Alfred North Whitehead


– The basic concrete entities are not enduring subsstances, but events (later: ‘ actual entities’ or ‘actual occasions’) related by their space-time relations and exemplifying their qualitative and mathematical patterns (later: ‘eternal objects’).

– Time is differentiated from space by the acts of inheriting patterns from the past (later: ‘causal prehensions’).

– Enduring perceptual and physical objects, as well as scientific objects and minds, or souls, are repetitions of patterns inherited through a series of events, or occasions.

– Physical causality is the inheritance of patterned energy from the past along the lines of the Minkowski comes constructed for special relativity theory.

– The paradigm for an actual occasion is a complete, momentary human experience, exemplifying causal prehensions in its acts of remembering and sensing, and conceptual prehensions in its acts of exemplifying these above patterns (eternal objects).

– The completeness of an actual entity, like a human experience, lies in the integration (concrescence) of all the various acts of prehending into one act according to some one aim (the subjective aim).

– This concrescence of an actual entity toward some one aim (final causality) is its process of becoming, distinguishable from its acts of inheritance from the past (efficient causality), and which gives rise to the process of temporal transition.

– God, too, is an actual entity, the concrescence of all acts of experiencing (prehending) into one everlasting act of experiencing (God’s Consequent Nature), and it is God’s conceptual prehensions of eternal objects that serve as lures (providing ‘subjective aims’ for finite actual occasions) and form the basis of order (God’s primordial Nature) in the cosmos.


Alfred North Whitehead was a British-American philosopher, physicist and mathematician who worked in logic, mathematics, philosophy of science and metaphysics. His best known work in mathematics is the Principia Mathematica which he wrote with Bertrand Russell.

Whitehead did most of his work in mathematics while at Cambridge (UK) from 1884 to 1910.

The next phase of his career, at London from 1910 to 1924, dealt with philosophies of science and education. In 1924 he moved to Harvard University for the last phase. While there, Whitehead is perhaps most well known for conceiving process philosophy. He was invited to give the Gifford Lectures for 1927 at the University of Edinburgh, which resulted in the formidable but respected book Process and Reality. Process philosophy was later developed into process theology by theologian/philosophers Charles Hartshorne, John B Cobb, Jr, and David Ray Griffin. Process theology is a way of understanding God and the universe found to be fruitful by some in Christian and Jewish faiths. It has been found compatible by others as well. Whitehead’s rejection of mind-body dualism is similar to elements in oriental faith traditions such as Buddhism.

In physics his best known work was a theory of gravity that competed with Einstein’s general relativity for many decades. Whitehead’s theory received less attention than Einstein’s, and was generally discredited by 1972 with a comparison of experimental and predicted variability of the gravitational constant G. See A Comparison with Einstein’s Theory, or Clifford Will’s book, Theory and Experiment in Gravitational Physics, Cambridge University Press 1993 (ISBN 0521439736 ).

Whitehead’s political views were, roughly, libertarian without the label. He wrote: “Now the intercourse between individuals and between social groups takes one of two forms, force or persuasion. Commerce is the great example of intercourse by way of persuasion. War, slavery, and governmental compulsion exemplify the reign of force.

Major Works of Alfred North Whitehead

– A Treatise on Universal Algebra (1898)
– On Mathematical Concepts of the Material World (1906)
– The Axioms of Projective Geometry (1906)
– The Axioms of Descriptive Geometry (1907)
– Principia Mathematica, 3 vols, (with Bertrand Russell) (1910)
– An Introduction to Mathematics (1911)
– An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Natural Knowledge (1919)
– The Concept of Nature (1920)
– The Principle of Relativity with Applications to Physical Science (1922)
– Science and the Modern World (1925)
– Religion in the Making (1926)
– Symbolism, Its Meaning and Effect (1926)
– The Aims of Education and Other Essays (1929)
– The Function of Reason (1929)
– Process and Reality (1929)
– Adventures of Ideas (1933)
– Nature and Life (1934)
– Modes of Thought (1938)
– Essays in Science and Philosophy (1947)

One thought on “Alfred North Whitehead

  1. Gail Cronce says:

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