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Process and Reality (Gifford lectures) Paperback – 1 Jul 1979

4.6 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 444 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan USA; 2nd Revised edition edition (1 July 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0029345707
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029345702
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 3.3 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 219,248 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Title: Process and Reality <>Binding: Paperback <>Author: Alfred Whitehead <>Publisher: INGRAM INTERNATIONAL INC


Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
Process and Reality was published the year that Wittgenstein returned to Cambridge to begin the movement known as linguistic analysis. Whitehead's masterpiece is everything that analysts despise: metaphysical, jargon-filled, and systematic. Whitehead's philosophy of language is terse: "philosophy redesigns language in the same wat that, in a physical science, pre-existing appliances are redesigned."
The book is arrainged in five "Parts". The first part gives an overview of philosophy, its aims and methods, together with a set of premises on which the substance of his philosophy will be built. He calls this set "The Categoreal Scheme" and intends the remainder of his book to be an exposition of this scheme. His work is, then, "systematic" in a way that the 20th century has largely rejected, and hearkens back to the 19th century. In fact, he does so explicitly, naming his book after Bradley's "Appearance and Reality", and stating that, despite their metaphysical differences, he and Bradly come to much the same conclusions.
The second part discusses the categoreal scheme in terms of the history of philosophy, with emphasis on the Empiricist tradition that begins with Locke, but covering the range of modern an ancient philosophy. In this section he elaborates his "philosophy of organism" which sees each actual entity as a psycho-physical unity of its environment. Deeply influenced by early 20th century physics, Whitehead presents us with a universe that is dynamic. Grounded in Plato (Western Philosophy consists of "a series of footnotes to Plato"), he also presents us with a changeless ground for this dynamism. The result is a fascinating, modern interpretation of an ancient mode of thought.
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Whitehead is not of course light reading, but within his scientific/philosophical genre, he is a master stylist, clear, compelling and illuminating. Whitehead is most famous for his collaboration with Bertrand Russell, but this is actually the more important work. His thesis turns on its head the 19th-century view of matter, science and the cosmos. Nevertheless, science and philosophy has been relatively slow to realize the enormous significance of his work, recognition which is now coming his way. What Whitehead does is transform things into activities and events. Instead of seeing atoms, molecules and the physical world composed of them as things, relatively hard nuggets seen independently of time, they become processes taking place in time, and therefore activities and events in continual actualization. Such thinking is important to or accords with Deleuze and post structure and thinking, Heidegger, Gadamer and phenomenology, morphogenetic fields and a more dynamic understanding of the organic world, and is equally important to the practising manager today. It means that we begin to think in terms of activities and processes, a much more fluid dynamic view of everything. We begin to see ourselves as activating events, organisational culture as a dynamic field, and the universe as altogether more remarkable.
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This is a seminal work which is unduly convoluted and tangled in its presentation. It necessitates the "Key to Process and Reality " by Sherburne to clear away the unnecessary confusions and complexities as well as perhaps the introduction to Whitehead's metaphysics by Leclerc: "Whitehead's Metaphysics - an Introductory Explanation" (Indiana Univ Press) to complete one's understanding of Whitehead's metaphysics. After attempting to read this work without any reference to the Sherburne "Key" and stumbling, I came away feeling that a philosopher who is discussing universal harmony and unity among other things, and who presents his thesis in such a non-linear and obtuse fashion must have some severe problems in his own comprehension of reality and in his understanding of the reality of his audience. The work is however worth the trouble in using other works to understand it. It is considered one of the masterpieces of Western Philosophy however obtuse and tangled and unduly complicated it is. See also David Bohm's, "Wholeness and the Implicate Order".Wholeness and the Implicate Order (Routledge Classics)
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Whitehead doesn’t make it easy for his readers. He first commits the sin, hardly rare among philosophers, of presenting all his conclusions at the start of the book. To open with a fully formed outlook in this way, without first allowing the reader to share in the preparatory work, must always risk producing nothing more than a sense of bafflement. Worse still is the fact that Whitehead expresses his views in a language which is entirely his own, and notoriously so, making it nigh on impossible to relate either the broad argument or its details to any other products of the grand philosophical tradition. But, this being Whitehead, there is value here to be mined. In my view, the essential argument of this book comes most clearly into focus in a section which begins around page 150 and continues for 30 or so pages. Here one at last encounters some solid ground amidst the shifting sands of Whitehead’s rebarbative prose. There is a sustained analysis of certain metaphysical presuppositions which are variously exhibited in Descartes, Locke, Hume and Kant. Whitehead calls these the ‘subjectivist’ and ‘sensationalist’ principles, and he frames his own work as a bold solution to the difficulties his predecessors all fall into. One thing I found very surprising in this book is how little attention is paid to Hegel. Given that the work’s very title relates reality to ‘process’ one would have expected the author to engage with that other great evangelist of process, especially as Hegel likewise takes as his metaphysical starting point the need to resolve the difficulties facing philosophy in the wake of Kant.Read more ›
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