Zitate Alfred North Whitehead

„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.

„Seek simplicity and distrust it.“

—  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."

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

—  Alfred North Whitehead

Quelle: Attributed from posthumous publications, Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead (1954), 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.

„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 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.“

—  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.

„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.

„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.

„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.

„Philosophy may not neglect the multifariousness of the world — the fairies dance, and Christ is nailed to the cross.“

—  Alfred North Whitehead

Pt. V, ch. 1, sec. 1.
1920s, Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology (1929)
Kontext: There is a greatness in the lives of those who build up religious systems, a greatness in action, in idea and in self-subordination, embodied in instance after instance through centuries of growth. There is a greatness in the rebels who destroy such systems: they are the Titans who storm heaven, armed with passionate sincerity. It may be that the revolt is the mere assertion by youth of its right to its proper brilliance, to that final good of immediate joy. Philosophy may not neglect the multifariousness of the world — the fairies dance, and Christ is nailed to the cross.

„He gave them speech, and they became souls“

—  Alfred North Whitehead

Modes of Thought (1938).
1930s
Kontext: The mentality of mankind and the language of mankind created each other. If we like to assume the rise of language as a given fact, then it is not going too far to say that the souls of men are the gift from language to mankind. The account of the sixth day should be written: He gave them speech, and they became souls.

„The essence of education is that it be religious. Pray, what is religious education? A religious education is an education which inculcates duty and reverence.“

—  Alfred North Whitehead

1920s, The Aims of Education (1929)
Kontext: The essence of education is that it be religious. Pray, what is religious education? A religious education is an education which inculcates duty and reverence. Duty arises from our potential control over the course of events. Where attainable knowledge could have changed the issue, ignorance has the guilt of vice. And the foundation of reverence is this perception, that the present holds within itself the complete sum of existence, backwards and forwards, that whole amplitude of time, which is eternity.

„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, Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead (1954), 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.

„Knowledge does not keep any better than fish.“

—  Alfred North Whitehead

1920s, The Aims of Education (1929)
Kontext: For successful education there must always be a certain freshness in the knowledge dealt with. It must be either new in itself or invested with some novelty of application to the new world of new times. Knowledge does not keep any better than fish. You may be dealing with knowledge of the old species, with some old truth; but somehow it must come to the students, as it were, just drawn out of the sea and with the freshness of its immediate importance.

„The task of philosophy is to recover the totality obscured by the selection.“

—  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.

„It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious.“

—  Alfred North Whitehead

Preface (p. 4)
1920s, Science and the Modern World (1925)

„Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.“

—  Alfred North Whitehead

Quelle: 1910s, An Introduction to Mathematics (1911), ch. 5. <!-- pp. 41-42 -->
Kontext: It is a profoundly erroneous truism, repeated by all copy-books and by eminent people when they are making speeches, that we should cultivate the habit of thinking of what we are doing. The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them. Operations of thought are like cavalry charges in a battle — they are strictly limited in number, they require fresh horses, and must only be made at decisive moments.

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