Toward a Perspective Realism

By Evander Bradley McGilvary; Albert G. Ramsperger | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI
SPACE-TIME, SIMPLE LOCATION, AND PREHENSION IN WHITEHEAD'S PHILOSOPHY

In retrospect we can now see that the publication of Mr. Whitehead Organisation of Thought in 1917 was the herald of the coming of an important protagonist into the arena of philosophy. He was already well known in mathematical circles, but only a few philosophers, at least on this side of the water, had ever heard of him. Within three years we were all reading The Principles of Natural Knowledge and The Concept of Nature greatly to our profit and enlightenment. And we needed the enlightenment. There had been a rumor for some time bruited about among us of a new theory in physics called the theory of relativity; but most of us had a vague idea that it was of concern only to physicists, that somehow it solved problems in that field by proving that space by itself and time by itself were only shadows cast by space-time, which alone had independent reality. But the theory, so we were told, could be understood only by adepts in higher mathematics, mathematics so high as to be utterly out of reach of a pedestrian philosopher. We even heard that not more than a dozen mathematicians could master the elements of the theory. No wonder that we had all become defeatists and drew into our own shells, where we might hope to withstand the assaults of the mystical giant Abracadabra, who could make the less appear the greater length.

Such was the general situation when along came Mr. Whitehead, speaking a language that for the most part we could understand and employing equations that after considerable brushing up, we

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