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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 5 Heterogeneous Duration


1 Heterogeneous Duration: Non-Numerical Multiplicity The brief exposition of the three major Bergsonian texts (see Chapters 2–4) demonstrates that his philosophy points towards a theory of the univer- sal principle of being – heterogeneous duration. However, this theory is incomplete because the discussion of duration is fragmented and its exem- plification as concrete modes of being is not systematic. We will attempt to develop a plausible version of heterogeneous duration, complying with Bergson’s key principles where possible, and then apply it to concrete reality. This chapter will be centred on the general metaphysical aspects of duration. The idea of heterogeneity is necessary to Bergson’s project of making a radical distinction between simultaneous and successive phenomena, which form the continuity of identity of a temporally stretched unity.1 The key dif ference between a spatially stretched unity with all its elements being simultaneous and a temporal unity is that, according to Bergson, the spatial unity can be divided into parts with clear spatial borders, whereas the temporal unity cannot be broken down into segments which can be regarded as separate from one another. Thus, he claims in Time and Free Will, the temporal continuity is indivisible. In Matter and Memory we learn that ultimately, spatial reality is also indivisible (MM, p. 196), because 1 Čapek of fers a thorough analysis of the Bergsonian heterogeneity with links to other key notions of the Bergsonian philosophy. See Čapek, Bergson and Modern Physics, 83–186, esp. 118–25; 142–51. A brief explanation of the...

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