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Alfred North Whitehead, OM (February 15 1861 – December 30 1947) was a British mathematician who became a philosopher. He was born in Ramsgate, Kent, UK, and died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. He wrote on algebra, logic, foundations of mathematics, philosophy of science, physics, metaphysics, and education. He is the coauthor, along with Bertrand Russell, of the epochal Principia Mathematica.
Life[edit | edit source]
Whitehead's career is conventionally divided into three phases:
- 1880–1910. He studied, taught, and wrote mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge, spending the 1890s writing his (1898) and working on the Principia, 1900-1913. On Whitehead the mathematician and logician, see Grattan-Guinness (2000, 2002), and Quine's chapter in Schilpp (1941), reprinted in Quine (1995). Whitehead left Cambridge just as the first volume of the Principia appeared, to protest the dismissal, because of an adulterous affair, of a Trinity College colleague.
- 1910–24. This period was mostly spent at University College London and Imperial College London, where he taught and wrote on physics, the philosophy of science, and the theory and practice of education. In physics, Whitehead is best known for a theory of gravity that differed from Einstein's general relativity. From the outset, Whitehead's theory received less attention than Einstein's, and was generally discredited by 1972, by a comparison of experimental and predicted variability of the gravitational constant G. See A Comparison with Einstein's Theory, or Will (1993).
- 1924–47. In 1924, he accepted an offer of a Harvard University professorship in philosophy, a subject he had not previously taught. The offer had been instigated by a Boston businessman who partly endowed the position. Whitehead was asked to give the 1927 Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh, which resulted in his (1929), Process and Reality, the book that founded process philosophy and is a major contribution to modern metaphysics. For a remarkable picture of Whitehead the aged sage holding court in his Cambridge MA apartment, see Price (1954).
A signal feature of Process and Reality is its philosophical use of mereological and topological notions. Bowman Clarke argued in the 1980s that this part of Whitehead's thinking was seriously flawed, and showed how it could be repaired. Simons (1987) contains an accessible review of Clarke's work.
Another feature of Process and Reality is its argument in favor of theism, although Whitehead's God is understood differently from the revealed God of Abrahamic religion. Process philosophy gave rise to process theology, thanks to the theologian/philosophers Charles Hartshorne, John B. Cobb, Jr, and David Ray Griffin. Some Christians and Jews find process theology a fruitful way of understanding God and the universe. Just as the entire universe is in constant flow and change, God, as source of the universe, is viewed as growing and changing. Whitehead's rejection of mind-body dualism is similar to elements in faith traditions such as Buddhism.
Whitehead's political views were similar to libertarianism without the label. He wrote: "Now the intercourse between individuals and between social groups takes one of two forms, force or persuasion. Commerce is the great example of intercourse by way of persuasion. War, slavery, and governmental compulsion exemplify the reign of force."
Whitehead married Evelyn Wade, with whom he had a daughter and two sons. One son died in action while serving in the Royal Air Force during World War I.
Biographies of Whitehead were produced by Lowe (1985) and Lowe and Schneewind (1990). A comprehensive appraisal of his work is difficult because unlike Bertrand Russell, Whitehead left no Nachlass; his family carried out his instructions that all of his papers be destroyed after his death.
See also[edit | edit source]
- Whitehead's theory of gravitation, for more about this (now defunct) theory.
- Process physics, for a fringe theory which claims inspiration in part from Whitehead's ideas.
[edit | edit source]
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Whitehead's Principle of Relativity - Lectures by J. L. Synge on arXiv.org
- REDIRECT Template:MacTutor
- Center for Process Studies, Southern California School of Theology, Claremont, CA. This organization claims inspiration from the writings of Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne.
Bibliography[edit | edit source]
Works by Whitehead[edit | edit source]
- 1898. A Treatise on Universal Algebra with Applications. Cambridge Uni. Press. 1960 reprint, Hafner.
- 1911. An Introduction to Mathematics. Oxford University Press. 1990 paperback, ISBN 0195002113. (HTML at headmap.org) (This work is included in volume 56 of the Great Books of the Western World series.)
- 1917. The Organization of Thought Educational and Scientific. Lippincott.
- 1920. The Concept of Nature. Cambridge Uni. Press. 2004 paperback, Prometheus Books, ISBN 1591022142. Being the Tarner Lectures delivered at Trinity College in November 1919 on the philosophy of science.
- 1922. The Principle of Relativity with Applications to Physical Science. Cambridge Uni. Press.
- 1925 (1910-13), with Bertrand Russell. Principia Mathematica, in 3 vols. Cambridge Uni. Press. 1962 paperback, Vol. 1 to *56, ISBN 0521626064.
- 1925a. Science and the Modern World. 1997 paperback, Free Press (Simon & Schuster), ISBN 0684836394. (This work is included in volume 55 of the Great Books of the Western World series.)
- 1925b (1919). An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Natural Knowledge. Cambridge Uni. Press.
- 1926. Religion in the Making. 1974, New American Library, ISBN 0452007232. 1996 hardcover, with introduction by Judith A. Jones, Fordham University Press, ISBN 0823216454; paperback, ISBN 0823216462.
- 1927. Symbolism, Its Meaning and Effect: Barbour-Page Lectures, University of Virginia, 1927. 1985 paperback, Fordham University Press, ISBN 082321138X.
- 1929. Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology. 1979 corrected edition, edited by David Ray Griffin and Donald W. Sherburne, Free Press, ISBN 0029345707.
- 1929a. The Aims of Education and Other Essays. 1985 paperback, Free Press, ISBN 0029351804.
- 1929b. Function of Reason. 1971 paperback, Beacon Press, ISBN 0807015733.
- 1933. Adventures of Ideas. 1967 paperback, Free Press, ISBN 0029351707.
- 1938. Modes of Thought. 1968 paperback, Free Press, ISBN 002935210X.
- 1947. Essays in Science and Philosophy. Runes, Dagobert, ed. Philosophical Library.
- 1951. Mathematics and the Good, pp. 666-681 of The Philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, 2nd ed., Paul Schlipp ed., New York, Tudor Publishing Company 1951. (Other references to this writing read:
- in The Philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, 1941, P. A. Schilpp, Ed.;
- in Science & Philosophy; Philosophical Library, 1946.)
- 1953. A. N. Whitead: An Anthology. Northrop, F.S.C., and Gross, M.W., eds. Cambridge Uni. Press.
- Price, Lucien, 1954. Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead, with Introduction by Sir Ross David. 1977 Greenwood Press Reprint, ISBN 0837193419. 2001 paperback with Forward by Caldwell Titcomb, David R. Godine Publisher, ISBN 1-56792-129-9.
Works about Whitehead and his thought[edit | edit source]
- Ivor Grattan-Guinness, 2000. The Search for Mathematical Roots 1870-1940. Princeton Uni. Press.
- Grattan-Guinness, Ivor, 2002, "Algebras, Projective Geometry, Mathematical Logic, and Constructing the World: Intersections in the Philosophy of Mathematics of A. N. Whitehead," Historia Mathematica 29: 427-62. Good references.
- Charles Hartshorne, 1972. Whitehead's Philosophy: Selected Essays, 1935-1970. University of Nebraska Press
- Kneebone, G., 1963. Mathematical Logic and the Foundations of Mathematics. Van Nostrand. 2001 Dover reprint: ISBN 0486417123 By a mathematician. The final chapter is a lucid introduction to some of the ideas in Whitehead (1922, 1925b, 1929).
- LeClerc, Ivor, ed., 1961. The Relevance of Whitehead. Allen & Unwin.
- Lowe, Victor, 1962. Understanding Whitehead. Johns Hopkins Uni. Press.
- Lowe, 1985. A. N. Whitehead: The Man and His Work, vol. 1. Johns Hopkins U. Press. The biography.
- Lowe and Schneewind, J. B., 1990. A. N. Whitehead: The Man and His Work, vol. 2. Johns Hopkins U. Press.
- Richard Milton Martin, 1974. Whitehead's Categorial Scheme and Other Essays. Martinus Nijhoff.
- Mays, Wolfgang, 1959. The Philosophy of Whitehead. Allen & Unwin.
- Mays, 1977. Whitehead's Philosophy of Science and Metaphysics: An Introduction to his Thought. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.
- Willard Quine, 1995. "Whitehead and the rise of modern logic" in his Selected Logic Papers. Harvard Uni. Press.
- Schilpp, P. A., ed., 1941. The Philosophy of A. N. Whitehead (The Library of Living Philosophers). New York: Tudor.
- Simons, Peter, 1987. Parts. Oxford Uni. Press.
- Will, Clifford, 1993. Theory and Experiment in Gravitational Physics. Cambridge University Press.
- Browning, Douglas and Myers, William T, eds., 1998. Philosophers of Process. Fordham Univ Press. ISBN 0823218791, contains some primary texts including Whitehead's:
- Critique of Scientific Materialism (15 pages)
- Process (18 p.)
- Fact and Form (26 p.)
- Objects and Subjects (15 p.)
- The Grouping of Occasions (9 p.)
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