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Although there are significant continuities throughout his thought, Whitehead's intellectual life is often divided into three periods. The first corresponds roughly with his time at Cambridge, from 1884 to 1910, during which he worked primarily on logic and mathematics. The second corresponds roughly with his time at London, from 1910 to 1924, during which he concentrated mainly on issues in the philosophy of science. The third corresponds roughly with his time at Harvard, from 1924 onward, during which he worked on more general issues in philosophy, including the development of a comprehensive metaphysical system which has come to be known as process philosophy.

- Whitehead's Chronology
- Whitehead's Philosophical Influence
- Whitehead's Writings
- Bibliography
- Other Internet Resources
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- (1861) Born February 15 in Ramsgate, Isle of Thanet, Kent, England.
- (1880) Enters Trinity College, Cambridge with a scholarship in mathematics.
- (1884) Elected a Fellow in Mathematics at Trinity.
- (1891) Marries Evelyn Wade.
- (1903) Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society as a result his work on universal algebra.
- (1910) Moves to University College London.
- (1914) Appointed Professor of Applied Mathematics at the Imperial College of Science and Technology.
- (1924) Appointed Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University.
- (1931) Elected a Fellow of the British Academy.
- (1937) Retires from Harvard.
- (1945) Awarded Order of Merit.
- (1947) Dies December 30 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Whitehead began his academic career at Trinity College, Cambridge,
where, starting in 1885, he taught for twenty-five years. In 1890
Bertrand Russell arrived as a student at Trinity and during the 1890s
the two men came into regular contact with one another. According to
Russell, "Whitehead was extraordinarily perfect as a teacher"^{1} and Whitehead soon became something
of a mentor to the younger man.

By the early 1900s, both men had completed books on the foundations of mathematics. Whitehead's 1898 A Treatise on Universal Algebra had resulted in his election to the Royal Society. Russell's 1903 The Principles of Mathematics had marked a decisive break from his earlier neo-Kantian work, such as his 1897 An Essay on the Foundations of Geometry. Since the research for a proposed second volume of Russell's Principles overlapped considerably with Whitehead's own research for the proposed second volume of his Universal Algebra, the two men began collaboration on what was eventually to become Principia Mathematica (1910, 1912, 1913). According to Whitehead, they initially expected the research to take about a year to complete. In the end, they worked together on the project for a full decade.

Logicism, the theory that mathematics is in some important sense reducible to logic, consists of two main theses. The first is that all mathematical truths can be translated into logical truths or, in other words, that the vocabulary of mathematics constitutes a proper subset of that of logic. The second is that all mathematical proofs can be recast as logical proofs or, in other words, that the theorems of mathematics constitute a proper subset of those of logic.

Like Gottlob Frege, Whitehead and Russell took the view that numbers could be identified with sets of sets, and that number-theoretic operations could be explained in terms of set theoretic operations such as intersection, union, and difference. Although Whitehead and Russell were then able to provide many detailed derivations of major theorems in set theory, finite and transfinite arithmetic, and elementary measure theory, the issue of whether set theory itself can be said to have been successfully reduced to logic remains controversial.

Following the completion of Principia, Whitehead and Russell began to go their separate ways. Perhaps inevitably, Russell's anti-war activities during World War I (in which Whitehead lost his youngest son) also led to something of a split between the two men. Nevertheless, they remained on relatively good terms for the rest of their lives.

At the University of London, Whitehead turned his attention to issues in the philosophy of science. Of particular note was his rejection of the idea that each object has a simple spatial location. Instead, Whitehead advocated the view that all objects should be understood as fields having both temporal and spatial extensions. Further, each object may be understood to be a series of events and processes. It is this latter idea which Whitehead later systematically elaborated in his imposing Process and Reality (1929), going so far as to suggest that process, rather than substance, should be taken as the fundamental metaphysical constituent of the world. It was during this time that Whitehead published several less well known books, including An Inquiry Concerning the Principles of Natural Knowledge (1919), The Concept of Nature (1920), and The Principle of Relativity (1922).

While at London, Whitehead also became involved in many practical aspects of tertiary education, serving as Dean of the Faculty of Science and holding several other senior administrative posts. Many of the essays in his The Aims of Education and Other Essays (1929) date from this time.

Upon being offered an appointment at Harvard, Whitehead moved to the United States in 1924. Given his prior training in mathematics and in the physical sciences, it was sometimes joked that the first philosophy lectures he ever attended were those which he delivered at Harvard in his new role as Professor of Philosophy. A year later he also delivered Harvard's prestigious Lowell Lectures which formed the basis for his first primarily metaphysical book, Science and the Modern World (1925). In it he again introduced several themes which later found fuller expression in Process and Reality. The same was true of the 1927/28 Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh on which Process and Reality came to be based.

In Process and Reality, rather than assuming substances
as the basic metaphysical category, Whitehead introduces the notion of
an *actual occasion*. On Whitehead's view, an actual occasion is
not an enduring substance, but a process of becoming. As Donald
Sherburne points out, "It is customary to compare an actual occasion
with a Leibnizian monad, with the caveat that whereas a monad is
windowless, an actual occasion is 'all window'. It is as though one
were to take Aristotle's system of categories and ask what would
result if the category of substance were displaced from its
preeminence by the category of relation ... ."^{2} As Whitehead himself explains, his "philosophy
of organism is the inversion of Kant's philosophy ... For Kant, the
world emerges from the subject; for the philosophy of organism, the
subject emerges from the world."^{3}

Whitehead's ultimate attempt to develop a metaphysical unification of space, time, matter and events has proved to be rather controversial. In part this may be because of the connections which Whitehead saw between his metaphysics and traditional theism. According to Whitehead, religion is concerned with permanence amid change, and can be found in the ordering we find within nature, something he sometimes called the "primordial nature of God". Thus although not especially influential among contemporary Anglo-American secular philosophers, his metaphysical ideas have had greater influence among many theologians and philosophers of religion.

- (1898) A Treatise on Universal Algebra, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- (1906) On Mathematical Concepts of the Material World, London: Dulau.
- (1906) The Axioms of Projective Geometry, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- (1907) The Axioms of Descriptive Geometry, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- (1910, 1912, 1913) (with Bertrand Russell) Principia Mathematica, 3 vols, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Second edition, 1925 (Vol. 1), 1927 (Vols 2, 3). Abridged as Principia Mathematica to *56, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962.
- (1911) An Introduction to Mathematics, London: Williams & Norgate.
- (1919) An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Natural Knowledge, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- (1920) The Concept of Nature, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- (1922) The Principle of Relativity With Applications to Physical Science, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- (1925) Science and the Modern World, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- (1926) Religion in the Making, New York: Macmillan.
- (1927) Symbolism, Its Meaning and Effect, New York: Macmillan.
- (1929) The Aims of Education and Other Essays, New York: Macmillan.
- (1929) The Function of Reason, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
- (1929) Process and Reality, New York: Macmillan.
- (1933) Adventures of Ideas, New York: New American.
- (1934) Nature and Life, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- (1938) Modes of Thought, New York: Macmillan.
- (1947) Essays in Science and Philosophy, New York: Philosophical Library.
- (1947) The Wit and Wisdom of Whitehead, Boston: Beacon Press.

- Bright, Laurence (1958) Whitehead's Philosophy of Physics, London: Sheed and Ward.
- Cobb, John B. (1965) A Christian Natural Theology, Based on the Thought of Alfred North Whitehead, Philadelphia: Westminster Press.
- Connelly, Robert Joseph (1981) Whitehead vs Hartshorne, Washington, D.C.: University Press of America.
- Dunkel, Harold Baker (1965) Whitehead on Education, Columbus: Ohio State University Press.
- Emmet, Dorothy Mary (1932) Whitehead's Philosophy of Organism, 2nd edition, London: Macmillan, 1966.
- Hartshorne, Charles (1972) Whitehead's Philosophy: Selected Essays, 1935-1970, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
- Johnson, A.H. (1952) Whitehead's Theory of Reality, Boston: Beacon Press.
- Kline, George Louis (1963) Alfred North Whitehead, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.
- Lango, John W. (1972) Whitehead's Ontology, Albany: State University of New York Press.
- Lawrence, Nathaniel Morris (1956) Whitehead's Philosophical Development, Berkeley: University of California Press.
- Lowe, Victor (1962) Understanding Whitehead, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press,
- Lowe, Victor (1985) Alfred North Whitehead, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
- Lucas, George R. (1989) The Rehabilitation of Whitehead, Albany: State University of New York Press.
- Nobo, Jorge Luis (1986) Whitehead's Metaphysics of Extension and Solidarity, Albany: State University of New York Press.
- Pittenger, W. Norman (1969) Alfred North Whitehead, Richmond: John Knox Press.
- Pols, Edward (1967) Whitehead's Metaphysics, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.
- Quine, Willard Van Orman (1941) "Whitehead and the Rise of Modern Logic", in Schilpp, Paul Arthur (ed.) The Philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, La Salle: Open Court, 125-164.
- Ross, Stephen David (1983) Perspectives in Whitehead's Metaphysics, Albany: State University of New York Press.
- Russell, Bertrand (1903) The Principles of Mathematics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Russell, Bertrand (1948) "Whitehead and Principia Mathematica", Mind, 57, 137-138.
- Russell, Bertrand (1952) "Alfred North Whitehead", The Listener, 48 (10 July), 51-52. Revised and reprinted in Russell, Portraits From Memory, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1956, 99-104; and in Russell, The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell, Vol. 1, London: George Allen & Unwin, 1967, 127-130.
- Schilpp, Paul Arthur (ed.) (1941) The Philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, La Salle: Open Court.
- Sherburne, Donald W. (1966) A Key to Whitehead's Process and Reality, New York: Macmillian.

A. D. Irvine

*First published: May 21, 1996*

*Content last modified: August 18, 1997*