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In Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) we meet a philosopher who was born an Englishman and died an American, and whose thought combined the major recent philosophical contributions of both countries in a radically new and startling metaphysical synthesis. Unlike both Dewey and Russell, he sees in philosophy neither the individual nor the social creation of meaning, but rather adventurous exploration in the discovery of meaning. His approach, like Russell's, is individualistic and, like Dewey's, total rather than partial or limited. He drew both on the English analytical interest in psychology and sociology, while at the same time maintaining his own concern for the latest scientific developments. But, in contradistinction to the interest of Russell and Dewey in method, his philosophy was continually metaphysical. [excerpt]

Additional Resources

An excerpt from Whitehead's book, Modes of Thought, has been removed due to copyright restriction. A later edition of his book is available here.


This is a part of Section XXII: Philosophical Meaning. The Contemporary Civilization page lists all additional sections of Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, as well as the Table of Contents for both volumes.

More About Contemporary Civilization:

From 1947 through 1969, all first-year Gettysburg College students took a two-semester course called Contemporary Civilization. The course was developed at President Henry W.A. Hanson’s request with the goal of “introducing the student to the backgrounds of contemporary social problems through the major concepts, ideals, hopes and motivations of western culture since the Middle Ages.”

Gettysburg College professors from the history, philosophy, and religion departments developed a textbook for the course. The first edition, published in 1955, was called An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization and Its Problems. A second edition, retitled Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, was published in 1958 and 1960. It is this second edition that we include here. The copy we digitized is from the Gary T. Hawbaker ’66 Collection and the marginalia are his.