process and reality

by alfred north whitehead (1929 – this edit version 1978).. intro’d to him here:

Fascinating! To continue the conversation about @davidgraeber and philosophy with @museumofcare  @sonmi451it and more

Original Tweet:

links to rupert sheldrake 100 min video on whitehead – Rupert Sheldrake on the Influence of A. N. Whitehead

and convo is referring to m of care – apr 21

@nikadubrovsky @davidgraeber @museumofcare @sonmi451it Nika can you please do Whitehead for kids (and for me)!?!

Original Tweet:

so googled whitehead..

Alfred North Whitehead OM FRS FBA (15 February 1861 – 30 December 1947) was an English mathematician and philosopher. He is best known as the defining figure of the philosophical school known as process philosophy, which today has found application to a wide variety of disciplines, including ecology, theology, education, physics, biology, economics, and psychology, among other areas.

embodiment (process of) et al

In his early career Whitehead wrote primarily on mathematics, logic, and physics. His most notable work in these fields is the three-volume Principia Mathematica (1910–1913), which he wrote with former student Bertrand Russell. Principia Mathematica is considered one of the twentieth century’s most important works in mathematical logic, and placed 23rd in a list of the top 100 English-language nonfiction books of the twentieth century by Modern Library.

of math and men.. bertrand russell.. et al

Beginning in the late 1910s and early 1920s, Whitehead gradually turned his attention from mathematics to philosophy of science, and finally to metaphysics. He developed a comprehensive metaphysical system which radically departed from most of Western philosophy. Whitehead argued that reality consists of processes rather than material objects, and that processes are best defined by their relations with other processes, thus rejecting the theory that reality is fundamentally constructed by bits of matter that exist independently of one another. Today Whitehead’s philosophical works – particularly Process and Reality – are regarded as the foundational texts of process philosophy.

Whitehead’s process philosophy argues that “there is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have consequences for the world around us.” For this reason, one of the most promising applications of Whitehead’s thought in recent years has been in the area of ecological civilization and environmental ethics pioneered by John B. Cobb.

thurman interconnectedness lawwhen you understand interconnectedness it makes you more afraid of hating than of dying – Robert Thurman 

when googling whitehead and graeber .. got this from anarchist library – [] – notes here: david on radical alterity


notes/quotes from 398 page pdf []

9 (xi)

preface (whitehead)


There remains the final reflection, how shallow, puny, and imperfect are efforts to sound the depths in the nature of things. In philosophical discussion, the merest hint of dogmatic certainty as to finality of statement is an exhibition of folly..t

naming the colour.. intellect ness.. science ness.. lit & num as colonialism.. et al

29 (2)

part 1 – the speculative scheme

30 (3)

1 – speculative philosophy

31 (4)

This doctrine of necessity in universality means that there is an essence to the universe which forbids relationships beyond itself, as a violation of its rationality. Speculative philosophy seeks that essence.

37 (10)

If we may trust the Pythagorean tradition, the rise of European philosophy was largely promoted by the development of mathematics into a science of abstract generality. But in its subsequent development the method of philosophy has also been vitiated by the example of mathematics. The primary method of mathematics is deduction; the primary method of philosophy is descriptive generalization. Under the influence of mathematics, deduction has been foisted onto philosophy as its standard method, instead of taking its true place as an essential auxiliary mode of verification whereby to test the scope of generalities. This misapprehension of philosophic method has veiled the very considerable success of philosophy in providing generic notions which add lucidity to our
apprehension of the facts of experience. The depositions of Plato, Aristotle,..

38 (11)

A new idea introduces a new alternative; and we are not less indebted to a thinker when we adopt the alternative which he discarded. Philosophy never reverts to its old position after the shock of a great philosopher.

Every science must devise its own instruments. The tool required for philosophy is language. Thus philosophy redesigns language in the same way that, in a physical science, pre-existing appliances are redesigned. It is exactly at this point that the appeal to facts is a difficult operation. This
appeal is not solely to the expression of the facts in current verbal statements. The adequacy of such sentences is the main question at issue. It is true that the general agreement of mankind as to experienced facts is best expressed in language. But the language of literature breaks down
precisely at the task of expressing in explicit form the larger generalities the very generalities which metaphysics seeks to express. .

The point is that every proposition refers to a universe exhibiting some general systematic metaphysical character. Apart from this background, the separate entities which go to form the proposition, and the proposition as a whole, are without determinate character. Nothing has been defined, because every definite entity requires a systematic universe to supply its requisite status. Thus every proposition proposing a fact* must, in its complete analysis, propose the general character of the universe required for that fact. There are no self-sustained facts, floating in nonentity. This doctrine, of the impossibility of tearing a proposition from its systematic context in the actual world, is a direct consequence of the fourth and the twentieth of the fundamental categoreal explanations which we shall be engaged in expanding and illustrating. A proposition can embody partial truth because it only demands a certain type of systematic environment, which is presupposed in its meaning. It does not refer to the universe in all its detail.

language as control/enclosure et al

39 (12)

The excessive trust in linguistic phrases has been the well-known reason vitiating so much of the philosophy and physics among the Greeks and among the mediaeval thinkers who continued the Greek traditions. For example John Stuart Mill writes: They [the Greeks] t had great difficulty in distinguishing between things which their language confounded, or in putting mentally together things which it distinguished,t and could hardly combine the objects in nature into any classes but those which were made for them by the popular phrases of their own country; ..They thought that by determining the meaning of words they could become acquainted with facts.. t

40 (13)

There can be no appeal to practice to supplement metaphysics, so long as we remain contented with our metaphysical doctrines. Metaphysics is nothing but the description of the generalities which apply to all the details of practice

No metaphysical system can hope entirely to satisfy these pragmatic tests. At the best such a system will remain only an approximation to the general truths which are sought. In particular, there are no precisely stated axiomatic certainties from which to start. There is not even the language
in which to frame them.
.t The only possible procedure is to start from verbal expressions which, when taken by themselves with the current meaning of their words, are ill-defined and ambiguous. These are not premises to be immediately reasoned from apart from elucidation by further discussion;
they are endeavours to state general principles which will be exemplified in the subsequent description of the facts of experience. This subsequent elaboration should elucidate the meanings to be assigned to the words and phrases employed. Such meanings are incapable of accurate apprehension apart from a correspondingly accurate apprehension of the metaphysical background which the [20] universe provides for them. But no language can be anything but elliptical, requiring a leap of the imagination to understand its meaning in its relevance to immediate experience. The position of metaphysics in the development of culture cannot be understood without remembering that no verbal statement is the adequate expression of a proposition..t

humanity needs a leap.. to get back/to simultaneous spontaneity .. simultaneous fittingness.. everyone in sync.. via idiosyncratic jargon et al

42 (15)

Our habitual experience is a complex'” of failure and success in the enterprise of interpretation. If we desire a record of uninterpreted experience, we must ask a stone to record its autobiography. Every scientific memoir in its record of the ‘facts’ is shot through and through with interpretation..t The methodology of rational interpretation is the product of the fitful vagueness of consciousness. Elements which shine with immediate distinctness, in some circumstances, retire into penumbral shadow in other circumstances, and into black darkness on other occasions. And yet all occasions proclaim themselves as actualities within the flux of a solid world, demanding a unity of interpretation.

research ness and history ness (not to mention .. all interps are of sea world)

The task of philosophy is to recover the totality obscured by the selection. It replaces in rational
experience what has been submerged in the higher sensitive experience and has been sunk yet deeper by the initial operations of consciousness itself.

the little prince – see with your heart

44 (17)

Philosophy destroys its usefulness when it indulges in brilliant feats of explaining away. It is then trespassing with the wrong equipment upon the field of particular sciences. Its ultimate appeal is to the general consciousness of what in practice we experience. Whatever thread of presupposition characterizes social expression throughout the various epochs of rational society must find its place in philosophic theory. Speculative boldness must be balanced by complete humility before logic, and before fact. It is a disease of philosophy when it is neither bold nor humble, but merely a reflection of the temperamental presuppositions of exceptional personalities.

The useful function of philosophy is to promote the most general systematization of civilized thought. There is a constant reaction between specialism and common sense. I t is the part of the special sciences to modify common sense. Philosophy is the welding of imagination and common sense into a restraint upon specialists, and also into an enlargement of their imaginations. By providing the generic notions philosophy should make it easier to conceive the infinite variety of specific instances which rest unrealized in the womb of nature.

45 (18)

2 – the categorical scheme

Philosophical thought has made for itself difficulties by dealing exclusively in very abstract notions, such as those of mere awareness, mere private sensation, mere emotion, mere purpose, mere appearance, mere causation. These are the ghosts of the old ‘faculties,’ banished from psychology, but still haunting metaphysics. There can be no ‘mere’ togetherness of such abstractions. The result is that philosophical discussion is enmeshed in the fallacy of ‘misplaced concreteness.’ ..t
‘Actual entities’ -also termed ‘actual occasions’ -are the final real things – of which the world is made up. *There is no going behind actual entities to find anything more real. They differ among themselves: God is an actual entity, and so is the most trivial puff of existence in far-off empty space. But, though there are gradations of importance, and diversities of function, yet in the principles which actuality exemplifies all are on the same level. The final facts are, all alike, actual entities; and these actual entities are drops of experience, conplex and interdependent.

*esp because ‘actual entities’ are in sea world

47 (20)

I. The Category of the Ultimate.
II. Categories of Existence.
III. Categories of Explanation.
IV. Categoreal Obligations.

49 (22)

Among these eight categories of existence, actual entities and eternal objects stand out with a certain extreme finality. The other types of existence have a certain intermediate character. The eighth category includes an indefinite progression of categories, as we proceed from ‘contrasts’ to ‘contrasts of contrasts,’ and on indefinitely to higher grades of contrasts.

There are twenty-seven Categories of Explanation:
(i) That the actual world is a process, and that the process is the becoming of actual entities. Thus actual entities are creatures; they are also termed ‘actual occasions.’
(ii) That in the becoming of an actual entity, the potential unity of many entities in disjunctive diversityt-actual and non-actual-acquires the real unity of the one actual entity; so that the actual entity is the real concrescence of many potentials.
(iii) That in the becoming of an actual entity, novel prehensions, nexus, subjective forms, propositions, multiplicities, and contrasts

oi oi oi

53 (26)

There are nine Categoreal Obligations: unity, identity, diversity, valuation, …


58 (31)


skimming much

64 (38)


65 (39)


67 (41)

But the word ‘feeling,’ as used in these lectures, is even more reminiscent of Descartes. For example: “Let it be so; still it is at least quite certain that it seems to me that I see light, that I hear noise and that I feel heat. That cannot be false; properly speaking it is what is in me called feeling (sentire); and used in this precise sense that is no other thing than thinking.”

68 (42)

That we fail to find in experience any elements intrinsically incapable of exhibition as examples of general theoryt is the hope of rationalism. This hope is not a metaphysical premise. It is the faith which forms the motive for the pursuit of all sciences alike, including metaphysics. In so far as metaphysics enables us to apprehend the rationality of things, the claim is justified. It is always open to us, having regard to the imperfections of all metaphysical systems, to lose hope at the exact point
where we find ourselves. The preservation of such faith must depend on an ultimate moral intuition into the nature of intellectual action-that it should embody the adventure of hope. Such an intuition marks the point where metaphysics-and indeed every science-gains assurance from religion and passes over into religion. But in itself the faith does not embody a
premise from which the theory starts; it is an ideal which is seeking satisfaction. In so far as we believe that doctrine, we are rationalists.

oi.. am thinking legit free people wouldn’t be spending time/energies on rationalizing about rationalism/thinking/indoctrination et al.. oi

71 (45)

But an extra patch of red does not constitute a mere addition; it alters the whole balance. Thus in an actual entity the balanced unity of the total ‘givenness’ excludes anything that is not given. This is the doctrine of the emergent unity of the superject

This doctrine, that the final ‘satisfaction’ of an actual entity is intolerant of any addition, expresses the fact that every actual entity-since it is what it is-is finally its own reason for what it omits. In the real internal constitution of an actual entity there is always some element which is contrary to an omitted element. Here ‘contrary’ means the impossibility of joint entry in the same sense. In other words, indetermination has evaporated from ‘satisfaction,’ so that there is a complete determination of ‘feeling,’ or of ‘negation of feeling,’ respecting the universe. This evaporation of indetermination is merely another way of considering the process whereby the actual entity arises from its data. Thus, in another sense, each actual entity includes the uni- [72] verse, by reason of its determinate attitude towards every element in the universe.

72 (46)

The doctrine just stated-that every explanatory fact refers to the decision and to the efficacy of an actual [74] thing-requires discussion in reference to the ninth Categoreal Obligation. This category states that lThe concrescence of each individual actual entity is internally determined and is externally free.’

not sure why i am still reading (skimming)


A short examination of Locke’s Essay Concerningt Human Understanding will throw light on the presuppositions from which the philosophy of organism originates. These citations from Locke are valuable as clear statements of the obvious deliverances of common sense, expressed with their natural limitations. They cannot be bettered in their character of presentations of facts which have to be accepted by any satisfactory system of philosophy.

not sure i can finish this


2 – the extensive continuum

WE must first consider the perceptive mode in which there is clear, distinct consciousness of the ‘extensive’ relations of the world. These relations include the ‘extensiveness’ of space and the ‘extensiveness’ of time. Undoubtedly, this clarity, at least in regard to space, is obtained only in
ordinary perception through the senses. This mode of perception is here termed ‘presentational immediacy.’ In this ‘mode’ the contemporary world is consciously prehended as a continuum of extensive relations. It cannot be too clearly understood that some chief notions of European
thought were framed under the influence of a misapprehension, only partially corrected by the scientific progress of the last century. This mistake consists in the confusion of mere potentiality with actuality. Continuity concerns what is potential; whereas actuality is incurably atomic.
This misapprehension is promoted by the neglect of the principle that, so far as physicaI relations are concerned, contemporary events happen in causal independence of each other.


The summary statement of this discussion is, that the mental pole determines the subjective forms and that this pole is inseparable from the total res vera.
The discussion of the previous sections has merely given a modern “hape to the oldest of European philosophic doctrines. But as a doctrine of common sense, it is older still-as old as consciousness itself. The most general notions underlying the words ‘space’ and ‘time’ are those which this discussion has aimed at expressing in their true connection with the actual world.



This conception of an actual entity in the fluent world is little more than an expansion of a sentence in the Timaeus: But that which is conceived by opinion with the help of sensation and without reason, is
always in at process of becoming and perishing and never really is.” Bergson, in his protest against spatialization,” is only echoing Plato’s phrase ‘and never really is.’


3 – the order of nature

115 (89)

It has been explained in the previous section that the notion of (order’ is primarily applicable to the objectified data for individual actual entities. It has been necessary to give a sketch of some categories applying to an actual entity in order to show how this can be the case. But there is a
derivative sense of the term (order,’ which is more usually in our minds when we use that word. We speak of the (order of nature,’ meaning thereby the order reigning in that limited portion of the universe, 2 or even of the surface of the earth, which has come under our observation. We also
speak of a man of orderly life, or of disorderly life. In any of these senses, the term (order’ evidently applies to the relations among themselves enjoyed by many actual entities which thereby form a society. The term (society’ will always be restricted to mean a nexus of actual entities which
are (ordered’ among themselves in the sense to be explained in this section. 3 [137] The point of a (society,’ as the term is here used, is that it is self-sustaining; in other words, that it is its own reason. Thus a society is more than a set of entities to which the same class-name applies: that is
to say, it involves more than a merely mathematical conception of (order.’ To constitute a society, the class-name has got to apply to each member, by reason of genetic derivation from other members of that same society. The members of the society are alike because, by reason of their common character, they impose on other members of the society the conditions which lead to that likeness.

This likeness 4 consists in the fact that (i) a certain element of (form’ is a contributory component to the individual satisfaction of each member of the society; and that (ii) the contribution by the element to the objectification of anyone member of the society for prehension by other members promotes its analogous reproduction in the satisfactions of those other members. Thus a set of entities is a society (i) in virtue of a (defining characteristic’ shared by its members, and (ii) in virtue of the presence of
the defining characteristic being due to the environment provided by the society itself.



4 – organisms and environment


Intensity is the reward of narrowness.

?.. if by focus.. in the moment/dance.. but .. miller extreme focus law et al

155 (129)

Also in our experience, we essentially arise out of our bodies which are the stubborn facts of the immediate relevant past. We are also carried on by our immediate past of personal experience; we finish a sentence because we have begun it. The sentence may embody a new thought, never phrased before, or an old one rephrased with verbal novelty. There need be no well-worn
association between the sounds of the earlier and the later words. But it remains remorselessly true, that we finish a sentence because we have begun it. We are governed by stubborn fact. It is in respect to this ‘stubborn fact’ that the theories of modern philosophy are weakest. Philosophers have worried themselves about remote consequences, and the inductive formulations of science. They should confine attention to the rush of immediate transition. Their explanations would then be seen in their native absurdity.


5 – locke and hume

170 (144)

6 – from descartes to kant

182 (157)

7 – the subjectivist principle

IT is impossible to scrutinize too carefully the character to be assigned to the datum in the act of experience. The whole philosophical system depends on it. Hume’s doctrine of ‘impressions of sensation’ (Treatise, Book I, Part I, Sect. II) is twofold. I will call one part of his doctrine ‘The Subjectivist Principle’ and the other part ‘The Sensationalist Principle.’

193 (167)

It is now evident that the final analogy to philosophies of the Hegelian school, noted in the Preface, is not accidental. The universe is at once the multiplicity of res veraet and the solidarity of res verae. The solidarity is itself the efficiency of the macroscopic res vera, embodying the principle of unbounded permanence acquiring novelty through flux. The multiplicity is composed of microscopic res verae, each embodying the principle of bounded flux acquiring ‘everlasting’ permanence. On one side, the one becomes many; and on the other side, the many become one. But what becomes is always a res vera, and the concrescencet of a res vera is the development of a subjective aim. This development is nothing else than the Hegelian development of an idea. The elaboration of this aspect of the philosophy of organism, with the purpose of obtaining an interpretation of the religious experience of mankind, is undertaken in Part V of these lectures.
Cosmological story, in every part and in every chapter, relates the interplay of the static vision and the dynamic history. But the whole story is comprised within the account of the subjective concrescence of res verae.


8 – symbolic reference

209 (183)

This discussion shows that one essential purpose of symbols arises from their handiness. ..Quarrels over symbolism constitute one of the many causes of religious discord. One difficulty in symbolism is that the unhandy meanings are often vague…The result is that the meanings are often shifting and indeterminate. .. Symbolism is essential for the higher grades of life; and the errors of symbolism can never be wholly avoided

oi.. whalespeak


9 – the propositions

233 (207)

Thus the basis of all probability and induction is the fact of analogy between an environment presupposed and an environment directly experienced.


10 – process


An ‘object’ is a transcendent element characterizing that definiteness to which our ‘experience’ has to conform. In this sense, the future has objective reality in the present, but no formal actuality. For it is inherent in the constitution of the immediate, present actuality that a future will supersede it. Also conditions to which that future must conform, including real relationships to the present, are really objective in the immediate actuality.
Thus each actual entity, although complete so far as concerns its microscopic process, is yet incomplete by reason of its objective inclusion of the macroscopict [328] process. It really experiences a future which must be actual, although the completed actualities of that future are undetermined. In this sense, each actual occasion experiences its own objective immortality.

242 (216)

part 3 – the theory of prehensions


1 – the theory of feelings


2 – the primary feelings


3 – the transmission of feelings


4 – propositions and feelings


5 – the higher phases of experience

‘COMPARATIVE feelings’ are the result of integrations not yet considered: their data are generic contrasts. The infinite variety of the more complex feelings come under the heading ‘comparative feelings.’

305 (281)

part 4 – the theory of extension

1 – coordinate division

THERE are two distinct ways of ‘dividing’ the satisfaction of an actual entity into component feelings, genetically and coordinately. Genetic division is division of the concrescence; coordinate division is division of the concrete.



2 – extensive connection

IN this chapter we enumerate the chief characteristics of the physical relationship termed ‘extensive connection.’ We also enumerate the derivative notions which are of importance in our physical experience. This importance has its origin in the characteristics enumerated. The definitions of the derivative notions, as mere definitions, are equally applicable to any scheme of relationship whatever its characteristics. But they are only of importance when the relationship in question has the characteristics here enumerated for extensive connection


:A sufficient number of assumptions, some provable and some axiomatic, have nOw been stated; so as to make clear the sort of development of the theory required for this stage of the definitions. In particular, the notion of the order of points in a linear stretch can now be elaborated from the definition of the notion of ‘between.’ But such investigations will lead us too far into the mathematical principles of geometry


3 – flat loci

MODERN physical science, with its dependence on the exact notions of mathematics, began with the foundation of Greek Geometry. The first definition of Euclid’s Elements runs, “A point is that of which there is no part.” The second definition runs, “A line is breadthless length.” The fourth definition runs,
“A straight line is any line which lies evenly with the points on itself.” These translations are taken from Euclid In Greek, Book I, edited with notes by Sir Thomas L. Heath, the greatest living authority on Euclid’s Elements. Heath ascribes the second definition “to the Platonic school, if not to Plato himself.” For the Greek phrase translated ‘evenly’ Heath also suggests the alternatives ‘on a footing of equality,’ ‘evenly placed,’ ‘without bias.’ Euclid’s first ‘postulate’ is (Heath’s translation): “Let the following be postulated: to draw a straight line from any point to any point.”
Heath points out that this postulate was meant to implyt existence and uniqueness. A~ these statements occur in Greek science, a muddle arises between ‘forms’ and concrete physical things. Geometry starts with the purpose of investigating certain forms of physical things. But in its initial definitions of the ‘point’ and the ‘line,’ it seems immediately to postulate certain ultimate physical things of a very peculiar character. Plato himself appears to have had some suspicion of this confusion when (Heath, lococit.) he “objected to recognizing points as a separate class of things at
all.”t He ought to have gone further, and have made the same objection to all the geometrical entities, namely, points, lines, and surfaces. He wanted ‘forms,’ and he obtained new physical entities.

oi.. of math and men


5 – strains

THERE is nothing in the real world which is merely an inert fact. Every reality is there for feeling: it promotes feeling; and it is felt. Also there is nothing which belongs merely to the privacy of feeling of one individual actuality. All origination is private. But what has been thus originated, publicly pervades the world. Thus the geometrical facts concerning straight and flat loci are public facts characterizing the feelings of actual entities. It so happens that in this epoch of the universe the feelings involving them are of dominating importance. A feeling in which the forms exemplified in the datum concern geometrical, straight, and flat loci will be called a ‘strain.’ In a strain qualitative elements, other than the geometrical forms, express themselves as qualities implicated in those forms; also the forms are the forms ingredient in particular nexus forming the objective data of the physical feelings in question. It is to be remembered that two points determine a complete straight line, that three noncollinear points determine a complete plane, arId that four non-coplanarpoints determine a complete three-dimensional flat locus


5 – measurement


The whole argument can be summarized thus:
(i) Actual occasions are immovable, so that the doctrine of coincidence is nonsense.
(ii) Extensive quantity is a logical construct, expressing the number of congruent units which are (a) non-overlapping, and (b) exhaustive of the nexus in question.
(iii) Congruence is only definable as a certain definite analogy of function in a systematic complex which embraces both congruent elements.
(iv) That all experimental measurement involves ultimate intuitions of congruence between earlier and later states of the instruments employed.
(v) That all exact observation is made by perception in the mode of presen ta tional immediacy.
(vi) That if such perception merely concerns a private psychological field, science is the daydream of an individual without any public import.
(vii) That per(;eption in the mode of presentational immediacy solely depends upon the ‘withness’ of the ‘body,’ and only exhibits the external contemporary world in respect to its systematic geometrical relationship to the ‘body.’


part 5 – final interpretation


1 – the ideal opposites

THE chief danger to philosophy is narrowness in the selection of evidence. This narrowness arises from the idiosyncrasies and timidities of particular authors, of particular social groups, of particular schools of thought, of particular epochs in the history of civilization. The evidence relied upon is arbitrarily biased by the temperaments of individuals, by the provincialities of groups, and by the limitations of schemes of thought.

all data/philosophy/whatever to date.. from sea world

366 (350)

Thirdly, there is the phase of perfected actuality, in which the many are one everlastingly, without the qualific..

end of book this version.. mid word mid sentence.. ha.. fitting..

367 – 398