Whitehead’s Footnotes – A Workshop

03.07.2024|18:00 Uhr

Whitehead’s Footnotes – A Workshop

organized by Daniel Bella (Frankfurt), Michael Halewood (Essex), Melanie Sehgal (Wuppertal), Milan Stürmer (Lüneburg)

3-5th of July 2024 in Wuppertal, Germany

On page 40 of Process and Reality (Corrected Edition) Whitehead states that “The ontological principle, as here defined, constitutes the first step in the description of the universe as a solidarity of many actual entities.” There is a footnote to the word ‘solidarity’ in which he declares that the “word ‘solidarity’ has been borrowed from Professor Wildon Carr’s 1917-18 Presidential Address to the Aristotelian Society.” Whitehead mentions the title of the address but makes little more comment except to say that Wildon Carr “develops the fundamental principle suggested by this word.” However, a reading of Wildon Carr’s article reveals that his usage of the term refers not to the common understanding of bonds between contemporary individuals but, rather, it invokes a specific aspect of Roman law:

“It [solidarity] was originally a term of Roman and Civil law to express the character of a contract which, in a single matter, involved several obligations on the part of the debtors, with corresponding rights to the creditors […]. The term solidarity means that diverse, even divergent, activities together bring to pass a single common result to which all the activities contribute without sacrificing their individual integrity” (Wildon Carr, 1917-18: 32).

The final sentence could have come straight from Process and Reality as for both, Whitehead and Carr, solidarity concerns the process through which a range of divergent factors leads to one outcome. Thus, solidarity is not a matter of bonds between contemporaries – it is about the passing on of the world. And yet Whitehead leaves this explanation tucked away in a footnote.

Hence, in this workshop we will review Whitehead’s footnotes in Process and Reality in order to develop a fuller understanding of both the context and the manner of his writing and argument. For what purposes and in what ways does Whitehead use footnotes? By examining Whitehead’s footnotes in Process and Reality, this workshop sets out to explore the writers and writings Whitehead invites his readers to take into consideration, to re-read those passages of Whitehead’s own work that he refers the reader to in the footnotes, and to see how far Whitehead’s footnotes can shed light on the philosophical context and the argument of Process and Reality.

With Daniel Bella (Frankfurt/Main), Daniel Beatty Garcia (London/Berlin), Didier Debaise (Bruxelles), Nicholas Gaskill (Oxford), Michael Halewood (Essex), Karin Harasser (Linz), Lennart Posch (Düsseldorf), Tina Röck (Dundee), Melanie Sehgal (Wuppertal), Milan Stürmer (Lüneburg), Michael Thomas (Amsterdam)

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