The Concept of Nature

Alfred North Whitehead

Concept of Nature, by Alfred North Whitehead

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Title: The Concept of Nature The Tarner Lectures Delivered in Trinity College, November 1919
Author: Alfred North Whitehead
Release Date: July 16, 2006 [EBook #18835]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

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+------------------------------------------------------------------+ | | | Transcriber's Note: In the parts containing mathematical | | notation, superscripts are denoted using a carat and subscripts | | using underscores, for example x^2, e1, e{n+1}. Greek | | letters used as symbols are written out, for example {sigma}, | | but the one Greek phrase has been transliterated. All of these | | special characters are preserved in the UTF-8 and HTML versions | | of this ebook. | | | | Italicised words are marked using underscores like this, but | | the letters used in the mathematics (which were all in italic | | font) have not been marked, to aid legibility and to avoid | | confusion with the subscripts. | | | | Two printer errors have been corrected. These are: | | | | "...relating the entity discriminated by sight with that | | discriminated by [sight]..." sight has been changed to touch as | | suggested by the sense. | | | | "...[universely] proportional to..." universely has been changed | | to inversely. | | | +------------------------------------------------------------------+

The Concept of
Alfred North Whitehead

The contents of this book were originally delivered at Trinity College in the autumn of 1919 as the inaugural course of Tarner lectures. The Tarner lectureship is an occasional office founded by the liberality of Mr Edward Tarner. The duty of each of the successive holders of the post will be to deliver a course on 'the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Relations or Want of Relations between the different Departments of Knowledge.' The present book embodies the endeavour of the first lecturer of the series to fulfil his task.
The chapters retain their original lecture form and remain as delivered with the exception of minor changes designed to remove obscurities of expression. The lecture form has the advantage of suggesting an audience with a definite mental background which it is the purpose of the lecture to modify in a specific way. In the presentation of a novel outlook with wide ramifications a single line of communications from premises to conclusions is not sufficient for intelligibility. Your audience will construe whatever you say into conformity with their pre-existing outlook. For this reason the first two chapters and the last two chapters are essential for intelligibility though they hardly add to the formal completeness of the exposition. Their function is to prevent the reader from bolting up side tracks in pursuit of misunderstandings. The same reason dictates my avoidance of the existing technical terminology of philosophy. The modern natural philosophy is shot through and through with the fallacy of bifurcation which is discussed in the second chapter of this work. Accordingly all its technical terms in some subtle way presuppose a misunderstanding of my thesis. It is perhaps as well to state explicitly that if the reader indulges in the facile vice of bifurcation not a word of what I have here written will be intelligible.
The last two chapters do not properly belong to the special course. Chapter?VIII is a lecture delivered in the spring of 1920 before the Chemical Society of the students of the Imperial College of Science and Technology. It has been appended here as conveniently summing up and applying the doctrine of the book for an audience with one definite type of outlook.
This volume on 'the Concept of Nature' forms a companion book to my previous work An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Natural Knowledge. Either book can be read independently, but they supplement each other. In part the present book supplies points of view which were omitted from its predecessor; in part it traverses the same ground with an alternative exposition. For one thing, mathematical notation has been carefully avoided, and the results of mathematical deductions are assumed. Some of the explanations have been improved and others have been set in a new light. On the other hand important points of the previous work have been omitted where I have had nothing fresh to say about them. On the whole, whereas the former work based itself chiefly on ideas directly drawn from mathematical physics, the present
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