Whitehead’s “Theory” of Propositions

Por • 20 nov, 2021 • Sección: Filosofía

by Anthony J. Steinbeck

Symbolic logic, he tells us above, is the symbolic examination of «pattern with the use of real variables»; in other words, it is the systematic examination of «propositions.» To grasp the import of this statement it will be necessary to pursue an interpretive inquiry into the nature of propositions in Whitehead’s thought. To do this I shall first discuss basic structural considerations of Whitehead’s theory of propositions and then proceed to address in more detail the salient features which I consider to be decisive for his understanding of propositions, namely, that a proposition has two subjects. On the basis of this insight, which opens a hermeneutical dimension to propositions, I shall, third, specify the role that propositions play in the process view of the world. In concluding I shall suggest in what sense the systematic examination of propositions can function foundationally for other domains of life.

In Science and the Modern World, in the chapter «Abstraction,» Whitehead’s allusion to propositions is ensconced in a discussion of «eternal objects.» i.e., pure potentialities, those transcendent entities traditionally known as «universals» (SMW 1560. By speaking of propositions in this context, Whitehead tacitly portrays propositions in a way befitting a characterization of eternal objects. As Ford observes, in Principia Mathematica Whitehead understands the «subject» of the proposition as the «placeholder» giving determination to predicates, thus transforming propositions into complex eternal objects (EWM 174).

Anthony J. Steinbock is a doctoral candidate in Philosophy, SUNY at Stony Brook, NY 11794. He has been pursuing his doctoral work in Bochum, West Germany (1987-89) and Paris (1989-90). He is working in the area of social ontology.

The following article appeared in Process Studies, pp. 19-29, Vol.18, Number 1, Spring, 1989. Process Studies is published quarterly by the Center for Process Studies, 1325 N. College Ave., Claremont, CA 91711. Used by permission. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.


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