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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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Bibliographical Note Time and Free Will (1889), which introduces the idea of duration in connection with psychology and motion, was Begson’s doctoral thesis. It was followed by Matter and Memory (1896), a complex analysis of matter and consciousness. Creative Evolution (1907), a study of duration manifested as life drive, as creation of life, became immensely popular soon after its publication. Mind-Energy (1919) is a collection of essays on the mind-body problem. Duration and Simultaneity (1922) contains a discussion with Einstein on the theory of relativity. The Two Sources of Morality and Religion (1932) applies the theory of duration and intuition to social issues. Bergson’s last book The Creative Mind (1934) is a collection of various essays. For an extensive bibliography of books and articles which deal with Bergson’s thought, see J. Alexander Gunn, Bergson and His Philosophy (Whitefish, Montana: Kessinger Publishing, 2004) 104–59. Bergson’s texts Bergson, Henri, Creative Evolution, transl. Arthur Mitchell (London: Macmillan, 1964) (CE). ——, The Creative Mind, transl. Mabelle L. Andison (New York: Citadel Press, 1974) (CM). ——, The Creative Mind, transl. Mabelle L. Andison (New York: Philosophical Library, 1946) (CM [hardback]). ——, Duration and Simultaneity, transl. Leon Jacobson (Manchester: Clinamen Press, 1999) (DS). ——, An Introduction to Metaphysics, transl. T. E. Hulme (Indianapolis, Cambridge: Hackett, 1999) (Introduction). 226 Bibliography ——, Matter and Memory, transl. Nancy Margaret Paul and W. Scott Palmer (New York: Zone Books, 1991) (MM). ——, Mind-Energy: Lectures and Essays, transl. H. W. Carr (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1975) (ME). ——, Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data...

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