An energetic interpretation of Whitehead's actual entity

Peter Tagore Tan, Fordham University


This dissertation is meant to interpret Whitehead's basic unit of ontology in energetic terms. The actual entity is to be understood as an oscillating unit of existence that is nothing other than its oscillatory activity. There is nothing substantial underlying it: it is essentially a vibrating entity that has nothing more primary appended to it. Through such vibratory activity, it realizes itself out of its own conative drive and its deeply interrelated adventures with other entities and objects. Energizing actuality makes such entities objectively stubborn, subjectively agentive, massively interrelated to others, and entirely aesthetic in constitution. There are two main ways to analyze this metaphysical energy. This is mirrored by Whitehead's twofold analysis of actuality from the genetic and coordinate perspectives, which itself is an adaptation of James's Pragmatic analysis of experience. The quantum oscillation model of atomicity perfectly matches Whitehead's genetic analysis, and thus the phases of actuality, the poles of existence, and the formation of an atomic unit, are all developed in oscillatory terms. Conversely there is the coordinate analysis, where issues of ontological rhythmicity, identity via agentive repetition, unification via cyclical patternings, and coeval concrescence among entities will be dealt with according to the principles of wave transmission. Each analysis develops important characteristics of actuality, but neither analysis on its own can capture the totality of what actuality is. For such a generic interpretation to occur, unification between the genetic and the coordinate analyses must take place. The energy thesis accomplishes this by adopting the language of energy fields. The actual entity is a field of energy that is both the center of agentive activity that defines the field, and the center of attention of other entities. Whitehead calls this ontologically agentive attention ‘concern,’ a term that allows Whitehead to be closely compared to Heidegger, whose existential analysis of Dasein will be used to further develop the character of actuality. The aesthetic core of Whiteheadian ontology will be developed by comparing it to Dewey's aesthetic theory of consummatory experience. Together, a fully concerned and consummatory actual entity will stand as the most generic rendering of actuality.

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Recommended Citation

Tan, Peter Tagore, "An energetic interpretation of Whitehead's actual entity" (2002). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3045137.