On mathematical concepts of the material world [in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series A, Vol. 205,].

London, Dulau & Co, 1906.

4to, pp. 465-525, [1]; a fine copy, wholly unmarked, in the original printed wrappers, preserved in glassine.


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On mathematical concepts of the material world [in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series A, Vol. 205,].

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First edition of one of the earliest of Whitehead’s works, the first attempt to tacke the question of the nature of the material world through the symbolism of formal logic.

‘The importance of this paper is frequently overlooked or underestimated as an antecedent of Whitehead’s later work. […] In the paper Whitehead comes very close to enunciating a possible world view that bears a strong resemblance to the one that finally emerged in Process and Reality (1929). Whitehead wrote “On Mathematical Concepts” in 1905, at a time when he was two years into writing the Principia […] Not surprisingly therefore much of the paper deals with logical formalisms’ (R. A. Ariel).

In the same year, while working on the Principia, Russell also independently published a paper, On denoting. ‘Both Whitehead and Russell, looking back later in life, regarded their respective essays as among the finest pieces of work they had produced (UW 466; LK 39). Both employed their common work in mathematical logic ... as a guide in the formulation of their respective papers. Yet because of the difference in outlook between the two men, one essay becomes a penetrating analysis of common language, while the other becomes a synthesis of possible world views and, indeed, a stepping stone to a cosmology’ (Robert A. Ariel, A Mathematical Root of Whitehead’s Cosmological Thought, ‘Process Studies’, vol. 4, no. 2, 1974, pp. 107-113).

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