Whitehead: Modes of Thought


“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.”

— Alfred North Whitehead, Modes of Thought

I’ve been trying to make use of some additional time to restart my Stoic practice. I’ve been away for too long, and I’m find it difficult. Epictetus is correct regarding the relaxing of attention. Additionally, I’m trying to get back into the habit of reading philosophy. I’ve been spending some time with Whitehead, who while not a Stoic, touches on some topics which I find useful.

I’m still working through Modes of Thought, but thus far my takeaway has been a new perspective of my philosophical work.  There is a danger, Whitehead admonishes, in the need to systematize.  If we systematize before making enough observations, we’ll leave something out, and “[p]hilosophy can exclude nothing.”

In this early section, he also discusses “importance” and “interest” in a way which has caused me to pause and reflect in a way which I think will be fruitful.  It’s a bit early for me to report back, but I wanted to share this with others in case you also wanted to read and discuss this work.

My university will mail books out, so I’m using a dead-tree version (I’m the second person to check out since 1958), but if its’ difficult to source for you, there is an html-version here.

I have generally not paid too much attention to modern philosophy, since much of it sets asides the ancients.  But like Seneca’s spy, I shall dip into the other camp to see how things are done.  I will report back.

Fun divergence: Four theologians meme


There’s a trend going around social media, that so far I’ve seen restricted only to Christian posters, that seemed like a fun divergence.  The premise of the meme is to post pictures of four theologians who have shaped your worldview.  I thought I’d try my hand at it.  Stoicism is at its core, like most ancient philosophies a religious philosophy.  It is not possible in my opinion to discuss it properly if you’ve excised that component.  That doesn’t mean that you must adopt the view of the ancients wholesale, but if you do, you will be missing an integral piece.

That being said, I tried to narrow down which of the classical Stoics and modern philosophers most informed my outlook.  I did not include Musonius, for his bent (or what we have of it) is more practical.  He does touch of some cosmological points, but not to the extent of his student, Epictetus, who decidedly made my list.

Heraclitus is the foundation of Stoic theology in my opinion.  The Fragments of his work speak to me in a less analytical and more emotional way that is a needed component for me.  The Weeping Philosopher then, also makes my list.

Skipping ahead a few thousand years, I’ve included Pierre Hadot, who more than any other modern writer reframed ancient philosophy for me, and made it much less foreign to my way of thinking.  I also included Thomas Merton, whose quiet, devotional work dovetails nicely with my own inclination of philosophical practice, even if outside my immediate belief system.

If I had another spot in this meme, I’d include Alfred North Whitehead.  I’m more and more inclined to the ideas of panpsychism which I think is an excellent way of parsing the axiom that “the cosmos is both rational and providential.”

Please share your list of four theologians who have shaped your worldview, and why.  I’m interested in seeing what sorts of things help build this big tent of ours.