Second volume of Whitehead’s Harvard lectures submitted to publisher

Whitehead’s classroom in Emerson Hall as photographed by Brian Henning in 2015.

We are extremely pleased to announce that editing is complete for the second volume of the Edinburgh Critical Edition of the Complete Works of Alfred North Whitehead, and the manuscript has now been submitted to Edinburgh University Press. The full title will be: The Harvard Lectures of Alfred North Whitehead: General Metaphysical Problems of Science, 1925–1927. It is tentatively scheduled for publication in late 2020 or early 2021.

The book covers Whitehead’s second and third years of lectures at Harvard—a period which immediately followed the publication of Science and the Modern World, and in which he delivered the lectures that would become Religion in the Making and Symbolism. As with the first volume, Whitehead’s Harvard lectures for these years in some cases shows him developing material that would later appear in print. In other cases, he presented recently published material or material recently presented elsewhere, often with accompanying asides and commentary to students on how his mind had changed. We believe that it will prove to be an invaluable resource for Whitehead scholars.

It has been a very long road to finishing this volume. In fact, it is difficult to say with precision how long we have been working on the book; it all depends on when and how one starts counting. We first began gathering the materials that would make up this volume way back in 2008, and would not collect the final piece—Gardner Jackson’s notes—until August 2017. Meanwhile, we began transcription of materials in March 2014, finishing the majority of it in December 2015. Verification of the transcriptions was begun in early 2016, and after getting a little bogged down was finally completed in February 2018. We then began editing the material into its final form beginning in early 2018, completing the project in November 2019.

We have discussed editorial method for this volume in past Critical Edition quarterly updates, but one of the main features is worth highlighting again here: rather than publishing a single set of student notes for each year, or attempting to publish them all in parallel, we have instead taken the more painstaking course of choosing the best available student account for each of Whitehead’s individual lectures, and then footnoting in the salient additions and differences from alternative accounts. At times we had as many as five sets of student notes for a given lecture, which when gathered together provide a richness of detail that could not have been achieved any other way. The volume thus incorporates all known notes for Whitehead’s lectures for this time period in order for it to be as thorough, complete, and accurate an account of Whitehead’s words as it possibly can be. We are proud of our work on this second volume of the Critical Edition, and hope that readers will find it as illuminating of Whitehead’s philosophy and the development of his thought as we have.

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