The Event Universe

The Revisionary Metaphysics of Alfred North Whitehead

Leemon B. McHenry

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Argues that events, not substances, are the fundamental units of reality

What kinds of things are events? Battles, explosions, accidents, crashes, rock concerts would be typical examples of events and these would be reinforced in the way we speak about the world. Philosophers following Aristotle have claimed that events are dependent on substances such as physical objects and persons. But with the advances of modern physics, some philosophers and physicists have argued that events are the basic entities of reality and what we perceive as physical bodies are just very long events spread out in space-time. In other words, everything turns out to be events. This view, no doubt, radically revises our ordinary common sense view of reality, but as our event theorists argue, common sense is out of touch with advancing science.

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1. Introduction
2. Descriptive Metaphysics
3. The Influence of Modern Physics
4. The Revisionary Theory of Events
5. The Theory of Extension
6. The Problem of Time
7. Philosophical Implications

This clear and cogent book should prove worthwhile to philosophers interested in metaphysics, the theory of events, the philosophy of time, Whitehead studies, the philosophy of physics and/or the history of philosophy. Provocative questions explored in it include: Why should we study Whitehead? Why should we accept an event ontology?

John W. Lango, Hunter College of the City University of New York

The explanatory power of event ontology is clearly demonstrated here in ways that go well beyond arguments provided by both Whitehead and Russell. McHenry accomplishes well this critically important goal through sound philosophical analysis and contemporary science results, especially that of modern physics.

Timothy Eastman, Plasmas International Consulting

Overall, McHenry’s work truly represents a rehabilitation of White-head’s event metaphysics in a threefold sense. First, it rehabilitates Whitehead’s event metaphysics in itself because McHenry’s account explains it in a compelling and comprehensible way, including some of its most difficult and complex points. Second, it rehabilitates Whitehead’s event metaphysics with reference to philosophy in general, and analytic philosophy in particular, because it lays the foundations for a comparison of the two. Finally, it rehabilitates Whitehead’s metaphysics with reference to science because it shows several points of influence, dialogue, and inter-connection that it has in relation to recent and contemporary findings in physics and cosmology.

Maria Regina Brioschi, Università degli Studi di Milano, Process Studies

For discussions of the interface of science, religion, and philosophy, a more stimulating book is hard to find. Summing Up: Essential.

F. J. Hoffman, West Chester University of Pennsylvania, Choice

Don't be fooled by the slender dimensions of this volume. McHenry is attempting, fallibly if not immodestly, nothing less than "a general theory of the world"…

One of the valuable contributions of McHenry's book is that it serves as a response to the consistently ignorant statements of some theoretical physicists regarding the irrelevance of philosophy. Steven Weinberg, Stephen Hawking, Neil deGrasse Tyson and others would do well to take to heart McHenry's claim that "Physics without speculation is sterile."… I can think of no better way to conclude this review than to quote from Quine's own 1995 letter regarding McHenry's proposal for the present project: "The ambitious project which he now envisages is of precisely the sort that I like to picture as the next flowering of philosophy and science: a merging of rigorous, logically sophisticated methodology and ontology with the physicists' findings and quandaries in cosmology and quantum mechanics" (ix). There is ample reason to believe that this volume merits Quine's praise.

Brian G. Henning, Gonzaga University, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

McHenry’s The Event Universe is surely a book worth reading, philosophically significant and scientifically relevant.

Štefan Zolcer, Comenius University, Metascience

This is a work of exceptional scope and erudition. McHenry writes clearly and comprehensively, in a manner that should enable a great many more readers to engage closely with the most fundamental and perplexing challenges of contemporary physical and philosophical cosmology.

George Lucas, U.S. Naval Academy, The Review of Metaphysics
Leemon McHenry is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at California State University, Northridge.

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