return to religion-online

An Early Whiteheadian View of Perception

by John H. Kultgen

John H. Kultgen is Professor of the Philosophy of Science and Social Science at the University of Missouri-Columbia, having received the Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1952. The following article appeared in Process Studies, pp. 126-135, Vol. 2, Number 2, Summer, 1972. 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.


In this paper I shall develop a view of perception from the partial theory to be found in Whitehead’s early philosophical writings and defend it against objections which led Whitehead himself to replace it later with a somewhat different theory.1

Development of the Early Theory

The first phase or moment of perception is sense-awareness (CN 4). Sense-awareness disengages factors from the total flow of fact (PNK 59-60; CN 13; R 14), the content of primal experience, bringing to the fore two profiles (suggested AE 201) of total perceptual objects.

In Profile I the attention of the percipient event (observer) is centered on some event located at a more or less definite region which is spatially related to him in the duration cogredient with him (his specious present). This gives him cognizance of the event by adjective (R 18), for he identifies it and its space-time boundaries by sense-objects situated in it (PNK 67, 84; CN 78, 147). He also perceives the attended event embedded in a field of other events; hence, he acquires cognizance of these events by relatedness (R 19), that is, as more or less definite somethings related to and signified by the attended event. While the percipient centers attention on a, he may also pay secondary attention to b, pick out its location with a degree of definiteness by its relatedness to a. and begin to cognize it by adjective (e.g., while watching a buzzing fly, I become aware of its proximity to a fragile goblet).

In Profile 22 the percipient centers his attention on relations within the perceptual field and discerns events and their sense-objects secondarily qua relata. Thus, one may notice the distance between two events or a contrast between two objects. It is important to insist that relations are found in the perceptual field, not imposed upon a manifold of unrelated data by reflexively discernible mental acts. Relations are discerned as factors of fact (PNK (12, 60f; CN 141; R 13f), binding other factors into the experienced unity of total fact.

Relations are object-like in that the same sort of relation can he discerned among different sets of events. They are event-like in that it makes sense to speak of (e.g.) this distance between given events or this contrast between the objects situated in them. Being like both events and objects, relations are identical with neither: and there is a fundamental distinction between discernment of relations, apprehension of events, and recognition of objects in perception (PNK 67).3

In taking profiles on perceptual objects, the percipient may be cognizant of his own body by relationship to an attended object and vaguely by adjective, e.g., when focusing my attention on a fly while trying to swat it. I am aware of muscular contractions in my arm. Now, in some contexts it is convenient to speak of the whole body as the percipient event (the event in nature [PNK 70] embodying the perceptual act); in others, as only some minute event in the central nervous system. Hence, we may say either that the percipient is aware of itself or of external events in the same body (a muscle event is external to a brain event) while attending to external objects. I shall identify the percipient with the brain event and speak in the latter fashion. Whitehead prefers the former (PNK 80; CN 107).

All of these events -- brain, muscle, total body -- are in the perceptual world. Each can be made a center of attention and recognized by sense-objects (muscle and brain tissue have color, shape, etc.). Each enters extensional externality (and internality) relations (PNK 61) with one another and the remaining events in the world. Fly and eye are external to one another, and both to the percipient brain event. Correlatively, it is external to them. All belong to the same external world.

One relational profile which we seem to discern (whether we really do is doubtful in my opinion) is the causal connection between events, most prominently in cases where a bodily event is the effect (PNK 14), e.g., when I am aware of touching a rough surface, the surface event, recognized by tactual sense-objects, is discerned to be the cause of the kinesthetic sensum in my finger. Causality is discerned as a relation in the external world even in this case and indeed as holding between events external to the percipient if we identify the latter with a brain event.

Our immediate awareness of causation at best is feeble; it usually is non-existent, and yet we apply the concept widely. In identifying specific causal relations, event A, is almost always judged to be the cause of B, (that is, when our judgment is reasonable) because of the prior conjunction of events of sort A with events of sort B, or analogous evidence, rather than on the basis of direct discrimination of a process in B, taking account of, flowing from, or forming itself by virtue of Ai (PNK 87).4

Whatever the grounds of causal judgments, reflection on the relation leads the careful observer to note that events are situations of particular sense-objects only when surrounded by other events which are situations of specific other sense-objects. Certain events in the perceptual field are active conditions of the formation of the attended event and the ingression of sense-objects into it (PNK 86), e.g., active conditions of events recognized by tactual profiles include events in the percipient’s finger tips and nervous system, that is, in the physiological medium. Active conditions of visual profiles also include events In a source of illumination and in the media between illumination, attended event, and eye.

The role of active conditions means that ingression is a polyadic relation between the sense-object, event, and an indefinite number of other events with their objective characters (PNK 84-86: TSM 52; CN 145-47). If we examine a field of perception with the right questions in mind, we discern such polyadic relationships. They are one profile (Sort 2) which we can take on perceptual objects.

These data of sense-awareness are primary facts for me, "primary" in being facts I would be most reluctant to dismiss and "facts" in being realities access to which provides a basis for understanding other things. It is sense-awareness that acquaints us with what an event is and how it is extended and bounded. The world with which we are occupied in thought and action is composed of events recognized through sense-objects which are their true properties. No ontology or theory of perception that denies these primary facts is credible to me. Later in the paper I shall argue that Whitehead subsequently denies them.

In taking various profiles, the percipient reaches across space to distinguish events, objects, and relations, while letting them stand as they are in them selves. I shall refer to this as perception at a distance, meaning not the psychic otherness of anything perceived in the matrix of externally related events in relation to the act of perceiving, but the spatial distance between any attended event and the percipient, which itself is part of the matrix (CN 3; II 132f).

If we admit perception at a distance but deny action at a distance, we must reject the myth of sensa as mental effects of external realities. Events as situations of sense-objects and relations among events are given as there, not here (in the percipient event) or nowhere (embedded in the allegedly aspatial realm of mental entities). One basis for the myth of sensa is a misunderstanding of the role of active conditions in the ingression of sense-objects into nature. The percipient qua external event is an effect of other events (e.g., light signals must reach the retina and brain for the wall to be green); and perceiving is conditioned by the percipient and its causal relations. But perceiving is not simply being acted on in the external world.

A second basis for the sensa myth is the fact that we do use mental images to fill out perceptual objects; e.g., I am aware of the visual profile of an event. Depending on my needs or curiosity, I may judge how it would feel were I to touch it, how it looks from other perspectives, how future events in the enduring entity to which the attended event belongs would appear under various active conditions, etc. In perceptual judgments we refer images. derived by analogy from data of previous sense-awareness,5 to an attended event (PNK 89f; CN Ch. I); e.g., I anticipate the appearance of a goblet if I swat the fly sitting on it, and I refrain from swatting.

As the example suggests, perceptual judgments are often revealed by the way we unreflectively comport ourselves toward perceptual objects. We can also be reflectively aware of such judgments and their structure. Knowledge that some judgments are spontaneous and unconscious (AE 186, 194, 197; CN 154f) plus knowledge of the structure of perceptual judgments makes it possible to hypothesize that sense-awareness is a projection, always concealed from detection, of sensa, conceived as mental images, on antecedent reality. This hypothesis, however, leads by a familiar path to the total bifurcation of perceptual appearance from reality, removing the ground for construing appearances as effects or signs of reality. Bifurcation fatally impugns the testimony of the senses. It should be avoided at almost any cost.

The total physical object is a synthesis of (1) all sense-objects ingredient in its situation by virtue of actual polyadic relations involving percipients and (2) all the dispositions of the situation to display additional sense-objects in possible ingression relations (AE 193; CN 154; R 54).6

A total perceptual object is not merely a set of sense-objects and dispositions; it is a synthesis effected by the surge of existence which is the event. The concrete perceptual object is the total perceptual object and its situation. We perceive concrete objects as being more than their involvement in the particular ingression relation at the basis of our sense-awareness, and hence as overflowing particular profiles. This "something more" is determinate and hence the ground for the truth or falsity of perceptual judgments. The transcendent existence of concrete objects is also the ground for our ordinary presupposition that they are public entities. You and I see the same chair because we apprehend the same external event and recognize the same total perceptual object. We do not sense exactly the same profile or form the same set of perceptual judgments, but each of us can reconstruct approximately what the other senses and judges. This suffices for social interaction in relation to the public world.7

Finally, I should briefly distinguish between physical objects and illusions within the category of total perceptual objects. Physical objects are total perceptual objects whose component sense-objects and dispositions are connected by a law of variation (PNK 89f, 186; CN 167). We appear to have the inductive power to grasp the law instantiated in concrete objects when they are analogous (though never identical) to prior objects of our acquaintance. Thus, when I come upon a chair of an odd shape or color, I can imagine with a fair degree of success how it appears from other perspectives.

Illusions 8 do not exemplify such laws. The event I see beyond a mirror 9 or when I am drugged is truly the situation of sense-objects by which I recognize it, but I have no basis to judge the profiles of the event from other perspectives.

Once we distinguish illusions from physical objects by observational tests (that is, by the failure of perceptual judgments in the one case and their success in the other) we then discover that one of the differences lies in the fact that the situation of an illusion is not an active condition for the ingression of its profile, e.g. because of the interposition of the mirror between percipient and situation or because of the disruption of the percipient’s physiological medium by drugs (PNK 89; CN 153). (We subsequently discover the true active conditions in the external world of the illusion as a perceptual object in the external world.)

Whitehead’s Later Theory: The Phenomenological Part

Whitehead’s later theory involves (1) a reflective phenomenological description of perceiving in terms of two modes, causal efficacy (CE) and presentational immediacy (PI); and (2) an ontological reconstruction of these processes in terms of prehension. I will concentrate my criticism on the doctrines of projection in PI and reenactment of feelings in physical prehension.10

According to Whitehead’s later theory, taking a profile on a perceptual object in PI is a matter of projecting (PR 262; AI 314) sensa and geometrical objects (SMW 216; S 14, 21; PR 257, 262; AI 276f; MT 100) on a focal region in the presented locus or contemporary world (PR 189, 192f, 257, 476).11 Since Whitehead conceives of contemporary events as in unison of becoming with and causally independent of the percipient occasion (PR 95, 188-90) and retains the causal criterion of illusion from his early theory, he is forced to conclude that the appearance of a focal region as actually qualified by eternal objects of its profile is an illusion. All PI is illusory (PR 179, 186, 273). We are also mistaken in identifying the boundaries of the attended event with the boundaries of its apparent locus (in the focal region). Actual occasions are extended and atomic. Any group of occasions composing a macroscopic event located approximately at the focal region will probably overlap or fail to exhaust precisely that region. We could not know because we do not directly apprehend contemporary occasions. Yet we do demarcate fairly precise boundaries for focal events in perception and specify them with greater precision by abstractive geometry. Hence, it must be that we project geometrical objects as well as sensa.

Project them on what? Not noumena differing entirely from the phenomena of PI. Whitehead tries to avoid radical bifurcation by introducing a second mode of perception, CE, which discriminates the same sorts of entities (events, sensa, geometrical objects) in the same total field as PI (S 8, 30, 49, 53; PR 255-59). In CE we perceive past rather than contemporary events. Past events can act on the percipient, so CE may possibly be non-illusory. At any rate, Whitehead claims, past events donate to the percipient in CE the sensa and geometrical objects which he projects in PI onto contemporary regions.12

CE also directly discloses causal relations, especially those involving our bodies. Whitehead is most insistent that we are immediately aware that we see with our eyes and touch with our hands (SMW 132f; S 43, 56f; PR 258f, 263, 265-67; AI 243, 265; MT 209, 217). This points up another illusion in PI. We actually perceive e.g., past events acting on our eyes, yet it is an event at a contemporary location that we identify by a visual profile.

Whitehead now maintains that even the first profile of objects in sense-awareness entails a perceptual judgment.13 Images obtained from one event (the past event identified by CE) are referred to (projected upon) a hypothetical new event (occupying one of the possible regions which can be discriminated in the locus presented in PI). This judgment is a spontaneous, forever concealed (S 3f; PR 261, 273) mental act of symbolic reference in which CE and PI are inextricably fused (PR 185, 262f; AI 232, 279).

Insofar as CE is perception of past and therefore actual events, it is not necessarily illusory. One might look to future CE perceptions of PI focal regions to determine whether or how PI is false. But Whitehead’s theory does not allow this because CE is illusory in another way. While it does not involve projection, it does involve transmutation. The primal data in perception (as I explain in the next section) are prehensions of individual occasions. These data are worked in CE, at least by conceptual valuation and perhaps by reversion so as to attribute to macroscopic nexus eternal objects found among or possible for the occasions that belong to the nexus. This commits the fallacy of composition. CE transmutes the internal character of regions in the actual world to obtain the images projected in PI onto contemporary regions, and the transmutation is unconscious (PR 362, 387, 415). Hence, to check PI by CE is to check one copy of a newspaper by another, to check one illusion by another.

The terms in which Whitehead formulates his theory should alert us that something is going awry. Data provided by CE, though partially veridical, are almost completely vague (S 43f, 55; PR 256; MT 98). PI data, though definite enough to be useful evidentially, are almost completely illusory. Whatever the symbolic reference involved, how can the vague correct the illusory, or the illusory, the vague? More precisely, how can we tell from vague data that definite data are illusory, or from illusions what vague data contain? The vagueness of CE allows the philosopher to assume any content that he wishes. Whitehead imagines just the sort needed for projection in PI.

Furthermore, the mental processes which transform veridical data of simple physical prehension into the transmutations of CE and then projections of PI are always operating and always hidden, so anything can be assumed about them without fear of empirical falsification. Illusion is now thought to be omnipresent in definite, conscious perceptual experience -- yet the dichotomy between physical objects and illusions was introduced to express observable differences within the field of conscious perception.

A reconstruction of the perceptual process is required if we believe that conscious perception is illusory. Whitehead’s primary reason for the belief is the transmission theories of causal influence in physics such as those which lead to the Special Theory of Relativity. Thus he defines the contemporary world relative to an occasion as those distant events occurring after the emission and before the return of energy between their locations and that of reference occasion. I shall call this set of events the causal present.

Why must the causal present be identified with the field of events given in perception, the presented present? ‘Whitehead noted in his early theory that perception passes continuously into memory (AE 189f; CN 68). I suggest that we discern the pastness of an event, and classify our apprehension of it as a memory, only when we apprehend a successor to it at the same location. We do not discern its (causal) pastness relative to our own percipient event. What we perceive in the presented present, then, are events on the front surface of the time cone of events in the causal past of actual world. We do infer what events are like in the causal present once physics has taught us to distinguish the causal present from the future, but the sense-awareness component of perception is not an inference. It is the direct disclosure of actual events through some of the eternal objects that are actually ingredient in them. This is what a careful phenomenological inspection of the perceiving process reveals.

Whitehead’s Later Theory: The Ontological Part

Perception grasps some aspects of concrete perceptual objects directly in sense-awareness and other aspects indirectly by perceptual judgment, while letting the objects stand as they are in themselves. The best term for the structure of perception is intentionality. The nearest equivalent of intention in Whitehead’s vocabulary is prehension, but prehension takes on the burdens of an ontological category. Prehensions are involved in all concrete entities in the universe.

At the basis of perception and higher cognitive activities are simple physical prehensions (PR 361f). Whitehead assigns to these the properties which make CE a partially faithful rendering of the actual world (the ordinary objects of CE, however, are transmuted nexus. while simple physical prehensions grasp single actual occasions [PR 353, 361, 375f]). Simple physical prehensions objectify occasions by eternal objects, e.g. green, actually ingredient in them. This may be schematized as p (a,Gb), meaning occasion a prehends b as G. Occasions have an irreducible particularity. Gb and Gc stand for distinct instantiations of the same eternal object and physical prehensions are determined to particular termini (PR 363). Prehensions are also particulars (PR 338), so p (a,Gb) and p (a,Gc) stand for distinct components of a besides, and by virtue of, having distinct termini. Thus physical prehensions have a vectoral character, carrying evidence of their origin (PR 28, 182, 353f, 363). These are the bases for the particularity and sense of causal origin in CE.

Feeling is the subjective form of prehensions (PR 66, 337; AI 227). To perceive a green event is to feel it as green (PR 232f, 249, 353, 356). Whitehead further concludes, by "philosophical generalization,"14 that all actual entities are occasions of experience (SMW 107; 5 87; PR Pt. IV, Ch. VII). When a feels green occasion b, b is also a center of feeling. Since eternal objects are ways occasions form themselves, b is green because it feels greenly (PR 131, 174, 356, 364; AI 314f). But then a not only feels b as green, it feels greenly itself (AI 321f) and precisely because it prehends b and feels its feeling (PR 362, 246f). In so doing, it conforms to or reenacts bs feeling15 (PR 323, 363f, 374f; AI 235).

Again practicing philosophical generalization, Whitehead assimilates efficient causation to physical prehension: b acts on a when a prehends b (SMW 61, 155; PR 91, 327, 336, 361; AI 250f). If there is no action at a distance, a cannot directly prehend distant occasion c, e.g., something green on a hillside. However, we do learn about distant events by perception. Hence, a must prehend c indirectly by prehending contiguous occasion b through one of b’s objectifying eternal objects, P (PR 468), i.e., p (a,Gc) requires p (aPb). Now it would seem that P must be identical with G to mediate the relationship p (a,Gc) for a reenacts c’s feeling by reenacting b’s intervening feeling. Causation/prehension is a flow of feeling (PR 362f, 374).16

Even this does not say enough. For a to prehend c, it must not merely enact the same object as c (there are many green things in the universe that do not prehend each other), but enact it because c feels it. Again, its access to c is through b, so it must prehend b’s prehending of c, i.e. p (a,Gc) requires not just p (aCh) but p (a,p[b.Gc]) (PR 183f, 345).

Many features of this analysis are objectionable. (a) It reverts to the ancient notion that effects must resemble their cause, a notion frequently violated In empirically grounded explanations of modem science and common sense.

(b) The clutter of prehensions and enactments is unimaginable since a vast number of events intervene between the termini a quo and ad quem of perception, viz., events in the physical and physiological media between the perceptual object, sense organ, and percipient event in the brain. Whitehead supposes a to reenact feelings from all the occasions between it and c and have some sense of the distinct origin of each component in its complex prehension. This may not violate type economy (do not multiply types of entities beyond those required to explain the data); but surely some principle of instance economy is also reasonable (do not suppose the occurrence of instances of familiar types where there is not specific evidence). The challenge, then, is to account for the data (here, the phenomena of conscious perception) without Whitehead’s clutter of prehensions.

(c) Whitehead is forced to use the concept of negative prehension lavishly to explain why there is no conscious evidence of the processes he postulates. Suppose, for instance, a prehends Cc via body occasion b -- I see a green object and am conscious of using my eyes. Now a would normally be conscious of b not through G, but through a different eternal object S (I am aware of my eye not as a green object, but through a slight muscle strain). Even if b is G, a is not aware of it. He must have suppressed the prehension of Gb which mediates his prehension of Cc. Even an outside observer, e.g. an oculist, will not see b as C (the eye occasion as green) when he examines it while a is looking at a green object. Nor would the observer expect to see the occasions between hillside and the eye, in the nervous system, or percipient occasion a in the brain as green. Thus, innumerable feeling-greenly’s are negatively prehended and all but one occasion in the sequence through which feeling greenly allegedly flows are objectified under eternal objects different from green. As long as Whitehead is free to appeal to negative prehension to explain why we are not aware of what is occurring, he can assume anything he wishes without danger of empirical falsification.

(d) Whitehead’s positive basis for the doctrine of flow of feeling is generalization from single instances. A number of occasions (ex hypothesis) are involved in a perceptual chain. At one end ‘Whitehead finds himself a percipient occasion with a feeling somehow connected with green; at the other end he sees something green. He generalizes from his own case that all occasions, including that perceived, have feeling. He generalizes from the perceived occasion that all occasions in the chain are green. He constructs the notion of feeling greenly17 and generalizes that this is the relation of feeling to green in all the relevant occasions. All of these generalizations disregard appearances to the contrary on the ad hoc assumption of negative prehension.

(e) Another reason for the doctrine of reenactment of feelings is White-head’s apparent view that data must somehow be taken into the percipient occasion before18 it can be used in the transmutations of CE and projections of PI. But if my arguments for his early theory, and extending it, are correct, these doctrines are unnecessary. They multiply perceptual processes beyond what is necessary to explain the phenomena of perception.

(f) A problem remains of determining the relation between the entities of microphysics and perceptible macroevents. Whitehead solves this problem in his later theory by reconstructing microentities in terms of actual occasions and macroevents as appearances created by transmutations and projections from the data of simple physical prehensions. Whitehead’s early theory has resources in the concept of scientific objects for solving this problem without introducing atomic, actual occasions as a new order of entities or classifying perceptual objects as illusions. However, I do not have space to pursue the topic here.

Whitehead assimilates causation to prehension and accepts the principle that there is usually no action at a distance (SMW 78; PR 180-82, 247, 260). Influence must be transmitted from occasion to contiguous occasion, and perceptual information from distant occasion c reaches a by transmission through intervening occasions such as b. Whitehead does admit the possibility of prehension at a distance (PR 345). Telepathy may be an example (PR 387, 469; AI 318). If we identify the percipient event with a brain occasion, then the immediate sense of causal relations between external objects and sense organs would seem to be another (SMW 215; PR 180; AI 275). Both of these cases are problematic because we may be mistaken about what we sense or there may in fact be a submerged process of transmission. Both cases are rare. Whitehead mentions them, I think, to make the point that the principle of no action at a distance is not metaphysical. It is a scientific principle con-finned for most causal relations in this cosmic epoch (PR 468f). Hence, the theory of ordinary perception must provide for the transmission of sensa/feelings from occasion to contiguous occasion.

Whitehead’s assimilation of causation to prehension is required by external demands from his metaphysic rather than the phenomena of perception. He is truer to these phenomena in his early theory when lie allows perception at a distance. The act of perceiving in the early theory both transcends the whole field of perception and freely ranges across it to disclose profiles and relations of attended events, most of which are at some distance from the percipient. Perception does require causal conditions and the transmission of energy In which there is no action at a distance; but we could not know the active conditions of the ingression of sense-objects into attended events or of the percipient event itself were there no perception at a distance. ‘There is perception at a distance but not action at a distance; so perception is not causation. The doctrine of transmission of energy does not require the doctrine of transmission of sensa or flow of feeling from event to contiguous event. Rather we need to conceive of the intentionality of perception by which a percipient event here discloses a broad perceptual field, discriminating events, objects, and relations there and there and there the particular selection being a function of causal conditions.

Final Remarks

In this paper I have been motivated by a desire to defend the empirical character of epistemology. The analysis of perception should appeal as much as possible to the phenomena of perceiving. My empiricism is a liberal one in that I accept reflective observation or introspection as a form of immediate experience on a par with the outward looking form of sense-awareness which I describe. I also accept theoretic, quasi-scientific constructs, such as that of unconscious perceptual judgment, to supplement the appeal to phenomena when they are necessary to explain differences in forms of perception.

The espousal of an empirical approach to perceiving does not commit one to empiricism in general, though the results of my analysis confirm the reliability and cognitive richness of conscious perception. However, I do not consider other possible forms of experience, e.g. non-introspective, non-perceptual forms of intuition, nor do I consider the possibility that free constructions of the intellect are necessary to learn what can be learned from experience.

I have criticized Whitehead’s practice of philosophical generalization in specific instances where it leads him to evaluate perception as illusory or to explain an illusoriness which he antecedently assumes. However, I do not reject metaphysics as such, nor its use to interpret the results of perception, nor the attempt to subsume perceptual activities and relationships under metaphysical categories. I would only wish to find a metaphysic which does more justice to the plain testimony of the senses.

Whitehead devised his metaphysic to elucidate forms of experience besides perception and to systematize concepts drawn from other sources. My argument has not shown that external considerations are insufficient to require a metaphysical reinterpretation of perceiving along the lines which Whitehead proposes. One would have to present a comprehensive alternative to show that. At best my argument has shown that certain problems can be solved while accepting perception more nearly at face value than Whitehead did in his later theory. ‘These solutions are in harmony with the central theses of his early theory.

 

References

II -- Whitehead, "The Idealistic Interpretation of Einstein’s Theory." Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, n.s. 22 (1921-22), 130-34.

TSM -- Whitehead, "Time, Space, and Material," Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Vol. 2, "Problems of Science and Philosophy" (1919). 44-57.

 

Notes

I Whitehead’s thoughts on perception were continually developing, so any division of his writings obscures some changes within each grouping and continuities across the boundaries. Since my aim is to defend a view dialectically rather than contribute to minutiae of scholarship, I take the liberty of combining his writings into an early group, ending with The Principle of Relativity, and a later group, including everything afterwards. Two reasonably coherent, significantly different theories of perception emerge from these groupings.

2 At this point I extrapolate from Whitehead.

3 "Apprehension" and "recognition" are Whitehead’s terms: "discernment" is mine. Whitehead’s discussion of relations and their discrimination is somewhat fragmentary.

4 The analysis of causal judgments in terms of constant conjunction is, of course, much more complex than I am able to indicate.

5 I assume that ideas are in some sense copied from impressions, but I attribute much more freedom to the imagination and intellect than does Hume.

6 Unobserved sense-objects are not actual ingredients of any event and cannot be part of the perceptual object. Objective dispositions are. They are among the entities we represent in perceptual judgments. Whitehead is not very clear on this point.

7 The claims in this paragraph extend and perhaps diverge somewhat from Whiteheads early views. One has little direct evidence to go on, mainly his discussion of the sixth constant of externality, The Community of Nature (PNK 78f).

8 Called "delusions’ by Whitehead.

9 Or at its surface -- depth perception involves complications which I cannot consider in this paper.

10 I do not have space to criticize all the flaws in Whiteheads later theory, nor explore their sources, nor extol the many insights of this great man.

11 Some of Whitehead’s remarks suggest that he thinks geometrical objects are projected in PI: but it is hard to conceive what they are projected upon, since focal regions and apparent distances are defined by such objects. Other remarks suggest that Whitehead thinks that the geometrical properties of the contemporary world, that is, those revealed as properties of the regions upon which sensa are projected, are directly disclosed in perception: but then one is puzzled as to how we can veridically perceive geometrical figures at a distance or distances themselves, yet must project sensa. The issue of interpretation is too complex to discuss here. It requires a careful evaluation of Whiteheads theory of strain feelings and projectors (PR Pt. IV, Ch. II and Ill). I shall assume that the first interpretation is correct and geometrical objects are projected.

12 1 am ignoring the percipient’s use in CE of eternal objects gained by conceptual reversion, which makes it even more illusory as a disclosure of the actual world.

13 Whitehead does not use the term judgment at this point, but see S 50; PR 100, 260, 267; MT 181 for various summaries of PI in which its judgmental character emerges.

14 ". . . the utilization of specific notions, applying to a restricted group of facts, for the divination of generic notions which apply to all facts." (PR 8).

15 That is, when subsequent internal phases of a do not dismiss the feeling from its final satisfaction, the phase at which to feel greenly truly means to be green. Presumably media events must feel greenly in their final satisfaction if prehension of them by the percipient is to give him information about the original event consciously perceived as green.

16 A further ground for the doctrine of reenactment lies in Whitehead’s rejection of the concept of substance and assimilation of endurance to causation and thus prehension. As entity is permanently qualified by property G if it is composed of successive events e. f. g. . . . . each of which reenacts G by physically prehending its predecessor,

17 This notion is presumably familiar (the feeling is me) but not at all clear. I am conscious of having feelings about green: but these vary according to how many green walls have enclosed me, my associations with the forest, how much lettuce I have eaten, etc. That each experience of green has a feeling tone, I am somewhat doubtingly prepared to concede. That it is always the same feeling and a different one from the feeling tones of other colors, I do not clearly experience.

18 Chronologically? Logically? Whitehead’s doctrine of the internal phases of the actual occasion is very obscure. The doctrine also appears to be another example of philosophical over-construction and over-generalization. Whitehead brings together various mental activities which may be reflectively observed on separate occasions. He constructs the concept of a single occasion performing these acts. He then generalizes that all occasions pass through at least a rudimentary form of each phase. He then must suppose additional negative prehensions to explain why most occasions do not detect these phases in themselves, nor do outside observers.


Viewed 8400 times.