Cosmological and Urban Spaces

There is not much said about urban process in the writings of Alfred North Whitehead. The lengthiest discussion occurs in Adventures of Ideas where he ponders the future of cities in an age where their primary reason for being—the need for human proximity—appears to be vanishing. His response is to stress the need for foresight that mixes creative thinking with “unflinching rationality.”[1] In Science and the Modern World, he laments the defacing of the Thames’ estuary by the thoughtless placement of the Charing Cross railway bridge. This concluding chapter is famous for Whitehead’s prophetic call for modern civilization’s need for deeper aesthetic education.[2]

1. Metageometry and Human Feelings

More than such scattered insights is required, however, if a scientifically valid and experientially rich theory of urban life is to be constructed. We find such resources in the theory of perception and its connection with geometric projections in Symbolism: its Meaning and Effect and in Part IV of Process and Reality.[3] The basic issue facing any process theory of urban life is the question of the transfer of emotions through complex regions of space-time. The human being dwells amid an immense expanse of built and natural environments that throb with felt values. The complexity of such environments appears to reach its peak in urban centers. Whitehead’s theory of the world as a medium for the transmission of feelings is precisely the doctrine needed to make sense of the bewildering array of feelings felt within any urban space. What happens in any space-time region is that the human body feels itself entwined within lines of transmission that are both projected outward from the body and experience within the body through “strain feelings.” The coordination of both routes—those projected outwards and those felt inward—is due both to the extensively divisible space-time continuum marked out by sense data derived from perception in the mode of presentational immediacy and to the transmission of feelings felt in the mode of causal efficacy and transmitted along routes provided by the bodily organs. Thus the present stands out in its immediacy and the past is felt as efficacious in the becoming of the specified space-time region. The human being dwells in a “seat” of projected geometric lines of coordination transmitted through the “strain feelings” experienced as part of the body’s immersion in endlessly changing situations. Ron Cooper provides a clear account of what happens to the human being in process space-time:

What is important is that the actual occasions [read human being] within a focal region are spatially related in terms of Whitehead’s special sense of straight lines (and “flat loci”). These straight lines and other structures in this metageometry are not just formal features of an abstract mathematics—they are spatial structures experienced by actual occasions. A physical prehension of a straight line is called a “strain.” Strains are not separate feelings, though; they are passed along with physical feelings of the appropriations of the past. By the vector character of feelings, what is there is felt here. By the strain-feelings that are part of these vector feelings, what is there is felt as coming from some particular direction relative to the spatial standpoint of the experiencer (1993, 121).

The experiencer’s standpoint is a “seat” of intersecting lines. The straight lines felt in strains delineate “a region of dense concurrence of straight lines defined by the “seat” (PR 312). Although the lines that define these regions are structures already (potentially) in the extensive continuum, the perception of a region by an actual occasion actualizes and projects these structures onto a presented locus. Through strain feelings, the actual occasion “lifts into importance the complete lines, planes, and three-dimensional flats, which are defined by the seat of the strain” (PR, 310).

This argument can be summarized as follows. The human body feels through its organs the strains experienced when it perceives a presented locus comprising a contemporary nexus. Due to the “withness of the human body,” a “seat” is established within which converging space-time lines can take on deeply felt concrete experiential values. Urban regions rich in vector and scalar values transmit forces that the human body feels with rich emotional tones due to their amplification through various regions of the human body.

These preliminary concepts, together with the doctrine of symbolic reference as the mixed mode of perception most important in human experience, make possible a sophisticated analysis of the felt tones of urban regions. This is what I have tried to do in my book The City: An Urban Cosmology (1999). The rest of this essay is given over to presenting the main discoveries of that work.

2. Cosmological Method and the Categoreal Scheme

My own attempt to apply Whitehead’s process philosophy to urban environments consists of the creation of a set of categories designed to capture what is most salient in the city. The categories are “vague” in Peirce’s sense of that term; that is, they are neither general nor universal but rather require additional empirical application if their full meaning is to be understood. Thus I can say there will be sports on TV this afternoon, but to be fully objective I would have to specify that it was baseball. This is why Peirce’s “Logically Vague” is also often called the “Objectively Vague.” This way of using categories defends cosmology from the charge of hegemonic Western universalizing or the Heideggerian “sin” of “the metaphysics of the present.”[4] These categories are derived in part from Whitehead’s speculative scheme but are mainly due to my own attempt to create a way of looking at urban environments that captures what is fundamental to their processive quality.[5] The categories are Inscape, Contrast, Pattern and Transmission. Each specifies a different process that dominates urban space-time experience.

Inscape: This category is derived from the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins who in turn derived it from the medieval philosopher Duns Scotus who used the term, haeccitas, to express the unique singularity of every actual event in the universe. Both words highlight the way in which process metaphysics must keep ever in mind the creativity that pushes the world (including urban regions) into unceasing advances into novelty. Inscape also translates the Buddhist tathagata (suchness) and the Chinese ziran (so of itself). There is a global aspect to this expression that calls attention to the absolutely singular in our experience. In effect inscape tries to concretely capture the meaning of Whitehead’s subjective and subjective form. Its link to landscape is deliberate, as it expresses for Hopkins as well as this writer what goes on within the concrete reality of experiential process.

Pattern: This category refers to the ways in which large-scale unities of relations come together to form the actual entities that make up our urban environments. Patterns are the equivalent of what Whitehead terms a nexus or society.

Contrasts: This category expresses the way in which events normally quite distinct can be put together into causally effective unities that have immense influences in environmental regions. Especially important in this regard is the emergence of consciousness which is grounded in the contrast held between the ideal and the actual as felt by the human mind. This affirmation-negation contrast holds the key to the intensity expressed by most urban patterns.

Transmission: This category marks the many ways in which values are transferred around urban environments. What is created here is felt over there. The vector character of feelings is a paramount way in which zones of importance come to be and extend their importance throughout city life. Also the human body as the amplifier of these values is the key receiver and transmitter of the moods and feelings that express themselves in city life.

The great invisible backdrop against which city experience is felt is space and time. Thus the primary analysis of urban experience concentrates on these all-important dimensions. Space is open in the sense that is an extensive continuum that can be populated by any number of forms without losing its elasticity. The inscape of urban space has three important characteristics—sited directionality, access and habitat. The interlocking matrix of spatial forms establishes both marked places and directional signs. Both qualities, the directional and the sited, establish modes of access for the city dweller. These openings to experiences are crucial if the city is to have both open and closed regions of value. The open and the closed establish shelters for meaning to emerge and without meaning cities turn into vast wastelands despite their seeming majesty. These shelters for meaning are what make up the inscape of habitat. Thus the three qualities of sited directionality, access and habitat weave together the primary inscape of urban space.

The patterns of urban space are the vertical, the horizontal and the ambient. The vertical and the horizontal are quite evident in the contemporary city with its looming buildings and the straight geometry of its street patterns. Both patterns are not sufficient to give a city depth of feeling. This is provided by the ambient patterns that one can find in cities if one looks hard enough. I am referring to those spatial regions that provide relief from the starkness of the horizontal and the vertical. They are characterized by a certain tone of aroundness that escapes full visual perception. We are bathed in a spatial environment that brims with rich but dim feelings of importance. Curved, spherical and circular spatial regions provide this surrounding quality so vital for a sense of intimacy with one’s environment.

The inscape of urban time is epochal in Whitehead’s special sense of the term. By epochal he means the fact that authentic time comes all-at-once or not at all. It is a unitary, seamless drop of experience that cannot be divided into any smaller units.[6] Each such epoch is also unique and therefore discontinuous from its successors. These qualities account for a phenomenon often felt by city dwellers; viz., that there are many differently felt types of time. In the city there is time that “flies,” time that “drags” and many other kinds of time. Each of these kinds of time is due to the real felt presence of epochal time within our bodies.

The patterns of urban time are past, present and future. Time past is registered through the history of cities that have preserved significant symbols of their past either by way of buildings, monuments or other signs of their continuity with what has been. Time past gives a city an historical weight that is indispensable if its citizens are to feel the real presence of their accomplishments and in so doing have a sense of the importance of preservation. In urban experience time future feels like a concept. It expresses a sense of what can be and what is coming. Living cities abound with witnesses to time future. Cities are always in the process of perishing and becoming. We are surrounded with that which is being torn down and that which is in the process of becoming. Time present harbors a unique potential to draw both time past and time future together into a singular experiential embrace. Without these moments of exceptionally rich experience present time in the city would slide along in an empty succession of ever more thin moments. Unbearable boredom would result. These acts of full individual temporality are the outcome of the third category, contrast. What occurs is that time past and time future are held together in a unique pattern that results in an exceptional expression of individuality. The presence of the past and the future are sufficiently intense that the emergent present must make room for their value in its own expressive present. When this happens remarkable depth of feeling results. It is actually the moment when space and time fuse together so as to create urban place.

3. Urban Place: The Matrix of Expressed City Values

It is the category of contrast that allows us to understand the power of urban place. The achievements of the past and the call of the future fuse with time present and the ordinary ephemeral nature of urban time thickens so that the striking individuality of a determinate urban place stands forth with great intensity of expression. One can speculate that such places harbor exemplars of epochal time in the sense that the contrast creates a unification of time past and time future in the present, while the spatial component of the occasions of urban experience are enlarged so as to accommodate such a habitat of profound meaning. Such places need not be monumental expressions of great events in urban history. Every child raised in a city knows of such places and has cherished memories that form part of their character.

What are the inscapes, patterns and contrasts that make them so powerful? In order to answer this question there is need for a discussion of what I term “Normative Thinking.”[7] This way of thinking makes valuation, appreciation and the use of norms and standards primary as modes of thinking. To judge is to know why something is a good way to be. It received its first exposition in Plato’s declaration of a proportional relationship between reality, goodness and intelligibility. That doctrine maintains that the more real something is the more goodness it expresses and the more intelligibility it displays.[8] The doctrine finds greater elaboration in the process philosophy of Whitehead and pragmatic philosophers such as Peirce and Dewey.

Normative thinking is avowedly speculative. This is entirely in accord with Whitehead’s concept of philosophy as a systematic speculative endeavor to be tested in actual experience. The proof of the value of the norms is found in their capacity to provide depth of understanding and synoptic vision. The norms are to be coherent and applicable to the matter in question. I offer as a hypothesis four norms—intensity, integrity, wholeness and depth—for understanding what makes urban place real, good and intelligible. I argue that the value of excellent urban place is made up of the fusion of these qualitative standards of excellent urban place. Taking each in turn these norms are to be understood in the following ways:

Intensity which signifies the way in which every event expresses its magnitude of value. These qualitative manifestations are due to the ways in which each event brings together into a unity the diversity of its environment as well as the unity of its creative articulation.

Integrity is the measure by which the excellence of the achieved harmony of the one and the many in the becoming and perishing of an urban event finds its apt balance of simplicity and complexity. Ideally, both simplicity and complexity should be raised together as the event displays its value.

Wholeness is the norm by which genuine unities can be marked off from deficient ones. A unity is not a mere aggregate. Wholeness is measured by the degree of unity achievable when full multiplicity is taken into account in measuring the excellence of urban place. Otherness finds shelter within domains of identity.

Depth is felt when the three other norms are expressed with force and clarity. Affective dimensions of spatial and temporal depth receive concrete expression within the goodness of urban place. Feelings of unplumbed depth invite the city dweller to further her experience of the power of urban regions soaked in wholeness, integrity and depth. What is felt most intensely is the causal power of the category of contrast which stimulates deep experiences of the one and the many.

What has now emerged in this application of Whitehead’s cosmology is a way to understand urban experience according to certain lines of excellence. But all forms of goodness need order to sustain themselves. Goodness without endurance ceases to be goodness, especially in urban existence.

It is exactly at this point that Whitehead’s theory of order as the interplay between four qualitative ways of becoming assumes vital importance. In Process and Reality Whitehead speaks at length of the four orders of cosmological structures. These are the trivial, the vague, the narrow and the wide.[9] Here the standard of coherence comes directly into play, for no one type of order can be understood without understanding each of the other three. Goodness wanders within, around, between and along the borders established by these forms of order. It is here that the notion of an organism takes on full expression. The levels of intensity, integrity, wholeness and depth are dependent upon the mixtures of orders in which they express themselves. Orders weave the values expressed through these categoreal normative measures into unique, singular and novel presences. Without some such combinations of order effective manifestations of value disappear and the ineffectiveness of human dwelling would be most sharply felt.

The quality of urban orders derives in the first place from the environmental orders within which they find themselves. There can be no good without the endurance to be drawn from order. The reinforcement given by environmental orders establishes a continuum of feeling rooted in deeper, more intimate, and more engaging modes of causal efficacy. The strength of these environmental orders cements varieties of urban place as forms of goodness vital for the growth of the human community. These orders intensify the inscape of urban place and through their interaction strengthen, integrate and deepen the lines of transmission that make up significant urban places.

Whitehead organizes these orders around the concept of increasing unifications of the “One and the Many.” He begins with the widest order that is termed “the trivial,” and then moves onto what he calls “the vague.” From there orders called “the narrow” and the “wide” emerge as the most powerful forms of organic interaction. It must be remembered that the “philosophy of organism” maintains that the most important features of the environment are events and their interrelations. Nothing can stand in splendid isolation requiring nothing but itself to exist. Identity derives from the way we handle our relationships. This is an entirely relational world tied together by the processes that makes us what we are. Furthermore, the orders we are about to explore are dependent upon each other for their full meaning. Each needs connections with the others to express more intensely what it really is. My hypothesis is that urban place is determined by the weaving together of these types of environmental order as guided by the ideal normative measures discussed above. In this way Whitehead’s ideal of an abstract speculative philosophy is concretely applied to real cultural situations. What should be gained is breadth of understanding and a method to assure continued synoptic vision. Process philosophy is the act and art of composition.

The four environmental orders are as follows:

The Trivial emerges when nothing can be felt as important. When everything is unimportant or conversely when everything is important, then the principle of selection which undergirds the very notion of importance is violated. Another word for the trivial is the chaotic and (pace Nietzsche) chaos is not creative but rather merely boring. Its service for order is as a resource for future potential types of order.

The Vague establishes itself when certain dimensions begin to stand out as representative of the presence of order. Vagueness does not signify ambiguity or fuzziness. It has the exact opposite meaning as my earlier explanation of its function in Peirce’s theory of the logically vague indicates. The vague calls out for instantiation so that its truthfulness can be tested.

The Narrow is precisely what the vague needs in order to establish a wide region of truthfulness. Narrowness is purely determinate and by definition intolerant of what cannot be brought under its wing. Its straightforward insistence on its own meaning brings great intensity to experience. Through narrowness specificity can asserts its value alongside vagueness.

Width expresses itself when narrowness is woven onto patterns of vagueness. The resultant regions of value and experience display great tolerance and great intensity. Much can be incorporated into urban places that express wide order. Width makes room for the presence of rich contrasts that can have immense causal power within urban places.

Each of these orders brings with it a special tone or mood that is vital for securing the kind of qualities that urban place needs in order to be the paradigmatic form that an urban process environment requires for excellence of expression. Therefore trivial orders evoke moods of indifference and the four ideal norms of intensity, integrity, wholeness, and depth cannot be felt. All is the same. No difference registers itself and therefore indifference results. Indistinguishable neutrality broods over the urban scene. Vague orders, given their need for specification, call forth a tone of expectation. Urban place awaits some final element in order to complete its ambient framework of directed access. Narrowness brings a powerful mood of intensity into urban place as it does not hesitate to assert its presence. Finally, width allows for the emergence of depth as layer upon layer of meaning expresses itself throughout the region in question. What is felt here most powerfully is a mood of involvement. Sets of intense contrast invite felt participation as urban place opens itself to further depths of felt intelligence.

What is to be noted in the above discussion of urban place is how the categories of inscape, pattern, contrast and transmission, the norms of intensity, integrity, wholeness and depth as well as the orders of triviality, vagueness, narrowness and width conspire together to express the various ways in which urban process manifests itself.

4. The Evolution of City Forms

Three normative ideals have governed the creation of cities since their appearance on the planet.[10] There is the ideal of the cosmic city which replicates the order of the universe and locates power at an actual center residing in the heart of the city complex. A paramount example of this form would be Beijing’s “Forbidden City” where the Emperor drew all power to himself by residing at the center of the cosmos. From this urban place of power it was possible to send forth world-lines of transmission such that the Empire itself could be integrated into the unfolding propensities of things. Establishing physical, communal and spiritual harmony with cosmic forces was the ideal governing these ways of urban dwelling. Many other examples of this form of the good city could be listed. Suffice it to say that the form has expressed itself throughout the Greek, Roman, European, Asiatic, Egyptian, Incan, Mayan and Aztec civilizations. Its grip on the human psyche has been intense and its continuing influence continues to be seen in every urban complex.

The second model of the ideal city is that of the machine. It was brought forward by the International School and its major advocates are Paolo Soleri, Le Corbusier and Miliutin.[11] It advocates envisioning the city as a machine and thereby introduces norms of efficiency and understands city growth as continuing sets of “add-ons.” Its basic vision of urban goodness revolves about the question of functionality. It therefore falls into step with those visions of human dwelling that would subtly “force” human beings into certain definite ways of life. A machine is the sum of its parts, neither more nor less. It simply is what it is and this is why cities built according to this image take on an aura of explicit rationality. It is the ideal vehicle for the transmission of goods and services and is therefore the urban expression of Weber’s “Iron Cage.”[12] It, too, remains present in our cities and expresses itself most vividly in those urban hubs devoted to transportation, shopping and education.

The final type of city form is the one that most nearly expresses Whitehead’s philosophy of organism. In fact Christopher Alexander, its major proponent, explains it through the central idea of “a growing whole.” He provides an operational definition of his New Theory of Urban Design:

In each of these growing wholes, there are certain fundamental and essential features. First, the whole grows piecemeal, bit by bit. Second, the whole is unpredictable. Third, the whole is coherent. Fourth, the whole is full of feeling, always (1987, 14).

Now this reads as though it could have been written by Whitehead himself. It sees wholeness as possible, in fact as indispensable for human health and growth. It allows for creativity in the sense that piecemeal growth and unpredictability go hand in hand. It is entirely coherent. Most importantly it is “full of feeling, always.”

Alexander’s architectural design and his theoretical work stand as representative of the best organic philosophy of urban dwelling so far achieved in our times. What is also significant about his work is that he insists upon human participation in the building of his projects. One cannot build without the involvement of the people who live there. Creativity is inherently social for it depends upon the relations established between the actors in the urban scene. Furthermore, such participation is essentially normative for Alexander demands that those who live in his creations express what it feels like. These feelings become the coin of the realm for addressing improvements, assessing new developments and putting forward alternative ways of building and dwelling.[13]

One can draw a line from the cosmic city to the machine city to the organic city by noting how each in its own way is seeking to harness the power of the real for its own sense of what is important. Thus the cosmic city sees its task as the act of bringing transcendental forces down to earth. In this way the real world is soaked in the divine powers of the cosmos. Reality is made intelligible when the connection with cosmic forces is established as an everyday fact in the lives of city dwellers. On the other hand the machine city seeks to employ the methods and tools of scientific materialism so as to foster human happiness through the efficient delivery of power. Here urban goodness is judged by reason of its capacity to express an explicit rationality. In turn this rationality is judged to be the very meaning of the good as experienced in city life. The organic city refuses to determine in advance what the good should look like. Furthermore, it begins by acknowledging the fractured nature of contemporary existence. It does not solely rely on some supernatural divinity to supply both the intelligence and the power needed to bring about wholeness. Rather it trusts in the innate capacity of human beings to feel wholeness as it begins to express itself throughout forms of city life. It settles on the fact that life is essentially unfinished and always in play when it comes to creating new, more fulfilling forms of experience.

In sum, the cosmic city waits upon the revelation of the cosmic deities to fashion norms to guide the personal, social, public lives of its urban dwellers. The machine city lays out beforehand grids of rationality that will push human beings toward their urban destiny—to be efficient producers and consumers of goods and services. The cosmic city has faded in importance as a guide for good urban dwelling. The machine city appears to be in a holding pattern with its dwellers unsure as to whether this is the right way to live a human life. The organic city offers a novel, self-creative form of city life that urges us to seeks wholeness in each particular and thereby continually drive toward relationships worthy of the norms sketched in this essay.

5. Urban Semiotics

Whitehead’s theory of symbolic reference has been at the heart of this study of urban experience. The way he brings together presentational immediacy and casual efficacy is just the kind of creative insight needed to make sense of the feelings we have in city life. Still there remains a vacuum at the center of Whitehead’s philosophy of symbolism. This lack is no fault of Whitehead but rather simply the result of the fact that no person can do everything. In my own work I have found it useful to call on another process philosopher, Charles Sanders Peirce, in order to fill out and deepen Whitehead’s insights. In particular I have employed Peirce’s metaphysics of firstness, secondness and thirdness in order to provide a “thick description” of urban life.[14] I have also coupled his semiotics of icon, index and sign to his metaphysics in order to round out a process understanding of the city. [15]

Valuable results spring from this employment of Peirce’s thought. One finds in his concepts of one, two and three a simple but richly evocative scheme for grasping the felt quality of city life. Firstness is in the register of pure creativity. It expresses that freshness and spontaneity that is the joy of every human life. In the city the creativity emergent as firstness finds its iconic representation in the powerful existential reality of “The Street.” What is coming down the street is surprise clothed in a thousand styles of dress and a thousand ways of walking. This is what gives the city its verve and its passion. But firstness always meets another and thereby encounters secondness. Collisions are an inevitable part of city life as various and sundry forms of life drive toward their full expression. City life would grind to a halt if secondness did not supply the urban sign reader with an index that would point the way toward resolution of the collision of forces brought about by the struggle of individuals to express themselves. The index I choose to express this struggle for domination is the Empire State Building. As an index “The Empire Skyline” carries with it both the strength of our culture and the mean, down and dirty side of market capitalism. At the end of the day, in the evening of our lives, it is not enough to have struggled and won or lost. There remains the need and desire for community. It is here that we meet those “generals” that Peirce calls the living habits of any civilization. Without such thirdness we would have no continuity or development in the direction of enlarged consciousness. The sign of thirdness is “The Neighborhood” which demands involvement in the signs that the community lives by and which it is our duty to help grow. Unless these signs encompass more and more of the richness of the world, a puerile, starved and anxious state of mind is our common destiny.

Our values cannot rest on the spontaneity of firstness. Such values quickly turn to impetuous grasping that only serves to isolate us from our fellow humans. And the struggle that marks secondness too quickly turns into vicious self-promotion. To live life as an index is to live life as a gesture. Full human participation in the city requires that human beings involve themselves in a neighborhood. For without the resonance afforded by community our signs remain uninterpreted. And an uninterpreted sign is a mute witness to the failure of intelligence. The growth of habits of intelligence is what secures a future for the city dweller. Thirdness is the ultimate destiny of our life as sign takers. A genuine urban semiotics is the necessary counterpart to an urban environmental ethics. The city is the great region of the sign. Urban dwellers live or die, thrive or perish by their capacity to read the city’s signs. This is a two-way street. The city must provide signs that are legible. The newly evolved creature that I have elsewhere called homo urbanus must be able to read the signs.[16] Failure on either side of the street spells doom for city life.

6. The Philosopher and the City

We come to the real subject of this essay—the philosopher and the city. It was Socrates who made the city his stomping grounds as a philosopher. He did this because he was deeply concerned with the question of justice. He went to the city because he saw justice as a matter of the interaction between person and environment. Justice was an interior state of harmony and balance felt by individual souls in their most intimate dimensions. Unlike some contemporary theories, justice for him was not an external relation marking one’s relation to others in the city. Rather in the starkest terms justice for Socrates was not simply about not getting caught. It was a profoundly active and involved way of being in the political domain.

In our day what is most needed is what the philosopher has always traditionally tried to supply. I am referring to a synoptic grasp of what is important and a feel for the right way of achieving the results suggested by such a general philosophical vision. This is precisely what Whitehead was promoting in his chapter on “Foresight” in Adventures of Ideas. It is for the sake of achieving such foresight that I have struggled to express these thoughts about the felt dimensions of urban life as seen from a process perspective. To achieve such a vision requires practice in the art of “heartfelt contrast.”[17] The philosopher is to become a master of such a practice. It is by using the category of contrast that breadth of vision is united with practical applications. The human heart has its reasons and the human mind has its forms and patterns of development. Both joined together lead to wisdom. The contemporary city needs the active presence of just such a philosopher. It is said that the age of the public intellectual is over. I think not. The example set by the whole range of American philosophers from Emerson to Dewey to Whitehead provides a number of models that are useful inspirations for the present day. What marks our culture is division and separation. This in turn spawns savage fighting for the sake of partial points of view. Whitehead embraced a wider point of view. This brief development of ways in which his thought can be applied to the city indicates how fruitful his thought remains. It remains an ideal pattern for the future of American philosophy.


[1] AI, Chapter VI, “Foresight.”

[2] SMW, Chapter XIII, “Requisites for Social Progress.”

[3] S, passim and PR, Part IV, “The Theory of Extension.”

[4] See Grange 1999, xvii-xviii, xxiii.

[5] The categories were first developed in my Nature: An Environmental Cosmology (1997). The ability to use one set of categories for two supposedly different regions is a strong argument against their fundamental difference. This is an important fact to be taken into account by any environmental ethics that would privilege one domain over the other.

[6] This is among the most difficult concepts in Whitehead’s philosophy. I have provided an analysis of its genesis and application to natural and urban time in Nature (Grange 1997, 115-19) and The City (Grange 1999, 21-24). The most radical interpretation of epochal time remains F. Bradford Wallack, The Epochal Nature of Process in Whitehead’s Metaphysics (Albany: The State University of New York Press, 1980). Though it remains controversial, it is in my judgment the most illuminating study that has ever appeared and a valuable challenge to all Whitehead scholars.

[7] See Grange 1997, 187-206

[8] See Republic, 504-521.

[9] PR, Chapter III, IV, “The Order of Nature” and “Organisms and Environments.”

[10] See Kevin Lynch, A Theory of Good City Form (Cambridge, MIT Press, 1981) for a thorough elaboration of this understanding of the historical evolution of city form.

[11] See Grange 1999, 66-68)

[12] See Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, translated by Talcott Parsons (New York, Routledge, 2001). Chapter V is titled “Asceticism and the Spirit of Capitalism.”

[13] To experience how this works in practice, see Christopher Alexander, The Oregon Experiment (1975). Alexander’s major theoretical work is A Pattern Language (1977). By concentrating on pattern he brings Plato back into the dialogue on city life. At the same time he reinforces process philosophy’s insistence on regarding thinking as always a matter of appreciating forms of composition.

[14] I am borrowing Clifford Geertz’s term for what is required if the lives of those studied by anthropologists, sociologists, historians and other scholars are to take on a concrete fullness. See Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures (New York, Basic Books, 1973).

[15] The Second Part of my book The City is entitled “An Urban Semiotics.” It contains a full discussion of what can only be highlighted in this article.

[16] See Grange 1999, passim.

[17] See Grange 1999, 224-30.

Works Cited and Further Readings

Alexander, Christopher. 1975. The Oregon Experiment (New York, Oxford University Press).

Alexander, Christopher. 1977. A Pattern Language (New York, Oxford University Press).

Alexander, Christopher. 1987. A New Theory of Urban Design (New York, Oxford University Press).

Antoniades. 1992. Epic Space (New York, Van Nostrand).

Cooper, Ron L. 1993. Heidegger and Whitehead (Athens, Ohio University Press).

Grange, Joseph. 1997. Nature: An Environmental Cosmology (Albany, State University of New York Press).

Grange, Joseph. 1999. The City: An Urban Cosmology (Albany, State University of New York Press).

Grange, Joseph. 2004. John Dewey, Confucius and Global Philosophy. The State University of New York Press.

Kraus, Elizabeth. 1979. The Metaphysics of Experience (New York, Fordham University Press).

Lynch, Kevin. 1981. A Theory of Good City Form (Cambridge, MA, MIT Press).

Neville, Robert. 1989. Recovery of the Measure (Albany, State University of New York Press).

Schumacher, John. 1990. Human Posture (Albany, State University of New York Press).

Secrest, Meryle. 1998. Frank Lloyd Wright: A Biography (Chicago: Univeristy of Chicago Press, 1998).

Sennet, Richard. 1994. Flesh and Stone (New York, Norton Press).

Author Information

Joseph Grange
Department of Philosophy, University of Southern Maine
President of the Metaphysical Society of America

How to Cite this Article

Grange, Joseph, “Cosmological and Urban Spaces”, last modified 2008, The Whitehead Encyclopedia, Brian G. Henning and Joseph Petek (eds.), originally edited by Michel Weber and Will Desmond, URL = <>.