About the Critical Edition of Whitehead

paintingThis Critical Edition brings together for the first time, in a series of critically edited volumes, the complete, collected published works and previously unpublished lectures, papers, and correspondence of Alfred North Whitehead, one of the 20th
century’s most original and significant philosophers.

Two volumes of edited lecture notes from the participants in his Harvard classes have already been published. In general, the lectures notes taken by Whitehead’s colleagues and students over the years are particularly exciting because they allow us to see into the mind of Whitehead as he was developing his philosophy.

book cover The first of these volumes, The Harvard Lectures of Alfred North Whitehead, 1924-1925: Philosophical Presuppositions of Science (HL1), edited by Paul Bogaard and Jason Bell, features a recently-discovered, heretofore unknown, methodical transcription of Whitehead’s original year-long course at Harvard, entitled “Philosophical Presuppositions of Science.” Winthrop Pickard Bell, the young Canadian scholar and lecturer in philosophy at Harvard who transcribed these notes, was the first North American graduate student of Edmund Husserl at Göttingen, from whom he acquired the habit of thoroughness and attention to detail, making these notes an especially complete and revealing window into Whitehead’s first attempt at metaphysical synthesis and explication of what would become his complete system of thought. The notes offer meticulous renderings of lectures, discussions, diagrams, and copious mathematical and physics equations designed to demonstrate or reinforce the main thrust of each lecture.

book coverThe second of these volumes, The Harvard Lectures of Alfred North Whitehead, 1925-1927: General Metaphysical Problems of Science (HL2), edited by Brian G. Henning, Joseph Petek, and George R. Lucas, Jr., features a painstaking reconstruction of Whitehead’s lectures during his second and third years of teaching at Harvard, drawing from the notes of no less than fourteen separate authors, including Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss. HL2 allows readers to see the development of Whitehead’s philosophy during the crucial period between the publication of Science and the Modern World and the delivery of his Gifford lectures that would become Process and Reality as he tests his theories in a classroom setting.

In addition to these already-published volumes, the Critical Edition is set to include:

  • Four more volumes of Whitehead’s Harvard lectures covering the remaining years of his lectures at Harvard;
  • A volume of heretofore unpublished and largely un-interpreted correspondence between Whitehead and many of the leading figures in science, mathematics, and philosophy of his day;
  • A volume of correspondence between Whitehead and Russell pertaining to the origins, composition, and interpretation of the Principia Mathematica; and
  • Two volumes of collected essays and papers, some not previously seen before.

Collectively, these initial volumes of correspondence, notes, and essays that the editors envision as the first phase of the Whitehead Edition will shed considerable light on the proper composition, necessary textual corrections, and overall interpretations of Whitehead’s major published works. Accordingly, following completion of these initial volumes, we will turn toward the critical editing of the previously published materials, starting with the materials that are currently in the public domain (all those works published prior to 1923, excluding the Principia itself), and then moving to the remaining works upon expiration of copyright.

The Critical Edition adheres to the standards set forth by the Association for Documentary Editing (ADE), and is listed as an affiliate project on their website. The Critical Edition volumes are edited as clear text according to the Guide to Documentary Editing, accompanied by a minimally-intrusive interpretive and critical scholarly apparatus designed deliberately to avoid cluttering the core text with distracting insertions or interjections in order to permit the reader’s full engagement with the authoritative primary text. Editorial annotations are used throughout to meticulously record and justify editorial decisions and to help clarify ambiguities in the original. The texts are studied closely by at least two separate editors.

The Critical Edition of Whitehead has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed on this website do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Digitizing, transcribing, and editing these materials is time consuming and resource-intensive. If you are able to support the Edition through a financial contribution, it would be most appreciated (see below). Further, we are always on the lookout for letters to or from Whitehead, lecture notes from his classes, and first editions of his publications. If you are able to donate such materials, please contact us.

History of the Critical Edition

Please see Brian G. Henning’s preface to Whitehead at Harvard, 1924–1925, “A Brief History of the Critical Edition of Whitehead,” available as a PDF here.

Editorial Board

General Editor:Brian G. Henning
Executive Editor:Joseph Petek
Editorial Advisory Board:George Allan
Paul A. Bogaard
Ronny Desmet
Daniel A. Dombrowski
Brianne Donaldson
Landon D. C. Elkind
Peter Farleigh
Nancy Frankenberry
Nicholas Griffin
Michael Halewood
Lisa Landoe Hedrick
Jeremy R. Hustwit
Jude Jones
Leemon McHenry
Keith Robinson
Wm. Andrew Schwartz
Robert J. Valenza
Editorial Assistant:Tobias Propst
Kennedy Wood
Former Editorial Assistants:Daniel J. Martin (2021-2022)
Jenna Petsche (2019-2021)
Robert McDonald (2018-2019)
Jason Taksony Hewitt (2017-2018)
Tyler Huson (2013-2015)
John Becker (2013-2017)
Nathan Greeley (2010-2013)

Find out more about the members of the board

Visit the Critical Edition at Edinburgh University Press

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