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Whitehead, Alfred North (1861–1947)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DD071-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 23, 2024, from

Article Summary

Whitehead made fundamental contributions to modern logic and created one of the most controversial metaphysical systems of the twentieth century. He drew out what he took to be the revolutionary consequences for philosophy of the new discoveries in mathematics, logic and physics, developing these consequences first in logic and then in the philosophy of science and speculative metaphysics. His work constantly returns to the question: what is the place of the constructions of mathematics, science and philosophy in the nature of things?

Whitehead collaborated with Bertrand Russell on Principia Mathematica (1910–13), which argues that all pure mathematics is derivable from a small number of logical principles. He went on in his philosophy of science to describe nature in terms of overlapping series of events and to argue that scientific explanations are constructed on that basis. He finally expanded and redefined his work by developing a new kind of speculative metaphysics. Stated chiefly in Process and Reality (1929), his metaphysics is both an extended reflection on the character of philosophical inquiry and an account of the nature of all things as a self-constructing ‘process’. On this view, reality is incomplete, a matter of the becoming of ‘occasions’ which are centres of activity in a multiplicity of serial processes whereby the antecedent occasions are taken up in the activities of successor occasions.

Citing this article:
Bradley, James. Whitehead, Alfred North (1861–1947), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DD071-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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