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Duration, Temporality, Self

Prospects for the Future of Bergsonism

Elena Fell

What is the nature of time? This new study engages with the philosophy of Henri Bergson on time and proposes a new way of thinking about the effects of future events on the past. According to Bergson, time is an integral feature of real things, just as much as their material or size. When a flower grows, it takes a period of real time for it to flourish, which cannot be quickened or slowed down, nor can it be eliminated from the process of growth. Bergson named this real time ‘duration’ and argued that everything and everyone exist as duration, and that internal processes flow into one another, with no clear boundaries that separate one phase of duration from another. According to Bergson’s philosophy, the past does not disappear but smoothly flows into the present, forming an indivisible dynamic unity. But what if the causal flow of temporal reality is not unidirectional? What if not only past events influence future ones, but future ones in their turn have retrospective effect on past occurrences? The author of this book analyses these key questions, asserts that the changeability of the past follows from Bergson’s theory of time and proposes a theory of embodied time that involves the retrospective enrichment of reality.

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Chapter 3 Body, Soul and the World in Matter and Memory

Extract

1 Duration as Being Next Bergson presents duration as being in general, with the distinctive nature of concrete phenomena defined by the specific rhythm of their tem- poral existence, as a process, and where rhythm could be understood as a rate at which events unroll. The relation between time, consciousness and movement becomes clearer: everything is duration and exists in motion; con- sciousness is a case of being, understood as duration; what makes conscious- ness dif ferent from other types of being is its specific, very intense rhythm. In Time and Free Will Bergson argued that we misunderstand and immobilize psychological events and movement, which are f lowing and indivisible in reality. In Matter and Memory, he asserts that this misunder- standing concerns physical reality as well, because everything real is, in fact, in the state of becoming and, consequently, in the state of motion, whereas we always regard the reality as a compilation of solid things (MM, p. 191). Bergson refuses to regard motion as relative, as merely a change of place. Real movement is absolute, he maintains, because ‘it emanates from a force’ (MM, p. 195). One could even interpret Bergson’s idea of real movement as an action close to the creation of something new, or as a process close to the act of willing, which could indicate a certain link with consciousness. ‘I am assured of the reality of the movement when I produce it, after having willed to produce it, and my muscular sense brings me...

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