Beyond Superlatives: Regenerating Whitehead’s Philosophy of Experience
Roland Faber, J. R. Hustwit, and Hollis Phelps, eds.
(Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2014)
This collection of essays, drawn from the latest generation of Whitehead scholars, explores how, in the deconstruction of certain concepts, an unceasing invitation of possibility and change is released, both in relation to ongoing philosophical conversations, and as applied to lived experience. The essays make a significant intervention in the field of Whiteheadian scholarship by creating new intersections and paths that extend Whitehead’s thought in novel, and often unexpected, directions.
The philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead proposes a radical reconceptualization of experience–one in which we, and all other things, are composed of mutually implicated series of events in an infinite universe of interaction, generating and regenerating experience. Far from indicating a new superlative of holistic integrity, Whitehead prefers the always incomplete movement of all realities, which is the source of vitality for every new generation.
This volume applies Whitehead’s philosophy to superlatives–those valued concepts that limit and define our categories amid the flux of experience. The first half of this book probes the superlatives that have historically defined philosophical method in the West. These essays trace the adventures of concepts like substance, novelty, system, and truth. Ossified oppositions that define these superlatives are fractured, indicating new directions for growth. The essays in the second half of the book reflect on the influx, fragility, and impossibility of superlatives like care, tragedy, love, and loss in human experience, generating new matters of philosophical discourse.
Superlatives abound. But Whitehead cautions us to attend to their multiplicity. The mutual immanence of events constantly generates new constellations of importance, and so superlatives, because they are contingent upon unstable modes of togetherness, cannot be taken for granted. Any of these concepts may have a particular significance today, but as events coalesce into new constellations, those ideals will continue to take on new meaning.