Alfred North Whitehead’S Concept Of Civilization

In the book of Whitehead entitled “Adventures of Ideas”, he states that it is the study of the concept of civilization, and an effort to understand how the civilized being develop. The student- researcher task is to define what this civilization is and what it is about. In whitehead work, the notion of civilization is largely expounded in his last major metaphysical work AI. He expresses the incomprehensible character of civilization in this way: The notion of civilization is very baffling. We all know what it means. It suggests a certain ideal for life on this earth, and this ideal concern both the individual human being and also societies of men. A man can be civilized, and a whole society can be civilized; although the senses are somewhat different in the two cases.

Each Individual has a capacity to grasp of what civilization is but it is very difficult to define. In so far as one can say that a certain state of affairs, of whatever temporal location, is civilized or not. Civilizations can only be understood by those who are civilized. “Understood” here is more than intellectually exhausting the signification of the word. As Whitehead warns, we can “never fully understand”.

Somehow the simple definition becomes vague, yet civilization can be known by examples. The culture of Europe in the last six centuries has guided itself by example. There is best period of civilization can be say that standard of civilization, that is, the Greeks and Romans. For whitehead, the individual must be aimed at imitating the excellences of other societies especially the society of Athens because Athens is the first outstanding society. In the western races these standards have served well but there are some disadvantages in procedure. It is backward looking, and it is limited to one type of social excellence. Today the world is passing into a new stage of its existence. New knowledge, and new technologies have altered the proportions of things. The particular example of an ancient society sets too static an ideal, and neglects the whole range of opportunity. It is really not sufficient to direct attention to the best that has been said and done in the ancient world. The result is static, repressive, and promotes a decadent habit of mind. Also, I suggest that the Greeks themselves were not backward looking, or static. Compared to their neighbors, they were singularly unhistorical. They were speculative, adventurous, eager for novelty. The most un-Greek thing that we can do is to copy the Greeks. For emphatically they were not copyists. Another danger in forming our notions of civilization is to concentrate exclusively upon passive, critical qualities concerned chiefly with the Fine Arts. Such qualities are an important element in a civilized society. But civilization is more than the appreciation of the Fine Arts. We must not tie it down to museums and studios. Whitehead present five qualities in civilization in order to become a civilized society, these are Truth, Beauty, Adventure, Art, and Peace. From the word Truth, Beauty, Peace are clearly to their meaning so whitehead focus in the adventure and art because these two are necessarily in the elements of civilization. These two factors, Adventure and Art, are very common in the concepts of civilization that weakest.


Truth is the qualification which applies to appearance alone. It means that reality must start in itself because it is nonsense to ask somebody if it is true or not. Truth is the conformation of appearance to reality. This conformation may be more or less, also direct or indirect. Thus, truth is a generic quality with a variety of degrees and modes. The individual must be real in itself because the appearance of your self is your identity. No one can say that one person is truth in itself because another person does not know yourself. For example, in social media, one person posts his/her self that he/she is happy in one place or what happen in his/her life, but this person maybe can deceive the eye of another person. the truthfulness of a person may can deceive others. The reflection of a person in a mirror is truthful appearance but it also an illusory appearance. Once can say that in social media, the users have a friends and followers that they know but other is not, other users are concern to life of other users but others are just wanted to become friend because they are just only interested in life of others users. The truthfulness of users becomes dehumanize because of getting something to others users. The truthful- relation to other people become lessened. The users must truthful to his own self in order to the appearance oneself correspond to the reality not only in a virtual world. Social media cannot know if the users is true in itself and no one know in the social if there friends or followers are true to them. Truth is a necessary factor in its own nature. The individual is the only can know if he/she is truth itself. In social media, Fake News, is practicing in the modern time and lot of the users is easily to believe from the fake news. Then knowledge about one of the facts involves knowledge about the other, so far as the truth-relation extends. It means that, if the users spread fake news it must per se because there are other users read the news. The knowledge also can be improved of the users.

The truth-relation as realized in experience always involves some element of Appearance. The users have no experience in other users as a messenger of news so they cannot know if the news or message is true and the users has no motivation to discover it.


Beauty is the internal conformation of the various items of experience with each other, for the production of maximum effectiveness. Beauty thus concerns the inter- relations of the various components of Reality, and also the inter- relations of Appearance to Reality.

The Beauty is the idea to make the appearance correspond to the reality. Social media have a lot of idea to the users to make the life become real. The life of the users become easy, for example, in communication, in the past, other people communicate using writing a letter to those people who are far from them. Now, using social media, the communication become easy, they just connected in a minute of time, they get a message in a minute of time, not like before that they get message in a long time. It easy now to communicate but there are some individual affecting this new communication, this is, the postman. Because of easy now to communicate, the life of postman was being corrupted. This idea might be accepted soon by all. In the Greek civilization, they value the discord of each other in order to know the different idea of each other to go the great ideal of perfection. ‘Perfection’, properly so called, requires the exclusion of feelings of this class. It means that there is some imperfection occasion to the better occasion that realize in the type of perfection. There are in higher and lower perfections, and an imperfection aiming at a higher type stands above lower perfection. There are perfections that beyond to the perfection, it means that all understanding is limited, and there is no perfection that can be endless of all perfections. The various types perfection is coming from the discordant. Like whitehead say: Thus, the contribution to Beauty can be supplied by Discord- in itself destructive and evil- is the positive feeling of a quick shift of aim from the tameness of outworn perfection to some other ideal with its freshness still upon it. Thus, the value of Discord is a tribute to the merits of Imperfection.

In what the student- researcher said while ago that they are value the discordant of each everyone so the race of Greek civilization is aroused into improvement by great ideal of perfection. The idea they get from the other will be improved their civilization. It became effective and understand to the person to attain the proper beauty in civilization that will extent and not to exceeded previously and since. It means that social media give the idea of easy way communication in one civilization. The users are agreed from this new communication and they are appreciate this idea. It is the supreme expression of individuality: its conformal subjective form is the freedom of enjoyment derived from the enjoyment of freedom. The communication of one person in social media was contributes to beauty (perfection) and then it creates to the users a positive feeling of a quick shift of aim from the tameness of perfection, so that this ideal of communication can create an easy way of communication in one civilization. Social media must enhance the value of perfection towards to a positive civilization. In other words, the ideal of a new society derived from a new defining characteristic is introduced.


Art is working to the appearance that caused from the primary Reality. It means that when the appearance highlights the connections and qualities of connections which in fact reside in the reality, then the appearance is truthful in its relation to reality. But the appearance may have effected connections, and have introduced qualities, which have no counterpart in reality. In that case, the occasion of experience contains on itself a falsehood, namely the disconnection of its appearance from reality, reducing it to a foreground of enduring individuals and to a background of indiscriminate occasion. Sense- perception belongs to appearance, it is interpreted as indicating enduring individuals, truthfully or otherwise. Art is the rhythmic transformation of the abstract into the concrete, and the concrete into the abstract. It is not simply a picturing of eternal Beauty, but likewise must raise its beholders to the plane of the profound and divine. A certain error is prevalent in art theory when it is merely seen as an expression of what was felt by the artist; it is “backward looking”. Rather, a “work of art is an impressive demonstration of the creative powers of the artists. It has an emphatic freshness and novelty. It not only express, but also arouses, new ideas and ‘freshness’ of emotion.


Adventures is the essential in civilization. Without adventure the civilization is full of decay. Adventure is the promotion and preservation of civilization and adventure is the dynamism that propels toward the achievement of Peace. It is the search for new perfections. It means to stand brave before the face of serious danger, to crossing in unknown territories in the hope of something better, to tear the thin shroud of contentment over “what is” in order to pursue “what might be”. To be carefree is to be a side to the knight of creative imagination in order to learn and master the canalization of value- graded possibilities in the realm of the actual. The entirely of AI (Adventures of ideas) is a long, sustained conversation on the passage of ideals from the possible to the concrete. Whitehead’s stress on the importance of adventure. Johnson Claims, “stems from his conviction that there are only two possible alternatives: either adventurous advance or the deadly tiredness of decadence (Johnson, 1958). One cannot cling to static perfection. The stream of life will not stand still. This is the cadenced passage of ideals from the promising to the real.


Peace is the harmony and order. Peace is the central motive in the life of men. The essential problems of peace with whitehead are sought in terms of social harmony and human reason. Whitehead believes the standard of western civilization has been taken from the time of Greeks and Romans because they were academic, adventurous and eager for novelty. So that, the civilization of society involves the virtue of adventure. Without adventure, civilization is full of decay. For whitehead, the term Peace for that Harmony of Harmonies which calms destructive turbulence and completes civilization. Peace does not mean anesthesia, but the crown of life and motion of soul in positive feeling. It [peace] comes as a gift. The deliberate aim at Peace very easily passes into its bastard substitute, Anesthesia. In other words, in the place of a quality of ‘life and motion’, there is substituted their destruction. Therefore, Peace is the removal of inhibition and not its introduction. In fact, it is largely for this reason that Peace is so essential for Civilization. It is the barrier against narrowness. Whitehead argues that as a community changes, every rule and norm needs to changes, every rule and norm needs to change according to the light of reason. It is the first step in sociological wisdom, to recognize that the major advances in civilization are processes which all but crash of the societies in which they occur: like unto an arrow in the hand of the child.

Harmonizing End Beauty and Truth

Constitute the patterned structure of coordination of values, elements and societies of societies. Truth is the conformation of Appearance to Reality, it is resolute facing facts that does not issue into a finality of statements precisely due to the constantly changing countenance of the actual world. Beauty is wider and more fundamental notion than truth. It “is the mutual adaptation of the several factors in an occasion of experience. Beauty is the domain of Wisdom because the coordination effected does not gravitate on the singularity of one element (reason), but rather allows each factor involved to mutually adapt themselves to the presence of others in order to elude any mutual interference. This is the sense when Whitehead speaks of Beauty as wider than truth. It entails the coordination of even those elements that the category of truth would count as unimportant, or sometimes even obviously false. But in doing so, individual forget that the very distinction that the intellect makes between the true and the false presupposes an ordered scheme of things where both factors, true and false, attain a least degree of relevant relation. Apart from beauty, Whitehead contends, truth is neither good nor bad. However, Beauty is not plain harmony that issues into a deadly triviality. Rather, the highest form of Beauty is “patterned contrasts,” one that leaves space for the mutual shifting of factors among themselves, factors that reveal and enhance beauty by its light and shadows.

11 February 2020
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