quotes from Nature: course notes from the College de France
Maurice Merleau-Ponty from the chapter titled “The Idea of Nature in Whitehead”:
According to Whitehead, it is not possible to think of punctual spatiotemporal existences, nor to compose the world from such insights. These punctual existences are only the result of a work of thought, of a work of division. Suppose that we have before us a barge passing in front of the Louvre. What is given to us is the life of the barge and the life of the Louvre. We divide the duration, during which the Louvre and the barge are given to us, into parcels of “events,” as distant as possible. Such a form of thought is not illegitimate, but to think that we can compose Nature from the dust of such events is to place the cart before the horse. In ‘Nature and Life,’ Whitehead, after having said how much the old conception of Nature remains alive among physicists even though each of the elements that composed it had been questioned, defines it in the following way: “the old conception allows us to make an abstraction of change and conceive the full reality of nature at a given moment…” According to modern views, the “process” is the given. At an instant, there is nothing. Every instant is only a nucleus destined to group the givens together. In this way there is no Nature in an instant: all reality implies a ‘moving on of nature’.
p. 114, Nature. Northwestern University Press, 2003
The electron is not found where its charge is. The electron is a certain physical property that plays a focal role, and to which we relate the observed physical events in a “situation current.” The distinction between action-at-a-distance and action-by-transmission would be grounded if Being were identical, but the electron does not exist in the sense of absolute Being, which is all or nothing: the electron does not reside in a punctual spatiotemporailty; it is an “ingredient” (this word also has the sense of making an ingression) in its whole vicinity, it is the hallway of certain “traces,” of certain “roles” observed by the observer. It is a transspatial and transtemporal being, but not wany more separated from appearances. According to classical thinking, Whitehead tells us again, the objects are “uniform,” that is, localized at every moment in a point of the duration. But why would there not be nonuniform objects? We will meet them in our experience of incarnated subjects, as for example in sound: we perceive it as a whole in a certain duration, but it is at no time of this duration, although the notes that compose it can be localized. The termporal minima will not be made of indivisible moments of time, but will always have a certain thickness of time.
p. 115, Nature: Northwestern University Press, 2003