Whitehead and James on Prehension: An Examination of That Aspect of the Philosophy of William James That Corresponds to the "Physical Feeling" of Alfred North Whitehead

Dissertation, University of Georgia (1990)

Abstract
The purpose of this study was to determine whether William James, for whom Alfred North Whitehead expressed great admiration, could be closely enough identified with Whitehead in a specific area to warrant a true comparison of their systems of metaphysics. ;The study shows that the compatibility between the two authors extends to one very specific area, viz. the concept of 'physical feeling' in Whitehead's metaphysics. Both men envisioned reality as a universe with experience at its heart, with a continuing process of development in which some combination of fixity and novelty is maintained. Both, moreover, taught that the fixity is carried from past to present by means of some form of prehension, whereby the emerging experience takes account of that which has already been completed or satisfied. This study demonstrates that the basic notion of prehension is the same in both men. ;Several supposed problems that would seem, on the surface, to militate against the possibility of such compatibility are examined and discounted as counter-indications. In three such considerations, James is shown first not to be a true nominalist, precisely because he never gave up his commitment to the reality of universals. In the second consideration, James is shown to be a realist, rather than a subjective idealist, having flatly rejected all such attempts by his critics to place him in that category. Finally, James is shown to be more closely aligned with a special case of panpsychism, rather than with the phenomenalism that some have ascribed to him
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