Alfred North Whitehead Additional Biography


(Critical Survey of Ethics and Literature)

In 1924, at the age of 63 and nearing compulsory retirement at the Imperial College, London, Whitehead accepted an appointment to teach philosophy at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. For the next thirteen years, he lectured and developed his metaphysics. Influenced by the thought of Henri Bergson and, at the same time, an erstwhile Platonist, Whitehead considered the requirements for an ethical society through an analysis of religion (Religion in the Making) and the fundamental requirements for a dynamic society (Adventures in Ideas). He argued that religion—realized only through profound human reflection—contributed to an ethical understanding of the relationship of the individual in society and the universe. After earlier affiliations with Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism, Whitehead did not identify with any organized religion; he did not consider religion as a societal institution to be very meaningful. Adventures of Ideas constituted Whitehead’s most comprehensive statement of his philosophy and has been his most widely acclaimed and read book. Individual freedom required an ordered society; Whitehead was not sympathetic to anarchism, which frequently advanced values similar to his. Whitehead was concerned with the nature of beauty, art, and peace, predicated upon an ethics that recognized the fundamental primacy of the individual within the context of Western civilization.


(Survey of World Philosophers)

Article abstract: Striving for a more comprehensive and unified system of human knowledge, Whitehead made major contributions to mathematical logic and produced a wholly original and modern metaphysics.

Early Life

Alfred North Whitehead was born on February 15, 1861, in the town of Ramsgate on the Isle of Thanet, County of Kent, England. He was the last of four children born to Alfred Whitehead, a schoolmaster and clergyman, and Maria Sarah Buckmaster. Whitehead’s father was a typical Victorian country vicar who tirelessly tended to the needs of the people of the island and was well loved by them. His grandfather, Thomas Whitehead, was more remarkable intellectually. The son of a...

(The entire section is 2933 words.)