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Alfred North Whitehead

Geburtstag: 15. Februar 1861
Todesdatum: 30. Dezember 1947

Alfred North Whitehead OM war ein britischer Philosoph und Mathematiker.

Bekannt wurde Alfred Whitehead durch das Standardwerk „Principia Mathematica“ über Logik, das er zusammen mit seinem langjährigen Schüler und Freund Bertrand Russell zwischen 1910 und 1913 in drei Bänden veröffentlichte. Es stellte den Versuch dar, im Sinne des logizistischen Programmes alle wahren mathematischen Aussagen und Beweise auf eine symbolische Logik zurückzuführen. Obwohl ein geplanter vierter Band nicht mehr veröffentlicht wurde und die Frage, ob der Versuch selbst erfolgreich war, weiterhin kontrovers diskutiert wird, wurde „Principia Mathematica“ zu einem der einflussreichsten Bücher der Geschichte der Mathematik und Logik.

In seiner Londoner Zeit von 1911 bis 1924 machte Whitehead sich einen Namen als Naturphilosoph, als Wissenschaftstheoretiker, als Kritiker der Ausbildung an Großbritanniens Universitäten und als Autor mehrerer Bücher über Erziehung.

Nach seiner Berufung an die Harvard University im Jahr 1924 konnte er sich ganz der weiteren Ausarbeitung seiner prozessphilosophischen Metaphysik widmen. Als sein philosophisches Hauptwerk gilt „Process and Reality“ , in dem er seiner „Philosophy of Organism“ die Form gab, die später auch zur Grundlage der Prozesstheologie wurde. Darin strukturiert er auf der Grundlage der Rationalität und Kohärenz die Wirklichkeit als einen Organismus, der sich in elementaren Ereignissen vollzieht und sich in einer evolutionären Entwicklung befindet. Obwohl die philosophische Sekundärliteratur zu Whitehead umfangreich ist, ist der Einfluss seiner Metaphysik auf die akademische Philosophie bis heute bescheiden geblieben.

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Prozess und Realität
Prozess und Realität
Alfred North Whitehead

Zitate Alfred North Whitehead

„Wissen hält nicht länger als Fisch.“

—  Alfred North Whitehead

Kapitel VII. Universitäten und ihre Funktion. In: Die Ziele von Erziehung und Bildung, und andere Essays. Deutsch von ‎Christoph Kann und ‎Dennis Sölch. Suhrkamp TB Wissenschaft 2012, S. 150 books.google https://books.google.de/books?id=NfA7CgAAQBAJ&pg=PA150&dq=fisch Original engl.: "Knowledge does not keep any better than fish." - VII. Universities and their Function. In: The Aims of Education and Other Essays (1929). The Free Press New York, p. 98 books.google https://books.google.de/books?id=WbXs-vyWPPgC&pg=PA98&dq=fish

„Die Hauptgefahr für die Philosophie ist Enge in der Auswahl des Anschauungsmaterials.“

—  Alfred North Whitehead, buch Prozess und Realität

Prozeß und Realität (Process and Reality), Teil V, Kapitel 1, Abschnitt 1
Original engl.: "The chief danger to philosophy is narrowness in the selection of evidence."

„Das Bild - und es ist nur ein Bild -, das Bild, anhand dessen man sich dieses tätige Wachstum der Natur Gottes am besten vorstellen kann, ist das einer zärtlichen Fürsorge dafür, daß nichts verloren geht.“

—  Alfred North Whitehead, buch Prozess und Realität

Prozeß und Realität - (Process and Reality), Teil V, Kapitel 4
Original engl.: "The image—and it is but an image—the image under which this operative growth of God's nature is best conceived, is that of a tender care that nothing be lost."

„Die sicherste allgemeine Charakterisierung der philosophischen Tradition Europas lautet, daß sie aus einer Reihe von Fußnoten zu Platon besteht.“

—  Alfred North Whitehead, buch Prozess und Realität

Prozeß und Realität (Process and Reality), Teil II, Kapitel 1, Abschnitt 1, S. 91
Oft zitiert als "Alle abendländische Philosophie ist als »Fußnote zu Platon« zu verstehen."
Original engl.: "The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato."

„Religion is an ultimate craving to infuse into the insistent particularity of emotion that non-temporal generality which primarily belongs to conceptual thought alone.“

—  Alfred North Whitehead

Pt. I, ch. 1, sec. 6.
1920s, Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology (1929)
Kontext: Philosophy finds religion, and modifies it; and conversely religion is among the data of experience which philosophy must weave into its own scheme. Religion is an ultimate craving to infuse into the insistent particularity of emotion that non-temporal generality which primarily belongs to conceptual thought alone. In the higher organisms the differences of tempo between the mere emotions and the conceptual experiences produce a life-tedium, unless this supreme fusion has been effected. The two sides of the organism require a reconciliation in which emotional experiences illustrate a conceptual justification, and conceptual experiences find an emotional illustration.

„The aim of science is to seek the simplest explanations of complex facts. We are apt to fall into the error of thinking that the facts are simple because simplicity is the goal of our quest.“

—  Alfred North Whitehead

The Concept of Nature (1919), Chapter VII, p.143 http://www.gutenberg.org/files/18835/18835-h/18835-h.htm#CHAPTER_VII.
1910s
Kontext: The aim of science is to seek the simplest explanations of complex facts. We are apt to fall into the error of thinking that the facts are simple because simplicity is the goal of our quest. The guiding motto in the life of every natural philosopher should be, "Seek simplicity and distrust it."

„Philosophy is the self-correction by consciousness of its own initial excess of subjectivity.“

—  Alfred North Whitehead

Pt. I, ch. 1, sec. 6.
1920s, Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology (1929)
Kontext: Philosophy is the self-correction by consciousness of its own initial excess of subjectivity. Each actual occasion contributes to the circumstances of its origin additional formative elements deepening its own peculiar individuality. Consciousness is only the last and greatest of such elements by which the selective character of the individual obscures the external totality from which it originates and which it embodies. An actual individual, of such higher grade, has truck with the totality of things by reason of its sheer actuality; but it has attained its individual depth of being by a selective emphasis limited to its own purposes. The task of philosophy is to recover the totality obscured by the selection.

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„Consciousness is only the last and greatest of such elements by which the selective character of the individual obscures the external totality from which it originates and which it embodies.“

—  Alfred North Whitehead

Pt. I, ch. 1, sec. 6.
1920s, Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology (1929)
Kontext: Philosophy is the self-correction by consciousness of its own initial excess of subjectivity. Each actual occasion contributes to the circumstances of its origin additional formative elements deepening its own peculiar individuality. Consciousness is only the last and greatest of such elements by which the selective character of the individual obscures the external totality from which it originates and which it embodies. An actual individual, of such higher grade, has truck with the totality of things by reason of its sheer actuality; but it has attained its individual depth of being by a selective emphasis limited to its own purposes. The task of philosophy is to recover the totality obscured by the selection.

„In all philosophic theory there is an ultimate which is actual in virtue of its accidents.“

—  Alfred North Whitehead

Pt. I, ch. 1, sec. 2.
1920s, Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology (1929)
Kontext: In all philosophic theory there is an ultimate which is actual in virtue of its accidents. It is only then capable of characterization through its accidental embodiments, and apart from these accidents is devoid of actuality. In the philosophy of organism this ultimate is termed creativity; and God] is its primordial, non-temporal accident. In [[monistic philosophies, Spinoza's or absolute idealism, this ultimate is God, who is also equivalently termed The Absolute. In such monistic schemes, the ultimate is illegitimately allowed a final, eminent reality, beyond that ascribed to any of its accidents. In this general position the philosophy of organism seems to approximate more to some strains of Indian, or Chinese, thought, than to western Asiatic, or European, thought. One side makes process ultimate; the other side makes fact ultimate.

„The vitality of thought is in adventure. Ideas won't keep. Something must be done about them.“

—  Alfred North Whitehead

Quelle: Attributed from posthumous publications, p. 100; Ch. 12, April 28, 1938.
Kontext: The vitality of thought is in adventure. Ideas won't keep. Something must be done about them. When the idea is new, its custodians have fervor, live for it, and, if need be, die for it.

„Rightness of limitation is essential for growth of reality.“

—  Alfred North Whitehead, buch Religion in the Making

Religion in the Making (February 1926), Lecture IV: "Truth and Criticism" http://www.mountainman.com.au/whiteh_4.htm.
1920s
Kontext: Rightness of limitation is essential for growth of reality.
Unlimited possibility and abstract creativity can procure nothing. The limitation, and the basis arising from what is already actual, are both of them necessary and interconnected.

„Ninety percent of our lives is governed by emotion.“

—  Alfred North Whitehead

Quelle: Attributed from posthumous publications, Ch. 29, June 10, 1943.
Kontext: Ninety percent of our lives is governed by emotion. Our brains merely register and act upon what is telegraphed to them by our bodily experience. Intellect is to emotion as our clothes are to our bodies; we could not very well have civilized life without clothes, but we would be in a poor way if we had only clothes without bodies.

„All the world over and at all times there have been practical men, absorbed in 'irreducible and stubborn facts'; all the world over and at all times there have been men of philosophic temperament, who have been absorbed in the weaving of general principles. It is this union of passionate interest in the detailed facts with equal devotion to abstract generalisation which forms the novelty of our present society.“

—  Alfred North Whitehead

Quelle: 1920s, Science and the Modern World (1925), Ch. 1: "The Origins of Modern Science"
Kontext: The new tinge to modern minds is a vehement and passionate interest in the relation of general principles to irreducible and stubborn facts. All the world over and at all times there have been practical men, absorbed in 'irreducible and stubborn facts'; all the world over and at all times there have been men of philosophic temperament, who have been absorbed in the weaving of general principles. It is this union of passionate interest in the detailed facts with equal devotion to abstract generalisation which forms the novelty of our present society.

„In the study of ideas, it is necessary to remember that insistence on hard-headed clarity issues from sentimental feeling, as if it were a mist, cloaking the perplexities of fact. Insistence on clarity at all costs is based on sheer superstition as to the mode in which human intelligence functions.“

—  Alfred North Whitehead

Quelle: 1930s, Adventures of Ideas (1933), p. 91.
Kontext: In the study of ideas, it is necessary to remember that insistence on hard-headed clarity issues from sentimental feeling, as if it were a mist, cloaking the perplexities of fact. Insistence on clarity at all costs is based on sheer superstition as to the mode in which human intelligence functions. Our reasoning grasps at straws for premises and float on gossamer for deductions.

„Philosophy, in one of its functions, is the critic of cosmologies. It is its function to harmonise, refashion, and justify divergent intuitions as to the nature of things.“

—  Alfred North Whitehead

Preface
1920s, Science and the Modern World (1925)
Kontext: Philosophy, in one of its functions, is the critic of cosmologies. It is its function to harmonise, refashion, and justify divergent intuitions as to the nature of things. It has to insist on the scrutiny of the ultimate ideas, and on the retention of the whole of the evidence in shaping our cosmological scheme. Its business is to render explicit, and — so far as may be — efficient, a process which otherwise is unconsciously performed without rational tests.

„Some philosophers fail to distinguish propositions from judgments; … But in the real world it is more important that a proposition be interesting than that it be true.“

—  Alfred North Whitehead

Quelle: 1920s, Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology (1929), p. 259.
Variant: It is more important that a proposition be interesting than that it be true. This statement is almost a tautology. For the energy of operation of a proposition in an occasion of experience is its interest, and its importance. But of course a true proposition is more apt to be interesting than a false one.
As extended upon in Adventures of Ideas (1933), Pt. 4, Ch. 16.
Kontext: Some philosophers fail to distinguish propositions from judgments; … But in the real world it is more important that a proposition be interesting than that it be true. The importance of truth is that it adds to interest.

„The universities are schools of education, and schools of research.“

—  Alfred North Whitehead

1920s, The Aims of Education (1929)
Kontext: The universities are schools of education, and schools of research. But the primary reason for their existence is not to be found either in the mere knowledge conveyed to the students or in the mere opportunities for research afforded to the members of the faculty. Both these functions could be performed at a cheaper rate, apart from these very expensive institutions. Books are cheap, and the system of apprenticeship is well understood. So far as the mere imparting of information is concerned, no university has had any justification for existence since the popularization of printing in the fifteenth century. Yet the chief impetus to the foundation of universities came after that date, and in more recent times has even increased. The justification for a university is that it preserves the connection between knowledge and the zest of life, by uniting the young and the old in the imaginative consideration of learning.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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