All quotes from Alfred North Whitehead’s

It is the recognition of the goings-on of nature in which we, and all things of all types, are immersed. It has its origin in the thought of ourselves as process immersed in process beyond ourselves.

Connectedness is of the essence of all things of all types. It is of the essence of types, that they be connected. Abstraction from connectedness involves the omission of an essential factor in the fact considered. No fact is merely itself. The penetration of literature and art at their height arises from our dumb sense that we have passed beyond mythology; namely, beyond the myth of isolation.

The world beyond is so intimately entwined in our own natures that unconsciously we identify our more vivid perspectives of it with ourselves. For example, our bodies lie beyond our own individual existence. And yet they are part of it. We think of ourselves as so intimately entwined in bodily life that a man is a complex unity—body and mind. But the body is part of the external world, continuous with it. In fact, it is just as much part of nature as anything else there—a river, or a mountain, or a cloud. Also, if we are fussily exact, we cannot define where a body begins and where external nature ends.

Consider one definite molecule. It is part of nature. It has moved about for millions of years. Perhaps it started from a distant nebula. It enters the body; it may be as a factor in some edible vegetable; or it passes into the lungs as part of the air. At what exact point as it enters the mouth, or as it is absorbed through the skin, is it part of the body? At what exact moment, later on, does it cease to be part of the body? Exactness is out of the question. It can only be obtained by some trivial convention.

Wherever there is a region of nature which is itself the primary field of the expressions issuing from each of its parts, that region is alive.

The connexity of existence is of the essence of understanding.

Of all the ways of expressing thought, beyond question language is the most important.

The mentality of mankind and the language of mankind created each other. If we like to assume the rise of language as a given fact, then it is not going too far to say that the souls of men are the gift from language to mankind.

The thesis that I am developing conceives ‘proof’, in the strict sense of that term, as a feeble second-rate procedure. When the word ‘proof’ has been uttered, the next notion to enter the mind is ‘half-heartedness’. Unless proof has produced self-evidence and thereby rendered itself unnecessary, it has issued in a second-rate state of mind, producing action devoid of understanding. Self-evidence is the basic fact on which all greatness supports itself.

Any description of the unity will require the many actualities; and any description of the many will require the notion of the unity from which importance and purpose is derived.

Tautology is the intellectual amusement of the Infinite.

How can the unchanging unity of fact generate the delusion of change? Surely, the satisfactory answer must embody an understanding of the interweaving of change and permanence, each required by the other. This interweaving is a primary fact of experience. It is at the base of our concepts of personal identity, of social identity, and of all sociological functionings.

In the full concrete connection of things, the characters of the things connected enter into the character of the connectivity which joins them.

In the greatest examples of any form of art, a miraculous balance is achieved. The whole displays its component parts, each with its own value enhanced; and the parts lead up to a whole, which is beyond themselves, and yet not destructive of themselves.

The essence of great experience is penetration into the unknown, the unexperienced.

It is the realization of our essential connection with the world without, and also of our own individual existence, now.

The laws of nature are forms of activity which happen to prevail within the vast epoch of activity which we dimly discern.

The essence of life is to be found in the frustrations of established order. The Universe refuses the deadening influence of complete conformity. And yet in its refusal, it passes towards novel order as a primary requisite for important experience.

Mathematics is concerned with certain forms of process issuing into forms which are components for further process.

Nothing in realized matter-of-fact retains complete identity with its antecedent self.

Consciousness is an ever-shifting process of abstracting shifting quality from a massive process of essential existence. It emphasizes. And yet, if we forget the background, the result is triviality.

There is the feeling of the ego, the others, the totality. This is the vague, basic presentation of the differentiation of existence, in its enjoyment of discard and maintenance. We are, each of us, one among others; and all of us are embraced in the unity of the whole.

Where does my body end and the external world begin? For example, my pen is external; my hand is part of my body; and my finger nails are part of my body. Also the breath as it passes in and out of my lungs from my mouth and throat fluctuates in its bodily relationship. Undoubtedly the body is very vaguely distinguishable from external nature. It is in fact merely one among other natural objects.

The body is that portion of nature with which each moment of human experience intimately cooperates. There is an inflow and outflow of factors between the bodily actuality and the human experience, so that each shares in the existence of the other. the human body provides our closest experience of the interplay of actualities in nature.

Our enjoyment of actuality is a realization of worth, good or bad. It is a value-experience. Its basic expression is—Have a care, here is something that matters! Yes—that is the best phrase—the primary glimmering of consciousness reveals, Something that matters.

There is the totality of actual fact; there is the externality of many facts; there is the internality of this experiencing which lies within the totality.

The sense of importance is not exclusively referent to the experiencing self. It is exactly this vague sense which differentiates itself into the disclosure of the whole, the many, and the self. It is the importance of the others which melts into the importance of the self. Actuality is the self-enjoyment of importance. But this self-enjoyment has the character of the self-enjoyment of others melting into the enjoyment of the one self. The most explicit example of this is our realization of those other actualities, which we conceive as ourselves in our recent past, fusing their self-enjoyment with our immediate present. This is only the most vivid instance of the unity of the universe in each individual actuality.

When we survey nature and think however flitting and superficial has been the animal enjoyment of its wonders, and when we realize how incapable the separate cells and pulsations of each flower are of enjoying the total effect—then our sense of the value of the details for the totality dawns upon our consciousness. This is the intuition of holiness, the intuition of the sacred, which is at the foundation of all religion.

The concrete reality is the starting point of the process of individual experience, and it is the goal in the rationalization of consciousness. The prize at the goal is the enhancement of experience by consciousness and rationality.

The enduring self-identity of a house, of a farm, of an animal body, is a presupposition of social intercourse. It is assumed in legal theory. It lies at the base of all literature. A bit of matter is thus conceived as a passive fact, an individual reality which is the same at an instant, or throughout a second, an hour, or a year. Such a material, individual reality supports its various qualifications such as shape, locomotion, color, or smell, etc. The occurrences of nature consist in the changes in these qualifications, and more particularly in the changes of motion. the connection between such bits of matter consists purely of spatial relations. Thus the importance of motion arises from its change of the sole mode of interconnection of material things.

Within this general concept of Nature there have somehow to be interwoven the further concepts of Life and Mind.

This is the grand doctrine of Nature as a self-sufficient, meaningless complex of facts. It is the doctrine of the autonomy of physical science. It is the doctrine which in these lectures I am denying.

When we perceive the red rose we are associating our enjoyment of red derived from one source with our enjoyment of a spatial region derived from another source. The conclusion that I draw is that sense-perception for all its practical importance is very superficial in its disclosure of the nature of things.

A dead nature can give no reasons. All ultimate reasons are in terms of aim at value. A dead nature aims at nothing. It is the essence of life that it exists for its own sake, as the intrinsic reaping of value.

There is no possibility of a detached, self-contained local existence. The environment enters into the nature of each thing.

Nature is a theater for the interrelations of activities.

For the modern view, process, activity, and change are the matter of fact. At an instant there is nothing. Each instant is only a way of grouping matters of fact. Thus since there are no instants, conceived as simple primary entities, there is no nature at an instant. Thus all interrelations of matters of fact must involve transition in their essence. All realization involves implication in the creative advance.

All explanations of the sociological functionings of mankind include ‘aim’ as an essential factor in explanation.

The body consists of the coordinated functionings of billions of molecules. It belongs to the structural essence of the body that, in an indefinite number of ways, it is always losing molecules and gaining molecules. When we consider the question with microscopic accuracy, there is no definite boundary to determine where the body begins and external nature ends.

The body requires the environment in order to exist. Thus there is a unity of the body with the environment.

Descartes’ ‘Cogito, ergo sum’ is wrongly translated, ‘I think, therefore I am’. It is never bare thought or bare existence that we are aware of. I find myself as essentially a unity of emotions, enjoyments, hopes, fears, regrets, valuations of alternatives, decisions—all of them subjective reactions to the environment as active in my nature. My unity—which is Descartes’ ‘I am’—is my process of shaping this welter of material into a consistent pattern of feelings. The individual enjoyment is what I am in my role of a natural activity, as I shape the activities of the environment into a new creation, which is myself at this moment; and yet, as being myself, it is a continuation of the antecedent world.

The energetic activity considered in physics is the emotional intensity entertained in life.