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James and Whitehead: Assemblage and Systematization of a Deeply Empiricist Mosaic Philosophy

By Paul Stenner


This paper contributes to a growing body of philosophical and psychological work that draws parallels between the writings of William James and Alfred North Whitehead. In Part One I introduce Whitehead’s distinction between assemblage and systematization (section 1) and suggest that Whitehead’s philosophy was in part a systematization of James’ psychological and philosophical assemblage (section 2). The systematization is based on a rethinking of the entity/function contrast (section 3) by way of Whitehead’s concept of the actual entity/occasion (section 4). This permits a process-oriented ontological extension and James’ notion of pure experience (sections 5 & 6), which yields a deepened version of radical empiricism (section 7). The four sections of Part Two build a more specific argument that James’ often implicit distinctions between energetic, perceptual, conceptual and discursive modes of experience can be systematized by way of Whitehead’s concepts of causal efficacy, presentational immediacy and symbolic reference. Following the suggestion of Magritte’s famous Ceci n’est pas une Pipe artwork, this yields an analysis of the sum of human experience into four progressively integrated factors: power, image, proposition and enunciation

Year: 2011
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Provided by: Open Research Online

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