WHITEHEAD'S PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE AND METAPHYSICS

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1 WHITEHEAD'S PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE AND METAPHYSICS

2 WHITEHEAD'S PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE AND METAPHYSICS AN INTRODUCTION TO HIS THOUGHT by WOLFE MAYS II MARTINUS NIJHOFF / THE HAGUE / 1977

3 FOR LAURENCE 1977 by Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands All rights reserved, tncluding the right to translate or to reproduce this book or parts thereofin any form ISBN-13: e-isbn-13: DOl: /

4 Preface CONTENTS IX Abbreviations X PART I: THE MAN AND HIS WORK Chapter 1. LIFE 3 Early years. School at Sherborne and then Scholar and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. Mathematical Writings: A Treatise on Universal Algebra (1898). Relations with Bertrand Russell, first as his teacher, later as collaborator in the writing of Principia Mathematica ( ). London Period: Professor at Imperial College. Contributions to the Aristotelian Society. Philosophy of Nature writings - interest in relativity theory. American Period: Professor at Harvard. Philosophical writings: Process and Reality (1929). C.D. Broad and Bertrand Russell on Whitehead. Chapter 2. GENERAL INTRODUCTION 9 On interpreting Whitehead. Two schools of Whitehead interpretation: (a) that there is a continuity between his earlier philosophy of science and later metaphysics, and (b) that the problems and issues he is concerned with in his later work are largely of humanistic origin. Reasons for believing that philosophical notions occur in Whitehead's early writings and scientific ones in his later metaphysics. Whitehead and Language. Difficulties in understanding Whitehead's language in his later work. Similarities between Whitehead's philosophy and Husserlian phenomenology. PART II: PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE Introduction to Part II 17 Chapter 3. THE IDEA OF EQUIVALENCE 19 Introduction to philosophical notions of A Treatise of Universal Algebra. The ideas of equivalence and identity. The nature of a calculus. Distinction between equivalence and identity. Replacement of the general notion of equality by that of matching. Theory of spatial congruence and measurement as based on notion of matching. Logical and mathe-

5 VI TABLE OF CONTENTS matical reasoning as involving synthetic judgments. Substitutive schemes and symbolism. Quine's critique of Whitehead's idea of equality as involving confusion of sign and object. Similarity of Whitehead's views on mathematical reasoning with that of the intuitionists. Chapter 4. MATHEMATICAL CONCEPTS OF THE MATERIAL WORLD 33 Construction of alternative models of the physical world in Whitehead's Royal Society memoir (1906). Whitehead's geometrical and physical ideas combined there with his studies in mathematical logic. Resemblance to Leibniz's doctrine of possible worlds. Five concepts or models of the physical world developed. Classical Newtonian concept, assumes points of space, matter and instants of time. Whitehead's objection that it bifurcates the world into separate classes of elements. Alternative (Leibnizian) concept involving linear entities and unifying space and matter. Definition of points in terms of class of linear entities. Relevance of memoir to Whitehead's later philosophy. Chapter 5. THE PHILOSOPHY OF NATURE 47 Whitehead's philosophy of nature as developed in his Enquiry (1919) and Concept 0/ Nature (1920): concerned there with question of relating abstract notions of science to the data of sense-perception. Materialism and the bifurcation of nature into two systems of reality: (1) apparent nature and (2) causal nature. Whitehead's theory o/perception: basic elements discriminated in sense-perception (a) events (b) objects - relation between (a) and (b) as involving bodily event of the observer. Types 0/ object. Events and the general part and whole relation of extension. Method 0/ Extensive Abstraction: derivation of ideal points and instants. Criticism of method as circular. Russell's discussion and use of the method. Chapter 6. SCIENCE AND THE MODERN WORLD 55 Discussion in Science and the Modern World (1926) of the historical development of materialism from Greek times to the present day. Fate in Greek tragedy and the order of nature. Influence of scholastic logic and medieval theology on the development of science. Historical revolt at the Renaissance in religion and science. Experimental method and induction. Inconsistency in 18th century European thought between acceptance of scientific materialism and a belief in man as a self-determining organism. Protest against this attitude shows itself in 19th century literature, particularly in poetry. Influence of doctrine of evolution on scientific thought. The realm of possibility. Chapter 7. THE PHILOSOPHY OF TIME 66 Difficulty in reconciling description of experienced time with that given by science. Husserl and Merleau-Ponty on the phenomenology of time-consciousness. Comparison with Whitehead's position. Northrop and Einstein on scientific concepts as free creations of the mind. Whitehead's views on congruence as connected with our recognition of sameness or uniformity in nature. Poincare's concept of the congruence relation as conventional. Northrop's and Griinbaum's criticisms of Whitehead's account of simultaneity and congruence. Griinbaum's belief that the metric of psychological time is based on that of physical time.

6 TABLE OF CONTENTS VII PART III: METAPHYSICS Chapter 8. PROCESS AND REALITY 81 Philosophical systems. limitations of categorial frameworks implicit in past cosmologies. Whitehead's attempt to construct an alternative scheme to harmonise with present day scientific knowledge and take account of the rich variety of human experience. Descriptive character of the categoreal notions constituting the philosophy of organism. Speculative philosophy and its method. Whitehead's doubts as to the possibility of our ever finally formulating definite metaphysical principles. Errors in past philosophical thinking. General verification of a philosophical system to be sought in its practical success. Chapter 9. PREHENSIONS AND SOCIETIES 97 The Theory 0/ Prehensions: concept of prehension covers not only physical transmission, but also perception, cognition and judgment in man. Positive prehensions deal with endurance of physical objects, negative prehensions with alternative states of affairs. Physical and conceptual prehensions - spatio-temporal aspects of events and the sensory perspectives marking them out. Reality as made up of ordered events exhibiting regularities of pattern (societies). Corpuscular societies comprise physical objects analysable into simpler objects, molecules, electrons, etc. Higher grades of such societies include animals and other living organisms. Chapter 10. PERCEPTION AND BODILY DEPENDENCY 105 Atomicity and continuity in perception. Physical world as consisting of atomic entities but perceived as made up of common sense objects. Theory o/symbolic reference: physical events and sensory experience assumed to manifest a common relational structure. Sensory perspectives taken as standing as symbols for the causal activities in the physical world. Bodily experience and perception. Difficulties in relating the two perceptual modes, presentational immediacy and causal efficacy. Critique of Whitehead's and Russell's view that physical structures are isomorphic with sensory structures. Chapter 11. PROPOSITIONS AND JUDGMENTS 112 Normal and illusory perceptions: (a) perceptual propositional prehensions refer to authentic (veridical) perceptions and unauthentic (illusory) perceptions; (b) imaginative propositional prehensions refer to mental states as occurring, for example, in memory and imagination. Intellectual prehensions: (1) conscious perceptions - i.e., immediate perceptual judgments, and (2) intuitive judgments as occurring in thought and imagination. Three types of empirical judgment. Distinction between propositions and judgments. Derivative judgments and deductive reasoning. Chapter 12. CAUSATION AND PERCEPTION 121 Whitehead's critique of Hume's analysis of the causal relationship as one of expectancy. Hume's and Kant's denial of direct causal determination stems from their deletion of the

7 VIII TABLE OF CONTENTS perceptual process of passage from experience. Perceptual Causality: Causal determination as a characteristic of a whole occurrence, from which the more refined causal notions of science are derived, Michotte's experimental work on perceptual causality - habit and expectancy not crucial factors in giving rise to causal impressions. Critical examination of Michotte's work from an analytical standpoint. Chapter 13. RELIGION, DEITY AND THE ORDER OF NATURE 128 Whitehead's Natural Theology. Belief that he is putting forward a new kind of ontological argument for the existence of God. Whitehead's approach primarily descriptive, concerned with those general features of order in the universe which he believes give rise to our particular religious ideas, emotions and forms of behaviour. Dipolar nature of God: (a) Primordial Nature - the conceptual aspect of our experience of an order of nature; (b) Consequent Nature - the multiplicity of events or the qualitative content ordered by (a). The Order of Nature: Whitehead expresses this order more formally in terms of his concept of an Extensive Continuum. Whitehead's linking of mathematical concepts to value concepts. Bibliography 135 Name Index 137 Subject Index 139

8 PREFACE In this book I have attempted to give an account of some of the most important of Whitehead's philosophical writings - his writings on the philosophy of science as well as his metaphysics. I have tried to show that although there are novelties in Whitehead's later philosophy there are also continuities with his earlier work in the philosophy of science. For a more detailed account of Whitehead's metaphysics, I would refer the reader to my book The Philosophy of Whitehead (The Muirhead Library of Philosophy), Allen and Unwin, London 1959 (Collier Books, New York 1962). On the whole I believe my view of Whitehead in that work, at least as far as his metaphysics is concerned, is not materially different from that held in the present one, although there are some differences in emphasis and interpretation. I wish to thank the administrateur delegue of the Revue Internationale de Philosophie, Brussels; the publishers Allen and Unwin, London; and Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg, for kindly giving me permission to publish amended versions of the following papers which I originally published with them: "Whitehead and the Idea of Equivalence" Revue Internationale de Philosophie, No , 1961, pp ; "The Relevance of "On Mathematical Concepts of the Material World" to Whitehead's Philosophy", in The Relevance of Whitehead. Ed. Ivor Leclerc (The Muirhead Library of Philosophy) Allen and Unwin 1961, pp ; "Whitehead and the Philosophy of Time". Studium Generale. Springer-Verlag 1970, pp , and in The Study of Time. Eds. J.T. Fraser, F.C. Haber, G.H. Miiller, Springer-Verlag These papers now appear in their revised form as Chapters 3, 4 and 7 of this book. WOLFE MAYS University of Manchester

9 ABBREVIA nons AI CN MC MT NL PM PNK PofR PR Adventures of Ideas The Concept of Nature "On Mathematical Concepts of the Material World" Modes of Thought Nature and Life Principia Mathematica An Enquiry Concerning The Principles of Natural Knowledge The Principle of Relativity Process and Reality

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