North Whitehead (1861-1947): Life and Works
Note that Whiteheads works can be divided into three periods as follows.
1861: Born Ramsgate, Isle of Thanet, England and educated at the Sherborne School in Dorset
1880: Goes to Trinity College, Cambridge, to study Mathematics (beginning of Period I)
1884: Elected Fellow of Trinity
1910-1913: Principia Mathematica (with Bertrand Russell) on the logical foundations of mathematics
1910: Moves to University of London (beginning of Period II)
1914: Moves to Imperial College of Science and Technology
1919: The Principles of Natural Knowledge
1920: The Concept of Nature
1922: The Principle of Relativity
1924: Moves to Harvard University (beginning of Period III)
1925: Science and the Modern World
1926: Religion in the Making
1929: Process and Reality
1929: The Function of Reason
1933: Adventures of Ideas
1938: Modes of Thought
Whiteheads aim in the second and third periods was to produce to metaphysical system that was adequate and applicable to the modern scientific worldviewa world of relativity, quantum mechanics, and biological organismswhile also being as consistent and coherent as possible.
Whiteheads effort at a philosophy of organism were stongly influenced by Bergson, Bradley, and James, and thus it has a strongly pragmatists feel about it. He was particularly keen to establish links among the biological, physical, and psychological sciences; he thought that any characteristic of human beings (e.g. consciousness) had to be present in incipient form at lower levels in order that it could emerge when conditions of environment and complexity of organization were appropriate.
(Note that concrescere = "to grow together"; prehendere = "to grasp.")
(Perception is bodily, visceral awareness of environment; this can be generalized to understand prehension: actual occasions prehend the actual concrete elements of their environment causally.)
Becoming is a central category in Whiteheads philosophy. There us a clear rejection of individual essences in space-time. True to our experience of a vague awareness of whole contexts, Whitehead argues that any things we know have temporal, spatial "thickness." Time, space, and individual objects are aspects of becoming abstracted from a larger unity of development.
God is introduced into the philosophy of organism in Process and Reality. God is an essential element in the concrescence of each actual occasion and essential for stability and law-like regularities in the wider process of becoming. The view of God and world in process metaphysics is called panentheism (though of course there are many different kinds of panentheism).
Whiteheads process philosophy has been extraordinarily influential on theology in the second half of the twentieth century. Partly this has been because of the further creative development of process metaphysics by Hartshorne and partly because of the unusual fecundity of Whiteheads own thought. Here are some of the features of process metaphysics that Christian theology has found attractive.
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