Biography of Alfred North Whitehead

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Alfred North Whitehead

Pioneer of Process Philosophy

Alfred North Whitehead, English mathematician and philosopher, was born in England in 1861, schooled at home until age 14, and graduated at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1884. There he was a lecturer in mathematics until 1911. At the University of London he was a lecturer in applied mathematics and mechanics (1911–14) and professor of mathematics (1914–24). Ultimately, he moved to Harvard in 1924 where he was professor of philosophy and remained there for the rest of his life. He died in 1947 at the age of 86.

Whitehead's distinction rests upon his contributions to mathematics and logic, the philosophy of science, and the study of metaphysics. In the field of mathematics Whitehead extended the range of algebraic procedures and, in collaboration with Bertrand Russell, wrote Principia Mathematica (3 vol., 1910–13), a landmark in the study of logic. His inquiries into the structure of science provided the background for his metaphysical writings. He criticized traditional categories of philosophy for their failure to convey the essential interrelation of matter, space, and time.

Whitehead's life is often described as having three distinct phases roughly corresponding to his academic positions, and his influence can be felt in all three areas--that of a mathematician and logician (Trinity1884-1910), a philosopher of science (London 1910-1924) and a philosopher of metaphysics (Harvard from 1924 onward). During this latter period he developed a comprehensive metaphysical system which has come to be known as Process Philosophy. In contrast to traditional philosophies, he asserted the essential inter-relationship of matter, space, and time; that objects may be understood as a series of events and processes. This concept was elaborated further in his book Process and Reality (1929) to assert that the process of becoming, what he calls an actual occasion, rather than substance, constituted the fundamental metaphysical constituent of the universe. This was the genesis of the school of Process Philosophy which later influenced what has become to be known as Process New Thought.

His philosophic construction as applied to religion offered a concept of God as interdependent with the world and developing with it; he rejected the notion of a perfect and omnipotent God. In 1945 he received the Order of Merit. His works include The Organisation of Thought (1916), Principles of Natural Knowledge (1919), The Concept of Nature (1920), The Principle of Relativity (1922), Science and the Modern World (1925), Religion in the Making (1926), Symbolism (1927), The Aims of Education and Other Essays (1929), Process and Reality (1929), Adventures of Ideas (1933), and Essays in Science and Philosophy (1947).

The following books by Alfred North Whitehead may be read online:

Religion in the Making

The Concept of Nature

The following books byAlfred North Whitehead may be ordered using a Credit Card via our association with Be sure to use the Back button on your browser after viewing or ordering to enable you to check out the other titles listed on this and our other pages:

Process and Reality
A Key to Whitehead's Process and Reality
Modes of Thought
Religion in the Making : Lowell Lectures 1926
Symbolism : Its Meaning and Effect
Adventures of Ideas
Science and the Modern World
An Introduction to Mathematics
The Metaphysics of Experience : A Companion to Whitehead's Process and Reality
(by Elizabeth M. Kraus)

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