Alfred North Whitehead

Alfred North Whitehead (b. 1861, d. 1947)

Philosophy of Organism

What follows is a mapping of terminology from Whitehead's 1929 magnum opus Process and Reality which charted the course for the subsequent field of process philosophy.  Although further explanation will be provided in time, this mapping is intended to provide an initial demonstration of the remarkable agreement that exists between ADEPT and Whitehead's "speculative philosophy".

Process and Reality

Whitehead's descriptions of the presented terms have been summarized but the ordering follows his summary presentation found in Chapter 2 , entitled "The Categoreal Scheme". It is broken into 4 sets of categories:

  1. The Category of the Ultimate
  2. Categories of Existence
  3. Categories of Explanation
  4. Categoreal Obligations

Node Terminology

Comparing node terminology between property graphs, Whitehead's process of organism and ADEPT

Property Graph

  1. A "dot" in a property graph is called a node or vertex.  Nodes are used to represent the things that will be related to each other in the graph.
  2. A node can have associated properties and values for those properties.


In A. N. Whitehead's "philosophy of organism" there are two "categories of existence" that "stand out with a certain extreme finality" (PR, p. 22) and they are:

  1. Actual Entities (also termed Actual Occasions)
  2. Eternal Objects (also termed Pure Potentials for the Specific Determination of Fact or Forms of Definiteness)


ADEPT isolates content from context in recognizing only two types of nodes:

  1. ADEPT nodes, which represent context
  2. Alyx nodes, which represent content as the value of a property called Variable

Relation Terminology

Comparing relation terminology between property graphs, Whitehead's process of organism and ADEPT

Property Graph

An "arrow" in a property graph is called a relationship or edge.  Relationships "relate" nodes to each other.  Edges "relate" vertices to each other.  Relations can also be directional: moving specifically from one node to another.


Prehension is the name that Whitehead gives to "Concrete Facts of Relatedness" (PR, p. 22).  He also describes the Actual Entities as "Feelings" and says of them, "Feelings are 'vectors'; for they feel what is there and transform it into what is here." (PR, p. 87)


Following a water metaphor that describes a flow of information, channel is the ADEPT terminology for a directed relationship between two nodes (ADEPT or Alyx). 

Label and Type Terminology

Comparing label/type terminology between property graphs, Whitehead's process of organism and ADEPT

Property Graph

The assignment of some categorization or characterization to nodes and relationships varies in implementation but one way to describe it is that nodes/vertices have types and relationships/edges have labels.


Multiplicities or "Pure Disjunctions of Diverse Entities" is the term applied to the "collective kinds of the entities". (PR, p. 30) By "disjunctions", Whitehead is saying that they have an either/or determination and by "diverse", he is saying that the function or effect of multiplicities is to split Entities into different collections.

Apart from the defining of "ingression" (see next section), Whitehead does not explicitly define or constrain the prehensions any further, but a further diversity of prehensions can be inferred in his development of multiplicity.  It can be understood that there exists within the philosophy of organism several schematic break-downs involving the Actual Entities (ADEPT nodes), Prehensions (Channels), Nexus (relational patterns), Subjective Forms (Word Channels), Eternal Objects (Alyx nodes) and Propositions (members of the Translation Nature).

The general fact that Multiplicity applies to all six of these "categories of existence" can be found in the discussion of multiplicities on p. 30 of Process and Reality. It is this general fact that ADEPT makes explicit and limited in its fixed schema.


The 7 Ontological Constructs define the schematic elements that are applied as indexed node types.

The 7 ADEPT channels are distinguished by one of seven labels given to any and every relationship in an ADEPT instance.

Content and Context Terminology

Comparing content terminology between property graphs, Whitehead's process of organism and ADEPT

Property Graph

Typically, separation of content from context is not a priority in property graph "schemas" other than to say that much content resides in properties given values (ie. name: Bill), that are associated with a node. Much of the context of the domain-specific schema (ie. a social network) resides in the node types (ie. person) and/or relationship labels (ie. knows).


Whitehead effectively isolates content as the Eternal Objects, from context as the Actual Entities/Occasions. The relating of Eternal Objects to Actual Entities is termed "Ingression". He also defines a split between what he terms the "Pure Potentials for the Specific Determination of Fact, or Forms of Definiteness" of Eternal Objects and the "Impure Potentials for the Specific Determination of Matters of Fact, or Theories" of Propositions. The Subjective Forms, also termed "Private Matters of Fact", relate Potentials to Actual Entites/Occasions. (PR p. 22)  Whitehead points out "that there are many species of subjective forms, such as emotions, valuations, purposes, adversions, aversions, consciousness, etc." (PR p. 24)


All content in ADEPT is captured as a single Variable property of an Alyx node.  This value of the Variable is conveyed to an ADEPT node (an element of context) through a Variety Channel.  The Translation Nature is defined as all nodes which have an incoming Variety Channel.  The purpose of all Translation Nature nodes (their diversity corresponds to Whitehead's species of Subjective Forms above and C.S. Peirce's Semiotics) is to convey a particular "sense", now associated with the supplied value, on to other ADEPT nodes of context through the Word Channel.

Process and Reality (1929)

Process and Reality: an Essay in Cosmology, by A. N. Whitehead was presented as the Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh during the session 1927-28 and originally published in 1929. The "corrected edition" was published in 1978, edited by David Ray Griffin and Donald W. Sherburne.