Whitehead's Metaphysics: An Introductory Exposition

Whitehead's Metaphysics: An Introductory Exposition

Whitehead's Metaphysics: An Introductory Exposition

Whitehead's Metaphysics: An Introductory Exposition

Excerpt

The aim of this book is to provide an introduction to the philosophical system of Process and Reality and other works of Whitehead's later period. One effective way of coming to an understanding of a philosopher's thought is through an appreciation of the problems with which he was basically concerned. This method is especially appropriate in Whitehead's case, and is that here adopted. But it must inevitably rest upon some view as to what those problems were, and regarding this there is as yet no general agreement among Whitehead scholars.

It is the particular thesis of this book that in developing the system which he elaborated in such detail in Process and Reality, Whitehead's problems were specifically metaphysical, and not those which characterized his earlier investigations in the philosophy of natural science. I have tried to make clear that Whitehead's basic problems belong to the great tradition of philosophical inquiry, first opened up by the Greeks. I have set out to explain how and why Whitehead posed the questions in a way different from that of antecedent thought, and that this is the root of the originality and novelty of his philosophy. In adopting this view and this approach to Whitehead, his ideas and terminology become fairly readily explicable; and it is then possible at an early stage to enter into a systematic exploration of the fundamental notions or categories of his metaphysics.

In connection with this, a few words will be apposite about my procedure of exposition. In contrast to Whitehead's, in which all his ideas are presupposed in the discussion of each of them, I have introduced his notions and concomitant terms one at a time, elucidating them in the context of the particular issues involved. At each stage I have endeavoured to make the discussion of the problems as full as possible without bringing in issues with which I intend dealing subsequently. I have found it no easy matter to avoid over-simplification on the one hand, and on the other a treatment too elaborate for an introductory exposition. I leave it to my readers to decide as to the extent to which I have been successful in this.

The first chapter briefly surveys the development of Whitehead's thought, indicating how his preoccupation with the philosophy of science led him to metaphysics as the fundamental inquiry. Chapter II is the key chapter of the book, and shows what Whitehead was essentially concerned to do. Chapter IV and the other chapters of Part Two follow directly from this, taking up progressively the issues and problems arising from the philosophical position explained in Chapter II. In dealing with these problems and in arriving at his solutions, Whitehead followed an explicit procedure and appealed to particular criteria, as I show throughout. Chapter III contains Whitehead's justification for that procedure and those criteria. The main notions of Whitehead's scheme are gradually elaborated in Parts Two and Three, and in Part Four an attempt is made, especially in the final chapters, to draw together the whole preceding investigation into a presentation of Whitehead's general metaphysical conception of the universe.

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