below: Hamlet, V, ii, 213
table of contents commented bibliography and index say what? noframes


If it be now, 'tis not to come;
If it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now,
Yet it will come: the readiness is all.
New foundations for objectivity: concepts as forms of potential for experience. The reach and synthesis of concepts as forms of potential exhibits thinking's openness toward the future.
A kaleidoscope rendering sections of hyperbolic 3-space

For thinking, the central position of self-consciousness had shifted from Descartes' distillation of an 'I' toward an appreciation that it is a flow of experience, somehow open ended, which gets named for each of us our own. William James (1842-1910) called it 'stream of consciousness', Henri Bergson (1859-1941), 'duration'.
William James
James, like many of the other thinkers we are discussing, wanted to bring thought into the ongoing kaleidoscope of perception. For James, thought should only have meaning as it is fulfilled by differences in the world, as we can find meaning in the world, not as thought can make a separate world by combining only with other thoughts. Here too, the transformative implications of practicing such an approach may be evident. Husserl, Dilthey and James all worked to constitute an experience of self-identity which 'streamed' in correspondence with characteristics we accord to presence.

Henri Bergson

Bergson, as also the later Whitehead, instead tried to expound the foundational status of such streams of experience by the somewhat paradoxical strategy of establishing new systems of thought to take the place of the old ones: Thought, for Bergson, is in any case doomed to make systems which exclude intuition - the source of our real sense of life and time. His system therefore critically identifies this problem and tries to situate the 'crystallizing' tendencies toward conceptualization, spatialization, and quantification, as oblivious obstructions in an encompassing intuitive and qualitative stream of duration and creation.

In some respects, the early Wittgenstein would appear to agree with Bergson that thought and logical relations apply to mere circumscribed islands of experience. But Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) denied the possibility of making any statements whereof logically relational language cannot speak, let alone the kind of systematic orientation Bergson brings to bear. In his later work, however, Wittgenstein qualifies so sharp a boundary between what can and cannot be truthfully said by identifying the practices of language as 'forms of life' - more kin to games which frame differences relevant for living than to the excercise of an underlying logic.
Image of a sphere undergoing topological inversion.
Alfred North Whitehead's excuse for expressing his thought in the format of a system can be found from his grounding in mathematics. In his later work he tried to find a system of abstractions truly appropriate for conceptualizing becoming as process. These turn out to be very abstract indeed - in Process and Reality, Whitehead (1861-1947) seems to invent an altogether new language, a language which may turn out to be a map sent to thinkers yet unborn. Mathematics has often sent such maps across the generations to future physicists, but, in modern times, not before Whitehead do we have one so clearly addressed to future philosophers.
Whitehead, like the other thinkers we are considering, understood that 'the chief danger to philosophy is narrowness in its selection of evidence'. He too raised questions of methodology as crucial for encountering the connectedness of unifying processes. Nevertheless, for Whitehead it was second nature to suppose that thinking's task was to establish systems, to be grounded in postulates and categories, which would be adequate for exhibiting the conditions of actuality.
Alfred North Whitehead

With news the time's
in labour, and throws forth
each minute some.

Whitehead's method of extensive abstraction, because it employs ideas after the fashion of mathematics, distills for thinking an unequaled perspective upon what ideas on their own terms are qualified to bring to thinking. Romantic thinkers had found ideas' movement of transcendence toward the future to be a key articulation of mind's essential freedom. For Whitehead, such an effect is part of an overall creative advance, which is not attached to the past identity of individual wills. The order ideas bring belongs less to generalizations of past experience, and more to experience under anticipation and in relation to its potentials. The grade of experience regulated by ideas owes its individualization and unity not to continuity with the past but to lures for feeling which thereby incessantly instantiate conceptual reproductions and conceptual reversions, sifting process into concrescent moments of becoming. That we read Whitehead as addressing himself to the future is perhaps of a piece with how he brings one to share a vision of conceptual elements' origins as potentials, and how theirprehensive ingression gives the conceptual a role which yields satisfaction to occasions of becoming.
On quite the other side of the philosophic tracks we also have Nietzsche explicitly addressing his work to thinkers still to come. But while Whitehead's passport beyond his own time is a mathematical orientation, Nietzsche's is established on the basis of his turn toward literary expression. In many ways these two thinkers could not be more different. There are, however, compelling similarities in their pervasive reliance on physical and biological templates to describe the organization of time and experience, as well as shared interest in the repetitive component of 'becoming'. In addition, each appeared to regard his thought as an inversion of Kant's Subjective Idealism into an 'objective realism'.

Whitehead's system followed the traditional vein of philosophy in focusing everything through what is knowing. Nietzsche's practice, on the other hand, worked to emphasize not knowing but living. What we might come to know, and for Nietzsche this is perhaps most essentially how the future breaks into and awakens the present, is first of all something like medicine - risky medicine - which life prescribes to itself for strengthening and purifying the fires by which it makes change its own.

Nietzsche subsumes what might otherwise be called knowledge into acts transvaluing established values, acts which mean to alter the dynamics of life insofar as it had relied on established systems of value. Thus though Nietzsche, like Whitehead, is turned toward the future, toward becoming, his commitment to practice rather than method appeals to a sense of 'realism' and 'objectivity' more vitally felt (Nietzsche might have said 'endured') than, as in Whitehead, formally apprehended.
A 3-D map of the projective plane. Whitehead's map certainly is OF life - he even calls his work a 'philosophy of organism' - but it is FOR mind. What there is to be known - ultimately for Whitehead novelty - precipitates, as does its knowing, from a field of potentiality (recalling perhaps the complement of a form in the Projective Geometry so loved by Rudolf Steiner). In Whitehead's work neither the knower nor the known can be easily pointed at except as if in reading a map. The only actual 'here' constituted through understanding as Whitehead understood is in the bifold mental movement of abstracting/particularizing which arrives at the apprehension of a concreteness. While Nietzsche's riddles seem prophetic of much that since has come to us, Whitehead's map has yet to show us very much of its territory. Still, it should be mentioned that Whitehead offers a position, most often a position close to the one advanced in this exposition, on almost every topic we discuss.
Hubble image of nebula (starbirth region) in neighboring galaxy M33
For Whitehead mind transcends, and for Nietzsche life transvalues, through individualizing movements that face the future, movements nevertheless significantly different from the Will's subjective synthesis as it was envisaged by the Romantic philosophers. Nietzsche does call his central principle of synthesis Will to Power, but by this he invokes finalities which are objective rather than subjective. Will to Power characterizes progressively more inclusive gatherings of beings as the principle of unification by which life advances the scope of its embodiment.

But Nietzsche remains a pluralist and does not refer Will to Power's unifications to an ultimate Oneness. Nietzsche's teaching of an Eternal Return, where a world of becoming, through incessant reiteration approaches indistinguishability in principle from a world which could be described as timeless, asserts a fictional status for the Oneness important to traditional philosophy, even as it proposes newly meaningful roles in thinking for such fictions.
There's not the smallest orb
hich thou behold'st,
but in his motion
like an angel sings.
The unifications on the basis of which Whitehead approaches objective synthesis play their part in an overall movement whereby the many become one even as one is added to the many: Whitehead realized that in process-thinking synthesis presupposes equal status for its terms, hence Whitehead is at pains to avoid both pluralism and monism in their usual senses.
In their own thinking, both Whitehead and Nietzsche pretty much dissolve the notoriously ambiguous philosophic distinction between transcendence and immanence. Similarly, the approach taken here is to emphasize instead simply the kind of light experience receives in virtue of its synthetic activity. What is meant by transcendence in that context is found as that light verges toward an intensity which fuses the relative Many into an Absolute One (transcendence) or illuminates forms of experience which are Absolutely ambivalent in their alternative status as 'internal' or 'external' (transcendental - as in Kant and Hegel).

The unifications towards which, by synthesis, experience transcends in both Whitehead and Nietzsche are moments precipitant from potentialities. On the basis of their derivation from that futural temporality, and from their essential recurrent incessance, we are now in a position to more definitively name as insistence such movements toward transcendence. Here we intend to establish a contrast with the transcending movement which which we have called submission, as found in the work of Dilthey and Husserl. Insistence realizes transcendence from the closures procured through synthetic unifications of experience. Submission, on the other hand, inquires after transcendence through attention to the constitution of experience so as to suspend synthesis, and realizes transcendence at points of rupture where experience exceeds a capacity for containment.

Aristotle (384-322 B.C.)

Plato (427-347 B.C.)
Focusing on kinds of thinking which set their sights by what we now call insistence, we actually spy the mainstream of western thought in its course from Aristotle's seminal concerns with causality through the Nineteenth century's subjectivization of cause as productivity and will. Even the modern takes on insistence's transcendence, closures given either from powers excercised - as in Nietzsche's radicalization of Aristotelian physicality, or from being absorbed to the efficacies of a near Platonic 'objective immortality' of form in Whitehead, encounter common limits where they spin their wheels with little effect. One symptom of those limits philosophers have long called 'the problem of secondary qualities'. They name by this feelings of color , smell, temperature, and everything we in fact appreciate as the qualitative side of experience. Apparently the closures effected in synthesis re-present experience so as to shut out much of that texture of life. Responsible thinkers nevertheless attempt to assign positions even to what their modes of thought exclude.

The Whale

Whitehead's invocation of Novelty as divinity exhibited in creative advance, smacks of a 'qualitative mana' at the end of his 'rainbow' of dynamic formal relations. In a similar sense the qualitative is summarized, given place as an intensity, but not as a place where differences are held for 'hearing', in the progressively inclusive gathering of beings which Nietzsche calls Will to Power. Both Whitehead's concrescent prehensions of becoming, and Nietzsche's gathering powers of becoming, are limited in their characterizations of qualitative depth to a dimension of unificatory intensity. This is not to say that the intensities offered through Whitehead's Novelty and Nietzsche's Will to Power play equivalent roles. Nietzsche's commitment to practice disallows him Whitehead's speculative immersion in what Herman Melville called 'Plato's honey-head': Nietzsche's Will to Power shows itself to be a more discomfiting object of contemplation than Whitehead's Novelty. Indeed, part of its role for Nietzsche was to keep him on his feet.

Now, had Tashtego perished in that (whale's) head, it had been a very precious perishing...
How many, think ye, have likewise fallen into Plato's honey head, and sweetly perished there?

- Herman Melville    

before after
table of contents commented bibliography and index say what? noframes


Alfred North Whitehead: ...evidence     See his Process and Reality p. 337 (corrected edition).

Herman Melville: ...Plato     Moby Dick, or, The Whale, Chapter 78, 'Cistern and Buckets'

...lineup and alibi

With news the time's in labour,
and throws forth each minute some.

- Antony and Cleopatra, III, vii, 80
There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st
But in his motion like an angel sings.

- Merchant of Venice, V, i, 60

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