The Revolt against Dualism: An Inquiry concerning the Existence of Ideas

By Arthur O. Lovejoy | Go to book overview

V MR. WHITEHEAD AND THE DENIAL OF SIMPLE LOCATION

ANY such analytical inquiry as we are attempting into the present state of the argument respecting dualism must necessarily give especially full and careful attention to certain aspects of the philosophy of Professor Whitehead. No one has more impressively asserted the utter incredibility of the hypothesis of the "bifurcation of nature into two systems of reality which, in so far they are real, are real in different senses"--into a "nature apprehended in awareness," which "holds within it the greenness of the trees, the song of the birds, the warmth of the sun," in short, the whole world of sensible appearances, and a conjectured "nature which is the cause of awareness" and consists solely, at least for our knowledge, of the meager and abstract entities of physical theory. To showing the impossibility of such a view, the character of the initial errors which historically have given rise to it, and the way of escape from it, Mr. Whitehead has devoted a great part of that series of volumes, distinguished alike by their literary grace, speculative originality and logical subtlety, with which he has enriched the philosophy of the past decade. He has urged the necessity of the adoption of a set of fundamental concepts and assumptions radically different from those hitherto commonly employed in dealing with these issues; so that, if this necessity is shown, the whole discussion enters a fresh phase and must henceforth be conducted upon a new terrain. Contentions so important, put forward by so distinguished a figure in contemporary thought, must manifestly receive close examination before any conclusion can legitimately be reached with respect to the questions with which these lectures are occupied. But before attempting to decide what Mr. Whitehead has proved regarding these questions, it is necessary to devote some pains to determining precisely what it is that he has asserted. This will involve rather lengthy exegetical inquiries, which I would gladly avoid. But I am unacquainted with any method for judging of the tenability of a hypothesis without first ascertaining what it means; and in this case, the meaning is not at all points immediately apparent. In

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