemplification for this argument. of course. and the implicit submission with which men resign their own sentiments and passions to those of their rulers. by artificial famine. inefficiency is the sin against the Holy Ghost. it is demonstrably inefficient—and in an age of advanced technology. HarperCollins. To make them love it is the task assigned. With an introduction by David Bradshaw. Government by clubs and firing squads. “Foreword” [1946] of Brave New World [1932].

Nothing can be omitted. I have contracted many intellectual debts. Sprigge (1932–2007). cf. and Sergio Franzese (1963–2010). the next three chapters seek to understand Whitehead with the help of James’ main intuitions. for his part. Peter H. experience intellectual and experience physical […]. experience drunk and experience sober. and to adumbrate how Whitehead can help us understand the stakes of James’ works. the most enduring ones being perhaps to Pierfrancesco Basile. I would also like to dedicate this book. Whitehead's Pancreativism—The Basics has provided tools to understand Whitehead secundum Whitehead. experience self-conscious and experience self-forgetful. Ronny Desmet and Anderson Weekes. Even though Whitehead is obviously. experience drowsy and experience wide-awake. whose untimely death has left an aching void in Italian process pragmatism. with whom I have created the European William James Project in 2001. It will be a pragmatic dialogue looking for two types of synergy: to establish the relevance of a Jamesian background to read Whitehead. L.”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. the last three chapters provide some applications of that synergy. by simultaneity…? For sure. to the memory of T. “nothing can be omitted. we must appeal to evidence relating to every variety of occasion. by immediate senseperception. AI 222) . (AI 226. Hare (1935–2008). The general train of thought of this monograph has been established in the years 1999–2004. We now seek to bring him in dialogue with James. hoping for some transfigurative virtue.Préface xv Hence. 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. all social narratives that prevent liberation from the not always obvious oppressive powers have to be obliterated. experience sleeping and experience waking. Over the years. the book follows a triadic structure: the first three chapters adopt the vantage point of Whitehead to assess James. famous for his dogmatic pluralism (!). as imperfect as it is. What do we mean by space-time. In order to keep our argument tight. All three were 1 In order to discover some of the major categories under which we can classify the infinitely various components of experience. who was the leading figure of the William James Society (WJS) before the publication of the Society became William James Studies (2006–). he remains more discrete on these shores. created and nurtured by Randall Albright. S. when I was a regular contributor to the Streams of William James.

before launching our argument.1 Similarly. 1 “Seek simplicity and distrust it.” in ESP 96.” (PP II 369) Speculative philosophy is no easy task. James has claimed that “the art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.) .” (CN 163) “Exactness is a fake.” (“Immortality. Finally.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. 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.

Have you read Ralph Perry’s book (2 1 So has I. Russell is explicitely excluding philosophers still alive from this assesment: Whitehead. My belief is that the effective founders of the Renaissance are Charles Peirce and William James. An Open Question. 181-187). it is interesting to remember that in Russell’s 1950 essay “Eminent Men I have Known. though the time-order does not correspond.” James is said to be “the most personally impressive” philosopher. With that regard. It is in much the same position as mediaeval scholasticism in the year 1400 A.1 Introduction Whitehead’s Reading of James and Its Context When Bertrand Russell visited Harvard in 1936. and cannot make any worthwhile use of the results of nineteenth century scholarship. European philosophy has gone dry.P. either because the essay was written before 1949. “there were two heroes in 1 his lectures—Plato and James. Cohen told H. is not mentioned at all. and “this was in spite of a complete naturalness and absence of all apparent consciousness of being a great man” (Bertrand Russell. Putnam: cf. Oxford / Cambridge. Routledge. Unpopular Essays [1950]. London. p. 6. the exact same could be said of his former mentor Whitehead. . W. Whitehead wrote the following to his assistant Hartshorne.J. Pragmatism. Precisely the same year. 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. Hilary Putnam. B. 1995. pp. It is in chains to the sanctified presuppositions derived from later Greek thought. and the analogy must not be pressed too far. is the analogue to Plato.D. 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). to Aristotle. and C.” Although this claim should be carefully examined in itself. with many others. Of these men. Blackwell. 1995.

J. W. Poincaré’s inflections) and the nascent quantum mechanics (M. N. the totality disclosed by the naturalism of Ficinus (Theologia Platonica de immortalitate animae. a third Renaissance is taking place in America in the XXth century. G. Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University] . W. Naturalistic humanism is back. The Peircean turning-about of 1878 and its Jamesian echo in 1907 seek to undo the supernaturalism of the second Renaissance (Mersenne. 1963). 1623) and Andreae (Christianopolis. Whitehead: Essays on His Philosophy (Englewood-Cliffs. . Bohr). tertio. but James is its hart. philosophical movements articulate themselves around two main characters: the genius who inaugurates them. 1619). Minkowski’s and H. Pico della Mirandola (De hominis dignitate. G. 1936. his middle period especially tackles electromagnetism (M. volens nolens. [A Collection of Papers by Nine Younger American Philosophers. Maxwell). Peirce might be the brain of this revolution.). Leibniz’s and Russell’s shadows should not be forgotten). G. Poincaré’s and H.. extending to Einstein’s theories of relativity (including H.’s pragmatic descendants have been doing their best to trivialize his meanings in the notions of Radical Empiricism. Philosophical Essays for Alfred North Whitehead. The Festschrift in question is: Filmer Stuart Cuckow Northrop (et al. H. Grassmann. 1486). Former Students of A. Rationalization. the late Whitehead also shows the 1 The letter.J.C. Longmans. London.. 1482). Gassendi) and to recover. Riemann.N. Inc. Whitehead. Bruno (La cena de le ceneri. Hamilton. that was first printed in George Louis Kline’s A. Campanella (Civitas Solis. Also he expressed himself by the 1 dangerous method of over-statement. and the systematiser who gives form and expands the founding intuitions of the former (PR 57 and 73). Faraday. Whitehead was too humble to consider himself as more than a systematiser of other’s intuitions. is reprinted in full in Lowe II. Descartes. It is reminiscent of the Platonic Dialogues. was weak on Rationalization. 345 sq. it makes plain that philosophy has to be in medias res. According to the author of Process and Reality. Cantor.) on James? It is a wonderful disclosure of the living repercussions of late 19th century thought on a sensitive genius. Whitehead makes three outstanding claims here. Boole.2 Michel Weber vols. 1584). 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. Pragmatism. N. Planck. Primo. Peano. Green and Co. J. secundo. Prentice-Hall. But I admit W.

2009. an obvious fourfold influence on his later speculations. 111-129. F. Leibniz. Aristotle. Leibniz. Bergson. It argues from the texts themselves. Poinat (éd. L.Whitehead’s Reading of James and its Context 3 influence of contemporary thinkers: S. Locke. H. This chapter attempts to quote all the explicit occurrences of James in 1 Whitehead’s corpus and to weave them into a synthetic argument. 4. and.1. Kant. T.” Streams of William James. Henderson. Fall 2003. J. Vol. et leurs contemporains. General Background The above list of thinkers is not exhaustive at all.1. Issue 3. Santayana and J.H. 1.” William James Studies. Descartes.J. pp. Ward. Noesis. McTaggart. pp. Bradley. Benmakhlouf et S. though each of them made important contributions to the structure of philosophic system. Broad. . Whitehead. A synoptic survey of Whitehead’s references to James can furthermore be found in Scott Sinclair’s “William James as American Plato?. pp. 251-268. W. Issue 1.” in A. (MT 2) Let us review each philosopher. 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.H. Whitehead puts emphasis on one “supreme master of thought” (PR 39) rather than another. as he himself testified: In Western literature there are four great thinkers. Spring 2002. according to the circumstances. factually putting into brackets previous inquiries dealing with Whitehead’s Jamesian legacy. Dewey. There is. 13.D. the systems of Aristotle.” (iii) “specific impacts. In the background. Galileo. 26-31.” (ii) “stylistic similarities. Mead.1. however. C. G.). 2009. The argument unfolds in three sections: (i) “general background. whose services to civilized thought rest largely upon their achievements in philosophical assemblage. Newton and Plato stand out as well. 1822 and Volume 5. Volume 4. These men are Plato. James. P. Alexander. and William James. Quine. pp.” 1. Nunn. G. See also my “Whitehead et James: conditions de possibilité et sources historiques d'un dialogue systématique. Hume. J.

and the fifth and tenth books of the Laws. (PR 39) Notice his derogatory assessment of the systematization of Plato (something German scholars have been prone to attempt. Whitehead found the Timæus. 1995). as finally settled in the later portion of his life. although of equal use for the progress of thought. of course I could—but how much would remain that couldn’t be put into words. It is to be found by reading together the Theætetus. And the Problem of Scientific Knowledge [1991]. which he studied very carefully. for the simple reason that the former would have welcomed XXth science into its framework. If I had to write something about your personality. and then by recurrence to his earlier work. No one could be perplexed over Aristotle classifications. His personal endowments. Plato’s Timaeus. State University of New York Press. PR 70-74. have made his writing an inexhaustible mine of suggestion. has virtues entirely different from that of Aristotle. (AI 146-147) —hence: The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato. and rarely explicit and devoid of ambiguity. the Symposium. Walter Meyerstein could be said to have followed Whitehead’s vision with their book Inventing the Universe. as in William James—one who could communicate so much more than most—it is 1 Cf. I do not mean the systematic scheme of thought which scholars have doubtfully extracted from his writings. as he repeatedly remarked). He feels the difficulties. 1 whereas the later could not… The difficulty of communication in words is but little realized. whereas Plato moves about amid a fragmentary system like a man dazed by his own penetration. when the rare balance of knowledge and perception appears. So. his inheritance of an intellectual tradition not yet stiffened by excessive systematization. Luc Brisson and F. the Sophist. his wide opportunities for experience at a great period of civilization. The Big Bang.4 Michel Weber Plato's contribution to the basic notions connecting Science and Philosophy. I allude to the wealth of general ideas scattered through them. the Timæus. definitively more inspiring than Newton’s Scholium. and expresses his perplexities. . He is never entirely self-consistent.

and implication which reaches far. to join their potentialities. 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. (cf.” Before and after Process and Reality. In Plato’s Dialogues there is a richness of thought. Plato. ESP 127) . moreover.” (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.Whitehead’s Reading of James and its Context perhaps an advantage that his system of philosophy remained incomplete.1. no dogmatic reductionism involved. Yes. these are sometimes as elusive. 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. There is. Whitehead is actually endowed with a systematic mind. but he attempts only to systematize his own experience for his own sake.] 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. Aristotle settled scientific inquiries with his “masterly analysis of the notion of ‘generation’ [… and. One last issue deserves to be mentioned (not addressed): the ontological status of the “eternal objects. But in the magnum opus itself. (D 271) 5 This cautiousness with regard to systematization does not mean however that the whole enterprise is flawed.” he “destroyed philosophy” (D 139) in so far as he was “the apostle of “substance and attribute. he agrees with Heraclitus and James: because we never descend twice in the same experiential stream. But if he “invented science. we have a shrinkage. Granted. Later. being akin to 1 cavalry charges. he was the last metaphysician to have approached God’s concept dispassionately (SMW 173). Whitehead adopts a rhetorical mode of exposition that leads most commentators to underline his Platonician stance.2.” and of the classificatory logic which this notion suggests. 1. but the overall movement is holistic.” (PR 209) Yes. in other words. when we came to be more explicit concerning some of those implications. “no two ‘ideas’ are ever exactly the same” (PP I 235). just like James. To fill it out would necessarily have made it smaller. suggestion.

(R 13) Moreover.1. have been overwhelmingly classificatory. On the one hand. But it is probably 1 “In a sense.” (Sir Thomas Little Heath.6 Michel Weber If you conceive fundamental fact as a multiplicity of subjects qualified by predicates.. Accordingly. New York. from an historical perspective. But the biological sciences. whereas Aristotle was the son of a doctor. which basically means two things. Aristotle by his Logic throws the emphasis on classification. though of course he was not ignorant of mathematics. Leibniz For his part. for example—but he was fond of mathematical illustrations. you must fail to give a coherent account of experience.3. p. is to measure. The practical counsel to be derived from Pythagoras. his impact on the “philosophy of organism” is so deep that it completely fades in Whitehead's categorical landscape. and his Logic was “a more superficial weapon” than philosophers deemed it (AI 117). A Manual of Greek Mathematics. 184) . Leibniz is not much discussed in Whitehead's corpus. Inc. and he throws a flood of light on the first principles of mathematics as accepted in his time. and thus to express quality in terms of numerically determined quantity. 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. Whitehead does not seem to have much sympathy for the German philosophical mind—Kant being a notable exception. Plato and Pythagoras stand nearer to modern physical science than does Aristotle. […] In the seventeenth century the influence of Aristotle was at its lowest. and he does not in his works show any acquaintance with the higher branches—he makes no allusion to conic sections. Dover Publications.” (SMW 28-29) “Aristotle was clearly not a professional mathematician. 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. 1963. The popularity of Aristotelian Logic retarded the advance of physical science throughout the Middle Ages. and mathematics recovered the importance of its earlier period. then and till our own time. and totally foreign to others. This is after all nothing but a very personal affair: one feels at unison with some authors. such as Leibniz’s metaphor of his monads engaged in mirroring. on the other. 1. and you can only account for conjunctive relations by some fallacious sleight of hand. The two former were mathematicians. his ignorance of 1 mathematics did not serve him well.

“In its turn every philosophy will suffer a deposition.” James Stuart Martin.4. 1918. Delacorte Press. Harold James. Little. only an engineered one serving the 2 interests of international capitalism. James Out of these four philosopher-scientists. 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. ) 1. This double tension really requires more development. Boston. In other words. perfect in his beauty. 1924–1936. 1933–1949. (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. Royal Flying Corp. as his style demonstrates. Non-contradiction was for them a major concern. November 27. Plato and James receive special appraisal because of their intuitive capacities. he is. not interested in sealing an ultimate system. but. The German Slump. the broader question that is the 1 PNK’s dedication runs as follows: “To Eric Alfred Whitehead. Trading with the Enemy. 1983. Killed in action over the Forêt de Gobain giving himself that the city of his vision may not perish. an exposé of the Nazi-American Money Plot.” (PR 7). but our short pointillist chapter will be busy only with Whitehead's explicit evocations of James (1842–1910).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. Clarendon Press. 2 . Having said this. we are forced to notice that the partition Whitehead uses between “intuitive” and “systematic” thinkers does not really apply to himself. Politics and Economics. when all is said and done. His efforts in “imaginative generalization” make his thought belong to both sides. Oxford. many conflicts involving German and British people— 1 and Whitehead's youngest son Eric was killed in action in 1918. Charles Higham. 1950. something that puts him among the “systematisers” or the “coordinators” of past achievements. alas. and consequently rigidified their writings as much as they could. 1986. The music of his life was without discord.1. only keen to develop local systems as far as possible. 1898 to March 13. New York. All Honorable Men. Brown and Co. 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). or—to use the concept that has a medullar virtue in Whitehead's essays—because of their creativity. their style is usually closer to Whitehead's than Aristotle’s and Leibniz’s. As we will see in a moment.

Alfred North Whitehead.” 1895 (an essay.” Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association. while teaching applied mathematics. here p. 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. most connections start working in the back of the mind of the writer. 2 . cf. geometrical and logico-mathematical issues. his magnum opus. 1937. and later in ESP (without the first paragraph.).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. here is what is said of the latter: 1 Alfred North Whitehead. Science and the Modern World speaks of an “adorable genius” who “possessed the clear. belonging to his idealistic phase. 122-131. Reprinted in The Philosophical Review. and CER 371 sq. pp. The fact is that when a thinker has had a long and enduring influence on another. and James.” (SMW 2 and 147) In a truly crucial passage of Process and Reality. that is also known under the title “The Tigers of India” and has been reprinted in MT 43 sq. he speaks of “the authority of William James” (PR 68. sub verso “Mathematics. As far as James is concerned. 1936. It is all the more significant that it occurs in a mathematical discussion and that James’ book has been probably read at Cambridge. and under the title “Analysis of Meaning). A 1936 paper claims that “William James and John Dewey will stand out as having infused philosophy with new life.” We have quoted supra MT 2’s commendation of Plato. 123. was apparently focusing his researches only on algebraic. when Whitehead. 178-186. “Remarks to the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association. Whitehead refers the reader to James’ Pragmatism (1907) on the old question of “the one and the 1 many. this question is relevant since his “The Knowing of Things Together. or then simply quotes from memory. pp. incisive genius which could state in a flash the exact point at issue. In one of his 1910 Encyclopaedia Britannica entries. X. Aristotle.” in ESP 278. our commentary infra on the introduction of the epochal theory of time). pp.” As far as we know. who does not bother mentioning all of them explicitly. Leibniz. and with a new relevance to 2 the modern world. 178-186. XLVI.

for instance. Among them Palmer's achievements centre chiefly in literature and in his brilliance as a lecturer. It is this pragmatic justification. he adds: Harvard is justly proud of the great period of its philosophic department about thirty years ago. and without any reason so far as Hume can discover. He had discovered intuitively the great truth with which modern logic is now wrestling. by the variety of his own studies. Santayana. the more proper it is that ideas should copy them. His intellectual life was one protest against the dismissal of experience in the interest of system. He knew the world in which he lived.” Later on. (MT 3) 9 Interestingly enough. and finally. but above all he assembled. Münsterberg. Fortunately. William James. in the same book. without metaphysical reason. at the root of his criticism of Hume: philosophy must build on life as it is lived. and that is. essentially a modern man. George Herbert Palmer. He systematized.Whitehead’s Reading of James and its Context Finally. complex impressions. he appeals beyond his metaphysics to an ultimate justification outside any rational systematization. often repeated. constitute a group to be proud of. 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. The group is a group of 1 “Hume can find only one standard of propriety.” Throughout the Treatise he steadily affirms its fundamental importance. by travel. The radical importance of direct.”(PR 133) . But the essence of his greatness was his marvellous sensitivity to the ideas of the present. not be developed independently—and supplemented—by ad hoc hypotheses drawn from 1 “habitual experience. Hume also believes. when he cannot fit it into his metaphysics. repetition. 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). and in Hume's final appeal to practice.” This is the analysis of the course of thought involved in Hume's doctrine of the association of ideas in its relation to causation. His mind was adequately based upon the learning of the past. which constitutes the propriety attaching to “repetition. there is William James. It is a great mistake to attribute to Hume any disbelief in the importance of the notion of “cause and effect. This ultimate justification is ‘practice’. lived. that this expectation is pragmatically justified. immediately given experience is. Josiah Royce. by personal relations with its leading men. without any reason he can assign. are also often copied by their corresponding complex ideas. Repetition is capable of more or less: the more often impressions are repeated.

W. It is a group of adventure. “There is an ideal of human liberty.10 Michel Weber men individually great. such as it is. Whitehead was exceptionally comfortable in Harvard.” he was obviously not aware at all of the struggles of 5 the lower classes. upon his request. HarperCollins. in Lowe II. New York. The Man and His Work. it is limited and imperfect. is convinced that he looked into James only when he settled down in the U. and the analogy must not be pressed too far. Some twenty-two of his books are now in the Milton S. Evidence cannot be found either in his personal notes or manuscripts. To be a philosopher is to make some humble approach to the main characteristic of this group of men. by his wife 3 Evelyn. Paul Weiss. and by its lack of characterization of the variety of possibilities open for humanity. 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). 2 3 4 5 . P. Whitehead. personnal communication to the author. 2 S.” (MT 120) Howard Zinn. since they have been destroyed after his death. whereby bare process is transformed into glowing history. most of his hopes for civilization relied upon the 4 ideals and the dynamism of American society. 1980. But as a group they are greater still. Of these men. Letter to Charles Hartshorne. (MT 174) In 1936. ) It is not entirely clear what happened to his (rather extended) library. of search for new ideas. And yet. 1936. (Dwelling within the elite of the “Ivy League. Vol. and C. to Aristotle. A People’s History of the United States: 1492–Present. the Constitution vaguely discloses the immanence in this epoch of that one energy of idealization. Eisenhower 1 Whitehead. he also wrote: my belief is that the effective founders of the American Renaissance are Charles Peirce and William James. who has been one of Whitehead’s assistant in Harvard. J. For his part. 246. January 2. Even though he remained a “British Victorian. p. It has never been realized in its perfection. of speculation. N.” as he used to call himself with humour and modesty. is the analogue to Plato. Paul Weiss. A. 08/08/2001. activity. The quote is contextualized supra. Lowe. and coöperation dimly adumbrated in the American Constitution. though the time-order 1 does not correspond. 345. I.

” The Philosophical Review 62. 282 and 284.” He has marked many other passages of text. […] Religion is solitariness.” Revue internationale de philosophie 31. 431.Whitehead’s Reading of James and its Context 11 1 Library (Johns Hopkins University). Unfortunately. since Bergson and 4 James philosophical developments are so intertwined.. see the meticulous inquiries of Milic Capek: “The Reappearance of the Self in the Last Philosophy of William James. edition (London. a work that he carried on for more than twenty years with the support of Whitehead’s family. that was posthumously published by a non-Whiteheadian colleague. At the end of the second full paragraph on p. personnal communication to the author. one can find the Longmans. pp.” (RM 16) On the cross-influences of James and Bergson. 05/10/2001. 1953. 1929) of the Varieties of Religious Experience—which he might thus have 2 read only in the late twenties. 526-544. Milton S. 329-350.. it probably makes 1 Lowe is the author of the only bibliography of Whitehead (see a previous footnote). you are never religious. and if you are never solitary. The Johns Hopkins University. Whitehead placed a vertical line next to the text that begins “But high-flying speculations like those of either dogmatic or idealistic theology. he comments. CN (1920) already mentions Bergson and. “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. Johns Hopkins University. For an inventory of his papers. Special Collections. consult the Alfred North Whitehead Collection Ms.” Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale. 1962.) “Religion is the art and theory of the internal life of man. pp. 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). but without comments. Among them. pp. This doctrine is the direct negation of the theory that religion is primarily a social fact. Curator of Manuscripts. so far as it depends on the man himself and on what is permanent in the nature of things. Eisenhower Library.” Outside the line. 67è année. he died before the completion of the second volume.” (Margaret Burri. 2 3 4 . as a part of the Victor Lowe’s legacy. Furthermore. and “La pensée de Bergson en Amérique. “La signification actuelle de la philosophie de James. which means that the volume housed in Johns Hopkins is not the first edition he has worked on. 291-321. 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. Green and Co. 1977.

Oxford University Press. that Whitehead got intellectually acquainted with the Parisian philosopher. Whitehead joined the Society in 1915. Barrow and Frank J. to be found at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh. New York. George Sarton. MS 5915 / ff. Lowe. He has perhaps read Sainte Beuve’s Portraits littéraires: “On retombe toujours. Carr was the Honorary Secretary of the Aristotelian Society. he was reading theology. 1986. op. Paris.” This could be the 1 2 London/Edinburgh. G. 27. Victor A. Oxford. when he was a member of the elitist Cambridge “Apostles” discussion group. The story is here that it is through his personal friend. autour d'un petit nombre de solutions 3 4 . This was all extracurricular.” (D 13) And it is the case as well that during his student days. 14 july 1921. C. See for instance the letter of Bergson to Haldane. the philosopher could not be bothered with that field.12 Michel Weber sense to claim that if he knew one he knew the other. one is forced to conclude that before the 1925 Lowell Lectures. Vol. However. To flesh out a little bit what could appear as a purely gratuitous speculation.. 1988. Issued with correction as an Oxford University Press Paperback. we learn from his Dialogues with Price that “during eight of these years in Cambridge [U. quoted by John D. p.]. 1911. Tipler. The Cosmological Anthropic Principle. author of Henri 1 Bergson. Besides. Sarton. cit. 112-145. 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. At the expiry of these eight years he dismissed the subject and sold the books. 68-70. together with all sorts of philosophical subject. but does not mention discussions of psychological concepts… besides telepathy. Lowe reviews 3 that topic. Herbert Wildon Carr. The Philosophy of Change. T. C. which included a discussion of PNK and CN. let us evoke the case of Whitehead’s interest in theology: if one considers only the published evidence. I. K. where he lectured on Bergson and where Bergson himself lectured probably with Whitehead attending. Melbourne. Jack. but so thorough that he amassed a sizable theological library. 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. pp. More than this. Furthermore. on tourne dans un certain cercle. 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). religious questions were discussed. & E.

j'avouerais bien bas que je m'étonne qu'il le soit si peu. 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—. 1. rationalization brings forth contrasts and intensity in experience. II. Starting from that “pure” experience. however. we additionally found his radical empiricism and. and it is linked with the fate of normal consciousness. p.2. But when speculations (“first-order” or “second-order”) are (re)directed toward the full thickness of lived experience. Uphill. 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. vol. Here lies the pathology of thought. There is a nobleness of reason. his non dogmatism. we have seen that two main features characterize the late Whitehead’s style: circumambulation and constructive discrimination. 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. On a coutume de s'étonner que l'esprit humain soit si infini dans ses combinaisons et ses portées. The remaining of this chapter intends to display the stylistic similarities between the two philosophers and the specific impacts of James on Whitehead. 466) .Whitehead’s Reading of James and its Context 13 case in his discipline. but a similar worldview takes shape in their works. downhill. The problem is that attempts at rationalization will probably borrow conceptualities and/or itself spur much secondary thinking. we see every so often the daring expression of direct personal insights into the ontological texture of our world. The unmediated dialogue between experience and reason could then be broken to generate “second-order” speculations drifting from their shimmering experiential soil. 1954. the blissful philosopher attempts to engineer a novel system of thought as worthy as possible of the founding event. All four traits are also Jamesian and underline the “atemporal” congeniality between the two philosophers. In the first volume of Whitehead’s Pancreativism.” (Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. in the history of metaphysics.

” (AE 107) Now what exactly is given is itself a matter of debate in philosophy. It is not true that we are directly aware of a smooth running world. PR 50 specifying. experience religious and experience sceptical. not a deduction through a chain of reasoning. Nothing can be omitted. and the first task of a self-conscious philosophy is to explain how it has been done. experience drunk and experience sober. (AE 163-4) His motto is as well “to forge every sentence in the teeth of irreducible and 1 stubborn facts. One is to assert the world as a postulate.” and philosophy has to do justice to phenomena as they are given: “you may polish up commonsense. experience self-conscious and experience self-forgetful. experience intellectual and experience physical. we must appeal to evidence relating to every variety of occasion. amid a democracy 2 of fellow creatures. 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.” .” “We find ourselves in a buzzing world. experience happy and experience grieving. of course. “this epithet is. In my view the creation of the world is the first unconscious act of speculative thought. experience drowsy and experience wide-awake. experience anxious and experience care-free. There are roughly two rival explanations. experience dominated by emotion and 1 2 William James writing to Henry James. The other way is to obtain it as a deduction. Significantly enough. as quoted by SMW 3. you may surprise it. but a deduction through a chain of definitions which. you may contradict in detail. rather than theorizing the question.14 Michel Weber Fragmentary individual experiences are all that we know […] all speculation must start from these disjecta membra as its sole datum. lifts thought on to a more abstract level in which the logical ideas are more complex. experience sleeping and experience waking. But ultimately your whole task is to satisfy it. in fact. which in our speculations we are to conceive as given. in a footnote. experience anticipatory and experience retrospective. borrowed from William James. and their relations are more universal.

1956. To exemplify the circumambulative practice in a paragraph is difficult. and retreating the remainder into an omitted background” (AI 43). RM 27. I think it is what it seems like in the early morning when one first wakes from deep sleep”—claimed Whitehead. the “pragmatic test” of SMW 50. and to the self-evidence of what we mean by “civilization. 40 (“You think the world is what it looks in fine weather at noon day. the well-known quote of Russell’s Portraits from Memory and Other Essays. 181. 2 . New York.3) The polar themes of clarity and vagueness are essential in Whitehead: cf. Alfred North Whitehead Lecture. But the meaning of “pragmatism” must be given its widest extension. experience in the light and experience 1 in the dark.” “pragmatic appeal to consequences” and the like (passim). the variations in our value experience. 337.Whitehead’s Reading of James and its Context experience under self-restraint.” (Frederick Olson. and the rare moments when our value notion is so indiscriminating that it is a mere throb of immediacy. Student Notes 1936–1937. experience normal and experience abnormal. to consult at Harvard’s Pusey: HUC 8923. or the “pragmatic appeal to the future. it has been limited by arbitrary specialist assumptions. PR 13.” (MT 106) Adventures of Ideas remarks that “each mode of consideration is a sort of searchlight elucidating some of the facts.368. a vague feeling as when we fall asleep. Simon and Schuster. There is however only one occurrence giving his definition of “pragmatism”: This doctrine places philosophy on a pragmatic basis.) Cf. by definition. Pragmatism is simply an appeal to that self-evidence which sustains itself in civilized experience. passim): the function of Reason is to promote the art of life. we must look at all rare moments when we were near angels and near pigs. In much modern thought. p. Thus pragmatism ultimately appeals to the wide self-evidence of civilization. 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. because it is made of waves of arguments that are. There should be no pragmatic exclusion of self-evidence by dogmatic denial. 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. (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. Unpublished.

When carving discriminalities. and the Odyssey becomes insipid if you read it at the rate of five lines a day. the mind grows far better than with classical training. 26). we have to keep in mind the full concreteness of experience. scale and pace. Of course.16 Michel Weber over his entire corpus and do not even always use the same concepts. he is especially concerned with the mathematical curriculum. but his argument is intended to have a broader expressiveness. It is not fair to the architect if you examine St. 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. while discussing James's Varieties of Religious Experience. By so doing. According to Whitehead. 20). and however such elements of language be stabilized as technicalities. Words and phrases must be stretched towards a generality foreign to their ordinary usage.” (PR 151) Constructive discrimination expresses a typical mode of understanding of the nature and function of language. Weakness of insight and deficiencies of language stand in the way inexorably. Philosophers can never hope finally to formulate […] metaphysical first principles. Whitehead insists on the notion of rhythm: In approaching every work of art we have to comport ourselves suitably in regard to two factors. 22. (PR 4) With that regard. 18. pp. Peter’s at Rome with a microscope. Mechanical learning of fragments of knowledge does not bring the mastering of knowledge. A rather straightforward example is nevertheless provided by the Function of Reason’s definitions of the “art of life” (cf. quoted supra p. 8. By the same token. 4. James and metaphysical intuitions are again in the hot seat. they remain metaphors mutely appealing for an imaginative leap. and it swings back from the private individual to the publicity of the objectified individual. Plato. he insisted that the difficulty of communication in words is but little realized (see D 271. When Whitehead claims that he is . (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. The existence of some nonrational “remainder” (VRE 456) is directly linked to the linguistic position just discussed.

the merest hint of dogmatic certainty as to finality of statement is an exhibition of folly. and John Dewey. even at the speculative height that is PR: There remains the final reflection. postures. whatever our rational efforts are (whatever the thought system). prose from poetry.” The concept of “irrational” pictures the discrepancies of status of a given proposition treated in different thought systems. (PR xiv) Speculative language is not glossolalia. it is far from being a pure logical entity. William James. The former is truly eventful. In philosophical discussion.Whitehead’s Reading of James and its Context also greatly indebted to Bergson. how shallow.. from a broader perspective. its countless equivocations have been very often disparaged.” metaphysics has still to draw all the consequences from the ultimate rational opacity of the brute facts (WB 90 and 143). Of course. The public use of reason remains fully justified. puny. cf.) from orality. screams. AI 223) 17 he has obviously in mind a dialectic similar to the one we have named with the trinomial “rational/irrational/nonrational. Anyway. (PR xii. the concept of “nonrational” points at the fact that. 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. it is worth distinguishing the faculty of language (that can actualise itself in gestures. (A Porphyrian tree that can be reformed and complexified as one could wish). which is like the systematic thunder after the experiential . The same linguistic constraints do not hang over living speech and weighted writing. One of my preoccupations has been to rescue their type of thought from the charge of anti-intellectualism. and. and orality from literature. This chapter has been mainly concerned with the latter. and imperfect are efforts to sound the depths in the nature of things. and. which rightly or wrongly has been associated with it. it makes the most of what one has to transform the emotional vividness of experience into the concreteness of a shared world. within the literary corpus. 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. its constitutive temporality explains its linearity (that can be of course modulated through repetitions and other rhetorical patterns).. etc. the fully-fledged concreteness remains beyond it. Logic has been shaken by the existence of “formally undecidable propositions. Natural language is intrinsically ambiguous and intentional. and 137). as a matter of fact. Hence the professed non-dogmatism from which Whitehead never departed.

Niemeyer. the efficacy of language comes from its self-effacing ability in front of what it lures us.” see. Semantic. Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit. 1. To the contrary.. p. analysis. meaning has not been conveyed. eventually. Lowe remarked straight away: “the result should be presented as no more than a 2 . 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 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. 33. abstractions of all sorts. That evocative capacity is a sort of implosive capacity: language has to die to give birth to meaning. Specific Impacts As far as we know. e. like an apathetic screen.S. The intentionality opening the propositional entanglement to the world shields language from the danger of barren coherence. the concept of feeling. L. style stands out as the catalyst of the semantic process. out of the three degrees of freedom that have been sketched on their way towards concreteness. has repeatedly published on the matter but. Ford. properly speaking. 1927. the functional concept of consciousness. define anything. a dictionary does not. In other words.18 Michel Weber lightning. Making possible a very technical and variegated use of style. writing somewhat drags language away from temporality and linearity. Tübingen.” The first point to clarify is that he does not shift from a continuist 1 On the concept of “apophansis.3. 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. and the definition of the concept of religion.g. For instance. Writing facilitates reflection. Its multifarious semantic potential is directly correlated with the stylistic managing of polysemiality and interanimation.1. The organization of a conceptual network revealing the ontological surplus asks a peculiar gesture made of invocatory repetitions and daring crosscheckings. If it remains there. it is an art of the void that is requested. it is just a tissue of mutual cross-references. for one. as V.3. power 1 of manifestation of total anthropo-cosmic experiences. 1. only four explicit conceptual points of contact illustrate the dialogue of Whitehead with James: the epochal theory of time.

and James’ interpretation of Zeno’s everlasting antinomies. 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. then a valid argument remains.” International Philosophical Quarterly. in connection with the presumption that an actual entity is an act of experience. 226 reviewing Ford’s The Emergence of Whitehead's Metaphysics.” James also refers to Zeno. Albany. they come totally or not at all. Now. the reason for adopting a (refurbished) ontological atomism is plural but can be easily triangulated with Leibniz’ monadology. (PR 68) Whitehead basically agrees with James’ reading of Zeno. Your acquaintance with reality grows literally by buds or drops of perception. X. 1977. by Professor J. Intellectually and on reflection you can divide these into components. The authority of William James can be quoted in support of this conclusion. 1 Whitehead quotes Some Problems in Philosophy. though I do not think that he allows sufficiently for those elements in Zeno's paradoxes which are the product of inadequate mathematical knowledge. pp. 1926. 17. 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. but adds that if the parts that are the product of inadequate mathematical knowledge are corrected by infinitesimal calculus. “Ford's Discovery about Whitehead. In substance I agree with his argument from Zeno. or it is of a perceptible amount of content or change. the latter applies to the past logically possible history” (Lowe. But I agree that a valid argument 1 remains after the removal of the invalid parts. of no change. 1925–1929.. 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.” The source is likely to have been Bixler’s Religion in the Philosophy of William James. Ch. He writes: “Either your experience is of no content. Vol. Boston. Marshall Jones Co. . Planck’s quantic thunder. 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. p. but as immediately given. State University of New York Press. 1984). S. Bixler. 251-264. the footnote adds: “my attention was drawn to this passage by its quotation in Religion in The Philosophy of William James.

of final and efficient causation.” Time keeps building into new moments. and that I .” (SMW 110) Let us note. 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.” (FR 26) The problem of the meshing of the discontinuous and the continuous is vital for psychology as well as philosophy. scientific materialism.2. for epistemology as well as ontology.20 Michel Weber actualities and provides the conditions of possibility of the infinite divisibility of actualities in transition. 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. allowing both for the irruption of the unheard and its echoing in an ever-fluctuating cosmic tissue. From the perspective of the postmodern significance of Whitehead's thought. ERE 108. (SPP 147-148) Hence his use of the concept of contiguity in a radical empiricist way (e.3. Process and Reality is entirely built upon the adoption of ontological percolation. 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. every one of which presents a content which in its individuality never was before and will never be again.g. More precisely. the atomization of the act of experience is of tremendous importance. PU 359 and MT 175 but also WB 246). save to bring the different. How is it possible to categorialize the socialization of present and past actualities. liberty and novelty. As a result. Contiguism According to Whitehead..” (PP I 104) 1. “it is obvious that pragmatism is nonsense apart from final causation. by the way. Independently existing “substances” with simple location are replaced by strings of buds of experience (Whitehead speaks of nexuses of “actual entities”). that is implicitely introduced when Whitehead socializes his epochal actualities. and in societies of societies. the actual entities are hierarchized in societies. It seals a mutual requirement between epochality. he does not raise here the more fundamental issue that is the theorisation of the fitness (the matchness?) of mathematics to the concrete. Curiously. thereby allowing a complete reformation of the oldfashioned philosophical substantialism and of its heir.

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.” a concept that expresses for him “the primary activity at the basis of experience.” the connection is established with James: I may add that William James also employs the word in much the same sense in his Psychology. as it does for the philosophy of organism.” he qualifies that naked awareness as an “experience itself in its origin and with the minimum of analysis” (AI 231). To some degree we seem able to lapse into this inarticulate feeling at moments when our tension is entirely dispersed. this higher consciousness about things is called Perception. the mere inarticulate feeling of their presence is Sensation. Referring to Bradley’s “inclusive whole. so far as we have it at all. (AI 186-187) In other words.” And in the second chapter he writes. The proximity with the Jamesian concept of “pure experience” is plain obvious. if you allow the destruction of the substantialistic platform. The . to provide an adequate account of this undoubted personal unity. “Feelings” are the internal-external (vectorial) relationships that grant both the interdependence of all actual entities and their idiosyncratic atomicity. But the problem remains for them.” (AI 231) The concept of feeling occupies a decisive place in Whitehead's lexicon. Whitehead’s technical answer lies in the asymmetrical structure secured by vector-like relationships. “Sensation is the feeling of first things. His more intuitive conceptualisation lies in his extended use of the concept of feeling. 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.3. maintaining itself amidst the welter of circumstance. Transitions are felt relations.Whitehead’s Reading of James and its Context 21 have extensively (no pun intended) used myself. “In general. 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. For example in the first chapter he writes.3. On the occasion of the examination of Bradley's notion of “feeling. 1.

James clears the stage of the old paraphernalia. published in 1637. the character which James assigns to consciousness is fully discussed. and the something which is an object of thought may be called an . The term 'entity. no aboriginal stuff or quality of being. He further critically remarks: In the essay in question. The notion of 'entity' is so general that it may be taken to mean anything that can be thought about. with Descartes' Discourse on Method. contrasted with that of which material objects are made. But. Although “it is an exaggeration to attribute a general change in a climate of thought to any one piece of writing. I mean. 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. but get reported. Let me then immediately explain that I mean only to deny that the word stands for an entity. But he does not unambiguously explain what he means by the notion of an entity.' or even that of 'stuff. That function is knowing. or rather he entirely alters its lighting. You cannot think of mere nothing.” Thus James is denying that consciousness is a 'stuff'. In the sentence which immediately follows the one which I have already quoted.” (SMW 143) As usual. but to insist most emphatically that it does stand for a function. in attributing to William James the inauguration of a new stage in philosophy we should be neglecting other influences of his time. Analogously. or to any one author” (SMW 143). 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. Does Consciousness Exist published in 1904. there still remains a certain fitness in contrasting his essay. and for the performance of which this quality of being is invoked. 'Consciousness' is supposed necessary to explain the fact that things not only are. Whitehead is very level-headed in his reading.22 Michel Weber death of the Cartesian Ego is evoked in length by Whitehead. which he refuses to apply to consciousness.' does not fully tell its own tale. he says: “There is. are known. admitting this. out of which our thoughts of them are made. but there is a function in experience which thoughts perform.

some scholars have argued that it is totally illegitimate to apply the criticism designed for the Modern concept to the Greek or Medieval one. the other for the twentieth 1 See. 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. that could be read. He concludes: The reason why I have put Descartes and James in close juxtaposition is now evident. Whitehead thus focuses only on the Modern concept. This point made. The essence of matter is spatial extension. 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. 1972. let us go on: In agreement with the organic theory of nature which I have been tentatively putting forward in these lectures.g. e.” (SMW 144) Following James in this. The Greek concept insists on what is permanent in change (basically. in a “process” 1 fashion.. it seems. University of Notre Dame Press. 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). s. 2001. Obviously. in the full sense which Descartes assigns to the word “cogitare. j. Now. says Whitehead. George Allen and Unwin Ltd. 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. I shall for my own purposes construe James as denying exactly what Descartes asserts in his Discourse and his Meditations. Notre Dame./Humanities Press Inc. is a clear definition and a sharp analysis of the concept of substance that is discarded.: The One and the Many. matter and soul. a function is an entity.. The Nature of Physical Existence. Neither philosopher finished an epoch by a final solution of a problem. the essence of soul is its cogitation. A Contemporary Thomistic Metaphysics. Their great merit is of the opposite sort. Indiana. Ivor Leclerc. it is the question of the “ousia”). one for the seventeenth century. London/New York. (SMW 144) 23 What James’ argument lacks. Descartes discriminates two species of entities. In this sense. .Whitehead’s Reading of James and its Context entity. or the last book of William Norris Clarke. this is not what James had in his mind.

the debate. p. It is mainly Hartshorne who has made that misleading claim—that is totally foreign to Whitehead’s corpus. 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.” in George L. 126. Alfred North Whitehead. remains open. (SMW 48) Second. With these assumptions a certain limited number of types of philosophic systems are possible.. pp. at least so far as concerns their relations to the science of their times. 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. First. In many ways neither Descartes nor James were the most characteristic philosophers of their respective epochs. 124-133. James and Whitehead. “The Concept of Experience in Whitehead’s Metaphysics. op. they are both to be contrasted with St. as it is settled by Descartes.). who expressed the culmination of Aristotelian scholasticism. in opposition with the dogmatic trend discoverable in some thinkers.2. cit. . trying to specify James’ impact at that level would be like probing a conceptual mirage. Lowe.24 Michel Weber century. (SMW 147) The debate between Descartes and James is not a final one. but rather a typical one for two main reasons. the vast majority of philosophical texts use the understanding of the author’s peers to contrast and sharpen a personal vision. do not chiefly direct your attention to those intellectual positions which its exponents feel it necessary explicitly to defend. In this respect.” A more sophisticated assessment of that crucial question is postponed until section 6. 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. Thomas Aquinas. When you are criticising the philosophy of an epoch—urges Whitehead—. As Lowe says: “Whitehead did not call his pluralistic metaphysics a panpsychism. I should be disposed to ascribe these positions to Locke and to Bergson respectively. Kline (ed. 1 Victor A. and this group of systems constitutes the philosophy of the epoch.

Definition of Religion James’ heuristic definition of religion is well-known: Religion […] shall mean for us the feelings. so far as it depends on the man himself and on what is permanent in the nature of things.4. so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine. you are never religious. Religion is what the individual does with his own solitariness. and if you are never solitary. supra) and so he writes in RM: Religion is the art and theory of the internal life of man. (VRE 31) Whitehead has meditated that text (to which he refers in his Dialogues: cf. This does not mean that religious institutions are not worth debating: it is simply another debate. for its own sake. consciously alone with itself. that is further qualified as subsidiary. 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. which is the human being. and experiences of individual man in their solitude. (RM 16) Both Whitehead and James discard religion qua institution as the object of their thoughts. Religion qua social construct does not have the depth of meaning that religiousness has. […] Religion is solitariness. . […] All collective emotions leave untouched the awful ultimate fact. What furthermore strikes the reader is the common insistence on solitude. acts. This doctrine is the direct negation of the theory that religion is primarily a social fact. a far more embarrassing one.Whitehead’s Reading of James and its Context 25 1.3.

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Special offer for students: Only $4.99/month.

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Cancel anytime.