In Support of Whitehead’s Time

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Abstract

In 1911, Alfred North Whitehead has a brainstorm: if we deny the reality of the instant, many problems of the philosophy of nature seem solved. His metaphysics, however, will wait until his moving to Harvard, in 1924, to mature. Besides his denial of the instants of time and the replacement of the concept of time by that of “process,” Whitehead articulates new concepts (concrescence, prehension) to account for the crystallization of successive empirical realities, the solidarity between events, the permanence of objects, and their deterministic behavior altogether. His views of nature fit well with both quantum mechanics and relativity theories, although not in the details of the latter. But one of his largely unnoticed merits, in my view, is to reopen the question of free will in the mind-body problem.

In Support of Whitehead’s Time

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References

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Figures

  • View in gallery
    Snapshot taken in a cloud chamber, displaying the trajectory of elementary particles bent by the magnetic field. These trajectories are not continuous, but interpolated through the beads of separated droplets.
  • View in gallery
    (A) the neuronal state N is the base of the “supervenient” state C of consciousness. (It is not a true cause in the sense that C is not reducible to N, but N is sufficient to entail it.) The alluded-to causal chain from the state of consciousness C to the modified neural state N*, which is the base of the state of consciousness C*, signifies that C is sufficient to cause N*. It seems that there is no reason for not taking N as the cause N*, bypassing C and treating it as a mere epiphenomenon (Kim 2008). (B) In the Whiteheadian approach, the causal link from N to N* may be broken, given the quantization of concrescences between states N and N*, while the causal link C to N* may be functional, due to a “prehension” between N* and C, restoring the claim that C is the true cause of N*.

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