Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Process and Reality (Corrected Edition) by A.N. Whitehead

How is one to read Process and Reality? Very slowly is an acceptable response as is ‘with wrinkled brow’. Don’t look down when you climb Mount Whitehead or you will be overcome by vertigo. There I am with my pencil moving over the lines, anchoring my eye to the page lest the effort of comprehension may make my mind flee to the sunnier climes of reverie. I have read it a few times in the past and then my procedure was to not dwell on specific knotty points which might dull the mental plane blade but to push on trusting that all would be made clear. Faced with eight categories of existence, twenty-seven categories of explanation, nine categoreal obligations and more to come what else can you do. In many ways it’s like a large Russian novel which mixes patronymics, pet names, and titles so that you have to keep going back to the Cast of Characters to see who is in question.

Yet withal there is no sense of ad-hoc extensions, this is archetectonic with the occasional grand sentence thrown in. He tells us:

That the actual world is a process, and that the process is the becoming of actual entities. Thus actual entities are creatures; they are also termed 'actual occasions’. (First Category of Explanation pg.22)

On page 28 you have an explication:
It follows from the first category of explanation that 'becoming’ is a creative advance into novelty. It is for this reason that the meaning of the phrase 'the actual world’ is relative to the becoming of a definite actual entity, which is both novel and actual, relatively to that meaning and to no other meaning of that phrase. Thus conversely, each actual entity corresponds to a meaning of ‘the actual world’ peculiar to itself.

Coming back to the text with a different feeling for the concept of God I shall be interested to see whether God as the underwriter of novelty is merely a thin colourless wash or the tactful verger for the ‘tremendum et fascinans’.

Now I’m at Chapter III : Some Derivative Notions. That cliche of woodworking when dealing with difficult grain, ‘the plane blade should be sharp and closely set’, comes to mind. More anon.

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