Bergson: Essai sur les Données immédiates de la conscience.

  • Created by: CaraPW
  • Created on: 19-04-21 11:00

Text Characteristics

  •   Written in 1889
  •  Subject: consciousness, Sensation and language that measures sensation
  • Formal, technical, mathematical
  •  Polemic: disagrees with a certain way in which sensation is described
  • Continues conversation begun by Rousseau (social self vs natural self)
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Bergson's life and beliefs

  • Had an elite education
  • Won Nobel Prize in 1927
  • Rejects mathematics and physics as model for philosophy, saying it is too deterministic and mechanical
  • Belives the brain is an organ of consciousness - vitalist ideas (external observation only forms part of the answer
  • Argues against mechanist beliefs
  • Rejects Kantian idea that perception, reality and snesation are measurable, the two latter through intensity. 
  • In the essai, he develops understanfing of time in interaction with consciousness
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Overall ideas of the essay

  • Freedom and creativity of conscience, a positivist model
  • Reaction against Broca's engine mechanichal brain theory
  • Expreience-based argument
  • Poetic, evocative language describes funtion
  • Explorative rather than reductive
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Questions, muscular efforts and colour

  • Problem of exploring trnaslation
  • Is it possible to talk about size concerning something unmeasurable?
  • Example of muscular efforts - more sand more sensation does not mean getting bigger - muscular tension when clenching a fist does not grow in itseld but it is the muscular effort that spreads throughout the body insteas
  • Example of colour - blackness is a reality in itseld - a colour rather than the absence of light
  • Bergson argues that measuring unmeasurable things is reductive so is loose and inaccurate
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  • Numbers are an abstraction - describing things with numbers is not describing things as they are - it is reductive
  • We only need identical units to count
  • We can use sheep as units, however they are not all identical 
  • The idea of number needs the idea of exactly divided empty space to work - this is a mere abstraction
  • The idea of number automatically implies indivisibilty - 61 is made of 61 indivisible units, but it is also a thing in itself
  • It is by jumps that we move from one unit to the next
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Separation and Multiplicity

  •  Separation divides indivisible - result of this thinkign is two types of multiplicity - material objects nad facts of consciousness
  • There is no fact of consciousness but rather aspects of it - these are feelings
  • Feelings could never be given numbers without the intermediary of a symbolic representation of which space will be a part
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  •  Analogue watches divided into 60 equal parts - blankness is helpful in showing how our perception of time is an abstraction
  • We merely divide up an equally blank space
  • Bergon separates time and duration - the latter is time as it is experienced
  • Time can be experienced in different durations - time is only meaningful when related to our experience of it
  • Concepts of durée and étendue - these are real because they our experiences that cannot be separated from time and space
  • Temps and éspace are invented - a division of something that doesn't exist
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  • We know two realities of a different sort: heterogenous and homogenous
  • Homogeneous reality is invented by human intelligence, and enables us to divide things to count, abstract and communicate them
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  • New language fevelops from abstraction
  • Can be brought back to describe reality in a truer way
  • This is a development of Rousseau's understnading of language
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  •       If we have an abstract notion of space, and it gets combined with pure consciousness, does it create notion of time?
  •        Consciousness gets divided up – duration defined
  •     Pure duration is the form that the sequence of our states of consciousness take when ourselves allows itself to live – establishing of separation from present and previous states
  •      Consciousness and duration aren’t naturally separated – it is only unnaturally separated – arbitrary separations
  •      Our state is naturally connected to all time – we are the accumulation of all of our previous states at the current state 
  •     Inside oneself, the process of organisation of events, mutual interpretation of them, continues all the time 
  •   Many states interpenetrate and enrich themselves more and more, therefore could give to a self that didn’t know about space the feeling of pure duration 
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The internal self

  •  A force whose states of modification interpenetrate fundamentally, and undergoes a profound modification from the instant that you separate different states to heap them out in space
  •  The self has been misunderstood and will be made unhappy by this process – expansion on Rousseau
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  • Sleep slows down the functioning of organic function and changes the way in which the self and external things communicate
  • When dreaming, we feel duration rather than measure it - we return to a state of quality from a state of quantity
  • The dreams in which two images get mapped onto one another and present us with 2 people that are actually one person – bad notion of the extent to which our ideas and concepts penetrate one another when awakeNarratives are told rather than argued
  • Bergson repicates the process of separating things here whilst speakign out against doing so - sets up binaries
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Language 2

  •  Language is analogous to quantifying way of seeing and recording
  •  Language is a brutal word which evokes what’s stable, canon, impersonal
  • Language is reductive in its commonality
  •  Crushes individual impressions, which are delicate and fleeting
  •  Bergson prizes individual consciousness and its impressions
  •  Aesthetic and morality to this theory, very poetic
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  • Assimilation of throughts to things useful in practical life and the sciences
  • Wants to address problem of free will
  • #Wants to prove that discussion between determinists and its opponents implies confusion of duration with extensity, 

    -        , succession with simultaneity, quality with quantity – getting rid of this can solve problem

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Intensity and measurement

  • States of consciousness, sensations, feelings etc are capable of growth and diminution – measured by intensity, this poses a more important problem than is usually supposed
  •  When we say one number is greater than another, we know what we mean
  •  How can a more intense sensation contain one of less intensity?
  •  If we say that we have to pass through less intense stages of a sensation to gain one of higher intensity – we cannot advance this idea as a philosophical explanation without a vicious circle
  • Possibility of arranging numbers in ascending order arises from their having relations of container and contained – we cannot do this with intensities – why can intensity be assimilated as a magnitude?
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Opening section

  •  Tries to make us aware of how we speak about immediate experience, and to reveal to what assumptions find their way into our thinking when we do so,  begins by revealing what immediate experience is not and what gets in the way of our awareness of it
  • Begins by appealing to common sense and own experience – opening chapter gives examples so we can imagine how things feel
  • How do we usually speak of sensations? – just like we do external objects, we apply the model of outer experience to them and measure them
  •  Intensities are pure qualities, cannot be transposed into qualitative terms

  • When we measure intensity as quantity, we lose contact with our own experience
  •  there is a fundamental difference between the physical cause of a sensation and the way it feels to us
  •  Difference between light and brightness – light is a thing we can measure, brightness s our feeling of the quality of the light, and can change in us depending on our state of being
  • Quantity tells us how much there is of something, quality tells us how things feel to us
  •  The difference between quantity and quality includes a distinction between two kinds of difference – difference in degree and difference in kind
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Pure quality and joy

  • Can we consider pure quality? – how do we not confuse them with their external causes?
  • Proposes we consider experiences of emotion rather than sensation – we cannot refer these back to any clear cause – e.g., joy
  • Feeling of inner joy does not increase or decrease quantitively, but involves a series of qualitative changes
  •  In its successive stages, it engages with other psychic energies – the richness of a feeling, involving many elements and their changes
  • Distinction he wants to emphasise is between difference in degree of one and the same sensation, and difference in kind as feelings change qualitatively and new elements enter into the event of feeling
  • Talks about tempo of feeling (joy as acceleration and sadness as deceleration) quite subtly here and uses it later to grow his explanation – characteristic of his style
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The dancer

  • Esthetic pleasure yields feeling of inner joy – Bergson uses the example of the graceful movements of a dancer and the joy we take in them
  • Instead of an intensity changing in degree,  we experience a succession of different intensities and feelings
  • -Graceful dancing pleases us because the movements flow effortlessly into each other, 
  • -  Music and rhythm further engage us with this flow, eliciting our sympathetic participation, and holding the future in the present –  sympathy
  • What we might mistake for growing intensity is an experience of a variety of feelings
  • We experience different kinds of change, passage from one qualitative state to another – a qualitative progress – this characterises the flow of time itself
  • What performs the differentiation among different qualities when we experience emotion is the flow of time itself
  • Variety of feelings itself produces a flow
  • Dancers alter figures central notion of Bergson’s thinking – real duration: the horizon of inner experience, of consciousness, as distinct from the objective horizon of things set in space and our knowledge of them.
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Beauty and art

  • Esthetics differ from Kantian form because esthetic feeling becomes the paradigm of inner experience
  • Proposes an esthetics of art and progess
  • Esthetic experience becomes paradigm for inner feeling because it is defiend as any feeling that has been suggested in us, not caused in us
  • Relation of cause and effect is necessary
  • Art does not operate like a physical cause but rather suggests feelings to us
  • Suggestion influences our attention and opens us up to its influence - places us in dream-state
  • It elicits a sympathetic response - visual participation
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Pleasure and pain

  • Sensations give info about past and future, and are the beginning of freedom as they provoke voluntary repsonses
  • Pleasure and pain are felt in higher organists because they authorise resistance to a programmed automatic response - by interrupting automatic reactions, they enable us to make choice in respinse
  • Affective sensations defined as the beginnings of freedom - give us info about the future because they offer a preview of the nature of the automatic reaction about to occur
  • Intensity of affective sensations is   “consciousness we have of incipient involuntary (or unconscious) movements, movements which begin to take place, that are sketched out in these states, and which would have followed their free course if nature had made us automatons and not conscious beings”
  • Consciousness tied to affective sensation and to voluntary action in oppoistion to automatism
  • Consciousness = freedom - interruption of mechanical order of necessity and the possibility of acting otherwise
  • Consciousness opposed to notion of unconsciousness, referring to mechanisic order of automatic response and to the material world
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Qualitative multiplicity

  •       When we consider quality a quantity, we put the quantity of the cause into the effect
  •        Asks reader to imagine sticking self with pin in a progressively forceful manner. Force of cause will be felt in one hand that inserts the pin, and in our thinking, we will transfer it to what is felt in the other hand - we interpret quality as quantity and intensity as grandeur
  •      Candle’s blackness/whiteness example –  we are asked to consider the range of nuances existing between black and white
  •  Candlepower is source of our sensation, has been progressively diminished in degree
  •   We need to redescribe resulting visual effects with attention to the nuances of qualitative difference
  •  The qualitative changes we perceive do not correspond exactly to the conditions of quantity of light
  •  We perceive a change, another nuance of white or grey, only when the decrease in light corresponds with the creation of a new quality
  •  Asks us to see difference in kind – qualitative nuances of darkness and lightness, where previously we had only considered only difference in degree of one and the same term, whiteness - Applies qualitative nuance to inner experiences of consciousneness


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C1 Conclusion

  • We see at the end of the chapter that this argument has been directed against psychophysicists – he thinks this school of thought exaggerates the illusion of common sense, giving them a pseudo-scientific validation, which encourages measurement of subjective states
  •  Claims to truth must be vigorously philosophically contested, or we will find ourselves living in a culture of automatons
  •  Concludes C1 by returning to distinction between representative and affective sensations – if the former is measurable, the latter can be considered pure quality
  • Confused perception in contrast to acquired perception of representative sensation – conceptual distinction between the two is virtual – two types of sensation usually present themselves in combination
  • We need to think of time without spatializing it – we need to think multiplicity independent of a number
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Chapter 2 Intro

  • Reflection on numver - demonstrates that counting presupposes an imagines horizon of space, and that when time is measured, we never leave the special horizon
  • Counting sheep - sheep are considered as identical units accumulated into a sum, however they aren't identical
  • Units are situated in an imaginary space
  • We count in space rather than time, as the concept of humber implies juxtaposition in space
  • Each unit has to wait to be added to other units - we fix each moment counted to a point in space
  • COunting requires juxtaposiiton, juxtaposiiton implies simultenaity and simultenaity presupposes space
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  • Two kinds of multiplicity - one can be manipulated through number counted in space (distinct)
  • Other characterises inner affective states, it is confused multiplicity because elements are fused together, has a lot to do with radical force of time that occurs (pure)
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Two types of consciousness

  •  Immediate consciousness and reflective consciousness – immediate refer to the way something else to us directly
  •  Second involves thinking and implies use of tools enabling us to think and know – language, logic, mathematics, other symbols – objectifies experiences, treats them the same way it considers objects in space
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Time and duration

  • Two modes of consciousness imply distinct notions of time - reflective consciousness thinks time in terms of space
  • Immediate consciousness experiences time as durée - point of the essai is to introduce us to this notion - can only apporach this through inner states - immediate or purley qualitative experience -   duration will involve a concept of time radically independent of space
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  • This is a philosophy of intuition because the subject of enqury is duration
  • Cognitive thinking represents things in space
  • DUration can only be lived
  • Intuition involves vigourous effort of abstraction - performs an operation of critique
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  • Reflective consciousness = time is nothing but space and space is a homogeneous medium
  • Immediate experience starts from sense of radical heterogenity
  • Immediate consciousness - the given is a full, heterogeneous real
  • Perfecprion of qualititive differences in immediate consciousness is singular and concrete 
  • COnception of homogeneous space requires a kind of reaction against heterogeneity 
  • Any homogeneous Milieu should be considered as space, even time, because it implies an absence of qualities to the extent  it is considered to be homogenous
  • If one considers time as a homogeneous milieu in which states of consciousness appear to unfold, one implies simultaneity and refuses duration considered as the flow of time
  • concept of time is a ******* concept resulting from an intrusion of an idea of space into the domain of pure consciousness, which reduces time to space
  •         Fundamental difference between external things and inner states is that external things are delimited from one another because they are implicitly juxtaposed in an ideal space – inner states have no such boundaries
  • Real duration is duration uncompromised by a surrepitiuous contamination by the homogeneous character of space
  •  To think the temporality of duration we must first be willing to give up our conceptual separation of past and present to conceive of temporal synthesis
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  • Duration implies mode of temporal synthesis that is different from the linear narrative development of past-present-future
  •  Involves temporal synthesis of memorial that knits temporal dimensions together like a melody – a figure for duration
  • Melody is figure of confused multiplicity – overlapping and interpenetrating elements
  • Very idea of an order of succession implies spatial orientation
  • Metaphor of the musical phase conveys notion of ensemble that attaches to the experience of duration and the idea of heterogeneous multiplicity instead of being organised into distinct succession
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Shooting Star example

  • Movement that does not occur in space is called real movement
  • Shooring start - space travelled is vast but speech is so rapid that our sense of its actual movement is almost instantaneous
  • Mobility felt as intesinty, but mobility is an indivisible action
  • Shooting star's mobility is an act of temporal syntheses performed as consciousness requiring memore
  • Science divides things up and eliminates qualitative features of experience, ignoring duration and mobility, the qualitative elements of time and movement
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The problem of language

  • A distinct multiplicity pertains to things in space
  • Confused multiplicity is associates with operations of temporal synthesis, it is nothing to do with counting
  • It is hard to keep the distinction between the two because language constantly confuses them - symbolic representation of space imposes an implied frameworkof homogeneity on concepts of thought
  • Time is concept of what we experience as pure duraion - symbolic image, what duration becomes when spoekn of and thought of
  • Language alienates us from direct experience and imposes the horizon of distinct multiplicity on confused multiplicity
  • WOrds exist because of their iterability - they stablilise our experience when names are attached to it
  • Language reduces experience
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Dreams and the divided self

  • Two types of multiplicity correspond to two modes of subjective experience and two instances of self - superficial and passionate - latter is in touch with heterogenous real
  • Dream experience becomes figure for immediate experience - withdraws us from world of relfective consciousness and gives access to duration
  • Beneath homogenous duration,   attentive psychology discerns a duration whose generous moments interpenetrate - mapping of selves onto each other
  • Consciousness substitutes the symbol for the reality, or only perceives the reality through the symbol
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Task of philosophy

  • We can reconnect w, passionate self through vigorous effort of analysis
  • Need to isolate living psychological facrs from their symbolic representation by means of analysys then to approach immediate epxerience through an effort of intuition
  • Crtique of concepts which identifies them as symbolic representations
  • Intuition enabled through examples he addresses directly to readers - function rhetorically
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Passions and language

  • Big problem with language is the state of language
  • Same sensation is never experiences twice - all sensations are modified through repetition
  • It is only the influence of langugae on sensation that makes us think otherwise - puts different senations under the same name
  • We need to seek very precise language
  • Passions suffer most at the hands of the conventions of language
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Ideology and social life

  • Necessary that all of our ideas, that fill the whole seld, are incorporated in such a way into the mass o our states of consciousness
  • Many leaves float on the surface like dead leaves on a poonf - ideas that inhabit us without being assimilated into our substance
  • When we dig deeper into the depths of alive intellifence, we can oberse the superimposition of ideas that mutually exlude one another according to logical contradicitons
  • Dreams where two images overlap give us idea of interpenetration of concepts durin waking state
  • To speak of deep states of consciousness is to deform them - dreaming is useful in this respect
  • Social life is radically alienating
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Language points summary

  • Very long-winded explanation goes directly against Kantian style – he uses a poetic, literary style to distinctly set himself apart from a reductionist view and direct readers wholly towards a more explorative view
  •  Satirisation of reductionist philosophy – sets himself further apart by setting distinct binaries between his own view and reductionist views, binaries set through language
  •  Could be argued that the language is as explorative as possible to avoid the problem of language, the unnecessary quantitative segmentation of concepts that should be viewed qualitatively – he exploratively views things to limit his own proposed problem
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