Time and Free Will (book review) Henri Bergson

An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness

F.L. Pogson (Translator)


240716 this is a much later later addition: i have now read [book:Creative Evolution|379659] must again suggest it is this book best to read first of all his work. it is also important to read [book:Matter and Memory|865540] which extends his thoughts on time with 'intensive multiplicity', and realize the ongoing difficulty to 'think time' when its 'quality' resists symbolic form. these are all engaging philosophic


110615 this is a much later addition: just put bergson's work on the modernists shelf, partly because of his prevalence in the intellectual atmosphere of that time, partly that he deserves to be reread. maybe this will encourage me to read his big work 'creative evolution', but must confess it is mostly deleuze i have been reading, and this might lead to spinoza and nietzsche before him... of bergson's work, i would suggest this book first, he is a clear writer, his nobel was actually in literature, and does not feel like educated unravelling is ever needed to follow him...


011012 first review: this is the 4th book by bergson i have read, though it is his doctoral thesis and contains his original insights, his contention we- that is, western philosophers- have essentially misconceived time on a spatial model. as a line, as points, as circle, as any image that traces history but not actuality of the process of time. we think of time as movement, as points, as described history, as is so useful in physics, but this is not true time, which is always duration...


this book actually seems harder as it progresses, as it shows the results of this mistaken concept of time, as it reveals the persistence through all our metaphysics, of thinking of time as 1- atomistic, as points, as 2- all as homogeneous as space, as 3- therefore predictive and repeatable, as 4- commonly replacing qualitative aspect with spatial and thus quantitative values. this is the time of physics. this is how, for example, we misapply these frameworks in the inextensive mind rather than correctly only in extensive nature... an example would be emotions, saying something like affection is 'more'- a measurable 'quantity'- when it is a 'qualitative' change from indifference to attraction to blinding love...


maybe i need to talk out these ideas to fully grasp them, but analytic, static, models are not the essential flowing of time. can see how this stream of consciousness could interest proust, for one. as i am not studying bergson and require no complete understanding, i am able to move- in a metaphoric manner, perhaps i should say, resonate rather than move- these ideas, this way of thinking, to apply it to the entire view of reality slightly impoverished from lived experience, the metaphysical view of scientific realism...


time is not passage, is not tendency to entropy as in closed physical systems, time is elaboration, is intensity, is gaining through novelty, does not have a preset condition of completeness. conservation of energy does not apply to time, only space. in north american sports the play clock counts down to zero- we sports fans talk about running out the clock, running out of time- where we should perhaps adopt the european sports play clock which counts up to the full time, rather than down to zero... that the future is not-yet is no more unreal than the space over the hill is not-real...


one aspect so convincing, so engaging, is bergson's argument of freedom and essence not somehow beyond our perceptions- as kant's thing-in-itself- but rather staring at us obviously, but obviously unnoticed, in our perception of time. not a mistake that heidegger will call his big work being and time! time is not space, is not subject to determinist causality, it is an error to think it is a variable easily replacing calculations in place of space, of points, when time is essentially duration and not simple points on a line, a line describing the real after-the-fact...


questions rise do not date or decrease this work- english translation 1910- but do suggest further explorations and thoughts: how do we deal with einstein's space-time continuum if time and space are so essentially different? if the mind is not the matter how do they affect each other? slow, slow i am, probably these are issues addressed but i did not pick them up. but it is beautiful to find the source of much merleau-ponty et al, here, waiting to be thought of...


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