Occasions: Judith Butler, Alfred North Whitehead

The Whitehead Research Project released a new volume in its book series on Contemporary Whitehead Studies.  This anthology develops a creative contrast between Whitehead and a philosopher rarely if ever associated with Whitehead: Judith Butler.  It features a couple essays from Roland Faber and a couple from Catherine Keller: two of the most interesting and important Whitehead scholars alive today. 

The book, Butler and Whitehead: On the Occasion, is based on a conference that happened a few years ago at Claremont Graduate University (in Claremont, California).  Audio of Butler’s presentation of her paper, “On this Occasion,” can be found HERE.

Whitehead’s philosophy is at its most relevant and effective when situated in dialogue with contemporary thinkers, so I’m quite happy about this new book and about all of the various efforts of the Whitehead Research Project to bring Whitehead into poststructuralist, queer, and ecological milieus.   

Butler: Let’s face it.  We’re undone by each other.  And if we’re not, we’re missing something. (Precarious Life) 
Whitehead: In this way immediacy of finite existence refuses to be deprived of that infinitude of extension which is its perspective. (Modes of Thought)

4 thoughts on “Occasions: Judith Butler, Alfred North Whitehead

  1. Great quote from Whitehead. I also love the part that comes just before: “We require to understand how each immediately present existence requires its past, antecedent to itself; and requires its future, an essential factor in its own existence. There are thus three factors within immediate existence—namely, past, present, and future. In this way immediacy of finite existence refuses to be deprived of that infinitude of extension which is its perspective.” If you read that a few times and then take a slow, deep breath, it feels great.
    Thanks also for the reminder that the Whitehead-Butler book was out—I just ordered it—hopefully your thoughts on it will end up in your blog at some point.
    Speaking of “the infinitude of extension which is its perspective,” I feel this also describes your blog (which I’ve only recently discovered).

  2. Thanks for your comment Dave. I appreciate you elaborating on the context of that quote. I really like your suggestion for reading the passage with some deep breathing. That’s surely the best way to read great writing like Whitehead’s. I’ll definitely have more to say on the Butler-Whitehead connection later. Cheers.

  3. And again with the beauty. Only thinkers such as these could bare so many gifts. The gift is the relation. The unbounded territory between bold metaphysics and refining critical theory. I like the juxtaposition of the feminine and masculine as well; it is a difference or that space-between which always seems so creative. Clearly our “becoming integral” has a home here. I have always been running between these camps – stealing secrets. Its nice to know thinkers attentive to their value-together are flourishing.

    1. Speaking of stealing secrets, you should check out the anthology, Secrets of Becoming: Negotiating Whitehead, Deleuze, and Butler. It’s along very similar lines. Lots of secrets.

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