Unearthing the Unknown Whitehead argues that it is Alfred North Whitehead’s recently published Harvard lectures, and not his books, that contain the truest record of the development of his philosophy, including the false starts and dead ends that the published works obscure. This development could previously only be inferred as taking place in the gaps between books. It thus calls for a complete reconsideration of Whitehead’s philosophical corpus. Joseph Petek critically evaluates the accuracy and reliability of the student accounts of Whitehead’s recently published Harvard lectures and then examines these notes, along with a number of previously unknown essays, in order to trace previously unknown aspects of Whitehead’s philosophy and the development of his thought. Additionally, neglected early letters between Whitehead and Bertrand Russell appear to reveal a precise point at which he began transitioning from his long career in mathematics to a new career in philosophy. Two previously undiscovered essays—“Religious Psychology of the Western Peoples” and “Freedom and Order”—display Whitehead’s concern for a creeping hyper-nationalism that is intensely relevant in today’s political climate, along with terminological experiments that stretch our conceptions of Whitehead’s philosophy in new directions.
Joseph Petek is chief archivist of the Whitehead Research Project.
Chapter 1. The Gospels According to Whitehead’s Students
Chapter 2. Whitehead’s Lectures as Book Drafts
Chapter 3. Muddle-Headedness versus Simple-Mindedness, Round 2
Chapter 4. Conciliating Privacy and Socialism
Chapter 5. Religion and Hatred
Chapter 6. Redefining Wit and Humor
Chapter 7. Whitehead’s Other Dialogues
Chapter 8. Conclusion: Footnotes to Whitehead
Having long labored in the mines of the Critical Edition of Whitehead, no one is more knowledgeable about the gems unearthed in the undertaking than Petek. Written in a clear and direct style, this volume marks an important new stage in contemporary Whitehead studies informed by the careful study of these previously unpublished works. Unearthing the Unknown Whitehead is necessary reading for serious Whitehead scholars.
Joseph Petek’s Unearthing the Unknown Whitehead is a meticulous study of aspects of the workshop of Whitehead’s thought, its coming to be, as it were, steeped in intense historical research that has produced new documents and enriched our understanding of Whitehead's wide-reaching correspondences and influences. The result is unique in its character and has opened new venues for the appreciation of the complex ways in which Whitehead's thought was developed in conversation with historical and contemporary figures. Not to be missed!
Petek's book is essential reading for anyone interested in the Whitehead Critical Edition project. The author helps one to understand the possible importance of the two volumes of Harvard Lectures published thus far, as well as the significance of some previously unpublished lectures and letters by Whitehead. Both methodological and substantive questions are treated with great care, such that the relationship between Whitehead's early career and later, explicitly philosophical career are illuminated in ways that were previously impossible.