Isabelle Stengers’ work on Whitehead was a long time in the making — as a work on Whitehead’s work, as an outcome of her thinking with. Thinking with Whitehead has 23 ratings and 2 reviews. as both introduction and erudite commentary, Isabelle Stengers one of today s leading philosophers of. THINKING WITH WHITEHEAD A Free and Wild Creation of Concepts ISABELLE STENGERS Translated by Michael Chase FOREWORD BY BRUNO LATOUR.

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Stengers has succeeded in bringing Whitehead back to life. Ethics and Physics, or Religion and Science, need not be opposed modes of thought, where one battles the other for explanatory ultimacy.

Is not the human activity of physics in some sense for the universe? Is not the scientific endeavor an effort of nature itself to rise up to the level of theory? This requires a conceptual power which can imagine, and a practical power which can effect. The role of sense experiences consists in the fact that they are manageable. The animals evolved and emphasized the superficial aspects of their connexity with nature, and thus obtained a manageable grip upon the world.

The central organism which is the soul of a man is mainly concerned with the trivialities of human existence.

Thinking with Whitehead: A Free and Wild Creation of Concepts by Isabelle Stengers

It does not easily meditate upon the activities of fundamental bodily functions. Instead of fixing attention on the bodily digestion of vegetable food, it catches the gleam of the sunlight thinkng it falls on the foliage. Men are the children of the Universe, with foolish enterprises and irrational hopes. A tree sticks to its business of mere survival; and so does an oyster with some minor divergencies.

In this way, the life aim at survival is modified into the human aim at survival for diversified worthwhile experience. But Whitehead would not agree that the soul is therefore explainable in reference to physical activity, in itself. Inside a living animal, atoms no longer behave in a way relevant to physicists, since they have become conditioned by a local ethos within which they play roles distinct from their activity in stars, galaxies, or laboratory experiments.


Ethics is not a consequence of Physics, if the physical be conceived abstractly as though made up of vacuous actualities devoid of experience wnitehead self-enjoyment. But Ethics may be conceived as conditioned and so implied by Physics if the physical is imagined concretely as a creative rush of subjectivities seeking more beautiful, more virtuous intensity of experience.

The Good Life, for Whitehead, is not simply to survive, but to thrive.

Sometimes we need bread; sometimes wine, sometimes the whiteheav of a chemical element or hormone; sometimes the stimulus of a color; sometimes the magic of sound passing through our ears as a vibration and emerging in our brain in the form of an inspiration. There is no doubt that material energy and spiritual energy hold together and are prolonged by something.

Ultimately, somehow or other there must be only a single energy at play in the world. Teilhard was a scientist at least in this bookand left such speculative statements to the metaphysician.

Thinking with Whitehead: A Free and Wild Creation of Concepts

Whitehead was compelled to unmask the general character of the energy at play in the world, and at the end of his imaginative leap into speculative cosmology, he discovered not the transcendent ground of some theory of everything, but a more noble and enjoyable way of envisaging actuality.

Why did Whitehead find it so important to avoid the bifurcation of nature in his speculative scheme?

Living actuality is not a given, but an achievement won at the cost of alternatives, and maintained at the cost of the robbery of other actualities of their life.


In our contemporary context, where sith ecological crisis conditions our every move, enacting modes of thought that hold the Living Earth together are becoming of more than just aesthetic or ethical value. Scientific Materialism and Consumer Capitalism think and produce nature hastily, with little care for its non-human achievements of community i.

These modes of thought exaggerate a basic truth while forgetting an essential exception: Such materialist modes must become imaginative enough to conceive of freedom and matter, the human knower and the thing known, in a more coherent way. Whitehead provides a template for such a new mode of thought, but its actualization requires a miracle. His logos stenyers be given life.

Since you would be more interested in the philosophical framework of the essay, the longer version stegers probably better:. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me of new comments via email. Notify me of new posts via email.

Skip to content June 29, June 29, Matthew T. Next post Science, Art, Religion: Since you would be more interested in the philosophical framework of the essay, the longer version is probably better: The Creativity of Causality in Bios and Cosmos: What do thinknig think?

Thinking with Whitehead — Isabelle Stengers | Harvard University Press

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