Intensity: An Essay in Whiteheadian Ontology

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Vanderbilt University Press, 1998 - Philosophy - 247 pages
A challenging, iconoclastic study that makes clear the underlying unity of Whitehead's vision of the world.

This important and provocative book on the work of Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) explores how his avowed atomism is consistent with his equally essential commitment to a view of reality as a thoroughly interconnected sphere of relations. Judith Jones challenges Whitehead's readers to reconsider certain prevailing interpretations of his organic philosophy. To Jones, a rereading of Whitehead's overall philosophic project is essential to evaluating his contributions to metaphysics and ontology. SinceWhitehead's basic worldview is holistic, a return to viewing Whitehead's work as a whole helps clarify his ontological intentions and contributions to metaphysics.

For this purpose, the concept of "intensity," which Jones defines as the quality and form of feeling involved in subjective experience, is basic to Whitehead's thinking about process at all naturalistic levels and is therefore particularly useful as a lens through which to view his entire system. "Intensity" is at once Whitehead's most basic metaphysical idea and a notion useful in deciphering the overall unity of purpose in his writings. A central aim of this book is to develop an aesthetically sensitive sense of being that demonstrates the profound and original contributions of process philosophy to realism.

Jones shows that a thorough understanding of the concept of intensity yields modes of thought that help overcome knotty problems in conceiving Whitehead's distinction between the private experience of individuals and the public relations those individuals experience in relationship to other entities. Drawing frequently on poetic allusions to aid her interpretations, she focuses specifically on the status of intensity in intellectual and moral experience and develops an ethics of "attention" as an elaboration of Whitehead's aesthetic metaphysics.

The result is a book that should be enthusiastically greeted and debated by scholars of Whitehead and by all who are interested in the field of process thought, including students of theology, literature, and feminist studies. Jones's unorthodox conclusions, backed up with scrupulous attention to both the Whitehead canon and related secondary literature, present challenges to accepted interpretations that cannot be ignored.

 

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Contents

Intensity and the Categoreal Obligations
44
The Ontology of Intensity
84
Intensity and Intellectual Experience
132
An Essay on the Morality of Attention
171
Epilogue on Atomistic Metaphysics
207
Bibliography
229
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About the author (1998)

Judith A. Jones, assistant professor of philosophy at Fordham University, has focused in her writings on Whitehead, Dewey, and process philosophy. She wrote the introduction for the recently published reprint of Alfred North Whitehead's Religion in the Making.

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