Process and Reality – Part 2 Chapter 1

Some general notes on what is going on in ‘Fact and Form’ (pp. 39-60). These are reliable in that they are quite general/synoptic. The diagram, however, is more indicative than reliable – it was used as a conversation aid and obviously shouldn’t be taken as a substitute for the task of actually reading the chapter.

The preface frames Part One as a “summary statement” (xi) of the overall method, scheme and cosmological scheme of Process and Reality. This summary statement will remain “practically unintelligible” (ibid.) until Part Two has exhibited it. Fact and Form is the beginning of the fore-promised exhibition, the beginning of the putting of the flesh of content onto the form of the skeleton, as it were. The chapter is broken up into seven interrelated sections which, taken together, establish the terminological, technical and conceptual foundations of the philosophy of organism. The chapter also elucidates the impetus and purpose underpinning the philosophy of organism, in relation to Platonic and 17th-18th century philosophy in particular, and in relation to the development of Western philosophy more generally.

Section One positions all human discourses as in pursuit of ‘the facts’. European philosophy, most prudently understood as “a series of footnotes to Plato” (39) (NB: Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, Hume and Kant) obviously makes a special claim towards the facts. The philosophy of organism is in broad agreement with this tradition’s claims. Beyond authority, however, we need to appeal to intrinsic reasonableness which, even in this tradition, isn’t always guaranteed, as the series of re-readings which occur across this book seek to demonstrate. Section Two, like Section One, develops foundational terminology. These two terminological discussions are brought into relation in Section Three. Section Four contrasts the crucial ontological principle with the philosophy of causation, stressing the pride of place given to non-predictable novelty within the philosophy of organism. Section Five elucidates the hostility of the philosophy of organism towards dualistic subject-predicate oriented philosophy, and Section Six and Seven offer detailed exegeses of Locke’s Essay, epistemologically and ontologically, as this is held to have been closest to Whitehead’s own project, albeit with qualifications which are made throughout.   Map do not equate with territories, we know this.

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