For a biography, see Lowe (1985) and Lowe and Schneewind (1990). A complicating factor is that unlike
Bertrand Russell, Whitehead left no
Nachlass; his family carried out his instructions that all of his papers be destroyed
after his death.
1880-1910. He studied, taught, and wrote mathematics at
Trinity College, Cambridge University, spending the 1890s writing his (1898) and
working on the Principia, 1900-1913. On Whitehead the mathematician and
logician, see Grattan-Guiness (2000, 2002), and Quine's chapter in Schilpp
(1941), reprinted in Quine (1995). Whitehead left Cambridge just as the first
volume of the Principia appeared, to protest the dismissal, because of an
adulterous affair, of a Trinity College colleague.
1910-24. This period was mostly spent at (University College
London and Imperial College London), where he taught and wrote on physics, the
philosophy of science, and the theory and practice of education. In physics,
Whitehead is best known for a theory of gravity that differed from Einstein's
general relativity. From the outset, Whitehead's theory received less attention
than Einstein's, and was generally discredited by 1972, by a comparison of
experimental and predicted variability of the gravitational constant G. See A
Comparison with Einstein's Theory, or Will (1993).
1924-47. In 1924, he accepted an offer of a Harvard
University professorship in philosophy, a subject he had never taught before.
The offer had been instigated by a Boston businessman who partly endowed the
position. Whitehead was asked to give the 1927 Gifford Lectures at the
University of Edinburgh, which resulted in his (1929), Process and Reality, the
book that founded process philosophy and is a major contribution to modern
metaphysics. For a remarkable picture of Whitehead the aged sage holding court
in his Cambridge MA apartment, see Price (1954).
A signal feature of Process and Reality is its philosophical use of mereological and topological notions. Bowman Clarke argued in the 1980s
that this part of Whitehead's thinking was badly flawed, and showed how it could be repaired. Simons (1987) contains an accessible review of
Another feature of Process and Reality is its argument in favor of a God of sorts, although it is debatable whether Whitehead's God is the
God of revealed monotheism. Thus process philosophy gave rise to process theology, thanks to the theologian/philosophers Charles Hartshorne,
John B Cobb, Jr, and David Ray Griffin. Some "Christian" s" and Jews find process theology a fruitful way of understanding God and the
universe. Just as the entire universe is in constant flow and change, God, as source of the universe, is viewed as growing and changing.
Moreover, Whitehead's rejection of mind-body dualism is similar to elements in oriental faith traditions such as Buddhism.
Whitehead's political views were, roughly, libertarian without the label. He wrote: "Now the intercourse between individuals and between
social groups takes one of two forms, force or persuasion. Commerce is the great example of intercourse by way of persuasion. War, slavery,
and governmental compulsion exemplify the reign of force."
Whitehead married Evelyn Wade, by whom he had a daughter and two sons. One died in action while serving in the Royal Air Force during WWI.
1898. A Treatise on Universal Algebra with Applications. Cambridge Uni. Press. 1960 reprint, Hafner.
1911. Introduction To Mathematics. Oxford University Press. 1990 paperback, ISBN 0195002113.
1917. The Organization of Thought Educational and Scientific. Lippincott.
1920. The Concept of Nature. Cambridge Uni. Press. 2004 paperback, Prometheus Books, ISBN 1591022142. Being the Tarner Lectures delivered at
Trinity College in November 1919 on the philosophy of science.
1922. The Principle of Relativity with Applications to Physical Science. Cambridge Uni. Press.
1925 (1910-13), with Bertrand Russell. Principia Mathematica, in 3 vols. Cambridge Uni. Press. 1962 paperback, Vol. 1 to *56, ISBN
1925a. Science and the Modern World. 1997 paperback, Free Press (Simon & Schuster), ISBN 0684836394
1925b (1919). An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Natural Knowledge. Cambridge Uni. Press.
1926. Religion in the Making. 1974, New American Library, ISBN 0452007232. 1996 hardcover, with introduction by Judith A. Jones, Fordham
University Press, ISBN 0823216454; paperback, ISBN 0823216462.
1927. Symbolism, Its Meaning and Effect: Barbour-Page Lectures, University of Virginia, 1927. 1985 paperback, Fordham University Press, ISBN
1929. Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology. 1979 corrected edition, edited by David Ray Griffin and Donald W. Sherburne, Free Press,
1929a. The Aims of Education and Other Essays. 1985 paperback, Free Press, ISBN 0029351804.
1929b. Function of Reason. 1971 paperback, Beacon Press, ISBN 0807015733.
1933. Adventures of Ideas. 1967 paperback, Free Press, ISBN 0029351707.
1938. Modes of Thought. 1968 paperback, Free Press, ISBN 002935210X.
1947. Essays in Science and Philosophy. Runes, Dagobert, ed. Philosophical Library.
1953. A. N. Whitead: An Anthology. Northrop, F.S.C., and Gross, M.W., eds. Cambridge Uni. Press.
Price, Lucien, 1954. Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead, with Introduction by Sir Ross David. 1977 Greenwood Press Reprint, ISBN
0837193419. 2001 paperback with Forward by Caldwell Titcomb, David R. Godine Publisher, ISBN 1-56792-129-9.
Ivor Grattan-Guinness, 2000. The Search for Mathematical Roots 1870-1940. Princeton Uni. Press.
Grattan-Guiness, Ivor, 2002, "Algebras, Projective Geometry, Mathematical Logic, and Constructing the World: Intersections in the Philosophy
of Mathematics of A. N. Whitehead," Historia Mathematica 29: 427-62. Good references.
Charles Hartshorne, 1972. Whitehead's Philosophy: Selected Essays, 1935-1970. University of Nebraska Press
Kneebone, G., 1963. Mathematical Logic and the Foundations of Mathematics. Van Nostrand. 2001, Dover reprint. By a mathematician. The final
chapter is a lucid introduction to some of the ideas in Whitehead (1922, 1925b, 1929).
LeClerc, Ivor, ed., 1961. The Relevvance of Whitehead. Allen & Unwin.
Lowe, Victor, 1962. Understanding Whitehead. Johns Hopkins Uni. Press.
------, 1985. A. N. Whitehead: The Man and His Work, vol. 1. Johns Hopkins Uni. Press. The biography.
------ and Schneewind, J. B., 1990. A. N. Whitehead: The Man and His Work, vol. 2. Johns Hopkins Uni. Press.
Richard Milton Martin, 1974. Whitehead's Categorial Scheme and Other Essays. Martinus Nijhoff.
Mays, Wolfgang, 1959. The Philosophy of Whitehead. Allen & Unwin.
------, 1977. Whitehead's Philosophy of Science and Metaphysics: An Introduction to his Thought. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.
Willard Quine, 1995. "Whitehead and the rise of modern logic" in his Selected Logic Papers. Harvard Uni. Press.
Schilpp, P. A., ed., 1941. The Philosophy of A. N. Whitehead (The Library of Living Philosophers). New York: Tudor.
Simons, Peter, 1987. Parts. Oxford Uni. Press.
Will, Clifford, 1993. Theory and Experiment in Gravitational Physics. Cambridge University Press.