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Alfred North Whitehead Quotes


Alfred North Whitehead
  • Mini Bio
  • Name: Alfred North Whitehead
  • Born: 15th February 1861, Ramsgate, England
  • Died: 30th December 1947, Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.
  • Alma mater: Trinity College, Cambridge
  • Occupation: Philosopher and mathematician
  • Era: 20th century philosophy
  • Region: Western philosophy
  • Marriage resume: Evelyn Wade 1890 - 1947 (his death)
  • Influenced by: Aristotle, Bertrand Russell, David Hume, Francis Herbert Bradley, George Santayanav Gregory Bateson, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Henri Bergson, Immanuel Kant, Isaac Newton, John Dewey, John Locke, Plato and William James
  • Inspired: Conrad Hal Waddington, David Bohm, Donald Davidson, Eric Voegelin, Ervin László, Gilles Deleuze, Ilya Prigogine, James Luther Adams, John Lighton Synge, Jules Vuillemin, Ken Wilber, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Michel Weber, Milič Čapek, Sewall Wright, Susanne Langer, Talcott Parsons, Wilfred Eade Agar and Wolfgang Smith
  • Trivia: Following on from his 1925 book "Science and the Modern World" he penned the more comprehensive "Process and Reality" in 1929 that expanded on the process philosophy theories that he pioneered
  • Scroll down for full bio

"Knowledge shrinks as wisdom grows"

Alfred North Whitehead

"It takes an extraordinary intelligence to contemplate the obvious"

Alfred North Whitehead

"The art of progress is to preserve order amid change and to preserve change amid order"

Alfred North Whitehead

"Not ignorance, but ignorance of ignorance, is the death of knowledge"

Alfred North Whitehead

"When you're average, you're just as close to the bottom as you are the top"

Alfred North Whitehead

"We think in generalities, but we live in detail"

Alfred North Whitehead

"Ideas won't keep. Something must be done about them"

Alfred North Whitehead

"Philosophy is the product of wonder"

Alfred North Whitehead

"The pursuit of mathematics is a divine madness of the human spirit"

Alfred North Whitehead

"How the past perishes is how the future becomes"

Alfred North Whitehead

"Great people plant trees they'll never sit under"

Alfred North Whitehead

"Religion is the last refuge of human savagery"

Alfred North Whitehead

"The chief danger to philosophy is narrowness in the selection of evidence"

Alfred North Whitehead

"One side makes process ultimate; the other side makes fact ultimate"

Alfred North Whitehead

"Education is the acquisition of the art of the utilisation of knowledge"

Alfred North Whitehead

"Every human being is the natural guardian of his own importance"

Alfred North Whitehead

"Rationalism is an adventure in the clarification of thought"

Alfred North Whitehead

"The chief error in philosophy is overstatement"

Alfred North Whitehead

"It is the business of the future to be dangerous"

Alfred North Whitehead

"Error is the price we pay for progress"

Alfred North Whitehead
Below Quotes About Alfred North Whitehead:
The French philosopher Gilles Deleuze described him thus:

"He stands provisionally as the last great Anglo-American philosopher before Wittgenstein's disciples spread their misty confusion, sufficiency, and terror"

The philosopher Bertrand Russell recognised his contribution to academia:

"As a teacher I regard Whitehead as perfect"

The historian Carl Lotus Becker said:

"Professor Whitehead has recently restored a seventeenth century phrase "climate of opinion." The phrase is much needed"

French anthropologist Bruno Latour was impressed to call him:

"The greatest philosopher of the 20th century"


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Alfred North Whitehead Biography

Michael Joseph Farrelly Bio By: Michael Joseph Farrelly

Alfred North Whitehead was an academic legend who bridged the gap between mathematics and philosophy and inspired generations of scientists and philosophers with his work. He taught mathematics for a quarter of a century at Cambridge university and for thirteen years at Harvard University as a professor of philosophy until his retirement in 1937.

His influence cut deep through both these institutes of higher education as many different aspects of his work were taken up by his students and developed into their own individual theories. Mathematical physicists such as Arthur Eddington, Edmund Whittaker and James Jeans all cited Whitehead as a major influence yet paradoxically they went on to success by discarding much of his work which they deemed anachronistic.



Whitehead's legacy lays as the principle architect of the line of thought known as process philosophy which he covered in his 1925 book "Science and the Modern World". His most well known work was a collaboration with another of his former students Bertrand Russell whereby they published "Principia Mathematica" in 3 volumes between 1910 and 1915. Russell went on to a philosophical career that eclipsed his mentor but yet he was full of praise for his former tutor as he described Alfred North Whitehead teaching methods glowingly: "He would elicit from a pupil the best of which a pupil was capable.

He was never repressive, or sarcastic, or superior, or any of the things that inferior teachers like to be. I think that in all the abler young men with whom he came in contact he inspired, as he did in me, a very real and lasting affection". The U.S. supreme court judge Felix Frankfurter was equally impressed as he was quoted as saying: "From knowledge gained through the years of the personalities who in our day have affected American university life, I have for some time been convinced that no single figure has had such a pervasive influence as Professor Alfred North Whitehead".

Another former pupil that full of praise for her teacher was Susanne Langer who went to the extreme of dedicated her 1942 book "Philosophy in a New Key" to Whitehead such was the high regard she had for him. He was not just an inspiration to generations of university students as his philosophical thought process meant he was good for a one liner also, so here is my compilation of 20 of the best Alfred North Whitehead quotes

Alfred North Whitehead image quote