Modes of Thought

Preface & Table of Contents

Alfred North Whitehead

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The doctrine dominating these lectures is that factors in our experience are 'clear and distinct' in proportion to their variability, provided that they sustain themselves for that moderate period required for importance. The necessities are invariable, and for that reason remain in the background of thought, dimly and vaguely. Thus philosophic truth is to be sought in the presuppositions of language rather than its express statements. For this reason philosophy is akin to poetry, and for both of them seek to express that ultimate good sense which we term civilization.

The first six chapters, namely Parts I and II were delivered as lectures at Wellesley College, Massachusetts, during the session 1937-38, succeeding my retirement from Harvard. This fortunate opportunity has helped me to condense for publication those features of my Harvard lectures which are incompletely presented in my published works. The two lectures of Part III, entitled 'Nature and Life', were delivered four years earlier at the University of Chicago, and have been published by the University of Chicago Press, and in England by the Cambridge Press. They were meant to form part of a book such as the present one, but various circumstances have delayed completion of the plan.

The Epilogue, The Aim of Philosophy, is adapted from a short address at the annual reception, 1935, for graduate students of the Harvard and Radcliffe Philosophical Departments. It was reported in Harvard Alumni Bulletin.

Alfred North Whitehead

April 25, 1938


 Creative Impulse

    I  Importance

   II  Expression

  III  Understanding


  IV  Perspective

   V  Forms of Process

  VI  Civilized Universe

Nature and Life

 VII  Nature Lifeless

VIII  Nature Alive


  IX  The Aim of Philosophy


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