A Unscientific Physics: Hegel and Whitehead on the Philosophy of Nature
The thesis of this dissertation is that nature is not merely the province of the natural sciences, and that contemporary philosophy could greatly benefit from a recovery of the Philosophy of Nature. Although philosophy has traditionally developed its own concept of nature, philosophers have recently come to dispute the ability of philosophy to contribute to natural knowledge, and to deny that there is any knowledge of nature beyond that offered by the empirical sciences. This dissertation is an attempt to isolate the particular problems and questions which form a philosophical idea of nature. This study investigates the work of G. W. F. Hegel and Alfred North Whitehead in this field. These two philosophers are especially relevant to this task because they took up these questions during an age after natural science had become separate and distinct from philosophy. The relationship between empirical science and philosophy is therefore a central concern in their work in this area. This investigation concludes that the natural sciences present an abstract and partial account of nature while Philosophy of Nature is largely an attempt to describe the rationality of the individual. Both Hegel and Whitehead feel the central problem of philosophy of nature is to explain how nature itself is the agent of its own rationality, and how notions such as subjectivity, value and rationality are part of all forms and levels of physical existence. The Philosophy of Nature is therefore central to many current fields of philosophical interest, such as the Philosophy of Science and Natural Knowledge, the Philosophy of Mind, Ethics and the Metaphysics of Morals, and offers an important response to the division between the sciences and the humanities. The first three chapters examine Whitehead's and Hegel's critiques of scientific understanding and the limitations of such an approach to nature. The latter three chapters then present the basic features of Hegel's and Whitehead's own work in this field, and conclude with some reflections upon the relevance of this type of philosophy to contemporary problems.
- Pub Date:
- ALFRED NORTH WHITEHEAD;
- Philosophy; Physics: General