Symbolism, Its Meaning and Effect: The Universal Algebra of Culture


  • Michel Weber


Symbolism, A.N. Whitehead, Culture


The paper questions the meaning and significance of Whitehead's theory of symbolism from the perspective of (i) Whitehead's philosophical development, of (ii) the argument provided in Symbolism, Its Meaning and Effect (1927), and of (iii) the history of ideas.

The argument follows the general structure of the Symbolism lectures: first, the topic is introduced; second, it is analyzed through an ontological lens; third, the uses of symbolism are consequently sketched. Our discussion departs from Whitehead's in this third part, that introduces a humanistic standpoint through five conceptual knots: the distinction between the early (High) and the late (Low) Renaissance, the underground survival of the High Renaissance's values (with Is. Newton and J. Toland), Pantheism (a.k.a. Nature Enthusiasm), Republicanism (or Civic Humanism) and Freemasonry (qua Discrete Fraternity). In conclusion, Whitehead's underground inclination for modernity is underlined.

Author Biography

Michel Weber

Michel Weber obtained his Ph. D. in Philosophy from the Université catholique de Louvain (Belgium) where he is has been a research fellow. He is currently the director of the Centre de philosophie pratique, Brussels. His research program mainly consists of developing the activities of three networks: the "Chromatiques whiteheadiennes”, the "European William James Project” and the "Whitehead Psychology Nexus”. He is the author of eight monographs and (co-)editor of numerous scientific studies. He also edits the "Chromatiques whiteheadiennes” Series (Ontos Verlag), the Chromatikon Yearbook (Presses universitaires de Louvain) and co-edits the "Process Thought” Series (Ontos Verlag).




How to Cite

Weber, M. (2016). Symbolism, Its Meaning and Effect: The Universal Algebra of Culture. Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, 12(1), 350–377. Retrieved from