Prehensions are feelings of things. The things that are felt are the data of the prehensions; they are what is felt. The prehensions are the feelings 'of' them. The feelings cannot exist without the data, but the feelings are not the same as the data. When you feel the presence of a leaf, or another person, or your own body, or a distant star, the leaf or person or bodily sensation or star are one thing, and your feeling of it, with its own emotional response, another. This is true for you and also for all other actualities in the universe. Their feelings of other things are their subjectivity, their subjective immediacy. What we call energy at a physical level is feeling in its primal form. There is feeling everywhere.
Prehensions are how the universe is held together: Every actual entity, every moment of experience, consists of many acts of experiencing or prehending many realities which "become one" in the act of experiencing them. Prehensions are the most fundamental element in actual entities, the means by which the universe is held together and things are present in one another. They are acts of taking something into account from subjective point of view.
Prehensions can be positive or negative: Prehensions can be positive or negative. Positive prehensions are feelings of other things that partake of the qualities of what is felt Negative prehensions are acts of taking other things into account without such partaking. They eliminate what is felt from further feeling.
Prehensions are always prehensions 'of' something: The realities that are prehended can be other actual entities or pure potentialities, or combinations of them. Whitehead speaks of the objects prehended as the data of the prehensions. Thus all prehensions are prehensions 'of' something; and when we talk about prehensions we must always ask: "What is it that is being prehended?"
Prehensions may be conscious or unconscious. In human life most are unconscious. Most of our human experience is subconscious; it is taking other things into account, albeit without the clarity of consciousness. And so it is with other actualities: other animals, the cells in plants, the quantum events in the depths of atoms.
Prehensions are everywhere. These acts of taking into account are found in each and every moment of concresence throughout the universe. They are what makes up a single moment of energy in the depths of an atom in a distant galaxy, and they are what makes up a single moment of experience in a human life. They are the fundamental units of experience. Some process philosophers speak of Whitehead's approach as pan-experientialism; it might also be called pan-prehensionality. There is prehension, feeling, everywhere.
Prehensions are of many kinds: They come in many forms: physical prehensions of the immediate past, conceptual prehensions of pure potentialities, imaginative prehensions, anticipatory prehensions, and a very unique form of prehension called "hybrid prehensions," which, so Whitehead speculates, transcend the restrictions of space by prehending other actualities (or, more specifically, the mental poles of other actual entities, at a distance.)
Prehensions are always clothed by subjective forms, by emotions, such as appreciation or aversion. This means that there is emotion everywhere, too. We live in a universe of feeling and emotion. What we call energy at the physical level is what we call emotion at the psychological level.
-- Jay McDaniel
* Whitehead speaks of positive prehensions as feelings, but he does not use the word for negative prehensions. See below:
John Cobb on Prehension in