While Alfred North Whitehead did not dedicate any books or articles to aesthetics specifically, aesthetic motifs permeate his entire philosophical opus. Despite this, aestheticians have devoted little attention to Whitehead; most attempts to reconstruct Whitehead’s aesthetics have come from process philosophers, and even in that context aesthetics has never occupied a central position. In this book, four scholars of aesthetics provide another angle from which Whiteheadian aesthetics might be reconstructed. Paying special attention to the notion of aesthetic experience, the authors analyze abstraction versus concreteness, immediacy vs. mediation, and aesthetic contextualism vs. aesthetic isolationism. For their interpretation of Whiteheadian aesthetics, the concepts of creativity and rhythm are crucial. Using these concepts, the book interprets the motif of the processes by which experience is harmonized, the sensation of the quality of the whole, and directedness towards novelty.
The first chapter introduces Whitehead’s philosophical method of descriptive generalization. This method assumes that every philosophical system is based on a particular entry point. We show that for Whitehead this entry point was aesthetics. Chapter Two compares Whitehead and Dewey’s philosophies to show that both viewed aesthetic experience in terms of complex rhythms; this helps us better understand the differences and the continuities between everyday experience and art. Chapter Three compares Whitehead’s ideas with those of Henri Bergson, showing the way art reveals the form of immediate experience and how the aesthetic experience of art relates to truth. The final chapter details the processes that constitute aesthetic experience in a narrower sense, analyzing aesthetic experience from the perspective of the types of abstractive processes it involves and the complex types of experience it produces.