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About the Contextual Index of Process and Reality

Yutaka Tanaka

It was at the workshop 'Reading Process and Reality' of the 16th annual meeting(1994) of the Japan Society for Process Studies that I proposed to compose an electronic data base of Whitehead. In order to make a through-going investigation of process metaphysics, we need a comprehensive concordance of Whitehead. We must analyze and understand the true meanings of key-words in his own context, whether we accept or criticize his philosophical terminology.

To make a complete concordance of Whitehead would cost us no slight labor without electronic data base. So the first task is to make electronic texts of Whitehead for computer processing. This task needs laborious work even if we use Optical Character Reading; the proof-reading must be done with care and attention because we cannot, after all, rely upon the machine. The second task is to provide a computer programming software for processing data base. I have made an original program with Word-Basic for editing and searching because the software on sale is mainly for businessman and proves insufficient for scholars of humanities, especially for a contextual analysis of original texts.

It took about half a year to make electronic texts of Process and Reality. The corrected edition itself has a detailed index at the end of the book, but this is only an index and not a concordance; we cannot read the index independently, nor count the number of occurrences of the searched word for a statistical analysis of usage and style. It is my purpose to enable readers of the electronic data base of Whitehead make his own concordance of original texts.

To what extent is this kind of contextual research program useful for the interpretation of Whitehead? This depends on the relevant use of computer processing for fundamental issues of debates. For example, we know the first appearance of God's 'primordial nature' is at page 31(Part I, Chapter II, Section III): God's primordial nature does not appear in the fundamental categories stated in chap. Section II , but appears in the section titled 'Some Derivative Notions'.

So, not a few process thinkers think that the concept of God itself is derivative in the ontological frameworks of the philosophy of organism, and they take it for granted that Whitehead discusses God only under the philosophical aspect of His two natures, i.e. primordial and consequent.; Whitehead's God seems to them a god of philosophers and not God of Abraham and Isaac.

A careful reading of Process and Reality, however, supports the opposite proposition: Whitehead's discussion of God is not limited within philosophical discussion, neither postulated in nor derivative from the general metaphysical scheme, but is based on the direct concrete religious experience. I will show a statistical analysis of contexts and usage which shows that this reading of Whitehead is more plausible.

The following table shows the number of occurrences of 7 key words of Whitehead's philosophy. The result of contextual research is that Whitehead mentions God in concrete experience much more often than the primordial and consequent natures of God in abstract terminology. He even says that we cannot fully grasp God through His two natures(PR350).

item the number of paragraphs the number of lines
God 102171
primordial nature 2329
consequent nature 1518
actual entity 235386
actual occasion 111167
eternal object 164273
creativity 3953

The status of God in process metaphysics is, of course, too an important issue to be dealt with here. The comprehensive concordance of Whitehead, if completed, would teach us precious information concerning texts interpretation. The works of compiling such a data base is now in process in the project committee of the Japan Society for Process Studies.