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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 6 Time

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1 Time as a Quality and as a Relation In this chapter we shall consider specifically time and its role in duration. Bergson’s major achievement in the understanding of the nature of time, as we see it, consists of maintaining and proving that time belongs to tem- poral reality as its integral part rather than something that exists separately from phenomena.1 He successfully internalized time into the reality of things but in order to fortify his position, Bergson opposed time as part of things to time as a framework for everything that exists, dismissing the latter as a false, spatialized view on time.2 Whilst declaring time to be a qualitative, essential element of things, Bergson makes it impossible to consider temporal relations between things, because it can be said that they are nothing but spatial features where ele- ments, for the sake of comparison, have been taken out of the genuine tem- poral sequence and presented simultaneously. As it is clear from Bergson’s equating the reality of time with its ef ficacy,3 from his refutation of the possibility of measuring time since measuring would involve comparison of 1 Kolakowski sums up Bergson’s philosophy in one sentence: ‘Time is real’ (Kolakowski, Bergson, 2). An opposite claim that time is unreal is represented by McTaggart: see John McTaggart Ellis McTaggart, The Nature of Existence, Vol. 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), Chapter 33 ‘Time’, 9–31. For refutations of McTaggart see D. F. Pears, ‘Time, Truth and Inference’, in Anthony Flew,...

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