Whitehead and Heidegger — Beyond Objectivity

The creativity of the world is the throbbing emotion of the past hurling itself into a new transcendent fact. It is the flying dart, of which Lucretius speaks, hurled beyond the bounds of the world.

Here we’re talking A. N. Whitehead’s “Objects and Subjects” (1931, in Adventures of Ideas [New York, NY: MacMillan, 1933] 177-92, ch. 11), an excellent introduction to his somewhat non-intuitive theory of the role of “intuition” in experience. [See my edit Whitehead – Objects and Subjects (Annotated).]

(Cf. Bergson on intellect as “cinematographical” [Creative Evolution 322-23] — static, i.e., taking “snapshots” of states of “reality” — and intuition as “creative” — dynamic, in “sympathy” with “life” “making itself” [CI 362-63].)

Whitehead’s insistence on the fundamentally “affective tone” of experience — and the parasitic nature of subjectivity — mirrors Heidegger.

[Western philosophy’s “appeal to clarity and distinction”] presupposes that the subject-object relation is the fundamental structural pattern of experience. I agree with this presupposition, but not in the sense in which subject-object is identified with knower-known. I contend that the notion of mere knowledge is a high abstraction, and that conscious discrimination itself is [177]
 a variable factor only present in the more elaborate examples of occasions of experience. The basis of experience is emotional. Stated more generally, the basic fact is the rise of an affective tone originating from things whose relevance is given.

For Heidegger on affect, see “Being there [Da-sein] as State-of-Mind [Befindlichkeit],” Being and Time, trans. Macquarrie and Robinson (London: Wiley-Blackwell, 1962) 172-79 (sec. 29; 1.5: “The Existential Constitution of the ‘There'”):

A mood makes manifest “how one is, and how ones is faring” [“wie einem ist und wird”]. In this “how one is,” having a mood brings Being to its ‘there.’ (173)

For Heidegger on subjectivity, see BT 86-90 (sec. 13; 1.2: “A founded mode in which Being-in is exemplified. Knowing the world”). He makes much more of the subject-object relation in his later more developed critique of metaphysics. See, amongst other places,

  1. “Overcoming Metaphysics” [1936/46] (orig. “Überwindung der Metaphysik,” Vortrage und Aufsätze [Pfüllingen: Neske, 1954]), trans. Joan Stambaugh, The End of Philosophy (New York, NY: Harper and Row, 1973) 84-110 [pdf]. Also in The Heidegger Controversy: A Critical Reader, ed. Richard Wolin (Cambridge, MA: MIT P, 1993) 67-90.
  2. “Introduction to ‘What is Metaphysics?'” [1949], trans. Walter Kaufmann, Pathmarks, ed. T. E. Klein and W. E. Pohl (Cambridge, UK: CUP, 1998) 277-90.


N.B. On Gilles Deleuze’s debt to Whitehead, see Steven Shaviro, “Deleuze’s Encounter with Whitehead,” shaviro.com, 19 May 2007, http://www.shaviro.com/Othertexts/DeleuzeWhitehead.pdf.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s