The poets are entirely mistaken. They should address their lyrics to themselves, and should turn them into odes of self-congratulation on the excellency of the human mind. Nature is a dull affair, soundless, scentless, colourless; merely the hurrying of material, endlessly, meaninglessly. Thereby, modern philosophy has been ruined.
It has oscillated in a complex manner between three extremes. There are the dualists, who accept matter and mind as on an equal basis, and the two varieties of monists, those who put mind inside matter, and those who put matter inside mind. But this juggling with abstractions can never overcome the inherent confusion introduced by the ascription of misplaced concreteness to the scientific scheme.
This fallacy lies at the root of the modern philosophical confusions of scientific materialism and progressive bifurcation of nature. And the bifurcating idea that secondary qualities should be explained in terms of primary qualities is also an instance of this fallacy—it mistakes the mathematical abstractions of physics as the most concrete and so-called primary reality from which to explain the so-called secondary reality of colors, sounds, etc. I hold that philosophy is the critic of abstractions.
Its function is the double one, first of harmonising them by assigning to them their right relative status as abstractions, and secondly of completing them by direct comparison with more concrete intuitions of the universe, and thereby promoting the formation of more complete schemes of thought. It is in respect to this comparison that the testimony of great poets is of such importance. Their survival is evidence that they express deep intuitions of mankind penetrating into what is universal in concrete fact.
Philosophy is not one among the sciences with its own little scheme of abstractions which it works away at perfecting and improving. It is the survey of the sciences, with the special object of their harmony, and of their completion. It brings to this task, not only the evidence of the separate sciences, but also its own appeal to concrete experience.
Online Platos Bibliography 1985 1990
Charles Hartshorne writes:. When Whitehead came to Harvard in he felt obliged to spend his time reading and teaching philosophy, rather than the theoretical physics he had been teaching in London, after teaching mathematics at Cambridge.
Consequently his knowledge of physics began to be out of date. Even though Whitehead did not react in his writings to the Copenhagen interpretation, he was up to date with respect to the older quantum mechanics of Planck, Einstein and Bohr , and his philosophy foreshadows some of its present day interpretations.
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In the world described by quantum mechanics there is no reality except in the relations between physical systems. The world of quantum mechanics is not a world of objects: it is a world of events. There is no longer space which contains the world, and no longer time during the course of which events occur. There are elementary processes … continuously interact[ing] with each other. Just as a calm and clear Alpine lake is made up of a rapid dance of a myriad of minuscule water molecules, the illusion of being surrounded by continuous space and time is the product of a long-sighted vision of a dense swarming of elementary processes.
Many of his essays about education date from this time and appear in his book, The Aims of Education and Other Essays a. As we think, we live.
Thus it is only as we improve our thoughts that we improve our lives. This view in turn has corollaries for both the content of education and its method of delivery. By skipping stage one, and never arriving at stage three, bad math teachers deny students the major motivation to love mathematics: the joy of pattern recognition. Culture is activity of thought, and receptiveness of beauty and humane feeling. Scraps of information have nothing to do with it. Any serious fundamental change in the intellectual outlook of human society must necessarily be followed by an educational revolution.
In particular, the scientific revolution and the fundamental changes it entailed in the seventeenth and subsequent centuries have been followed by an educational revolution that was still ongoing in the twentieth century. In , Whitehead wrote:. We are, in fact, in the midst of an educational revolution caused by the dying away of the classical impulse which has dominated European thought since the time of the Renaissance.
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Finally, the idea of the World now means to us the whole round world of human affairs, from the revolutions of China to those of Peru. Whitehead listed the scientific and industrial revolutions as well as globalization as the major causes for the educational reforms of the nineteenth and twentieth century. These fundamental changes indeed implied new standards for what counts as genuine knowledge. However, together with these new standards emerged a romantic anxiety—the anxiety that the new standards of genuine knowledge, education, and living might impoverish human experience and damage both individual and social wellbeing.
Snow , and the many associated debates in the context of various educational reforms—for example, the s debate in Victorian England, when Whitehead was a Cambridge student, between T. Huxley, an outspoken champion of science, defending the claims of modern scientific education, and Matthew Arnold, a leading man of letters, defending the claims of classical literary education.
As for Whitehead, in whom the scientific and the romantic spirit merged, one cannot say that he sided with either Huxley or Arnold. He took his distance from those who, motivated by the idea that the sciences embody the ultimate modes of thought, sided with Huxley, but also from those who, motivated by conservatism, that is, by an anachronistic longing for a highly educated upper class and an elitist horror of educational democratization, sided with Arnold cf.
Next to not taking a stance in the debate on which is the ultimate mode of thought, the scientific or the literary, hence rejecting the antithesis between scientific and literary education, Whitehead also rejected the antithesis between thought and action cf. In other words, according to Whitehead, we can identify three instead of two cultures but, moreover, we must refrain from promoting any one of these three at the expense of the other two. He writes:. My point is, that no course of study can claim any position of ideal completeness. Nor are the omitted factors of subordinate importance.
The insistence in the Platonic culture on disinterested intellectual appreciation is a psychological error.
Action and our implication in the transition of events amid the inevitable bond of cause to effect are fundamental. An education which strives to divorce intellectual or aesthetic life from these fundamental facts carries with it the decadence of civilisation. Disinterested scientific curiosity is a passion for an ordered intellectual vision of the connection of events.
But the … intervention of action even in abstract science is often overlooked. No man of science wants merely to know. He acquires knowledge to appease his passion for discovery. He does not discover in order to know, he knows in order to discover.
The pleasure which art and sciences can give to toil is the enjoyment which arises from successfully directed intention. The antithesis between a technical and a liberal education is fallacious. There can be no technical education which is not liberal, and no liberal education which is not technical: that is, no education which does not import both technique and intellectual vision. There are three main methods which are required in a national system of education, namely, the literary curriculum, the scientific curriculum, the technical curriculum.
But each of these curricula should include the other two … each of these sides … should be illuminated by the others. Facing mandatory retirement in London, and upon being offered an appointment at Harvard, Whitehead moved to the United States in Given his prior training in mathematics, it was sometimes joked that the first philosophy lectures he ever attended were those he himself delivered in his new role as Professor of Philosophy.
The lectures formed the basis for Science and the Modern World And in the Preface of the third major work composing his mature metaphysical system, Adventures of Ideas , Whitehead stated:.
The three books— Science and The Modern World, Process and Reality, Adventures of Ideas —are an endeavor to express a way of understanding the nature of things, and to point out how that way of understanding is illustrated by … human experience. Closely linked to this completion of the scientific scheme of thought, Whitehead developed a new scientific ontology and a new theory of perception. His scientific ontology is one of internally related events instead of merely externally related bits of matter.
His theory of perception cf. Symbolism: its Meaning and Effect holds that our perception is always perception in the mixed mode of symbolic reference, which usually involves a symbolic reference of what is given in the pure mode of presentational immediacy to what is given in the pure mode of causal efficacy:. In his later metaphysics, Whitehead revolted against the bifurcation of the world into the objective world of facts as studied by science, even a completed science, and one not limited to physics, but stretching from physics to biology to psychology and the subjective world of values aesthetic, ethic, and religious , and he promoted the harmonization of the abstractions of science with those of art, morals, and religion, as well as the inclusion of more concrete intuitions offered by our experience—stretching from our mathematical and physical intuitions to our poetic and mystic intuitions.
Closely linked to this completion of the metaphysical scheme of thought cf. Part I of Process and Reality , Whitehead refined his earlier ontology, and generalized his earlier theory of perception into a theory of feelings. His theory of feelings cf. The actual occasions ontologically constituting our experience are the elementary processes of concrescence of feelings constituting the stream of our experience, and they throw light on the what and the how of all actual occasions, including those that constitute lifeless material things.
This amounts to the panexperientialist claim that the intrinsically related elementary constituents of all things in the universe, from stones to human beings, are experiential.
But then this ontology has to take into account the fact that quantum mechanics suggests that reality is not only relational, but also granular the results of measuring its changes do not form continuous spectra, but spectra of discrete quanta and indeterminist physicists cannot predetermine the result of a measurement; they can only calculate for each of the relevant discrete quanta, that is, for each of the possible results of the measurement, the probability that it becomes the actual result.
Part IV of Process and Reality.
Whitehead writes:. The authority of William James can be quoted in support of this conclusion. Your acquaintance with reality grows literally by buds or drops of perception. In his Harvard writings, however, Whitehead considers deterministic interaction as an abstract limit in some circumstances of the creative interaction that governs the becoming of actual entities in all circumstances, and he makes clear that his notion of causality includes both determination by the antecedent world efficient causation of past actual occasions and self-determination final causation by the actual occasion in the process of becoming.
Every philosophy recognizes, in some form or other, this factor of self-causation. The eternal objects are the pure potentials of the universe, and the actual entities differ from each other in their realization of potentials. Eternal objects can qualify characterize the objective content and the subjective form of the feelings that constitute actual entities.
Eternal objects of the subjective species, on the other hand, include sense data and values. A member of the subjective species is, in its primary character, an element in the definiteness of the subjective form of a feeling. It is a determinate way in which a feeling can feel. But it can also become an eternal object contributing to the definiteness of the objective content of a feeling, for example, when a smelly feeling gives rise to a feeling of that smell, or when an emotionally red feeling is felt by another feeling, and red, an element of the subjective form of the first feeling, becomes an element of the objective content of the second feeling.
Indeed, each actual entity is a concrescence of feelings of the antecedent world, which do not only have objective content, but also subjective form, and as this concrescence is not only determined by the objective content by what is felt , but also by the subjective form by how it is felt , it is not only determined by the antecedent world that is felt, but also by how it is felt.
How does this relate to eternal objects? According to Whitehead, self-determination gives rise to the probabilistic laws of science as well as human freedom. We cannot decide what the causes are of our present moment of experience, but—to a certain extent—we can decide how we take them into account. In other words, we cannot change what happens to us, but we can choose how we take it.
Because our inner life is constituted not only by what we feel, but also by how we feel what we feel, not only by objective content, but also by subjective form, Whitehead argues that outer compulsion and efficient causation do not have the last word in our becoming; inner self-determination and final causation do.
Related Platos Bibliography 1985-1990
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