These “five easy pieces” are a guided tour of one of the most original and creative minds in the history of Western philosophy. Welcome to the “process universe” and the “universal process” of Alfred North Whitehead. In an age of specialization, Whitehead was a modern Renaissance man, a polymath who distinguished himself not only in philosophy, but also in mathematics, physics, logic, and educational theory.
Whitehead’s conceptual breakthrough about a new frontier in philosophy began with his understanding of the radical revolution in science initiated by Albert Einstein and Max Planck. Quantum and relativity theory are not just steps in a different direction, but a cosmic leap into a new universe. Whitehead was among the first to realize that the new science involved a complete breakdown of the old Newtonian worldview, and thus a radical challenge for other fields of thought. Whitehead answered this challenge with a revolution of his own: process philosophy, an adventure of the mind, unsurpassed in its beauty, suggestiveness, and sublimity.
Another process superstar is Charles Hartshorne, a philosopher who has been hailed as the Einstein of religious thought and who independently came up with some of the same ideas he later found in Whitehead. Hartshorne originated electrifying new insights of his own and clarified many process ideas. It can hardly be overstated how much Hartshorne has done to strengthen the case for process philosophy.
This book is an exploration and an explication of process philosophy, both in the particularity of its fundamental ideas and in its general scope and sublimity of vision. With concision and clarity of expression as goals, every effort has been made to provide the reader with a good grasp of the “process universe” and “universal process” of Alfred North Whitehead, and an understanding of why I call Charles Hartshorne the Thomas Edison of philosophy.
One final thought:
The general, or popular, notion of “process” goes back at least as far as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus who declared that all things flow, and who came up with an saying so memorable that it has become part of our common vocabulary: you can’t step into the same river twice.
From a new process perspective, Whitehead was able to upgrade the saying of Heraclitus by making a rather startling statement. He said that “no thinker thinks twice.” No thinker thinks twice. Hold that thought—it will become clear as the book unfolds.
Table of Contents
One: Introducing Whitehead
Adventures of the Mind
The Mechanization of Nature
Hello, Silicon; Goodbye, Carbon
Two: A Philosophy of Organism
Actual Entities: “Atoms” of Process
The Feeling of Feeling
All Things Flow . . . Quantumly
The Many Become One
What’s It All About, Alfie?
Three: A Social Conception of Reality
The Body as Social
No Thinker Thinks Twice
The Kingdom Within
Atom as Social Beings
Four: The Einstein of Religious Thought
Is God Relative? Absolutely!
Philosophy’s Thomas Edison
Variations on a Twofold Theme
Five: The Universe and Dr. Whitehead
A Holographic Universe
God and the World
You Take it From Here!
Appendix: Books by Whitehead and Hartshorne