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Speculative Empiricism

Revisiting Whitehead

Didier Debaise
Translated by Tomas Joseph Weber
Preface by Isabelle Stengers

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A radically new philosophy of experience and speculation, based on a reading of Whitehead’s Process and Reality

Can experience be thought systematically without transforming the richness of the world as it is lived into reductive philosophical generalities? Can the method of empiricism ever be reconciled with a method of systematic cosmological speculation?
Didier Debaise’s reading of Whitehead shows clearly what a philosophy that makes this possible looks like, how it works and what is at stake. He focuses in on Whitehead’s attempt to construct a metaphysical system of everything in the universe that exists whilst simultaneously claiming that it can account for every element of our experience: everything enjoyed and perceived, willed or thought.


Translator’s Preface
Preface by Isabelle Stengers

Part I: Speculative Philosophy: Method And Function
What is Speculative Philosophy?
Creativity as Ultimate Principle
Actualising Creativity

Part II: The Speculative Approach To Existence: Process and Individuation
What is a Process of Individuation?
What is the Subject?
Realisation of Self and Power
Pure Potentiality and Actuality
Temporal Dimensions of Actual Entities

Part III: Experiences And Societies: Thinking Nature
A Universe of Societies
The Mode of Existence of Societies
Nature and Societies

Conclusion: What is Speculative Empiricism?
Works Cited

About the Author

Didier Debaise is Director of the Centre for Research in Philosophy at the Free University of Brussels.


In Speculative Empiricism, Didier Debaise expertly guides the reader on a remarkable voyage through Whitehead's metaphysical masterpiece, Process and Reality. The juxtaposition of the two title words sets the agenda, giving notice from the start that we will be heading into unexpected territory. Here, speculation will become a matter of experience, and experience, reciprocally, will be imbued with the futurity of potential. The result is a novel pragmatics of becoming which Debaise maps with unerring lucidity and precision, providing both an introduction to key Whiteheadian concepts and a major contribution to the scholarship that will be of equal interest to specialists.

- Brian Massumi, University of Montreal

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