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The Abacus and the Rainbow

Bergson, Proust, and the Digital-Analogic Opposition


Donald R. Maxwell

Donald R. Maxwell analyzes the concepts of time, memory, self, and thought in Proust's ¿ la recherche du temps perdu and in the philosophy of Henri Bergson. Dr. Maxwell introduces the digital-analogic opposition (abacus and rainbow) that permeates Bergson's philosophy. Bergson's analysis of memory is distinct from Proust's, but resembles that of contemporary neurophysiology. He specifies two aspects of being, as well as the twinning of self in memory, which are both present throughout Proust's great novel. While Bergson uses linguistic imagery to communicate his philosophy, Proust's use of language is more to suggest, evoke, and create. Both Bergson and Proust describe the process of artistic creation in related yet contrasting ways. Dr. Maxwell provides new insight into the origins of the similarities between Bergson's philosophy and elements of the Proustian universe.