Hegel and Whitehead


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1. Historical contributions

Their basis is emotional, and humanity acquired these emotions by reason of its unthinking activities amid the course of nature. But mentality as it emerges into coordinated activity has a tremendous effect in selecting, emphasizing, and disintegrating. We have been considering the emergence of ideas from activities, and the effect of ideas in modifying the activities from which they emerge. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account. You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account.

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Whitehead and Weil's Reading of Kant in Moral Philosophy

Image via Wikipedia. Rate this:. Share this:. While a degenerate form of Secondness, the clash of one categoreal framework with another is hardly an unimportant or negligible phenomenon. The clash exemplified by the familiar phenomena in which truly genuine Secondness is predominant is indeed one in which the secondness exhibits its force and brutality against the backdrop of Thirdness.

The physical blow is, in this illustration, tied to its utter unexpectedness and, of course, expectation is an instance of Thirdness. There is, to be sure, the physical blow in its purely brute force a paradigm of genuine Secondness. But the example betrays how, in our experience, Secondness is tied to Thirdness, how rupture is linked to continuity. The unconscious expectation of moving safely through the world is shattered in the experience of unanticipated pain.

While this is true in all contexts of our endeavors, it is dramatically evident in social and political contexts. Also in the history of science, anomalies arise and, in the course of that history, they often gather strength and salience, so much so that they eventually prompt a revision, perhaps a radical revision, of the regnant framework of scientific explanation cf.

Kuhn The experiential clash of this framework with this or that aspect of the world, as this or that aspect so forcefully asserts itself in experience, tends to generate an agon between rival frameworks e. And, in the history of such conflicts, more adequate frameworks emerge, ones incorporating the insights of their rivals while avoiding the limitations and distortions of these alterative schemes. Though I am far from confident that this is the case, the clash of one framework with another might be taken as an instance of the Secondness of Thirdness however degenerate an instance of such Secondness.

In turn, the overcoming of this opposition might be taken as the Thirdness of Thirdness. The almost wholly implicit but deeply felt sense of intelligibility by which we move through the world might, finally, be taken as the Firstness of Thirdness. But, as a result of our attempts at such translation, there can also be insight and illumination. Just as something inevitably is lost in translation, other things might be gained. The question of whether these conflicts are truly irreducible is, however, a fair and important one.

There is, in my judgment a warrant, for taking Hegel to be close to Peirce on this point. Much like Peirce, he situated this clash in a broader context in order to render it more fully intelligible. He carefully attended to the various aspects of irreducible, but in a sense not invincible opposition or Secondness. What Peirce would call actuality, in itself, is not only unintelligible but also anti-intelligible. Actual things and events, as familiar, complex phenomena of universal human experience, are, however, not pure seconds: they are shot through with Thirdness.

This implies that these objects and occurrences are bound up with ideality, infinity, and history history is the scene in which the Thirdness of Thirdness might yet triumph, in a more adequate and hence less violent form than anything yet realized. Inseparably connected to this, their kinship is nowhere deeper than in their subtle, nuanced, painstaking accounts of the complex interplay among immediacy, opposition, and mediation.

For our purpose, at least on this occasion, the interplay between opposition and mediation needs to be thrust into the foreground. For the most part, we must let Firstness go unexplored, while attending to Secondness and Thirdness in their interplay. Peirce was brilliant in bringing certain facets of this interplay into sharpest focus.

But Hegel was, at least, equally brilliant in exhibiting not only the centrality of fateful conflict but also just how the conflict of rival frameworks is the driving force of human history. What is however easy to miss is that these frameworks are inseparable from the worlds in which they emerge. The medieval outlook is, for example, one with the medieval world.

It makes sense only in that world, though ultimately it cannot make sense of that world and, as a result, it drives toward its own transcendence. But this is because, given its defining contradictions, that world drives toward its own dissolution. It becomes far more intelligible after its dissolution than during its duration.

The dramatic birth of such a world is always a novel bid for intelligibility. It is an attempt to make wider, deeper sense out of the world than has ever yet been achieved. It involves summing up the past, for the purposes of the present, and inaugurating the present, for the possibility of a future beyond anything yet imagined. There is no better example of the Thirdness of Thirdness than the birth of a world in which the self-luminosity of the world manifests itself to rational agents, hence a world in which the artistic, philosophical, and religiousness consciousness of such agents actualizes itself in the evolved and indeed evolving forms of concrete reasonableness e.

Concrete reasonableness is concrete by virtue of being embodied and it is embodied, first and foremost, in the habits and artifacts of rational agents in the actual circumstances of their historical time CP 6. No appeal to immediacy can instantly secure concreteness; no such appeal or sequence of such appeals can do much, if anything, to render thought concrete. An intricate process of reflexive mediation alone can render philosophy concrete.

But this involves participating in historical processes and shared practices. That is by standing apart from the world we do not render it rational, and thereby intelligible; rather the world itself in its irrepressible tendencies and undying restlessness renders itself rational and, insofar as we participate thoughtfully in the processes and practices by which this is accomplished, we render ourselves more concretely reasonable. Of course, we can no more conceive ourselves apart from the world than we can conceive the world apart from the possibility of beings who are in principle capable of knowing it.

Both Hegel and Peirce unabashedly affirm the objectivity of the categories, without denying their status as integral features of cognitive agents. The world renders itself rational and intelligible through agents such as us, while we render ourselves human and actual through an ongoing process of radical self-alteration.

There is in principle Secondness without Thirdness, but there is in practice hardly a trace of Secondness utterly apart from Thirdness. One irony is that Hegel was in effect endeavoring to grasp not pure Secondness but Secondness in its complex relationships to Thirdness, the degenerate and genuine forms of Secondness in conjunction with the degenerate forms of Thirdness but above all the genuine form i. He appreciated not only the outward clash between self and other but also the various levels and forms of agon in and through which older forms of intelligibility implode and, out of the ruins, newer forms are assembled.

So, far from ignoring Secondness, Hegel makes it central to his project, at least as central as Peirce makes it to his. Bowman It is a notion around which arguably everything turns. The actual determinations resulting from such finite actuality finite beings acquiring differential form in their drive to crowd out a place for themselves in the actual world must be a central part of any adequate story of the enveloping universe. But, by itself, it is, for Hegel and Peirce, inadequate. The ideality of finitude, the infinity of ideality, and finally the actualization of ideality insofar as this is possible in natural and historical processes need to be invoked in order to show how the self-luminous intelligibility of a self-evolving universe is not a fanciful idea but at least a reasonable conjecture.

Whether it is more than this, in particular, whether it is a dialectical necessity, cannot be considered on this occasion. Substantively, Hegel and Peirce are making equally strong claims. Methodologically, however, Peirce is making a much weaker one than Hegel. His claim about such intelligibility is avowedly nothing more than a guess, albeit one for which rather strong arguments may be made.

But, in the end, it remains a guess. It is a might , rather than a must , be. Dialectical necessity stands in marked contrast to heuristic possibility. But note that this difference is, for the most part, not the one underscored by Peirce, though he did occasionally try to distinguish himself from Hegel in terms of necessity.

Is the kind of necessity on which Hegel insisted opposed to the freedom that Peirce and indeed the other pragmatists, especially James, were so anxious to safeguard? The very importance of their questions however can only be ascertained by juxtaposing them with other questions in some respects overlapping while in other respects divergent. One of the most illuminating ways to do this is to draw subtle, suggestive, and systematic thinkers, who are above all defined by their questions, into dialogue with one another.

Peirce lend themselves to being juxtaposed in this manner. We discover at the center of this history not only the often violent clash of rival ideals but also the inevitable inadequacy of even the most powerful forms of human conceptualization to do justice to the unanticipated demands of our ineluctable experience. Peirce are sites in which such clashes are dramatically displayed and such inadequacies are tellingly revealed. Beyond this, they provide resources for understanding the drama of thought rescuing itself from the darkness of despair.

Finally, these writings throw us toward the future in a manner in which our distance from, yet entanglement with, the past is a defining feature of the dramatic present. MacIntyre a. Whatever differences divide them and these differences are numerous and deep , this kinship conjoins them. Peirce sensed this kinship 38 even if he tended to place mistaken emphasis on the most telling difference between himself and Hegel. The clash between them does not so much concern the outward clash between experience and reason 39 as that between somewhat different visions of the intricate relationship between rational ideals and experiential compulsion.

Exploring the relationship between Hegel and Peirce can be an invaluable aid in illuminating the relationship between reason and experience. My modest hope is to have rendered in this essay a bold claim somewhat plausible. With each of these thinkers, one is thrown back anew on the most fundamental questions and forced to think over them, once again. The question of the relationship between experience and reason is one such question.

The positions to which Hegel and Peirce were driven by their unblinking confrontation with the dramatic disclosures of ineluctable experience and also by their unabashed commitment to unbounded intelligibility provide more than an optimal basis of philosophical comparison. They provide insights into the matter at hand. Anderson Douglas R. Schrift eds. Bernstein Richard J. Colapietro Vincent M. Fisch Max H. Miller, Oxford, Oxford University Press. Hookway Christopher, , Peirce , London, Routledge. Kant Immanuel, , Critique of Pure Reason , transl. Kent Beverly E. Peirce Society , 13 2 , Originally published in The Monist , 60 4 , , Cited as EP 2.

Types of Explanation in Whitehead and Hegel – Footnotes2Plato

Singer ed. Peirce Society , 36 3 , Savan David, , An Introduction to C. Peirce Society , 17 3 , Short T. Smith John E. Wiener Philip P. They often deny this, by the way, and say they rest entirely on experience. This is because they so overlook the Outward Clash, that they do not know what experience is. They are like Roger Bacon, who after stating in eloquent terms that all knowledge comes from experience, goes on to mention spiritual illumination from on high as one of the most valuable kinds of experiences. Nevertheless, I have a certain sympathy with it, and fancy that if its author had only noticed a very few circumstances he would himself have been led to revolutionize his system.

One of these is the double division or dichotomy of the second idea of the triad. He has usually overlooked external Secondness, altogether. In other words, he has committed the trifling oversight of forgetting that there is a real world with real actions and reactions. Red contrasts with green; sound breaks in upon silence; one sensory quality collides […] with another.

Fisch, This essay is nothing less than an exemplification of the process to which the logician Peirce and the dialectician Hegel sought to exhibit in its most abstract form and to illustrate in its concrete instances. Peirce however missed the extent to which irreducible otherness played, for Hegel no less than for himself, this pivotal role. Such, at least, is what I want to show in this essay. James The first object one achieves by showing the reader the value of the knowledge in question; the second by explaining the plan and divisions of the treatise; the third by warning him of its difficulties.

Hence, pointing out similarities between even very different thinkers does not involve great ingenuity or insight. What we might call the pragmatics of comparison needs above all to be borne in mind: What is the purpose of drawing any specific comparison? In order to honor the spirit of these two philosophers, our purpose ought to be philosophical: it should concern some important methodological or substantive issue.

I have tried to do just this in my efforts here to draw a comparison between Hegel and Peirce, for my principal purpose is becoming clearer about the relationship between experience and reason. My secondary one is becoming clearer about the relationship between Hegel and Peirce. In philosophically dealing with philosophers, hermeneutic and historical questions must ultimately be subordinated to strictly philosophical ones.


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For the most part, these texts however can be rendered consistent with his experimentalism and, hence, are not what they seem evidence of recourse to a priori reasoning. Even so, they give the appearance that he was guilty of what he condemned in others. A self-development of Thought takes the course that thinking will take that is sufficiently deliberate, and is not truly a self-development if it slips from being the thought of one object-thought to being the thought of another object-thought.

That is, he begins with secondness and then moves to firstness and, finally, to thirdness. It is embodied in institutions, practices, and discourses. But there is hardly any less question that he, perhaps quite early in his intellectual life, moved beyond Kant and toward Hegel. The triadic fact takes place in thought. We forget that thinking implies existential action [i.

This is a somewhat subtle point. Experience at least our experience of our ignorance and errors is, in a sense, not simply had cf. John Dewey on experience as had versus known. We come to have this experience as a result of our efforts to counteract the disclosure, often quite painful, of these limitations and defects. Closer to Kant and Hegel, more distant from Locke and Hume, Peirce stresses the active role of human agents in the very constitution of even those experiences in which what is other than the self forces itself brutally upon the self.

Peirce would pragmatically clarify the fear of truth to be at bottom the fear of experience, specifically the power of experience to force us to transform, on occasion even profoundly, our understanding of, and our relationship to, the world. Experience is by its very nature compulsive. Indeed, he has offered many helpful comments and suggestions, too many to explicitly acknowledge. My suggestion is that thought emerges first and foremost in the form of a question , not a statement or imperative.

But he himself considers Secondness in conjunction with Thirdness, underscoring the crucial role played by arbitrary force in the continuous growth of concrete reasonableness. While human experience is a phenomenon in which brute compulsion is the predominant element, immanent reasonableness is also characteristic of this complex phenomenon.


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Thus, it is far from clear wherein lies the difference between Peirce and Hegel regarding Secondness in its irreducibility. It makes clear not only his identification of philosophy with idealism but also that an embrace of finitude an acknowledgment of actuality does not preclude a thoroughgoing commitment to infinity, properly understood. The idealism of philosophy consists in nothing else than in recognizing that the finite has no veritable being.

Every philosophy is essentially an idealism, or at least has idealism for its principle, and the question then is how far this principle is actually carried out. This is as true of philosophy as of religion; for religion equally does not recognize finitude as a veritable being, as something ultimate and absolute or as something underived, uncreated, eternal. Consequently, the opposition of idealistic and realistic philosophy has no significance.

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A philosophy which ascribed veritable, ultimate, absolute being to finite existences as such, would not deserve the name of philosophy; the principles of ancient or modern philosophies, water, or matter, or atoms are thoughts, universals, ideal entities, not things as they immediately present themselves to us, that is, in their sensuous individuality — not even the water of Thales. The scientific revolution has ushered in nothing less than the modern world or, more accurately, is one of the revolutions by which this world was brought into being.

One might say that his engagement with his predecessor points toward the achievement of ambivalence Segal If it began in a one-sided antipathy, it evolved into a nuanced, qualified attraction and repulsion.

Alfred North Whitehead Philosopher & Mystic

But such an objection is based on a comparison that has been cleared up in the early years of the century by Hegel, and which exact logic has rendered still more patent. Namely, the universal is not necessarily the abstracted.


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  • The abstractly universal is only the lowest kind of universal. The secondness of thirdness embodied Thirds in process of development encompasses what Hegel identified as concrete universals. There are passages, such as the one just quoted, wherein this point is made quite explicitly.

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    I however am dubious that this is altogether accurate. That is, he is regarding the question of freedom closer to Schelling than Hegel. In my judgment, however, the first and likely most important question to pose for this purpose is, What fruitful questions did this or that philosopher pose? Heuristic fecundity is more telling than putative proof.

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