The Philosophy of the Act

Essay 29 Fragments on Whitehead

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ABSOLUTE space is gone. There remain, then, relative spaces. Different spaces must contain the same objects. They must represent the different spatial organizations which can lie in the different points of view from which things are regarded. A spatial perspective is a timeless space. There could be an absolute space within which these different spaces are unscrambled-Newtonian relativity-or the different spaces can be regarded as presenting real relations of things in this objective form, i.e., objective relativity. As we are dealing with the same world in different perspectives, there must be methods of stating one spatial organization in terms of another, i.e., there must be transformations. Projective geometry does something of this sort. This makes possible the reduction of all perspectives to a single perspective. We set up a favored perspective such as that of the sun, or the co-ordinates of the fixed stars, or we take the identical numbers which attach to corresponding spatial relations in different perspectives, and in terms of a rigid measuring rod we set up a map, hazily carried in the imagination, or accurately put on paper. Essential to this is the ability of each individual to put himself in the position of anyone else as setting up the same map. Actually one takes what may be called the organized attitude of those who are working co-operatively together, which presupposes that each uses such a map. If one surrenders absolute space, such a taking of an organized attitude with its map takes the role of absolute space.

Einstein demonstrated that, if one system is moving with

(524) reference to another, the rigid rod in the system which is regarded as moving compared (in the perception of the man in the system at rest) with a like rod within his system will be shorter than his own rod and that, consequently, the time unit which determines the period within which the shorter object covers the space measured in the system at rest must be longer. This leads to temporal perspectives, as distinct from those of projective geometry. If now we set up a map which shall express both of these types of perspective, it must be in a world that assimilates space and time a Minkowski world. There is, however, a fundamental difference in the use of these types of map. When a man gets a physical object before him within his field of manipulation, the physical object with which the experimental scientist deals, this takes on the same dimensions that it will have for any other man who does the same thing with the same object. If now each builds up his world from this standpoint with these identical objects kept in the same dimensions in thought, each gets the same world that the other gets. This is the common world of our thought and rests upon identical perceptual elements and identical measured distances measured by actual contact processes-carried on or presupposed in thought. So far as spatial perspectives are concerned, we can live and move in a common world. One cannot do this in a temporal perspective, for if one puts one's self in the place of the man in the moving system it is the man's rod that is shorter, and one's own that is longer. That is, one cannot find any common space-time situation within which each has identical perceptual building materials for a common world.

Whitehead, taking the position of objective relativism, accepts the different time systems as reality and asks what is common between them, and finds it in the levels, rects, and puncts.[1] The puncts are found in all systems, the rects and levels in at least two or three and, in fact, in indefinitely many more. He seems to assume that the presence of these identical

(525) elements in different time systems is responsible for the common Euclidean structure of the different spaces, which become the permanent spaces of different time systems. So far as these perspectives are practically only spatial, i.e., where the velocities do not approach that of light, we can continue to operate in the same sort of a common world as that referred to above.

There are two questions to be asked here. How far is Whitehead justified in assuming that logical entities such as levels, rects, and puncts can have a constitutive character in determining the perspectives or spaces and times of the different time systems, and, second, how far has he set up a metaphysical event which is the ultimate reality in independence of the time systems, and thus has surrendered his objective relativism? Has he avoided bifurcation?

Given the common world, constructed of physical objects of identical dimensions as they appear in the manipulatory areas of all, and located by means of the common map, what is the meaning of the assimilation of time to space?

The common world serves exactly the same purpose that absolute space filled of providing that within which all perspectives can be realized. What bearing would this have upon the Michelson-Morley experiment and the formulation of the Maxwell equations in independence of a stagnant ether by the Lorentz transformations?

The question comes back to the Fitzgerald contraction which takes place whenever we undertake to make congruent a moving rigid length with one that is at rest by means of visual coincidences. Tactual coincidences are impossible because of motion. If the observer places himself in the position of the moving object to give it reality is a physical object, he must be at rest. In this case his former system would be in relative motion. Or he must accept the differences in time of the arrival of light rays which come from the extremities of the moving body in getting purely visual coincidence. If he is seeking physical reality, it is the first that he will undertake, and in that case light will have the same velocity in every system. While he is at rest upon the

(526) earth the Michelson-Morley experiment is necessarily negative. If he were able to visualize objects in space outside the earth beside which he was moving at the rate of nineteen miles a second, they would also be subject to the Fitzgerald contraction. If he places himself in imagination outside the earth and observes it as it passes by at this rate, it becomes subject to the same contraction. In the observation we are compelled to place ourselves and our spatial world at rest. We cannot make light by which we construct our visual world independent of that visual world. What the experiment revealed is that ether, whatever it is or indicates, is not a physical thing. If light, for example, is a stream of photons, the negative effect of the Michelson-Morley experiment is to be expected. The Lorentz transformations presumably stand for the changes in the units of space and time and energy necessary if we use purely visual means of measuring moving physical things and for the assumption of the ether which Maxwell's equations imply.



The intersections of time systems, in Whitehead's natural philosophy, are essential to their structure.

There is no order in the time system in its own passage. There might be a sense of passage in minds but no way of cutting off equal portions of this passage. The parts that actually appear are specious presents which have uncertain edges. They are varying in their compass from individual to individual and in the experiences of the same individual.

There is no theory of congruence which can give us a lasting unit of measure of space. There is no assurance that what extent an object has at one moment it retains at other moments. Poincaré has developed the impossibility of securing such assurance of congruence and has stated that all measures are conventions.

The assumptions of Whitehead are that there is evenly flowing passage in nature and that this passage registers itself in different time systems. He goes back to Newtonian relativity.

(527) What is moving in one system is at rest in another. Newton had an absolute space within which this motion is actual. The relative motion is then reflected only in the experience of the individuals, in minds. Given a uniform motion, the laws of mechanics still remain the same whether one assumes that one spatial frame is moving or that it is at rest while the other system is in motion. We are, therefore, unable in such a situation to determine which object is in motion, though an accelerated motion and one which is not translation in a straight line reveals absolute motion.

The recognition that absolute space is unthinkable throws us back on spaces which belong to the system of bodies in question. Each has its own space. But since in the instance presented the same set of facts are presented, whether we assume one body with its spatial frame to be moving or the other, we must recognize that each has as much reality as the other. We may now relegate these systems to the experiences of individuals and assume that the realities to which they refer lie outside experience, in absolute events and their coincidences and their intervals; or we must accept these different systems as existent with the experiences within which they appear. In which case we must identify the events as identical, though they appear in different systems and yet recognize that their appearance in these different time systems is actual.

Whitehead thus seems to set up a world of events as an absolute and a passage which admits of alternate time systems.

The question that at once presents itself is as to the interrelation of these different time systems or different modes of passage of the same event. The form in which this appears in experience is that of the complete appearance of ail events in any one time system. The recognition of another time system transfers - the whole of nature to this time system. One is at liberty to adopt one or the other. One cannot adopt both, for, having adopted one, there is nothing left for the other. One cannot have both the Copernican and the Ptolemaic systems. They are essentially alternative systems. That is, a nature closed to mind can-

(528) -not present one with that common appearance of two or more perspectives to which thought arrives.

However, Whitehead does find in the logical structure of the level which appears in the intersection of two time systems an interaction of the different time systems. Therefrom spring levels, rects, puncts, and parallelisms, and hence order, and congruence with the possibility of measurement, and the structure of Euclidean spaces.


I can see no possible meaning in the existence of a time system, that is, a certain order of succession of events, apart from some process that is maintaining itself as it passes into the future that emerges. Assume for the moment that the universe is a congeries of electrical particles each with its field. There are no sun and no planets; there are no heavens and no earth. There is only a swarm of electrons and protons. Is there any meaning in a universe so constituted in speaking of a time system which answers to the revolution of heavenly spheres and another which answers to the revolution of an earth on its axis? Surely one must advance to the Mesopotamian and the Egyptian and the Greek astronomers, and the astronomers of Pergamos and of Alexandria, to put any significance into the statement. By what right do we cut out and fence off certain myriads of these electrons and protons and call them an object such as the earth? Every electron is related to every other electron by its field as really as it is to any other. The cutting-out expedition must be undertaken by something that is not found in their fields.

Now Whitehead's objects which are ingredient in events have no constitutive power. They can only express relations which arise because a certain group of particles are considered as a whole. The cutting-out expedition must have already taken place. Though they are suggestive of Platonic essences, the electrical particles do not participate in them, and take on their forms, nor are they Aristotelian formal causes. Every object not only involves certain relations which go to make the content

(529) of the object but it involves also the isolation from other relations. Thus the tree involves the complex relationships of the various chemical and physical readjustments going on in the restricted extension of the tree. They would not be these relationships if we followed out the readjustments that take place in the whole universe, for we could not stop at the confines of the tree. Even if we assert that the entity of the tree must be there because we do think it, because it is the terminus of thought, that does not account for the historical appearance of the tree out of the world of physical particles, unless some thought takes this entity and applies it to an isolated group of particles. While the object, as content apart from the supposititious electrical particles, may be stated in terms of the relations of the particles, being in a sense the structure of the object, that structure is not the object in experience. It is in analysis that these relations appear, along with the physical particles, in the immediate or distant past. The couch is there as an unanalyzed whole in conduct. Its relations appear in the analysis, but in the couch that one stretches one's self out upon they are not there either as internal or as external. Bergson is entirely correct in asserting that the results of such an analysis distort and deform the object, if we assume that the object in immediate experience is there as an object of knowledge. But the analysis is a process of building or repairing the couch. The couch one lies upon is not there as an object of knowledge unless there is some question as to its identity. The analysis in terms of a past may serve to identify it, and in this process the elements of the analysis may be found both in the extended past and in the hypothetical future; but when the couch emerges as a definite article of furniture, it is what it is and not a compound of parts and relations. And, of course, this is also true of the physical particles and the relations which appear in the analysis. They are what they are, whether or not we call them adjectives and pseudo-adjectives of routes in extension. We can conceive of a world of physical particles, antedating a world in which there are living forms, as we conceive of a world of living

(530) forms antedating so-called conscious forms , though what the meaning of these as objects of knowledge may be is another matter; but, if we abstract motion from these particles, I fail to see how it is possible to conceive of any consentient sets, for there would be no meaning in the isolation of any group of events in their succession rather than in some other succession. And if we assume a motion, as Whitehead has shown,[2] there must be a field of rest which involves a here, and this involves a reference to some specific event. We will waive the question whether these moving particles were objects in the sense of moving things about us, and remain with our historic imaginations. A motion taking place in a field at rest is essential to the existence of any determinate field or consentient set at all. Otherwise we are left with simply indeterminate succession. A moving particle maintaining its direction, velocity, and momentum is an event, or series of events, that cuts out a field within which these characters of the process can express themselves. That we can state this motion in terms of the past, i.e., in terms of positions and instants occupied and can then analyze these into routes of events, does not absolve us from accounting for the selection of the particular succession of events which constitute these specific routes, when any event in the route can just as well be conceived of as succeeded by an indefinite number of other events than those belonging to this route.


There are an indefinite number of .... modes of time stratification ..... This admission at once yields an explanation of the meaning of the instantaneous spatial extension of nature. For it explains this extension as merely the exhibition of the different ways in which simultaneous occurrences function in regard to other time systems. I mean that occurences which are simultaneous for one time system appear as, spread out in three dimensions because they function diversely for other time systems. The extended space of one time system is merely the expression of properties of other time systems.[3]

This is an explanation of the dimensional spread of nature in sense awareness. We are observing immediately the results of

(531) other time systems of whose existence in sense awareness we have no inkling. Motion is an immediate datum of experience. The act by which one places one's self in the moving body as at rest, and organizes the world from that standpoint, is a reflective process, which can only be brought into the field of sense awareness after analysis and deliberate reconstruction. Even when one in a train passes rapidly from the attitude of the movement of one's self to that of the movement of the landscape, one is either in one attitude or the other, and in each there is an extended enduring world within which the motion takes place. The effect is registered in each time system of the different properties which attach to the events in so far as they belong in other time systems. The effect, in so far as sense awareness is concerned, is that of being at rest or of being in motion, i.e., the effect of being in one state rather than the other is produced by the opposite state, or, rather, the extension of one time system is produced by the motion in another time system or systems. But why should the properties of the events in different time systems produce effects in one another, although all events are found in each time system? It is easy to recognize that a point for a traveler on a railroad train is a line for the man who is watching the train pass by him, but why should the property of being a line which does not enter into the sense awareness of the man whose attention is concentrated on the point before him extend the space of the traveler into a spatial dimension? The relative relationship of the point and the line are easily grasped by thought, but this is a question of the sensuous spread of the space of a single time system, within which are located all the events that there are. It does not in any way affect in clarity the dimensional spread of nature for us to put ourselves in the position of the man in Mars, or that of the man in the sun, or even in that of the man in an airplane. We simply find ourselves in another space with 1 its spatial spread and the difficult task of finding the correlatives of elements in one space in another space. How does the effect take place in sense awareness?


Furthermore, Whitehead maintains that accelerations and decelerations are essential facts of the life-history of any body and are not accidental outcomes of the arbitrary choice of coordinates, i.e., accelerations and decelerations as distinct from uniform velocities. Presumably uniform velocity is not a fact of the life-history of a body in this sense but may be stated in terms either of rest in one time system or of motion in another, i.e., it is an outcome of the choice of co-ordinates. But after all, an acceleration is a fact of motion, and, as Einstein has shown, it is possible to express it in terms either of an accelerated body or of an accelerated environment with an opposite sense of direction, except in case of rotations. In what respect would the life-history of a particle differ if it moved with an accelerated velocity with reference to surrounding objects, or if the objects about it moved with accelerated velocity in an opposite sense?

The reflection of one time system into another in the foregoing sense, that is, in sense awareness, must follow from the passage of nature, from the assimilation of time and space in extension. In immediate experience we abide in a timeless space, i.e., in a spatial world in which the character of "here" persists with reference to objects at rest. In this we divorce time from space.

The effect is in "exhibiting the different ways in which simultaneous occurrences function in regard to other time systems." That is, there is a line for the man on the platform because the objects of the landscape which are simultaneous with him are successively simultaneous with the point under the traveler's, pencil. This would imply that an organized tridimensional space arises because an individual maintains cogredience with a stable landscape, i.e., all the elements in the landscape have a persistent relation of here and there-in it all the elements are simultaneous with the individual and with one an other-while in his movements in the landscape he is establishing successive simultaneity with himself and the different objects. It implies a double attitude.

The fact that the different stratifications of nature expressed

(533) in the different time systems do affect one another is evidenced in the fact of motion. All the passage of nature, i.e., all the events of nature, is or are found in any system of nature. In the abstraction of an ideal instant they would be all instantaneous. They would be all simultaneous. All nature would be there in that fictitious instant of a time system. But an instant is a fiction. At any moment which, however closely, approaches an instant, nature is passing, and is passing in different systems of passage. The meaning of different systems of passage is given in the different simultaneities. To assume that the man in the train established simultaneity with the same event particles as did the man on the station platform reduces experience to the fictitious instant, or a series of such instants.

Whitehead's theory of the tridimensional extension of instantaneous space seems to come to this: that different time systems reflect into one another. Difference in time systems seems to turn upon different orders of passage of events upon one another.

Motion in experience involves a permanent space in which changes of position occur, so that passage is abstracted from the given spatial order, leading to an abstracted time.

The theory of relativity returns passage to space. The permanent space of experience must, then, be regarded as passing. Its permanence must be found in the preservation in passage of a certain order of passage. Admitting different orders of passage, indeed an indefinite number of these, the permanence of any one of them must be dependent upon its relation to some factor which is not given in the mere passage of events.

This factor Whitehead finds in cogredience, the relation to a percipient event.[4] This expresses itself in the "here" of the percipient event, and the "there" of the permanent spatial elements in the relationship to the "here" of the percipient event. These elements in their passage follow so-called historical routes and in the permanent space of experience appear as points. Other routes become spatial routes, and the following of these routes

(534) in experience is motion. While, then, in passage the event-particles in historical routes have a determinate direction, those in spatial routes have no such determinate directions in their relationship to the cogredient set.

It is, however, possible to recognize some other order of passage, presumably determined by some other percipient event, in which each event-particle which lies in a spatial route within the permanent space of one percipient event lies in an historical route, i.e., is occupied by a point in the permanent space of this percipient event. An object occupying an event-particle in a spatial route, in other words being in motion in a permanent space, could then be regarded as at rest in some other permanent space. An object at rest in a point is then occupying a series of event-particles which retain the relation of "there" to a percipient event, or to its "here." The order or passage is a determinate order because the event-particles retain the same relationship to the percipient event, in other words, retain the

same position. In a spatial route the event or the object occupying it is succeeded by an event which has another relation to the "here" of the percipient event, i.e., another position. From the standpoint of the permanent space of this cogredient set the order of passage of the moving body is indeterminate, while the order of passage of the event-particles in its points is determinate.

I am not entirely clear whether Whitehead regards the different time systems, i.e., systems with determinate orders of passage, as dependent upon percipient events, i.e., whether every time system is a cogredient set. In any case position may be generalized by regarding it as located in all the indefinite number of time systems within which it is found. This would be an abstract absolute position, but it would connote a different spatial position in each permanent space answering to the cogredient set of each time system.

Simultaneity, involving a "now" as well as a "here," does seem to necessarily implicate a percipient event, for it is a relation belonging to a duration, i.e., the whole of nature from the

(535) standpoint of a cogredient set of a percipient event within a passage, which roughly answers to a "specious present." Events which lie within a duration are simultaneous. They are, however, passing. For the sake of simplicity we reduce the temporal spread of these durations, approaching a fictitious instant. The limit toward which such reduction proceeds must be found, however, not in the spatiotemporal extension but in the series of homologous quantitative relations of the physical objects that occupy the events.

Simultaneous events at a moment in any one time system will be arranged spatially at this limit of no temporal spread. These same events in another time system at a moment will have another arrangement, for what is simultaneous in one system will not be simultaneous in another. Select any one event in the first time system, and, regarded as an event-particle, it must appear in the second time system. It cannot, however, have the same antecedent or the same succedent in the second time system as those which it has in the first, i.e., those event-particles which are arranged as simultaneous in the first in a moment in the one time system will not be present in the simultaneous spread of the other time system. The group of event-particles, then, that appear in the intersection of two time systems will be those which are conceived of, in so far as they are event-particles common to each system, as having different routes of passage. The following event-particles cannot be found in the durations of either. The group is a logical group, and cannot be the terminus of sense awareness. The particles belong to an instant. As a group they lose temporal extension. Distribution in spatial extension is dependent upon cogredience, and this belongs to durations, and cannot he attributed to this group which must abstract from the structure of each duration dependent upon cogredience. They can, however, be located as event-particles in each group and so be given a distribution which does not belong to them as a logical group but as a set of event-particles dissected out of a moment in each duration.

Structural relation owing to cogredience in one duration is

(536) expressed by historical routes, which retain the same characters of here and there, which become points in the timeless space of that duration. No historical routes can be identical in two durations of different time systems. The event-particles which lie in a historical route in one duration will be distributed in spatial routes in the durations of another time system. This distribution will be a determinate one, so that there will be a definite direction in the duration of one time system of the event-particles as they are ordered in another time system, and according as one places himself in one time system or the other the direction will be the opposite of that which would have obtained in the other. This distribution with its direction, however, belongs to a duration and not to the instantaneous group which is the intersection of two time systems. This spatial direction does, nevertheless, enable us to orient the logical group in the two durations. No one of the event-particles in this logical group can lie in this direction, for in that case it would belong to the succeeding instant and would not belong to the instantaneous intersection of these two time systems. This direction in each time system lies in one spatial dimension. It follows, therefore, that the event-particles which belong to the group which is the intersection of two time systems lie only in two dimensions in each, that is, the group is a plane.

The difference in two time systems will reveal itself in the different succession of event-particles, i.e., the event-particles in a historical route in system A will be extended along a spatial route in the timeless space of time system B. In a moment of A the event-particles, which include all those of the universe at that moment in that system, will be spatially arranged and apart from the level which includes those in the intersection of A and B; none of them will be in B, and none of those in 13 except those in the level will be in A. The structural formation of these two time systems which is revealed in the direction of A in B, and of B in A, will bring every event-particle in the moment of A into some moment of B, for all the event-particles of the universe appear in every time system. There will be,

(537) therefore, an indefinite number of levels in the moment of A which are intersections of the moment of A with other moments of B. These levels will lie in the family of moments of time system B and will, therefore, not intersect each other; in other words, they will be parallel, and as they are the same levels lying in two different time systems they will be parallel in A and will divide the instantaneous space of A by parallel planes.[5]

What is it in sense awareness that reflects this simultaneity in the instantaneous moment of one time system of the event-particles which are in successive moments in another time system?

It is easy to see in a duration that the event-particles that occupy a point in a timeless space of one time system will be spread out in a line in the timeless space of another time system, e.g., the point under the pencil of the traveler in a railway train will successively occupy the event-particles of a historical route in the time system of the traveler, while these same event-particles will be stretched out in a line in the timeless space of an observer beside the track. In this case, however, the event-particles in each time system are passing. They are not simultaneous in the moment of one system and successive in another. If the order of an instantaneous space is the reflection of a temporal order, i.e., of an order which is successive and not instantaneous, if the actual order of the instantaneous space to which our quick perception approaches derives from an order which is successive in other time systems, there should be something in sense awareness which betrays this dependence. In the case of the durations, motion reveals the correlation between the point (or the event-particles which occupy it) and the line (or the event-particles which occupy it). Motion in sense awareness does not Correlate the spatial structure of an instantaneous space with the successive moments of another time system. There is no motion in an instantaneous space. In the three-way spread of instantaneous space there is order and nothing in sense awareness which suggests any other time system which is

(538) passing instead of being instantaneous, and yet Whitehead assumes that the order spread of instantaneous space is the reflection of the moments of other time systems, so that a spatial route in an instantaneous space represents a series of event-particles which in another time system are arranged in successive moments and may constitute a historical route. Conceive of a mass-particle in one time system occupying a historical route. It is the same mass-particle which gets its individuality from the historical route. Conceive these same event-particles in another time system of such a character that they will be simultaneous. Presumably the same mass-particle occupies these events, but the same mass-particle cannot occupy different events in the same moment. Furthermore, Whitehead states: "Along such a [historical] route there is a definite antecedence and subsequence in time which is independent of alternative time-systems."[6]

The approach must be from the standpoint of Whitehead's creative advance of nature.[7] This advance takes place in an indefinite number of time systems and, therefore, in a four-dimensional extension. The fourth or time dimension is what reveals the possibility of different time systems of the events.



In speaking of the organism and its biologic activity as antedating the perspective of the social individual and the social perspective of the community, one is speaking of an object which is in the social perspective, in so far as its past is essential to its import. These pasts have the same hypothetical reality as that of the distant object. They are brought to the test in acting upon them and attaining the stamp of success. What one is presenting are these past forms of the social perspective in which abstraction is made from certain contents, while others that are common to the human group and that of lower animals and physical enduring structures (which may still be called organisms in a generalized sense) are presented as existing.

(539) Such a statement either implies a situation which antedates all perspectives or it implies that the most generalized structures, as well as those of a biologic type, are the essence of reality. This is Whitehead's position. He assumes an activity below the spatiotemporal structure which he speaks of as substantial and which individualizes itself in the organisms and their perspectives, and a Platonic heaven of eternal objects containing the patterns through which this individualization takes place. If these eternal elements of the universe are to be brought within the reality that it is going on in the perspectives, there must be found there, first of all, the so-called substance. This necessity, however, is met by the recognition that the function of knowledge is not that of presenting a reality as existing in independence of the knowing process but as the discovery of something which is essential to conduct but is only hypothetically presented. When the hypothesis has been accepted, the socalled object of knowledge ceases to be known and is for conduct simply there. The process of nature is the organization of perspectives. In the second place, the so-called eternal objects must be recognized as eternal only in the sense of being irrelevant to passage, and they must be found in the organization of perspectives. Such an organization of perspectives becomes the important problem.

If knowledge is a two-term relation that stands outside conduct and behavior, or of the process of nature in general, it is essential to set up an entity as the relatum, no matter how abstract it may be, and this carries with it the world of subsistence. If, on the other hand, one regards knowledge as the process of establishing a hypothetical field of conduct in the presence of the conflicts of -.ilternntive terminations of acts which are already initiated, thinking is simply the indication of a possible plan of conduct, an extension of the manipulatory area, by placing the content of resistance into the distance characters and thus making them into hypothetical things. The meanings of things are their relationships within this present in so far as these can be indicated. The reference is not to an order of ideas

(540) or eternal objects which exist or subsist apart from the field of experience, or to any substance which underlies the experience, but to the further organization of experience in view of the developing problems within which we find ourselves. When we can act, that with reference to which we act is there and is not being known.

The organization of perspectives as Whitehead presents it is found in the aspects which events as individualized reflect into other events and other events into the event in question. So far as the event is an organism in Whitehead's sense, the reflection of it into other events as a whole is of trivial importance,[8] but the reflection of its different parts, as parts of a process, becomes of importance. There is a set of durations which are the reflections of the parts of the process and in a sense a repetition of the whole. In so far as these are reflected into a permanent spatial order, there is a cumulative effect. Thus I assume that a melody as a whole event reflected into other events would have no important import, but into a permanent present it is affecting the partial situation by its recurrent pattern. That is, the whole would have an effect if it appears in the situation of the part, and it is the time phase that makes this possible.

Is the social perspective simply an outcome of the interorganization of things? There would, of course, be a difference in any case. The social organization of perspectives involves the so-called consciousness of the situation. But this consciousness of the situation is but the indication of the meanings to the individual in so far as he indicates them to others. The organization of perspectives as Whitehead presents it is the ingression of hierarchies of eternal objects in their relationships to one another into events, in the individualization of the substantial process underlying nature.

Can we assume a nature that is so organized apart from social organization? Whitehead appeals to the structure of things in so far as they are processes and to the time phase

(541) which reflects into permanent spaces and the enduring objects in these spaces the past and future elements of the process. This calls for a principle in his organism which differentiates time from space. This principle seems to be the enduring character[9] of the process in a permanent space through the reflection of the past and the future of the process into the passing present. Endurance of physical things implies a permanent space. Endurance of a process is only reached through the presence in the passing phase of earlier and later phases. Thus an iron atom must have time within which to complete the revolutions of its electrons to have the character of iron. That the revolution should be a revolution, it is necessary that the preceding phase and the successive phase of the revolution should be present in that portion which is taking place, and this can only take place in a permanent space in which the positions of the electron before and after can be there with those at present occupied by the electron. A permanent space is the habitat of the past and future phases or parts of the whole process, and thus enables the whole to be present in the parts. The permanent space gives the spatiotemporal structure of the whole. Such a permanent space arises through the intersection of different time systems but also through the agency of the organism in the event.

The organization of the different time systems, then, is involved in the organism itself. The organism in its own perspective could not be what it is if it were not for the other time systems and their organisms. And the preservation of the organisms is dependent upon the favorableness of the adjustment of each organism to an environment which consists of other organisms in their perspectives.

This, then, would seem to be the outstanding difference between this doctrine of organisms and their environments and their evolution, in contrast with the current conception both of the organism and of its environment. The current doctrine assumes a field that is independent of the organism, except in trifling effects-at least in the case of organisms lower than

(541) man, i.e., in biological evolution and in the evolution of inanimate structures. It assumes organisms which have a principle of structure and process that at least is statable in terms of the environment in its independence of the organism, i.e., in physicochemical terms, so that the entire process of nature can be scientifically formulated in terms to which the peculiar nature of the organism, whether living or inanimate, is indifferent. The result of this is that, while the causal processes which are presented in the physical sciences can be appealed to to explain the structure and processes of the organisms of whatever type, there is no causal or otherwise determining effect of the organism upon the field of nature within which the organisms arise and pass their period of existence. The doctrine of perspectives, on the other hand, assumes that the environment of the form is in such a sense an existence in nature that it cannot be stated in terms of a situation to which the organism is indifferent. The conception of the environment on the current doctrine is that of an external selection of the causal factors and processes which appear in the history of organic structures. This selection is the expression not of facts in nature but of an interest which is extraneous to that of the operations of the fundamental laws of nature. In physicochemical processes there is no distinction between life and death; there are, in fact, from the standpoint of these laws no objects in nature except ultimate physical particles (in whatever form they are recognized) and the whole congeries of these particles in their changes with reference to one another.

The doctrine of relativity has forced another conception upon science, and the peculiar interest of this change lies in the fact that it comes not from the biologic sciences or those Physical sciences which are interested in the structures to which a doctrine of evolution may be applied. From the standpoint of relativity the velocity of motion of an object associates with it other objects which are moving with a like velocity, so that they are at rest with reference to one another. Then all other objects are in motion within the space-time which such a field of bodies

(543) at rest implicates, while they are at rest in the space-time systems which are determined by the selection of other bodies with a like velocity of motion with themselves, or are moving with different velocities according as they are regarded as located in the time systems of different consentient sets. The effect of the statement of the changes that take place within these different consentient sets is to give different values to the fundamental units of measurement, spatial, temporal, and energetic, if they are regarded from the standpoint of the time system within which they are at rest, or if they are regarded from the standpoint of other systems. The result of this is that every body has an environment of nature that belongs to it if it is regarded as at rest, within which the physical definitions of other bodies which are conceived of as in motion will be different from the definition which would be given to these other bodies if they were regarded as at rest. Thus each body gets an environment of its own that is determined by its simultaneity at rest with other bodies which from its standpoint are also at rest. There being no absolute space or time, these space-times are the existent orders of nature. The result of this is that objects have different natures in so far as they exist in different environments. The question then arises: By what right are they considered the same objects when they have this different nature in the different environments or time system?

Whitehead's answer to this question is found in his assumption that the fundamental realities in nature are events which may fall into different time systems. The judgment of identity of the event involves the affirmation of it as the same in the midst of differences. In so far as the event is in the environment of the individual, it is what it is in that environment, i.e., it has the spatiotemporal structure which belongs to it in that environment. It is only in so far as the individual can become in some sense cogredient with the system in which the object, moving in the environment of the individual, is at rest that the differences due to the different systems can enter into the judgment of the individual. Thus in a train one can be in the time

(544) system of the train in which the landscape passes by one, or one can become cogredient with the environment and the train with its occupants which is moving through it. In this fashion one can recognize that a yard measure will have one length if it is regarded from the standpoint of the field of the landscape at rest, while the same yard measure in the train from the standpoint of the man in the landscape at rest will be shorter. If we take the standpoint of the train at rest and the landscape as moving, the yard in the train will be the longer, while it will be shorter in the landscape. There will be the corresponding changes in the rate of the clocks in the train and in the landscape, and in the estimates of mass or energy of the objects. What is, then, essential to these judgments is that the individual should be able to take both attitudes, that in the train and in the landscape, and the two attitudes must be merged in a single attitude within which the judgment takes place.

I take Whitehead's account of this to be that of thought which recognizes events as entities that have essential natures, but which may be in different time systems and thus establish different simultaneities. As passing events they are what they are, no matter what their simultaneities are. Then the individual becomes cogredient at least in thought with objects occupying these events in different time systems. The identification of the essential event, however, except as it is immediately passing in an experience of the individual, would be possible only by its structure as determined by the consentient set within which it lies, and it would be a group of identical characters in the object in the different sets which would enable one to identify the object occupying the event and so to recognize the difference.,; which belong to its position in the different sets or time systems. This implies that the individual does occupy the different systems in some sense within the same specious present, so as to make the identification and also to establish the differences. We have no difficulty in identifying the trees and rocks and houses whether they are flying by us or whether we are flying among them. We never attain velocities which make

(545) any perceptible differences in the objects because of their presence in one system or the other, but we can present situations such as that which Eddington uses, in which an airplane travels at the rate of 16o,ooo miles a second, and recognize in imagination the foreshortenings of dimensions and the lengthening of time periods as they would appear to an observer who could observe the details of an airplane proceeding at such a velocity. There still would be identities of characters in the men in the plane and other things there which would enable us to recognize them as the same though distorted by their existence in the time system which such a velocity implies, and we can place ourselves in the plane and recognize objects which would be subject to the same type of distortion on the earth as it sped by us.

Is this capacity for placing ourselves in the plane when we are on the earth, or on the earth when we are in the plane (the ability to be cogredient with the landscape or with the train in which we are traveling) due to some power that belongs to thought as such, or is this power of thought due to the capacity to place ourselves in the attitude of the object which presents itself in the experience? The doctrine which I am advocating is the latter, that meaning as such, i.e., the object of thought, arises in experience through the individual stimulating himself to take the attitude of the other in his reaction toward the object. In the case of physical objects this attitude is resistance though the mechanism by which this power of placing the activity of the organism in the distance stimulus has arisen in the conversation of gestures with other social individuals in the same co-operative acts. Meaning is that which can be indicated to others while it is by the same process indicated to the indicating individual. in so far as the individual indicates it to himself in the role of the other, he is occupying his perspective, and as he is indicating it to the other from his own perspective, and that which is so indicated is identical, it must be that which can be in different perspectives, i.e., it must lie in a perspective which is an organization of different perspectives. It must,

(546) therefore, be a universal, at least in the identity which belongs to the different perspectives which are organized in the single perspective; and, in so far as the principle of organization is one which admits of other perspectives than those actually present, the universality may logically be indefinitely extended. Its universality in conduct, however, amounts only to the irrelevance of the differences of the different perspectives to the characters which are indicated by the significant symbols in use, i.e., the gestures which indicate to the individual who uses them what they indicate to the others for whom they serve as appropriate stimuli in the co-operative process.

There are two characters which belong to that which we term meanings: one is participation and the other is communicability. The meaning which is indicated by the individual must be in the perspective of the individual as well as that of the others to whom he indicates it. So far as the perceptual world of physical things is concerned, this character is that of resistance spatiotemporally defined. This perceptual world, as already indicated, is in conduct a mediate world which lies within the whole activity which goes on to consummations. Its center is the manipulatory area in which the distance stimulus and its contact fulfilment are given and this portion of the whole act is successfully completed. Its extension into the realm of distance stimuli beyond the reach of effective contact takes place through the mechanism of social conduct. In this, the distance stimuli of other organisms call out responses in the individual which affect him in the same fashion as they affect the other organisms in carrying out the social act. The result of this is that the individual finds himself tending to act as the other individuals The actual merging presumably takes place because it serves to facilitate the execution of the complex social act.

It can take place only in so far as some phase of the act which the individual is arousing in the other can be aroused in himself. There is always to this extent participation. And the result of this participation is communicability, i.e., the individual can indicate to himself what he indicates to others. There is com-

(547) -munication without significance where the gesture of the individual calls out the response in the other without calling out or tending to call out the same response in the individual himself. Significance from the standpoint of the observer may be said to be present in the gesture which calls out the appropriate response in the other or others within a co-operative act, but it does not become significant to the individuals who are involved in the act unless the tendency to the act is aroused within the individual who makes it, and unless the individual who is directly affected by the gesture puts himself in the attitude of the individual who makes the gesture.

The essentially social character of the act in its meaningful phase is evident not only in this mechanism but also in the content of the act. In certain simple processes, such as the cooperation of two individuals in moving a log, when one individual points to the place at which the other shall heave, he probably has a very distinct tendency to carry out the process which he is indicating to the other. Thus one is likely to seize the implement from awkward hands and find relief for the tendency which is present in doing what he starts only to direct. In more complex processes there may be present only the verbal stimulus which is so related to the completion of the act that it merely expresses the completion of the act in its co-operative connections. It is its fitting into the whole process of social mediation which becomes its dominant meaning, but behind this coherence within the complex act lies its import as calling out the actual overt process. When we direct a person to go to a distant place and there do certain things, the meaning of the words which we use is dominantly logical, i.e., while the complex activity is present in the individual with its organization controlling the development Of the act, the successful organization of the signs used in communication is what occupies attention, and the fitness of the stimuli for their function is left to the whole organization of the act within the individual. The interest is in "getting something across" that already lies in the ongoing behavior of the individual, but it is behavior in

(548) which the individual is taking the attitudes of all involved, or is ready to take these attitudes. It is important to recognize that this part of the process is occupied with but a portion of the whole act, the mediatory part, both in its dealing with mediatory things, which presuppose adjustments, and in its dealing with consummations only in terms of the means which lead to these consummations.

The individual, then, occupies his own perspective as a phase of the whole social perspective which is involved in his social conduct. The organization of this perspective involves, first of all, the inhibition which alternative completions of the act bring with them. In the second place, it involves the individual taking the attitude of the other, through exciting in his organism the responses which his immediate acts call out in the others. That these initiated responses of the others should come to be of so much importance implies that the act is a social act and that the acts of the other can be aroused in each individual, and that the arousal of the attitudes of the others in the separate individuals furthers the social organization of the composite process.

The objectivity of the perspective of the individual lies in its being a phase of the larger act. It remains subjective in so far as it cannot fall into the larger social perspective, e.g., in dreams and the play of imagination or hallucinations.


  1. See Whitehead, The Concept of Nature (Cambridge, 1920), pp. 90 ff.; The Principles of Natural Knowledge (Cambridge, 1919), chap. ix, esp. pp. 117 ff
  2. See The Concept of Nature, pp. 105, 188-89.
  3. The Principle of Relativity (Cambridge, 1922), p. 54.
  4. See esp. The Principles of Natural Knowledge, p. 79.
  5. See ibid., chap. ix, and The Concept of Nature, pp. 95 ff.
  6. The Principle of Relativity, p. 68.
  7. The Principles of Natural Knowledge, p. 97; The Concept of Nature, p. 34.
  8. See The Principle of Relativity, pp. 21 and 26; Science and the Modern World (New York, 1925), P. 174
  9. Science and the Modern World, pp. 153, 175, and 183.

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