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Saturday, 14 February 2015

"Someone": Whitehead's thou

I was wondering about the subject-superject structure where an actual entity in Whitehead prehends another. Prehension is the key to existence in a metaphysics of perception. The subject-superject structure is a I-thou structure: what is prehended first is an actual entity, and not its qualities or even its substratum. What is prehended is a thou. That is, another actual entity capable of prehending. This is why Whitehead buys into, in the opening pages of P&R, a Leibnizian conception of substance as mentality. Relation is therefore always negotiation – être est entente. This is Whitehead’s animism: finding another mentality in a very different body capable to perceive. An actual entity is, above all, a drop of existence because it has interiority – it is a prehender. This is the big Cartesian discovery – better used by Locke (even though not completely well) and by Leibniz (who extended mentality everywhere). In this sense, the big precursor of Whitehead is Tarde talking about beliefs and desires as a common to every monad. To prehend something is to prehend some one; a one with which one is directly connected through perception, even if something very different is actually cognized. (Whitehead’s externalism would have that perceptual contact could come with cognitive error.)

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