Whitehead's Doctrine of Freedom



Dr. King examines Alfred North Whitehead’s doctrine of freedom as described in “Science and the Modern World.”

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Whitehead's Doctrine of Freedom
Transcripts & Translations


[Page 1] [Inserted in Top Margin: Wh's doctrine of Freedom] In the welter of causes which we encounter in the transition period, two agents emerge as initiations. Both are actual; one is temporal and the other not. The are respectively, the self-creating actual occasions and God.. The principal implications of this interpretation is to put the idea of novelty, or if you like, freedom, in the sense of self-determination, or an equal fasting with the rule of conformity. Self determination is not proved, then, but postulated. Wh suggests that freedom, as they understood, must [Page 2] be postulated in order for the rest of his system to make sense. He say, "It is important for my argument to insist you the unbounded freedom within which the actual is a unique categorical determination (SMW, 253) The term "understand freedom" is a shade strong, in view of the many "limitations" which have been [discussed?]. It [the actual occasion] may be conditioned and even completely determined by the past from which it issues. But its display [Page 3] in the present under these conditions is what directly emerges from its [MS:illegible] activity. (S M W, 253) Essentially what is being said here is that the exact [MS:illegible] in which the materials of an actual [occasion?] are employed by it constitutes its freedom, even though it has no choice of materials. Another observation by WH in the subject of freedom in the transition period is this the boundary between the living and the non-living is the laundry between the relatively [Page 4] free and the relatively "determined. Wh's remarks on freedom are even more frequently than his [remarks] on cause and ... developed. What [Crossed Out: he] says in substance is this: (1) Each actual occasion is self-determined, because of the precise way in which it molds the material of its existence. Its freedom then is indeed by its individuality. (2) The self- determination which is [MS:illegible] in the individuality of an actual occasion is metaphorically as ultimate as its conformity to [Page 5] the part, whereby its states in a natural order is given (3) living things are more free than non-living things, conforming less, determining themselves more.
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