The Concept of Nature: Tarner Lectures

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Cambridge University Press, 1964 - Philosophy - 202 pages
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This book, a development of his Tarner Lectures given in 1919, is one of Alfred North Whitehead's most important contributions to natural philosophy. His first concern is with the fundamental problems of substance, space, and time; and the most interesting part of his discussion is, perhaps, his criticism of Einstein's method of interpreting results, and the alternative development of his own well-known theory of the four-dimensional 'Space-Time manifold'. Although this book was first published over a generation ago, and the characteristic approach of philosophers to the problems of nature has changed considerably in the intervening period, The Concept of Nature has never ceased to deserve their careful attention. When the book first appeared, A. E. Taylor, writing in Mind, said 'The Concept of Nature is a great contribution to Naturphilosophie, far the finest contribution, in my own judgement, yet made by any one man'; J. E. McTaggart in The Cambridge Review called it 'one of the most valuable books on the relation of philosophy and science which has appeared for many years', adding 'I am sure the study of this book will benefit metaphysicians. I venture to believe that it will benefit men of science.'

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About the author (1964)

Alfred North Whitehead, who began his career as a mathematician, ranks as the foremost philosopher in the twentieth century to construct a speculative system of philosophical cosmology. After his graduation from Cambridge University, he lectured there until 1910 on mathematics. Like Bertrand Russell (see also Vol. 5), his most brilliant pupil, Whitehead viewed philosophy at the start from the standpoint of mathematics, and, with Russell, he wrote Principia Mathematica (1910--13). This work established the derivation of mathematics from logical foundations and has transformed the philosophical discipline of logic. From his work on mathematics and its logical foundations, Whitehead proceeded to what has been regarded as the second phase of his career. In 1910 he left Cambridge for the University of London, where he lectured until he was appointed professor of applied mathematics at the Imperial College of Science and Technology. During his period in London, Whitehead produced works on the epistemological and metaphysical principles of science. The major works of this period are An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Natural Knowledge (1919), The Concept of Nature (1920), and The Principles of Relativity (1922). In 1924, at age 63, Whitehead retired from his position at the Imperial College and accepted an appointment as professor of philosophy at Harvard University, where he began his most creative period in speculative philosophy. In Science and the Modern World (1925) he explored the history of the development of science, examining its foundations in categories of philosophical import, and remarked that with the revolutions in biology and physics in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries a revision of these categories was in order. Whitehead unveiled his proposals for a new list of categories supporting a comprehensive philosophical cosmology in Process and Reality (1929), a work hailed as the greatest expression of process philosophy and theology. Adventures of Ideas (1933) is an essay in the philosophy of culture; it centers on what Whitehead considered the key ideas that have shaped Western culture.

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