In the vagueness of the low hum of insects in an August woodland: Walking with Whitehead


Crossing a steep scree-field path demands concentration. The surface slips a little with each step and often, just a short way below, are large rocks or perhaps a cliff. Such experience is at some distance from the concentration intellectuals bring to the specifics of thought, the rigors of reason. Scree concentration works through feet and legs, hands and trekking poles. If it is thought, it is thinking with the body and the world traversed, thinking with surface, weather, time, and risk. I have walked thousands of miles as a long-distance backpacker and puzzled about this form of thinking which, because of the physical rigors, can be vague and fragmented but also brings glimmers of insight, unarticulated wisdom. Although he is not usually regarded as a philosopher overly concerned with embodiment, I have found Alfred North Whitehead’s work offers a set of concepts that opens up the domain of thinking as a process, one that includes risk, wonder, and a fundamentally different form of attention. Shifting the emphasis of the title of Isabelle Stengers’ monumental study (while at the same time using her as a guide), I want to think about thinking with Whitehead.

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