Aesthetics in the Philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead
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Alfred North Whitehead published no book or article strictly on aesthetics. Nonetheless, in his philosophical writings he mentions several times that aesthetic experience is the key to his metaphysics. In fundamental places of his philosophical system, moreover, he uses expressions like 'aesthetic experience', 'aesthetic fact', 'aesthetic unity', and 'aesthetic order'. These expressions do not, however, refer to human conscious experience alone, but to all entities of the universe. That has led some scholars to the conviction that these terms are used in a purely technical sense and therefore do not refer to the sphere of aesthetics. The author of the current article seeks to demonstrate that these terms do refer to the sphere of aesthetics. The argument set out here consists in three steps. In the first, the author presents Whitehead's philosophical method of imaginative generalization. In the second step, the author presents the fundamental ontological unit (the actual occasion) of Whitehead's philosophy, and points out that Whitehead describes it using aesthetic terms that are employed in a broad sense. In the third step the author presents Whitehead's view of aesthetic understanding. At the end of the article, it is demonstrated that although Whitehead did not develop his analysis of aesthetic understanding into a consistent theory, it forms the background to all his metaphysical books.
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