Alfred North Whitehead

Alfred North Whitehead, OM (* February 15 1861 in Ramsgate, † 30 December 1947 in Cambridge ( Massachusetts)) was a British philosopher and mathematician.

In his time in London 1911-1924 Whitehead made ​​a name for himself as a natural philosopher, as a philosopher of science, as a critic of education at Britain's universities and as an author of several books on education.

After his appointment to the University of Harvard in 1924, he was able to devote himself to the further development of its process- philosophical metaphysics. When his main philosophical work is considered " Process and Reality " (1929 ), in which he his " Philosophy of Organism " was the form which later also became the basis of process theology. In it, he structured on the basis of rationality and coherence of reality as an organism that takes place in elementary events and is in an evolutionary development. Although the philosophical secondary literature on Whitehead is extensive, the influence of his metaphysics on academic philosophy has remained modest.

  • 3.1 Theory of Education
  • 3.2 The beginnings of natural philosophy 3.2.1 Geometry and Logic
  • 3.2.2 Space, Time and Matter
  • 3.2.3 Criticism of the substance materialism
  • 4.1 Critique of Scientific Materialism
  • 4.2 Process and Reality
  • 4.3 Late fonts
  • 6.1 Other characterizations and consequences
  • 6.2 relation to science 6.2.1 Laws of Nature
  • 6.2.2 Evolution and Teleology
  • 7.1 Mathematics and Philosophy
  • 7.2 Natural Sciences

Family, school and studies

Alfred North Whitehead was born in 1861 in Ramsgate, a small port city in the South East of England. He was the youngest of four children of Alfred Whitehead, an Anglican clergyman, and Maria Sarah Buckmaster, a daughter of a wealthy businessman. His father taught him until the age of 14 years at home, as Alfred's health status was assessed by parents as too weak to attend a public school and physical activity involved. From September 1875 he has been taught for four years at the Sherbourne Independent School in Dorset, where showed his outstanding talent in mathematics. 1879 Whitehead won a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he started in 1880 with the study of mathematics. At Trinity College he attended, among others, James Whitbread Lee Glaisher lectures by Arthur Cayley and George Gabriel Stokes. In the " Tripos " (The Ultimate not only for a mathematical career written, very competitively applied mathematics exams in Cambridge ) of 1883/84, which he prepared himself with Edward Routh, he was Fourth best.


Start of career

1884 Whitehead Fellow and Assistant Lecturer and was later ( 1888) Lecturer in Cambridge, although he hardly published. Also in 1884 he was inducted into the debating society of the Cambridge Apostles. Here he met people such as Moore, Keynes and McTaggart know, even his interest in philosophy, theology and other sciences was awakened and developed. 1884 Whitehead wrote his thesis on Maxwell's theory of electrodynamics. During a sabbatical in 1885, he traveled to Germany to visit mathematics lectures of Felix Klein.

1890 Whitehead married Evelyn Willoughby Wade, who came from a noble family and was educated in France. The couple had three children, two sons, Thomas and Eric Alfred North, and a daughter, Jessie Marie. The younger of the two sons, Eric Alfred Whitehead, 1918 fell in the First World War when a patrol flight in France with the rank of lieutenant of the Royal Air Force. The marriage, which lasted until his death, was from the outset a great addition to Whitehead's thought. In particular, his wife for aesthetic interest inspired him to include these aspects in its basic reflections about nature.

Although Alfred North Whitehead was at home by the family and education in the Anglican Church, he began in 1890 a multi-year exploration of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Inspired and influenced by this interest was his wife and the writings of John Henry Newman. This period ended after a decade by noting whiteheads that he had now taken an agnostic attitude toward the religions, in his own words influenced by the rapid progress in physics and the associated departure from the Newtonian worldview.

Principia Mathematica

From 1891 he worked on the book " Treatise on Universal Algebra", a very ambitious work on comparative studies based purely symbolic reasoning, which, however, only appeared in 1898. Due to the Treatise Whitehead was elected in 1903 to the Royal Society. In 1890 Whitehead was also the teacher of Bertrand Russell, after he began his studies at Cambridge. Your cooperation in the " Principia Mathematica " probably began in late 1901 or early 1902. Occasion was her visit to the International Mathematical Congress in Paris in 1900, where they met the work of Giuseppe Peano on the foundations of mathematics. Whitehead and Russell were also privately good friends as a result. Russell led Peano approaches with the outstanding publication " Principles of Mathematics " (1903 ) continued. Even this work is based on the claim to represent the logic as the fundamental principle of mathematics. With the " Principia Mathematica " should then be shown that all arithmetic can be attributed to a set of axioms and rules of inference which can be derived directly from the logic. Thus, the authors continued the basic progress of mathematics and logic by George Boole, Charles S. Peirce, Gottlob Frege, Hermann Grassmann and the other from the second half of the 19th century. Work on the " Principia Mathematica " led both to their physical and mental limits and took them up to the publication of the first volume in 1910 strongly to complete. Finally, to publish the three volumes of the publisher Cambridge University Press, Whitehead and Russell had to contribute each 50 pounds out of pocket. Whitehead gave up employment with the planned second volume of his Universal Algebra for such cooperation.

Despite his work on " Principia Mathematica " Whitehead made ​​in Cambridge not a typical mathematician career. His interest was focused on the acquisition and development of the foundations of logic and mathematics. Some of his few publications in this period are "On Mathematical Concepts of the Material World " (1905 ), " Axioms of Projective Geometry " (1907 ) and " Axioms of Descriptive Geometry " (1907). 1911 Whitehead published a declaration addressed to the broad readership Introduction to Mathematics ( "An Introduction to Mathematics" ), which was widely popular and even today is considered one of the best books of its kind.


1910 Whitehead gave to his position at Cambridge and went without the prospect of a concrete job after London. Outward occasion was the loss of his friend and colleague Fellowship Andrew Russell Forsyth. A year later he was appointed as a lecturer in pure mathematics at University College London and in 1914 a professorship (at that time did not differ from physics ) at the Imperial College of Science in Applied Mathematics.

Theory of education

In his time in London Whitehead took several positions in academic administration, including as Dean of the Faculty of Science, as a member of various commissions for the reform of university education and as a member of the Senate of the University of London. Here he tried to put into practice his criticism of the conservative to university institutions.

In "The Aims of Education and Other Essays " in 1916 he summarized his claims to a successful education and training together. Creativity and accuracy, or freedom and discipline are here for Whitehead not only the basic elements of his philosophy and ideals of the operation in mathematics, but also the general educational ideals of a people. Education should be no mediation rigid ideals and content, but stimulate the people to self-development. It is successful if it leads to an intensified perception of the present. The result is, ideally, to develop their own " intellectual style ", the " highest morality of mind ", an aesthetic value that gives its meaning to all experiential processes and continue to express in an " admiration " for the direct reach a destination without fluids.

The beginnings of natural philosophy

Whitehead, who had never attended a lecture in philosophy, now began gradually to publish his ideas from a natural philosophical foundation. His lifelong theme was the development of a scheme of the basic elements of reality, which he formulated using a creative speculative philosophy, but also on the criteria of logic and consistency checked constantly.

" Speculative philosophy is the endeavor of a coherent, logical and necessary system of general ideas to design, on the basis of which every element of our experience can be interpreted. "

At the beginning of his ideas were often fundamental philosophical problems from the theory and practice of logic, mathematics and physics.

Geometry and logic

Since the ancient Greeks Euclidean geometry was considered the epitome of man's ability to comprehend the nature of space in general laws. This knowledge seemed even a priori, ie before and independently of any experience to be possible. After the advent of alternative geometries in the 19th century, however, no more geometry could claim to describe the real space. But Newtonian physics, Euclidean geometry, as well as Einstein's theory of relativity implies the Riemann geometry, Whitehead concluded that it is not decidable what geometry the space actually describes. Likewise, the irreversibility of the Aristotelian " classical logic " as a reflection of reality as a result of advances in logic has proved illusory. This led Whitehead view even in a crisis of reason. Both results shake therefore our imagination to understand the nature with the help of our everyday experience.

Space, time and matter

The basis of the scientific concepts in Newtonian physics and the underlying nature of the scheme each independent categories "space", "time" and "matter". Space and time are like a container in which each part of matter has a definite place in Newton. However, this mechanistic view of nature is generally unsuitable to represent changes for Whitehead. This would mean, for example, any change in direction of a ( theoretically infinite hard ) body in classical mechanics done with infinitely high speed. The application of this scheme in physics leads to Whitehead as " fallacy of misplaced concrete " ( " Fallacy of misplaced concreteness "). He argues here that the seemingly unambiguous assignment of very abstract and simplistic terms does not cover to comprehensive descriptions of reality with our immediate experience, because we always need a concrete totality, to isolate a part of it. A subproblem of this is the " fallacy of simple location " ( " fallacy of simple location" ). The allocation of a spatial point to a specific form of matter assumes the independence of the two categories. However, this inevitably leads to White Head in contradictions. The same applies to the relationship between time and material. For the past in the present must be present so that we can have memory that yes corresponds to the material form. Likewise, the matter is a " instantaneous existence " awarded, ie a non -temporal presence, which contradicts every experience for Whitehead, the existence mediated only by a period.

Criticism of the substance materialism

The substance metaphysics since Aristotle based Whitehead 's view on a strong orientation of thought and philosophy on the subject-predicate structure of everyday language. Things that last a long time, we look for Whitehead for real than things that only briefly appear in our consciousness. But since every perception, every measurement and every event " lasts " are the events themselves and not things or facts (such as by Wittgenstein in the Tractatus ontology ) the actual building blocks of reality for Whitehead. The ordinary, substance materialistic view is that we fix an event always to a substance which something happens "with". The separation of substances, " matter" and "spirit" in the Cartesian dualism Whitehead rejects strictly. Nothing in our experience, he writes, was composed exclusively of matter or exclusively of mind. However, Whitehead recognizes the differences between matter and spirit, not trying to pick it up in a neutral monism. In his later metaphysics the areas of matter and spirit form quasi the "pole " of the "real events" that are then the basic building blocks of reality.

Real events

1920 put Whitehead in "The concept of Nature" a natural-philosophical approach, showing its basic term to designate these basic building blocks of the "real event" ( " actual entity ", even " real individuals " ) is. The event is what always is part of the reality, the substance materialist categories of subjectivity and objectivity or reality and appearance play it does not matter. Similarly, Whitehead thus avoiding the search for a soul-substance or the determination of the "essence of the matter" that determines many ontologies. Real individuals are atomic, their dimensions and properties can play no independent existence. The concrete consciousness of a human in an instant is a real individual, as well as " the most trivial puff of existence in far-off empty space " ( "Process and Reality", p 58) and ultimately with God. Their being is a process of becoming, their destiny is in the highest degree on the relations to ultimately all other real individuals.

The apparent persistence of the things derived from the constant repetition of the events that have these things to the content. Things that have only one possible definition, can not be changed and therefore take forever to. These are called Whitehead " eternal objects" ( "eternal objects" ) or "pure possibilities " ( "pure potentials" ). Together with the concept of " acquisition " ( " prehensions " ), they form the core of the later metaphysics whiteheads.

The elements of the traditional conception of nature as "space" to be understood as a phenomenon that basis and constructed. "Duration", " relationality " and "meaning" then no later constructed in the natural sciences concepts, but are at Whitehead to the basic elements of the conception of nature. Is according to the traditional view, the matter, the real phenomena and the changes it, so is the passive, unchanging matter at Whitehead to the appearance of natural reality, which is determined by events and changes. Characteristic of the phenomenon of materiality therefore is a constant repetition of the events; the illusion is the assumption of the independent existence of a thing, the real is the event. For example, the measurement of the atomic weight of a lead atom a unique, real event. Only the repetition of this event leads to the assumption that a separate object "lead", together with its property "weight". Both are constructed abstractions and have for Whitehead is not reflected in the basic reality of nature.

" [ ... ] Space, time and matter are attributes of the events. According to the old theory of relativity, space and time relations between matter particles; according to our theory, they are relations between events. "

As Whitehead concedes, we still do not have a scientific method or even a principle for determining the current - and necessarily finite - number and duration of real events. He sees the mathematics but only in its infancy and therefore cares about this situation any further thoughts.

Method of extensive abstraction

In " Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Natural Knowledge " (1919) Whitehead introduced his method of "extensive abstraction " before. Seemingly simple basic elements of Euclidean geometry but also in mathematical physics as a point are pure abstractions for Whitehead. To derive these from the real elements of the experience, he formulated a relation of " Extended One - on". A set of events that can be assembled into a complex class that against the geometrical element, similar to Russian dolls, converges in a kind of intervals. The method of extensive abstraction has been later extended by Alfred Tarski and today known under the name "Point - free geometry".

Philosophy and History of Science

Whitehead examines science as a part of the life process and its method of gaining knowledge in terms of their natural philosophical interpretation. He comes in his scientific historical considerations partially similar results to those later, Paul Feyerabend and Kuhn, but they valued differently. Even in the sciences, there are Whitehead similarly as in politics, conservative and revolutionary tendencies; To see science as a pure search for truth and knowledge gained aspiring business is far too naive in his eyes. If the conservative, arcane distinctive, set on survival science structures gain the upper hand, is anything new that does not fit into the scheme, classified as irrelevant. Thus, any scientific method in a " stage of life ". At first experiences are integrated, which were previously ignored, then follows the systematization ( Kuhn, " normal science ") and the final phase, in which it is only of secondary importance and discuss the real issues of substance no longer be treated. The relevance of new knowledge goals is denied and the old methodology will receive for its own sake. The Whitehead opposes a " methodical speculation", on the other hand to protect against obscurantism on the one hand and against quackery. The method is in general the logic and mathematics.

The obscurantism of modern science is for Whitehead especially in the absurd denial of the purposiveness of nature. So Whitehead asks pointedly: What is the purpose a scientist who denies the usefulness in nature? The advisability of gaining knowledge, which is directed by definition a trickle out on new, must therefore lie outside of a nature which is not subject to expediency itself.


Early twenties was Whitehead not only one of the most respected logician and mathematician ( he wrote, for example, the article " Mathematics" for the 11th edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica ), but also an equally acclaimed philosopher of science. On February 6, 1924 Whitehead was 63 years old, he received an invitation for a fixed-term to five years initially philosophy professor without any restriction at Harvard University in Cambridge (Massachusetts, USA), which he took up in October of the same year. He quickly became known there that he had no regard for the ability of its audience took his lectures to follow his complex and content- heavy versions. During his time in America Whitehead adopted a number of visiting professorships in the country. In America and in American pragmatism, insbesonderen represented in the form of Peirce, Whitehead saw a philosophical point of the "future".

Critique of Scientific Materialism

For a number of lectures in the Lowell Lectures at Boston University one of his most notable books emerged. In " Science and the Modern World" (1925 ) Whitehead criticized the widespread in the natural sciences materialism as the result of error, holding the abstract systems of mathematical physics formulated for reality. The starting point of this development he sees in the beginning of the scientific research of the 17th century, when science and philosophy the increasingly separate areas zuwendeten nature and spirit. This is for Whitehead ultimately a " desubjectification of nature" and a " denaturalization of the subject " equal. This separation of man and his experience of a postulated objective reality in Newtonian science image was a frequent target for Whitehead's criticism and the planning of a process-oriented metaphysics.

Also on the basis of lectures followed by two more scriptures in which Whitehead goal for his new philosophical approach. In Religion in the Making (1926 ) he developed the idea of an immanent understanding of God, which was added to the process theology. An independent theory of perception in which he criticized both the empiricism of David Hume and the idealism of Kant, he put in Symbolism. Its Meaning and Effect ( 1927) before.

Process and Reality

In January 1927 Whitehead received from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, an invitation to a lecture series of the famous Gifford Lectures on Natural Theology. The scheduled ten lectures built Whitehead later of 25 chapters. Publication in book form in 1929 was with " Process and Reality. An Essay in Cosmology " his philosophical masterpiece and one of the most important of Western metaphysics. Like his Gifford Lectures, which ran off the audience in droves, was " Process and Reality ", which was considered difficult to understand because of its difficult reasoning and an idiosyncratic language, recorded only reluctantly by the experts.

In this work also falls Whitehead's famous quote:

" The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato. "

Late journals

"The Function of Reason " ( function of reason ) of 1929 is a rather scientific-theoretical approach which complements the process philosophy. 1929/1930 Mary Flexner Lecturer Whitehead was at Bryn Mawr College. These lectures were published along with others, which he had held in Columbia at Dartmouth College and as Davis Lecturer in 1933 under the title The Adventures of Ideas ( Adventures of Ideas ). Whitehead described this work as a study of the concept of civilization and as an attempt to understand how it comes to the creation of civilized beings. In addition to the history of ideas topics Whitehead added here his work also to aesthetic considerations. Finally, appeared in 1938, shortly after Whitehead's retirement, Modes of Thought ( thinking ), in which he his lectures at the University of Chicago, he had already published under the title Nature and Life (1933 ), as well as lectures at Wellesley College from 1937/1938 summarized.

Retirement and appreciation

After his pupil and biographer Victor Lowe Whitehead was due to his politeness and helpfulness a popular teacher and man, this wise, urbane, quiet and sometimes stubborn. Lowe described him as one characterized by a Victorian living people. In addition to a strong intuition Whitehead recorded from a clear mind, a realistic spirit and goodness and wisdom. His retirement came Whitehead in 1937 at the age of 76 years. But even then he remained productive, yet lectured at Harvard and published, among other things, " Mathematics and the Good" and " Immortality " (both 1941). Whitehead died on December 30, 1947; his body was cremated at his request, his ashes were buried on 6 January 1948 at the cemetery of the Harvard Memorial Church. Also at his request, all unpublished writings were burned from his possession.

Whitehead received many awards during his career. Perhaps the most important is the choice of the Royal Society in 1903. The award of the Sylvester Medal in 1925 drew from his work on the foundations of mathematics. The Royal Society of Edinburgh awarded him the 1922 James Scott Prize. The Columbia University gave him their Butler Medal in 1930, and the following year he was elected to the British Academy. In recognition of his life's work, the awarding of the Order of Merit applies in 1945. Many universities awarded him an honorary doctorate, including Manchester, St. Andrews, Wisconsin, Harvard, Yale and Montreal.

Process philosophy

Many approaches and considerations of Whitehead 's speculative philosophy culminated in his major work " Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology " to today's so-called " process philosophy." Whitehead himself called his approach " Philosophy of Organism ," which is usually translated as " organismic philosophy ", some with " organistic philosophy " or " organic philosophy." Formal core of this consideration is the structuring of the world for events and not for " things". The events so do not play out according to this view on the basis of things now and so can not be reduced to things or derived from them. Whitehead holds the given events for the basic elements of reality. He aims to make the starting point of all natural description, the structure of experience itself, and not the categories of substance and quality. The organic element presses on the one hand the growth and decay of the events. Secondly, Whitehead, referring to the characteristics of organisms that are simultaneously determined by functional and efficient causes, and then transfers it to the elementary events.

The perspective of our everyday understanding, but also the view of the natural sciences, ( etc. matter, energy, ) describes reality as a collection of things, is therefore derived only from the events by abstraction. This redefinition of the basic elements of our conception of reality is both the reading and the classification of process- philosophical works whiteheads before continuing difficulties. Like any metaphysical conception must take existing concepts and patterns of meaning and this on the one hand limit with logical focus and on the other hand generalize for a broader use again and Whitehead approach. This difficulty of the necessary redefinition is aware Whitehead, and he describes his approach explicitly. The most important tools for verifying the usefulness of its terminology are in it for him the logic and coherence. In contrast, the existing conceptualization of Sciences follows his opinion, too much of the subject-predicate structure of the ( English ) language, and in general the dualism between subject and object as an epistemological category. This complicates the understanding and classification of the metaphysical terminology whiteheads in addition.

For example, the process philosophical approach is often classified as panpsychism. Whitehead himself sees this assessment, however, again only as an expression of inadequate " ontology of things." The contrast between matter and spirit as in Descartes or between transcendental, metaphysical and physical- empirical reality as in Kant is thus only a consequence of this inadequacy. If " panpsychism " from these dualities out defined, then it is regarded as an idealistic position, against which Whitehead vehemently defends. Reiner Wiehl called the metaphysics of process philosophy as " revised panpsychism " or " Pansubjektivismus " because each " real event " a physical and a mental pole own. David R. Griffin coined the term panexperientialism (with organizational duality ) for Whitehead's view.

Further characterizations and consequences

The real events ( "actual entities" ) as basic building blocks of reality have the "Capture" ( " prehension " ) Proportion of all other events. Detecting means as much as (unconscious ) perception or recording date, and so provides the fundamental, atomic element of the relation dar. This capture refers to all types of dependencies, such as causal and mental influence, but also intentional. Beliefs and evaluations that have influence on other events. Not only the fact of the existence of an event, but also the way of "how" it happens, are determined by these conditions. They thus represent the past of an event and every event reflects ultimately the entire past reality. Completely contrary to the substance in the metaphysics of substance do not exist real events independently. A real event is a product of its relatedness to other events. In contrast, independence and autonomy, or even the idea of ​​independence of completed systems must now be constructed from this reality only. Relationality within a substance metaphysics is for Whitehead, however, an absurdity. Each real event as experienced subject is again detected after its completion by other real events as an object.

Events can be grouped by their relatedness to each other. Events, which are connected together by the reciprocal recording of information, Whitehead calls a nexus ( connection relationship). The unit of Nexus ' results in the perception by other events. The largest Nexus is the world itself, all others are subordinate to it were. Furthermore, events can be construed as "companies" ( " Societies "). A society consists of a set of real individuals who share certain characteristics and thus to distinguish it from an environment. Added to this is the requirement that companies themselves bear by realizing their own timeless objects resistant.

In contrast to the Nexus societies are organized chronologically. Companies are an expression of the objects that we encounter in our everyday understanding of how people, machines and other objects of our everyday lives. For Whitehead, this can thus be constructed from the basic elements of his metaphysics and according to his requirements of rationality and consistency.

With the conception of "eternal objects" Whitehead comes close to the philosophy of Plato and his theory of ideas very much. Real events have the possibility to realize certain properties. This " pure possibilities " himself writes Whitehead as an existence, an existence that can be realized concretely and that defines itself through the concrete realizations in events again. These options are included in the actual events, they are of them recorded along with other real events. So can be used for Whitehead, the relative stability of the laws of nature and explain things, which ultimately but also change in the process of becoming.

Relation to science

Whitehead sees his philosophy in a continuity of natural science in terms of their understanding of reality. He integrates the results of scientific theory as a connoisseur of contemporary research ( especially physics and biology) and takes them as the starting point for his philosophical conceptions. On the other hand, the philosophical discipline of metaphysics is often a lump sum to be incompatible with a positivist and naturalistic orientation as they dominated the modern natural sciences and the philosophy of science, viewed. However, among the natural-philosophical elements that underlie the models of today's science, only those there also treated explicitly, which operationalize and can be described mathematically (eg, space, time ). Other basic concepts such as causality come in practical science, however, at most implicitly to advantage. For Whitehead, the principle of causality, however, is explicitly given during the design of relational events. His concern is to rule out any natural philosophical elements of the content of science by this is not reduced to numerical- mathematical categories. Because the demand for invariant and universal laws of nature as well as the focus on mathematical writability and technological usability shorten the concept of nature in the natural sciences Whitehead considers inappropriate. The concreteness of sensual experience and the " flow of phenomena " that made up the actual, immediate reality, so that was not detected. The cosmos loses by Whitehead in the mechanistic interpretation of its quality and is reduced to the quantity, the quality will henceforth only awarded to the subject and his sensuous experience. So waived modern science in favor of a mathematical abstraction on an adequate and comprehensive description of reality. The ideal of pure empirical perception without subjective qualities of the natural sciences is therefore a secondary idea that is constructed only from the repetition of concrete experiences.

Laws of nature

Whitehead identified three different positions, expressing the ratio of the laws of nature to reality.

The criticism of the positions 1 and 2 runs through most of his natural philosophical and epistemological work. In particular, the mathematical physics appears Whitehead in many ways unsuitable for adequate description of reality. The "things" are here from each other and separated from the laws. This is not justified by the concrete experience but. Furthermore, it can be so under the laws of neither the nature of things derived nor vice versa from the observation of things close to the laws. The necessary theism in such a position was their creators in the 17th century still conscious, but is now mostly ignored.

Evolution and teleology

The same applies to purposeful ( teleological ) aspects in the description of nature. The basic elements of reality are simply the fact that they are being investigated for Whitehead does not bar a purpose-setting detail. Value - free, purposeless concepts are therefore in a materialist conception only nebulous results of a constructed " complexity " of living beings. Whitehead denies the same extent that phenomena of evaluation and purpose being less real than, say, the phenomena of gravitation. Review and stated purpose (mind ) idealistic and to assess the gravity realistic is therefore not justified. If one assumes the theory of evolution and viewed all life as being related, then it is " empirical ", do not consider the forms of life "from below" to but " from above". The compulsion to explain later life forms from previous results, after Whitehead only from the conservative tendencies in science.

The doubt existing Whitehead axiological and teleological phenomena must therefore not be classified as "inferred " or " irrelevant" considered. Teleology is rather a central feature of living systems. Here, future states are anticipated by current in the process philosophy, but not deterministically. The organic and inorganic nature depends as much on feelings and intentions for Whitehead. A scientific method that could make this term relationships researched, we did not Whitehead yet. Furthermore, Whitehead sees the obvious realities of a biological organism as inconsistent with a materialistic and mechanistic view, as is the biological science is based. For an organism belong inseparably a period of functioning, the mere distribution of matter, however defined yet no organism.


As a "subjective aim " refers to Whitehead the final cause of a real individual being. This determines, together with the observations of the pure data as efficient cause the shape of the real individual being. The subjective aim is the real character of the individual being and thus can not be determined by this self. In order to preserve the consistency of the metaphysical approach, the ideal of each subjective aim must therefore be outside, again just another real individual being comes into consideration. This particular real individual beings must unite all the possibilities timeless objects and the forging of any other real individual being as well as in the ( conceptual ) entry. Its existence and characterization is thus a direct consequence of the ontological structure of the organismic philosophy. Whitehead calls this real individual being God. God thus includes all the timeless objects, enabling an order in the making. At the same time he goes into any concrete experience as a real individual. It is thus both immanent transcendent Whitehead; transcendent as the set of possibilities that are confronted with the realities immanent participation in the process of reality. Thus, God also changes by responding to the reality or the realized selection of possibilities. The God Whitehead is thus an expectant God. As such, it is also no final order before, but only ideals in a pulsating universe in which order and chaos, and decay make up the real nature. And God's power is the power of persuasion, not the deterministic constraint. The " subjective aim " the real individuals is influenced by God, but not determined. Thus, there is also no independent divine principle in Whitehead. This fact is often regarded as one of the main differences to conventionally theological concepts of God.

The religious philosopher John B. Cobb, David Ray Griffin, Roland Faber, but especially Charles Hartshorne developed the process philosophy continues to process theology. Especially in connection with the U.S. style pragmatism of this approach was given a certain significance. This area is also the main reception of Whitehead's metaphysics. D. W. Sherburne developed from the process philosophy is a conception without God, to show that this element is not required in a complete process- philosophical metaphysics.


The " simple error localization" Whitehead analogous to space even when dealing with the concept of time. Thus it can be derived from separate times never a becoming, a development or a process. The solution proposed in a quantization of time as it is completed in the real individual. The date of this atomistic experience itself is not " in time ", but only her prison time constituted at the relationship level of macroscopic processes. The individual parts of a real individual being comes at Whitehead to a separate reality, so that one can not speak of a before and after in an elementary experience. The persistence in time, however, is an abstraction of the real events. Persistence means the constant repetition of real events (see " Companies"), with a repeat can only refer to certain characteristics. Would repeat the whole of reality, there would be nothing on which one could determine this.

The world has for Whitehead thus no beginning in time and no goal. As the world has always been, one can not speak of a comprehensive or absolute ideal to which a development as a whole could move towards. The ideal of creation is therefore to look directly into the basic elements of reality. Thus, for Whitehead the greatest intensity of the experience for each real individual being the ultimate goal.

Reason and value

In " The function of reason " ( "Function of Reason " ) ( 1929) Whitehead developed a concept of reason that is adapted to the actual living conditions of organisms. Reason then derives not only from the survival of an organism, but also on the " good life " and the " live better " from. The art of living is that firstly it was ever alive, secondly lives in a satisfactory manner and thirdly, it can achieve an even higher degree of satisfaction. Inorganic structures are often perfectly in the persistence, but they are not thereby more reasonable. " Living Well " and " live better " are the value-creating objectives of critters for Whitehead. The mere continuation recedes behind the increase in intensity in the experience. Thus, it is wrong for Whitehead to make the continuation of inanimate things for the sole reason of a scale term in the natural sciences.

Value thus comes to the actual individuals themselves, and is described by Whitehead as the measure of self-realization in relation to the ideal of the subjective objective. The more intense the experience of one's own subjectivity, the higher the value of the event. An increase of this is due to the approximation to the ideal of God, but also by a greater degree of freedom that is given to the real individual being possible. The ideal of creation itself is, as the maximum intensity of all individuals. Value is in this sense requires difference. The indifferent objects of scientific abstractions Whitehead thus no value to come.


The principle of the arising and passing away of the real individual being is nothing else than the fact of experience of creativity in Whitehead. In metaphysics, Whitehead she assumes the role of a Akzidienz and exists not only as a property of individuals, but together with the pair of terms of the One and the Many own category. In the reception remains controversial, what important the principle of creativity in terms of the description of the world. Understood as a pure property of the process of becoming, it is either merely an abstract or a descriptive role. As an overarching, structuring principle Creativity other hand, could refer not only on the ground of being, but also describe the knowledge base.


Mathematics and Philosophy

As a young mathematician Whitehead led approaches and work continued in the field of logic and mathematics, which were started by Gottlob Frege, Boole, Giuseppe Peano and Hermann Grassmann in the 19th century. The " Treatise of Universal Algebra" is one of the last major work in the field of " algebra of logic " that is the content in the tradition of Boolean algebra. In the " Principia Mathematica " Russell and Whitehead use then but a notation system which is clearly influenced by Frege and Peano. This is especially procedures as axiomatic, detached from the well-known algebraic structures defining elements, methods and symbols.

Whitehead was a great admirer of Charles S. Peirce. Like Peirce, he saw in the development of modern logic and algebra on its application in mathematics, a new tool for developing a metaphysics that should better take into account the findings of the natural sciences. Russell's influence on Whitehead is rather low. Although both initially sympathized with the British idealism, but the longer the cooperation, the more protruded their different philosophical positions.

In the tradition of the British empiricists such as John Locke and David Hume Whitehead 's work goes always before strictly empirical. Each natural-philosophical statement and any metaphysical construction, it tries to derive from the direct sensory experience. A special influence also the work of Henri Bergson. Whitehead draws on Bergson's criticism of the " spatialization " of natural processes that shapes on the application in the natural sciences and our everyday thinking. For Bergson, there is a fundamental difference between the duration and quality of experience on the one hand and time as a quantitative notion of a time continuum on the other. The advice is " unextended ", but any kind of timing involves a projection of the time in the space. With regard to the relationship of the ( scientific) concepts and theories to reality Whitehead is an empirical realist like Kant, whose transcendental idealism, however, he refuses. Whitehead has expressly invoke Leibniz's theory of monads. In contrast to the theory of monads he tries to derive laws from the interaction of monads or the actual individuals themselves. General Laws, however, have their origin in God and are imposed externally to the things in Leibniz.

Whitehead was one of the greatest metaphysicians of the 20th century. The publication of his most important philosophical works in the years 1920 to 1940 fell into a time was hardly noticed in the metaphysical speculation in the tradition of critical contemporary philosophy. This applies in varying measure of all positivist, verbal reasoning, Marxist and existentialist currents this time. Only in the case of process theology is a broad and important particularly in the U.S. reception of Whitehead's process philosophy has been established. His pupil, Charles Hartshorne, the most important representative of process theology, sees the cause of contempt even in the " Size and truth " philosophy Whitehead itself more significant process- philosophical works in the tradition of Whiteheads are better known by individuals, such as Isabelle Stengers. Some of his students have also been known philosophers with independent positions: above all Bertrand Russell, Susanne K. Langer but also, William K. Frankena, Nelson Goodman, Willard Van Orman Quine and Donald Davidson.

Natural sciences

The scientific thinking Whitehead is most impacted by the Maxwell electromagnetism and the theory of relativity of Einstein. The terms " field " and " force " holds Whitehead on natural description for much more suitable than the terms " object" and " movement " of the mechanistic worldview of the pre-relativistic physics. In "The Principle of Relativity ", he designed its own theory of gravitation. It is characterized by the fact that the underlying geometric space and which can be shown on the objects unfolding gravity in two separate metrics. He follows the direct action of physical forces on the geometry by Einstein in the general theory of relativity not but remains on the classic separation. This publication, however, was observed neither by the mathematics of physics still further, although this approach is now known as " bimetrische theory of gravitation " and so far as practicable, as it does not contradict the three classical tests of general relativity. After Clifford Will, however, Whitehead's theory is disproved experimentally.

Many important approaches and findings that have established themselves in the natural sciences in the 20th century, were anticipated by the metaphysics of Whitehead. Thus, the statistical character of the laws of nature is a direct result of the abstraction of the laws of the structural identities of the real events. This largely corresponds to the interpretation of the laws of quantum physics and its significance. Also discussed today is change the laws of nature in the course of time can be derived simply from the metaphysical constructions whiteheads. Influences of Whitehead's process philosophy metaphysics show, among other natural scientists such as Ilya Prigogine and David Bohm. The physicist Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff quantum biologist interpret real events as a theoretical basis of a formulation of elementary processes of consciousness. The system-theoretical approaches by Ervin Laszlo and Fritjof Capra takes Whitehead with his doctrine of existential connectedness of all being in the core anticipate. The substantiated by Whitehead Mereotopologie serves as a basis for specialized areas and applications in the study of artificial intelligence.