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The Challenge of Bergsonism: Phenomenology, Ontology, Ethics

Leonard Lawlor


The Challenge of Bergsonism

For my parents

The Challenge of Bergsonism

Phenomenology, Ontology, ELthics



Continuum The Tower Building, 11 York Road, London SE1 7NX 15 East 26th Street, New York, NY 10010 Leonard Lawlor 2003 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, prior permission in writing from the publishers. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. ISBN: 0-8264-6802-0 (hardback), 0-8264-6803-9 (paperback)

Typeset by YHT Ltd, London Printed and bound in Great Britain by Biddies Ltd, Guildford and King's Lynn


Acknowledgements Abbreviations Preface: Memory and Life Chapter One: The Concept of the Image: Phenomenology The Artifice The Threefold Differentiation in Order to Determine the Concept of the Image The Role of the Body The Theory of Pure Perception Chapter Two: The Concept of Memory: Ontology The Primacy of Memory The Two Differences in Nature that Define Memory The Central Metaphysical Problem of Existence The Image of the Cone Chapter Three: The Concept of Sense: Ethics The Bergsonian Concept of Intuition Bergson's Philosophy of Language Conclusion: Think in Terms of Duration Appendix I: The Point where Memory Turns Back into Life: An Investigation of Bergson's The Two Sources of Morality and Religion

vii viii ix 1 1 4 11 18 27 29 31 39 43 60 63 70 80


I. The Theoretical and Practical Objectives of The Two Sources of Morality and Religion 86



II. Asceticism and Sexuality III. The Trumpery of Nature IV. Mystical Experience: Emotion and Image Conclusion: The Star Appendix II: English Translation of Jean Hyppolite's 1949 'Aspects divers de la memoire chez Bergson' ('Various Aspects of Memory in Bergson'), translated by Athena V. Colman Notes Bibliography Index

91 97 99 110

112 128 136 143


I would like to thank Miguel de Beistegui who invited me to deliver three lectures on Bergson at the Collegium Phaenomenologicum in Citta di Costello, Italy, during July of 1999. I would also like to thank John Mullarkey, Frederic Worms, Renaud Barbaras, Keith Ansell Pearson and Marie Cariou for helping me understand Bergson's philosophy. Finally, I would like to thank the students who participated in two graduate seminars on Bergson that I taught at the University of Memphis (spring 1999 and spring 2002). In particular, I would like to thank Heath Massey, who proofread and indexed the manuscript. The writing of this book was made possible by a Faculty Research Grant from the University of Memphis (summer 2001). Note: Appendix II is an English translation by Athena V. Colman of Jean Hyppolite's 'Aspects divers de la memoire chez Bergsons', in Jean Hyppolite, Figures de la pensee philosophique, tome /, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1971: 468-88. Michel Meyer of Revue International de Philosphie has granted permission for this translation. I would like to thank Athena Colman for translating this text.


The following abbreviations have been used throughout. At times the English translations have been modified. Reference is always made first to Henri Bergson, CEuvres, Edition du Centenaire, textes annotes par Andre Robinet, Introduction par Henri Gouhier, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1959, then to the corresponding English translation. EC Creative Evolution, translated by Arthur Mitchell, New York: Dover, 1998 [1911].

PM The Creative Mind: An Introduction to Metaphysics, translated by Mabelle L. Andison, New York: The Citadel Press, 1992 [1946]; translation of La Pensee et le mouvant. R Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic, translated by Cloudsley Brereton and Fred Rothwell, Los Angeles: Green Integer, 1999 [1911].

MM Matter and Memory, translated by N. M. Paul and W. S. Palmer, New York: Zone Books, 1994 [1910]. ES Mind-Energy, translated by H. Wildon Carr, London: Macmillan, 1920. DI Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness, translated by F. L. Pogson, Mineola: Dover Publishing Company, 2001 [1913]. The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, translated by R. Ashley Audra and Cloudsley Brereton, with the assistance of W. Horsfall Carter, Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1977 [1935].



Memory and Life

Bergson himself states the challenge that his philosophy represents when he says, 'Questions relating to subject and object, to their distinction and to their union, should be put in terms of time rather than space' (MM 218/71; also MM 354/220). To put questions relating to subject and object in terms of time means that we must think in terms of duration. While Bergson defines duration in many ways - most basically, this book concerns itself with the concept of duration - it can be summarized in the following formula: duration equals memory plus the absolutely new. Giving the primary role to memory, this formula implies that Bergsonism is a 'primacy of memory', and not a 'primacy of perception', and this is why Bergsonism is, first, a challenge to phenomenology. In the Phenomenology of Perception, Merleau-Ponty says, 'To perceive is not to remember'.1 Through this distinction between perception and remembering, Merleau-Ponty intends to prioritize perception over memory; for him there is no call from the present to memory without the 'immanent sense' that perception makes available. In contrast, in Matter and Memory, Bergson says, 'to imagine is not to remember' (MM 278/135). Through this distinction Bergson intends to prioritize memory over any form of imaging, including perception; for him, while perception calls for memory, perception does not make sense without memory. In fact, for Bergson, the priority of memory is so extreme that we must say that being is memory. Even though the concept of the image in Matter and Memory looks to be a new non-phenomenological concept of presence, presence becomes in Bergson derivative from memory. This identification of being and memory is why, second, the challenge of Bergsonism is a challenge to ontology. Of course, in the most famous footnote in Being and Time, Heidegger criticizes Bergson's conception of time as duration for having merely 'reversed' Aristotle's numerical definition of time.2 Indeed, Bergson's relentless denunciations of analyses that divide things according to numbers or according to quantitative differences looks to be a reversal in favour of quality. It is possible to see in Bergson's concept of memory a reversal of Platonism. Yet, Bergson, to use Heidegger's phrase, 'twists free' of Platonism. He twists free because memory in Bergson is onto-

Preface: Memory and Life

logical; it gives us a new sense of being: being in terms of the past not in terms of the present, being as the unconscious instead of consciousness. (In order to understand the connection between memory and being in Bergson, I relied heavily on Jean Hyppolite's 'Aspects divers de la memoire chez Bergson'. This is why I have included an English translation of it as Appendix II.) This new sense of being means that Bergson is not merely replacing objectivism with a kind of subjectivism. But there is more. Because Bergson compares his image of the memory cone to a telescope, we can see that he has replaced the Platonic sun (the good) with the Milky Way, with stars and planets. This means that what memory recalls are multiplicities and singularities, not identities and universals. It is clear that Bergson at least reverses Platonism since he constantly criticizes Zeno's alleged paradoxes; he does not subscribe to the Eleatic philosophy of the same. Moreover, Bergson's emphasis of the absolutely new means that his thought is not totalizing; in fact, the slogan for this book could be that 'the whole is not given'.3 In his later writings of course, Levinas acknowledges the importance of Bergson's philosophy for ethics, ethics in the sense of a discourse of alterity.4 But, Levinas also wonders whether the Bergsonian experience of duration - what Bergson calls intuition - really lets the 'alterity of the new ... explode, immaculate and untouchable as alterity or absolute newness, the absolute itself in the etymological sense of the term'.5 Levinas can say this because he believes that Bergsonian intuition is a form of representation. But this 'failure' in Bergsonism, for Levinas, may be what is most important about it: it leads us away from the discourse of intersubjectivity and the logic of alterity. When Bergson criticizes the Eleatic tradition, he in effect criticizes the entire logic of the same and other. He does this in what we could call a 'philosophy of language'. Through the concept of the dynamic schema, Bergson furnishes us with a new concept of sense (a new concept of the concept) in which there is no alterity, but, instead of representation, there is alteration, variation, movement and, therefore, life. These three challenges - to phenomenology, to ontology, to ethics - came about on the basis of a reading of Bergson's Matter and Memory (1896). The three chapters in the present volume correspond to those three challenges. Chapter Three, however, ends by taking up the idea of creative emotion from Bergson's The Two Sources of Morality and Religion (1932). Appendix I expands the investigations of The Two Sources by attempting to think about Bergson's ethics as such (and not in relation to his so-called philosophy of language). Between the completion of the third chapter and the writing of the first appendix, I started to wonder about the resources available in contemporary philosophy for ethical thinking, resources other than Scheler, other than Levinas, other than Heidegger, other than Sartre and deBeauvoir. I also started

Preface: Memory and Life


to wonder about the possibility of an ethical thinking that is distinctly 'continental', in contrast to analytic philosophy's moral theory. But it is clear that, when I started to wonder about ethics, I had fallen into the line called forth by the very noisy drumbeat of philosophy today: 'ethics and politics, ethics and polities'. In contemporary philosophy it is hard not to be swept up into trends; it is hard to be genuinely untimely. But I hope the reader can recognize that, by linking Matter and Memory with The Two Sources - two books, by the way, that Bergson himself did not directly link; he intended The Two Sources as a continuation of Creative Evolution (MR 1193/256) - I am trying to link some now apparently uninteresting 'metaphysical' ideas, like reversing Platonism, with some now apparently interesting 'ethical' ideas, like absolute justice. In this book I am trying to follow my own line. Nevertheless, as Bergson would say, there is always aspiration along with pressure. So, one should note that the title of this preface is an allusion to a small book by Gilles Deleuze, Memoire et vie.6 Deleuze, of course, defined Bergson's philosophy with this phrase, 'Memory and Life'. But it also makes one think, thanks again to Deleuze, of Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morals. When I started then to investigate The Two Sources, I was looking for similarities with Nietzsche. After all, The Two Sources is the only published book of Bergson's in which Bergson mentions Nietzsche by name (MR 1212/278).7 With Nietszche in mind, it turned out that The Two Sources is engaged in a project that cannot be characterized as moral theory. Instead, Bergson is engaged in an archaeology of originary experience. This experience is what Bergson calls mystical experience; it is the experience of the reciprocal implication of images and emotion. In fact, it is not even clear that we can call what he is doing in The Two Sources an ethics in the standard sense, since he says that this experience is more metaphysical than moral. If it presents anything, The Two Sources presents an 'originary ethics'. But besides an archaeology, Bergson is engaged in a genealogy. He thinks that mystical experience (and its asceticism) will transform the genus humanity into a 'divine humanity', into, one might say, a super-humanity. As archaeology and genealogy suggest, the most striking similarity between Bergson and Nietzsche is the concern with memory. Again, as I said above, I have tried to show here that Bergson's 'ethics', his originary ethics, maintains a deep connection with the concept of memory developed in Matter and Memory. Mystical experience in Bergson is an experience of memory. Consequently, following the image he gives us in Matter and Memory - the memory cone is a kind of telescope - we must say that Bergson ethics is really an astronomy. This 'astronomy', looking heavenward, indicates a fundamental difference between Bergson and Nietzsche, a difference that perhaps overturns the results of Chapter Three. The Two Sources privileges a religious experience - and Bergson explicitly mentions the ascetic ideal - over philosophy; On the Genealogy of Morals pri-


Preface: Memory and Life

vileges 'we knowers', that is, the philosophers who question even the value of truth, over the ascetic ideal. Perhaps in the final analysis we have to characterize Bergson as a philosopher of transcendence rather than as a philosopher of immanence. On the basis of this investigation, I am more certain than ever that, today, we must rethink precisely the relation between immanence and transcendence. In any case, because Deleuze focused primarily on Matter and Memory - Deleuze says that Matter and Memory contains the 'secret' of Bergsonism8 - he classified Bergson as an immanentist. Indeed, Deleuze (and Guattari) in What is Philosophy? say: Will we ever be mature enough for a Spinozist inspiration [of immanence]? It happened once with Bergson: the beginning of Matter and Memory marks out a plane that slices through the chaos - both the infinite movement of a matter that continually propogates itself, and the image of a thought that everywhere spreads an in principle pure consciousness (immanence is not immanent 'to' consciousness but the other way around).9 Because Matter and Memory lays out a strict plane of immanence, it confronts the problem of metaphysical dualism. The subtitle of the original French edition of Matter and Memory (there is no subtitle to the English edition) translates as 'An essay on the relation of the body to the mind or spirit' (I'esprit, of course) and immediately makes one think of An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness, the title of Bergson's first book (Time and Free Will is the title of the English translation). This association to the Essay is supposed to indicate the progress made over the seven years (1889 to 1896) between the two publications. The Essay constructed a dualism between time and space, between spirit and matter. As I have already stated, Bergson always denounces thinking in terms of differences of degree; the conclusion of the Essay is that the difference between spirit and matter is a difference in nature. So, like the Essay, Matter and Memory is, as Bergson says explicitly in the preface of 1910, 'clearly dualist' (MM 161/9). But, unlike the Essay, Matter and Memory 'asserts the reality of spirit and the reality of matter' (MM 161/9). It is not the case that matter is some sort of illusion; rather, matter is real. The dualism of reality allows us then, according to Bergson, to 'attenuate, if not suppress, the theoretical difficulties' which the dualism suggested by immediate consciousness and adopted by common sense has always raised (MM 161/9, 318/181). Therefore, the purpose of Matter and Memory lies in showing that both consciousness (conscience, in French, con-science) and science are right (MM 191/ 41), that 'science and conscience fundamentally agree provided that we regard consciousness in its immediate data and science in its remotest aspiration' (MM 333/197). Thus Matter and Memory is supposed to bring us to a new

Preface: Memory and Life


monism, 'the plane of immanence'. In Matter and Memory's fourth chapter, Bergson himself says that his philosophical method of intuition, which had been used in relation to the problem of consciousness in the Essay, is now being applied to matter. He says, The question is whether . . . the confused mass which tends towards extension could be seized by us on the nearer side of the homogeneous space to which it is applied and through which we subdivide it - just as that part which goes to make up our inner life can be detached from time, empty and indefinite, and brought back to pure duration. (MM 323/186-7) Commenting on this discussion, Victor Delbos noted in his 1897 review that Matter and Memory allows us 'to surmount the dualism with which the Essay had been content and which here [in Matter and Memory] is conceived only as a critical procedure resulting in a provisional conclusion'.10 The real conclusion is memory, or more precisely, duration, understood as a sort of monistic substance (cf. PM 1420 n. I 11 ) where substance itself is not understood as something stable but rather as unstable differentiations of spirit into matter. Bergson's psychology of the immediate data of consciousness, therefore, is nothing less than a 'springboard' into ontology;12 it is an introduction to metaphysics, to the metaphysics that Matter and Memory presents. This metaphysics begins with the concept of the image.

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The Concept of the Image: Phenomenology

In this opening chapter we are going to consider Bergsonism's relation to phenomenology, and to do this we must consider the Bergsonian concept of perception, which is found in chapter one of Matter and Memory. This chapter is entitled 'Concerning the Selection of Images for Representation'; its subtitle is 'The Role of the Body'. While Bergson himself, in his Table of Contents, divides the chapter into thirteen sections1, we are going to approach the concept of perception with three preliminary steps. The first step will concern the Bergsonian method, the second the concept of image that is introduced on the first page of Matter and Memory, and the third 'the role of the body'. Finally, we shall turn to what Bergson calls 'pure perception'. What we are going to see is that Bergsonism differs from phenomenology by means of its concept of presence; the Bergsonian concept of image amounts to a new concept of presence. We shall also see that, unlike phenomenology, Bergsonism refers consciousness to matter. But this reference of consciousness to matter does not mean that Bergsonism is a kind of 'fleshism', as we find in Merleau-Ponty. Nor does it mean that Bergsonism is a kind of materialism. Most importantly, Bergson in Matter and Memory's first chapter is not making a 'phenomenology of perception'.

Overall, chapter one of Matter and Memory announces that the traditional metaphysical positions of materialism or realism and idealism or spiritualism are dead.2 Spiritualism and materialism are reductionistic metaphysical positions; each is the reverse of the other, either reducing the reality of matter to spirit or the reality of spirit to matter. Both positions are based in views of external perception. In idealism, external perception is defined by the spiritual projection of representations that are taken to be reality; in realism, external perception is defined by the brain having the role of generating representations which are then projected out but which do not meet up with external things

The Challenge of Bergsonism

(cf. MM 317-18/181). Reductionistic positions such as spiritualism (or idealism) and materialism (or realism) move around in a circle and are enclosed in irresolvable or badly stated problems. For Bergson, the problem of perception needs to be restated, or, as Bergson says, 'enlarged' (MM 176/25: 's'elargit'y, when the problem of perception (like all metaphysical problems) is stated well, it will open itself to solutions. To state the problem of perception well, Bergson starts with what seems to be a fiction. The first sentence of Matter and Memory says: 'We are going to feign for an instant that we know nothing of the theories of matter and of the theories of spirit, nothing of the discussions concerning the reality or ideality of the external world' (MM 169/17; cf. also MM 162/10). The wordfeindre, like feign in English, literally means to fashion or to shape; the opening of Matter and Memory therefore is an 'artifice'. We can call it an artifice, because, in Matter and Memory's fourth chapter, Bergson speaks of the artifice of his philosophical method; the artifice consists in distinguishing the viewpoint of customary or useful knowledge from that of true knowledge (MM 322/186). In a lecture Bergson delivered in 1895, the year before the publication of Matter and Memory, he defines an artifice as something that leads some of us to a place where others find themselves naturally.3 With this artifice, therefore, he intends to call us back from the habitual ways we think about the problem of perception. So, this artifice is based in an act of liberation, an act of freedom, in which Bergson himself is inventing the terms of the problem. Like Descartes's fiction of the evil genius - Descartes too uses the word 'feindre'4 - Bergson's artifice is needed to restrain our habits and to restrain the metaphysical theories that develop on the basis of them. The last sentence of the 1910 preface says, 'the habits formed in action find their way up to the sphere of speculation, where they create fake [factice] problems; metaphysics must begin by dissipating this artificial obscurity' (MM 168/16). So, Bergson's artifice is supposed to 'dissipate' the obscurity; it is a 'hypothesis' in the literal sense of the word; it is a thesis, which is 'below', but which is supposed to return us to experience 'above' utility, return us to what he calls 'immediate experience' or 'immediate consciousness'. This return to immediate consciousness is Bergson's famous 'turn of experience': the philosophical enterprise, for Bergson, consists in 'seeking experience at its source, or rather above that decisive turn where, taking a bias in the direction [sens] of our utility, it becomes properly human experience' (MM 321/184, Bergson's emphasis). We shall return to the turn of experience in Chapter Three, but for now let us note that the turn of experience is really the Bergsonian equivalent to the phenomenological reduction, but it is not a return to perceptual faith. One can say that the turn of experience does not return us to perceptual faith because, for Bergson, immediate experience is not common sense, although, in

The Concept of the Image: Phenomenology

the 1910 preface as well as in the original 1896 preface, he suggests as much.5 Again, in Chapter Three, we shall return to the question of common sense in Bergson and distinguish it from what he calls 'good sense' and especially from what he calls 'superior good sense'. But for now, we must recognize the importance for Bergson of the word 'sens '; like the German 'Sinn', sens means not only meaning and sense, but also direction. Common sense in Bergson is the common (or even natural) direction, the direction towards utility. It is our common theories about how to make things useful, what Bergson, in the second introduction to his 1934 collection of essays called La pensee et le mouvant (The Creative Mind - the title of the English translation), calls 'the socialization of the truth' (PM 1327/87).6 This theoretical outlook based in social needs is why common sense is primarily concerned with decomposing. The tendency of common sense to decompose is why Bergson throughout Matter and Memory finds himself 'correcting' common sense (MM 219/73; cf. also MM 327/191, 329/193, 332/196). The most important comment Bergson makes in Matter and Memory concerning common sense is found in chapter four when he says, Against [materialism and idealism] we invoke the same testimony, that of consciousness, which shows us our body as one image among others and our understanding as a certain faculty of dissociating, of distinguishing, of opposing logically, but not of creating or of constructing. Thus, willing captives of psychological analysis and, consequently, of common sense, it would seem that, after having exacerbated the conflicts raised by ordinary dualism, we have closed all the avenues of escape which metaphysics might set open to us. But, just because we have pushed dualism to an extreme, our analysis has perhaps dissociated its contradictory elements. (MM 318/181) This comment implies that Matter and Memory's opening hypothesis is really supposed to 'push' common sense up above to an extreme which in turn will open common sense up and allow us to escape from it. In other words, the immediate experience that Bergson is hypothesizing here is not a 'naive conviction' (MM 192/43), an Urdoxa; rather it is intuition, knowledge. But, this knowledge is not equivalent to science, at least not science in the normal sense. With Bergson, we must always speak of this conjunction: 'consciousness in its immediate data' and 'science in its remotest aspiration' (MM 333/197). So, since Bergson speaks of science in its remotest aspiration, it is difficult to maintain, as Merleau-Ponty does in Phenomenology of Perception, that he presupposes 'the objective world' for the sense given to the word 'being'.7 As we shall see in a moment, Bergson is concerned, in Matter and Memory, with the

The Challenge of Bergsonism

refutation of materialism; we shall also see how important the word 'image' is for Bergson and with it the word 'vibration' (ebranlement or vibration). So, the opening hypothesis is leading us above the 'turn' in experience; it reads: 'Here I am therefore in the presence of images, in the vaguest sense of the word, images perceived when I open my senses, unperceived when I close them' (MM 169/17). Thus the opening hypothesis defines all of reality with one term, 'images'. The problem of perception must be restated 'in terms of images, and of images alone'; images are the 'common terrain' on which realism and idealism do battle (MM 177/26). Undoubtedly, the concept of the image is the central concept of Matter and Memory, since the title of each chapter concerns images ('The Selection of Images', 'The Recognition of Images', 'The Survival of Images' and 'The Delimitation and Fixation of Images'); it is also one of the most difficult concepts. We are going to make a threefold differentiation in order to try to understand it. The threefold differentiation consists in this: the Bergsonian image differs from an affection, from a thing and from a representation. We are going to start with the first difference, that of image from affection.


In the 1910 preface, Bergson tells us that matter is images (MM 161/9). Since matter is always denned in terms of extension, then extension must apply to images. So, the first characteristic of the Bergsonian image is extension and this means objectivity. Things that are external have an order that does not depend on our perceptions; in fact, the order of our perceptions depends on extension. This independence is why Bergson can say that 'an image may be without being perceived1 (MM 185/35). Because extension and objectivity define the Bergsonian image, it differs in nature from what Bergson calls affection: affection is internal; it is the lowest degree of subjectivity (MM 206/57, 364/234). Simply, the image is matter and not spirit (MM 355/221). Thus, the first differentiation we can make is that the Bergsonian image is not affection; the 'pure image' has no affection mixed in with it (MM 206/58); the image is defined by extension and objectivity. The second differentiation we can make is between the image and the thing. Again, we must return to the 1910 preface. Here, Bergson tells us that realism has been excessive in its conception of matter insofar as realism attempts to make matter 'a thing that produces representations in us but that would be of a nature different from these representations' (MM 161/9). His criticism of realism is directed at this 'thing'.8 With the concept of the image, Bergson is dispelling the false belief that matter is a thing that possesses a

The Concept of the Image: Phenomenology

hidden power able to produce representations in us (cf. ES 961-6/191-8). As Bergson says: 'The truth is that there is one, and only one, method of refuting materialism: it is to show that matter is precisely what it appears to be. Thereby we eliminate all virtuality, all hidden power, from matter ... ' (MM 219/72). Bergson's refutation of materialism is contained in this rather obscure comment from Matter and Memory's first chapter: No theory of matter can escape [the necessity of thinking in terms of the image]. Reduce matter to atoms in motion: these atoms, though denuded of physical qualities, are determined only in relation to an eventual vision and an eventual contact, the one without light and the other without materiality. Condense atoms into centers of force, dissolve them into vortices revolving in a continuous fluid, this fluid, these movements, these centers, can themselves be determined only in relation to an impotent touch, an ineffectual impulsion, a colorless light; they are still images. (MM 185/35) This comment means that if one denudes matter of physical qualities, in other words, if one insists on conceiving matter not in terms of the image, one must still define these denuded things negatively in relation to perceivable qualities: a lightless vision, an immaterial touch, an impotent touch, an ineffectual impulsion, a colourless light. These 'things' are still images. This 'concession to idealism', as Bergson calls it (MM 360/229), is why he then defines the image as 'presence' (MM 185/35). Especially after the developments of twentieth-century phenomenology, we always tend to turn the word 'presence' into the phrase 'presence to consciousness'; in particular, after Derrida, we place this word, presence, immediately in the lexicon of idealism. But, with Bergson, presence, understood as an image, is not immediately or not yet idealistic. Presence, for Bergson, means only that the image is what it appears to be. So far therefore, we have two characteristics of the Bergsonian image: extension (and objective) - it is not affection (and subjective) - and presence - it is not the thing. But if the image is what it appears to be, then we must wonder: Why does Bergson use the word 'image'? This question is crucial. Bergson insists on the word image because it suggests vision (cf. PM 1355/ 118). We shall return to the priority of vision in Bergson when we discuss pure perception below, but for now, we must note that, with the image, Bergson is privileging vision because vision is dependent on light. The Bergsonian image emits light; it is a 'picture', as Bergson himself says (MM 186/36). What the illuminated picture gives vision to see primarily is colour, not lines. Bergson always praises Berkeley for having proved that the secondary qualities of matter have at least as much reality as the primary qualities (MM 162/10). So, the Bergsonian image is composed of what modern philosophy called 'secondary

The Challenge of Bergsonism

qualities' and it is not therefore defined by what modern philosophy called 'primary qualities', which are spatial relations defined by geometry. The recognition that the Bergsonian image consists in secondary qualities, like colour in particular, provides us with other characteristics of the image: the image in Bergson is at once simple or one, complex or different, and continuous or successive. When I see a picture, I see a unity composed of a multiplicity of colours all different from one another; Bergson says: 'Between light and darkness, between colors, between shades, the difference is absolute' (MM 332/196). These absolute differences between qualities like colours are what Bergson calls 'natural articulations' (MM 333/197) or 'the articulations of the real' (PM 1292-4/50-2). That there are natural articulations of the real is why Bergson constantly speaks of 'images' in the plural; for example, in chapter one of Matter and Memory he says that 'I call matter the whole of images' (MM 170/22). Despite this plurality of articulations, when I see a picture, the colours flow continuously one into another. Unlike the senses of hearing, smell and taste, vision does not contain intervals during which or between which it is not functioning (MM 332/197).9 If we think about taste, for example, it is never necessary that, as soon as I open my mouth, I taste something; even if I maintain my mouth open, it is still not necessary that I am going to taste something. But, as soon as I open my eyes - as the opening hypothesis of Matter and Memory says -1 see and continue to see, because light immediately flows into this opening; even if it is night-time, even if there is virtually no light, I see pictures. Bergson also insists on the word image because it is always a picture of something; the word, of course, literally means 'copy'. But, we have just seen that the Bergsonian image is not a copy of a hidden thing. The impression that the image copies a thing comes from the fact that it is a surface and a surface has depth. Bergson says in Matter and Memory'?, fourth chapter: Indeed we have no choice: if our belief in a more or less homogeneous substratum of sensible qualities has any ground, this can only be found in an act that would make us seize or guess, in quality itself, something that goes beyond our sensation, as if this sensation itself were pregnant with details suspected yet unperceived. Its objectivity - that is, what it contains over and above what it yields up - must then consist ... precisely in the immense multiplicity of movements which it executes, somehow, within its chrysalis. Motionless on the surface, in its very depth it lives and vibrates. (MM 339/ 204, Bergson's emphasis; cf. also MM 376/247) In this comment Bergson emphasizes the phrase 'in quality itself, which implies that we are still not referring the image to a hidden thing. We can guess

The Concept of the Image: Phenomenology

about something that goes beyond quality but which 'is not essentially different or distinct from' (MM 343/208) quality. Deep within the chrysalis, there are vibrations of the larva that make the chrysalis gleam. Deep within the light of qualitatively different colours, which are given to con-science, there are the quantitatively continuous vibrations of science. The concept of vibration, which the chrysalis suggests, means that consciously seen colours are neither the mere translation of a hidden original text (cf. MM 171/22) nor the 'duplicata' of a non-present object; the colour is not even the duplicata of a diminutive object like an atom or a corpuscle (cf. MM 358-9/226-7, 338-9/ 203).10 The vibrations are there in the qualities, just as when we strike a key of the piano at the low end of the scale, we hear the note and can see the vibrations of the string (cf. MM 338/203). Science, for Bergson, in its remotest aspiration aims at a metaphysics of plural rhythms.11 Because the chrysalis is not a relation of translation or of duplication, Bergson, in this comment, also emphasizes the word 'act'; there must be an act which would make us guess what goes beyond perception, towards the unperceived. We shall come back to this act later in this chapter when we discuss pure perception. So, it is important to note the direction of the transition that this act involves: here, we go from what is for us to what is in itself, we go from part to whole. Pure perception, as we shall see, goes in the opposite direction. To use the language that Bergson develops in the later 'Introduction to Metaphysics', pure perception is diminution instead of an 'enlargement'. This act - which we can indeed call intuition - is the genuine experience of matter. In Matter and Memory, Bergson in fact describes this act by which we experience matter (MM 343/208). This is a remarkable description, and we shall have reason to return to it in Chapter Three: If you abolish my consciousness ... matter resolves itself into numberless vibrations, all linked together in uninterrupted continuity, all bound up with each other, and traveling in every direction like shivers. In short, try first to connect together the discontinuous objects of daily experience; then, resolve the motionless continuity of these qualities into vibrations, which are moving in place; finally, attach yourself to these movements, by freeing yourself from the divisible space that underlies them in order to consider only their mobility - this undivided act that your consciousness grasps in the movement that you yourself execute. You will obtain a vision of matter that is perhaps fatiguing for your imagination, but pure and stripped of what the requirements of life make you add to it in external perception. Reestablish now my consciousness, and with it, the requirements of life: farther and farther, and by crossing over each time enormous periods of the internal history of things, quasi- instantaneous views are going to be taken, views this

The Challenge of Bergsonism

time pictorial, of which the most vivid colors condense an infinity of repetitions and elementary changes. In just the same way the thousands of successive positions of a runner are contracted into one sole symbolic attitude, which our eye perceives, which art reproduces, and which becomes for everyone the image of a man who runs. (MM 343/208-9) This is the only time Bergson mentions art in all of Matter and Memory. While it is the case that Bergson insists on denning matter in terms of the image because image suggests vision and because it suggests surface with depth, we must see that, ultimately, Bergson insists on image because it suggests art. In his 1899 essay on laughter, Bergson defines art as the picture of the vibrations of nature: What is the object of art? If it were the case that reality strikes our senses and our consciousness directly, if we could enter into immediate communication with things and with ourselves, I really believe that art would be useless, or rather that all of us would be artists, for our soul would vibrate then continually in unison with nature. Our eyes, helped by memory, would carve out [decouperaient] in space and fix in time inimitable pictures. (R 135-51 458-9; cf. PM 1370/135) Art and image are, therefore, virtually identical in Bergson. Nevertheless, we must keep them distinguished: the artistic picture is art, while the imagistic picture is nature. Insofar as it is nature, the image is material life; it is, as Bergson himself says, a 'living unity which was born from internal continuity' (MM 320/183). The image, therefore, is one or simple - 'contracted into one sole symbolic attitude' - and yet multiple and continuous - 'the successive positions of a runner'. The image, in other words, is 'the interior organization of movement', 'the intimate nature of movement' (MM 327/191). To be, however, the intimate nature of movement, the image must itself be movement; it cannot be a thing that moves. For Bergson, movement is real; that things move, that movement depends on things, is illusory (MM 337/202). This priority of movement over things, a priority that defines the Bergsonian image, is why Bergson in chapter four of Matter and Memory speaks of 'moving images' (MM 325/189). The moving image, so to speak, 'runs in place'. It is not like the 'snapshot', but like the motion picture: 'cinema'. We can call the moving image cinema and ignore Bergson's famous criticisms of cinema in chapter four of Creative Evolution by noting only, as Deleuze does, that cinema has changed since Bergson's day.12 But, cinema - thanks to production techniques, the mobile camera and the liberation of the viewpoint - is art, not nature. While we must maintain the distinction between the artistic picture created by

The Concept of the Image: Phenomenology

spiritual energy and the natural picture created by material energy, we must also see why the two are virtually identical. The artistic picture, for Bergson, does not reverse the relation of movement to thing; it does not make movement a function of the thing. In this way, the artistic picture remains virtually natural; in the artistic picture there are no intervals, there is continuity. But, there is a second reason for the virtual identity. The artistic picture is virtually identical with the natural image because it carves up the universe according to its natural articulations; the 'symbolization' of the artistic picture 'corresponds' to the differences in nature between colours; the painting is not a drawing, and especially not language. And again, the artistic picture remains virtually natural.13 Before turning to the third and last differentiation of the Bergsonian image, let us summarize this section so far. Overall, we have seen that for Bergson the image defines matter. More specifically, we have seen that the image differs not only from affection since the image is extension and objective, but also from the thing since the image is presence. This equation of the image with presence seemed to be leading us in the direction of idealism. Bergson's so-called 'concession to idealism' then allowed us to raise the question of why he insists on the word image. We then saw that Bergson has three reasons for doing this that actually provide us with a very specific, and new, definition of presence. First, the word image suggests the visual unity of a picture composed of continuous and complex colour; secondly, it suggests a surface which itself implies depth: the chrysalis; and thirdly, it suggests art. With this last suggestion again, it seems that the Bergsonian image is leading us in the direction of idealism since artistic creation is spiritual. But, of course, the crucial word of idealism is not 'art', nor even 'presence', but 'representation'. This gives us the third differentiation of the Bergsonian image: the image differs from representation. If we return again to Bergson's 1910 preface, we see that he criticizes not only materialism, but also idealism insofar as it attempts to reduce matter to the representation we have of it; unlike materialism, which is excessive in its conception of matter as being different in nature from representation, idealism is excessive in its conception of matter as being identical to representation. While the realistic excess is one of extreme differentiation, the idealistic excess is one of extreme non-differentiation. Bergson's criticism of idealism of course implies that the image differs from representation, but it cannot differ in nature from representation since his criticism of materialism consists in showing that matter does not differ in nature from representation. His solution to this problem lies in the following comment: 'by "image" we mean a certain existence that is more than what the idealist calls a representation, but less than what the realist calls a thing - an existence placed halfway between the "thing" and the "representation" ' (MM 161/9). The 'more' and the 'less' in this comment


The Challenge of Bergsonism

indicate that representation differs from the image by degrees; the representation is less than the image, which is connected continuously to other images in the whole.14 A representation is a part cut out (decouper) of the whole; representation is a decomposition of the whole. So, here, with representation, we have the first interval that breaks up the natural continuity of images (MM 185/35). But this first interval is not necessarily a 'denaturation' of nature; representations, although partial, can be recomposed. This recomposition is artifice (MM 325/189). As Bergson says again in the essay on laughter, 'Below art, there is artifice' (R 418/63). Artifice is the 'zone', as Bergson calls it in Laughter, in which imagination constructs only relations and figurations; it is the zone of lines and drawings, schemas and symbols, language and sense. Thus it is not a zone of colours; rather it is the grey zone - like the grey light between night and day - between colours and forms, between matter and spirit, and also between life and death and between the natural and the unnatural. We shall return to this grey zone of artifice, which is the grey zone of 'the turn of experience', in Chapter Three and in Appendix I. But for now, we must note that artifice remains natural insofar as it does not reverse the priority of movement and things and insofar as it does not carve up the images according to utility. As long as artifice does not reverse the priority of movement and things out of needs of utility, it remains turned towards the moving images, towards the real, towards experience, towards 'true knowledge' (MM 334/199); in a word, it remains 'open'. But, if imagination - our 'spirit of invention', as Bergson calls it in The Two Sources of Morality and Religion (MR 1234/304) - 'reverses the natural order of the terms' out of 'inferior needs' (MM 351/217), then it ends up enclosing movement in things; it carves up the moving images artificially. Then, we no longer have artifice, but factice, fakery (MM 320/183). Nature is denatured; we have lost the pictures and only the 'empty frames' remain (MM 320/183); everything becomes 'inert' (MM 320/ 183), a word he uses frequently in Matter and Memory, which literally means artless. These ideas have turned their back on true knowledge, on experience, on the real. If the understanding then works on these 'perverse' ideas (MM 351-2/217-18), then we end up with ideal schema which we take for the real. We have only mathematical or abstract symbols by means of which we designate different things indifferently (MM 297/156). These abstract symbols and inert schema homogenize so well that it even looks as though the whole is given, but it is not. No matter what, representation gives us only a part of the whole.15

The Concept of the Image: Phenomenology



In fact, we cannot underestimate the logic of parts and whole or the logic of container and contained that Bergson sets up in Matter and Memory's first chapter. It entirely determines his theory of perception. And, we must note immediately that, insofar as the spatial relation of whole-parts determines the theory of perception, Bergsonism cannot be defined as a 'primacy of perception'; to repeat the most basic principle of Bergsonism: all questions of subject and object must be posed in terms of time, not space. So, let us return to the opening hypothesis (MM 169-73/17-22). The starting point for Bergson is a 'holding onto the appearances of [matter and my body]' (MM 170/18). To hold onto the appearance of matter means we realize that matter hides nothing within itself: 'the future of the images must be contained in their present and will add nothing new' (MM 169/17; cf. MM 174/23). The 'must' in this sentence of course implies necessity, which allows for a perfect deducibility of the future from the present. Moreover, what I know of matter I know by perceiving it from the outside. In contrast, Bergson defines 'my body' by the fact that it introduces something new into the universe; this newness comes about because in my body I do not discover 'the constraint that precludes choice' (MM 169-70/18). My body therefore acts freely. The difference between freedom and necessity, which differentiates my body from the rest of the material world, is due to the way I can know my body; as Bergson says: 'Yet there is one image that contrasts with all the others in that I know it not only from the outside by perceptions, but also from the inside by affections: it is my body' (MM 169/17). In the opening hypothesis of images, this sentence forms an important transition. But the transition does not occur at the 'pourtant', the 'yet', in the sentence; it occurs at the 'mats aussf, the 'but also'. The body known from the outside by perceptions is continuous with the images of matter. This continuity of images is crucial for Bergson since, later in chapter four of Matter and Memory, he will claim that 'all division of matter into independent bodies with absolutely determinate contours is an artificial division' (MM 332/196). What is natural is the continuity of my body with the rest of matter. For Bergson, my body known from the outside is not radically distinct from the rest of matter, 'but also', the body is known from the inside by affections. As soon as we talk about the body being known from the inside by affections, we are on the verge of leaving matter behind for memory. Before Bergson speaks of affection, there is a difference in degree between the images; as soon as he speaks of affection, we have a difference in nature between matter and spirit. Again, on the one hand, when we know the body by perceptions from the outside, we have an image like all of the others; on the other, the body known from the inside by affection is already a body conditioned by memory.


The Challenge of Bergsonism

So, we stay on the outside in Matter and Memory's first chapter, until we come to the discussion of affections. That we remain on the outside is why Bergson says in the opening hypothesis that 'On the basis of bodies similar to mine, I am now studying the configuration of this particular image that I call my body' (MM 170/18). This study of bodies similar to mine, from the outside, leads us, as Bergson says, to interrogate the physiologist and the psychologist concerning the system of afferent and efferent nerves that I can detect in these other bodies. Bergson himself in Matter and Memory does not specify who these physiologists and psychologists are, but we can see that with them he is pointing at a general scientific attitude of his own time, an attitude that is perhaps still prevalent today. In any case, according to Bergson, this general scientific attitude says that if the centrifugal movements of the nervous system can provoke the movement of the body or parts of the body, the centripetal movements or at least some of them can give birth to create or engender representations of the external world. What this general scientific attitude is saying implies that the image called the brain contains the representation of the whole material universe. In a letter from 1897, Bergson says, I believe that if we study all the realist and idealist doctrines from Descartes on, we will see them always start - consciously or unconsciously - from this radical distinction between our body and the rest of matter. Since my body is separated from other bodies that I perceive, we think that it is selfsufficient and that it could be conceived as attached to the soul and detached from the rest of matter.16 In other words, to hold this scientific position (which all realist and idealist doctrines since Descartes have held), one would have to maintain that since the representation of the whole material world is infinitely greater than that of cerebral vibrations, these molecular movements are not images like others; if they were of the same nature, how could they engender something greater than themselves? So, to hold this belief consistently, one has to say that cerebral vibrations are something that differs in nature from an image; this difference in nature, say, between the brain and the rest of matter, is the only way one could explain how it could create the representation of the whole material world (MM 174/23, 175/24). For Bergson, however, this scientific hypothesis is self-contradictory; it says that a part is the whole. Here, science, here not in its remotest aspiration, has reversed the true container-contained relation; as Bergson says, 'The brain is part of the material world; the material world is not part of the brain' (MM 171/ 19; cf. MM 174/23); or, as he says - and this is a crucial comment - 'Every image is inside certain images and outside others; but concerning the whole of

The Concept of the Image: Phenomenology


images, we cannot say that it is inside us or that it is outside us, since interiority and exteriority are only relations between images' (MM 176/225). To test this claim, Bergson engages in another sort of hypothesis: if the image that bears the name of the material world were suppressed, the brain and the cerebral vibrations which are part of it would be annihilated; in contrast, if you eliminate the image called the brain, you erase only an insignificant detail from the immense picture, 'The picture as a whole, that is, the universe, subsists completely' (MM 171/19). We cannot overlook the fact that this Bergsonian fiction of the destruction of the world resembles Husserl's famous fiction of the destruction of the world in Ideas /, para. 49. And it seems we can interpret the similarity in two ways. On the one hand, one could say that both Husserl and Bergson draw the same conclusion from this thought experiment. Since the destruction of the world, for Bergson, affects only matter, it does not affect spirit, which, as we shall see in Chapter Two, differs in nature from matter. Since the destruction of the world, for Husserl, affects only transcendent being, it does not affect the immanence of consciousness, which differs essentially from transcendent being. But, there is one important difference here between Husserl and Bergson. For Husserl, spirit, if we can use that word, is consciousness; for Bergson, spirit is primarily unconscious. So, we must go to the other interpretation of the similarity concerning the thought experiment of the destruction of the world. One could say, and it seems one must, that the conclusion that Bergson draws from it is exactly opposite to that of Husserl. For Bergson, after the annihilation of the world, there is no residuum of consciousness, since consciousness corresponds to cerebral vibrations and is defined by the present awareness I have of my body (MM 281/138). In contrast to phenomenology, consciousness is referred to the image of the universe. In other words, the hypothesis of an isolated material object - the brain for instance - implies a kind of absurdity, since this object borrows its physical properties and consequently its very existence from the relations which it maintains with all others in the universe as a whole (MM 175-6/24). The general scientific attitude, and that of some philosophers, those of the modern tradition, is that the brain is an isolated material object capable of creating representations because of the phenomena of hallucinations and dreams. In hallucinations and dreams, representations are created without external objects influencing the afferent nerves: 'the object has disappeared while the brain persists' (MM 192/43). Hallucinations seem to suggest that there is some hidden source of representations within us; if this is the case, then we might believe that perception is nothing more than what Bergson calls a 'veridical hallucination' (MM 192-3/43, 215/68, 369/239). Here, Bergson does not demonstrate the existence of God to provide the veracity of our representations, he merely points to a very simple observation:


The Challenge of Bergsonism

in many people blind from birth, the visual centers are intact; yet they live and die without having formed a single visual image. Such an image, therefore, cannot appear unless the external object has played its part at least once; at least in the first time, it must have consequently actually entered into the representation. (MM 193/43) In hallucinations and dreams, memory, according to Bergson, plays the chief part; this role of memory will motivate him, as we shall see in a moment, to strip perception clean of memory. But besides the phenomena of dreams and hallucinations, there is another reason philosophers and scientists believe that perception is a veridical hallucination, that we, our brains in other words, create representations. They presuppose that perception has a wholly speculative interest, that it is pure knowledge (MM 179/28), that it is a kind of contemplation (MM 215-16/68). To conceive perception as having a purely speculative end, as aiming at some sort of disinterested knowledge, amounts, for Bergson, to cutting off its attachment to the real, to severing the part from the whole, to reversing the relation of container and contained. In the opening hypothesis of images, Bergson therefore is reattaching perception to the real. Since the body is one image in the whole of the material world, it acts like other images, receiving and giving back movement 'with, perhaps, this sole difference, that my body appears to choose, within certain limits, the manner in which it shall restore what it receives' (MM 171/19). The body therefore is a centre of action, its role is 'to exercise on other images a real influence, and, consequently, to decide which step to take among several which are all materially possible' (MM 172/20; cf. MM 356/225 and ES 965/196). In fact, my body is a 'privileged centre' insofar as it regulates the other images; as my body moves closer to or farther from other images, they change. Farther away from my body they are removed from my possible action; closer they can be touched. As Bergson says, 'The objects that surround my body reflect its possible action upon them' (MM 172/21). To demonstrate that the body is a centre of action, he takes up another hypothesis: 'in thought', sever all the afferent nerves of the cerebro-spinal system (MM 173/21). What happens is that while the rest of the universe, even the rest of my body, remains the same, 'my perception' has entirely vanished. The usual role of the centripetal nerves is to transmit movements to the brain and to the spinal cord; the centrifugal nerves send back the movement to the periphery. Therefore, as Bergson says, Sectioning of the centripetal nerves can ... produce only one intelligible effect: that is, to interrupt the current that goes from the periphery to periphery by way of the center, and, consequently, to make it impossible for my body to extract, from among all the things that surround it, the quantity and

The Concept of the Image: Phenomenology


quality of movement necessary in order to act upon them. Here is something that concerns action, and action alone. (MM 173/21-2) Perception for Bergson occurs when the whole of images called matter is related to the possible action of one image, my body (MM 173/22). Besides this 'thought' experiment of sectioning the nerves, Bergson provides a second argument to show that perception concerns action and not contemplation. This is an evolutionary argument that follows 'step by step the progress of external perception from the monera up to the superior vertebrates' (MM 179/28). Here in chapter one of Matter and Memory, he starts with 'living matter', 'a simple mass of protoplasm', but he could have started with inanimate matter such as hydrochloric acid (MM 299/159) because, like protoplasm, hydrochloric acid 'is open to the influence of external stimulation, and answers to it with . . . chemical reactions' (MM 179/28). As in hydrochloric acid, the reaction in protoplasm is immediate, without delay, automatic, a reflex. But as soon as we leave single-celled creatures, we have what Bergson calls 'a division of physiological labor' (MM 179/28-9; cf. MR 997/27). When nerve cells appear, they tend to group themselves into systems, which allows the animal to react to external stimuli with more varied movements. These divisions of cells into systems allow delays in reaction or in the reflex. But, Bergson says, 'even when the vibration received is not immediately prolonged into movement, it appears merely to await its occasion' (MM 179/29). This comment is important because the prolongation of the vibration through the complexity of cellular systems might lead one to think that 'the received impression is being spiritualized into knowledge' (MM 180/29). This spiritualization of the vibration, however, does not take place, even when the brain intervenes. As Bergson says, and this comment reiterates what we have already noted about the true whole-part relation, as soon as we compare the structure of the spinal cord with that of the brain, we are bound to infer that there is merely a difference of complication, and not a difference in nature, between the functions of the brain and the reflex activity of the medullary system. (MM 180/29; cf. MM 175/23-4) For Bergson, the brain is an instrument in a very complex reflex; when a vibration is received from the periphery, it goes through the centripetal fibres to the brain, which then allows 'the received vibration to reach at will this or that motor mechanism of the spinal cord, and so to choose its effect' (MM 180/30, Bergson's emphasis). So, the brain adds nothing to what it receives, and therefore Bergson describes the brain as 'a kind of main telephonic desk' (MM 180/30).


The Challenge of Bergsonism

We cannot underestimate the importance of this image of the main telephonic desk: Bergson conceives the living body as a machine. On the one hand, this conception of the living body means that we cannot make something like the lived body (Lett) or something like the flesh central to Bergsonism. For Bergson, if one talks about the body known from the inside, one has crossed a difference in nature, going from matter to spirit. In chapter two of Matter and Memory, Bergson says that my body is 'the mobile sharp point' of memory, pushing incessantly into the future (MM 224/78). Memory, and that means duration, is how the body known from the inside produces something new that escapes the deductions of science. So, if we speak of the Bergsonian body known from the outside by perceptions, we are in the scientific body (and ultimately the body taken up by science when it enters into its remotest aspiration); and if we speak of the Bergsonian body known from the inside by affections, we are in memory. To repeat, on the one hand, the Bergsonian conception of the body as a machine means that Bergsonism is not a, so to speak, 'fleshism'. But, on the other hand, while the image of the main telephonic desk clearly anticipates the computer, there is one rather obvious difference between these two types of machine. The main telephonic desk includes a type of slowness, a hesitation, a 'making wait', an interval; everything concerning computers and now modems and the Internet comes down to speed, no waiting, no hesitation. But, the slowness in reaction, which the main telephonic desk indicates, has allowed nature, according to Bergson, 'to make a machine that should triumph over mechanism' (EC 719/264).17 In this interval in matter, as we shall see, spirit has the opportunity to insert memories.18 So just as we cannot say that Bergsonism is a fleshism, we cannot say that Bergsonism is a philosophy of artificial intelligence. Unlike the brain, artificial intelligence goes too fast, and because it goes too fast, it makes no room for spirit. Now this is what we have to visualize with the main telephonic desk: what used to be called a 'switchboard'. A switchboard consisted in a large table with a large number of pins attached to wires that could be pulled out of the table in order to allow any pin to be inserted into any one of a large number of sockets which were located in the wall perpendicular to the table; the calls would come in through the wires to which the pins were attached and the insertion of the pin into a socket would allow communication to take place. With this comparison, Bergson intends to make us see that sometimes the brain is an instrument of 'analysis', meaning that it leads the received vibration up to a plurality of systems of movements; in other words, the brain is the large, perhaps indefinite number of sockets on the wall. The brain opens to the received vibration 'the totality of motor pathways so that it indicates to it all the possible reactions with which [the brain] is pregnant and so that [the brain] analyzes itself by dispersing itself (MM 181/30). With analysis, the brain's role is to

The Concept of the Image: Phenomenology


make the vibration wait. At other times, however, the brain is an instrument of 'selection', meaning that it puts the received vibration in relation with a particular chosen motor mechanism; in other words, the brain is the pin being inserted into a specific socket. The brain 'leads the received [vibration] to an organ of reaction that has been chosen' (MM 181/30). With selection, the brain's role is to allow communication. But, 'in one case as in the other, [the brain's] role is limited to the transmission and division of movement. And no more in the higher centers of the cortex than in the spinal cord do the nervous elements work with a view to knowledge: they only sketch all at once a plurality of possible actions or organize one of them' (MM 181/30-1). Before we turn to the next section, let us summarize what we have seen concerning the role of the body for Bergson. When Bergson speaks of the role of the body, he is really speaking of the brain. He focuses on the brain because of a position adopted by scientists as well as philosophers since Descartes, that something in us, the brain, creates representations. To claim that the brain, which is material, creates the representation of the material world requires that the brain be conceived as different in nature from the rest of matter. It also requires the presupposition that perception aims at disinterested knowledge, and that one has to assemble support phenomena such as hallucinations and dreams, because in these phenomena representations are created although the object has disappeared. So, what we saw was that Bergson tries to show that there is only a difference in degree between the brain and the rest of matter, between the brain and the reflex function of the spinal cord. He argues for this difference in degree by means of the hypothesis of the suppression of the material world which shows that the brain is part of or contained in the material world. He also argues against the supporting phenomena of hallucinations and dreams by pointing to an obvious fact of blindness: for someone to have a visual representation, the object must have been effective at least once. And finally, he does not accept the presupposition that perception is contemplation. As Bergson says in the very first sentence of the conclusion, 'our body is an instrument of action, and of action alone' (MM 356/225). He shows that the body is an instrument of action in two ways. On the one hand, he engages in another thought experiment, the experiment of severing the nerves, which shows that when perception has vanished the body cannot extract from external objects the quality and quantity of movement in order to act upon them. On the other, he places the brain in the evolutionary scale, which shows that the brain is a 'main telephone switchboard'. Its role is to allow vibrations to communicate with a chosen motor system (selection) or to make vibrations wait before the plurality of motor possibilities (analysis). With this conception of the role of the body, we now have the context within which to consider what Bergson calls pure perception.


The Challenge of Bergsonism


We can see already that it is very hard to maintain, as Merleau-Ponty does in the La nature lectures, that Bergson in Matter and Memory wants to make a 'phenomenology of perception'.19 Clearly, by means of the concept of image, as we have discussed it here, Bergson is not adopting a realist perspective on perception. But, just as much, if a phenomenology of perception consists in showing how conscious syntheses constitute the perception of an object, then this is not Bergson's project. He is not showing us how consciousness casts light on things in order to let them be perceived, instead, he is showing us how consciousness, that is, conscious perception, is deduced from matter (MM 182/ 31). 'Deduction' is a word Bergson always uses in relation to matter; when he speaks of spirit, he always uses the word 'progress' (cf. MM 354/221). The starting point for this deduction is the indetermination in regard to motor reactions that the brain's complexity symbolizes: the main telephone switchboard. Bergson says, 'Let us start, then, from this indetermination as from the true principle, and try whether we cannot deduce from it the possibility, and even the necessity, of conscious perception' (MM 182/31). Within the images of matter, living beings are 'zones of indetermination', zones in which the strict laws of natural necessity encounter hesitations. In inanimate matter, there is no hesitation between action and reaction; thus the reaction is always determined. In a being with a nervous system, however, the influence of an action or a vibration takes time, and thus the reaction is indeterminate. As it travels through the system, the vibration encounters numerous paths down which it can travel; so, in effect, it must choose to continue on its way and only through this 'choice' does it result in a reaction. Perception - here we have to say perception in the forms of touch and taste - arises in the moment of hesitation before the reaction. Bergson states that there is a strict connection between the zones of indetermination and perception: 'Let us note first that a strict law connects the extent of the perception back to the intensity of action that the living being has at its disposal' (MM 182/31). For Bergson, this law means that there is a direct proportion between the indeterminacy of reaction and the scope of perception, that is, a direct proportion between the uncertainty, the 'making wait', the hesitation of the reaction and the distance over which the living being is sensitive to the actions of the object which interests it. For example, in a rudimentary organism, a reaction 'can hardly be made to wait' (MM 182/32). Therefore, its only means of perception is touch; in an organism such as a protozoa, touch is at once passive, insofar as the organism's membrane must come into immediate contact with an object to perceive and recognize it, and active, insofar as the same membrane reacts by moving away from the object (if

The Concept of the Image: Phenomenology


the object is a menace) (MM 182/32). In a living being with a complex brain like a dog for example (cf. MM 228/82) - there are numerous hesitations; so, in direct proportion to the quantity of hesitations, there is vision and hearing and smell through which the being can be subject to more and more distant influences. As Bergson says, 'perception has space at its disposal in exact proportion to the time that action has at its disposal' (MM 183/32). In other words, the longer the wait in reaction, the more the living being can see.20 This exact law governing the relation between the indeterminacy of reaction and perception of distance does not, however, explain why the relation of the organism to more or less distant objects takes the particular form of conscious perception. So far, we have concerned ourselves only with action, which allowed us to see perception deduced from the action-reaction system of matter, but we have not yet reached representation. As Bergson asks, 'how is it that this perception is consciousness?' (MM 183/33). To answer this question, he constructs the famous hypothesis of pure perception (MM 184/33). Pure perception is not factual perception; in fact, perception is 'complex and concrete' (MM 184/34), because it is 'mixed with' or 'impregnated by' memories (souvenirs) (MM 183/33). Here (MM 184/34), we have the first mention of duration when Bergson says: 'However brief we suppose any perception to be, it naturally occupies a certain duration, and involves, consequently an effort of memory [la memoire] which prolongs, one into another, a plurality of moments' (MM 184/34). We see therefore that memory, for Bergson, defines duration; but duration and memory are not the focus here in the first chapter of Matter and Memory. Anticipating the discussion of memory in the second chapter, Bergson says that memory (la memoire) has two forms: one that 'covers over [recouvre] a bedrock of immediate perception with a covering of memories'; and one that 'contracts a multiplicity of moments' (MM 184/34). These two forms of memory imply that factual perception, on the one hand, 'swells' with memories (souvenirs} and, on the other hand, always offers a certain 'thickness of duration' (MM 185/34). According to Bergson, memory in both these forms makes up the principal contribution of personal or individual consciousness in perception; it is the 'subjective side of the knowledge of things' (MM 184/34). The covering of memories especially, allows us to perceive quickly and conveniently, that is, to perceive without effort; but also, according to Bergson, these memories give birth to every kind of illusion (MM 184/33). In particular, as we have already noted, these memories are the source of the illusion in which we conceive perception as a veridical hallucination. If we do not realize that memories are the content of hallucinations, then we start to think that perception could be an interior, subjective, and therefore unextended vision that would be projected outward and would somehow gain objectivity and extension (MM 184/34). The hypothesis of pure perception is supposed to


The Challenge of Bergsonism

eliminate this illusion and show us that we perceive things in the things, and for Bergson, is supposed to show us that conscious perception is veridical but is not an hallucination. And this claim - that conscious perception is true - is no hypothesis for Bergson (MM 188/39); pure perception is a theory (MM 212/65). Bergson provides two descriptions of pure perception. First, he says. Nothing forbids us from substituting for this perception, which is entirely penetrated with our past, the perception that an adult and formed consciousness would have, but enclosed in the present and absorbed, to the exclusion of all other work, in the task of molding itself upon the external object. (MM 184/33) Then, he says, By [pure perception] I mean a perception which exists in principle rather than in fact [en droit and en fait] and would be possessed by a being placed where I am, living as I live, but absorbed in the present, and which is capable, through the elimination of memory in all of its forms, of obtaining a vision of matter both immediate and instantaneous. (MM 185/34) On the basis of these two comments, we can say first that pure perception for Bergson is defined by being 'in principle' rather than 'in fact', which means that pure perception is a condition of factual perception: pure perception 'is at the base of our knowledge of things' (MM 184/34). Thus, pure perception differs in nature from pure memory, as we shall see in Chapter Two. But now we can see that, since memory is subjective, personal and interior, and since pure perception differs in nature from memory, pure perception is defined by being objective, impersonal and external or extended. Moreover, it is a vision; it is a vision that has eliminated memory in both forms of prolongation and conservation in memories. On the one hand, since it is a vision that has eliminated the mediation of the covering of memories, this vision is not 'concrete perception'; instead, it is 'ideal' (MM 184/33); but also it seems to me that we are justified in calling pure vision 'abstract', since that term is really the opposite of 'concrete'. In relation to the elimination of memories, we have to make one more point: since it has removed the covering of memories, that is, the mediation that memory makes available to perception, pure vision is immediate (cf. MM 319/182). Now let us turn to the elimination of the other form of memory, prolongation. On the other hand, since this vision has eliminated the 'multiplicity of moments', it is not thick or complex perception; instead, it is 'instantaneous' (see above in the last passage cited) and 'simple' (Bergson

The Concept of the Image: Phenomenology


opens the discussion of pure perception by saying 'we will first simplify considerably the conditions under which conscious perception takes place' MM 183/33). So, we have been able to assemble the following characteristics of pure perception: it is a vision, which is determined as ideal or abstract and immediate through the elimination of memories and which is determined as instantaneous and simple through the elimination of prolongation. But, in the two descriptions just presented, Bergson also says that pure perception is 'absorbed' or even 'enclosed' in the present. Because of being enclosed in the present, pure perception has no access to the past; having no access to the past, pure vision must be denned as forgetfulness: pure vision forgets what it sees as soon as it sees it. Insofar as forgetfulness defines pure vision, we must say that each instant experienced by its consciousness is experienced as the same. Each instant cannot be experienced as different, since in order to experience difference one must have other instants which one can compare against. But, in this pure vision, the other instants have been forgotten. So, absorbed and enclosed in the present, pure vision can be described as the experience of repetition. Lacking both forms of memory, this pure vision lacks all duration. We must be extremely careful in our characterization of pure vision; we must not confuse pure perception with the act by which we pass from the chrysalis to what is inside it, an act which included duration, in fact, a duration with a very fast rhythm. In contrast to this act, pure perception is an experience of matter, but one that is instantaneous and therefore not the genuine experience of matter. Pure perception is division or, better, it is divided. This division is why Bergson compares the body in pure vision to 'a mathematical point' (MM 204/56). When we eliminate memory from perception and achieve this pure vision, we are at the exact point, the mathematical point, where spirit is 'grafted' onto matter (MM 356/222). In chapter four of Matter and Memory, Bergson says, ... pure perception, which is the lowest degree of spirit - spirit without memory - is really part of matter, as we understand matter. We may go further: memory does not intervene as a function of which matter has no sense and which it does not imitate in its own way. If matter does not remember the past, it is because it repeats the past unceasingly, because subject to necessity, it unfolds a series of moments of which each is the equivalent of the preceding moment and may be deduced from it: thus its past is truly given in its present. (MM 356/222-3) Pure perception - spirit that is matter - is nothing but a repetition of the same, a superficial repetition. To understand the mechanism of pure perception, we must return to the


The Challenge of Bergsonism

concept of the image. In pure perception (and as well in perception mixed with memory), the image or presence of a material thing becomes a representation, perception becomes conscious. According to Bergson, as we have seen, representation is always in the image virtually, as a part of the whole (MM 186/ 36). In perception, there is therefore a transition from the image being in itself to its being for me (MM 186/35); in other words, in pure vision, the transition goes from the inside of the chrysalis to its outside. Again, this opposite direction of transition is why we cannot confuse pure perception with the fatiguing act by which we reached the more rapid duration of matter. Bergson describes the transition in the following way: [The image of the material object appears to be in itself what it is for me] because, being in solidarity with the totality of other images, it is continued in those which follow it just as it is prolonged in those which preceded it. In order to transform its pure and simple existence into a representation, it would suffice to suppress all of a sudden what follows it, what precedes it, and also what fills it, to conserve from it only its external crust, its superficial skin. What distinguishes the image as a present image, as an objective image, from a represented image is the necessity which obliges it to act through each of its points upon all the other points of other images, to transmit the totality of what it receives, to oppose to each action an equal and contrary reaction, to be finally only a path upon which the modifications which are propagated in the immensity of the universe pass in every direction. I would convert it into a representation if I could isolate it, especially if I could isolate its envelope. (MM 186/36) The verbs by means of which Bergson always describes this transition are: isolate, detach, suppress, limit and diminish. Pure perception implies, for Bergson, that there is merely a difference of degree, and not in nature, between being and being perceived (MM 187/37). So, we perceive things in them, not in us. Pure perception adds nothing new to the image; in fact, it subtracts a part from the whole. If there is a relativity to perception, for Bergson, it is a relativity not to us, but to the whole universe. Bergson, therefore, defines the transition of pure perception as 'discernment in the etymological sense of the word', a 'slicing up', or a 'selection' (MM 188/38). How does the selection occur? According to Bergson, it occurs because of life necessities (MM 333-4/198); there is 'a purely utilitarian origin of our perception of things' (MM 299/158). Living beings, according to Bergson, as we have seen, are 'centres of indetermination'; and indetermination is based on having a variety of'functions' (MM 186/36) or 'needs' (MM 188/38). In pure perception, things turn the side of themselves that interests our functions and

The Concept of the Image: Phenomenology


needs, in short, our body. As Bergson says, 'Our representation of matter is the measure of our possible action upon bodies: it results from the discarding of what has no interest for our needs, or, more generally, our functions' (MM 188/ 38, 218/71). In other words, conscious representation results from the suppression of what has no interest for bodily functions and the conservation of only what does interest bodily function. Thus, compared to 'the perception of any unconscious material point whatsoever, in its instaritaneousness, [which] is infinitely greater and more complete than ours, since it gathers and transmits the influence of all the other points of the material universe', the conscious perception of a living being exhibits a 'necessary poverty' (MM 188/38).21 We must not get confused here: what Bergson is calling 'pure perception' resembles what he calls 'intuition', that is his philosophical method, only insofar as both are immediate. Because pure perception is poor, it cannot be intuition. Later in chapter three of Matter and Memory, he tells us that 'a luxury of perception' is 'the clear distinction of individual objects', and at the same time he says that 'a clear representation of general ideas is a refinement of intelligence' (MM 298/158). But this luxurious perception is not intuition either, as we shall see in Chapter Three. In any case, in contrast to this luxury and refinement, Bergson speaks of perception starting from an 'intermediate knowledge', one equally remote from generality fully conceived and from individuality clearly perceived (MM 298-9/158). This intermediate knowledge is the poverty, even the crudity of pure vision. He goes on to say, 'What interests us in a given situation, what we are likely to grasp in it first, is the side by which it can respond to a tendency or a need. ... A need ... cares little for the individual differences' (MM 299/158). In pure vision, I see an apple immediately because of my need for nourishment and because this need has been repeatedly satisfied with apples. But, I do not see an apple clearly and distinctly with a specific shade of the colour green, which would allow me to distinguish it from another variety of apples; what difference does the shade of colour make for nourishment? My need for nourishment makes me see an apple as confusedly distinct from, say, the apple tree, which does not satisfy the need for nourishment. (But the apple tree could, of course, satisfy other needs and is therefore seen as well.) Our needs therefore are like 'so many beams of light', as Bergson says in chapter four of Matter and Memory, beams of light that sketch out confusedly 'distinct bodies' (MM 334/198). But we can see immediately that if pure perception gives us only confusedly distinct bodies (and not clear and distinct shades of colour), it could be nothing more than a sketch: impoverished, ideal and abstract. For Bergson, a clear and distinct idea must have the colours and differences, the complexity and dynamism that only memory can provide; a clear and distinct idea in Bergson could never be geometrical, that is, static. Pure perception for Bergson is a


The Challenge of Bergsonism

simple line drawing, in fact, a drawing that could, with effort, become geometrical. That pure perception is like an abstract and simple line drawing is why he compares pure perception to a photograph (MM 188/38-9). We must remember that in 1896 we are at the beginning of photographic technology: colour photographs have not yet been invented. So, pure perception is like a black-and-white photograph. The beams of light of needs only illuminate part of the surface of things, giving us only the external crust, the envelope, the chrysalis - in other words, only the contours of the thing. As Bergson says, in order to make the transition from presence to representation, from whole to part, 'it would be necessary, not to throw more light on the object, but, on the contrary, to obscure some of its aspects, to diminish it by the greater part of itself, so that the remainder ... should detach itself from [its surroundings]' (MM 186/36). Moreover, according to Bergson, the light does not really flood out from our needs; rather, it emanates from the surfaces themselves, from presence. What happens is that the light, when it reaches living beings, can no longer pass through unopposed because it encounters them as zones of indetermination. If it could propagate itself, it would issue immediately in a reaction; in this case, it would be refracted. But when light reaches a 'spontaneity of reaction', in short, freedom, the light is no longer refracted but reflected. The reflection is a 'virtual image', an image of potential reactions (MM 187/37). When I see the apple, the representation I have is an image of the fact that I have the potential reaction of eating it. As Bergson says, 'Perception therefore resembles those phenomena of reflection that result from an impeded refraction; it is like a mirage effect' (MM 187/37). Because conscious perception is a mirage of reflected light, it 'adds nothing to what is there; [it] effects merely this: that the real action passes through, the virtual action remains' (MM 188/39). Let us summarize this discussion of pure perception before we bring this chapter to a close. All perception for Bergson is connected to action, not contemplation; in fact, perception results from the 'hesitation' between action and reaction. This 'hesitation' or 'interval' is caused by the brain making indeterminate reactions possible; the brain is the 'main switchboard' for all our bodily functions. Therefore, for Bergson, what we always perceive first is what interests our needs or functions. Because living beings like human beings have lots of bodily needs, we have vision, which is subject to the influence of lots of distant things. While factual perception involves all the senses, pure perception is only a visual representation. Insofar as it is vision (and not touch), pure perception has not yet completed itself in an action. What makes pure perception pure is that it does not involve memory at all; so, it is both immediate and instantaneous. What pure perception recognizes immediately is a confusedly distinct body. This discernment of a confusedly distinct body is due, to

The Concept of the Image: Phenomenology


say it again, to our needs. In other words, the beams of light of our needs delimit the contours, and only the contours of this body rather than that one. Pure perception therefore for Bergson is 'delimitation', as the title of the fourth chapter of Matter and Memory indicates. But delimitation, again as the title of the fourth chapter indicates, is not 'fixation'. In order to fix the vision, in other words, in order to make the virtual action become actual action, we would have to restore some of perception's thickness; we would need an affection or emotion (and that means life). An emotion always makes us leap across the interval of indetermination. If we experienced an emotion of sufficient force, we would complete the drawing we make with our eyes with a real drawing on paper. Lacking such an emotion, the drawing we make with our eyes vanishes as soon as it happens; pure perception is like, as Bergson says, 'an instantaneous flash of lightning which illuminates a stormy landscape by night' (MM 325/189). It is well known, of course, that Bergson loved all psychological and psychical research. Hence, Matter and Memory is filled with discussions of cases of psychic illnesses. But, sadly, no 'Schneider' emerges in Matter and Memory to amuse us with his sexual problems and to make us read the book as if it were a novel. This lack of a 'Schneider' means probably that Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception will always be more popular than Bergson's Matter and Memory. But in the second chapter of Matter and Memory, Bergson focuses on a peculiar fact of patients who suffer from 'psychic blindness', that is, patients who cannot recognize specific objects even though their vision is perfectly intact (MM 242-3/96-8). These patients seem unable to draw pictures or at least they cannot draw pictures very well, and this leads Bergson to discuss two ways of drawing, discussion which, I believe, is very helpful in understanding Bergson's theory of pure perception. On the one hand - and this is how Bergson's poor mental patients draw they 'fix' on paper in an uncertain way 'a certain number of points', then they connect the points up, verifying at every moment whether the image resembles the object they are drawing. Bergson calls this first way of drawing 'drawing "by points"' (MM 243/97). Clearly, the name implies that Bergson's mental patients are rather untalented geometers. But there is a second way to draw according to Bergson, 'the habitual way', which he describes as 'drawing with "a continuous line" after having looked at or thought of the model' (MM 243/97). Bergson explains this second, nongeometrical way of drawing 'by means of our habit of discovering immediately [tout de suite} the organization of the most usual contours, that is, by means of a motor tendency to draw its schema in one whole line' (MM 243/97). This habit of drawing a schema with a continuous line is at the base of our knowledge of things, allowing us immediately to draw with our eyes the most usual contours of things; this habit is not only at the base of science in its remotest inspirations


The Challenge of Bergsonism

but also at the base of art. But to have a painting and not a drawing, to have art and not artifice, to add colour and not subtract greys, we need memory. As we shall see in Chapter Two, memory differs in nature from perception and even all forms of imaging; this difference is such a radical difference that Bergson says that 'to imagine is not to remember' (MM 278/135). Although a radical difference in nature, this difference can be experienced; to have this experience will require us to pay attention to the mental illness that Bergson calls 'division of the personality' (MM 313/175); we ourselves will have to divide our personality between matter and memory. So, in Chapter Two, we shall return to some of Bergson's mental patients. But unlike the patients suffering from 'psychic blindness', whose impoverished souls make them draw by points like bad geometers, these schizophrenics have souls that are too rich: they draw by one continuous line because they see everything double.


The Concept of Memory: Ontology

We now enter into a discussion of extremely difficult, maybe the most difficult, material in Matter and Memory: Bergson's concept of memory. Before we turn to the concept of memory, let us summarize what we saw in the last chapter. We engaged in an investigation of chapter one of Matter and Memory in order to determine Bergsonism's challenge to phenomenology. When we considered Bergson's hypothesis of pure perception, we saw that consciousness does not engender representations but is the selection of images from the whole of images called matter - and this selection takes place on the basis of the body, which is itself one of the images. Insofar as consciousness is the selection from the whole of images called matter, Bergson does not define consciousness as consciousness of something; rather consciousness is something. Consciousness is itself deduced from matter. So, we cannot define Bergsonism as a philosophy of consciousness; in fact, as we are going to see now, this means that Bergsonism is a philosophy of the unconscious. But no matter what, it is hard to conceive phenomenology in any other way than as a philosophy of consciousness; phenomenology always remains irreducibly connected to intentionality. Insofar as phenomenology remains irreducibly connected to intentionality, it defines consciousness as 'consciousness of something'. As consciousness of something, phenomenological consciousness engenders or, more precisely, constitutes representations. When we considered Bergson's concept of the image, we saw that this concept amounts to a new definition of presence. We must here take advantage of Derrida's remarkable clarification of the phenomenological concept of presence. In Voice and Phenomenon., Derrida has established that presence in phenomenology is always defined as 'selfproximity in interiority',1 in other words, as presence to consciousness. Because of this definition, we have to say that phenomenological presence is equivalent to what Bergson calls representation. And if this is the case, then we have to recognize that Bergsonian presence - the image - precedes presence to consciousness. Moreover, the Bergsonian image is not defined by interiority and therefore subjectivity, but by exteriority and therefore objectivity. Presence exceeds consciousness and this is why Bergsonism is not a phenomenology of


The Challenge of Bergsonism

perception. But, as Derrida has also shown, phenomenology is always a phenomenology of perception.2 Here, of course, Derrida is alluding to MerleauPonty who had shown in the Phenomenology of Perception that phenomenological consciousness must really be rooted in the body, in Leib, in the flesh. But even here, when phenomenology starts to take the body seriously, what it finds is a corporeal or operative intentionality. Thus, we have not really escaped from the philosophy of consciousness. But, what we saw in Matter and Memory is that the Bergsonian body is a machine; it is conceived as a 'central telephone switchboard', not as flesh. And, we also saw that, as this machine becomes more complicated, it runs slowly. The slowness of the machine allows memories to be selected and to be inserted into the present. The memory-images add colour to the black-and-white photograph. Memory plays such a large role in concrete and complex perception that Bergson says in the fourth chapter of Matter and Memory that 'every perception is already memory'; in fact, Bergson says, 'we perceive, practically only the past' (MM 291/15). Thus, there is no primacy of perception in Bergson; to appropriate Merleau-Ponty's famous phrase, we must say that Bergsonism is a 'primacy of memory'. It is this primacy of memory which opens the challenge to ontology. Obviously, in the second half of the twentieth century, the word 'ontology' is synonymous with Heidegger's name. Here, I am not really going to present a Bergsonian challenge to Heidegger's ontology; rather, I am going to take seriously the standard Heidegger has set for ontology and try to see whether Bergson's metaphysics of memory measures up to it. Heidegger himself, of course, suggests that it does not. In the most famous footnote from Being and Time3 - made famous obviously by Derrida - Heidegger claims that Bergson merely 'reverses' Aristotle's views on time. Heidegger's use of the word 'reversal' here anticipates its use in para. 24 of his first set of Nietzsche lectures, where he claims that Nietzsche merely 'reverses' Platonism without 'twisting free' of it.4 Most generally, this claim means for Heidegger - and we can see this most clearly in his essay 'Nietzsche's Word: God is Dead'5 - that Nietzsche remains mired in the modern philosophy of subjectivity. To reverse Platonism without twisting free of it means to reverse the objectivity of the Platonic ideas for the subjectivity of the soul, which in Nietzsche's case is the will to power. Heidegger therefore raises the question, which we are going to address to Bergson, is it the case that Bergson merely reverses Platonism without twisting free of it? In his 1928 lecture course, The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic, Heidegger says, 'Bergson's "images" are the very expression of his efforts to grasp really the phenomenon within the realm he takes for his theme.'6 If we take this comment seriously, then we are led to Bergson's famous image of the cone, an image that is, to repeat Heidegger, 'the very expression of his efforts to grasp really the phenomenon'. On the basis of an examination of the image of

The Concept of Memory: Ontology


the cone, I am going to try to make a case here that Bergson does not merely 'reverse' Platonism, but actually 'twists free' of it. Further, by examining the second and third chapters of Matter and Memory,7 and, then, through a threestage process, I hope to show, or, at least, suggest, that Bergson's metaphysics of memory is not a new subjectivism. First, we have to examine how Bergson defines memory by means of establishing two sets of differences in nature; then, we are going to have to turn to what he calls 'the central metaphysical problem of existence'; and, finally, we are going to have to look at the image of the cone. But, initially, we need to see why there is a 'primacy of memory' in Matter and Memory.


The problem of memory is primary for Bergson because of his refutation of materialism; in other words, it is primary for what he calls at the end of chapter one of Matter and Memory 'the philosophy of matter' (MM 220/73). For Bergson, as we have already seen, matter has to be understood as having no hidden or unknowable power (MM 220/73); moreover, the claim that matter has no hidden power means that the brain, in particular, does not somehow have the power of engendering representations in perception. To put this positively, the brain is only an instrument of action (MM 221/74). Memory becomes primary for the philosophy of matter in Bergson because we cannot empirically verify these claims about matter through the analysis of perception. We can make a strong case for these claims being true because they explain perception better than other explanations (MM 221/74), but we cannot point to an experience. With the experience called perception and even with the strange experience called pure perception, we are always dealing with a present object. The present object activates our organs and nerve centres and, consequently, it always looks as though our perceptions emanate from these nerve centres, in short, from the brain (MM 221/75). So, regardless of whether we say that the brain does or does not engender perceptions, the experiential result is the same. But, if one claims that the brain is the cause of perceptual representations, then it ought to be able to do this when the object is absent as in a memory (MM 222/75). Consequently, memory has to be the test case for this hypothesis. The first point that Bergson makes is: if the brain is not sufficient to engender the representation of an absent object, in other words, if the brain is not sufficient to engender a memory, then we must conclude that it is not sufficient to engender the representation of a present object. We must say that the present object is the cause of the perceptual representation. Memory, however, for Bergson, can provide the empirical verification of another claim


The Challenge of Bergsonism

made in the first chapter of Matter and Memory, that in pure perception we are actually placed outside ourselves in matter (MM 222/75). Bergson's second point is: if it can be shown that memories differ in nature (and not by intensity) from perceptions, then we must say that something entirely different from memory is going on in perception, something objective rather than subjective. As we are going to see, for Bergson, memories are personal, i.e. subjective. If they differ in nature from perceptions, then we must say that perceptions are impersonal, i.e. objective. Through the difference in nature between memories and perceptions, we can establish, according to Bergson, that we perceive matter in matter and not in us. But, there is a third point he can make thanks to memory. If there is a 'radical difference' between memories and perceptions, then we must also say that memory is a power absolutely independent from matter; indeed, we must say that memory is a power absolutely independent of the brain, despite the fact that psychologists constantly treat the brain as 'a storehouse of memories' (MM 220/74). Psychologists, and now we can say philosophers of artificial intelligence, constantly reduce memory to matter. But, what Bergson is going to do - and this is what makes these middle chapters on memory so powerful - is erect spirit into a reality independent of matter on the basis of 'the very example that is commonly supposed to be the most unfavorable to [spirit]' (MM 220/74), memory. Memory, for Bergson, is the most 'palpable' experience of spirit (MM 220/73). At the end of this chapter, we are going to return specifically to this experience; there is one rather surprising implication of it. But, before we go on, let me repeat: overall, for Bergson, there is a primacy of memory because memory is an experience. The experience is primary for him in three ways. First, in reference to psychology or, more precisely, psychophysiology; if the survival of memories, which are representations of absent objects, cannot be explained by the brain, then we can conclude, as well, that the brain does not engender perceptions, which are representations of present objects. Second, if there is a difference in nature between memories and perceptions, and not a difference of degree, then we can conclude that perception is radically different from memory; perception really is the experience of matter. But then third, if there is a radical difference between perceptions and memories, between the experience of matter and the experience of spirit, we have reason to argue - here leaving the philosophy of matter behind for the philosophy of spirit - that spirit is a reality independent of matter. As we know, this dualism between matter and memory for Bergson is absolutely necessary in order to dispel all thinking in terms of differences in degree, but it is also provisional. As we are going to see, the cone image explicitly symbolizes the 'connection' between matter and memory. So, let us turn now to the way in which Bergson defines memory.

The Concept of Memory: Ontology




The dualism begins by establishing a difference in nature between what Bergson calls 'the two forms of memory', and for him the two forms of memory distinction is the first difference in nature that defines memory; it is primarily discussed in the first third of chapter two of Matter and Memory (MM 225/79; cf. also MM 219/73, 184/34). What is at issue in these two forms is a difference in nature between a memory of the body and a memory of the soul, or, in other words, a difference in nature between a material memory and a spiritual memory. Again, the reason Bergson believes this difference in nature is necessary lies in the fact that psychologists have always associated memory with the brain; memory is 'the very example that is most unfavourable' to the thesis that spirit is an independent reality. If the brain really stores memories, then it seems unlikely that spirit is an independent reality. The question is: do memories survive only in the brain, or do they survive somewhere, somehow, else? Bergson is going to say that they survive somehow else. The establishment of the difference in nature between the two forms of survival takes place by means of an example: learning a lesson by heart (MM 255/79). Let us see how this example works. On the one hand, Bergson describes the effort to learn by heart. First, one reads the lesson to be learned one time; it seems that the lesson is a poem, since he speaks of 'punctuating each verse' in this first reading. Then, one repeats the whole poem a number of times, making progress each time. Bergson says, 'At this precise moment [that is, when the words, which have been punctuated, form a continuous whole], I know my lesson by heart; some say that it has become a memory [souvenir], that it is imprinted on my memory [la memoire]' (MM 225/79). On the other hand, he describes a different effort by means of which I remember how the lesson was learned. Here, I 'represent to myself the step-by-step phases, the successive readings, through which I passed; each comes back to mind, 'passes again before me', and I 're-see' it with the circumstances that accompanied it and that still enframe it. The circumstances distinguish it from those that preceded and followed it; so, it occupies a place in time; it is a determinate event of my history. As Bergson says, 'Some will say again that these images are memories [souvenir}, that they are imprinted in my memory [ma memoire}.' And, he continues: 'These people use the same words in the two cases. Is the same thing really at issue?' (MM 225/79). When Bergson says this - is the same thing really at issue in the two cases even though the same words are used? - he is referring


The Challenge of Bergsonism

to the words 'souvenir1 and 'la memoire'. So, the difference in nature is going to be established between two operations of memory and two types of memory. But, as Bergson says, 'the example of a lesson learned by heart is artificial' (MM 229/84). The efforts described here - both the repetition of the lesson in order to memorize it and the evocation of the images of the phases of memorization - are voluntary efforts; these voluntary efforts - 'active' memory (MM 233/87) and active memorization - are not the operations of memory between which Bergson is distinguishing. That they are not what is at stake here is why this example is so perplexing. On the basis of the example of learning a lesson by heart, Bergson is going to distinguish between two operations that function passively, automatically, 'subconsciously' (cf. MM 233/87), or, better, unconsciously. Of course we shall return to the question of the unconscious in a moment, but for now we must recognize that memory in Bergson is unconscious. These two 'unconscious' operations of memory divide in two different directions (cf. EC 616-17/143-4); difference in direction always defines a difference in nature for Bergson. On the one hand, the first form of memory, to which the active process of memorization refers, is the operation of 'prolongation' (MM 229/83); according to Bergson, prolongation contracts a perceptual image by repeating its useful effect or action (MM 227/81, 228/82). For example, when I start to learn to drive a car, I must consciously think: when approaching traffic lights and I see the amber light, I must press down on the brake pedal. Then I will not cause an accident. In this situation, every time I see the amber light, I repeat the same action, depress the brake pedal. Although the appearance of the amber light is random or accidental, eventually the reaction becomes automatic; I have contracted a habit, which will always operate into the future. The first form of memory is this prolongation through repetition. The role of prolongation, as Bergson says, 'is merely to utilize, more and more, the movements by which the first [image] was continued, in order to organize [the movements] together and, by setting up a mechanism, to create a bodily habit' (MM 229/83-4). Prolongation, as he also says, is 'seated in the present and looking at nothing but the future' (MM 227/82). In other words, it is directed towards future 'action'. Insofar as the operation of prolongation is directed towards future action, it is directed towards utility and adaptation (MM 229-30/84). This direction towards the future, towards action and towards utility adaptation, in a word, towards 'life', is why Bergson calls prolongation 'more natural' (MM 228/83): it makes progress (MM 228/83). It would seem that, since he uses the word 'progress' in the description of memorization, we could call this first form of memory 'the progressive memory'. Bergson himself, however, does not use this designation; he calls it instead 'habit-memory' (MM 231/86).8 Later, in The Two Sources of Morality and

The Concept of Memory: Ontology


Religion, Bergson will call the operation of prolongation, in other words, the repetition by means of which habits are contracted, 'the whole of obligation' (MR 999/29). The distinction he is making is between particular obligations, keeping promises, for instance, and the process by which I am obliged to have obligations, in the plural. In other words, all obligations for Bergson are habits; the whole of obligation is the habit of contracting habits, the 'habit-memory' of Matter and Memory. The whole of obligation takes place unconsciously. I contract thousands and thousands of habits by means of the operation of prolongation without being aware of the process. Therefore, unlike active memorization - habits learned voluntarily, as in the learning a lesson by heart example, which are 'exceptional and rare' (MM 228/83) - the innumerable ordinary and common habits that I have are contracted by means of 'the accidental repetition of the same situations' (MM 231/85). We saw in Chapter One as well that, as the same situations continue to repeat themselves (even when they repeat themselves accidentally), habits become perfected, so perfect they look to be 'innate'; they become, as Bergson says, 'more and more impersonal, more and more foreign to our past life' (MM 229/83). These habits survive, they are 'deposited' in the body (MM 227/81), and this is why they can be destroyed when my body is injured. Now, let us turn to the second form of memory, which Bergson explicitly calls 'the regressive memory' (MM 229/83). In the example of learning a lesson by heart, the process of evocation - the second description in which I reproduce the images of me memorizing the poem - refers to the operation of regressive memory. The operation is denned by 'conservation' (MM 228/82, 230/84, 234/88), which, according to Bergson, conserves by 'recording' perceptual images (MM 227/81). It records each image as it occurs and maintains the images in the order of their appearance. This is why Bergson calls the second form of memory 'regressive' (MM 228/83). We can easily see the difference in direction of the two forms of memory. Unlike habit-memory, which makes progress towards the future, regressive memory regresses into the past. Through the recording of perceptual images, something survives. But, unlike the habit-memory, which puts habits somewhere in the body, the regressive memory is not a place. In fact, as we shall see in a moment, the question of where the memories are stored or recorded, as if memory were a big container, is always the wrong question for Bergson. Because he uses the obvious metaphor of imprint to speak of memory, we might describe regressive memory as a kind of writing or as a sort of ledger (a formalization or something like the white on black of the Milky Way). But, to use Bergson's terminology, what survives due to conservation are 'representations' (MM 224/78), or, as he says later in chapter two, what survives is a 'memory-image' {image-souvenir} (MM 227/81). (The hyphen in this phrase will turn out to be significant.)


The Challenge of Bergsonism

Memory-images are personal, and they bear the place and date of their original occurrence; so, each is different from the next. In fact, for Bergson, memoryimages cannot be repeated in the way that habits can; they cannot be done over; they are recorded just once (MM 229/84). Thus, they are perfect; they do not and cannot require the perfecting that habits require, and that makes habits impersonal. Insofar as memory-images are personal, they are therefore at home in our past life and not seated in the present; they do not look to the future. Insofar as regressive memory is directed to the past, it is directed not to action or movement but towards dreaming or hallucination. We must note immediately that dreams and hallucinations are 'evocations' of the past, which bring past images back to the present; the direction of regressive memory has suddenly changed., which suggests that the habit-memory and regressive memory are really not independent but connected (cf. MM 231/85). We shall return to this connection later in this chapter when we turn to the cone image. But, here, what Bergson wants us to see is that dreams and hallucinations are useless (MM 228/83) and do not contribute to adaptation; in a word, they are not directed towards life. These images are, as Bergson says, 'thought' rather than acted (MM 228/82); they do not respond to the present moment, so they are in a sense 'detached' or 'withdrawn' from the moment (MM 228/83). Insofar as the regressive memory is turned back towards the past, towards uselessless, it is less natural for Bergson. But this claim, that regressive memory is 'less natural', is extremely complicated. Let us stop for a moment here. Bergson never explicitly calls regressive memory less natural; he says only that habit-memory is 'more natural' (MM 228/83). 'More' implies again a connection between the two forms of memory; it even suggests a difference of degree. But the recording operation of regressive memory is itself natural, since Bergson explicitly says that the recording of perceptual images happens according to a 'natural necessity' (MM 227/81). So, what is less natural about regressive memory? What is less natural is that I do not pay attention to life when I dream or hallucinate, and not to pay attention to life is in a sense not only to be dead, but also to be free of life's necessities, both of which suggest spirit. We can conclude therefore that to be less natural, for Bergson, is to be more spiritual, which leads us to the last characteristic of the Bergsonian memory-images. Besides being personal, dated and non-repeatable in the sense of not being able to be done over, memory-images, for Bergson, are spontaneous (MM 231/86). Here the French word souvenir is essential. It comes from the Latin, subvenire, which means to come to mind. For Bergson, a memory, un souvenir, just comes to mind, spontaneously. The spontaneity of the memoryimage means that it is 'capricious' in its reproduction (MM 234/88) and 'fugitive' in its retention (MM 231/85). But, even though these memory-

The Concept of Memory: Ontology


images are capricious and fugitive, i.e. not under the conscious control of one's will, they are not determined by necessity. Their spontaneity is the very sign of our freedom, that we are not mere automatons. Let us simplify this discussion in order to be able to see what is at stake in it. Despite Bergson's suggestions that there is a connection between the two forms of memory, habit-memory and regressive memory are differentiated in nature: habit-memory goes in the direction of the future, regressive memory goes in the direction of the past. Habit-memory is denned by the operation of prolongation; prolongation repeats the useful effect of a perceptual image towards the future, towards action, utility and adaptation, and life; by means of the operation of prolongation, what survives is a habit, which is acquired accidentally; habits have the characteristics of being impersonal, repeatable, perfectible, and, ultimately, they are foreign to our past life. Regressive memory is defined by the operation of conservation; conservation records step by step the perceptual image towards the past, towards dreaming (or hallucination), withdrawal, the useless and thought; by means of the operation of conservation, what survives is a memory-image. Memory-images have the characteristics of being personal (and not impersonal), different (and not repeatable: they cannot be done over) and perfect (and not perfectible). Ultimately, memory-images are at home in our past life, to which they are never foreign. And, while they are not acquired accidentally like habits, memory-images are spontaneous in their reproduction (they are capricious) and in their retention (they are fugitive). By means of seeing this difference in nature - regressive memory towards the past, habit-memory towards the future - we can answer the question which Bergson asked after the two descriptions of learning by heart. Because prolongation makes habits survive in the body and because habits become more and more foreign to our past life, Bergson concludes that habits are not memories and that 'habit-memory' is not the true memory (MM 229/84). In the case of memorization and habit-memory, the words souvenir and memoire., therefore, are misused, but in the case of evocation and conservation, they are used correctly for Bergson, because what survives is a memory- image, which is a memory of our past life.

SECOND DIFFERENCE IN NATURE THAT DEFINES MEMORY: 'THE DIFFERENTIATION ACCORDING TO INTEREST' For Bergson, what leads to the second difference in nature that defines memory is that the element of what we have been calling regressive memory is the memory-image (image-souvenir or souvenir-image). If we look at Fig. 2.1 we can see that what Bergson calls a 'memory-image' is an intermediate term between


The Challenge of Bergsonism

Figure 2.1 (MM 276/132) the pure memory and perception. Its intermediate status is why the term is hyphenated. Since regressive memory has memory-images as its element, it consists in a mixture of memory and image. A 'pure and simple image', as Bergson says, is of the present and material (MM 278/135). Having the memory-image as its element, the 'regressive memory' is still partly material. So, while in the first difference in nature, that of 'the two forms of memory', Bergson purified memory of habit or bodily motion, he did not purify it of perception: perception's element is always the image. This brings us to our second difference in nature, between memory and perception. As Bergson says, and he himself italicizes this sentence: 'To imagine is not to remember1 (MM 278/ 135); in other words, for him a memory is not an image. Because a memory is not an image, Fig. 2.1 shows on the left 'pure memory', i.e. memory purified of images.9 Perception in Fig. 2.1 is not called pure perception, because it includes sensation or affection or feeling. When affection is added into pure perception, we no longer have instantaneous perception, we have a thick perception. An affection, like pain, transforms or prolongs the virtual perceptual image into actual action. But, even though affection makes perception thick, the element of perception is an image, not a memory. According to Bergson, psychological as well as philosophical theories of association - he calls this whole group of theories 'associationism' (MM 277/ 134) - rely on the obvious fact that Fig. 2.1 represents, i.e. a pure memory actualizes or materializes itself in a sensation. It is an 'incontestable truth' that as I make an effort to recall an old pain, I can feel or sense the pain again (MM 279/136). 'Incontestable truth' is Bergson's phrase, which means that it is an incontestable truth in general and not just for associationism. Yet, on the basis of this incontestable truth that memories actualize themselves in sensations, associationism argues that, since pure memory actualizes or materializes itself in a sensation, the memory-image is simply a weaker state of a present

The Concept of Memory: Ontology


sensation, which is the stronger state. For associationism, every memory that comes to mind in an image is really a nascent sensation.10 To contest this, Bergson argues that, given the hypothesis of weaker and stronger states, we ought to be able to go in the opposite direction. Since there is only a difference of degree between sensation and memory we should be able to go from a sensation to a memory as well as going from a memory to a sensation: If the memory of an acute pain, for example, is only a weak pain, inversely, an intense pain, that I am feeling, will, by diminishing, end up being a remembered acute pain. Now, without any doubt, a moment comes when it is impossible for me to say whether what I sense is a weak sensation that I am feeling or a weak sensation that I imagine (and that is natural, since the image-memory participates already in the sensation). But never will this weak state appear to me as the memory of a strong state. The memory is therefore something entirely different. (MM 279/136-7) This is an obscure passage, but, its logic depends on this: because all memories actualize themselves in sensations which are, at least at first, weak, associationism supposes an identity between the memory of an acute pain and the weak pain I am feeling now. If these two states are perfectly identical - the memory of an acute pain equals the weak pain I am feeling now - then it should be the case that as an intense pain diminishes into a weak pain, I should experience the present weak pain as the memory of an acute pain. For example, let us say I have a sharp, throbbing toothache; then, through painkillers, the throbbing diminishes. Now, thanks to the painkillers, I have only a sort of dull pain. Do I get confused and think that this dull toothache is the memory of the sharp toothache, which I had before the painkillers? It is possible, as Bergson says, that I experience the weak pain as a memory-image of a weak pain. The dull toothache that I feel now is just like the dull toothache that I had last year. But neither the memory-image of a dull pain nor the present feeling of the dull pain make me wince. In contrast, when I recall the sharp toothache I had before the painkillers, I wince at the very thought of it. Therefore, I never get confused and say that I experience the weak pain as the memory of a strong pain. To repeat, what Bergson realizes here is that associationism overlooks something in this incontestable truth that all memories actualize themselves in sensations. What it overlooks is that the memory of a sharp pain actualizes itself only at first as a weak pain; as I make the effort to recall it, the memory actualizes itself in a strong pain. Associationism isolates the moment when all memories become weak images from their beginning before becoming an image and their ending when they are just like a strong perception. Because of this isolation of the weak moment, associationism treats all memories indif-


The Challenge of Bergsonism

ferently; no matter what sensible intensity the memory represents, it is treated as a weak sensation. If all memories are just weak sensations, then a weak sensation that I am having right now should feel identical to a memory of a past strong sensation. Immediately we can see the contradiction: for associationism, a weak sensation is a strong sensation. Bergson specifies this difference in nature between memory and image in terms of interest. As in Chapter One, for Bergson, perception is not interested in speculative knowledge; in other words, it is not disinterested (MM 279/137); it is practical and interested. And what it is interested in is the present action (MM 361/230). This interest means that the images that perception receives have extension; they are actual. In contrast, as we have seen, memory is turned towards the past. But, since perception is interested only in the present, it finds memories uninteresting (MM 282/139). Simply, memories of the past do not contribute to useful actions. Because pure memories have no utility (until they are inserted into an actual perception), Bergson calls pure memories 'impotent' (MM 280/137) - they do not have the power to bring about action - and 'virtual' (MM 282/139) - they are not actual. Insofar as pure memories are uninteresting from the viewpoint of utility,11 insofar, in other words, as they are virtual, they involve no sensation and, therefore, they are unextended (MM 283/140-1). To summarize this difference in nature between perception and memory, perceptual images are present, actual and extended, while pure memories are past, virtual and unextended. As Bergson says, The memory actualized in an image differs, then, profoundly from [the] pure memory. The image is a present state and can participate in the past only by means of the memory from which it has emerged. The memory, in contrast, impotent as long as it remains without utility, is pure of all mixture with the sensation, without attachment with the present and consequently unextended. (MM 283/141) Before we turn to 'the central metaphysical problem of existence', we need to summarize the two differences in nature by which Bergson defines memory. Both differences in nature - 'the two forms of memory' and 'the differentiation according to interest' - focus initially on the difference between the power of memory and other powers or abilities. In the 'two forms of memory', we saw Bergson differentiate between conservation of perceptual images and prolongation of images in bodily movement. Then, in the 'differentiation according to interest', we saw him differentiate between memory and perception. Memory is always of the past and is therefore uninteresting. Bodily movements and perception are always 'seated' in the present, interested in the present, 'looking only at the future' (MM 227/82). But these differences in

The Concept of Memory: Ontology


nature are established not only to make us see these differences between the powers, bodily movement, perception and memory; they are also established to make us see the difference in nature concerning what survives by means of these powers. The prolongation of an image by means of the repetition of its useful effect deposits habits in the body. These bodily habits are purely material, purely objective, purely impersonal. In contrast to this so-called 'memory' of the body, the conservation by recording of perceptual images is the true memory, the memory of the spirit. Since we have noted the difference in nature between the so-called memory of the body and the true memory, it is hard to maintain that the true memory is recording memory-images in the body, or, more precisely, in the brain. Bergson spends pages in chapter two of Matter and Memory examining the literature on aphasics. While a patient suffering from a brain lesion cannot come up with a word when its definition, for instance, is given, the patient can use the word under other circumstances; what the brain lesion has destroyed, according to Bergson, is the mechanism that reacts to the hearing of the definition. The memory of the word is still intact. According to Bergson, since the motor mechanisms are in the body, they and only they can be destroyed. We must say that memory-images survive in a way different from bodily habits. But, Bergson takes the issue of survival further: memory-images are partly material, since they are images. A pure memory involves no image, no matter, not even any sensation. In other words, a pure memory is purely spiritual, purely subjective, purely personal. The obvious question now is whether this definition of pure memory as purely subjective traps Bergson in a subjectivism. So, let us turn to Bergson's brief examination of what he calls 'the central metaphysical problem of existence'.


Chapter three of Matter and Memory is entitled 'Of the Survival of Images'. The word 'survival' means a type of existence: memories, according to Bergson, survive the destruction of brain cells. How is this possible? To answer this question, he again reminds us that consciousness is primarily practical and not speculative (MM 284/141). Because consciousness is interested in present action, in general it remains unaware of what is ineffective or impotent in relation to action. Impotence in relation to action is precisely how Bergson characterizes pure memories; in fact, he characterizes them as 'radically impotent' (MM 283/141). Pure memories are, for Bergson, 'unconscious psychical states' (MM 283/141). In fact, throughout Matter and Memory., he defines unconsciousness as impotence (MM 315/176, 193-4/44). In order to help us conceive unconscious psychical states, the first thing Bergson does is


The Challenge of Bergsonism

break the identification of consciousness with existence since this identification is common in 'the psychological domain'; for Bergson, in the psychological domain, consciousness is not 'synonymous' with existence (MM 283/141). Thus, he limits the extension of the word 'consciousness' to the present, to the actually lived, to the active. And this limitation has the effect for Bergson of broadening the extension of the word 'existence'. Existence then can be attributed not only to consciousness, that is, to what is active, but also to unconsciousness, that is, to what is inactive both in the sense of being no longer lived and past and in the sense of being not yet lived and future. Because Bergson breaks the synonymy between consciousness and existence, which in turn allows him to broaden the meaning of the word 'existence', he can establish a comparison between 'the series of objects simultaneously arranged in space and the series of states successively developed in time' (MM 287/145). As he says in chapter three of Matter and Memory: 'In reality, the adherence of [memories] to our present state is entirely comparable to the adherence of unnoticed objects to the objects we perceive; and the unconscious plays the same kind of role in both cases' (MM 286-7/145). In everyday life, we do not recognize this comparison because we have contracted the habit of 'emphasizing' the differences between these two series and then of 'erasing' their 'resemblances' (MM 287/145). This operation of overemphasis and erasure occurs, according to Bergson, in three ways. First, because the objects arranged in space around me represent possible actions that I can execute at some moment in the future, space, like the future, remains indefinitely open, 'pregnant with menaces and promises' (MM 286/ 144). Unlike this open horizon of possible actions, memories are 'the dead weight of the past', dead because our interest in possible actions closes off the past in favour of the future. This is the difference, as we have seen, between interest in action and lack of interest in what no longer acts. But, for Bergson, we erase any resemblance between the series of objects and the series of states, because the indefinite or infinite horizon of extended space in front of us is pregnant with promises and menaces; this 'pregnancy' makes the infinite horizon of space appear to be given and present to us. Moreover, and for the same reason, in order to facilitate action, we pretend that we are free of the past of memories (MM 286/144-5). The result of this appearance is that what counts as reality in the material universe includes all that overflows our perception; the result of this pretence is that what counts as reality in 'our inner life' includes only the present moment. But this difference between the space extending infinitely and yet being present and our inner life being present but not infinite is only an appearance. The truth, for Bergson, is that what is unextended is partly present but also infinite, and the extended is infinite but also partly present.

The Concept of Memory: Ontology


The second way the operation of overemphasis of differences and erasure of resmblances occurs concerns the order of the series of objects arranged simultaneously in space and the series of states developed successively in time. The order of the series of objects arranged simultaneously in space is based in necessity: there is a type of deductivity to objects in space, which allows me to foresee the appearance of each one on the basis of the one in front of me. This strict determinateness is why it is easy for me to believe that the infinity of objects is present to me; as Bergson says, 'the strictly determinate order of these objects lends to them the appearance of a chain, of which my present perception is only one link' (MM 287/145). But, as we have already noted, the reproduction of memories in consciousness is capricious. The capricious characteristic of memories leads us to think that the series of memories is contingent, therefore lacking the appearance of a chain (MM 287/145). Again, for Bergson, there is a difference in the two orders but we emphasize it to the point of erasing the resemblance between them. As he says, 'by looking at it closely, we see that our memories form the same kind of chain and that our character, always present in all of our decisions, is really the actual synthesis of all our past states' (MM 287/145-6). In fact, according to Bergson, by looking closely, we see that, in fact, all of our past states exist for us more than the external world since our character, which is the whole of our past states, plays a role in any decision while only a small part of the external world plays a role. The role of the will indicated here in a decision brings us to the third way the operation of overemphasis and erasure occurs. For Bergson, again, this is really a difference but one that ends up erasing the resemblance. When I decide to do something in a given situation, I have to 'cross over one by one' all obstacles that lie between me and the completed action. In the same decision and even in the execution of the action, it is of course useful to recall situations which are similar to the present one. But, unlike when I act, when I recall, I 'leap over the interval of time which separates the actual situation from a prior, analogous situation; and since [I] transport [myself] to [the prior situation] with a single bound, the whole intermediate part escapes from [my] grasp' (MM 288/146). In other words, when I recall, there is not a process of one-by-one crossing; I simply leap. We are going to return to this leap in a moment. For now, we need to recognize that this difference between a leap and a one-by-one crossing makes me think that the whole of the past does not exist intact while the whole of space does. For Bergson, these three overemphasized differences between objects arranged simultaneously in space and states developed successively in time - the openness of the future versus the closedness of the past; the contingency of the chain of states versus the necessity of the chain of objects; and the leap over states versus the one-by-one crossing of objects do not form what Bergson calls a 'metaphysical distinction' (MM 286/144). Unperceived


The Challenge of Bergsonism

objects in space and unconscious memories in time are not 'two radically different forms of existence'; rather, there is an 'inverse' relation between them. The inverse relation between unperceived objects in space and unconscious memories in time is based in what Bergson calls the two conditions of existence; these two conditions show us how the extension of the word 'consciousness' has been limited. Bergson says: ... existence seems to imply two conditions that are connected back together: 1) presentation to consciousness and 2) the logical or causal connection of what is so presented with what precedes and what follows. The reality for us of a psychological state or of a material object consists in this double fact that our consciousness perceives them and they form a part of a temporal or spatial series in which the terms determine one another. But these two conditions admit of degrees and, though both are necessary, we see that they are unequally fulfilled. (MM 288/147) The qualifier, 'connected back together', 'reams', is important, since Bergson repeats it at the end of his discussion of the metaphysical problem of existence (MM 289/148). What he is doing is connecting these two conditions of existence back together after the understanding had made a clear-cut distinction between them and turned them into two radically different modes of existence (MM 289/147-8). In fact, the two conditions are so closely connected that they form a whole; this is why Bergson says that a psychological state and a material object 'form a pan of a series'; the series is the whole but the whole is divided in two, 'doubled', we might say following Bergson's phrase, 'this double fact'. Most importantly, we must note that, after all the differences in nature have been established, Bergson is re-establishing a difference of degree. In fact, he is establishing a difference of degree between matter and memory. When he says 'in all cases' (MM 289/147) the two conditions are 'unequally fulfilled', or fulfilled in 'diverse proportions', or fulfilled in 'different degrees' (MM 289/ 147), he really means just two cases: matter and memory. The proportion in matter is, to say this again, the 'inverse' of what it is in memory. Thus, in memory, in psychic states, the connections between the links of the series is less strict, leaving ample room for contingency, and the presentation to consciousness of a psychic state is perfect 'yielding the whole of its content in the act itself whereby we perceive it' (MM 288/147). Inversely, in matter, in external objects, the connection between the links of the series is perfect, making something like 'a mathematical derivation' possible, and the presentation to consciousness is less than completely fullfilled (MM 288-9/147). In short, in the psychic case, we have perfect presentation of a present state and less logical or causal connection between past states; in the external case, we have less

The Concept of Memory: Ontology


presentation of a present object and perfect logical or causal connection between objects that are not present. We can simplify into four steps the rather complicated development we have seen so far in regard to the central metaphysical problem of existence. While Bergson is considering the problem of existence primarily within the psychological domain - this is why his comments here are brief - I think we are justified in seeing them as applying more generally (cf. EC 671-2/208); after all this consideration could 'lead us step by step into the heart of metaphysics' (MM 288/146-7). To put this as simply as possible, this is what Bergson is doing here. First, he breaks the 'synonymy' between consciousness and existence, synonymy that, especially in the psychological domain, would have denned all kinds of existence by means of differences of degree of consciousness. But this is a false difference of degree because consciousness means present awareness and the present is a part of a whole; the present itself is not the whole. Then, second, since the present consciousness is not the whole, Bergson broadens the sense of existence beyond this part to include both presentation to consciousness and logical or causal connections. Breaking this synonymy apart allows for these different senses of being. But, then, third, by de-emphasizing differences and restoring resemblances - in contrast to our normal habit of overemphasizing differences and erasing resemblances - he makes us see that a comparison is possible between matter and memory. There are two sides, a doubling, of being. But, fourth, the doubling relation between matter and memory consists in an inverse relation between presentation to consciousness and connection in the series. Bergson is conceiving the doubling relation in terms of differences of degree; but, these are the true differences of degree since they are differences of degrees of the whole: matter and memory have the same ontological sense only in inverse quantities.12 As we are going to see, the cone image represents this doubling of matter and memory and this connection between matter and memory. Already, I think we can see that this strange relation between matter and memory suggests something other than a subjectivism. It certainly does not suggest Platonism.


So far, we have seen Bergson eliminate three differences of degrees and then establish three differences in nature. To say this again, difference in direction always defines a difference in nature for Bergson. So, first, we have seen Bergson eliminate the difference of degrees which would make memory be defined by matter; he shows us that matter and memory go in opposite directions: habitmemory goes towards the future, while regressive memory goes towards the


The Challenge of Bergsonism

past. Second, we have seen Bergson eliminate a difference in degree which would turn memory into a weak perception; if we go from the past to the present, the memory of a strong sensation can resemble a perception of a weak sensation, but if we go in the opposite direction, from the perception of a weak sensation to the memory of a strong sensation, the weak sensation cannot resemble the memory of a strong sensation. Then, third, we saw Bergson eliminate a last difference in degree which would make all psychological existence be defined by consciousness: memory-images have stopped being interesting because they are not potentially action; thus we are unconscious of them but they still exist. So, Bergson concludes, not all psychic states are conscious. This last difference in nature, however, led us to the comparison between matter and memory found in Bergson's brief discussion of the central metaphysical problem of existence. This comparison has brought us back to a difference of degrees between matter and memory, which seems to suggest that we have lost the differences in nature between matter and memory. We must recognize here that what we have seen so far tells a very complicated story concerning being. Already we have to acknowledge that Bergson's 'thought of Being' is not a mere rearrangement of old philosophical ideas. Bergson is confronting us with a new philosophical idea of existence, which is represented in the cone image. The cone image should, I think, therefore show us precisely how Bergson reverses Platonism and twists free of it. Before we turn to the cone image, we must reconstruct, in a very general way, Heidegger's logic of the reversal of Platonism. According to Heidegger, it seems that Platonism has defined being in terms of objectivity; the ideas are removed from this world. If one wanted to reverse Platonism therefore, one would define being in terms of subjectivity, bring the ideas down to earth. This reversal is what happened in modern philosophy, which comes to its completion in Nietzsche. But, again according to Heidegger, this reversal remains trapped in Platonism because subjectivism is merely a reversal of Platonism's objectivism. In the modern tradition, this definition of being as subjectivity means that one defines being as presentation to consciousness. Because of the word 'presentation', with its suggestion of the present, we must investigate time. For Heidegger, the sense of being is time, but the present turns out not to be the primary determination of time and it is this realization that is the way out of modern subjectivism and Platonistic objectivism. If we look at Bergson's famous 1903 essay, 'Introduction to Metaphysics', we see that Bergson considers what he calls 'the entire philosophy which begins with Plato and ends with Plotinus'. He claims that this tradition, in a word, Platonism, developed under the belief that there are two different ways of knowing: one, the contemplation of stable immutable forms and the other, action, unstable action or mutable movement; moreover, Platonistic philosophy believed that one passed

The Concept of Memory: Ontology


from the immutable to the mutable by diminution as if there is more in the immutable than in the mutable (PM 1424-5/192-3). For Bergson, however, this belief, which defines Platonism, is false; there is more in the mutable than in the immutable. In this regard, Bergson explicitly allies himself with modern philosophy and modern science: To borrow once more the language of the Platonists, we will say, by stripping the words of their psychological meaning, by calling Idea a certain assurance of easy intelligibility [Bergson's emphasis] and the Soul a certain preoccupation with life [Bergson's emphasis] that an invisible current carries modern philosophy to raise the Soul above the Idea. It tends thereby, like modern science (which does this even more than modern philosophy), to go in the reverse [my emphasis] direction of ancient thought. (PM 1426/194; see also PM 1428-30/196-7). Like modern philosophy and modern science, Bergson places the soul over the idea, mutability over immutability, movement over thing; there seems to be nothing like a return to the Greeks in Bergson. But does this lack of a return mean that Bergson's philosophy remains bound up with modern philosophy and thus remains only a reversal of Platonism? If we follow Heidegger's logic, everything will depend on how Bergson conceives the present. Now, let us turn to the cone image. In chapter three of Matter and Memory Bergson develops the cone image within the question of whether memories can survive forms of material destruction like brain lesions. The two conditions of existence, which we discussed earlier - presentation to consciousness and logical or causal connection - are supposed to show us that each one of our past psychological states has a real, though unconscious, existence (MM 289/148). For Bergson, the two conditions of existence show us that the past must exist or survive, 'in itself (MM 290/149): in itself here means that the past is the whole, not the part; it cannot therefore be a part of something else; it cannot therefore be conserved in something else. The veracity of this claim depends entirely on us recognizing that the chain of memories is just like the chain of material objects, a chain whose existence, of course, we never really doubt. If we grant this comparison, then we must say that the chain of past memories is greater than anything present to me right now; the present is one link in this larger chain. So, if we were to say that the past is conserved in something else, then we would be saying that the whole is conserved in the part. The past, especially for Bergson, is not conserved in the brain. Here, he makes a simple argument. Since the brain is an image, it is one image in the whole of images called matter; it is, in other words, a content in the container; thus it cannot be conceived as a container. Since it is a content, it must also be conserved in a container. No


The Challenge of Bergsonism

matter how we look at this, from the side of matter or from the side of memory, the brain is a part and not the whole. In other words, since it is an image, it is one of the things being conserved by memory; it cannot therefore conserve memories (MM 290/148-9). But, just as the brain is one part in the whole of matter, the present psychic state that I am having right now is a part of the whole called memory or the past. Bergson says we must take the two conditions of existence 'at once' (MM 289/147). Therefore, if we must speak of a content and a container, it is memory that is the container, not my consciousness. In any case, however, if we can speak this way, in terms of containers, the past is the container, and the present is a content. Bergson's image of the cone symbolizes this container-content relation of the past to the present. We are going to have to revise this comment about the cone symbolizing the container-content relation in a moment, but right now it can help us understand what is at stake in it. In chapter three of Matter and Memory, Bergson shows us two images of the cone.

Figure 2.2 The first image of the cone (Fig. 2.2) is constructed with a plane and an inverted cone, whose summit is inserted into the plane. The plane, 'plane P', as Bergson calls it, is the 'plane of my actual representation of the universe' (MM 293/152). The cone 'SAB', of course, is supposed to symbolize memory, specifically the true memory or regressive memory. At the cone's base, 'AB', we have unconscious memories, the oldest surviving memories, which come forward spontaneously, for example, in dreams (MM 294/153). As we descend, we have an 'indefinite number' (MM 309/170) of different regions of the past ordered by their distance or nearness to the present. The second cone image (Fig. 2.3), represents these different regions with horizontal lines trisecting the

The Concept of Memory: Ontology


Figure 2.3

cone. At the summit of the cone, 'S', we have the image of my body, which is concentrated into a point, into the present. The summit is inserted into the plane and thus the image of my body 'participates in the plane' of my actual representation of the universe (MM 293/152). The participation in the plane implies that my body is more than a mathematical point; we are not dealing here with pure perception. Instead, with the cone image, we are dealing with factual perception, which is thick with habit-memory; habit-memory is repeating and prolonging a multitude of moments into action and even prolonging the useful effect of the perceptual images into repeatable actions or habits. This thickness is why Bergson calls the body a 'hyphen' - more than a point - 'between the things that act upon me and the things upon which I act' (MM 293/151). Since the true memory, where memories are surviving unconsciously, is inserted into the body where habit-memory is located and where actions are happening consciously, the 'hyphen' is the 'connection', as Bergson says, between the two forms of memory (MM 292/151). The cone image, therefore, for Bergson symbolizes this connection between the two forms of memory. The two forms of memory are not really separate; the true memory serves 'as a base' for habit-memory (MM 293/152). This is a surprising conclusion since we had spent so much time trying to distinguish the two forms of memory. But we do not understand this connection or hyphen - here we should also recall that the phrase 'memory-image' is constructed with a hyphen - unless we visualize what is most difficult to visualize in the cone image. This is why we cannot really say that the cone symbolizes a content-container relation: the cone is supposed to be an image of movement. The cone really symbolizes a dynamic process. In his descriptions of the cone, Bergson says that my actual representation of the universe is a


The Challenge of Bergsonism

'moving plane'; the summit is constantly 'advancing'; and memories are 'descending' from the regions of memory (MM 293/152-3). Before we go any further, we must see that the movement of the whole cone image is double. On the one hand, as the memories are descending, the cone's summit is itself advancing across the plane of my actual representation of the material universe; but, on the other hand, at the same time, my actual representation of the universe is moving. Again, Bergson calls it a 'moving plane'. It would be absurd to say that the moving plane is moving with the advancing summit, since then the summit would make no progress. Instead, we must say that the moving plane is moving against the advancing summit. Thus, precisely at this summit, we have the difference in nature between matter and memory; matter and memory for Bergson come together from opposite directions at the summit (cf. MM 274/129). We must even say that, if the memories are descending towards the summit, images are ascending up from the bottom. If the difference between matter and memory consists in these two opposite directions, then we have to say that the cone image as Bergson presents it is incomplete; there is a second cone, a cone of matter, below the cone of memory. Being a double, like a mirror image, this second cone would have to be the inverse of the first.13 We have already seen that, when Bergson introduces the idea that there is an inverse relation between matter and memory, this inversion is a difference of degrees. So, precisely at the summit, we also have the difference of degrees between matter and memory: ... my present consists in the consciousness I have of my body. ... [My body] represents the actual state of my becoming, that part of my duration that is in the process of formation. More generally, in that continuity of becoming, which is reality itself, the present moment is constituted by the quasi-instantaneous section [coupe} effected by our perception in the mass that is in the process of flowing, and this section is precisely what we call the material world. Our body occupies its center; it is, in this material world, that part whose flowing we sense directly; the actuality of our present consists in its actual state. If matter, insofar as it is extended in space and as being denned according to us as a present that recommences constantly, then, inversely, our present is the very materiality of our existence. (MM 281/ 139; cf. MM 290/141) In other words, for Bergson, matter is a presentation to consciousness that repeats the deduction of the material world and, inversely, presentation to consciousness is the very materiality of our existence. All the differences of matter and memory, therefore, take place in the present. But that the differences are here does not mean that Bergson is prioritizing the present. In the extract quoted

The Concept of Memory: Ontology


above, Bergson says that the present is 'a quasi-instantaneous section' in the 'continuity of becoming, which is reality itself. Immediately, we can see that Bergson is conceiving being as time: 'the continuity of becoming, which is reality itself. But he is not conceiving time in terms of the present, since the present is nothing more than a 'quasi-instantaneous section of continuous becoming'. Becoming or time is not, for Bergson, a function of the present; the present is a function of time or becoming. In a way, Bergson's prioritization of time over the present is not surprising, since earlier we saw that he does not define existence, especially not psychological existence, solely in terms of presentation to consciousness. So, to say that the present is a function of time also means that consciousness is a function of the unconscious. It seems then, given Heidegger's logic of the reversal of Platonism, that Bergson does not remain trapped in a subjectivism: for Bergson the sense of being is neither the present nor consciousness. Whether you view conscious subjectivity from the side of matter or from the side of memory, conscious subjectivity is only the summit of the cone, the hyphen. The realization that Bergson's philosophy is not a subjectivism also, of course, reinforces what we saw in Chapter One, that Bergson, in Matter and Memory, is inventing a new, non-subjectivistic concept of presence. Instead of defining being as the present or consciousness or presence to consciousness, he is going to define being with the past.14 But in order to reach this new definition of being, we need to examine the movement of the cone itself and leave the movement of the plane behind. In his descriptions of the cone, Bergson says that memories are descending to the summit. Immediately we see that if the memories are descending from the past to the present, they are progressing towards the summit and not regressing away from the summit. We must conclude that 'the true memory' (MM 292/ 151), that is, what we have been calling 'regressive memory', according to Bergson's own usage in chapter two of Matter and Memory, is also the true progressive memory.15 This is why Bergson says in the summary and conclusion that memory is not really regressive at all, but always progressive (MM 3697 239). It is also why, earlier, we had to avoid calling habit-memory 'the progressive memory'. In Bergson, all memory, memory as a whole, is always progressive. Let us focus on this progressive movement. This progressive movement of memory as a whole takes place, according to Bergson, between the 'extremes' of the base of 'pure memory', which is immobile and which Bergson calls 'contemplation' (MM 302/163), and the plane where action takes place. So, with the cone image, memory moves between contemplation and action.16 This movement of memory between immobile contemplation and moving action is intelligence (MM 371/242). We must keep in mind, as Leon Husson has shown, that Bergson in his early works such as Matter and Memory and 'Intellectual Effort' (which is a 1902 essay collected in


The Challenge of Bergsonism

L'Energie Spirituelle, Mind-Energy in English) does not distinguish between intelligence and intuition as he will do in later works such as Creative Evolution and the 1934 collection of essays called La pensee et le mouvant (which is The Creative Mind in English).17 Intelligence refers here to a specific mental effort, which coincides with Bergson's philosophical method of intuition. As we shall see in Chapter Three, what he calls intuition cannot be reduced to a kind of unintelligent feeling, although intuition is based on feeling. Again, invoking Heidegger, we are speaking of what counts in Bergson for thinking: unconscious pure memory (feeling) being explicated - moved - into memory-images and representations (contemplation), and then into actions (cf. MM 269/125: 'thought is a movement'). Thus, thinking, for Bergson, is the movement between the two extremes of contemplation and action. Here, we are going to examine only one of the directions: from the singular to the general; in other words, we are going to examine what Bergson has to say about 'general ideas' (MM 296/155). In Chapter Three, we shall look at the opposite movement of thought, from the general idea to the singular. Concerning general ideas, in Matter and Memory Bergson says, 'The essence of the general idea, in fact, is to be constantly going backwards and forwards between the sphere of action and that of pure memory' (MM 301/161). General ideas are at once singular, having an extension over a multitude of individuals, and universal, having a comprehension or sense, a unity (MM 296/ 155). At the base of the cone - contemplation - we have individual or singular memories, all differentiated and contiguous according to their dates and places of occurrences; as Bergson says, 'contemplative memory ... apprehends only the singular in its vision' (MM 296/155). At the summit of the cone - action we have habits that are contracted by repetition and which react only to things that resemble one another. So, the two extremes are also extremes of contiguity and resemblance. Because of this sensitivity to resemblance and not to contiguity, that is, to repetition and not to difference, Bergson calls the extreme at the summit, the universal. What I am going to do here is show how this movement of intelligence, from the singular to the general, works for Bergson. I am going to lay this movement out in three distinct steps, but we must keep in mind that the three steps refer to a continuous movement of intellectual effort. So, let us say I have a need in the present, a problem that can be solved only if I impose an order on a situation. First, according to Bergson, I must make a 'leap' (MM 288/146). We have already seen this leap; as we know, the leap or 'bound' represents that I am not making a 'one-by-one' regress into the past. Again, for Bergson, memory is never regressive in this sense. By means of the leap, I am immediately in the past; the immediacy that this leap represents is why Bergson uses the expression 'd'emblee', 'right away', so often in the central chapters on memory (cf. MM 278/149-50, 261/116; also ES 944/170). So, we

The Concept of Memory: Ontology


make the leap, and right away we are in 'the past in general and then in a region of the past' (MM 276/134). We shall return to this past in general in a moment. But let us say that, with the leap, I have landed in a region of my childhood, in the region before my parents moved to the suburbs. Even though the leap places me in this region, no image appears at first because I have forgotten the events that formed my character; all I have is the idea of my character. The idea of my character, according to Bergson, is like a 'cloud', composed of thousands of drops of water (MM 277/134); he calls this state the 'nebulosity of the idea' (MM 266/122; cf. MM 310/171). Before these 'drops' condense, each memory is a pure memory, having the characteristics of being unextended, without sensation, without potency in the present, without image, without consciousness, even without life. Nevertheless, although these pure memories are not alive, they are not destroyed but are surviving. Then, we come to the second step: the cone 'rotates' (MM 308/169). The movement of rotation expands and relates memories contiguously; the cone is like - this is Bergson's own comparison - a 'telescope' pointed upward to the night sky, whose lens-holders I am rotating to bring a region of the sky into focus (MM 305/166, 310/171; cf. also MM 262/122). My character is like a galaxy, white against the black of the night sky, a multiplicity with all the singular memory-images clustered together.18 Thanks to the rotation of the 'lens-holders', the stars and planets start to appear. Now I have the image of my parents' old house in the heart of the city; I can now walk through the different rooms of the house; I can see the pieces of furniture and people in each of the rooms, and then I can see the events that took place in the rooms. The rotation of the lens-holders continues. I am in the bedroom I shared with my brother; he is huddled over the little desk that we also shared; he is pasting stamps into an album, carefully, according to the country of origin, according to the size and colour, according to the value of each; there is a song, 'Under the Boardwalk', on the radio: I know it is the summer of 1964. Now, I have singular and personal memories, memoryimages, as Bergson would say, making sure to insert the hyphen. The pure memories in which my character consists have become fixed in living colour. Then, the third effort, which is going on at the same time as the rotation. Once the pure memories are fixed in images, the cone 'contracts' (MM 308/168). Instead of 'expanding' into contiguous, singular, personal images, the movement of contraction 'narrows' or 'diminishes' the images. The narrowing movement of contraction pulls the singular and personal images down the tube of the 'telescope' into general and impersonal images which resemble one another. In other words, I forget again about the summer of 1964; my memory of my brother carefully ordering what he used to call his 'stamp-book' contracts into an image of his general orderliness. Here with contraction, the differentiations again become obscured in order to correspond to the present per-


The Challenge of Bergsonism

ceptual image, which, as we know from Chapter One, is like a line drawing. The image of my brother's general orderliness becomes an idea or even a general 'method' (cf. PM 1326/85) for solving problems of order. This is where Bergson's analysis of general ideas in the third chapter of Matter and Memory stops. But we must note that the contraction can go further. If I am to solve the present problem of orderliness, the contraction must go further. In order to be inserted into the present, the movement of contraction must make the idea of orderliness as thin as possible so that it can be inserted into the hyphen of the body, so that it can fit in, in between 'the things which act upon me and the things upon which I act' (MM 293/151). When this happens, the idea becomes an action. We have to say it becomes an individual, different, or even new action. But the contraction can even go further: over time, through repetition, the method can become a motor habit if the effects of the action are favourable. And it can go still further: over time, the method can be put in words and become an artifice for intelligence. In Matter and Memory, this is when what Bergson calls 'a refinement of intelligence' takes place, when what he also calls 'reflective analysis' 'erases the particularities of time and place from a representation' (MM 298/158). This is when the idea becomes, as Bergson says in 'Introduction to Metaphysics', 'a certain assurance of easy intelligibility'. But here, as an artifice, the idea is still 'vital' and dynamic because it is based only in resemblance which means that it is still open to differences or singularities (cf. PM 1299/58). We must not be confused here: insofar as a general idea, for Bergson, is dynamic, it is both general and singular, which means in Chapter Three, when we go in the opposite direction, from the general to the singular, we are really repeating the process we see here in Chapter Two. In fact, with this dynamism between generality, or, more precisely, universality and singularity, we are in the heart of Bergson's concept of duration. But the dynamism can be stopped; the contraction can go even further: the general idea can become 'something geometrical' where identity replaces resemblance (PM 1299/58). The idea then loses its vitality and becomes a static inert or artless symbol for classifying things. This symbol, of course, can then become a metaphysical concept. But, for Bergson, the true universal lies in the dynamism, in the vitality of the movement of the effort. Now, as I said, in Matter and Memory Bergson does not extend the process this far, but we must keep this whole process in mind as we go forward. Especially we must keep in mind the distinction between dynamic and static ideas. This distinction will become particularly important in Chapter Three. Nevertheless in Matter and Memory, we have a three-step process in the construction of general ideas: the leap, the rotation and the contraction. Through these three steps, we can see that memory, in Bergson, is always

The Concept of Memory: Ontology


progressive and centrifugal. Memory does not come from perception but to perception; the past does not come from the present but to the present. The socalled 'regressive memory', which conserves by recording, sends memories out from the past, like an electric 'current', to be actualized in present perceptions, which themselves, from the other side, receive vibrations, like another electric current (MM 274/129). When the two currents come together the virtual image that results from the confluence prolongs itself into useful action, in conjunction with the acquired motor habits. In other words, remember that the virtual image of perception, as we saw in Chapter One, arises in the interval or the hesitation or the 'making wait' which the complexity of the brain's functions makes possible; the brain makes indetermination possible and opens a loop in the tight mesh of material cause and effect; I can then evoke, select and insert a memory-image right into the interval that opens up before the virtual image actualizes itself in action. The selection of the memory-image to be inserted in the interval is how we stop ourselves from being automatons, from being at the mercy of acquired habits (and nature). This progressive movement of memory - the leap into the past in general and then into a region of the past, the rotation that expands the pure memories into singular and personal memory-images, and the contraction that contracts the memory-images eventually into a habit - returns us to Bergson's definition of the sense of being as the past. Bergson explicitly says (and I have already quoted these passages once here), '... in truth, every perception is already memory. We perceive, practically, only the past, the pure present being the ungraspable progress of the past gnawing into the future'. (MM 291/150, Bergson's emphasis). We have already noticed that the present for Bergson is dependent on time, that is, on the continuity of becoming, but now we see that the present is really dependent on the past. In a well-known essay,19 Jean Hyppolite has argued that we must conceive pure memories in Bergson as essences. (What Hyppolite here calls essence Bergson himself calls 'dynamic schemas' (see ES 936-7/160). We shall return to the concept of dynamic schema in Chapter Three.) He says, 'The German language allows us to bring the past and essence together (gewesen and Weseri). This is really how, it seems, we must understand pure memory in Bergson.'20 To say that the past is gewesen, that it was, means not only that the actual object of perception has passed away, but also that nothing can change the past; the past cannot be repeated in the sense of being done over. Bergson, of course, defines memories in this way, as 'perfect', that is, as non-perfectible through repetition. That memories are non-perfectible - that I cannot do the summer of 1964 over again - is why Bergson says, in his descriptions of the cone, that the base of the cone is immobile. The memories at the base are in a sense eternal, since they have passed out of the present, where change occurs, where one can perfect actions.


The Challenge of Bergsonism

But although the memories have passed out of the present, they have not, as we have seen Bergson also claim, passed out of time; insofar as they constitute our character, they continue to affect the present. Since the memories have not and cannot pass out of time - they can pass only out of the present - we really cannot call them 'eternal'; they are 'quasi-eternal' or, if we want to resort to a strange word from Deleuze, we can say that they are 'impassible'.21 This term means that memories cannot pass away. But to say that the past cannot pass away leads us to conceive memories not just as gewesen but also as Wesen, since we normally think of essences as eternal. Because the memories have passed out of the present, they are detached from the factual objects which caused them. They are no longer tied to factual conditions. This detachment from the object allows memories to be repeated, not in the sense of doing them over again but in the sense of unifying them on the basis of resemblance; the memories can be evoked and, so to speak, can be generalized. The cone's contractions bring the memories together into a unity which, so to speak, forgets the differences, so that the present action I am considering can base itself on them. If the contractions bring forth something like an essence, then I think we are justified in introducing another strange expression, one that is common in twentieth-century French thought and which probably in fact derives from Matter and Memory. The phrase is 'a past that was never present'. Whenever this phrase occurs - whether it is in Derrida, Deleuze, Levinas or MerleauPonty - it always refers to what we used to call an a priori condition. In the twentieth century, however, due to certain criticisms of Kantianism coming out of the early days of phenomenology, a priori conditions now must be conceived as temporally determined; they cannot be merely constructed, as the early twentieth-century neo-Kantians did; this construction was still speculation in the worst sense of the word. Instead, a priori conditions must be experiencible. But as soon as we say that the a priori must be experiencible, we realize, as well, that they cannot be reducible to experience; if the a priori is reducible to experience, then it would no longer be a priori. So, the conditions of experience must be conceived as at once experiencible and yet not reducible to experience. This 'at once' means that the conditions must be in the present experience, that is, affecting present experience or conditioning it, but still not themselves present; if they were actually present, they would no longer be prior to experience. Now let us come back to Bergson. Because we must conceive the past in Bergson not as a function of the present, and because we must conceive the present as a function of this past, the past fits the general definition of 'a past which was never present'. As we have already seen, Bergson in chapter three of Matter and Memory speaks of 'the past in general' (MM 276/134).22 We must conceive of this as always

The Concept of Memory: Ontology


coexisting with the present: all the doublings or dualisms in Bergson derive from the coexistence of the past with the present. To say that the past in general coexists with the present means that it is impossible to conceive of an experience that is not conditioned by the past or that has not had the past affect it. In Bergson, the coexistence of the past with the present seems to happen in two ways: on the one hand, since the past is a past in general, it is a general condition which makes every perceived image pass, become past, be something past; without the coexistence of the past with the present, we could not explain why any present would pass or change. The past in general therefore makes the passing of the present possible, and yet, being past, it is itself not present. On the other hand, insofar as this past in general is not abstracted from past experiences, it is not merely general or indeterminate. The past in general is concrete in all the past memories. So, if the past is always coexisting with the present, then we must conclude that there has never been a present experience that is prior to its memory, that there has never been a beginning or origin of the past in the present. For Bergson, we must always say that the past is the origin. No matter what present we have, there is always a past that is prior to it, affecting it, just as my character affects every present decision I make. So, Bergson's idea of a pure past functions as a general condition of present experience, making it pass, and as singular conditions affecting the present. Paradoxically, Bergson's pure past implies not that memory repeats perception, but rather that perception repeats memory. This means that the memory that records perceptual images is actually developing perceptual images; it is not the past that is copying the present, it is the present that is copying the past. But even this statement is misleading, because we must not think that an object is there in the past that is being copied; memory in Bergson has no object because the factual object has disappeared. As the telescope image suggests, the current of light that the past emits is dim and distant, virtually invisible. The progression from the past to the present is a progression, as Bergson says, 'from obscurity or darkness into the light of day' (MM 278/135). Now we can see exactly how Bergson's metaphysics of memory reverses Platonism and twists free of it. It seems that every attempt to reverse Platonism must conserve certain elements of Platonism; so, let us assemble some of Platonism's most obvious claims. In Plato, as the divided line indicates, actual, material reality consists in images of the originals, that is, in images of the ideas; according to the myths in the dialogues, the ideas existed in the past and we humans had contact with this past before our souls acquired bodies. Therefore, for Plato, the present images repeat or copy past ideas. But since the ideas for Plato are immobile - and the myths imply this immobility of the ideas - they are constantly present; they exist therefore in a sort of mythological present, which means that the ideas for Plato must be denned by a past present. Before


The Challenge of Bergsonism

we acquired bodies, we contemplated these immobile ideas, a contemplation which the divided line places at the top. If we combine the analogy of the sun with the allegory of the cave, we know that ultimately we contemplate the idea of the good, which is located above at the very 'summit', we might say, of the divided line. This contemplation was disrupted, however, when our souls fell to earth and acquired bodies. In effect, for Plato, matter makes us forget the ideas, and Platonic reminiscence is supposed to put us back into the contemplative vision of the ideas. Now, let us turn to Bergson. Bergson conserves from Plato that the original of perceptual images lies in the past, in ideas (or essences, to appropriate Hyppolite's insight again). But, unlike Platonic ideas, Bergsonian ideas were never present, not even in a mythological present; they consist in a past that has never been present. Therefore, Bergsonian ideas must be defined by a past past (and not by a past present). Bergson also conserves from Plato that the activity of the soul at the uppermost part of the divided line is noesis, i.e. contemplation. But unlike Platonic contemplation, which concerns itself with identity or universality, the Bergsonian contemplation is a vision of singularities or multiplicities. In Bergson's cone image, the uppermost part is not the summit of identity but the base of singularities. And, while it is tempting to say that the cone image is Bergson's equivalent to the divided line, we cannot say this because the cone really has no divisions in it; it is all movement. Bergson has identified ideas with the movement of thought and has spread thought throughout the cone. This is the most radical thing Bergson does through the cone image: he has mobilized every idea (EC 673 n. 1/210 n. 1), without exception, even the idea of the good (MR 1026/61, 1205/270). Instead of an idea of the good, Bergson has what he calls 'good or practical sense' (MM 294/ 153). Although we shall return to good sense in Chapter Three and in Appendix I, we can now say that good sense, unlike common sense, which is unidirectional, is double. Bergson says that good sense consists in a 'superior' equilibrium between the base and the summit, between singularities and universality. But superior here means that good sense is unbalanced in relation to the balance of'inferior' common sense. This disequilibrium explains why good sense, like a pendulum, goes in two directions at once; it moves 'indefinitely' (MM 301/161) towards pure contemplation and pure action, towards pure memory and pure forgetfulness. The last thing Bergson conserves from Plato is the source of forgetfulness. For Plato, there is a fall into matter that makes us forget our original contact with the ideas; for Bergson, 'matter puts forgetfulness in us' (MM 316/177). With Bergson we cannot, however, speak of a fall into matter because being is always from the beginning doubled, doubled between matter and memory. But because matter is always there, so is the possibility of profound forgetfulness. One can enclose oneself entirely in habits and habitual ways of thinking, one can stop the indefinite movement of

The Concept of Memory: Ontology


thought. When this happens, then we need to evoke the past. We need to remember, as Plato makes the slave boy remember in the Meno. After the sun has set, we need to point our telescope up at the night-time sky, looking for the Milky Way. Bergson's memory returns not to immobile ideas but to immobile memories; it returns not to universals (in the strict sense) but to singularities. Thus Bergsonian reminiscence in Plato's eyes would be forgetfulness. The Bergsonian reversal of Platonism consists in this: Bergsonian reminiscence is Platonic forgetfulness.23 Now I am going to summarize the discussion concerning the image of the cone. Here, we came closest to showing how Bergson's philosophy represents a challenge to ontology in the Heideggerian sense. This has not really been a challenge to Heidegger's philosophy as such. Instead, we have accepted the standard he set for thinking about our relation to being. So, like Heidegger, we raised the question of the sense of being in Bergson through his brief discussion of the 'central metaphysical problem of existence'. But, for Heidegger, the current metaphysical sense of being that originates in Platonism conceals the true sense of being as time. To retrieve the true sense we must not only reverse Platonism but also twist free of it. For Heidegger, one cannot simply turn the divided line upside down, but rather one must reconceive the entire relation between the division anew; one must in short reconceive time. And to do this, one must stop thinking in terms of the present. Most generally, we have tried to show that Bergson's metaphysics of memory does not think in terms of the present: Bergson thinks in terms of the past. To understand this thinking in terms of the past, we focused on the cone image. Here, we saw that the most important but also the most difficult thing to visualize is that the entire cone image is moving; in fact, it is moving in two directions at once. When we realize that the cone is moving, we are able to see, immediately, that Bergson is reversing Platonism; Bergson places mobility over immobility, he mobilizes all of the ideas, even the idea of the good. But, we specified this reversal in favor of mobility in three ways. First, because the cone image represents the 'connection' between matter and memory, we were able to conclude that Bergson's reversal does not end up in a subjectivism; Bergsonism is not a philosophy that defines being as conscious presence - such a philosophy would be a mere reversal of Platonism. We were able to see that Bergsonism is more than a mere reversal, because the 'connection' between matter and memory is the present consciousness I have of my body. Since Bergson represents this present consciousness by the summit of the cone inserted into the plane of the material universe, present consciousness, we can say, is conditioned by two sides or by two electrical currents. Whether one views present consciousness from the side of matter or from the side of memory, present consciousness is conditioned either by the vibrations of matter or by the unconscious of memory. In order to


The Challenge of Bergsonism

determine Bergson's reversal of Platonism precisely, we must keep in mind that the cone itself represents the unconscious. The recognition that the cone itself represents the unconscious led us to the second specification of Bergson's reversal of Platonism. Because the unconscious or the past always conditions the present, the past does not repeat the present but rather the present repeats the past. As in Plato, the original of all perceptual images lies in the past. But unlike Plato who conceives this past as a present, Bergson, we had to say, conceives this past as a past and that means as a past that was never present. We were able to introduce this phrase to help us conceive the Bergsonian movement of general ideas, because the cone image implies that the past always coexists with the present. The cone image implies a fundamental doubling of the present with the past (and therefore of consciousness with the unconscious). Unconsciously, the past always both conditions the present as what makes the passing of the present possible and affects the present as our character which supports every decision we make. The third specification came from the recognition that Bergsonism conserves elements of Platonism. Like Plato, Bergson conserves the idea that when our soul is most removed from action, it engages in contemplation. For Bergson, contemplation is pure memory, but pure memory is a vision of singularities. Bergson's conservation of contemplation as denning pure memory, but as defining pure memory as a vision of singularities, brought us to the realization that, if Plato looked at Bergsonian reminiscence, he would see forgetfulness. The most precise determination of Bergson's reversal of Platonism is that Bergsonian reminiscence is Platonic forgetfulness. At the beginning of this chapter, we noted that the reason the problem of memory is central for Bergson lies in the fact that memory is an experience. We are going to conclude by thinking a little bit about this experience. The experience of memory that Bergson is seeking is one that verifies that memories survive brain lesions; only such an experience would allow us to establish an independent reality for spirit. Here we return to Bergson's sad mental patients. In the 1910 preface, Bergson proposes, without going into a general theory of mental pathology, that mental illness results from a 'relaxation or a perversion of our attention to life'; indeed here in the preface, Bergson tells us that 'the attention to life' is one of the 'guiding ideas' of Matter and Memory (MM 166/ 14). Attention to life is our attention to action, to solving problems, to overcoming obstacles found in the present; it is equivalent to the summit of the cone (MM 311-12/172-3). And, in the preface, Bergson compares the attention to life to a vise whose jaws are tightening. Such an explanation of mental illness implies that when the attention to life becomes 'perverse', that is, when the jaws of the vise become so tight that memories cannot be inserted, we have a pure experience of life. If this is the case, that the perversion of the

The Concept of Memory: Ontology


attention to life is pure life, then we must say that, when the attention to life becomes relaxed, when the jaws of the vise are wide open, we have a pure experience of death. Only such a pure experience of death can verify that memories survive independent of the body. This experience is why Bergson is so fascinated with what he calls 'the panorama of the dying'; a person who almost died violently - by 'drowning' or by being 'hanged' - always says, 'my whole life flashed before my eyes' (MM 285/155; also PM 1387/180).24 That the experience of pure memory must be an experience of death is further confirmed by the fact that throughout the second and third chapters of Matter and Memory, Bergson repeatedly says that until a memory reaches the present, it is lifeless, even cold (for example, MM 311/173: 'if the idea is to live'). Thus, we must conclude that Bergson's ontology of memory does not concern life but death. Of course, for Bergson, this concern with death is really a concern with superlife, la survivance; he will even suggest, after Matter and Memory, in his 1912 essay 'The Soul and the Body', that since memories survive the destruction of parts of the brain, it is probable that the soul survives for a time after the destruction of the body (ES 859/58; also MR 1199-200/263-4). But even if his theory of memory really concerns the survival of the soul after death, it is difficult to maintain, as Levinas does in Time and the Other, that Bergson's philosophy is a 'philosophy without death'.25 Perhaps here we have been speaking of nothing but death. But, can we say that this Bergsonian experience of death is an experience of the other?


The Concept of Sense: Ethics

In Chapter One, we tried to see exactly how Bergsonism differs from phenomenology. The major point here was that while Bergsonism deduces consciousness from matter, consciousness is not fundamental for Bergson. The recognition that consciousness is not fundamental led us to see that the unconscious plays a fundamental role in Bergson. Thus, we cannot characterize his philosophy as a primacy of perception, of conscious perception; rather, we must characterize it as a primacy of memory. This brought us to what I called a challenge to ontology in the Heideggerian sense; but, as we saw, this was not really a challenge to Heidegger's thought of being. Most generally, we attempted to understand the complicated story Bergson has to say about existence. For Bergson, being is dual or doubled by the difference in nature between matter and memory; but, this dualism is also 'connected' by a difference of degree, which implies a monism. This complicated story should be enough to alert us that Bergsonism confronts us with a new philosophical idea (called 'duration') of how reality is arranged. (We shall return to the concept of duration in the Conclusion.) Nevertheless, in Chapter Two, while we came to recognize the great novelty of Bergson's thought of being, we also tried to see whether, to use Heidegger's words, Bergson's philosophy not only 'reverses Platonism', but also 'twists free of it. We were able to see that Bergson reverses Platonism in two ways. On the one hand, since the cone image is supposed to be an image of movement, Bergson prioritizes the soul or movement over the ideas or immobility; he mobilizes all of the ideas, including the idea of the good. On the other hand, since he specifies the base of the cone as a memory of 'impassible' or 'quasi-eternal' singularities and not as a memory of eternally present ideas - we must remember that the cone is inverted - we were able to say that Bergsonian memory is Platonic forgetfulness. The major point, however, was that Bergson does not define time, and therefore being, in terms of the present; he defines it in terms of the past and this allows him to escape from any charge of subjectivism. Bergson's metaphysics of memory therefore seems to be more than a reversal of Platonism.

The Concept of Sense: Ethics


It is possible that with Bergson's metaphysics of memory, we had been speaking of nothing but death. Clearly, we had to raise the question of death eventually, since we were taking Heidegger's ontology seriously. We found the experience of death in Bergson by stressing that the experience of memory, for Bergson, is a relaxation of the attention to life. If it is a relaxation of the attention to life, it seems that we can say that the experience of memory is something like an intensification of death. There is some textual evidence to support this claim about death in Matter and Memory. For instance, in chapter three, Bergson describes the inverted cone as an inverted 'pyramid' (MM 312/ 173; cf. also ES 886/94) - a pyramid, of course, is a tomb - the past as a 'dead weight' (MM 286/145) and, finally, the sudden reappearance of a memory as a 'ghost' (MM 286/145). Now, while we had to acknowledge that the Bergsonian concern with death is really a concern with survival,1 with, so to speak, superlife, survivance, it nevertheless allowed us to raise a new question in regard to Bergson: if we can say that the experience of memory is something like an experience of death, can we also say that the experience of memory is an experience of the other? This question brings us to what we could call a Bergsonian challenge to ethics in the Levinasian sense. Here, we will not really see a challenge to Levinas; in fact, the question that I just asked is clearly indebted to Levinas's philosophy. Instead, what I intend to follow here is a sort of suspicion that important consequences follow from prioritizing intuition over language or language over intuition. Maybe this is obvious, but let me make my suspicion more specific. In his 1961 Totality and Infinity, Levinas defines ethics as 'the Same taking the irreducible Other [Autrui] into account'.2 Of course, the Other for Levinas is the face. But, more importantly, Levinas defines the face as immediacy and as - this is his phrase 'the imperative of language', as discourse.3 Levinasian ethics therefore is bound up with a sort of linguistic immediacy. Of course, Levinas spent a lot of his later career trying to clarify his idea of linguistic immediacy - the trace - in light of certain criticisms levelled by Derrida in his 1964 essay 'Violence and Metaphysics'. But, if there is an affinity between Derrida and Levinas, this is due to the fact that both prioritize language over intuition. Now, it seems to me that such a prioritization does not take place in Bergson because for him, any philosophy that bases itself on language is relative and mediate. It is relative because language for Bergson is social and societies are established in order to satisfy needs of adaptation; a philosophy based in language is mediate because the repeated satisfaction of needs leads to habits and habits are expressed in static or inert general ideas through which we perceive the world. In contrast, for Bergson, philosophy must not be relative and mediate; rather, it must be absolute and immediate. And, for Bergson, this can be achieved only through intuition; only intuition can give us 'immediate consciousness' or the


The Challenge of Bergsonism

'immediate data of consciousness'. In other words, if philosophy cannot be social, philosophy must inhabit a 'world without others',4 a phrase I take from a 1967 essay by Deleuze on Michel Tournier's rewriting of the Robinson Crusoe story. It seems obvious but perplexing that there is no discourse of alterity in Deleuze, at least not like the one we find in Derrida and Levinas. So, let me specify the suspicion I am going to follow a little further: it seems to me that if one prioritizes language over intuition, then one has a philosophy of the other as you find in Levinas and now Derrida; but, if one prioritizes intuition over language, then one ends up with a philosophy of alteration (not alterity) as I believe it is conceived by Bergson and now Deleuze. Let me put my suspicion in another way: it seems to me that if you prioritize language over intuition, you become a philosopher of transcendence, while, if you prioritize intuition over language, you become a philosopher of immanence. Levinas, of course, is the great philosopher of transcendence and Deleuze is the great philosopher of immanence. But, again, this opposition is only a suspicion; indeed, one very large fact weighs against it: the immense influence of Bergson on Levinas. For instance, in his 1946-7 lectures, Time and the Other., Levinas says that Bergson's elan vital is what he calls 'fecundity'.5 Levinas, however, also wonders, more recently in the 1980s, whether the Bergsonian experience of duration - again what Bergson calls intuition - really lets the 'alterity of the new ... explode, immaculate and untouchable as alterity or absolute newness, the absolute itself in the etymological sense of the term'.6 Levinas is able to wonder whether intuition lets alterity be absolved from the same because he thinks (and thinks this starting very early in his career with The Theory of Intuition in Husserl's Phenomenology7") that intuition (be it Husserlian or Bergsonian) is always a kind of representation. If intuition is representation and thus embedded in theoretism, then we can reach Levinas's philosophy from Bergson only by interpreting the concept of duration on the basis of the love that Bergson describes in his only ethical text, the 1932 The Two Sources of Morality and Religion. In other words, one would have to make the call that brings forth the love of God - the love of the Other - more fundamental than duration. Yet it is possible to go in a different direction. One can interpret the love that Bergson describes in The Two Sources on the basis of the concept of duration. In this direction - the direction that we are following in this chapter8 - we can say that intuition is creative (and not therefore embedded in theoretism); it creates a concept (sense) which is neither a constant nor a variable, a concept that is pure variation, pure becoming, pure 'alteration': pure movement.9 The challenge to ethics that we are about to enter does not concern moral prescriptions or moral theories, it concerns the relation of thought to unthought. Foucault has shown that in the contemporary period, ethics con-

The Concept of Sense: Ethics


cerns an imperative found within thought itself to think what resists thought (the unthought).10 Is the relation of thought to the unthought to be conceived on the basis of intuition or on the basis of language? So what we are concerned with here is the priority of intuition over language. Thus we are concerned with Bergson's concept of intuition and his so-called philosophy of language. In fact, this chapter is entirely devoted to the Bergsonian concept of sense. To do this, I am going to draw on a number of texts: Bergson's famous comments in chapter four of Matter and Memory on the 'turn of experience'; his 1903 'Introduction to Metaphysics'; and his very important second introduction to the 1934 collection of essays called La pensee et le mouvant (The Creative Mind in English). There is a common perception that Bergson does not thematize language; this claim is hard to understand since there are at least four texts that deal with language explicitly: Matter and Memory, chapter two, in the section on 'attentive recognition'; the 1902 essay 'Intellectual Effort', which is collected in L'Energie spirituelle (Mind-Energy in English); again the important second introduction to La pensee et le mouvant', and finally, in the 1932 The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, towards the end of chapter three, 'Dynamic Religion'. I intend to extract bits and pieces from all four of these texts in order to construct something like a Bergsonian philosophy of language.


As we have seen from our investigation of memory in Chapter Two, Bergson's philosophical method is an empirical one; the experience he relies on is called intuition. But, as Bergson says in a letter to Harald Hoffding, 'The theory of intuition, upon which you insist a lot more than upon the theory of duration, became clear to me only a long time after the theory of duration.'11 If we are to understand anything about intuition in Bergson, then we must start from one of his later works, like the second introduction to La pensee et le mouvant. To orient ourselves, we must first recognize the aim of intuition: it is the attempt to experience directly or immediately the flow of my own interior life, of 'immediate consciousness' (PM 1273/32), of my own duration, and that means intuition is an intuition of memory. It is an attempt to 'enlarge' consciousness to include the unconscious (PM 1273/32). So, beyond recognizing this aim of enlargement, we can ask: what is intuition? In the second introduction, Bergson tells us what intuition is not; he says that it is not instinct and it is not feeling, sentiment (PM 1328/88). Now, it is going to turn out, as we will see, that Bergsonian intuition has a lot to do with feeling, but with a specific sort of feeling. So, here in the second introduction what Bergson wants to steer us away from is thinking that intuition is just any sort of feeling of Anteriority or


The Challenge of Bergsonism

just any sort of feeling of memory. The problem with instinct and feelings in general for Bergson is that they come to us too easily: '... we repudiate facility. We recommend a certain difficult manner of thinking; above everything else, we value effort' (PM 1328/87). Although intuition may happen to us, like a vision - and this passivity of intuition is why Bergson associates it with instinct in Creative Evolution - it demands to be explicated into representations and actions. Thus it requires intelligence, 'intellectual effort'; the requirement of intelligence is why Bergson can call it a method, indeed, the only method of philosophy. But for Bergson there is no thinking that does not start in intuition. Although thinking starts with intuition, we must not believe that intuition is some sort of special faculty above or outside of the senses; it is a particularly difficult way of sensing, sentir (PM 1364/127-8). We must keep in mind the etymological connection between sentir and sens as we go forward. In any case, intuition is a difficult way of sensing, because in general our senses are coordinated to bodily needs; therefore, they are directed towards dividing the world up according to possible satisfactions of needs. If intuition is a sensible intuition, it must be an intuition that has reversed this customary direction of our senses to divide according to utility. As Bergson says in his 1904 'Introduction to Metaphysics', 'To philosophize is to invert the customary direction of thought' (PM 1422/190; cf. EC 632/162). To do this inversion of our senses, we must, for Bergson, 'harmonize' them; 'harmony' is the word Bergson uses in Matter and Memory when he speaks about the need to educate the senses (MM 197-8/48-9); the education of our senses 'fills in the intervals or gaps', which our needs establish (MM 198/49).12 If Bergsonian intuition is an educated intuition, amounting to a filling in of all the gaps established by our different senses insofar as they are 'the beams of light of our needs', then we must realize that it is above all else 'a simple intuition' (PM 1348/110). Simple here means continuity. If our intuition is complex or complicated, then we have not inverted the customary direction of thought. In other words, intuition in Bergson is always an intuition of the most simple idea, which is duration, as we shall see. The simplicity of the intuition means that, if Bergson most frequently characterizes intuition in terms of the sense of vision or sight (PM 1364/127, 1329/89, 1350/112), vision alone is not enough; alone, vision gives us only one part divided from the other parts that the other senses can give us. At the least, vision will have to be harmonized or made continuous with touch and hearing. As we saw in Chapter One's discussion of the Bergsonian concept of the image, Bergson prioritizes vision, precisely because of its continuity; once our eyes are open we see images continuously or without interruptions. And, the priority of vision is why he calls intuition 'reflection' (PM 1328/88); it has a connection to light. But, due to this connection to light, vision strictly concerns only images; it is the sense that informs us most about possible action. Since

The Concept of Sense: Ethics


intuition must invert the customary direction of thought towards actions and if you recall the cone image - therefore towards dreaming at the base of the cone, in other words, since intuition is an enlargement of consciousness towards unconscious memory, it is actually going up above the images towards pure memories. Pure memories, we recall, differ in nature from images insofar as pure memories are virtually invisible. Here, it is helpful to recall the true perception of matter that we discussed in Chapter One: the direction of the true perception of matter goes from the surface of the image to the vibrations deep inside. If this description can also characterize Bergsonian intuition - in Matter and Memory, Bergson actually says that intuition can be internal or external (MM 319/183) - then we must say that intuition, like external perception, must go into the depths of the 'chrysalis'; this is where we find the pure memories. To reach this depth, vision itself will have to be enlarged. So, besides vision, Bergson also characterizes intuition, of course, by means of the sense of touch; he calls it contact. Touch is similar to vision, because contact implies an uninterrupted experience; once I start to rub my hand across a surface, I experience no interruptions. But unlike vision, touch is not a sense of distance but rather of proximity; as I move my hand across the surface, I am in immediate contact with it. And, as I feel the surface, I can feel the variations of levels - I can sense depth. The problem with touch is that I can gain no tactile access to the depth unless I rip the surface open; but, as soon as I rip the surface open, the image is destroyed. How can I gain access to the depth of pure, unconscious memories by means of which I can enlarge consciousness? In his 'Introduction to Metaphysics', Bergson describes intuition in this way: intuition 'proposes ... to penetrate the life of [the self], and through a kind of spiritual auscultation, to sense [sentir] its soul palpitate' (PM 1408/175, Bergson's emphasis). 'Auscultation' is a technical term in medicine meaning to listen attentively to organs either by the ear directly or by means of an artifice like a stethoscope. Thus, auscultation implies that intuition is like a doctor listening through a stethoscope to a heartbeat or to the breathing of the lungs. When one auscultates, one must really listen, one must really concentrate. In this auscultation we find the effort of Bergsonian intuition; even vision and touch are too easy. To listen to these quiet sounds, to these rhythms, in short, to listen to time, requires a fatiguing effort, which implies that intuition cannot be maintained for long (PM 1275/35). We shall return to the transitory nature of Bergsonian intuition, but let us note now that it is the simplicity of the intuition that is fatiguing and thus transitory. Once the simple intuition has vanished, then, for Bergson, it is time for the elaboration of the intuition, in a word, for complication. Nevertheless, the image of the auscultator tells us that Bergsonian intuition is like a doctor's intuition, an intense intuition in which one recognizes differences and continuities (PM


The Challenge of Bergsonism

1319-20/79). When a doctor auscultates, he or she finds the one simple source of the illness without cutting the patient up. Here we must be careful: intuition understood as a kind of intense listening, in harmony with touch and vision, like a doctor's intuition, does not mean that we have a relation to the other in intuition, that intuition is a sort of intersubjective experience. In fact, we have to be very careful about Bergson's frequent characterizations of intuition as sympathy, because sympathy, too, suggests intersubjectivity. In his 'Introduction to Metaphysics', Bergson says: There is at least one reality that we grasp entirely from within, through intuition. ... It is our own person in its flowing across time. It is our self which endures. We can sympathize intellectually or rather spiritually with nothing else. But we sympathize surely with ourselves. (PM 1396/162-3) It is hard to renounce the habitual way of conceiving sympathy as a sympathy with others. But, strictly, for Bergson, we sympathize only with ourselves. It is only from this position, self-sympathy, that we can then sympathize in the normal sense with others; in fact, for Bergson, from this self-sympathy we can even sympathize with the entire universe (PM 1273/32-3). In connection with this question of others, it is perhaps needless to say that, of course, we cannot characterize Bergsonian intuition as an objectifying 'look' or 'gaze', un regard. In chapter four of Matter and Memory, Bergson says, The duration wherein we look at ourselves acting [nous nous regardons agir], and in which it is useful that we should look at ourselves, is a duration whose elements are dissociated and juxtaposed. The duration wherein we act is a duration wherein our states ground themselves in other states. (MM 322/ 186) In this quote Bergson uses the verb regarder, un regard is precisely, for Bergson, the experience of classical empiricism. Intuition, however, for Bergson, is the basis of the true empiricism. In the same chapter, in a section entitled 'The Method We are Following' (MM319-24/183-8), Bergson distinguishes his 'true empiricism', as he calls it (PM 1408/175), from classical empiricism. He says, '[the] error [of classical empiricism] is not that it sets too high a value on experience'; the error lies in that it values 'an experience that is disarticulated and consequently undoubtedly denatured' (MM 320/183). The experience classical empiricism values is one that is 'fragmented', 'detached' and 'discontinuous'. Obviously, the experience that empiricism values is exactly the opposite of Bergsonian intuition, the true experience. But what is important here is to see what motivates

The Concept of Sense: Ethics


the fragmentation of the experience; the motivation for the fragmentation lies, according to Bergson, in the 'adaptation of the real to the interests of practice and to the requirements of social life' (MM 319/183). In other words, the fragmentation of the true experience has been done 'in view of the requirements of practical life' and 'for the greater facility of action and language' (MM 320/183-4). Overall, therefore, the fragmentation occurs on the basis of 'inferior needs' (MM 321/184). If there is a relativity to knowledge, as Kantianism suggests, according to Bergson, this knowledge is relative to our needs; but these needs are not 'definitive' (MM 321/184). Bergson does not call the fragmented experience a false experience; in fact, when he speaks of 'the error of empiricism', he uses the French word 'ton', like the English word 'tort', which literally means 'a twist'. The experience at the base of empiricism is not really a mistake, but a turning away from the true experience, a turning away motivated by 'the inferior needs', the need to adapt, 'bodily functions' (MM 321/184). This 'turning away' based on needs for adaptation turns towards, ultimately, traditional metaphysics - what Bergson calls 'dogmatic metaphysics' - which constructs arrangements of the fragmented parts of experience; these metaphysical constructs are really artificial and fake, in a word, false. Because the experience at the base of empiricism is not a false experience but a turning away, it is a natural experience for Bergson. In chapter one of Matter and Memory, he noted that, as we ascend in the evolutionary scale, in other words, as organisms become more and more complex, nature establishes a sort of 'division of physiological labor' within the organism (MM 179/28-9); each organ within one organism becomes specialized and, in order to achieve a task, each organ must work with all of the others. This natural tendency to divide labour among different organs within one organism has destined certain organisms to live in societies, which replicate the original divisions of labour within the organism. According to Bergson, this evolutionary tendency to put organisms into societies diverges into two lines: humans and hymenoptera, i.e. bees (MR 996-7/26-7). What differentiates humans from bees is that humans invent their own tools; they manufacture artifices. But, despite this difference between humans and bees, what defines social life, according to Bergson, is needs, and to facilitate the satisfaction of these needs there is always 'a system of more or less deeply rooted habits' (MR 982/10). As we saw in Chapter One, what we called habit-memory consists in the contraction of habits of action and thinking by means of repeating the useful effects of perceptual images. Directed towards utility, towards the satisfaction of needs, towards adaptation, this 'habit of contracting habits' is at the root, according to Bergson in The Two Sources, of all obligations - including moral duties (MR 996/27, 995/25).13 But it is precisely these duties, these obligations to society, these habits directed to societal needs and


The Challenge of Bergsonism

utility that require us to turn away from the true experience; these habits, which can become inert or artless general ideas, mediate our relation to the true experience. If philosophy therefore, for Bergson, is to turn to the true experience - to turn to true, and not relative, knowledge - it must turn its back on social life; hence his loneliness in Matter and Memory. Bergson in fact says in The Two Sources that Robinson Crusoe is still social (MR 987/16). The philosopher, for Bergson, must therefore inhabit a world without others more radical than that of the famous Robinson Crusoe. Obviously, with all of these turns, we are approaching Bergson's famous 'turn of experience', a phrase he uses twice in chapter four of Matter and Memory. First, he says, But there is one last enterprise to attempt [after empiricism, dogmatism and critical philosophy]. This would be to go to seek experience at its source, or rather above the decisive turn where, bending itself in the direction [sens] of our utility, it becomes literally human experience. (MM 321/184) Then, he says, To renounce certain habits of thinking, and even of perceiving, is far from easy: yet this is but the negative part of the work to be done; and when it is done, when we have placed ourselves at what we were calling the turn of experience, when we have taken advantage of the nascent light with which, illuminating the passage from the immediate to the useful, the dawn of our human experience begins, we still have to reconstitute, with the infinitely small elements of the real curve which we in this way see, the form of the curve itself which extends itself into the darkness behind them. (MM 321/ 185) Of course, in these passages, we must pay attention to the directions. On the one hand, the turn of experience is a turning away from utility, society and literal human experience. This turning away is the negative part of Bergson's philosophical method. To turn away from or to invert the customary direction of thought towards utility means to turn away from action and matter. We saw in Chapter Two that action and matter are located at the summit of the inverted cone. Turning from action, intuition therefore is a turning to dreaming and memory, in a word, to spirit (PM 1292/50, 1272/32). In the second introduction to La pensee et le mouvant, Bergson says that intuition is 'the attention that spirit gives to itself in surplus over [the attention it gives to life]' (PM 1320/79). As we have already seen, intuition is a sort of experience of death, a turning away from social life and practicality, a turning away from the

The Concept of Sense: Ethics


external in order to pay attention to the internal, to spirit. Yet we know from Chapter Two that spirit is not identical to consciousness; it includes unconscious memories (PM 1398/164). Enlarging consciousness to include unconscious memory, the 'turning to' of experience therefore is like the rotating of the cone. If we realize that the turning to of experience is like the rotation of the cone of memory, then we can understand the light image found in Bergson's descriptions of the turn of experience. Insofar as it rotates and turns to memory, the turn of experience places us right in the grey light between the night of dreaming and day of practical action. It lies precisely in what we called earlier 'the grey zone'.14 Again in 'Introduction to Metaphysics', Bergson says, I shall never imagine how black and white interpenetrate each other if I have not seen grey, but I have no difficulty in understanding, once I have seen grey, how one can consider it from the double viewpoints of black and white. (PM 1430/198) Like grey, the turn of experience is the place where one can see how nature and art, death and life, memory and matter interpenetrate and double themselves (cf. PM 1430/198). In fact, we must keep in mind that this grey source of experience is also the source sought in Bergson's later Two Sources, which means we might even say that the turn of experience lies between what is premoral and what is moral.15 The grey zone implies that Bergson could have given Matter and Memory another name, like The Dawn, or he could have called The Two Sources, On the Genealogy of Morals.16 In any case, what is important to see here is that the grey zone of the turn of experience does not imply that all artifice is excluded. In 'Introduction to Metaphysics', Bergson defines metaphysics as 'the science that claims to dispense with symbols' (PM 1396/162) and not as the science that dispenses with language. We must realize that the turn of experience establishes a certain relation to language. Indeed, if we do not understand that Bergson is setting up a certain relation to language here in the turn of experience, then we cannot understand the positive part of Bergson's philosophical method. Exactly like the cone, which not only rotates but also contracts, the turn not only turns to but also turns back or re-turns to matter. The form of the curve, which, Bergson tells us, is the passage going from the immediate to the useful, is still in the dark; it must be 'reconstituted', as Bergson says. Thus, we must take advantage of the nascent light of practical action in order to see the infinitely small elements of the real curve and reconstitute its whole form. So, if we see that Bergson's philosophical method has two sides, a seeing of the infinitely small elements of the passage from the immediate to the useful and a reconstitution of the whole form on the basis of this seeing, then we must see that the turn of experience is bi-directional. But to


The Challenge of Bergsonism

understand this bi-directionality, everything depends on getting the direction right: one must get up to the source above the bend where experience becomes literal human experience; and, clearly, although Bergson does not say this here, we get up to the source only by a leap or a bound. Then, we come back down to human experience. The wrong or the bad direction is to regress from human experience to the source above. If we regress, the source will be mediated by static general ideas, like the idea of the good, which derive from the fragmentation of experience due to social needs; in short, we end up in Platonism. For Bergson, if we want to be good metaphysicians, we must go from the source down to the human, not from the human up to the source. If we get the direction right, then the experience is immediate, true; it is unmediated by the regress from social life and thus it is unmediated by the obligations, habits and static general ideas of social life, by what Bergson calls 'the socialization of the truth' (PM 1327/87). The 'good' direction determines the relation between intuition and language in Bergson. But before we turn to the relation between intuition and language, I am going to summarize what we have seen so far. Bergson's philosophical method can be characterized as an 'intuitionism' or an 'empiricism', in which intuition or experience is not understood as a sort of easy instinct or feeling; it is an intellectual effort in which I put my senses in continuity with one another, in which I especially listen carefully to my own interior life. In other words, in Bergson's intuitionism, I enlarge my consciousness to include unconscious memory; this enlargement, as we shall see, is the intuition of duration: I am listening, so to speak, to the rhythm of my own heartbeat. In order to obtain this intuition - here is the effort - I must turn away from the fragmented and discontinuous experience of social life and inhabit a, so to speak, 'world without others'. In this loneliness, I am in the grey zone between the day of practical action and the night of dreaming. Here, in the middle, I try to see the infinitely small differences in which experience consists and I try to reconstitute the whole curve of experience. In this attempted reconstitution, I return to social life, or action, or language. Again, even in this brief description, we can see the good direction, from experience above to human experience below. Now let us turn to Bergson's so-called philosophy of language.


The first thing we have to say here is that, for Bergson, intuition is not language. Indeed, there is a difference in nature between them. Intuition is not language, because intuition is the continuity of duration, while language is the division of words. Language is division into words because it is directed

The Concept of Sense: Ethics


towards social needs (PM 1321/81); in contrast, intuition is continuous because it is directed towards our interior life. And finally, language gives us only rearrangements of the old, while 'the philosophic spirit is sympathetic to the endless renovations and re-inventions which are at the bottom of things' (PM 1322/82). This difference in nature between intuition and language is why Bergson rejects, perhaps infamously, all forms of verbalism,17 but it does not mean that we have excluded every relation between intuition and language. It would be entirely un-Bergsonian to say that things that differ in nature have no relation to one another. As Bergson says, 'thought... always utilizes language' (PM 1275/35). In the second introduction to La pensee et le mouvant, Bergson defines language in this way: What is the scope of words? One must not think that social life is a habit acquired and transmitted. Man is organized for city life as the ant is for the ant-hill, but with this difference, that the ant possesses ready-made means of attaining its end, while we bring what is necessary to reinvent them and to vary their form. Even though each word of our speech is conventional, language is not therefore a convention, and it is as natural to speak as it is to walk. Now, what is the primitive function of language? It is to establish a communication with a view to cooperation. Language transmits orders or warning. It prescribes or describes. (PM 1320-1/80) What we must see here is that he is making a distinction that is parallel to one found in his Two Sources of Morality and Religion, where he speaks of particular moral obligations, which are particular acquired and transmitted habits, and he speaks of the 'whole of obligation', which is the general habit of contracting habits. In other words, particular moral obligations are conventional, while the whole of obligation is natural. So, in regard to language, we can say that Bergson is making a distinction between linguistic conventions such as the particular forms of words and particular linguistic codes or rules of syntax in which a particular language consists, and what we can call, following the terminology of The Two Sources, 'the whole of language'; in fact, in The Two Sources, Bergson suggests such a parallel distinction when he says that '[Obligation] is a virtual instinct, like that which lies behind speech. The morality of a human society may indeed be compared to its language' (MR 998/28). Therefore, if we can coin this phrase, 'the whole of language', the whole of language would be the habit of contracting the habit of speaking a particular language. The whole of language then would be at the source of the particular languages we speak; it would be the absolute of language. In contrast, the particular languages we speak are relative to the communities in


The Challenge of Bergsonism

which we live and consequently they mediate our experience with the acquired, inert or static general ideas of those communities. In other words, to use the terminology of The Two Sources, particular linguistic conventions - which are, of course, artifices - enclose us; the habits of speaking are so easy, so handy, that we move outside them only with difficulty; in short, we do not want to move outside them. But, to remain trapped within a particular set of conventions, artifices, or habits is not thinking; it is not freedom. So, if we can speak of something like a 'philosophy of language' in Bergson, it is a philosophy of 'the whole of language'. Only the whole of language can open us up and allow us to move. That Bergson is concerned with the whole of language is why he says in the second introduction that the philosophical method cannot be dialectic or dialogue or conversation (PM 1321-2/81). Philosophy, for Bergson, cannot be conversation because all conversational or dialectical philosophies merely cut reality up according to the already established divisions of a particular language (PM 1321-2/81). In fact, Bergson's disdain for dialectic or dialogue or conversation explains his linguistic example found in chapter two of Matter and Memory. So, let us go back to this chapter. Here, as we saw in Chapter Two, Bergson is trying to differentiate between the two forms of memory. To see this difference, he then turns to what he calls 'the intermediate states' between the two forms (MM 235/89). We recall that the one form is 'habit-memory', the other, the memory that conserves images. The intermediate state between the two forms of memory is recognition. Remember, the two forms of memory for Bergson are not separate from one another; in fact, he intends the cone image to illustrate the 'connection' between them. So, with the intermediate state of recognition we are again at this very connection. And, like the two forms of memory, recognition itself, according to Bergson, comes in two forms. On the one hand, there is inattentive or automatic recognition, which works entirely by habits, and in which 'our movements prolong our perception in order to draw from it useful effects and thus distances us from the object' (MM 244/98). Insofar as it is concerned with habits and useful effects, inattentive recognition works entirely in terms of generality and is easy. When we make use of general ideas, especially static general ideas, we are in inattentive recognition. On the other hand, there is attentive or voluntary recognition, which involves memoryimages and, consequently, requires effort, and in which our movements ''lead us back to the object in order to emphasize its contours' (MM 244/98). Insofar as it involves memory-images and is not concerned with useful effects, attentive recognition works entirely in terms of singularity. We can see that with the two forms of recognition we again have the summit and the base of the cone. Bergson is primarily interested in attentive recognition because it involves memory-images. He illustrates this with the following example:

The Concept of Sense: Ethics


I listen to two people speaking in an unknown language. Is that sufficient for me to understand them? The vibrations that come to me are the same that strike their ears. However, I perceive only a confused noise in which all of the sounds resemble one another. I distinguish nothing and I could repeat nothing. In this same sonorous mass, in contrast, the two interlocutors disentangle vowels and syllables that hardly resemble one another, and finally distinct words. Between them and me, where is the difference? (MM 254/109) Clearly, the difference lies in that they know the language and I do not. Because Bergson is interested in how memory functions in attentive recognition, his descriptions focus on the one who does not know the language, but let us think a moment about the ones who do know the language and who are engaged in a conversation. Bergson does not tell us what they are speaking about but, if it is a normal conversation, we can imagine that they are talking about practical matters and therefore are utilizing conventional forms of speech and interpreting one another in general ways or according to the acquired, static, general ideas of their community. Since these general ideas mediate their conversation, there can be no experience of alterity or alteration here; everything that is said is analysed and synthesized, subsumed, under these ideas. So, for these people there is no recognition of difference or singularity and no movement outside the conventions; there is only recognition based on habits. Indirectly, Bergson points to an obvious feature of this experience when he talks a little later about raising the volume of the sound (MM 254/109). We all know this feature: when people realize that you do not understand what they are saying, they speak louder, and they might even start to yell at you. Of course, the louder voices only make you feel more outside their world and, when you still do not respond to them, they probably start to think that you are a little crazy. In fact, Bergson constructs this example because he thinks aphasics are, in relation to their own language, precisely like this person in relation to an unknown language. Therefore, being a little crazy like an aphasic - unable to recognize, unable to communicate - this person, we could say, inhabits a world without others. This is important: for Bergson, if we are to understand another person, to interpret speech, in other words, to recognize the difference that defines that person, we must be able to leap outside the particular world that we inhabit together. If I do not make the leap, I remain captive to the static general ideas or conventions of that particular language (cf. MM 261/116-17), and these ideas eliminate the very possibility of experiencing difference. We have already mentioned this leap once in this chapter, and we shall return to it in a moment. As I said, Bergson constructs this example in order to illustrate attentive recognition; in particular, the example of the person is supposed to illustrate,


The Challenge of Bergsonism

for Bergson, what keeps the person who does not know the language and the aphasics from recognizing or understanding what is being said. When I hear a language I do not know, the words all flow into one another and resemble one another. Therefore, what I and, it seems, the aphasics lack is the ability to decompose the sounds into articulate words. Similarly, I and, it seems, certain aphasics lack the ability to recompose the words into sentences. What Bergson realizes here is that a part of any language training consists in a sort of 'manual education' (cf. PM 1325/85), in which we almost literally form the inner membranes of our ears upon the shapes of the sounds that we are hearing; similarly, we almost literally form the muscles of our throat and lips into the sounds we are speaking. This muscular formation, of course, takes place by repetition (MM 256/111). When my ear and throat have been so formed, I can then 'punctuate the sentence which is heard and ... emphasize its main articulations'; then, we have what Bergson calls 'the motor schema' (MM 255/ 110-11), that is, the muscular ability to discern the internal articulations of the sentence as well as the muscular ability, so to speak, 'to sketch' these same articulations with our voice. But this ability to 'sketch' the motor schema with our ears and throat is only one side of attentive recognition for Bergson. Like the first form of memory, this first side of attentive recognition entirely concerns the body: when the repetitions have had their effect, the motor schema is a motor habit. When we speak a foreign language fluently, we can speak it like an automaton - rapidly, perhaps even without thought. In fact, at the moment when the habits have taken control, the language becomes easy; the recognition is so easy that we do not really have to pay attention. So, the first side of attentive recognition does not really tell us much about the form of recognition in which I really have to pay attention. But for Bergson, there is also a second side. While the first form of attentive recognition concerns the body, the second side concerns spirit. Even if I am fluent in a language, or perhaps because I am fluent in a language, I do not hear what is different, singular and new in a sentence. What I have is a sort of manual dexterity with the language that allows me to decompose and recompose the sentences according to the motor schemas or habits, that is, according to generalities. I am enclosed in this particular language with its particular set of conventions. But when I know a language 'imperfectly' (ES 944/170), I am in a different situation. Here, I am extending the example Bergson gives in Matter and Memory of a person hearing a conversation in a language I do not know. Let us say that now I have had some training in this language. Even with this training, I must make an effort because the motor schemas are not entirely in place. So, I must reflectively form my ear and throat. But in order to listen to what is being said and understand it exactly, it is not enough to know the general motor patterns of the language, the

The Concept of Sense: Ethics


rules of syntax and the vocabulary. A motor schema, for Bergson, concerns only action, not thought. Here we return to the leap. In the second chapter of Matter and Memory Bergson says, 'To understand the speech of another is ... to reconstruct intelligently - that is, starting from the ideas - the continuity of sound that the ear perceives' (MM 261/116-17, my emphasis). In other words, if I am to understand, I must place myself 'immediately' - d'emblee - 'in the midst of the corresponding ideas' (MM 261/ 116). As we have seen, what is most important about the leap in Bergson is that it is not a step-by-step regress. In fact, in the case of listening, of understanding, it is really impossible to regress from the words that I am hearing to the ideas, because words, as Bergson says, have no 'absolute sense'; their sense is always relative to what follows them and what precedes them. Bergson goes on to make the following comparison: ... a word has individuality for us only from the moment we have been taught to abstract it. We do not first learn how to pronouce words but sentences. A word is always anastomosed to the other words that accompany it and takes different aspects according to the cadence and movement of the sentences of which it makes an integral part: just as each note of a theme vaguely reflects the whole theme. (MM 262/118, my emphasis; cf. also MM 269/124 and ES 945/170) The word 'anastomose' is a biological term that means flowing into something else by means of an outlet, like the criss-crossing of blood vessels or the channels of a river. It suggests that a sentence is a complicated but unified pattern of flows or rhythms. So, if I tried to regress from each distinct word to an idea, I would be 'at a loss', 'wandering' from word to word (ES 945/170). I would never find the pattern. Bergson says that sense or the idea is the 'solder' of the words (MM 267/122). Therefore, in order to find this 'soldering' sense, I must not regress; instead, I must leap right into the sense, and that means into the past in general and then into a region of the past. Indeed, with the leap we are back inside the cone. But, this leap into the past also means that we have escaped the particular language and now we find ourselves in the whole of language, where we see language connected to memory.18 And, as with the cone, the direction of intelligence is from the ideas to the images, from the sense to the distinct words, from thought to action. We must keep this direction in mind, because it implies already that, if there is alterity in this experience, it is going to be dependent on my own interior life, on my memory, on my sense. What is sense in Bergson? As we have noted earlier, sense is what Bergson calls a 'dynamic schema', and he discusses this concept most in his 1902 essay 'Intellectual Effort' (ES 936/160). In Chapter Two, we encountered the con-


The Challenge of Bergsonism

cept of dynamic schema in our discussion of a past that was never present; a dynamic schema, we said, is a sort of essence. In 'Intellectual Effort', Bergson gives a very good example of a dynamic schema: the memory of a skilful chess player (ES 937-8/161-2). He notes that a skilful player can play several games of chess at once without looking at the chessboards, that this player does not have the image of each chessboard in memory 'just as it is, "as if it were in a mirror"', nor does he have 'a mental vision of each piece' (ES 938/161). Instead, the player 'retains and represents to himself... the power, the bearing, and the value, in a word, the function of each piece' (ES 938/162). And, for each game, the player retains and represents to himself 'a composition of forces or better a relation between allied or hostile powers' (ES 938/162). Then, at every move the player makes an effort of 'reconstruction'; in other words, he or she 'remakes' the history of the game from the beginning, or 'reconstitutes' the successive events that have led to the present situation. Therefore, as Bergson says, 'He thus obtains a representation of the whole that enables him at any moment to visualize the elements' (ES 938/162). What the example implies is that the chess player has something like what Bergson would call an intuition; he or she has an intuition of the whole and the differences that can be developed from it. We cannot think, however, that the chess player has the whole as such; this would imply that the whole is given. But, for Bergson, the whole is never given. Instead, the chess player has the whole as a schema, in which there are unforeseeable developments. So, Bergson defines a dynamic schema in this way: a dynamic schema is - these are Bergson's words - a 'simple' 'outline of temporal relations' (ES 950/177), which is 'developable' into 'multiple images' (ES 936/160). In other words, it is a 'representation' of the whole that can be developed into multiple parts or elements. Even though the dynamic schema is an 'outline' - it is also what we are going to call, in Appendix I, an example or a symbolic vision and is what we were calling in Chapter Two a dynamic general idea - it is not, according to Bergson, an 'impoverised extract or summary' of this particular series of images (ES 937/160); if it were an extract or summary, the schema would be limited just to that series of images, and then the chess player would be unable to play new and different games. Similarly, a dynamic schema is not what the images taken together 'signify'; in other words, it is not a 'logical meaning', because a logical meaning 'may belong to quite different series of images' and therefore would not allow us to retain and reconstruct one definite series of images to the exclusion of others (ES 937/160). So, while an impoverished extract is too limited to be a dynamic schema, a logical meaning is too unlimited to be a dynamic schema. In other words, the extract has too small an extension, while the logical meaning has too large an extension. A dynamic schema, as Bergson says, is as complete as the images that develop from it; it has 'reciprocal implication' and, consequently, 'internal complica-

The Concept of Sense: Ethics


tion', which the elements or images develop. The dynamic schema or sense in Bergson is, to repeat an image from Chapter Two, 'the nebulosity of the idea' (MM 266/122). A cloud is a whole composed of thousands of drops of water, but I do not see the different drops until the cloud condenses. Similarly, the idea I have of my character is composed of thousands of singular events, but I do not see those singular events until I rotate the cone. The idea anyone has of his or her character would be an example of a dynamic schema in Bergson. The idea I have of my character is a simple outline of forces, which are developable into singular images of action. This is sense in Bergson. His conception of sense as an outline of temporal relations or as a relation of forces and powers distinguishes it from the phenomenological elaborations of sense, which seems to be determined by the teleology towards an object.19 Bergsonian sense is a tendency; it really is a direction, but an unpredictable direction. Bergsonian sense is creative. Now, if we return to the problem of understanding another person who is speaking a language that I do know well, we can see that it requires an intuition of sense like that of the chess player. It may seem that I start from the sounds I am hearing but, according to Bergson, this starting point is an illusion: the articulate words I can discern act as nothing more than 'suggestions' or 'benchmarks' for me to follow (ES 943/168). From them, I make the leap into sense, that is, into the past in general and then into a region of the past. When I have the sense suggested or the 'corresponding idea', I then have what Bergson calls the 'directing idea' (ES 956/184). This idea directs my progression towards distinct elements or auditory images such as words. In other words, on the basis of the sense, I repeat or double what the other person has said. Both in Matter and Memory and in 'Intellectual Effort', Bergson compares this process to the operation of solving a mathematical problem (MM 261/116; ES 943/ 168). Even if the solution to a mathematical problem is written on the blackboard, printed in books, or verbally explained to me, I do not understand the solution to the problem unless I do it myself, unless I do it over for myself. Again the chalk marks on the blackboard or the symbols in the book or the sounds I hear do not lead me to the idea; they are nothing but suggestions. I understand the solution to the problem when I can do it myself. Similarly, in the case of hearing a language I know imperfectly, I understand the other person when I reconstruct, or re-say his or her sentence. In fact, I must say the sentence over again just as rapidly as the person speaking in order to keep up. But only if I can repeat the sentence completely can I say I really understand it, and this understanding is not that of generalities; it is not the understanding given to me either by the motor schema or by a static general idea. Because of the starting point in sense from which I develop the singular images of words, I understand exactly what has been said in its singularity. But while this


The Challenge of Bergsonism

understanding has had its suggestions and benchmarks in the speech I hear, and while Bergson calls it a 're-construction' or a 're-constitution', we must realize that the understanding of these specific words, in their very difference, is dependent on my sense. I must make the leap to understand the sentence but, insofar as I leap into sense, the understanding of the sentence develops from me, not you. Indeed, we must even see the rhythm of the other's speech as a function of my own rhythm. For Bergson, therefore, the plurality of rhythms develops - and we must say develops without a mediating general idea, i.e. it develops immediately - from my intuition of my own sense. So, the direction is not from the other to me for Bergson, but from me to the other. More precisely, the direction is from the dynamic schema or sense to the distinct words and sentences; or, it is from my character to actual actions. This direction is what Bergson throughout his writings calls 'good sense'. In chapter three of Matter and Memory, Bergson calls good sense practical sense, which means that its direction is towards action. In fact, in a speech he made in 1895, one year before the publication of Matter and Memory, Bergson says that good sense 'loves actions'.20 Nevertheless, its direction towards action must be understood through its primary characteristic; good sense is primarily defined as being 'well balanced' (bien equilibre) between the extremes of the cone, between the 'docility' of the dreamer and the 'energy' of the person who acts (MM 294/153). Yet, insofar as good sense is 'well balanced', it never regresses, but always makes the leap and then progresses from the sense or dynamic schema to action and language. The leap and the progress towards action and language is why we have to define good sense as doubly directed or bidirectional; it is dynamism itself. This dynamism is why, in the 1895 speech, Bergson calls good sense 'intellectual work itself.21 It is docile enough to use memory-images to recognize the singularity of the present situation and energetic enough not to fall asleep and dream; it swings back and forth like a pendulum. Again, in the 1895 speech Bergson says that good sense neither sleeps nor dreams. Indeed, this is why good sense is so fatiguing (ES 892/102). He also calls good sense 'an intuition of a superior order that is necessarily rare'.22 In fact, this entire speech implies that what Bergson throughout his writings calls intuition is good sense, which means that for him intuition is never simply knowledge, never simply speculative, but always also active, directed towards action. Finally, Bergson tells us that good sense's love of action conies from being 'profoundly moved for the good', from 'an intense warmth that has become light'.23 Both of these comments suggest that intuition in Bergson is based in a type of feeling or emotion. Almost 30 years after this speech and Matter and Memory, we find in The Two Sources of Morality and Religion that intuition is based in a specific sort of emotion, which Bergson calls creative emotions. He defines creative emotions

The Concept of Sense: Ethics


as those that generate thought (MR 1011/43). Most emotions, according to Bergson, arise as a consequence of a representation; for instance, when I see someone I know, I feel pleasure. Here the cause of the emotion is the representation. But, for Bergson, there are also emotions that precede the representations and are in fact 'pregnant' with representations; here the emotion is the cause and the representation is the effect. These emotions are rare (cf. MR 1156/213); an example would be joy (and not pleasure). Another example would be the religious emotion of mystical ecstasy. As is well known, for better or worse, in The Two Sources, Bergson provides a defence of mysticism which consists in arguing that mystics have 'superior good sense'. This superiority conies from the visions, raptures, or ecstasies, in other words, the emotion that comes up from the depths, 'from the darkest depths of the soul' (MR 1170/ 229). Bergson interprets this emotion as a fleeting vision of the continuity of our inner life, of the very roots of our being, of the very principle of life in general (MR 1187/250). In other words, mystical rapture is an intuition of duration. But such a rare and transitory experience upsets one's normal mental equilibrium; in relation to common sense, the balance of superior good sense is a disequilibrium. This 'disequilibrium' is why mystics are frequently classified as insane (MR 1183/245). But such insanity amounts to a leap outside the habits and conventions that are relative to one society. Therefore, if the disequilibrium is like the leap, then, as Bergson insists, the 'disturbance is a systematic readjustment with a superior equilibrium' (MR 1170/229); in fact, he insists that mystics have 'an exceptional, deep-rooted mental healthiness' (MR 1169/228). Thus, what is truly important about superior good sense is its directedness towards action (MR 1169/228). And the action it is directed towards is love of all humanity; superior good sense is not enclosed in one society but is open to all. In fact, the mystical soul is so open that its love extends to animals, to plants, to all nature, to the entire universe (MR 1007/ 38). Now, we might think that this superior form of love actively directed at all humanity, at the entire universe, defines duration, but, as with everything in Bergson, we must not take this mystical love as a metaphor to help us understand duration, but rather we must redefine love on the basis of Bergsonian duration. So, we are going to conclude with a discussion of duration.24


Think in Terms of Duration

The challenge of Bergsonism is to think in terms of duration and, perhaps, in these investigations, we have done nothing but think in terms of duration; but now, we are going to be as precise as possible about it. Most generally, Bergson defines duration as memory, as he does for instance in his 'Introduction to Metaphysics' (PM 1411/179). But even if we can say this, that Bergson defines duration with memory, or that he defines it with change or movement, or with biological or artistic creation, this does not help us understand duration. We must not define duration with these terms; we must see that duration redefines memory, change, movement, creation. In general, traditional metaphysics has defined these phenomena as a synthesis of discontinuous elements; we know already this synthesis of already analysed or juxtaposed elements cannot be duration. It seems to me that, despite Bergson's numerous and varied descriptions of duration in his corpus,l we can define duration with two simple claims. The first is perhaps at the heart of Bergson's philosophy: the past survives. The second follows from the first: the moment coming from the future is absolutely new. As we already know, Bergson describes this connection between the first claim and the second, between the survival of the past and the novelty of the future, in a number of ways: prolongation, continuity, progress and passage, to name the most obvious. But no matter what term we decide to favour, this connection confronts us with an obscure logic. I am going to try now to throw as much light on it as possible. As we saw in Chapter Two, the survival of the past implies that the past is impassible, i.e. it cannot be changed or done over. For Bergson, this impassible character of the past means that duration is irreversible (EC 499/6). To use the example we saw in Chapter Two, if I am in the process of memorizing a poem, I repeat or do over the poem an indefinite number of times; each time I do it over, I improve my recitation of it. But no matter what, each time that I repeat the poem on a particular day, in a particular place, this particular recitation is an event of my personal history, which I cannot repeat. Each time, each recitation, is an unrepeatable event - unlike the poem itself, which can be repeated. This explanation gives us the Bergsonian idea of the irreversibility of the past.

Conclusion: Think in Terms of Duration


The next step in the explanation of duration is crucial: if duration or time were reversible, then I could say that the coming moment is a mere rearrangement of past moments, the past moments done over; like the repetition of the poem, this rearrangement certainly would not be new. But, since duration or time is not reversible, I must conclude that each coming moment is new in relation to the past moments, which are still surviving, and since the past moments are still surviving, the coming moment cannot be doing them over. Perhaps we can visualize this connection between survival of the past and the coming moment in this way. Imagine that someone is holding a bunch of leaves from the same tree behind his back; then, this person is laying each leaf down side by side on a table in front of you and he is not taking any of them away as he lays down a new one. As each leaf is presented to me, I can see that it is different from all the others because they are still there; I can see this even though the leaves resemble each other almost to the point of being indiscernible. Now, let us change the image. Imagine that the person holding the leaves is taking each leaf away immediately after he has laid it on the table; now, we would start to think - because the leaves are so similar to one another - that this person is presenting the same leaf over and over again. When each leaf is taken away, we perceive no difference, when they are still there, we perceive difference. If this image makes sense, then, with Bergson, we must conclude that the survival of the past implies that the coming moment is not a repetition of the past, but is at least singular. Nevertheless, this way of characterizing the connection between the survival of the past and the singularity of the future does not really give us newness; it seems to me that it only gives us difference. We can see why Bergson insists on the novelty of the coming moment if we realize that, as each moment comes, it is added onto the whole of the past. So, with each different moment, memory itself has changed; it includes the whole of the past plus one more moment. In other words, memory as a whole has a constantly new organization. Granted that the difference of each coming moment from the past gives us a new organization of the past or a new organization of duration as a whole, nevertheless I think we probably would not yet call this 'swelling' of the past creation. Yet, in Creative Evolution, for example, Bergson says that 'Each [moment of our life] is a kind of creation' (EC 500/7). I think we can start to see why Bergson would call this swelling of the past by different moments creation, if we change direction. So far, we have been characterizing duration only from the direction of the future to the present. If we now move from the past to the present, we can see that memory is constantly and spontaneously rotating and contracting past memories in order to insert them into the present, into the hesitation, in other words, between the future and the past. The past is adding memory-images to the perceptual image, like an artist painting a portrait (cf.


The Challenge of Bergsonism

EC 499-500/6-7). Of course, I should have said here that an artist painting a portrait is like duration or that an artist painting a portrait is even in duration. Nevertheless, what is truly important is that, with the creation of the perceptual image by means of the addition of memory-images, we can say now that, in a sense, the present repeats the past (even though the past is irreversible). Moreover, like any artistic creation, the picture that results from this process is always unpredictable or unforeseeable; it is unforeseeable because, on the one hand, the past is spontaneously adding memory-images to the perceptual image, and, on the other, the coming moment is always adding different perceptual images to the whole of memory. If we keep this difference in mind between each coming moment being different in relation to the whole of the past and the spontaneous contributions of memory to the creation of the perceptual image, I think we can see that, in the passage between the past and the future, there are both quantitative differences and qualitative differences. Each different moment being added onto the ever swelling past does not necessarily bring forth a new existence or work or action; it differs by degrees from the past moments. For instance, as a pain grows, I can say that it is getting worse; indeed, I can describe the pain on a numerical scale, which implies a kind of homogeneity. But, at a certain moment, the pain reaches a level where I sense that I have to do something, and then I decide to act; my decision and consequent action is a qualitative change and implies a kind of heterogeneity. Thus, I think we can see why Bergson constantly characterizes duration in contradictory terms: unity and multiplicity, simplicity and complexity, indivisible and divisible. But no matter what, the connection between the survival of the past and the absolutely new is not a contradiction because we must start with unity, simplicity and indivisibility, in a word, with homogeneity. Homogeneity is, of course, not really the right word here, since there is always potential complexity in duration. The right word to characterize duration is immanence. This starting point in immanence is why we have to say that the logic of duration is not one of same and other, but a logic of alteration; duration is the same becoming-other. This is why Bergson says in his essay on laughter that 'As paradoxical as this assertion may appear, we do not believe that the observation of other men is necessary for the tragic poet' (R 466/148). Instead, inner observation is necessary intuition. Here is what Bergson says, again, in his essay on laughter: If the characters created by a poet give us the impression of life, it is only because they are the poet himself - a multiplication or division of the poet the poet plumbing the depths of his own nature in so powerful an effort of inner observation that he lays hold of the virtual in the real, and takes up what nature has left as a mere outline or sketch in his soul in order to make of it a finished work of art. (R 467/150)

Conclusion: Think in Terms of Duration


Shakespeare was neither Macbeth, nor Hamlet, nor Othello; still, he might have been them. This is alteration from immanence, not the alterity from transcendence. Bergsonian duration therefore is a simple idea; in fact, I can reduce its complexity down to three sentences. First, the past survives. Second, because the past survives, each coming moment cannot be a mere rearrangement of the old moments. Third, not being a rearrangement of the old, each coming moment must therefore be new. This is as precise a formula as we can construct for Bergson's idea of duration. Yet, no matter how precise the expressions of the logic of duration have been here, what these expressions refer to remains, for Bergson, inexpressible (cf. MR 1189/252); no formula of duration is ever adequate to the intuition of duration, no formula ever gives us the whole of the experience of duration (PM 1288/45). This inexpressibility of the intuition of duration is why Bergson was interested, throughout his career but especially at the end, in the construction of expressions. So, near the end of The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, he speaks of two ways of writing. And, of course, everything depends on the direction. On the one hand, one can take ideas and words made readily available by society and rearrange them. Bergson admits that, with this way of writing, there is a result and one that may be 'original and vigorous' (MR 1190/253). But then there is the other way of writing: 'It consists in re-ascending from the intellectual and social plane to a point in the soul from which there springs an imperative demand for creation' (MR 1191/253). This point in the soul is a creative emotion. Then, one works from the emotion to the words, in which case the words are, as Bergson says, 'fragments of [the emotion's] own materialization'. These words, of course, cannot be entirely new; if they were, nothing would be communicated. So, the movement from the emotion to the words will be one in which the words are forced and violence is done to them. As a result of this forcing and violence, success is never certain. In fact, according to Bergson, 'the writer wonders at every step if it will be granted to him to go on to the end; he thanks his luck for every partial success, just as the punster might thank the words he comes across for lending themselves to his fun' (MR 1191/254). This reference to a punster, to un faiseur de calembours, sends us back to the essay on laughter (cf. R 444/ 111, where Bergson speaks of the calembour). And, indeed, there in the discussion of wit - esprit, of course - we find what may be the most perfect linguistic expression of the intuition of duration. As an example of esprit, Bergson gives us an expression of the love between a mother and a daughter (and not an expression of a love between a father and a son).2 He gives us the following excerpt from a letter from Madame de Sevigne to her ailing daughter. Madame de Sevigne's love for her daughter is famous. Some would think that it is insane; but, if we use Bergson's terminology, we could call it 'superior love'.


The Challenge of Bergsonism

Here is the witticism: 'The cold wind of your chateau makes me hurt in your chest' (R 438/100).3 I shall end by noting that, according to Bergson, this witticism makes us neither cry nor laugh; instead, it only makes us smile (R 437/97).


The Point where Memory Turns Back into Life: An Investigation of Bergson's The Two Sources of Morality and Religion

For Bergson, as for Levinas, ethics is defined neither by decision procedures nor by the theoretical justification of moral judgements. In The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, Bergson is not doing moral theory. Instead, as the title itself indicates, he is attempting to determine the origin, or better, the origins of morality and religion. For Bergson, civilization or acquired knowledge and habits are 'the thick layer of vegetative earth that today covers over [reconvert] the rock of original nature' (MR 1045/83). The Two Sources therefore is attempting to dig through this layer to the 'rock' below, hidden and yet still present. We must therefore call what Bergson is doing here an archaeology, which means that it is a work of memory. The first two sentences of The Two Sources say, The memory [souvenir] of forbidden fruit is what there is oldest in the memory [memoire] of each of us, as in the memory of humanity. We would notice this, if this memory [souvenir] was not covered over [reconvert] by others, to which we prefer to relate ourselves. (MR 981/9) But, The Two Sources is more than an archaeology, it is an attempt to remember the very forces of life. It seeks to find the point where memory turns back into life. Therefore, we must call it a genealogy, the genealogy of morality and religion.1 And like Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morality, Bergson's genealogy aims at a transformation of our current situation, our 'today'. The text that follows investigates Bergson's genealogy of morality and religion; it seeks the very point where memory, a memory-image, as Bergson would say in Matter and Memory, turns back into life or emotion.2 In order to reach the point where memory turns back into life, we are going to, first, determine what Bergson means by 'today', a word with which he repeatedly qualifies his comments (cf. MR 1215/282). As we shall see, our 'today' is defined by being 'aphrodisical' (MR 1232/302). For Bergson, the counter-


The Challenge of Bergsonism

weight to the aphrodisical nature of our whole civilization is asceticism. If there is something like a philosophy of history in Bergson, it consists in a pendulum movement between 'asceticism and sexuality'. Now, we are going to see that there is a certain 'misdirection' (une tromperie) of nature that allows for this pendulum movement. And this misdirection of nature is at the heart of the Bergsonian mystical experience. Thus, second, we shall investigate what Bergson means by mysticism; we shall see that 'the form of the mystical experience' consists in a certain relation between emotions and images. The form of the mystical experience will bring us to 'the point where memory turns back into life'; mystical experience in Bergson is memorial. But before we turn to what Bergson means by 'today', we must identify clearly the problem with which The Two Sources is concerned, and this is not as easy as one might think. Unlike his 1896 Matter and Memory, for which Bergson provided a preface 15 years after its first publication, The Two Sources possesses no such guide. We shall therefore begin our investigation with identifying the book's purpose.

In the 'Final Remarks' of The Two Sources, Bergson states explicitly that 'The objective of the present work was to investigate the origins of morality and religion' (MR 1220/288). What is important is that Bergson does not rest with the theoretical conclusions about these origins. He asks, 'can [the origins of morality and religion] help us practically"?' (MR 1206/271, my emphasis). Bergson was involved actively in world politics during and after the First World War, and especially with practical matters such as the formation of the League of Nations. And, just as the League of Nations was intended to prevent war, in The Two Sources, Bergson's practical aid consists in showing how what he calls the 'war-instinct' 'will be able to be repressed or turned aside' (MR 1220/288; cf. EC 537-8/50-1). Bergson's explanation of the war-instinct depends on the idea of a 'frenzy', a frenzy for luxury, in particular, which means that the frenzy is based on the artificial extension of the vital need for food (MR 1229/298). But, for Bergson, the frenzy is double (MR 1227/296). And just as there is now - 'today', he says - a frenzy for luxury, there was in the Middle Ages a frenzy for asceticism. According to Bergson, the double frenzy works like a 'pendulum' (MR 1123-4/292). The frenzy for luxury will eventually (but not necessarily) swing back towards asceticism. What we should notice here is that Bergson describes the two positions of the pendulum as 'frenzies'. The word frenzy (frenesie) derives from the Greek phrenesia, which means 'inflammation of the brain' - in a word, madness.

Appendix I


With this double frenzy in mind, we can now determine three interrelated theoretical objectives that Bergson is pursuing, each one corresponding to the three chapters in which The Two Sources consists. In the 'Final Remarks', Bergson says that 'mysticism calls forth asceticism' (MR 1238/308). So, to understand the frenzy of asceticism, we must understand mysticism. And indeed, chapter three, 'Dynamic Religion', concerns precisely Bergson's definition of mysticism. But in order to define mysticism, he must distinguish from the normal view we have of it; normally what we see in mysticism is only 'pathological [mental] states' (MR 1183/245). In other words, he must distinguish what he is calling mysticism from mental illness, from unbalanced states, states of 'disequilibrium' (desequilibres) (MR 1183/245).3 The reason we associate mysticism with unbalanced states consists in the fact, which Bergson admits, that mystical states are 'abnormal' (TMSR 1169/228). The 'morbid states' of 'a lunatic' (un fou) resemble mystic raptures and ecstasies (TMSR 1169/228-9). Bergson distinguishes between mystic abnormality and morbid abnormality by showing that the 'great mystics'4 themselves (such as Joan of Arc) do not define themselves by the mystical visions and emotional disturbances they undergo. The visions and emotion are only a 'systematic rearrangement aiming at a superior equilibrium'. Most importantly, this superior equilibrium results in action. Action, for Bergson, defines mysticism. If we define mysticism as action, then we can distinguish the frenzy of mysticism from what he calls 'charlatanism' (charlatanisme) (MR 1184/246; cf. MR 1169/229). The word 'charlatan' literally means to prattle, to engage in idle talk, and therefore not to act. This charlatanism brings us to Bergson's second theoretical objective, which is located in chapter two, 'Static Religion', of The Two Sources. Bergson begins chapter two with an obvious fact: 'The spectacle of what religions were and of what certain religions still are is humiliating for human intelligence. What a tissue of 'aberrations', 'errors', and 'absurdities' (MR 1061/102). What Bergson is calling here 'static religion' refers not only to all the polytheisms such as the religion of ancient Greece, not only to all the forms of paganism, but also to all superstitions, including the belief in evil spirits and magic. Here, for Bergson, in these non-mystical religions we really have madness. So, his second theoretical objective consists in showing why rational beings, 'Homo sapiens', are the only beings that believe in 'irrational things' (des choses deraisonable} (MR 1062/102). He will explain these aberrant beliefs by means of the fact that human beings, unlike animals, possess intelligence. In other words, intelligent beings like human beings are the only creatures to believe in superstitions (MR 1067/109). For Bergson, intelligence consists in the ability to manufacture tools, but this ability to manufacture tools requires reflection (MR 1153/210). Reflection then produces two kinds of danger (MR 1153-4/210). On the one hand, reflection gives humans a kind of 'foresight'


The Challenge of Bergsonism

(prevision) that allows them to be aware of future dangers, in particular, death. The result of this vision of death is that humans become depressed;5 they then lose 'confidence' (MR 1085/130) in their ability to act and finally detach themselves from life. Because of intelligence, human beings become unbalanced. But we become unbalanced in a second way. So, on the other hand, reflection allows humans to reflect on themselves. And, according to Bergson, as soon as we begin to think of ourselves, we become egoistical. Nature, however, has generated humanity to live in societies and societal life demands disinterestedness. Thus in two ways things need to be set right again. To do this, according to Bergson, nature uses one of intelligence's functions, a specific form of the imagination, the 'tabulation function' (MR 1066-7/107-9). The fabulation function invents images, 'voluntary hallucinations' (MR 1141/195), out of the feeling that there exists an invisible but efficacious presence that has 'its eyes always turned towards us' (MR 1124/176). Eventually, the images of this efficacious presence become individual gods. The gods, on the one hand, intervene in human affairs to ward off the future dangers that we cannot control. On the other hand, the gods intervene in human affairs in order to forbid egoism and thereby ensure social cohesion. The gods therefore restore the balance lost through intelligence. Bergson thinks that this restoration of balance occurs naturally and that there is no madness here. This is not where the madness is; it occurs when an individual is afraid or feels a need (MR 1090/136). For example, an enemy in a distant city threatens the individual or disease has destroyed his crops; the individual can neither reach the distant enemy in order to strike back nor obliterate the disease. Confidence is lost. Then the fabulation function takes over and starts to produce images of evil spirits to attack the enemy or to explain the ruined crops. We are now in the domain of magic.6 These first images of evil spirits, according to Bergson, are extended in the direction of the magical 'recipes' or 'formulas' that are used to conjure up the spirits. Here we return to the idea of charlatanism. The magician is a charlatan, that is, he is not just an imposter but also someone who merely talks, who merely utters 'incantations'. The magician does not engage in scientific research to cure the disease, nor does he go to the distant city and attack his enemy. In short, he does not act. But even this idle chatter is not quite madness, for Bergson. At first, we had the images of the evil spirit; these images were extended in the direction of formulas. But then, the images continue to extend themselves. As if under the influence of the magic incantation 'like is equivalent to like' (cf. TSMR 1118/169; also EC 519/29), the first images attract more, similar ones. Eventually, for this individual, the entire world ends up being 'peopled' with evil spirits. This unstoppable 'proliferation' (MR 1118/169) of images is 'monstrous' (MR 1091/137); Bergson also calls it 'decadent' (MR 1094/140).

Appendix I


On the basis of this consideration of the first two theoretical objectives, we can see already why Bergson called his book 'The Two Sources of Morality and Religion'. We have seen two sources or origins of religion. On the one hand, nature is the source of static religion. That is, the evolution of nature has produced intelligence, but intelligence unbalances the individual. This unbalance produces a natural need which in turn develops the fabulation function in order to restore the balance. On the other hand, a certain kind of psychological state, which is abnormal, is the source of dynamic religion. That is, a mystical rapture unbalances the normal balance of the individual resulting in a different kind of balance. Superior equilibrium results in action. Obviously, since both sources - nature and mysticism - concern different kinds of balances and equilibriums, we are again speaking of the image of the pendulum (to which we shall return below). But just as obviously, if we think only of the title Bergson gave to this book, we can see that one of its theoretical objectives is to differentiate between these two sources. But why do they need to be differentiated? This question brings us to the third theoretical objective. The third theoretical objective is located in the first chapter of The Two Sources, 'Moral Obligation'. Unlike the titles to chapters two and three - 'Static Religion' and 'Dynamic Religion' - which together indicate a difference, the title for chapter one indicates a unity, within which Bergson is going to make a difference. This difference is that of closed morality and open morality. Closed morality is the morality of a group, the morality of the city, and here we should keep in mind the old walled cities of Europe. The closed morality aims only at the self-preservation of the group and thus social cohesion. It consists in customs.7 Society therefore trains the individual in these customs to the point where the individual is habituated. The closed morality is entirely about habituation, even automatism. In contrast, the open morality is entirely about creation. For Bergson, the open morality refers to the great moral initiators, the mystics, and in particular, Jesus. Jesus gives us the image, according to Bergson, of an individual who loves all humanity, not just one's friends, not just the group. In fact, the openness of this love is such that it has no object and thus extends to infinity, to every single thing. Here, we do not have customs but an example (the image of Jesus given -in the Gospels) to follow or, more precisely, to which one aspires. Here, in the open morality, we do not have habits, but emotion and therefore, for Bergson, effort. As I said, the title of the first chapter, 'Moral Obligation', implies a kind of unity. The two kinds of morality, the open and the closed, can come to be mixed together and therefore be indistinguishable. But also, the title of the first chapter quickly makes one think of duty and thus of Kant's moral philosophy.8 According to Bergson, Kant has made a 'psychological error' that has 'vitiated many theories of ethics' (MR 991/20).


The Challenge of Bergsonism

The psychological error is this. In any given society, there are many different, particular obligations. The individual in society may at some time desire to deviate from one particular obligation. When this illicit desire arises, there will be resistance from society but also from his habits (MR 992/21). If the individual combats these resistances, a psychological state of tension or contraction occurs. The individual, in other words, experiences 'the rigidity' (la raideur) of the obligation. Now, according to Bergson, when philosophers such as Kant attribute a severe aspect to duty, they have 'externalized' this experience of obligation's inflexibility. In fact, if we ignore the multiplicity of particular obligations in any given society, and if instead we look at what Bergson calls 'the whole of obligation' (MR 995/25), then we would see that obedience to obligation is almost natural. Obligations, that is, customs, arise because of the natural need an individual has for the stability that a society can give (MR 9867/15). As a result of this natural need, society 'inculcates' habits of obedience in the individual (MR 1057/97). And, habituation means that obedience to the whole of obligation is, in fact, for the individual, effortless (MR 990/19). The psychological error then consists in externalizing an exceptional experience - which Bergson calls 'resistance to the resistances' - into a moral theory. Duty becomes severe and inflexible. But there is more to this error. Philosophers - and again Bergson has Kant in mind - 'believe that they can resolve obligation into rational elements' (MR 992/22). In the experience of resistance to the resistances, the individual has an illicit desire. And, since the individual is intelligent, the individual will use intelligence, a 'rational method', to act on itself. According to Bergson, what is happening here is that the rational method is merely restoring the force of the original tendency to obey the whole of obligation that society has inculcated into the individual. But the tendency is one thing, the rational method is another (MR 993/22). The success of the rational method, however, gives us the illusion that the force with which an individual obeys any particular obligation comes from reason, that is, from the idea or representation, or better still, from the formula of the obligation. But it is this rationalization of the force of closed morality into formulas that really leads to the need to differentiate between the closed and the open morality. The open morality, for Bergson, is identical with the dynamic religion, with mysticism. Here too we have a force. This second force is what Bergson calls 'the impetus of love' (elan d'amour) (MR 1057/96). Here too we must speak of an experience, but one that is different from the experience of resistance to the resistances. When a mystic has the experience of the impetus of love, this mystic, according to Bergson, undergoes a specific emotion and specific images (MR 1170/229).9 Both the emotions and the images can, indeed, must, be explicated into actions and representations. But this process of explication can be extended. The representations that the mystic explicates

Appendix I


can be further explicated into formulas, for example, the formula of each person being deserving of respect and dignity. These formulas, which are the expression of creation and love, are now able to be mixed with the formulas that aim solely to insure the stability of any given society. Since we are now speaking only of formulas, this mixture of creation and cohesion is found on, as Bergson says, 'the plane of intelligence'; the two forces now are mixed together, in other words, in reason. As before, where the rational method used in the experience of resistance to the resistances comes to explain force of obedience, here in the mystical experience of the impetus of love, the formulas come to explain the force of creation. A reversal has taken place. The very forces which, Bergson says, 'are not strictly and exclusively moral' (MR 1056/96) that have generated the formulas are instead now being explained by the formulas. We can see the difficulty that rational moral theories encounter. How could 'some representation of intelligence have the power to train the will'? How could 'an idea demand categorically its own realization'? As Bergson says, 'Re-establish the duality [offerees], the difficulties vanish' (MR 1057/96). Before we proceed to the next section, let me summarize what we have seen so far. In Bergson's The Two Sources of Morality and Religion., there are four objectives, each one corresponding to one of the book's four chapters. There are three theoretical objectives. Corresponding to chapter one, there is the theoretical objective of righting the relation between intelligence or reason and the forces of morality. Again, as Bergson says, 'Re-establish the original duality [offerees], the difficulties [found in intellectualist or rationalistic moral theories] vanish' (MR 1057/96). Corresponding to chapter two, there is the theoretical objective of explaining why the only beings with intelligence believe in irrational things. It is intelligence itself that brings about this belief since intelligence unbalances the individual. Corresponding to chapter three, there is the theoretical objective of differentiating between two unbalanced psychological states, between mystical states and morbid states. The difference is that mystical states result in action, while the morbid ones do not. Then, corresponding to the 'Final Remarks', we saw the practical objective, which consists in finding a method to repress the war-instinct. We shall now turn to a more thorough investigation of these 'Final Remarks' concerning the repression of the war-instinct.


We can only 'repress' or 'turn aside' the 'war-instinct', and not abolish it because, as for Nietzsche,10 for Bergson, war is natural (MR 1023/57, 1217/ 284), 'inevitable' (MR 1210/276), even normal (MR 1001/31). War is natural


The Challenge of Bergsonism

because humanity is an animal species like any other. Therefore, like every other animal species, we have an instinct for the self-preservation of the species. And this instinct means that we must form ourselves into small communities (tribes, for instance); then it means that each small community, under certain conditions, will take what it needs and protect itself from any other small community that threatens it. As we shall see in a moment, this instinct for the conservation of the species includes an instinct for the multiplication of individuals. In any case, the instinct for the conservation of the species is a warinstinct; it is 'the egoism of the tribe' (MR 1211/277). While, for Bergson, there is no inescapable historical law, 'there are biological laws; and the human societies, insofar as they are partly willed by nature, pertain to biology on this particular point', that is, on war (MR 1221/293). Thus it is impossible that humanity should renounce 'these habits of life' (MR 1221/293). Yet, humans differ from other animal species, however, because nature gave humanity a 'tool-making intelligence' (MR 1216/284, EC 613/139). We 'construct' or 'invent' tools ourselves. So, humanity has necessarily the 'property' of its instruments. While the war-instinct, which exists independently of any motivation (MR 1220/288), gives us the origin of war, property, for Bergson, is the necessary condition of war.11 The sufficient condition, however, is contact between human communities. At the moment when two communities meet, we might say that sociability and unsociability at once take place. For Bergson, if human communities had remained small (MR 1023/57, 1209/275), and therefore isolated from one another, war would have not necessarily broken out; war would have remained only 'virtual' (MR 1023/57). The virtuality of war at this moment does not mean that there are no conflicts. Because of the egoism that comes with intelligence, conflicts between different individuals within a small closed society break out necessarily. Yet, because closed societies, like the closed society of the hymenoptera, aim at selfpreservation and therefore command disinterestedness imperiously, two different individuals who are quarreling with one another will feel the pressure of their habits and the pressure of society - they will experience the 'resistance to the resistances' - to find a way to adjudicate the dispute (MR 1220/287). As Bergson stresses, however, there is a 'radical distinction' between different individuals within one community and different closed societies. Closed societies are defined by 'self-centeredness, cohesion, hierarchy, absolute authority of the chief, all of which, according to Bergson, 'means discipline, the war-spirit' (MR 1216/283). But, again, if communities had remained small and isolated from one another, the war-spirit would have remained virtual. For Bergson, however, contact is necessary or essential because of the nature of the tools humans invent. One human community must expand geographically because the tools

Appendix I


it has invented are intended to do work on specific 'matter' (MR 1217/284). A plot of land or a forest or a lake will inevitably become exhausted, thereby forcing a community to seek out other lands, other forests, other lakes on which to use its tools and thereby support its population. Then this community will inevitably encounter another, and the sufficient condition for war is fulfilled. Following the egoism of the tribe, human communities then clash over the matter on which the tools work (MR 1217/284). Bergson calls this kind of war an 'essential war' (MR 1219/286). Here, although it is originally independent of any motivation, the war-instinct 'hooks itself (s'accroche) onto 'rational motivations' (MR 1220/288); it is rational to support the population, in short, to feed it. In contrast to essential wars, there are also what Bergson calls 'accidental wars' (MR 1219/286, 1217/285). Although Bergson does not make this distinction clearly, accidental wars seem to arise for two reasons. On the one hand, certain wars take place in order to prepare and train for essential wars, to keep, so to speak, the sword sharp (MR 1217/285). On the other hand, certain wars take place out of 'wounded pride, prestige or glory' (MR 1219/286). Connected with wounded pride, of course, is wounded vanity (MR 1230/300). Two different human communities come in contact, and the sufficient condition for war is fulfilled. This contact might be due at first to essential reasons connected with the matter on which the tools work. Yet, in the case of accidental wars, we have the phenomenon where each group compares itself to the other; they see each other's tools. One group recognizes the superior strength of the other group due to its tools, thus one group then experiences wounded pride and vanity. Since it is easier to take the tools that are already made than to make them oneself (MR 1217/284), war breaks out. In accidental wars, the war-instinct does not hook itself onto rational motivations of self-preservation, but becomes, we must say, irrational. Now, for Bergson, 'the wars and conflicts of today' differ from the essential and accidental kinds of war (MR 1219/286, 1220/288). The wars of today are connected to the industrial character of our civilization (MR 1220/288). Bergson presents a schema of the conditions that lead to war today (MR 12201/288-9). Three times Bergson punctuates his description with a claim about there being no war or about war emerging. These three terse but emphatic comments allow us to divide the description into three phases. So, according to Bergson, in order to understand the wars of today, we have to think about nations as purely agricultural populations. At this first phase, any given nation produces enough food to feed the population, and the population increases parallel to the yield of the soil. As Bergson says, 'So far, so good', no war. But, we come to a second phase. Without telling us why, Bergson states that an excess (un trop-pleiri) of population occurs. Thus we now have an over-


The Challenge of Bergsonism

populated community, and this fulfils the sufficient condition for war, which is contact with another nation. The contact, however, does not occur because of emigration. Here the egoism of the tribe determines not only that the excess population does not want to emigrate but also that other nations do not want the overflow. The contact comes because 'industry will arrange things'. Industry puts the excess population to work in factories, and the factories produce products to be exchanged with other nations for all kinds of goods, but primarily for food. The result is that the excess population becomes, as Bergson says, 'internal emigrants'. One nation employs, indirectly, the excess population of another nation, although the excess remain citizens of the nation in which they were born. Industry has therefore found a way of feeding the excess population. But, if the nation that is indirectly employing the excess decides not to employ it, the excess 'is condemned to die of hunger - unless they decide, carrying the whole country with them, to go and take what is refused to them. There will be war' (MR 1221/289, my emphasis). This brings us to the third phase. In the wars of today, people are not really threatened with dying of hunger. Instead, what has happened, according to Bergson, is that 'people consider that life is not worth living if they cannot have comforts [le confort], pleasures [I'amusement], and luxury [le luxe]' (MR 1221/289). From this need for luxuries, 'war can emerge' (MR 1221/289). So, in the third phase, which really defines the wars of today, the 'need' for luxuries brings forth war. The schema for the wars of today that Bergson has set up resembles the description of what he calls essential war insofar as the war-instinct hooks itself onto the rational motivation to take the matter on which the tools work, in short, the rational motivation to acquire food to stop starvation. Yet, the schema for wars of today differs in two ways from essential wars. On the one hand, it is not the case that the matter has exhausted itself and therefore there is a shortage of food; rather overpopulation causes the shortage and thereby provides the motivation for war. Bergson says that 'the most serious [among the causes of the wars of today] is over-population' (MR 1221/289). On the other hand, instead of immediately attacking another community in order to take its food, the wars of today occur because of the way industry arranges things, putting the excess population to work, in effect, for other nations. When the situation in the nation that indirectly employs changes - say, the demand for certain products declines, which then leads to unemployment in the overpopulated nation - then the overpopulated nation takes from the other nation by force. Yet, as an outgrowth of industry, as an outgrowth of modern science and 'the spirit of invention', there is a 'need' for luxury. In short, the causes of the wars of today are overpopulation and the need for luxury. But, for Bergson, these two causes are interconnected through the question of pleasure, in particular, sexual pleasure.

Appendix I


In relation to overpopulation, it is necessary to recall, as Bergson does, an obvious fact about human sexuality. There is in humans an instinct to reproduce, just as there is in other living beings (MR 1022-3/56-7). This instinct demands that we preserve the species by producing as many individuals as possible, by multiplying as much as possible. If we let this instinct determine our actions, we will find ourselves in a situation of overpopulation and therefore in the threat of people dying of hunger: 'there will be war'. As Bergson says, In no other matter [that is, in procreation] is it so dangerous to rely upon instinct. Ancient mythology realized this when it coupled the goddess of love with the god of war. Let Venus have her way and she will bring you Mars. (MR 1222/290) This instinct for reproduction reinforces Bergson's claim that war is natural and must be controlled in a rational way, even 'rationed' (MR 1222/290). Clearly, Bergson thinks some sort of birth control must be enforced on a national or even international scale in order to attenuate this cause of war (MR 1222/290). He also thinks that industry should be arranged to provide enough food, to satisfy the most basic of all needs, that is, feeding the world's population (MR 1236/306). In fact, he is confident that industry can do this,12 which tells us that while overpopulation is the most serious cause of war for Bergson, it is not the most prevalent cause. The instinct for conserving the species by means of multiplying individuals, in short, sexuality, has another effect, one other than overpopulation. The instinct for conserving the species is demanding. As we all know, 'the demands of the procreative sense are imperious' (MR 1232/302). The demands must be satisfied and when they are, we experience pleasure. For Bergson, sexual pleasure is a sensation and not an emotion, which means that sexual pleasure is 'a psychical transposition of a physical stimulus' (MR 1011/ 43). In other words, it is physical and not spiritual. Bergson calls this sensation of bodily pleasure 'forte mais pauvre', 'strong but impoverished' (MR 1232/ 302). It is easy to understand why he calls the sensation 'strong', since it is an intense pleasure. If intensity, however, defines the sensation, then sexual pleasure is based only on differences of degree. These differences of degree can explain our preference for one sexual partner over another; one partner is better than another insofar as that partner gives a more intense pleasure. But, if there are only differences of degree, then the pleasure, even as it varies from one partner to another by degrees, is always essentially the same; there is no difference in kind from one sexual act to another, from one partner to another. So, we must conclude that for Bergson, precisely because the sensation is strong, it


The Challenge of Bergsonism

is 'impoverished'. The sensation is always the same; indeed, the act always ends in the same way, with exhaustion. Despite the impoverishment of the sensation and because of its strength, humanity, according to Bergson, has taken sexual pleasure as a fundamental 'musical note', from which it has made emerge a constantly growing number of harmonics and timbres (MR 1232/302). If you 'strike' any object - of course, a shoe, an odour, a room - you hear the 'sound' of sex, and the sound calls to us, to our senses, since it makes us imagine the sexual act. Bergson calls this sound of sex an obsession (MR 1232/302). As he says, and we have quoted this passage before, 'all of our civilization is aphrodisicaF (MR 1232/302). All that we love is pleasure, which means that in 'our civilization' the object of love is not a person or God or all things or something created like a child. Pleasure itself has become the goal or end of sexuality. But for Bergson, there is more to this 'love of pleasure'; it is pleasurable to love pleasure. If we love pleasure, we must find ways of experiencing pleasure, and if we must experience pleasure, it is necessary to have, at least, 'conveniences' (le simple agrement) (MR 1233/302). Having the convenience of, say, a bed is pleasurable, having the comfort (le bien-etre) of a soft bed is better, but having the luxury (le luxe) of, say, cotton sheets is even more pleasurable. Of course, the soft bed and the cotton sheets are physically pleasurable. But to experience pleasure, one must attract a partner; one must be 'sociable'. Thus, as Bergson says, 'at the beginning [of this scale going from conveniences to comforts to luxuries] was vanity' (MR 1233/303). All the pleasure in the loving of pleasure, therefore, for Bergson, comes down to the pleasure of being desired by someone else for one's luxuries (MR 1051/90). Pride too is at the beginning of this scale; the appreciation given by someone else for one's luxuries gives one pleasure. In this ascending scale from conveniences to luxury, we see developing an ascending scale of needs, needs that arise from the love of pleasure. These needs, for Bergson, are artificial or anti-natural. In this scale, the only natural need is the need to satisfy the demands of the procreative sense. The need for luxuries, however - luxuries that we take for comforts and comforts that we take for conveniences - leads to war. In this case, in the wars of today, the war instinct has hooked itself onto irrational motivations: the need for luxuries.13 For Bergson, as we noted in Section I, this need for pleasure that only luxuries can satisfy is a kind of frenzy today. Yet, this frenzy was a 'reaction' to another frenzy, the frenzy for asceticism of the Middle Ages. As Bergson says, 'Throughout the Middle Ages, an ascetic ideal had predominated. ... Here already you had frenzy' (MR 1229/298). Again, as we have already noted, Bergson uses the image of the pendulum to describe this movement from one frenzy back to another. Yet for a pendulum to swing back and forth, it must be suspended from a point. Thus Bergson claims that it is not impossible that

Appendix I


there was a 'kinship' among the three reactions - the Reformation, the Renaissance and the industrial impetus - against 'the form taken until then by the Christian ideal' (MR 1238/308). Here Bergson changes his image. The Christian ideal is like a planet revolving, now showing one side, now the other. The planet, like our moon, revolved: the frenzy for asceticism turned into the frenzy for sexual pleasure. It might just as well turn back. Thus, according to Bergson, if industry were organized to increase 'leisure for something other than the so-called pleasures, which an ill-directed industry has put within the reach of all', humanity might swing back to the other frenzy, that of asceticism. The frenzy for the complications of an aphrodisical civilization might turn back into a frenzy for a simpler life. This new asceticism would allow humanity to develop spiritually. Mysticism might be able to turn the war-spirit aside. Yet, these two faces of the ascetic ideal are indeed frenzies. How is any frenzy possible? We must return to the procreative sense.


Bergson thinks that 'we would finish with these demands [of the procreative sense] quickly if we held ourselves to nature' (MR 1232/302); in other words, if we restricted ourselves to the natural function of procreation like other animal species, humans would engage in the sexual act and be done with it. If we restricted ourselves in this way, the sexual act would be a means to an end, the end being the multiplication of individuals in order to conserve the species. But, since, today, everything seems to revolve around sex, something has happened to this means-end relation. The direction (sens) of sexuality has changed from its natural direction. How is it possible to go in the opposite direction from nature, to misdirect nature? In chapter one of The Two Sources, Bergson describes the transition from the closed morality to the open morality: ... there are numerous cases where humanity has deceived [a trompe] nature, which is so knowing and yet so naive. Surely, nature intended that humans should procreate endlessly, like all the other living beings. Nature has taken the minutest precautions in order to insure the conservation of the species through the multiplication of individuals. It has not therefore foreseen that, by giving us intelligence, intelligence would discover immediately the means of cutting the sexual act off from its consequences, and that humans could abstain from reaping without renouncing the pleasure of sowing. (MR 1022-3/56-7, my emphasis)


The Challenge of Bergsonism

The 'misdirection' (la tromperie) that intelligence plays on nature allows us to enjoy the pleasure of sex without producing children. In other words, intelligence has found a way of'cutting off the means - the sexual act and its pleasure - from its natural goal. It has found a way of turning Venus's love into an end in itself. Love becomes the love of pleasure in and of itself. Now we can understand the impoverishment of the sexual sensation, which we noted above, in another way. We saw that its impoverishment was due to the fact that the variety of sexual pleasures amounted to nothing more than differences of degree. But, since the 'trumpery' that intelligence plays on nature separates the sexual act from its natural goal, the pleasure creates nothing. Pleasure has no goal, pleasure has no direction, pleasure is not used. This side of the deception is a superficial repetition of the same. Bergson, however, continuing the extract quoted above says: It is in a wholly other direction [sens] that humans misdirect [trompe] nature when they extend social solidarity into human fraternity, but humans mislead nature nevertheless. Those societies whose design was pre-formed in the original structure of the human soul, and of which we can still perceive the plan in the innate and fundamental tendencies of modern humanity, required that the group be closely united, but that between group and group, there should be virtual hostility; we were always to be prepared for attack or defense. Not of course that nature designed war for war's sake. Those great leaders of humanity drawing humans after them, who have broken down the gates of the city, seemed indeed thereby to have placed themselves again in the current of the vital impetus ... [and] re-open what was closed. (MR 1023/57, my emphasis) Nature aims only at the closed. The very same misdirection allows humanity to open and go against nature by going either in the direction (sens) of pleasure for its own sake or in the direction (sens) of the love of all beings, of everything. The love that I have for one person, like Madame de Sevigne's love for her daughter,14 can be repeated to everything. This would be repetition not of the same, not a superficial repetition but a deep repetition of difference. These two 'misdirecting' senses become, for Bergson, the two frenzies of history, aphrodisia and asceticism. But we can see already the point from which these two frenzies are suspended: the repeatability of the form. The form of love can be repeated. Intelligence misdirects or trumps nature, since its function is to manufacture tools. As we have already seen, because intelligence has this function, it must be able to reflect (MR 1158/210). And as soon as I reflect, as soon as I think, as Bergson says, I think of myself. The point suspending the pendulum of the two

Appendix I


frenzies is auto-affection. It is self-imitation (cf. MR 1102/149, 1118/168). If self-imitation is fundamental, then the self is always already doubled. Here we have what must be called 'the paradox of the double'. The paradox is that if the self can be imitated, it is always already memorized, formalized, imitated, 'imaged'. We might even say that it is always already art, artifice and artificial.15 Reflection (and not a reflex), this fold - 'pli', as in 'im-pli-cation', 'corn-plication' and 'sim-pli-fication' - puts an interval between the stimulus and reaction; there is a hesitation (cf. MR 990/19). Thanks to the hesitation, the past returns and the future is already seen. Although the derivation is unclear, the word 'trompe' is associated with infidelity, perfidy; there is a loss of confidence (as we have seen) in self-reflection. There is a 'deficit' (MR 1159/210), a 'lack' (MR 1155/211), depression. One is no longer confident that what returns from the past into the present will go in the right direction (sens). There is an 'interval' (MR 1005/37) between the present and the future. Or, there is a kind of imbalance or disequilibrium between the past and the future (which explains what Bergson, in the 'Final Remarks', calls the 'law of the twofold frenzy'). But this disequilibrium means that the returning form is freed from the present. Thus the form of what returns is iterable or, as Bergson would say, 'transformable', 'transfigurable', or 'transferable' from one object to another, even to unnatural or irrational objects. We cannot but think of Nietzsche: 'the form is fluid, but the sense [Sinn] is even more so'.16 The form and sense can be hooked or unhooked, folded, re-folded, de-folded. Yet, with Nietzsche in mind, we must ask: what does the hooking and unhooking? In Bergson, 'we have no choice' (MR 1008/39). There are always and only two forces: the force of nature or instinct or habit - the procreative sense is imperious - or the force of religion or intuition or emotion - creative emotion. But these two forces, like the two frenzies, are reciprocally implicated in the elan vital. Unlike the abstract concept of the will to live, the power of the vital impetus, as Bergson stresses, is empirical, meaning that it can be experienced (MR 1073/115).


Always for Bergson - this defines his 'superior empiricism' - if we are to understand what is original, the primitive force, we must seek out 'exceptional experiences' (MR 1111/161). Hence his interest in mystical experience. For Bergson, mystical experience re-ascends to the impetus of life itself; it goes back up above the turn in experience. Consequently, it generates 'dynamic religion', without which there would be no open morality (MR 1002/33). We are going to reconstruct Bergsonian mystical experience in terms of two sides: emotion or image. There is a disjunction here between the two sides because


The Challenge of Bergsonism

Bergson himself puts one there: 'When the darkest depths of the soul are stirred, what rises to the surface and attains consciousness takes on there, if it be intense enough, the form of an image or an emotion' (MR 1170/229, my emphasis). This disjunction refers to what Bergson himself calls the 'reciprocal implication of the vital impetus' (elan vital) (MR 1072/115). There is a 'reciprocal implication' between emotion and image that defines the form of the mystical experience. Bergson gives us three different ways to construe the reciprocal implication: (a) the voice; (b) the tests; and (c) the detour.

FIRST WAY OF CONSTRUING THE 'RECIPROCAL IMPLICATION' BETWEEN EMOTION AND IMAGE: THE VOICE We have already seen, in Section I, that Bergson aims to distinguish mystical experience from the morbid psychological states that afflict the mentally ill. The reason we associate mystics with those who suffer from mental illness is that both undergo 'abnormal psychological states' (MR 1169/228). In both, there is an experience of imbalance or disequilibrium. As Bergson says, 'we run a risk in disturbing the normal relations between the conscious and the unconscious. We must not be astonished therefore if nervous disturbances at times accompany mysticism' (MR 1170/229). But, in contrast to a lunatic, what precisely in the mystic is out of balance? We can answer this question only if we return to the individual in a closed society. An individual in a closed society lives in a feeling of 'well-being' (bien-etre), which one undergoes if the various resistances 'interfere' with one another, thereby cancelling each other out (MR 1024/58). Bergson claims that this feeling of well-being resembles pleasure rather than joy (MR 1018/51). The idea is clear: one feels happy when the moral obligations are in balance with egoism. When this balance of the closed society is disturbed - we stop the circular movement, the reciprocal conditioning between individual and society (MR 1170/230) - then we are about to enter the mystical experience. There is a lack of well-being 'at the times when one's customary maxims of conduct look to be insufficient' (MR 1004/34). These times (a des heures) of emotional disturbance are the beginning of mysticism. The first side of the mystical experience therefore is the feeling or emotion that disturbs well-being.17 The other side of the mystical experience is an image. But even before the mystic undergoes an image, she18 experiences 'a call' (un appel) (MR 1003/34) or a 'voice' (MR 1170/230). We might even say that in general the mystical experience is the mystery of the voice. Nevertheless, the form of the mystical experience requires this voice, since Bergson stresses that the emotion that opens the mystical experience is 'inexpressible' (MR 1189/252, 1013/46). The

Appendix I


emotion, being an emotion, is non-linguistic, silent. The voice therefore, for Bergson, must be 'tacit' (MR 1004/35) or 'silent' (MR 1173/232). To define it in the most minimal way, we must say that this silent voice is a non-vocalized voice, which means that the voice is internal. The mystical experience is an internal dialogue (auto-affection). Indeed, Bergson speaks of'silent conversations' (des entretiens silencieux) (MR 1173/233); moreover, he says that prayer in dynamic religion, that is, in mysticism, 'is indifferent to its verbal expression; it is an elevation of the soul that would be able to do without speech' (MR 1146/ 201).19 By means of listening to this voice (which is in the mystic), the mystic 'senses [sent] an indefinable presence or divines [devine]' it (MR 1170/230). This presence is at first an 'invisible presence' (cf. MR 1110/159; also MR 1125/176) found not out in nature but in me:20 God in me.21 Mysticism, in Bergson, is 'entirely interior' (MR 1127/179) and yet this presence comes from 'the outside' of consciousness (cf. MR 1011/43). As we noted in the previous paragraph, in the mystical experience the normal relations between consciousness (the inside) and the unconscious (the outside) are disturbed. Bergson stresses that the sensing or divination of the presence is not a direct perception (MR 1170/230). In addition, he says that dynamic religion supports humans not by 'imaginative representations' (MR 1127/179), that is, not by the voluntary hallucinations of static religion. But the sensing of the presence, the 'auscultation',22 we might say, of the silent voice, the 'apperception' of it (MR 1172/232), brings forth images. That there are images in the experience is why Bergson (quoting the great mystics) warns that the images may be hallucinations (MR 1170/229). If, however, the sensing of the presence is not perception and not the fabulation function, then this sensing of the presence is memory. By means of memory, the voice, the invisible and silent presence - the vibration, we might say, deep within the chrysalis that is me or the base of the memory cone with its purified memories - has transformed itself into an image, into a memory-image, into, as Bergson says, a 'symbolic vision' (MR 1170/230, 1172/232). The result of this image is that the mystic has detached herself from life. This detachment from life means that the mystic is now in God (MR 1170-1/230); the detachment from life means attachment to God. As Bergson says, 'then comes a boundless joy, all-absorbing ecstasy or an enthralling rapture' (MR 1170/230).

SECOND WAY OF CONSTRUING THE 'RECIPROCAL IMPLICATION' BETWEEN EMOTION AND IMAGE: THE TESTS The Bergsonian mystical experience therefore is an experience of the emotion joy, and not of well-being or pleasure. The joy comes from the pure con-


The Challenge of Bergsonism

templation of the symbolic vision. For Bergson, any mysticism that stops here, that 'rests' (MR 1171/230) in contemplation remains 'incomplete mysticism' (MR 1166/225). Indeed, for Bergson, mysticism could stop here, as it did in ancient Greek mysticism and in the eastern mysticisms. But if the mystic's joy relinquishes its space in the mystic's soul to anxiety (inquietude), then the mystic will move forward into complete mysticism. Why does anxiety occur? Bergson gives two reasons. The first reason for the mystic's anxiety is that the vision does not endure (MR 1170/230). That the vision does not endure means that it fades into the past; it is as if the vision died (and the mystic herself is indeed detached from life).23 The second reason consists in the fact that the mystic's life is not yet divine. Even though the union with God is 'close' (etroite), even though there is no longer any 'distance' between thought and the object of thought, even though there is no longer a 'radical separation' between the one who loves and the one who is beloved, there is still something of the mystic that remains 'outside' the union. The union then is not 'total' and therefore not 'definitive' (MR 1171/230). What is still not absorbed in God is the mystic's will. If the mystic acted, her action would be based only on herself, on her human will. This exteriority of the will and action in relation to God brings forth anxiety and agitation. Here we can see that the two reasons for anxiety are connected. If the mystic acted, she would be reattaching herself to life and moving forward into the future; thereby forcing the vision into the past. Now, according to Bergson, when this feeling of anxiety has grown to the point that it resides everywhere in the mystic, thereby displacing the joy that comes with the vision, then this anxiety becomes 'the impetus' (elan) for the mystic to move forward beyond contemplation. The vision has faded and the mystic finds herself alone, desolate, lost in the shadow (MR 1171/231). Here Bergson adopts St John of the Cross's phrase: 'the darkest night'; we must keep in mind that this phrase implies that the vision is a kind of star in the night sky. In any case, Bergson says that the idea of the darkest night is 'perhaps what there is most significant, in any case most instructive, in Christian mysticism' (MR 1171/231). He says this because the darkest night brings on the 'definitive phase' of complete mysticism, and this is the final preparation for action. Bergson says that we cannot analyse this final preparation since the mystics themselves have barely caught a glimpse of it (MR 1171/231). Thus Bergson does not provide a detailed description. But he tells us that, in this final preparation, the mystic submits herself, each part of herself'to the hardest tests' (aux plus dures epreuves). We must understand these tests as a kind of ascesis, a kind of asceticism. As Bergson says in the 'Final Remarks', and we have already quoted this passage earlier, 'mysticism calls forth asceticism' (MR 1238/308); in this experience the pendulum is swinging back. Mysticism, of course, calls for a simpler life: no luxuries. The mystic therefore 'eliminates'

Appendix I


everything from her substance that 'God cannot use' (MR 1172/231-2, my emphasis). By means of the tests of herself, the mystic does not feel the deprivation of what she has eliminated (cf. MR 1025/59).24 But insofar as they eliminate and simplify, the tests are precisely tests of the will (MR 1172/231). While in contemplation, the mystic's soul was attached to God, she was in God; now, after the tests, she is attached to life but God is in her (MR 11121 232). As Bergson says, 'for the soul there is a superabundance of life. There is a boundless impetus. There is an irresistible impulse that hurls it into the most vast enterprises' (MR 1172/232), in a word, into action. The 'definitive consequence' of the tests is that the mystic becomes a 'genius of the will' (MR 1023/58, 1172/232, 1169/228). The mystic obtains from matter, from any obstacle she confronts, 'for the future of the species, promises such as were out of the question when the species was constituted' (MR 1023/58). She is the one who is allowed to make promises, she is the one who is sovereign, beyond the good and evil of any closed society.25 The mystic has 'superior good sense' (MR 1169/228). As Bergson says, 'An innate science, or rather an acquired innocence, suggests to her at the first blow the useful procedure, the decisive act, the word that has no rejoinder' (MR 1172/232). Even though the mystic's actions now 'flow from a spring [source] which is the very impetus of life' (MR 1172/232), even though she is elevated, she feels no pride or vanity. Instead, the joy she felt in the contemplation of the symbolic vision has become 'great humility' (MR 1173/232). Before turning to the third way of construing the 'reciprocal implication' between emotion and image in the Bergsonian mystical experience, I am going to summarize what we have seen in the first two. So far, we have charted the transformation of both emotions and images. In the first way, we saw the feeling of disturbed well-being transform itself into the joy. Between the two emotions is the tacit voice that expresses an invisible presence calling to the mystic. This voice then transforms itself into a vision, through which the mystic experiences joy. What links the first two ways is the fact that the vision does not endure; it fades into the past and becomes a memory. This fading of the vision causes the feeling of anxiety in the mystic, which eventually transforms itself into humility. But the mystic also feels anxiety insofar as her will is external to the union with God experienced in the vision. The first two ways also chart a movement of inside and outside. In the first way the voice had started out as being internal to the mystic, but as it became a vision the mystic unifies herself into the vision. The second way starts out with the recognition that the mystic's will is external to the union. God needs to be brought into the mystic's will. The tests - mystical asceticism - achieve this. But how? The image in the vision becomes an example and that is why Bergson speaks of the vision being 'symbolical'. The mystic now is able to follow the example; thereby God acts in


The Challenge of Bergsonism

the mystic's action. But what are these acts? According to Bergson, they are acts of love. This example and this love bring us to the third way.

THIRD WAY OF CONSTRUING THE 'RECIPROCAL IMPLICATION' BETWEEN EMOTION AND IMAGE: THE DETOUR We have already seen that Bergson separates emotion from sensation, although emotion is a 'feeling' (sentiment) or a 'manifestation of sensibility', an 'affective state' (MR 1011/43). That emotion is not sensation means that it is not a 'psychical transposition of a physical stimulus'. We also saw in Chapter Three that Bergson in The Two Sources distinguishes between creative or supraintellectual emotions and infra-intellectual emotions. The distinction is simple. A supra-intellectual emotion comes temporally before representations; indeed, it generates representations. This is why Bergson calls it creative. On the other hand, there are emotions, like pleasure, that come temporally after representations or sensation; indeed, the sensation causes the emotion. Now, in the mystical experience we are, of course, concerned with creative emotion; in fact, we are concerned with the emotion of love. The love that forms a side of the mystical experience is not the love of one's country, one's fellow citizens, or one's family. If we ascend from our family to the nation, according to Bergson, this emotion varies only by degrees. Yet the mystic's love is a love of all humanity, of all things in fact (MR 1006-7/38). Here we have a difference in kind between patriotism and mystical love. This difference in kind implies that mystical love is a genuine origin, based on nothing but itself. Indeed, as he did throughout his career, Bergson compares mystical love to the emotion expressed in music. In an early text, from the period of Matter and Memory, Bergson had suggested that music is a creation ex nihilo.2f> By the time of Creative Evolution (1907) Bergson criticizes the idea of creation ex nihilo (EC 747/298). This criticism means that creation is only ever for Bergson replacement (EC 732-3/2810) or, we might say, repetition. Although creation is repetition in Bergson, it still produces something new. As he says in The Two Sources, new feelings adhere [adherent} to each new musical work, new feelings created by that music and within that music, new feelings that are denned and delimited by the very design, unique of its kind, of the melody or symphony. They have not therefore been extracted from life by art. (MR 1009/40-1) This comment means that the emotions created by the musical design are not

Appendix I


mere copies of emotions found already in nature, that is, they are not caused by nature. There is, however, some relation between creative emotions and the emotions that nature has already caused. In order to define this relation, Bergson speaks first of all of the emotion felt in the face of a mountain: 'Thus the mountain has been able, from all time, to communicate [communiquer a] to those who were contemplating [contemplaient] it certain feelings [sentiments] comparable to sensations and which were in effect adherent to it [qui lui etaient adherents]' (MR 1009/41). We can see with this word 'contemplation' we are very close to the mystical experience. Yet, the emotion here is caused by the representation of the mountain; it is not yet a creative emotion. Bergson continues: 'But [Jean-Jacques] Rousseau has created, in relation to it [a propos d'elle, that is, in relation to the mountain, la montagne], a new and original emotion' (MR 1009/41). This emotion sprang from the soul of Rousseau, Bergson claims. Yet, the emotion 'hooks itself onto' (s'accrochdt a) the mountain because 'the elementary feelings, neighbours [voisins] of the sensation, provoked directly by the mountain came to be harmonized [s'accorder] with the new emotion' (MR 1009/41). Again, we are very close to the mystical experience since we have a new emotion. Being new and separated by the dative relation (the preposition 'a') from the elementary feelings, which are themselves neighbours of the sensation of seeing the mountain, this emotion cannot be a mere copy; this is a creative emotion. Nevertheless, we do not have creation out of nothing; 'Rousseau's emotion', we must say duplicates or repeats - 'a propos d'elle', ''qui lui etaient adherents'', 'communiquer a', 's'accrochdt a' - another emotion and another representation. Indeed, if the emotion were not some sort of repetition, Rousseau would not have been able to put the emotion in circulation and allow it to become well known. But Bergson not only speaks of the mountain, he also speaks of woman: 'from all time woman must have inspired in [inspire a] man an inclination distinct from desire, which remained however contiguous and as it were soldered to it [y: to desire], participating simultaneously in feeling and sensation' (MR 1010/42). Here we return to the question of sexuality. Bergson is saying that, from always, there has been the sensation of woman, which stimulates the procreative sense of men, which stimulates, in other words, desire. Yet, contiguous with the sensation, soldered to it, participating in it, and yet distinct from it, there is an emotion. This distinct yet contiguous emotion would be love and not desire, joy and not pleasure. Although the emotion was there from all time (de tout temps'), Bergson claims that 'romantic love' has a date; it was created in the Middle Ages (MR 101/32). At this moment, the relation between desire and emotion, sensation and love reversed itself; the pendulum swung. Bergson says, 'someone suddenly thought of absorbing [I'on s'avisa d'absorber]


The Challenge of Bergsonism

natural love into a feeling that is somehow supernatural, into the religious emotion that Christianity had created and launched into the world' (MR 1010/ 42). At this moment (and we have already noted the importance of the Middle Ages for Bergson, its ascetic ideal), someone got the idea that love was vaster than sex, that sex was included in love as a part in relation to the whole. At this moment, pleasure, indeed sexual pleasure with another individual, was no longer an end in itself but had become a means to an end; pleasure had a use in the love of all things. Bergson calls this reversal or repetition or duplication of pleasure and love a 'transfiguration' (MR 1010/42). Indeed, he distinguishes between pleasure and love by means of vanity. Between the two there are different kinds of illusions of love. If we desire, we err in relation to the surface of what we see: the face of the beloved is not what it seems due to adornments. If we love, we err in relation to what we expect of love, to the depth of what we see: fidelity. Yet the love Bergson is describing in the mystical experience is more than the love of a man for a woman (or vice versa). This heterosexual love would still be closed, since it would exclude other people (and therefore include a kind of hatred [MR 1007/39]).27 Bergson is speaking of the love of all humanity. But the object of this love cannot be represented. Bergson says that the object is too vast (MR 1005/36), since it includes not just all humanity, past, present and future, but also animals, plants and all nature (MR 1006-7/38). It is only because the mystic cannot represent the object of her love that the love can be creative. If she could represent the object of her love, her love would only copy the representation; the emotion would only be infra-intellectual. Because the mystic has no representation of all of humanity that could be copied, it can create only by means of what Bergson calls a 'detour' (MR 1002/33). What is this detour? We come now to the most crucial description of the 'reciprocal implication' of emotion and image. It is found in chapter one of the The Two Sources. The detour, Bergson says, is: a personality brought up from the depths of the soul into the light of consciousness, stirring into life within us, which we felt might completely pervade us later, and to which we wished to attach ourselves for the time being, as the disciple does to the master. As a matter of fact, this personality is outlined from the day we have adopted a model; the desire to resemble, which is ideally the generator of a form to be taken, is already resemblance; the word, which we shall make our own, is the word whose echo we have heard within ourselves. (MR 1004/35) Thus, the personality that we are to become or to which we aspire is outlined

Appendix I


from the day we have adopted a model. There is a desire to resemble a model or an example (MR 1003/34) or an image, something or someone singular. The image - and here we understand again why Bergson in his description of the mystical experience speaks of a symbolic vision - could indeed be a model, that is, the image or vision could become entirely representational or symbolic, a linguistic formula. Bergson says that the model might be a 'parent' or a 'friend' that we evoke in thought or that it could be a person whose life story we have heard. It could even be a mediocre professor mechanically teaching a science that had earlier been created by geniuses (MR 1158/215). But it could just as well be something we had to memorize during childhood, like a poem or a prayer. Because Bergson speaks of resemblance and echo here - he also speaks of imitation (MR 1003/34) - this relation between personality and image is a duplication or repetition. But this is a strange repetition since, according to Bergson, the repetition ideally creates the form that is to be taken, that is, it creates the form that is to be repeated, it duplicates that which is to be doubled. We are again speaking of the paradox of the double. This creative repetition happens, according to Bergson, when the formulas are filled with matter and the matter is animate (MR 1005/36). In other words, the depth of the soul has to rise to the surface; this depth is emotion. It comes from the unconscious 'into' (a) consciousness, it is the silent voice calling to me like an electric current passing through the telephone wire. Then the desire to resemble is replaced by love. Next, 'the materials furnished by intelligence first fuse and then solidify again into ideas . . . informed by spirit itself (MR 1014/ 46). Bergson again compares this creation to musical composition: What is there more systematically architectonic, more reflectively elaborate than a Beethoven symphony? But through all the labor of arranging, rearranging, selecting, carried out on the intellectual plane, the musician was turning back to a point situated outside that plane, in order to search in that point the acceptance or the rejection [of a musical phrase, for example], the direction, the inspiration; at that point there lurked an indivisible emotion, which intelligence doubtless helped to unfold [s'expliciter] into music, but which was in itself something more than music and more than intelligence. (MR 1190/252-3) This is the point where form is transformed, where pleasure become joy, where one frenzy replaces another. It is the precise point where the past turns into the future, in other words, the precise point where memory turns back into life. Memory being turned back into life means that the mystic is going to create a new genus. The mystic feels the need not just to act in order to save humanity this kind of action would be based on an emotion caused by the representation


The Challenge of Bergsonism

of suffering humanity, caused by the representation of the human genus. The mystic feels a need, however, to transform humanity itself; the mystic wants to create a 'divine humanity' (MR 1175/235). The image into which the mystic detours is, in fact, the very image of God (MR 1002/33). The mystic therefore wants to create beings who love to create, as God Himself creates (MR 1191-2/ 254-5). We might say that the mystic in Bergson wants to create a superhumanity. We have so far considered only 'the form of the mystical experience', because, in the third chapter of The Two Sources, 'Dynamic Religion', Bergson himself temporarily distinguishes the form of the experience from its content. Indeed, he presents Joan of Arc as an example of a great Christian mystic28 who separated the form of the experience from the content of spreading Christian faith and dogma (MR 1168/228). Bergson's privileging of Joan of Arc explains why we have insisted on using the feminine pronoun when describing the form of the Bergsonian mystical experience.29 Nevertheless, while he distinguishes the form of the experience from its content, it is not possible to understand the form without referring to Christianity. As Bergson says, 'mysticism and Christianity condition one another indefinitely' (MR 1178/239). Thus, it is not even possible to understand the example of Joan of Arc completely without referring to Christianity.30 Bergson stresses that the 'beginning' of mysticism, the 'origin' of Christianity is 'the Christ' (MR 1178/239); 'the great mystics are indeed... the imitators, and original but incomplete continuators of what the Christ of the Gospels was completely' (MR 1179/240). But he continues, 'He Himself can be considered as the continuator of the prophets of Israel' (MR 1179/240). At the beginning of Christian mysticism, before 'the Christ', Bergson makes us 'recall the tone and accent of the prophets of Israel' (MR 1038/76). The prophets of Israel provided 'the impetus' (I'elari) for Christian mysticism since they 'had the passion for justice, demanded [redamerent] it in the name of the God of Israel' (MR 1179/240). When a 'great injustice has been done and condoned', '[the Jewish prophets] raise their protest from the depth of the centuries'. Of course, this protest for justice was for the Jewish people alone; it was closed, not open.31 Yet Joan of Arc, too, had a passion for justice.32 Perhaps, one of the voices she heard was also the cry of injustice (cf. MR 1039/76). The cry of injustice helps us understand better the pendulum image. In chapter one of The Two Sources, Bergson makes a distinction within justice just as he did within moral obligation. Much like Nietzsche, he claims that 'the idea of justice must have already taken shape as far back as the days of exchange and barter' (MR 1033/69). Justice, of course, has always evoked ideas of equality, of proportion, of compensation. Here we have equality between different things established by measuring them against a definite third thing, by weighing them in a pendulum device, in a scale or balance. Because justice is established in

Appendix I


relation to a third thing, and the third thing is determined by the society (by the customs of a closed society), Bergson calls this first kind of justice 'relative justice' (MR 1035/72). He notes that a closed society with a class structure will maintain the same definition of justice - equality measured by a third thing but will extend it into a ratio or proportion (MR 1034/70). This kind of proportional equality allows for orderly societies. Bergson gives the example of Plato's republic but he is speaking of any kind of aristocratic or oligarchic society (MR 1035/71). But when the inequality of class comes to look suspect, 'the aristocracies tend to merge into democracies' (MR 1037/73). Now Bergson does not specify these democracies, but, because he immediately says that many of them allow the inequality of slavery, he seems to have ancient Greek democracies in mind (MR 1037/74). Even democracy, which constantly evokes equality, does not break free of closed society; it remains true to its 'mercantile origins' (MR 1035/71). This sort of democratic society still seeks 'equilibrium, arrived at mechanically and always transitory, like that of the balance held in the hands of ancient justice' (MR 1037/74). The other kind of justice, which Bergson calls 'absolute justice', comes only after Christianity (MR 1040/77). The ancient Greeks, Bergson stresses, could not give up slavery, or the idea that foreigners, being barbarians, could claim no rights (MR 1040/77). Not even 'the Stoic who was an emperor [that is, Marcus Aurelius] considered the possibility of lowering the barrier between the free human and the slave, between the Roman citizen and the barbarian' (MR 1040/77-8). With Christianity, the step was taken towards universal brotherhood, towards 'the idea that everyone, insofar as being human, were of equal worth and that the community of essence conferred on them the same fundamental rights' (MR 1040/77). But Bergson's concept of absolute justice goes further than equality of rights. Unlike relative justice in which each individual has a measurable value, in absolute justice each individual has an incommensurate value (MR 1037/74). Here justice has become 'categorical and transcendent' (MR 1039/76). In fact, insofar as each individual is priceless, absolute justice is actually charity, in the literal sense of the word: cams, cher (cf. MR 1025/59, also MR 1007/38, 1016/49). According to Bergson, this charity is the essence of mysticism (MR 1238/309). It is the love of all humanity, Christian love of the neighbour. Each person is so 'dear' or 'expensive' that justice can be rendered only by giving oneself (MR 1166-7/225).33 And even this gift of oneself does not balance the scales. Playing on the etymology, we can say that 'ex-pensive' means 'outside of compensation', 'outside of the weighing', 'outside of the balance'. The pendulum is always unbalanced, which makes it swing. In this sense, charity is always 'unjust charity'.34 Being essentially unjust, absolute justice or charity involves a complete representation only 'at infinity' (MR 1036/74). Because it cannot be completely defined, it is for-

I 10

The Challenge of Bergsonism

mulated precisely and categorically only by prohibitions, by negative formulas, while its positive formulas proceed by successive creations (MR 1037/74). This way of proceeding is also true of democracy after Christianity, after the Middle Ages (MR 1040-1/78, 1238/308). Bergson says, Objections occasioned by the vagueness of the democratic formulas arise from the fact that the original religious character has been misunderstood. How is it possible to ask for a precise definition of freedom and of equality when the future must lie open to all sorts of progress, and especially to the creation of new conditions under which it will be possible to have forms of freedom and equality which are impossible of realization, perhaps of conception, today? (MR 1215/282)35 Thus Bergson claims that the democracy of the post-medieval period 'is indeed the most distant from nature, the only one to transcend, at least in intention, the conditions of the "closed society"' (MR 1214/281); it consists in 'a mighty effort in the opposite direction [sens] from nature' (MR 1216/283). We find ourselves again at the trumpery of nature.


Almost 40 years later, the descriptions of mystical experience in The Two Sources - the 'reciprocal implication' of emotion and image - complete Bergson's description of the movement of the memory cone in Matter and Memory pure memory (emotion) and memory-image (symbolic vision). Just as the concept of memory in Matter and Memory was not just psychological but ontological, the love that defines the mystical experience in The Two Sources is 'essentially still more metaphysical than moral' (MR 1174/234). If The Two Sources is genuinely a book of ethics, then we must say that this ethics is an 'originary ethics'. But the connection between Matter and Memory and The Two Sources is deeper still. The latter is a book of memory. It is not an accident that its first line describes a memory. Indeed, Bergson calls the example that one follows in open morality a 'memory that remained alive' (souvenir reste vivanf) (MR 1060/99). Again, if we must speak of an ethics in Bergson, we must say that ethics is fundamentally mnemonic. It is an archaeology of the originary experience of the reciprocal implication of emotion and image. It is a genealogy of forms and forces in order to transform the human genus. Repeatedly, we have alluded to similarities between Nietzsche and Bergson in this investigation. In fact, as already mentioned, The Two Sources is the only published work of Bergson's which mentions Nietzsche's name (MR 1212/278).36 Bergson is a

Appendix I


reverser of Platonism. But the sinking of the sun in Bergson does not return us to the earth. His 'Zarathustra' does not descend from his mountain back down to the earth. The setting of the Platonic sun in Bergson reveals, across the grey light, a night-time sky, with a point, a shining star (un astre), that sometimes shows one side and sometimes another (cf. MR 1238/308). Bergson's mystical ascetic, his 'Zoro-aster', his star-gazer, re-ascends, turns his eyes to the heavens (cf. MR 1175/235), using his 'telescope' of memory. More than an archaeology, more than a genealogy, Bergson's anti-Platonism is an astronomy that looks for other forms of life.


English Translation of Jean Hyppolite's 1949 'Aspects divers de la memoire chez Bergson' (Various Aspects of Memory in Bergson'), translated by Athena V. Colman

Bergson repeated several times that his entire philosophy had its source in the intuition of the pure duration, as described in his first original work, Time and Free Will. This duration - which is pure succession, the extension of the past into the present and therefore already memory - is not a series of distinct terms outside of one another, nor a coexistence of the past with the present. But rather, it manifests the indivisibility of a change, a change that, as Bergson notes in chapter four of Matter and Memory, undoubtedly endures. That is, the change is not given all at once, but remains nevertheless indivisible. If one reflects on it, there is really an original intuition of consciousness, untranslatable exactly into the language of concepts, and that certain images - in the sense in which Bergson speaks of the mediating images of philosophical intuition - can attempt to communicate in order to lead us to that first experience: I endure therefore I am. The Bergsonian 'cogito' implies this original synthesis of the past and the present with a view to the future, which is the new sense which Bergson gives to the word 'memory'. Memory here is not a particular faculty that is concerned with repeating or reproducing the past in the present; it is consciousness itself insofar as this consciousness is creative duration. One will note already this truly new meaning of the word 'memory'. Ordinarily, memory is only conceived of as a faculty of repetition or of reproduction, and is thereby opposed to invention and creation. But Bergson reunites the impetus towards the future with the thrust of the past in a unique intuition he calls memory. He speaks of 'the interior force that allows being to free itself from the rhythm of the flow of things and to retain in an ever higher degree the past in order to influence ever more deeply the future, that is, its memory, in the special meaning we give to the word' (MM 355/222), and 'all

Appendix II


the possible intensities of memory, or, what comes to the same thing, all the degrees of freedom' (MM 355/222). In perception, spirit is distinguished already from matter in that it is, 'even then, memory, that is, the synthesis of the past and the present in view of the future' (MM 354/220). This memory, identical to duration, allows us to understand that Bergson reconciles, in his first intuition, the philosophies of becoming with those of being. Becoming is not reduced to a dust of successive fading instants, as in Heraclitean philosophy, nor is being thrown out outside of time, as in the philosophy of the Eleatics. Through memory, duration is as substantial as it is change. The past adheres to the present without, however, juxtaposing itself to the present - it extends itself into the present in order to create novelty and the unforeseeable. In these conditions, the conservation of our past, as Bergson has often insisted, does not constitute a particular problem: an attention which could be extended indefinitely would hold under its gaze all the prior sentences with the last sentence of the lesson, and the events that have preceded the lesson, and a portion, as large as we will want, of what we call our past. The distinction which we make between our present and our past is, therefore, if not arbitrary, at least relative to the expanse of the field that our attention to life can embrace. (PM 1386/151-2) But it is precisely this distinction between the past and the present that constitutes a particularly important problem for us in Bergsonism. This problem poses itself at the same time as that of the limits of our attention to life, that of the determinate conditions of the effectiveness of our action in the world. Bergson tells us that memory does not need to be explained because it is duration itself, or the impetus of consciousness, from which he concludes: 'We will no longer have to give an account of memory [du souvenir], but of forgetting' (PM 1388/ 153). Now we believe the Bergsonian problem of memory - in the various senses which Bergson gives to the term, and not solely in his 'special sense' of memory - is not just 'why forgetting?' but also 'why the distinction between the past and the present?' We do not make this distinction in the intuition of the indivisibility of our duration. Indeed, these two questions are interdependent. It is against the background of forgetfulness that the past can stand out as past, but we must first understand how our indivisible, full duration is able itself to break itself open and give birth to this opposition of a past recognized as such and a present whose axis is titled towards the future. Modern philosophies of temporalization have criticized Bergson for making nothing more of the duration than 'cohesion', for not having recognized the separations and the reunifications of the ecstases of the past, present and future. In fact, one can say that the second philosophical work of Bergson - Matter and Memory - is an

I 14

The Challenge of Bergsonism

attempt to raise this problem and resolve it. 'Nature', Bergson writes, 'has invented a mechanism for canalizing our attention in the direction of the future, in order to turn it away from the past, I mean from this part of our history that does not interest our present action' (PM 1388/153). In 'The Perception of Change', after having shown how in principle a rather broad attention would hold its entire past with itself, not as a distinct representation of the present, but rather as a representation 'of the continuously present which would also be continuously moving', Bergson adds this remark that allows us to consider how this separation of the present and the past presents itself to him: As soon as this particular attention releases something that it held under its view, immediately what is abandoned from the present becomes 'ipso facto' a part of the past. In a word, our present falls back into the past when we stop attributing to it a current interest. It is so in the present of individuals, just as in the present of nations: an event belongs to the past, and it enters into history when it no longer directly interests the politics of the day, and can be neglected without the affairs of the country being affected by it. As long as its action makes itself felt, it adheres to the life of the nation and remains present to it. (PM 1386-7/152) There would be much to say about this comparison which raises the question of historical duration, of the past that constitutes history, that is, the question of what, in our current history, incorporates the present or separates itself from that present as now being only historical. But Bergson has not developed this theme, and has not explicitly studied historical duration - human duration in general. In relation to this question, there are, in his work, only a few indicators. In contrast, Matter and Memory is devoted to the problem of the past of the human personality, to the problem of the past's distinction from the present and its connection to the present. It is in this work that the various meanings of the word 'memory' come into view, such as 'creative duration'; 'knowing something [connaissance] from the past'; better, 'knowledge [savoir] of the past'; 'image' or the concrete and actualized memory [souvenir} of an event of my former life. All these meanings are tied to each other, but they all presuppose the first, memory, in the special sense that Bergson gives to it, that is, creative duration. We have to understand, however, how a certain rupture is possible at the heart of this duration. Now, the transition from Time and Free Will to Matter and Memory and the different points of view in which Bergson places himself in these two works are able to guide us already. In Time and Free Will, Bergson discovers duration through an effort of abstraction similar to that of Descartes in the first Meditations, isolating the soul from the body: 'I shall now close my eyes, I shall stop up my ears... I shall efface even from my thoughts all the

Appendix II


images of corporeal things'. In this way, Bergson attempts to isolate pure duration from space and the material things with which it is ordinarily mixed. 'In our ego [mot], there is succession without 'mutual externality', outside of the ego, 'mutual externality' without succession' (DI 72-3/108). But this dualism is as untenable as the dualism of the soul and the body. After having so severely separated duration from space - the interior life from the world - it is indeed necessary to attempt to bring them together again, because we live in the world and our freedom itself is an efficacious power only insofar as we can make something of ourselves pass into the exteriority of the matter. The majority of the criticisms that were made of Bergson's Time and Free Will concerned this separation between duration and the world and the difficulty of conceiving a pure interior life. The freedom of this pure interior life resembles the freedom of a beautiful soul because precisely the conditions of the realization of this freedom in the world do not seem to be considered by it. But, in contrast, Matter and Memory deals with this problem of the insertion of our freedom into material being. In this work, there is much more talk of a 'choice' than in Time and Free Will because the material conditions of our realization in the world require certain decisions and certain options, which allow us to make our deep ego [mot] explicit, but which condemn us at the same time to maintaining always a certain gap between oneself and oneself. In contrast, Time and Free Will defined freedom by the undivided totality of our self. In its widest scope, Matter and Memory raises the question of incarnation. In Matter and Memory, we are no longer considering merely pure and undivided duration, but the relationship of this duration to things; this is why the role of the body is central in it. The demands of action, the finitude of the spiritual impetus that we are, but which succeeds in expressing itself only by renouncing a part of itself, lead to this body, this centre of action and organ of my presence in the world. Action is, Rimbaud said, this dear point of the world. Thus it is in relation to this point that our duration is considered. This is why Matter and Memory starts from the world, then the body, and not from interior duration. I see clearly how my body ends up occupying a privileged situation in this whole. And I also understand how the notion of the interior and the exterior arises, which is in the beginning nothing other than the distinction of my body from other bodies. (MM 196/47) While Time and Free Will, by a rigorous effort of abstraction, opens up the essence of a creative duration, Matter and Memory refers first to the body as symbolizing, by the complexity of its nervous system, a growing indetermination in our reactions to the solicitations of the external world. And if this be so, is not the growing richness of this perception likely to

I 16

The Challenge of Bergsonism

symbolize the wider range of indetermination left to the choice of the living being in its conduct with regard to things? Let us start, then, from this indetermination as from the true principle. (MM 181-2/31) One really sees how this freedom, which was far away from the world in Time and Free Will., becomes here in Matter and Memory a certain indetermination connected to the complexity of an organic system. And, when Bergson follows the progress of this complexity 'from the monera up to higher vertebrates' (MM 179/28), do we not see already the thesis of Creative Evolution sketched out: how life was able to obtain from inert material an instrument of freedom? It was a question of creating with matter, which is necessity itself, an instrument of freedom, of making a machine which should triumph over mechanism, and of using the determinism of nature to pass through the meshes of the net which this very determinism had spread. (EC 719/264) The human body is this set of utilized conveniences, this set of obstacles turned aside, which characterize a certain species; and as Valery also says: It has too many properties, it solves too many problems, possesses too many functions and resources for it not to be a response to some transcendent demand, which is powerful enough to construct it, but which is not powerful enough to forgo its complication. This finitude of our spiritual impetus and the necessity of passing through the mechanisms of the body in order to give an efficacious power to our freedom express themselves by this attention to life, which is not, moreover, for Bergson, the only attention to which humans have access. Others are possible, even the attention of spirit to itself, 'the intuition that is reflection'. But before bringing ourselves to this intuition which presupposes a painful effort of spirit in order to seize itself, Bergson studies in Matter and Memory the spontaneous functioning of our memory, which adheres to the mechanisms of the body and which is limited by them. By first considering this function, we can understand the necessary separation of the past from the present, and then raise the problem of the being in itself of the past and the past for us.


In Matter and Memory, Bergson therefore studies spirit as oriented according to its attention to life or on the contrary (this orientation presupposing the reverse

Appendix II


orientation) spirit as slipping away from this attention and escaping into dreams. But it is spirit before its reflection on itself- in a pre-reflective stage which is first the object of his study. Reflection only appears later, as an extension of the spontaneous process, reproducing that process in order to push it up to its extreme ending point or finally as a return of spirit to itself. (This attention of spirit to itself which Bergson in The Creative Mind calls intuition must not be confused either with the attention to life in its superior forms that provides scientific intelligence, or with this abandonment of spirit to the past, which really presupposes a detachment, but which leads only to dreams or to a contemplation that is still sterile.) In this spontaneous functioning of spirit guided by its attention to life and to the world, memory plays a primordial role. It is, for Bergson, spirit itself. Memory is not merely the mechanical reproduction of the past, but sense. Sense is really what is revealed to us in Bergson's study of general ideas insofar as they are vital schemas which oscillate between a motor habit, an identical response to different situations, and a discrimination of individual nuances. It is a supple memory which spontaneously contracts itself or develops itself according to the demands of adapting to the world. But already the first form of reflection appears there, the one which, taking up the spontaneous operation, pushes it to its extreme endpoint in order to fix its results. The idea, spontaneously formed as a vital schema, thus becomes the idea of idea, and spirit becomes capable of doing this spontaneous process again for itself. But from genera so sketched out mechanically by habit we have passed, by means of an effort of reflection upon this very process, to the general ideal of genus; and when that idea has been constituted once, we have constructed (this time voluntarily) an unlimited number of general notions. (MM 301/ 161) In Creative Evolution, Bergson will show how this effort of intelligence, applied to language, will lead to a deeper reflection, the very reflection that implies a true turning of spirit back upon itself, which intelligence alone cannot achieve, but intuition 'which is reflection' can. The memory [memoire] about which Bergson is speaking, grasped in its work of adapting to the real, is, as we said, sense, as well as knowledge. Memory always carries itself completely towards the present in order then to make itself explicit, at a certain level corresponding to the demands of the action and of the question posed, in actual images which more or less overlap with the situation given in perception. But these images are actively created or reproduced; one must not compare the work of memory to a mechanical combination of images, of ready-made memories [souvenirs], which, deposited somewhere in the brain or

I 18

The Challenge of Bergsonism

in the unconscious, would come to complete the given situation. In this last case, the functioning of spirit would be comparable to that of a machine, as complex as is imaginable. In the first case, on the contrary, memory [memoire] carries sense, and it is memory which precedes the situation, which moulds itself onto the situation and informs it with its own knowledge, with its own experience, confirming, through the situation, the validity of its hypotheses, which are, in the etymological sense of the word, projects. Perhaps it is important to describe this work of a supple memory, which is spontaneous intelligence, before distinguishing with Bergson between the image memory [memoire] (which gives us an original representation of the past) and habit memory [memoire] (which presents in a present corporeal mechanism the accumulated results of past efforts). This famous distinction, with which everyone always starts, has perhaps distorted the study of Bergson a little, because by starting with it we neglect too much the movement of this memory which is recognition at all stages (that is, which is the sense of the present by means of the knowledge of the past, which is the discovery of the sense of given situations). We are thus led to interpret the past in Bergson as a set of images which are given ready-made in an unconscious - which, despite certain expressions in Bergson, do not seem to us to correspond absolutely to his conception of living memory [memoire]. Living memory is stretched out towards the situation to be interpreted; its suppleness, its ability to dilate and contract, contrasts with the rigidity of every mechanism. In contrast, by starting from this memory, we can understand the dissociation required by action between a knowledge [savoir] of the past as such and a precise adaptation to the present which results in an actual process or in a gesture of the body. 'It is the whole of memory', writes Bergson, 'that passes over into each of these circuits, since memory is always present', and again, 'in the effort of attention, spirit is always concerned in its entirety, but it simplifies or complicates itself according to the level that it chooses in order to accomplish its evolutions' (MM 250/1045). The famous image of the cone thus only symbolizes the possible double movement of spirit, its contraction down to the point of action, or its indefinite dilation up to dreaming. But, at each mental tone, at each level, memory is given in its completeness, and the double direction, the direction that leads back towards the ecstasis of the past and the direction that leads to the ecstasis of gesture, is as outlined. What then needs to be explained on the basis of the attention to life is this immanent distinction by which the 'me' [moi] of the past is opposed to the 'me' of the present at the same time as it collaborates with the 'me' of the past, this distinction of the self with itself [de soi avec soi] which the opposition between the past and the present translates and which then the memory [souvenir] that has become actual in an image and the corporeal habit express. Before considering this knowledge of the past as such and its sig-

Appendix II


nificance, let us take note of the double process that Bergson speaks of with respect to the cone. There is, on the one hand, the contraction or the expansion by which consciousness narrows or widens the development of its content. But there is also, at every possible stage, an unfolding of this or that past situation which serves to interpret the present. In fact, it is not the case that there are some memories [des souvenirs], but one sole personal past which we can divide, render explicit more or less arbitrarily according to the demands of a present situation. This unfolding can be done at every mental level, which is why Bergson says the following: In other words, the complete memory responds to the call of a present state by two simultaneous movements, that of translation by which it carries itself in its entirety to the experience and thus contracts more or less without itself dividing itself in view of the action; and the other of rotation upon itself, by which it orients itself toward the current situation in order to present to it that side of itself which is most useful. (MM 307-8/168-9) Let us not moreover be duped by these mechanical and geometrical metaphors which Bergson makes use of here. These are only, as he himself says, metaphors to make us rediscover the process of this memory which is spirit. This memory responds to the present situation by occupying a certain mental level without dividing itself; it also responds by distinguishing in itself, in the totality given at this level, a situation comparable to the present situation. We thus pass from a virtual multiplicity, that of knowledge [satwr], to an actual multiplicity, that of the image. We are now going to consider the double direction about which we have spoken, the ecstasis of the past and that of the present, between which the concrete self [moi] is always situated. Thereby we will try to understand the past as such in Bergson.


Let us first start with this passage which seems to us essential and which shows us why spirit represents to itself the past, while matter only repeats it. If matter does not remember the past, it is because it repeats the past constantly, because, subject to necessity, it unwinds a series of moments of which each is the equivalent of the preceding moment and can be deduced from it. ... But a being which evolves, more or less freely, creates something new every moment; it is therefore in vain that we would seek to read its past in its present if the past were not deposited within this being in the form of


The Challenge of Bergsonism

memory [souvenir]. Then, to take up a metaphor which has more than once appeared in this book, it is necessary, and for similar reasons, that the past is acted by matter, imagined by spirit. (MM 356/223) Therefore insofar as spirit is invention, insofar as it is the creation of an unforeseeable novelty, the distinction must be able to be made in it between a past from which it detaches itself and a present to which it attaches itself. Spirit, insofar as its impetus is finite, insofar as its attention to life is limited, must be able to oppose its past to its present as what one contemplates to what one does. No doubt we must still consider spirit, living memory, as uniting in itself the two possible movements, the movement towards the past which results in the ecstasis of a pure knowledge, where we unify ourselves with our past, and the movement towards the present - or better yet, towards the future (for which the world of our current perception sketches out possible realizations) - which results in, at the limit, that gesture that is in the process of being done. In both cases, spirit is outside of itself and loses itself in an unconsciousness. In the first case, according to the direction of the past, spirit no longer gives itself over to action. It is entirely contemplation, but a mute contemplation, for the pure memory [le souvenir pur] is not an image; it becomes an image only in the effort by which we bring it about, or, by which we, so to speak, re-create it. In the second case, it is only just one movement or one series of bodily movements. Therefore, we must really situate the creative spirit between these two directions. Trying hard to gather itself together despite a double solicitation, the creative sprit has a hold on its future only because it is capable of giving itself a certain perspective upon its past, without abandoning itself to the disinterested contemplation of the past which would completely detach it from life and from reality. In this way, the representation of the past is generally conditioned by our impetus towards the future; and this rupture of which we were speaking previously between the past and the present must appear within the very heart of our creative duration. Our past is what we must leave behind us in order to be able to act. Our past is, nevertheless, still ourselves, because we are our past as much as we are our bodies. But the true Self [le Soi], spirit, would not be able to define itself either by one or by the other, since it is the creative impetus and since this creation in a finite being like us presupposes precisely these two extreme limits of pure contemplation, 'of the dreaming which is knowledge', and pure movement. The finite spirit that we are is even nothing but the effort to unify itself, despite this duality that is always present within it. The ultimate problem in Bergson's philosophy, as he raises it himself in his last work, The Two Sources, is without a doubt contained in the opposition of these two terms (to which we shall return): contemplation and action. Let us content ourselves here to indicating that the attention to life is not the only

Appendix II


attention possible, that pure contemplation, which always sinks us into the past and which always distances us from creative action, is only the refuge of an intelligence, which, detaching itself from the present, can no longer seize spirit as a creator. What would be needed is to unite, by a painful effort, the two demands. Indeed, philosophical intuition is defined by Bergson as this vision of creative action: What would be needed is that, turning back on itself and twisting on itself, the faculty of seeing should be made to be one with the act of willing - a painful effort which we can make suddenly, doing violence to our nature, but cannot sustain more than a few moments. (EC 696-7/237) What would be needed is that the pure contemplation by which we define the past be not merely the result of an interruption or of a relaxation of the creative impetus. However, if our analysis is correct, we are now in a position to understand better what Bergson calls the past, and the kind of existence - in itself and for us - which he attributes to it. This existence of the past is considered in chapter three of Matter and Memory. Unfair criticisms are often formulated against the conception that Bergson makes of the existence of our past: 'His realistic theory of memory', for example writes Sartre in L 'Imagination, 'forces him to give to unconscious objects exactly the discontinuity and the multiplicity of objects in the material world'. But this criticism neglects the distinction between the virtual and the actual, the two multiplicities that were already opposed to one another in Time and Free Will. Our past, which is given in its totality undivided to consciousness, contains the details and events of our past life as a virtual multiplicity. Just as, in Malebranche, we would not be able to identify intelligible extension with the local extension of things, in Bergson, we would not be able to identify the created extension, the virtual multiplicity of all the aspects of our past life, with the distinct objects spread out in space. Although, it is true that in dreams - through a sort of parallelism between the relaxation of the body, which is nothing more than a multiplicity of sensations and affections, and the relaxation of spirit which loses itself in the knowledge of our past - a correspondence is established between the two which leads to the diversity of dream images. In dreams, pure knowledge actualizes itself in the affections of the body, and these affections refer back in turn to this knowledge. But 'imagining is not remembering [se souvenir]' (MM 278/135). It is always important to turn back to this passage in Bergson which refuses to turn the pure memory of the past into an image or a multiplicity of images. Without a doubt a memory [souvenir], insofar as it actualizes itself, tends to


The Challenge of Bergsonism

live in an image; however, the converse is not true, and the image, pure and simple, represents the past to me only if it is indeed in the past that I went looking for it, thus following the continuous progress that has led it out from obscurity into the light. (MM 278/135) How, therefore, must we understand this past, and what is spirit as long as it is only pure memory? Bergson clearly insists on the characteristics of this pure not imagined - knowledge that constitutes our past. 'Pure memory', he tells us, 'is without an object'; it is purely speculative and by that it cuts in upon the present which is action. We are bent on regarding perception as only an instruction addressed to a pure spirit, as having a completely speculative interest. Then, as pure memory [souvenir] is itself essentially a knowledge [connaissance] of this kind, since it no longer has an object, we can find between perception and memory [souvenir] only a difference of degree. (MM 279/137) The German language allows us to bring the past closer to essence (gewesen et Weseri); it is indeed in this way it seems that we must understand the past, pure memory in Bergson, provided that we do not confuse essence with the general and abstract. My past is only knowledge; in memory the object is no longer distinct from the subject. The different things we know [connaissance] about the world are transposed into the dimension of knowledge [savoir] when it has become my past. The past presents this characteristic: in the past, the knowledge [savoir] of the object has become a knowledge [savoir] of self. It would be interesting to compare this conception of the past in Bergson with Platonic reminiscence. But the past which is at issue in Bergson is my past, the interiorization of all my lived experience, which, without losing its individuality and its originality, has drawn itself up to essence. This is why the past is not image. Without a doubt, it contains the virtual multiplicity of images that I am capable of extracting from it according to the demands of action, or according to the whims of dreams. But at its core the past is only knowledge and when I confuse myself with my past, I can lose myself in nothing but a pure contemplation, which contains no distinction between the object contemplated and the self which contemplates. This is an extreme limit where consciousness tends to disappear. This pure memory [souvenir] is unextended precisely because it is knowledge and not action. In pure memory, as we have already noted, the multiplicity of memories [souvenirs], the various aspects, are only virtually indicated. This is really a difficult problem, this relationship in Bergson between this virtual multiplicity and the real multiplicity of the extended world and of the body. It

Appendix II


looks as though there is a certain correspondence between the relaxation of my spirit which, renouncing action, becomes nothing but knowledge [savoir] of the past, and the relaxation of the pure creative impetus which expresses itself by means of extension and materiality. But this correspondence on which Bergson insists in Creative Evolution with regard to the 'ideal genesis of matter' shows us that we carry within ourselves, a priori in our own relaxation, the essence of multiplicity and spatiality, precisely because this relaxation is not spirit insofar as it is a creator, but spirit insofar as it is only contemplation. This correspondence between spirit which reduces itself to its past and renounces action and materiality which is an interruption of the absolute creative impetus is at the centre of Bergsonian metaphysics. Finally, the past, insofar as it is not considered in its relation to present action but insofar as it is pure past [passe] or, if one takes the liberty to play on these words, insofar as it is something 'overcome', 'a thing of the past' [depasse], this past is useless and powerless. We can only contemplate it and not do it. My past is disinterested; my present is sensori-motor. This is why there is an aesthetic of memory, and it would even perhaps be true to say that all aesthetics, being contemplation, leads us to the past. There is, however, another aspect of art on which Bergson has also insisted. This is the aspect of creation, the aspect of the work, by means of which mute contemplation brings itself about in an image or in a present object. These various characteristics of the past - absence of an object, unextended, powerlessness - allow us to understand what the existence of the past means. My past, Bergson says, no more stops existing when I stop realizing it than the objects of the world stop existing when they are not present to my consciousness. 'There is no more reason to say that the past erases itself once it has been perceived than there is to suppose that material objects stop existing when I stop perceiving them' (MM 284/142). The past has not ceased to be; it has, in certain respects, but not completely, ceased to act. Since it cannot completely repeat itself in my action, since it is overcome [depasse] by my action insofar as it is new, my past, considered from this point of view, is what I am in itself [en soi]. This 'in itself is opposed to the becoming of an ego [moi] which always adds a new sense to what already was, but which can only make this addition, however, on the basis of this past which then re-becomes for us [pour nous]. The difficulty really seems to lie in the necessity within which we are to consider this double relation: my past, insofar as it is only past, insofar as I can change nothing in it and can only contemplate it in myself [en moi], and my past insofar as it is still for me [pour moi] and insofar as it is waiting for its ultimate sense from my action. But this double relation, which corresponds to the two possible directions of spirit, towards the past and towards the future, is the life itself of spirit, as we have already seen.


The Challenge of Bergsonism

The past in itself has not therefore stopped existing, 'but the same instinct, in virtue of which we open out space indefinitely before ourselves, prompts us to close off time behind us as it flows' (MM 286/145). The world sketches, beyond the part present to consciousness, the horizon of our possible action in the future. And all our interest bears on the progressive discovery of this world which represents our future or is joined to our future. The past, on the contrary, no longer interests us, since there is nothing we can change about it. It is thus considered, insofar as it is useless, as non-existent. But this is an illusion due to the demands of the attention of life. If in fact one reflects on the conditions of existence that Bergson reduces to two fundamental conditions (1) the presentation to consciousness, and (2) the logical or causal connection of what is in this way presented with what precedes and what follows - one notices, by denouncing the practical illusion of which we were previously speaking, that these conditions are realized, but in a different way, for the objects of the world as well as for our past. The objects of the world are partially given to our consciousness; that is our current perception. And the rigorous order of the laws of nature makes it such that this world does not distinguish itself from its past, but repeats it tirelessly. 'If matter does not remember the past, it is because it repeats the past continually; ... in this way its past is truly given in its present' (MM 356/222-3). But our past is also given to us in a certain way; it is this total knowledge that always follows us. 'Our psychological life as a whole reveals itself in our character, although none of its past states manifests itself explicitly in character' (MM 289/148). Finally, our past also conditions our present 'but without determining it in a necessary manner' (MM 289/148). The difference between the existence of the objects of the world and the complete existence of our past is based, therefore, on the fact that, on the one hand, our discovery of the world goes from the part to the whole (since our perception disposes of space exactly in proportion to how our action disposes of time), while our past, which is self-knowledge, is initially given only as an undivided totality. There are no memories which are 'independent and fixed beings' (MM 305/166), but we must observe 'the solidarity of psychological facts always given together to immediate consciousness as an undivided whole which reflection alone cuts up into distinct fragments' (MM 305/166). The difference between the existence of objects of the world and the complete existence of our past is based, on the other hand, on the fact that the thrust of the past, which constitutes our duration, does not completely determine our future. Our future really depends in certain respects on our past, and when we join back up with the total impetus (this is the first meaning of the word 'memory' [memoire], it is synonymous with creative duration, of which we are parts), we understand how this creative impetus differs from this repetition and from this identity towards which matter tends. But this is precisely why in the midst of this creative impetus the

Appendix II


demands of action oppose the past, insofar as it is overcome [depasse], to the present as creator in relation to this past. We now come back to the fundamental comment which has inspired our entire analysis: But a being which evolves, more or less freely, creates something new every moment; it is therefore in vain that we would seek to read its past in its present if the past were not deposited within this being in the form of memory [souvenir]. (MM 356/223) The separation of the past and the present, the separation of what is contemplated and what is done, results at once from the demands of the attention to life and from the creative impetus which characterizes duration. The effort of spirit presupposes this duality, this opposition of its past and its present, but the effort makes sense only by means of the unity which envelops it, and by means of the tension which reunites the two moments. In this way, we understand the difficulties of the conception of the past for Bergson, which, considered in its thrust and in its impetus, is not without power but which, considered in contrast as distinct from the present and from the future, can only be powerless and merely contemplated.

We come back now to this opposition - contemplation and action - which is for us fundamental in Bergson's philosophy as a whole, from Time and Free Will up until The Two Sources of Morality and Religion. Of course, the distinction of the past and the present in a human individuality is relative to the tension of his memory, relative to the proper rhythm of his duration. The distinction is therefore more or less arbitrary. I call past what I can only contemplate without using it or without including it in the richness of my lived present, in the richness of my actual indivisible duration. And thereby it seems that one could conceive Bergson has insisted on this many times - a completely indivisible duration of the Ego [Moi]. In this case, it would no longer be correct to speak of the past, even though duration and living memory are still constitutive of this Ego. It is true that one would conceive badly, at least in a finite being like us, the creation of a new future, if one did not take into account a certain separation. This is why, even if, in humans, there is some arbitrariness in the distinction of past and present, nevertheless the necessity of a retrospection and of a prospection, of a relaxation towards the past and of a tension towards the future imposes itself. It looks as though it may be necessary to go still further by interpreting the article which Bergson has devoted to false recognition, to the memory of the


The Challenge of Bergsonism

present. The past, pure knowledge [savoir], would always accompany in principle the lived present, as the shadow accompanies the person who moves. In this way contemplation would always be possible. It would be the other side of the creative impetus. But this inversion of the impetus, which would result in contemplating the present instead of projecting it towards the future, would manifest itself to consciousness only on the occasion of an interruption of the attention to life. It is in this way that sometimes we recognize the present, contemplating in it its proper past; but at that moment, we truly stop acting, suspending, in this reflection of the present in its past, duration as creator. We thus see ourselves in the gestures that we are making, but these gestures appear to us with a character of destiny. It looks as though the whole is given; we recognize or we are going to recognize the present as if it had already been lived 'in an indeterminate past'. Creative action would always have its shadow, selfcontemplation, but the attraction of the future would prevent us from seeing it. The past, in its essence, would in this way find its source in this other side of action. However, to contemplate the present as the past in this way is to stop acting. It is to interrupt the very impetus of life, such that we are not able simultaneously to contemplate and to do, short of a painful and rare effort which, without interrupting the impetus, would allow us to reflect creation itself as creation: this would be intuition. We want only to indicate these perspectives of Bergson's metaphysics. (Likewise, we have not been able to treat here the difficult problem of the image in Bergson which would require taking up all of his philosophy under this aspect.) What looks to us to condense the philosophical position that Bergson wanted to take is a formula which would invert the terms of one of Plotinus' propositions cited by Bergson: 'Action is a shadow of contemplation.' And, for an intelligence that would detach itself from life, from the conditions of the attention to life demanded of the human species, this contemplation would appear as a summit. But, for Bergson, one must say on the contrary and this would even hold for the mystics who, beyond the attention to life, participate in the source of all creation and in turn create - that 'contemplation is the shadow of action'. In this way we have seen the past which can only be contemplated, which expresses perhaps the essence of all contemplation, profiles itself always as the other side of the present oriented towards the future. The very contemplation of our personal past is imageless; it is mute. And when one wants to realize it, express it in images or works, an intellectual effort is necessary which draws up more from us than there was at first. In this, perhaps, materiality justifies itself, as this beautiful passage from Bergson shows: A thought, taken by itself, is a reciprocal implication of elements of which we cannot say whether they are one or many. Thought is a continuity, and in

Appendix II


all continuity there is confusion. For a thought to become distinct, it is indeed necessary that it scatter itself in words. Our only way of taking account of what we have in mind is to set down on a sheet of paper, side by side, the terms which interpenetrate one another. Just in this way does matter distinguish, separate, resolve into individualities and finally into personalities, tendencies previously confused in the original impetus of life. On the other hand, matter provokes and makes effort possible. Thought which is only thought, the work of art which is only conceived, the poem which is no more than a dream, as yet cost nothing in toil; it is the material realization of the poem in words, of the artistic conception in statues or in paintings, which demands an effort. The effort is hard, but it is also valuable, even more valuable than the work which it produces, because, thanks to the effort, one has drawn up more from oneself than there was, one has raised oneself above where one was. This effort was impossible without matter. By the resistance that it opposes and by the docility with which we endow it, it is at one and the same time the obstacle, the instrument, and the stimulus. It tests our strength, keeps its imprint, and calls for its intensification. (ES 831-2/22-3)


Preface: Memory and Life 1. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenologie de la perception., p. 30; Phenomenology of Perception, p. 22. 2. Heidegger, Sein und Zeit, pp. 432-3; Being and Time (Harper and Row), pp. 500-1; Being and Time (SUNY), pp. 416-17. 3. BER 108/104. Cf. also, Deleuze, Bergson, 1859-1941, in Les philosophes celebres, p. 298. Deleuze constructs this slogan for Bergsonism on the basis ofPM 1260/19; EC 501/8. 4. Levinas, The Old and the New, in Time and the Other and additional essays, p. 132. 5. Levinas, The Old and the New, in Time and the Other and additional essays, p. 133. 6. Henri Bergson, Memoire et vie, textes choisi par Gilles Deleuze (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1957). 7. Bergson's personal library is housed at Bibliotheque Doucet in Paris. Apparently, he never owned a copy of Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals. But the catalogue lists a 1939 French translation of The Will to Power. Bergson mentions Nietzsche twice in Melanges, pp. 832 and 1180. The first mention on p. 832 is a 1910 letter that suggests that he had a rather good understanding of Nietzsche long before The Two Sources. 8. Deleuze, Bergson, 1859-1941, in Les philosophes celebres, p. 298. 9. Deleuze and Guattari, Qu'est-ce que la philosophic?, p. 50; What is Philosophy?, pp. 48-9. 10. Delbos, Etudes critiques, Revue de metaphysique et de morale, 1897, p. 378. 11. This footnote does not appear in the Citadel Press English translation: 'Once more, we have in no way pushed substance to the side. On the contrary, we assert the persistence of existences. And we believe we have made it easier to represent that persistence. How could one compare this doctrine to that of Heraclitus?' 12. Deleuze, Bergsonisme, p. 76; Bergsonism, p. 76.



Chapter One: The Concept of the Image: Phenomenology 1. The Table of Contents lists the following titles, to which I have added the page numbers: I. Real Action and Possible Action (169-73/17-22) II. Representation (173-6/22-5) III. Realism and Idealism (177-81/25-30) IV. Selection of Images (181-92/31-43) V. The Relation of Representation to Action (192-7/43-8) VI. Image and Reality (197-201/48-52) VII. Image and Affective Sensation (201-3/52-5) VIII. Nature of Affective Sensation (203-6/55-8) IX. Image, Isolated from Affective Sensation (206-9/58-61) X. Natural Extension of Images (209-12/61-5) XI. Pure Perception (212-15/65-8) XII. Passage to the Problem of Matter (215-18/68-71) XIII. Passage to the Problem of Memory (218-23/71-6) 2. Deleuze, Cinema 1: L'Image-mouvement, p. 83; Cinema 1: The MovementImage, p. 56. 3. Cf. Melanges, p. 361. Bergson extends this idea to mysticism in The Two Sources. For more on The Two Sources, see Appendix I. 4. Descartes, Meditationes de Prima Philosophia, p. 23. The Latin term is, of course, fingam. 5. The original preface concludes by saying: '[La philosophic] doit nous ramener, par 1'analyse des fails et la comparison des doctrines, aux conclusions du sens commun' (CEuvres, Edition du Centenaire, p. 1491). 6. This idea of 'the socialization of truth' refers back to the idea of a closed society and its natural instinct for self-preservation. 7. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenologie de la perception, p. 72; Phenomenology of Perception, p. 59. 8. In this regard it is difficult to understand Sartre's criticism of the Bergsonian image in his 1936 L'Imagination, p. 57. While Sartre is correct when he says that Bergson has 'constamment confondu le noeme et la noese' (p. 51), this 'confusion' is precisely what makes the Bergsonian concept of the image interesting and important. 9. See Bergson a G. Lechalas, in Melanges, pp. 410-11. 10. See Bergson a G. Lechalas, in Melanges, p. 411. 11. In this regard, it is hard to understand Gaston Bachelard's criticism of Bergson in his 1936 The Dialectic of Duration, which concludes with a chapter on 'rhythmanalysis', as if this idea is an advance over Bergsonism. 12. Deleuze, Cinema 1: I'lmage-mouvement, pp. 11-12; Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, pp. 2-3: 'The evolution of the cinema, the conquest of its own essence or novelty, was to take place through montage, the mobile camera, and the emancipation of the viewpoint, which became separate from projection. The shot would then stop being a spatial category and become a temporal one, and the section would no longer be immobile but mobile. The cinema would rediscover that very movement-image of the first chapter of Matter and Memory.'



13. Bergson describes this specific type of symbolization in chapter four, MM 355/222. Although he does not use the word 'correspond' there, the description resembles the descriptions in chapter one where he speaks of a correspondence between two systems of images (MM 191/41). Other positive uses of the word 'symbol' can be found in chapter one, MM 187/ 37, 205/56. 14. Again, Sartre in L}Imagination correctly understands what Bergson is saying about the concept of the image ('on ne saurait trouver de reele difference', p. 57), but it is precisely because there is only a difference in degree between the image and representation that Bergson can say that we perceive in the thing itself, and that the thing is not in us, in our perception. 15. Deleuze, Bergsonisme, p. 108; Deleuze, Bergsonism, p. 104. Cf. also, Deleuze, Bergson, 1859-1941, p. 298. Deleuze constructs this slogan for Bergsonism on the basis of PM 1260/19; EC 501/8. 16. Bergson a G. Lechalas, in Melanges, p. 411. 17. This comment should be compared to the last sentence of The Two Sources: 'the essential function of the universe ... is a machine for the making of gods' (MR 1245/317). 18. This hesitation or interval is very important. We return to it in Appendix I. 19. Merleau-Ponty, La nature, p. 82. But, perhaps, we have to say that Merleau-Ponty in The Visible and the Invisible is also not doing a phenomenology of perception. In a working note from February 1959, Merleau-Ponty says that Wesen in the sense of a verb is what 'Bergson rather badly called "images"' (Le Visible et I'invisible, p. 228; The Visible and the Invisible, p. 174). Coming from Heidegger, the idea of Wesen in the sense of a verb is at the centre of Merleau-Ponty's later thinking. 20. Here we must think of the telescope, an image to which we shall return in Chapter Two and in Appendix I. 21. One could compare this poverty and luxury, this superficial repetition, of pure perception with the poverty and luxury of sexuality in The Two Sources. See Appendix I.

Chapter Two: The Concept of Memory: Ontology 1. Derrida, La voix et le phenomene, p. 83; Speech and Phenomena, p. 75. For more on Derrida's interpretation of Husserl, see Leonard Lawlor, Derrida and Husserl (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002). 2. Derrida, La voix et le phenomene, p. 117; Speech and Phenomena, p. 104. See also Derrida's more recent, Le Toucher - Jean-Luc Nancy (Paris: Galilee, 2000). 3. Heidegger, Sein und Zeit, pp. 432-3; Being and Time (Harper and Row), pp. 500-1; Being and Time (SUNY), pp. 416-17. 4. Heidegger, Nietzsche, vol. 1, p. 233; Nietzsche, vol. 1, p. 201. 5. Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, translated by William Lovitt (New York, Harper and Row, 1977).



6. Heidegger, The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic, p. 203. 7. When one considers these two famous chapters one is always confronted with a decision. One can focus on the psychology of memory, as Jankelevitch, for instance, does in his book on Bergson; or, one can focus on the metaphysics of memory, as Deleuze and Hyppolite do. I am obviously following Hyppolite and Deleuze. See Vieillard-Baron in his 'Que sais-je?' volume, Bergson (p. 50 n. 1 and p. 51 n. 1). 8. For more on 'the whole of obligation' see Appendix I. 9. Memory purified of images is life, the elan vital, creative emotion; the affections or feelings involved in perception are infra-intellectual emotions. Clearly, at the time of Matter and Memory, Bergson had not yet made the distinction between creative or supra-intellectual emotions and infra-intellectual emotions. For more on this distinction see Chapter Three and especially Appendix I. 10. Bergson also compares memories, pure memories, to the suggestive word of the hypnotist. When a hypnotist makes someone hypnotized feel hot, the hypnotist uses a word to suggest the feeling of hotness; but, obviously, the word 'hot' is not itself hot. A memory, therefore, for Bergson, is like this suggestive word, which is not a sensation. 11. It is very important to remember that Bergson specifies the impotence of pure memory in terms of utility, that is, in terms of needs and therefore in terms of instincts, in a word, nature. 12. We could say that there is a 'reciprocal implication' between memory and matter, between emotion (memory) and image (matter), or better still, a reciprocal implication between emotion (memory) or image (matter). 13. Indeed, the other image Bergson provides, in reference to the function of memory in recognition, suggests the possibility of a second cone. See MM 250/105. 14. Deleuze, Bergsonisme, p. 50; Bergsonism, p. 55. 15. In the discussion of the difference in nature between the two forms of memory, Bergson suggests that the two forms are not really independent (MM 231/85). 16. Cf. Hyppolite, Figures de la pensee philosophique, tome 1, p. 480; appendix two, p. 121-2 17. See Husson, L'Intellectualisme de Bergson, p. 21, where he says that '... in the early text, the word "intelligence" designated the set of superior function of knowledge, taken as a whole, regardless of the distinction one can make between them, or, at least, it designated the set of functions of intellection, that is, comprehension'. See, for example, PM 1275/35. 18. For more on this image of the night sky and planets, see Appendix I. 19. For an English translation of this essay, see Appendix II. 20. Hyppolite, Figures de la pensee philosophique, tome 1, p. 482; appendix two, p. 123 21. Deleuze, Bergsonisme, p. 50; Bergsonism, p. 55. 22. In Bergson's 1908 essay, 'Memory of the Present and False Recognition', he calls this past that was never present 'an indeterminate past' or a 'past in general' (ES 899/111). 23. Insofar as Bergsonian memory is Platonic forgetfulness, Bergsonian



memory is really what Foucault calls a 'counter-memory'. See Foucault, Jean Hyppolite. 1907-1968, in Michel Foucault, Bits et ecrits, 1954-1988, p. 775; Foucault, Nietzsche, la genealogie, 1'histoire, in Homage a Jean Hyppolite, p. 171; Nietzsche, Genealogy, History, in Language, CounterMemory, Practice, p. 163. 24. See Vieillard-Baron, Bergson, p. 56, and p. 56 n. 1. 25. Levinas, Le temps et I'autre, p. 71; Time and the Other, p. 80.

Chapter Three: The Concept of Sense: Ethics 1. See Jankelevitch, Bergson, p. 271. 2. Levinas, Totalite et infini, pp. 17-18; Totality and Infinity, p. 47. 3. Levinas, Totalite et infini, p. 23; Totality and Infinity, p. 52. 4. See Deleuze, Michel Tournier et le monde sans autrui, in Logique du sens; Michel Tournier and the World without Others, in The Logic of Sense. 5. Levinas, Le Temps et I'autre, p. 83; Time and the Other and additional essays, pp. 89-90. 6. Levinas, The Old and the New, in Time and the Other and additional essays, p. 133. 7. Emmanual Levinas, Theorie de I'intuition dans la phenomenologie de Husserl (Paris: Vrin, 1984); English translation by Andre Orianne as The Theory of Intuition in Husserl's Phenomenology (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1973). 8. We will follow the other direction in Appendix I. 9. 'Pure variation' is Deleuze and Guattari's definition of a concept in Qu'estce que la philosophic?, pp. 25, 190; What is Philosophy?, pp. 20, 202. 10. See Michel Foucault, Les mots et les choses (Paris: Gallimard, 1966), pp. 318-19; English translation by anonymous translator as The Order of Things (New York: Random House, 1970), p. 328. 11. Melanges, pp. 1148-9. 12. Cf. MM 197-9/48-50, on the education of the senses. 13. We return to The Two Sources in Appendix I. 14. I have appropriated this idea of a grey zone from Foucault, in his Nietzsche, Genealogy, History. But, as in Appendix I, we could call this zone, again following Foucault in The Archeology of Knowledge, a kind of 'point of diffraction'. Calling it a point allows us to connect this zone to Bergson's metaphor of a revolving star or planet (un astre). 15. Cf. MR 1056/96: 'but in the two cases [open and closed], you are confronted by forces that are not strictly and exclusively moral.' 16. We shall return to this intersection between Bergson and Nietzsche in Appendix I. 17. See, for example, Hyppolite, Logique et existence, p. 60; Logic and Existence, pp. 48-9. 18. And thus connected to the elan vital, to use Bergson's later terminology. 19. See Husserl, Ideas I, paras 124, 130, 131. 20. Melanges, p. 363.



21. 22. 23. 24.

Melanges, p. 362. Melanges, p. 361. Melanges, pp. 371, 372. We return to the question of mysticism and creative emotion in Appendix I.

Conclusion: Think in Terms of Duration 1. There are two main descriptions of duration in Bergson's corpus: chapter two of the Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness (Time and Free Will in English) and the first eight pages of Creative Evolution. 2. Cf. MR 1012/44 for Bergson on 'feminine' sensibility and see, especially, n. 1 in the French, n. 2 in the English. 3. The actual letter is from 29 December 1688, pp. 294-6 of vol. Ill of Lettres.

Appendix I: The Point where Memory Turns Back into Life: An Investigation of Bergson's The Two Sources of Morality and Religion 1. Since, as Bergson himself says, The Two Sources 'goes beyond the conclusions of Creative Evolution' (MR 1193/256), we have to see The Two Sources as an attempt, like Creative Evolution, to trace 'the genealogical tree of life' back to its 'root' (EC 531/43). 2. Concerning Bergson's idea of ethics, it is an appendix to Chapter Three above, in particular. 3. See Henri Gouhier, Bergson et le Christ des evangiles (Paris: Fayard, 1961), p. 154. 4. Bergson takes this phrase (MR 1179/240) from Henri Delacroix's study of mystics (Etudes d'histoires et de psychologie du mysticisms). See Melanges, p. 789. 5. Like Nietzsche who had already recognized that religion has the function of'curing' depression (On the Genealogy of Morals, third treatise, para. 17, p. 94), Bergson says, 'Religion is that element which, in beings endowed with reason, is called upon to fill in any deficiency [deficit] of attachment to life' (MR 1154/210, also MR 984-5/13). By means of the fabulation function, static religion fills in this deficiency and reattaches us, or more precisely, individuals, to life in closed societies. 6. Strictly, for Bergson, before its indefinite extension, magic is rational and not madness (cf. TM 1090/136). At the beginning, magic apparently worked (MR 1116/166), and this efficacy is why magic contributed at times to the progress of science. Magic becomes irrational when it extends itself in the direction of evil spirits and the mechanical repetition of incantations (MR 1117-18/168-9). 7. The closed morality in Bergson is identical to what Nietzsche, in The Genealogy of Morals, calls 'the morality of mores'; see second treatise, para. 2, for example. Deleuze explicitly compares Bergson's 'the whole of



8. 9. 10. 11. 12.


14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20.


obligation' to Nietzsche's 'morality of mores'; see Nietzsche et la philosophic, p. 153; Nietzsche and Philosophy, p. 133. See Frederic Worms, L'intelligence gagnee par 1'intuition? La Relation entre Bergson et Kant, in Les Etudes philosophiques, No. 4/2001: 453-64. We return to the nature of this experience below in Section III. Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, second treatise, para. 11, p. 50. Here as often in his discussion of war, Bergson follows Rousseau's Second Discourse, On Inequality. Bergson thinks that agricultural overproduction is a deception; at times it seems as though there is overproduction, according to Bergson because production in general has not been organized well, so that there is no way to exchange all of the products (MR 1235/305-6, 1235 n. 1/306 n. 5). According to Bergson, this irrational cause of war has been exacerbated by the spirit of invention. The question concerning technology, for Bergson, is whether the spirit of invention necessarily creates artificial needs or whether the artificial needs have guided the spirit of invention (MR 1234/ 304). Modern science continually expands in its discoveries, and these discoveries stimulate new inventions. But Bergson claims that we cannot say that modern science is responsible for the startling quantity of new inventions in the last few centuries. From ancient times onward, humans have always invented machines. Modern science has not therefore produced artificial needs. As Bergson says, 'If that were so, humanity would be vowed to a growing materiality, for the progress of science will never stop' (MR 1235/305). But, modern sciences, the spirit of invention, and industry have only given what has been asked of them. Bergson says, 'Generally speaking, industry has not concerned itself enough about the greater or lesser importance of the needs to be satisfied. It has willingly followed fashion [la mode] and manufactured with no other thought than selling' (MR 1236/306). Again, at the beginning was vanity. See MR 1012 n. 1/44 n. 2 for Bergson's discussion of a mother's love for her child, and for more on Madame de Sevigne, see the Conclusion. For more on these three terms (art, artifice and artificial or fake), see Chapter One. Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, second treatise, para. 12, p. 51. For a brief discussion of the distinction between creative emotions and non-creative emotions, see Chapter Three, pp 78-9. See later in this section why it is necessary to use the feminine pronoun. Cf. Delacroix, Etudes de mysticisme, p. 365. While Bergson introduces this idea of efficacious presence in the discussion of static religion, we must note that it functions in both static and dynamic religion. He says, ' "semi-personal powers" or "efficacious presences" ... are, we believe, at the origin of religion' (MR 1142/196). In this comment Bergson does not limit the word 'religion' to static religion. Cf. what Bergson says in his 1897 'Compte rendu des "Principes de Metaphysique et de psychologic" de Paul Janet'. There he quotes Ravaisson: 'Dieu nous est plus interieur que notre interieur. II est plus pres



22. 23.

24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29.

30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36.

de nous que nous ne le sommes, sans cesse et a mille egards etrangers a nous-meme' (Melanges, p. 391). See Chapter Three for more on auscultation in intuition. Again we must see Bergson's discussion of anxiety in The Two Sources as quite close to that of Heidegger in Being and Time. We have suggested this connection between Bergson and Heidegger in Chapter Two, pp. 28-9, 44-5, 49, 58-9. But see Jankelevitch for a different view on death in Bergson, Bergson., pp. 270-1. The anxiety of the mystic seems to contradict what Jankelevitch says: 'il n'aura done plus d'insomnies ni d'angoisse' (p. 272). This not feeling the deprivation is, according to Bergson, what Jesus means in the Sermon on the Mount when he speaks of the 'poor in spirit'. Cf. Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals, second treatise, para. 2, pp. 36-7. Melanges, p. 390. See also Jankelevitch, Bergson, pp. 264-5. Indeed, the 'trumpery' that intelligence plays on nature, which allows for the openness of love, also allows for non-heterosexual, that is, homosexual desire and love. As great Christian mystics, Bergson mentions St Paul, St Teresa, St Catherine of Sienna and St Francis. While she does not cite Bergson, deBeauvoir's distinction between mystical women of action (she mentions Joan of Arc) and narcissistic female mystics in The Second Sex resembles the distinction Bergson makes between incomplete and complete mysticism. See deBeauvoir, The Second Sex, p. 678. See also, Margaret A. Simons, Bergson's Influence on Beauvoir's Philosophical Methodology, in The Cambridge Companion to Simone de Beauvoir, ed., Claudia Card (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003). Of course, Bergson is aware that static religion can adopt an image such as that of Joan of Arc and thus convert her image into 'imperialism' or fascism. See MR 1239-40/310-11. Cf., however, Jankelevitch, Bergson, pp. 275. Also Noe Gottlieb, D'Une erreur fondamentale dans les 'Deux Sources' de M. Bergson, Revue des Etudes juives, XCV, No. 189, 1933. For a careful reconstruction of Joan of Arc's life, see Edward Lucie-Smith, Joan of Arc. Bergson himself is basing his comment about Joan of Arc on Henri Delacroix's study and the poetry of Charles Peguy. Here we can again refer to Joan of Arc. See Charles Peguy, Le Mystere de la Charite de Jeanne d'Arc, in CEuvres poetiques completes, pp. 379-87. See also Melanges, pp. 1586-7. Jankelevitch, Bergson, p. 276. This comment must remind us of Foucault's idea of the continuing work of freedom. See n. 7 in the Preface.


Works by Bergson CEuvres, Edition du Centenaire, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1959. Melanges, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1972. Cours I: Lecons de psychologie et de metaphysique, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1990. Cours II: Lecons d'esthetique. Lecons de morale, psychologie et metaphysique, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1992. Cours III: Lecons d'histoire de la philosophic moderne. Theorie de I'dme, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1995.

English translations

Mind-Energy, translated by H. Wildon Carr, London: Macmillan, 1920; translation of L'energie spirituelle. The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, translated by R. Ashley Audra and Cloudsley Brereton, with the assistance of W. Horsfall Carter, Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1977 [1935]. The Creative Mind: An Introduction to Metaphysics, translated by Mabelle L. Andison, New York: The Citadel Press, 1992 [1946]; translation of La pensee et le mouvant. Matter and Memory, translated by N. M. Paul and W. S. Palmer, New York: Zone Books, 1994. Creative Evolution, translated by Arthur Mitchell, New York: Dover, 1998 [1911]. Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic, translated by Cloudsley Brereton and Fred Rothwell, Los Angeles: Green Integer, 1999 [1911]. Bergson: Key Writings, edited by Keith Ansell Pearson and John Mullarkey, London: Continuum, 2001. Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness, translated by F. L. Pogson, Mineola: Dover Publishing Company, 2001 [1913].



Texts by other authors Ansell Pearson, Keith, Viroid Life: Perspectives on Nietzsche and the Transhuman Condition, London: Routledge, 1997. Ansell Pearson, Keith, Germinal Life, London: Routledge, 1999. Ansell Pearson, Keith, Philosophy and the Adventure of the Virtual, London: Routledge, 2002. Bachelard, Gaston, La Dialectic de la duree, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1950 [1936]; English translation by Mary Mcallester Jones as The Dialectic of Duration, Manchester: Clinamen Press, 2000. Barbaras, Renaud, La perception, Paris: Hatier, 1994. Barbaras, Renaud, Le tournant de I'experience, Paris: Vrin, 1997. Breeur, Roland, Singularite et sujet: une lecture phenomenologique de Proust, Grenoble: Millon, 2000. Burwick, Frederick, and Douglas, Paul, The Crisis in Modernism, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Carbone, Mauro, La Visibilite de I'invisible, Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 2001. Cariou, Marie, Bergson et le fait mystique, Paris: Aubier, 1976. Cariou, Marie, L'Atomisme: Gassendi, Leibniz, Bergson etLucrece, Paris: Aubier, 1978. Cariou, Marie, Lectures Bergsoniennes, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1990. Cariou, Marie, Bergson et Bachelard, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1995. Cariou, Marie, redacteur, Revue Philosophique de la France et L'Etranger: Rationalisme et Mystique au xvii siecle, No. 2, April/June 2000. Carr, H. W., Henri Bergson: The Philosophy of Change, London: T. C. and C. C. Jones, 1919. Casey, Edward S., Remembering: A Phenomenological Study, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987. Caygill, Howard, Levinas and the Political, London: Routledge, 2002. Couchoud, Paul-Louis, La Metaphysique nouvelle, 'Matiere et Memoire' de M. Bergson, Revue de Metaphysique et de morale, 1902: 225-43. Crocker, Stephen, The Oscillating Now: Heidegger on the Failure of Bergsonism, Philosophy Today, Fall 1997: 405-23. deBeauvoir, Simone, Le Deuxieme sexe, Paris: Gallimard, 1949; English translation by H. M. Parshley as The Second Sex, New York: Vintage Books, 1989. Delbos, Victor, Matiere et Memoire, essai sur la relation du corps a 1'esprit, Revue de metaphysique et de morale, 1897: 353-89. Deleuze, Gilles, Bergsonisme, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1967; English translation by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam as Bergsonism, New York: Zone Books, 1991. Deleuze, Gilles, Bergson: 1859-1941, in Maurice Merleau-Ponty Lesphilosophes celebres, Paris: Mazenod, 1956, pp. 292-9. Deleuze, Gilles, La Conception de la difference chez Bergson, Les Etudes Bergsoniennes, Vol. 4, 1956: 77-112; English translation by Melissa Mcmahon as Bergson's Conception of Difference, in John Mullarkey



(ed.), The New Bergson, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999, pp. 42-65. Deleuze, Gilles, Difference et repetition, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1968; English translation by Paul Fatten as Difference and Repetition, New York: Columbia University Press, 1994. Deleuze, Gilles, Michel Tournier et le monde sans autrui, in Logique du sens, Paris: Minuit, 1969; English translation by Constantin Boundas as Michel Tournier and the World without Others, in The Logic of Sense, New York: Columbia University Press, 1990. Deleuze, Gilles, Cinema 1: L'Image-mouvement, Paris: Minuit, 1983; English translation by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam as Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986. Deleuze, Gilles, Cinema 2: L'Image-temps, Paris: Minuit, 1985; English translation by Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta as Cinema 2: The Time-Image, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989. Deleuze, Gilles, Theorie des multiplicites chez Bergson, 'une conference' (downloaded from the Internet at Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix, Qu'est-ce que la philosophic?, Paris: Minuit, 1991; English translation by Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell as What is Philosophy?, New York: Columbia University Press, 1994. Delhomme, Jeanne, Vie et conscience de la vie, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1954. Delhomme, Jeanne, Nietzsche et Bergson: La representation de la verite, Les etudes bergsoniennes, Vol. 5, 1960: 37-62. Derrida, Jacques, La voix et le phenomene, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1967; English translation by David B. Allison as Speech and Phenomenon, Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1973. Derrida, Jacques, Le Toucher -Jean-Luc Nancy, Paris: Galilee, 2000. Descartes, Rene, Meditationes de Prima Philosophia, Meditations Philosophiques, Paris: Vrin, 1978. Durie, Robin, (ed.), Time and the Instant, Manchester: Clinamen, 2000. Foucault, Michel, Les mots et les choses, Paris: Gallimard, 1966; English translation by anonymous translator as The Order of Things, New York: Random House, 1970. Foucault, Michel, L'Archeologie du savoir, Paris: Gallimard, 1969; English translation by Alan Sheridan as The Archeology of Knowledge, New York: Pantheon, 1972. Foucault, Michel, Nietzsche, la genealogie, 1'histoire, in Homage a Jean Hyppolite, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1971, pp. 145-72; English translation by Donald F. Bouchard and Sherry Simon as Nietzsche, Genealogy, History, in Language, Counter-Memory, Practice, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977, pp. 139-64. Foucault, Michel, Jean Hyppolite. 1907-1968, in Dits et ecrits, 1954-1988, Paris: Gallimard, 1994, pp. 770-85; originally published in Revue de Metaphysique et de morale, No. 2, 1969: 131-4. Freud, Sigmund, Das Unbewusste, in Gesammelte Werke, Zehnter Band: Werke aus denjahren 1913-1917, London: Imago Publishing Co., 1949, pp. 264-303; English translation by James Strachey as The Unconscious, in



Philip Rieff (ed.), General Psychological Theory., New York: Touchstone, 1997, pp. 116-50. Gilson, Bernard, La revision Bergsonienne de I'esprit, Paris: Vrin, 1996. Goddard, Jean-Christophe, Mysticisme et folie: Essai sur la simplicite, Paris: Desclee de Brouwer, 2002. Gottlieb, Noe, D'Une erreur fondamentale dans les 'Deux Sources' de M. Bergson, Revue des Etudes juives, Vol. XCV, No. 189, 1933: 4. Gouhier, Henri, Bergson et le Christ des evangiles, Paris: Fayard, 1961. Gutting, Gary, French Philosophy in the Twentieth Century, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Heidegger, Martin, Nietzsche, Der Wille zur Macht als Kunst, Vol. 1, Pfullingen: Neske, 1961; English translation by David Farrell Krell as The Will to Power as Art, in Nietzsche, Vol. 1, New York: Harper and Row, 1979. Heidegger, Martin, The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, translated by William Lovitt, New York: Harper and Row, 1977. Heidegger, Martin, Sein und Zeit, Tubingen: Niemeyer, 1979 [1927]; English translation by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson as Being and Time, New York: Harper and Row, 1962; New English translation by Joan Stambaugh as Being and Time, Albany: The SUNY Press, 1996. Heidegger, Martin, Basic Problems of Phenomenology, translated by Albert Hofstader, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982. Heidegger, Martin, The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic, translated by Michael Heim, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984. Herman, Daniel, La phenomenologie de 1'intensite, Revue Internationale de Philosophie, Vol. 45, No. 177, 1991: 122-9. Hicks, Scott E., Fecundity, Recommencement, and Memory. The Problem of Novelty in Levinas and Bergson, unpublished manuscript. Husserl, Edmund, Ideen zu einer reinen Phdnomenologie und phdnomenologischen Philosophie, I. Buck: Allgemeine Einfuhrung in die reine Phdnomenologie, Husserliana Band III, 1, Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1976; English translation by F. Kersten as Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1983. Husson, Leon, L'Intellectualisme de Bergson, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1947. Hyppolite, Jean, Figures de la pensee philosophique, Presses Universitaires de France, 1971. Hyppolite, Jean, Logique et existence, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1953; English translation by Leonard Lawlor and Amit Sen as Logic and Existence, Albany: The SUNY Press, 1997. Ingarden, Roman, Gesammelte Werke, Fruhe Shriften zur Erkenntnistheorie, Band 6 (Intuition undlntellekt bei Henri Bergson), Tubingen: Max Niemeyer, 1994. James, William, Varieties of Religious Experience, London: Longman, Green, and Co., 1904. James, William, The Writings of William James, New York: Random House, 1967. James, William, Collected Essays and Reviews, Bristol: Thoemmes Press, 1994 [1920]. Jankelevitch, Vladimir, Henri Bergson, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1959.



Lacey, A. R., Bergson, New York: Routledge, 1989. Lawlor, Leonard, Derrida and Husserl: The Basic Problem of Phenomenology, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002. Lawlor, Leonard, Thinking Through French Philosophy: The Being of the Question, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003. Lechalas, Georges, Matiere et memoire, d'apres un nouveau livre de M. Bergson, Annales de philosophic chretienne, May 1897: 147-64, June 1897: 314-34. Levinas, Emmanuel, Totalite et infini, Boston: Kluwer, 1961; English translation by Alphonso Lingis as Totality and Infinity, Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1969. Levinas, Emmanuel, Le Temps et I'autre, Paris: Fata Morgana, 1979; English translation by Richhard Cohen as Time and the Other and additional essays, Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1987. (The other essays are Diachrony and Representation, which first appeared in The University of Ottawa Quarterly, Vol. 55, No. 4, 1985, and The Old and the New, which first appeared in L'ancien et le nouveau, Paris: Edition du Cerf, 1982.) Levinas, Emmanual, Theorie de I'intuition dans la phenomenologie de Husserl, Paris: Vrin, 1984; English translation by Andre Orianne as The Theory of Intution in Husserl's Phenomenology, Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1973. Levinas, Emmanuel, Transcendance et Intelligibility Geneve: Labor et Fides, 1984; English translation by Simon Critchley and Tamra Wright as Transcendance and Intelligibility, in Adriaan T. Peperzak, Simon Critchley and Robert Bernasconi (eds), Basic Philosophical Writings, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996. Levinas, Emmanuel, En Decouvrant I'existence avec Husserl et Heidegger, Paris: Vrin, 2001, troisieme edition corrigee. Lindsay, A. D., The Philosophy of Bergson, London: Dent, 1911. Lucie-Smith, Edward, Joan of Arc, New York: Norton, 1976. Marion, Jean-Luc, Prolegomenes a la charite, Paris: La Difference, 1986. Maritain, Jacques, Bergsonian Philosophy and Thomism, translated by Mabelle L. Andison, in collaboration with J. Gordon Andison, New York: Philosophical Library, 1955. Matthews, Eric, Twentieth Century French Philosophy, New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, Phenomenologie de la perception, Paris: Gallimard, 1945; English translation by Colin Smith, revised by Forrest Williams as Phenomenology of Perception, New York: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1962. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, Signe, Paris: Gallimard, 1961; English translation by Richard C. McCleary as Signs, Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1964. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, Le Visible et I'invisible, Paris: Gallimard, 1964; English translation by Alphonso Lingis as The Visible and the Invisible, Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1968. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, In Praise of Philosophy and other Essays, translated by John Wild, James Edie and John O'Neill, Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1988.



Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, La nature, Paris: Seuil, 1995. Mullarkey, John, Duplicating the Flesh: Bergson and the Current Philosophy of the Body, Philosophy Today, Winter 1994: 339-55. Mullarkey, John, Bergson and Philosophy, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999. Mullarkey John, (ed.), The New Bergson, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999. Nietzsche, Friedrich, On the Genealogy of Morality, translated by Maudemarie Clark and Alan J. Swenson, Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1998. Peguy, Charles, (Euvres Poetiques Completes, Paris: Gallimard, 1957. Prado, Bento, Presence et champ transcendental: Conscience et negativite dans la philosophie de Bergson, presentation et traduction du portugais (Bresil) par Renaud Barbaras, Hildesheim: Georg Olrns Verlag, 2002. Robinet, Andre, Le Passage a la conception biologique de la perception, de 1'image et du souvenir chez Bergson, Etudes philosophiques, Vol. 15, No. 3, 1960: 375-88. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, The First and Second Discourses, translated by Roger D. and Judith R. Masters, edited by Roger D. Masters, New York: St Martin's Press, 1964. Sartre, Jean-Paul, L'imagination, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1936. Sartre, Jean-Paul, L'imaginaire, Paris: Gallimard, 1940. de Sevigne, Madame, Lettres, III, Paris: Gallimard, 1963. Simons, Margaret A., Bergson's Influence on Beauvoir's Philosophical Methodology, in Claudia Card (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Simone de Beauvoir, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Soulez, Phillipe, Bergson Politique, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1989. Trotignon, Pierre, Autre voie, meme voix, in Cahier de I'Herne: Emmanuel Levinas, Paris: Edition de I'Herne, 1991: 295-305. Vieillard-Baron, Jean-Louis, Bergson, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1991. Worms, Frederic, Bergson ou les deux sens de la vie, unpublished manuscript. Worms, Frederic, Introduction a Matiere et Memoire, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1998. Worms, Frederic, Le Vocabulaire de Bergson, Paris: Ellipses, 2000. Worms, Frederic, Bergson entre Russell et Husserl: un troisieme terme?, Rue Descartes, No. 29: 79-96. Worms, Frederic, Au-dela de 1'histoire et du caractere: 1'idee de philosophie Francaise, la Premiere Guerre mondiale et le moment 1900, Revue de Metaphysicque et de morale, No. 3, 2001: 63-81. Worms, Frederic, L'Intelligence gagnee par 1'intuition? La relation entre Bergson et Kant, Les Etudes philosophiques, No. 4, 2001: 453-64.

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abnormality 87, 89, 91, 100 the absolute 62 abstract 10, 20-1, 23, 52, 99, 122 action 2, 15, 17-19, 24, 32, 34, 36, 38, 40-1, 44, 47, 49-50, 52-4, 58, 64-5, 67-8, 70, 75, 77-9, 82, 89-91, 102, 107-8, 114-17, 120-6 acts of love 104 centre of action 14-15, 115 future action 32 and mysticism 79, 87, 89-91, 102 possible action 14-15, 17, 23, 40, 44, 64 present action 38, 54 real and virtual 24-5 and superior equilibrium 89 to turn away from action and matter 68 adaptation 32, 35, 61, 67 affection 4, 9, 11-12, 25, 36 allegory of the cave 56 alteration x, 62, 73, 82-3 alterity x, 62, 73, 75, 83 analogy of the sun 56 anxiety (inquietude) 102-3 aphasia 39, 73-4 aphrodisia 85-6, 95-8 appearance 5, 11, 40 archaeology xi, 85, 110-11 Aristotle ix, 28 art 8-10, 26, 69, 82, 99, 104, 123, 127 artistic creation 9, 80, 82 an artist painting a portrait 81-2 the artistic picture 8-9 artless general ideas 68 artless symbol 52 artifice 2, 10-11, 26, 32, 52, 67, 69, 72, 99 artificial extension of vital needs 86 artificial intelligence 16, 30 artificial metaphysical constructs 67 artificial needs 96, 134 artificial obscurity 2 artificial self 99 asceticism xi-xii, 86-7, 96-8, 102-3, 106, 111

associationism 36-7 astronomy xi, 111 automatic recognition 72 automaton 35, 53, 74, 89 balance 56, 78, 87-8, 99-100, 108-9 becoming 48-9, 53, 82, 113 being ix-x, 3, 7, 22, 42-4, 49, 53, 57, 60, 79, 113 as conscious presence 57 conceived as time 49, 57 a doubling of being 43 for us 7, 22 in itself 7, 22 as memory ix roots of our being 79 senses of being x, 42-3, 49, 53, 57 Bergsonism, basic principle of 1,11 Berkeley, George 5 biology 92 blindness 14, 17 psychic blindness 25-6 the body 3, 11-17, 21, 23, 27-8, 31, 47-8, 52, 57, 59, 74, 114-15, 118, 120, 122 acquisition of bodies 55-6 bodily functions 23-4, 67 bodily injury 33 bodily movement 38-9 bodily needs 64 bodily pleasure 95 known from the inside 11,16 known from the outside 11 the lived body (Leib) 16, 28 as a machine 15-16 memory of the body 31 and the soul, see the soul the brain 1, 12-19, 24, 29-30, 39, 45, 53, 117 as instrument of analysis 16-17 as instrument of selection 17 damaged by a lesion 39, 45, 58 as storehouse of memories 30 makes indetermination possible 53



causal connection 42-3, 45, 79 cause and effect 53, 79 chain of appearances 41, 45 change 7, 14, 34, 53, 55, 80, 82, 112-13 character 41, 51, 54-5, 58, 77-8, 124 charity 109 charlatanism 87 choice 1, 14-15, 18, 115-16 Christianity 108-9 Christian ideal 97 chrysalis 6-7, 9, 21-22, 24, 65, 101 cinema 8, 129 civilization 85-6, 93, 96-7 closed 41, 89-90, 92, 100 closed morality 89-90 closed society 92, 100 closedness of the past 41 colour 5-7, 9-10, 23-4, 28, 51 communication 16-17, 105 communities 92-4 complexity 6, 9, 19-20, 23, 53, 64, 67, 82 computer 16 the concept of absolute justice 109 of the concept x of duration ix, 52, 62 of the dynamic schema 53, 75-7 of the image xiii, 1, 4-5, 18, 21-2, 27, 64 of intuition 63 of memory xi, 27, 110 of perception 1 of presence 1, 27, 49 of sense x, 63, 757 of vibration 7 of the will to live 99 concession to idealism 5 conditions of experience, a priori 54-5 necessary condition of war 92 sufficient condition of war 92-3 the cone x-xi, 28-30, 34, 43-54, 56-7, 60, 68-9, 72, 75, 77-8, 110-11, 118-19, 131 the base 46-50, 56, 72 the summit 46-50, 56-7, 68, 72, 126 confidence 88, 99 connection to light 64 logical connection 42-3, 45, 124 between matter and memory 30, 41-3, 57 between memory and being x between the survival of the past and the absolutely new 82 between two forms of memory 47, 72 conscience xii, 7 consciousness x, xii-xiii, 1, 3, 5, 7, 13, 18-21, 27-8, 39, 41-4, 46, 49, 57, 60-3, 69-70, 100-1, 107, 119, 122, 124, 126

the conscious and the unconscious 100-1, 107 consciousness of the body 57 conscious perception 18-24 conscious subjectivity 49 conscious syntheses 18 enlarging consciousness 63, 65, 69-70 a function of the unconscious 49 immediate data of consciousness 62-3 presentation to consciousness 42-5, 48-9 present consciousness 57 synonymy between consciousness and existence 40, 43 conservation 20, 23, 33, 35, 38, 45 of our past 113 of the species 92, 95, 97 constitution of objects 18 of representations 27 contact 5, 65, 92-4 contemplation 14-15, 17, 24, 44, 49-50, 56, 58, 102-3, 105, 120-6 contiguity 50-1, 105 continuity 6-7,9 11,25-6,48-50,53, 64, 70, 79-80, 126-7 of becoming 48-9, 53 continuous line 25-6 continuous movement of intellectual effort 50 continuous whole 31 contraction 19, 51-4, 67, 69, 71, 117-19 of habits of action and thinking 67 psychological state of tension or contraction 90 conversation 72, 101 copy 6, 55-6, 105-6 creation 80-3, 89, 91, 98, 104, 108, 112, 119-26 of beings who love to create 108 creative duration 112-15 creative emotion x, 79, 83, 99, 104 creative repetition 107 creativity 77 critical philosophy 68 Crusoe, Robinson 68 custom 2, 89-90 customary direction of thought 64-5, 68 customary maxims 100 death 10, 59, 61, 68-9, 88, 102, 135 the dead weight of the past 40, 61 a vision of death 88 De Beauvoir Simone x, 135 deception 97-8 decision 41,55,58,82,115
decoupage 8, 10



Index deduction (continued) consciousness deduced from matter 27, 60 the future deduced from the present 11, 41 of the material world 48 perception deduced from matter 18 Delbos, Victor xiii Deleuze, Gilles xi-xii, 54, 62, 128-33 democracy 109-10 depth 6, 8-9, 65, 79, 106-7 Derrida, Jacques 5, 27-8, 54, 61-2, 130 Descartes, Rene 2, 12, 17, 115, 129 desire 90, 105-6 destruction 33, 39, 51, 59, 65 of the body 59 of brain cells 39, 59 of habits 33 of the image 65 of memories 51 detachment 24, 34, 54, 88, 101-2, 117, 120 detour 100, 104, 106 development 76 dialectic 72 difference 4, 7, 21, 26, 30, 40-3, 72-4, 76, 81 deep repetition of 98 difference in complication 15 difference in direction 32-5, 43, 98 differentiation xiii, 4, 9, 11, 38, 51, 72, 89, 91 quantitative and qualitative differences 82 between supra-intellectual and infra-intellectual emotions 104 difference of degree xii, 10-11, 17, 22, 30, 34, 37, 42-4, 48, 52, 60, 104, 122 between love of family and love of nation 104 in sexuality 95, 98 difference in kind 89-90, 104 between open and closed morality 89-90 between patriotism and mystical love 104 difference in nature 4, 9, 11-13, 15-17, 22, 26, 29-32, 35-6, 38-9, 42-3, 48, 60, 70, 89-90 between intuition and language 70-1 between memory and perception 30, 36, 38 between habit-memory and regressive memory 35, 131 between infra- and supra-intellectual emotion 104-6, 131 between matter and memory 48, 60 between spirit and matter xii diminution 7, 22, 24, 36, 45, 51 direction 2-3, 7, 22, 32-5, 37, 43, 48, 52, 57, 64, 68-70, 75, 77-9, 81, 83, 86, 88, 99, 107, 119-20, 123


directed toward action 79, 87 of expression 83 of formulas 88 good sense as bi-directional 78 ill-directed industry 97 of the love of all beings 98 misdirection (tromperie) 86, 97-9, 110, 135 of sexuality 97 of thought 64 the turn of experience as bi-directional 69-70 of what returns from the past to the present 99 discernment 22, 24 discontinuity 7, 80, 121 discourse 61-2 disequilibrium/imbalance 87-9, 91, 99-100 distance 18-19, 24, 65, 72 the divided line 55-6 division 21, 26, 82 indivisibility 82, 113 of the personality 26 of physiological labour 15, 67 of words 70 dogmatism 67-8 doubling 55, 58, 60, 107 of consciousness with the unconscious 58 double direction of good sense 78 double frenzy 86-7 double movement of the cone 48, 118, 120 double viewpoints 69 double vision 26 duality of forces 91 of good sense 56 of matter and memory 43, 56, 60, 69 the paradox of the double 99, 107 of the present with the past 58 of the psychological state and the material object 42 of the self 99 of what the other person has said 77 drawing 24-5, 52 dreams 13, 17, 34-5, 68, 70, 78, 118, 121-2, 127 dualism xi, xiii, 3, 30, 55, 60, 115 duplication 7, 105-7 duration ix-x, xiii, 16, 19, 21-2, 48, 52, 60, 62-3, 66, 70, 79-83, 112-15, 133 creative duration 112-15, 120, 124-6 formula for ix, 83 historical duration 114 inexpressibility of the intuition of 83 the logic of duration 82-3 relationship to things 115 thinking in terms of ix duty 89-90

dynamism dynamic dynamic dynamic 23, 52, 78 process 47-8 religion 87, 89-90, 99, 101 schema x, 53, 75-8

Index of difference 73 of duration 62, 83 exceptional experiences 99 false experience 67 fragmented, detached and discontinuous experience 66, 70 human experience 68, 70 of the impetus of love 90 of the instant 21 intersubjective experience 66 of matter 21 of memory 58, 61 mystical experience xi, 86, 91, 99-102, 105-8, 110 of obligation's inflexibility 90 of the other 61 of pleasure 95-6 of the reciprocal implication of emotion and image xi, 110 religious experience xi of repetition 21 of spirit 30 true experience 67-8 turn of 2, 4, 10, 62, 68-9 of union with God 102-3 uninterrupted experience 65 of the vital impetus 99 expression 83, 101 extension 4, 9, 19-20, 38, 40, 121-3 exteriority 13, 20, 27, 102, 115 externalisation of the experience of inflexibility 90 external objects 14, 17, 20, 42 external perception 1,15 external things 1 external world 1-2, 12, 41 of the will and action 102-3

echo 106-7 ecstasis 118-20 ecstasy 79, 87 effects 32, 35, 39, 47, 52 effort 31-2, 36, 50, 64-5, 70, 72, 74, 82, 89, 117-21, 125-7 egoism 88, 92-3, 100 elan vital 62, 98-100, 102-3, 131-2 element 35-6, 76-7 equality 108-9 equilibrium, superior 56, 79, 87 emotion 25, 78-9, 83, 95, 99-101, 103-4, 107, 110 creative emotion 79, 83, 99, 104, 131 emotional disturbances 87, 100 the force of religion or intuition or emotion 99 infra- and supra-intellectual 104-7 of the mystic 90, 99-100 a new and original emotion 105 relation with image 86,100,103,106, 110, 131 empiricism 66, 68, 70, 99 classic versus true 66 superior empiricism 99 enclosed in one society 79 in particular linguistic conventions 72, 74 in the present 20-1 enlargement 2, 7, 70 of consciousness 63, 65, 69-70 equilibrium 78-9, 109 essence 53-4, 76, 122-3, 126 eternal 54 quasi-eternal singularities 60 ethics x-xi, 62, 85, 89, 110 events 51, 76-7 an unrepeatable event 80 evolutionary argument 15,17 existence 9, 13, 30, 38-40, 43-4, 49, 60 the central metaphysical problem of existence 29, 38-9, 42-3 identification of consciousness with existence 40 a new philosophical idea of existence 44 of the past 121, 123-4 two conditions of existence 45-6, 124 experience 2, 10, 21, 26, 29, 54, 58, 63, 66-7, 72 of alterity or alteration 73, 76 of a priori conditions 54 of death 61,68

the fabulation function 88-9, 101, 133 factual perception 19, 24, 47 feeling 36-8, 50, 63-4, 70, 78, 88, 100, 102, 104-6 fiction 2, 13 of the destruction of the world 13 the flesh 16,28 fleshism 1, 16 flow 63, 66, 75 force 25,83,90-1,99,110 duality of forces 91 foresight 41, 87, 97 the unforeseeable 76, 82, 113 forgetfulness/forgetting 21, 51, 54-8, 60, 113, 131 form 10, 69, 74, 98-9, 106-7, 110 created by repetition 107 distinguished from content 108 fluidity of 99 formalized self 99

Index form (continued) formation of the ears and throat muscles 74 forms of life 111 forms of memory 19, 47, 72 hooked and folded 99 of the mystical experience 100, 108 new forms of freedom and equality 110 the point where form is transformed 107 of what returns 99 Foucault, Michel 62, 131-2, 135 fragmentation of experience 66-7, 70 freedom 2, 24, 35, 72, 110, 112, 115-16 and necessity 11, 34 frenzy 86-7, 96-9 functions 22-4, 88-9, 101 the future 11, 16, 32, 34-5, 38, 40, 43, 53, 80-3, 99, 102-3, 110, 120, 123-6 already seen 99 the coming moment 81-3 dangers of 88 moving forward into 102 open to progress 110 the past turns back into the future 107 of the species 103 genealogy xi, 85, 110-11 general ideas 23, 50-2, 58, 61, 68, 70, 72-3, 76, 78 dynamic 23, 56, 76 static and inert 10, 23, 52, 61, 68, 70, 76-7 genuine experience of matter 7 geometry 6, 23-6 God 13, 62, 95, 101-3, 134 good sense 2, 56, 78-9, 103 superior good sense 79, 103 the Greeks 45, 87, 103, 109 grey zone 24, 69-70, 111, 131 habit 2, 25, 32-5, 40, 43, 47, 50, 52-3, 56, 61, 67-8, 70-4, 85, 92, 99, 117-18 the force of nature or instinct or habit 99 habit-memory 33-5, 43, 47, 67 the habit of contracting habits 67, 71 the habit of erasing resemblances between objects and states 40 habituation 89-90 motor habit 52-3,74,117 hallucinations 13-14, 17, 19, 34-5, 88, 101 harmony 64, 66, 105 hearing 64, 74, 77, 106 Heidegger, Martin ix-x, 28, 44-5, 49, 57, 60-1, 128, 130, 135 hesitation 16, 18-19, 24, 53, 81, 99 history 114 Hoffding, Harald 63 homogeneity 10, 82


humanity 79, 89, 97-8, 104, 106-10 divine humanity xi, 108 human experience 2 human fraternity 98 human genus xi, 108, 110 human intelligence 87 leaders of humanity 98 love for all humanity 89, 104, 106, 109 need to transform humanity 108 super-humanity xi, 108 hunger 94-5 Husserl, Edmund 13, 62, 132 Husson, Leon 49, 131 Hymenoptera 92 the hyphen 33, 36, 47, 49, 52 hypothesis 2-4, 6, 11-13, 17, 19-20, 29 hypothesis of pure perception 19, 27 hypothesis of weaker and stronger states 36-7 opening hypothesis 2-4, 6, 11-12, 14 Hyppolite, Jean x, 53, 56, 112-27, 131-2

ideas 44, 51-2, 55-6, 60, 75, 90, 117 Bergsonian versus Platonic ideas 56 clear and distinct 23 dynamic and static see general ideas the idea of the darkest night 102 the idea of the good 56-7,60,70 immobility of ideas 55-6, 60 nebulosity of 51, 77 ideal 20-21, 23, 96-7 ascetic ideal xi-xii, 96, 106 idealism 1-5, 9, 12 identification of memory with weak sensation 37-8 of consciousness with existence 40-3 identity x, 56 idle talk 87-8 illusion 8, 19-20, 77, 90, 106, 124 image xiii, 1, 3-14, 18, 22, 25, 27-8, 32-38, 45-6, 51, 55, 64-5, 72, 76-7, 99-100, 103, 106, 108, 110, 117-26, 129-31 the brain as one image among others 45 of the cone see the cone) of evil spirits 88 of God 108 imaging ix, 26 imaged self 99 movement-image 8, 129 of the pendulum 56, 78, 85-6, 89 proliferation of 88 relation with emotion 86, 100, 103, 106, 110 of the universe 13 imagination ix, 8, 10, 36, 88, 101, 120-1 to imagine is not to remember ix, 35, 121 imitation 99, 107


Index intensity of action 18 of sensation 38, 95 intentionality 27-8 interest 22-23, 35, 38-40, 44, 67, 116, 122, 124 disinterestedness 88, 92 interiority 13, 19-20, 27, 63, 70, 101, 115, 122, 134 interior organization of movement 8 interior life 40, 63, 70-1, 75, 79 internal complication 77 internal continuity 8 internal voice 101, 103 interruption 64-5 intersubjectivity x, 66 interval 10, 16, 24-5, 41, 53, 64, 99 intuition x, xii, 3, 7, 23, 50, 61-71, 76-9, 82-3, 99, 112-13, 116-17, 121, 126 of duration in mystical rapture 79 as good sense 78 method of xiii, 50, 63-70 of pure duration 112 of sense 77 thinking starts with intuition 64 as a turning from action to spirit 68 of the whole 76 invention 2, 10, 49, 71, 88,92-3,112, 120, 134 inversion of the senses 64 of thought 68 Israel 108 Jesus Christ 89, 108, 135 Joan of Arc 108 joy 79, 100-2, 105, 107 justice 108-9 absolute justice xi, 109-10 formula of 109-10 passion for justice 108 juxtaposition 80 Kant, Immanuel 54, 89-90, 134 knowledge 2-3, 15, 17, 19, 23, 25, 68, 78, 85, 118-26, 131 of language 73 two ways of knowing 44 true knowledge 2, 10 language 10, 53, 61-3, 69-75, 77-8, 117 the absolute of language 71 linguistic convention 71-4 linguistic formula 107 particular languages 71, 73-5 philosophy of x, 62-3, 70, 72 the whole of language 71-2, 75 writing 83

immanence xi, 62, 82 of consciousness 13 immanent sense ix the immediate 61, 68-9 immediate communication 8 immediate consciousness xii-xiii, 2, 61, 124 immediate contact 18 immediate data xii-xiii, 3 immediate development 78 immediate experience 2-3, 70 immediate perception 19-21, 23^1 immediate reaction 24 immediately in the midst of ideas 75 immediately in the past 50 linguistic immediacy 61 the immutable 45 impassibility 54, 80 impersonal 20, 30, 33-5, 39, 51 impetus 62, 90-1, 98-100, 102-3, 108, 113-16, 120-7 boundless 103 for Christian mysticism 108 of love 90-1 to move beyond contemplation 102 vital 62, 98-100, 102-3 implication 77, 99-100, 106 reciprocal implication 100, 103, 106 impoverishment 76, 95-6, 98 indeterminacy 18-19, 24 indetermination 18, 25, 53, 115-16 indetermination of motor actions 18 individuality 23, 75 individual action 52 individual consciousness 19 society and individuals 90, 92, 100 industry 93-4, 97 inner life (see interior life) insanity 79, 83 madness 86-8, 133 mental illness 87-9, 100 morbid states 87, 89, 91 phrenesia 86 inspiration 105, 107 instantaneous 7, 20-21, 23-5, 36 quasi-instantaneous section of becoming 48-9 instinct 63-4, 92, 95, 129, 131 the war instinct 86, 91-4 intelligence 49-50, 52, 64, 75, 87-8, 90-2, 97-8, 107, 117, 121, 126, 131 humiliation of 87 infra-intellectual emotion 104, 106, 131 intellectual and social plane 83 intellectual work 78 intelligibility 45, 52 plane of intelligence 91, 107 supra-intellectual emotion 104-5, 131 tool-making intelligence 92, 98

Index laughter 8, 10 law 18-19, 92 of the two fold frenzy 99 League of Nations 86 leap 25, 41, 50-3, 70, 73, 77-9 learning a lesson by heart 31-3, 35 Levinas, Emmanuel x, 54, 59, 61-2, 85, 128, 132 life x, 7-8, 10, 22, 25, 32, 34-5, 45, 51, 58-9, 63, 65, 68, 79, 85-6, 88, 101-2, 104, 106-7, 123, 127 attention to life 34, 58-9, 61, 68, 114-17, 120-1, 124-6 detachment from 88, 101-2 life's necessities 22, 34 memory turns back into life 107 the point where memory turns back into life 85-6 requirements of 7 a simpler life 102 a superabundance of 103 light 5-6, 10, 23-5, 55, 64, 68-9, 78, 111 love 62, 78-9, 83-4, 89-91, 96, 98, 104-6, 110 of all beings 89, 98, 104, 106 of all humanity 89, 104, 106, 109 more metaphysical than moral 110 mystical love 104 and pleasure 106 of pleasure 96,98 romantic love 10 superior love 84 luxury 23, 86, 94, 96, 102, 130


machine 15-16, 28, 130, 134 mechanical repetition see repetition magic 88, 133 Malebranche, Nicolas 121 materialism, see matter mathematics mathematical point 21 mathematical problem 77 matter xii-xiii, 1, 4-5, 7-13, 15-21, 29-30, 42-3, 48, 56, 65, 69, 107, 115-16, 119, 123-4, 126-7 animate matter 107 fall into matter 56 material cause and effect 53 material destruction 45 material energy 9 material life 8 material object 22, 42, 45 material reality 55 material universe 23, 40, 57 material world 11-14, 17, 48 materialism 1-5, 9, 29 the materiality of our existence 48 the materiality of memory 36-7, 39

the plane of the material universe 57 return to matter 69 the source of forgetfulness 56 to turn away from action and matter 68 a vision of matter 8, 20 on which tools work 93-4 meaning 2 logical meaning 76 mechanism 16, 21, 32, 39 motor mechanism 17 mediation 20, 61, 68, 72, 78 memory ix-xi, 8, 11, 16, 19-24, 26-9, 31-9, 42-4, 48-52, 55, 58, 60, 63-4, 68-70, 72, 75-6, 80-1, 85-6, 99, 101, 107, 110, 112-13, 116-21, 124-5 active memory and memorization 32, 35, 107 actualized/materialized in sensations 36-7 connection between two forms of memory 47 constantly new organization 81 effort of memory 19 elimination of memory 20-21 habit-memory 32-5, 39, 43, 49, 72, 118 of an invisible and silent presence 101 memorized self 99 memory as an experience 58, 63 memory turns back into life 85-6, 107 not just psychological but ontological 110, 130 as a power absolutely independent of matter 30 primacy of ix, 28, 30, 60 progressive memory 32, 49 regressive memory 33-5, 39, 43, 46, 49-50, 53 as subjective, personal and interior 1920 supple memory 117-18 true memory 46-7, 49 two forms of memory 19,31-5,47,72, 131 memories (souvenirs) 1921, 28, 306, 40-2, 45-6, 49-50, 53-5, 58, 69, 81, 85, 114, 117-22, 125 chain of memories 45 conservation of memories 45-6 covered over by others 85 the impassibility of memories 54 inserting memories 16, 28, 38, 46-7, 51-3, 58, 81 memory-image (image-souvenir) 33-7, 39, 44, 47, 50-1, 53, 72, 78, 82, 85, 101, 110 metaphysics of (see metaphysics) pure memories 65, 120, 122, 131 singular memories 50-1 unconscious memories 69 Merleau-Ponty, Maurice ix, 1,18, 25, 28, 54, 128-30


Index habit-memory more natural than regressive memory 34 laws of 124 misdirection of nature 86, 97 natural articulations 6, 9 natural continuity of images 10 natural function of procreation 97 natural image 9 natural love absorbed into a supernatural feeling 106 natural necessity 34 natural need 90 natural obedience to obligation 90 natural order 10 natural restoration of balance 88 source of static religion 89 trumpery of 86, 97-9, 110 and war 91-2 necessity 11,21-23,34,41 need 22-25, 50, 61, 64, 67, 86, 89-90, 131 artificial needs see artifice) ascending scale of 96 basic 95 inferior needs 10 for luxuries 94, 96 for stability 90 the new ix-x, 11, 16, 62, 74, 80-3, 104-5, 112-13 Nietzsche, Friedrich xi, 28, 44, 91, 99, 108, 110, 132-5

metaphysics xi, xiii, 1-3, 7, 38, 52, 55, 57, 67, 69-70, 80, 110, 123 dogmatic metaphysics 67 a metaphysical concept 52 a metaphysical distinction 41 metaphysical dualism xii metaphysics of memory 28-9, 55, 57, 60-1, 130 the central metaphysical problem of existence 29, 38-9, 42-3, 57 the Milky Way x, 33, 51 misdirection (tromperie) 86, 97-8 mobility 8, 55-7, 60, 129 monism xii-xiii, 60 morality 71, 85-6, 133 moral duties 67 moral initiators 89 moral judgements 85 moral obligation 89, 100, 108 moral prescriptions 62 moral theory 62, 85, 90-1 open and closed 89, 97 the origins of morality and religion 85-6 motor see habit, mechanism, schema, tendency movement x, 6-9, 12, 14-17, 33, 38, 44-5, 47-50, 60, 72, 80, 100, 103, 110, 118-20, 129 between asceticism and sexuality 86 circular movement of conditioning 100 of the cone 48-9, 51-4, 56-7, 60, 69, 110, 118, 120 of contraction 51-2 from emotion to words 83 of intelligence 50 movement-image 8, 60, 129 moving in place 7-8 of the plane 48-9 progressive movement 49 of thought 50 multiplicity x, 8, 19, 50-1, 76, 119, 121-2 music 96, 104, 107 mysticism 79, 86-91, 97, 99-108, 110-11, 126, 129, 134-5 charity as the essence of 109 Christian mysticism 102, 108 complete and incomplete 102, 135 mystical experience xi, 86, 91, 99-102, 105-8, 110 mystical love 104, 106 mystical rapture 79, 87, 89, 101 will of the mystic 102-3

nature 8-10, 16 , 34, 53, 69, 71, 82, 85-6, 88-9, 101, 105-6, 110, 113, 116, 131 deceived by humanity 97 denaturation 10

objectivity 4, 6, 9, 19-20, 27-8, 30, 39, 44 love that has no object 89 objectifying look 66 the objective world 3 objectivism x objects in space 40-2, 123-4 obligation 33, 67, 70-1, 89-90 particular obligations versus the whole 90 ontology ix-x, xiii, 28, 43, 57, 59-61, 110 open 10, 40 open morality 89-90, 99 openness of the future 41 order 4, 33, 40, 50-2 order of appearance 33 order of perceptions 4 order of the series of objects in space and states in time 41 organization 25, 32, 81 origin 55, 58, 85, 104 archaeology of originary experience xi, 110 of morality and religion 85 mysticism as a genuine origin 104 of the present 55,58 the other 59, 61-2, 66, 78 the outside 12, 72-3, 101

Index pain 35-7, 82 painting 26 passage 53-5, 58, 68-9, 80 the past 20-21, 28, 33-5, 38, 44-6, 49-51, 53-7, 60, 75, 77, 80, 99, 102, 107, 113-26 being denned in terms of the past 49 coexistance of the past with the present 55 distinction between past and present 113, 116 irreversibility of the past 81-2 past as container of the present 46 past life 33-5 a past that was never present 54-6, 58, 76, 131 the past truly given in the present 21 the past turns back into the present 107 the present repeats the past 58, 82 regions of the past 46, 51, 75, 77 return of 99 thinking in terms of the past 57 vision fades into the past 102 pendulum 56, 78, 85-6, 89, 96, 98, 102, 105, 108 perception ix, 1-2, 4, 7, 11, 14, 17-25, 28-30, 32-3, 35-8, 44, 47-8, 53, 55, 61, 65, 72, 81, 101, 112, 115, 117, 122, 130 deduced from matter 18, 27 to perceive is not to remember ix perception repeats memory 55 perceptual images 32-3, 35-6, 38, 47, 52, 55, 67, 81-2 primacy ofi x, 11, 28, 60 thick perception 20, 25, 36, 47 true perception of matter 65 the unperceived 7, 41-2 personality 106-7 perversion 58-9 phenomenology ixx, 1, 5, 13, 18, 278, 54, 60 phenomenology of perception 18, 28, 130 phenomenological elaborations of sense 77 phenomenological reduction 2 philosophy of language x, 62-3, 70, 72 modern philosophy 44-5 philosophical method xiii, 2, 23, 63-4, 68-70, 72 photography 24, 28 physical qualities 5 piano 7 picture 5-6, 8, 10 plane of immanence xii of intelligence 91, 107 of representation 46-8


Plato 55-8, 60, 109 anti-Platonism 111 Platonic forgetfulness 56-8, 60 Plato's republic 109 Platonic ideas 55-6, 60 Platonism ix-x, 28-9, 42-5, 49, 55-8, 60 Platonic reminiscence 55-7, 122 Platonic sun x, 111 reversing Platonism ix-xi, 28-9, 44-5, 49, 55-8, 60, 110-11 pleasure 94-8, 100-1, 105-7 Plotinus 126 plurality 6-7, 16-17, 19 poetry 80, 82, 107, 127 poverty 23, 26, 130 power 38-9, 91, 99 impotence of pure memory 39, 51, 123, 125, 131 of the vital impetus 99 practicality 68, 73, 78 the point where memory turns back into life 85-6 prayer 107 pregnancy 6, 19, 40, 79 presence x, 1, 4-5, 9, 22, 24, 27, 49, 57, 88, 100-1, 103 efficacious presence 88 invisible presence 101 the present 11, 20-21, 28, 32, 34-5, 38^0, 43-50, 52-8, 60, 76, 78, 82, 99, 112-14, 117-21, 124-6 coexistence of the past with the present 55 distinction between past and present 113, 116 knowledge of the past 114 mythological present of Platonic ideas 55 a past that was never present (see the past) presentation to consciousness 42-5, 48-9 the present as a function of the past 54 present consciousness 57 present experience 54 present image 22 present objects 29, 40-2 the present repeats the past 58, 82 the present situation 76, 78 the pure present 53 pride 93, 96 priority of intuition over language 62-3 of language over intuition 61-2 of movement over things 8,10 of vision 5, 64 problems 50, 52, 58 badly stated problems 2 procreation see sense progress 32, 49, 53, 78, 80 progression 55


Index reflection 24, 64, 87-8, 98-9, 117, 124, 126 reflex 15, 17, 99 relativity of particular languages 71 relative justice 109 of sense 75 to the universe 22 relaxation 58-9, 61, 121, 123, 125 religion 85-90, 133-4 reminiscence 56-8, 122 repetition 32-5, 39, 50, 52-A, 58, 74, 77, 80-1, 104-7, 112, 124 creative repetition 107 of difference 98 mechanical repetition 107, 109, 133 perception repeats memory 55 the present repeats the past 58 repeatability of the form 98 of the same 21, 98 representation x, 4, 7, 9-10, 12-14, 17, 19, 22-24, 27, 29-30, 32-3, 46, 50, 52, 62, 64, 76, 78-9, 90-1, 101, 104-6, 109, 114, 118-19, 130 creative emotions precede representations 104-5 engendering representations 29 object of mystic's love cannot be represented 106 the plane of my actual representation of the universe 46-7 veracity of our representations 13 reproduction 33-4, 41, 112, 117 resemblance 40-1, 43, 50, 52, 54, 73, 1067 resistance 90-2, 100 reversal ix, 1,14, 28-9, 44-5, 49, 55, 57-8, 60, 64, 91, 105-6, 110-11 reversing Platonism see Platonism rhythm 7, 21, 65, 70, 75, 78, 126, 129 Rimbaud, Arthur 115 Rousseau, Jean-Jaques 105,134

prolongation 15, 19-20, 22, 32-3, 35, 38-9, 47, 53, 72, 80 promises 33, 40, 103 property 92 proportion 18-19, 108-9 psychology xiii, 25, 30-1, 36, 40 psychological analysis 3 the psychological domain 40, 43 psychological error 89-90 psychological state of tension 90 psychological states of unbalance 89, 91, 100 psychological theories of association 36 reality of psychological states 45 punster (faiseur de calembours) 83 purity pure action 56 pure alteration 62 pure becoming 62 pure consciousness xii pure contemplation 56 pure duration xiii, 112, 114 pure experience of death 59 pure experience of life 58-9 pure forgetfulness 56 pure image 4 pure knowledge 14 pure memory 36, 39, 49-51, 53, 56, 58-9, 65, 110 pure movement 62 pure past 55 pure perception 1, 17, 19-25, 29, 36, 47 adds nothing new to the image 22 as objective, impersonal and external 20 as superficial repetition 21 pure variation 62 pure vision 20-3 questions relating to subject and object ix the question of where memories are stored 33 the real 10, 14 realism 1-2, 4, 12, 18 reality 1, 4, 30-1, 40, 48, 66 of spirit xii, 30 recognition 26, 63, 72-4, 78, 101, 118, 126 attentive and inattentive recognition 72-4 auscultation 65-6, 101 auto-affection 99, 101 false recognition 125 reductionism 1-2, 9, 30 intuition irreducible to unintelligent feeling 50 conditions of experience irreducible to experience 54

the same x, 61, 82, 98 Sartre, Jean-Paul x, 121, 129-30 Scheler, Max x schema 25, 93-4 inert schema 10 motor schema 74-5, 77 Schneider 26 science xii, 3, 7, 16, 25, 45, 94, 134 innate science of the mystic 103 metaphysics as a science 69 the remotest aspiration of xii, 3, 7, 16, 25 scientific attitude 12 the scientific body 16 schizophrenia 26 sensation 36-8, 44, 51, 95, 98, 104-5, 121

Index sense 10, 62-3, 75, 77-9, 97-9, 101, 117-18, 123 common sense 2-3, 56 different ontological senses of matter and memory 42 fluidity of 99 good sense 2, 56, 78-9 immanent sense ix procreative sense 96-7, 99, 105 sens 2-3, 64, 68, 97-9 senses of being x, 42-3, 49, 53 sentir 64-5 Sinn 2, 99 the senses 24, 64, 70 Sevigne, Madame de 83-4, 98, 134 sexuality 86, 94-7, 106, 130 Shakespeare, William 83 singularity x, 50-3, 56-7, 60, 72-4, 77-8, 81, 106 singular events 77 singularity of the future 81 society closed society 92, 100, 109-10, 129 democratic society 109 habits and conventions of 79, 92 and individuals 90, 92, 100 intellectual and social plane 83 language as social 61-2 sociability and unsociability 92 social cohesion 88-9, 91-2 social life 67-8, 70-1, 88 social needs 3, 70-1 social solidarity extended 98 socialization of the truth 3, 70, 129 the soul 12, 31, 45, 55, 58-60, 79, 82-3, 100-1, 106-7, 114-15 and the body 12, 31, 55, 59, 114-15 depths of 79, 100, 106-7 elevation of 101 memory of 31 of the mystic 102-3 space ix, xiii, 6, 8, 11, 19, 40-2, 48, 114-15, 121, 123-4 speculation 2, 14, 39, 54, 78, 122 spirit xii-xiii, 1, 4, 10-11, 13, 16, 21, 30-1, 34, 39, 58, 65, 68-9, 74, 83, 107, 112, 116-25 evil spirits 88 grafted onto matter 21 independent reality of spirit 58 intuition as a turning to spirit 68 of invention 94 palpable experience of 30 sexual pleasure not spiritual 96 spirit of invention 10, 94 spirit of philosophy 71 spiritual auscultation 65 spiritual energy 9 spiritualism 2


spiritualization of impressions 15 the war-spirit 92, 97 stars 102, 110-11, 132 staticity 23, 68, 70, 72-3, 77 static ideas see general ideas static religion 87-8, 101 St John of the Cross 102 subjectivity 4, 19-20, 27-8, 30, 39, 49 conscious subjectivity 49 subjectivism x, 28-9, 29, 42-4, 49, 57, 60 succession 6, 8, 40, 112-13, 115 survival 31-3, 35, 39, 45, 59, 61, 80-1 of memories 33,51,58-9 of the past 80-1, 83 of representations 33 switchboard/telephonic desk 15-17, 24, 28 symbol 10, 52, 69, 76-7, 130 symbolic attitude 8 symbolic vision 76,101-3,106,110 sympathy 66

telescope x-xi, 51, 55, 57, 111, 130 tendency 23, 77, 90, 98 motor tendency 25 tests 100-3 theory 2-3, 20 moral theories 62, 85 theoretical justification 85 theoretical objectives 87-9 theoretism 62 theory of duration 63 theory of intuition 63 theory of pure perception 20, 25 theory of perception 11 theories of association 36 things 4, 9, 20, 24, 45, 47, 52, 130 corporeal things 114 a thing that moves 8 love of all things 89, 98, 104, 106 relationship to duration 115 thinking/thought ix, 34, 50, 56-7, 62-4, 67-8, 72, 75, 79, 98, 126-7 ancient thought 45 generated by creative emotions 79 the movement of thought 56 the relation of thought to the unthought 62-3 speaking without thought 74 thought of being 60 thought experiment 13-15, 17 time ix, xiii, 8, 11, 18-19, 28, 40-2, 44, 53-4, 57, 60, 65-6, 81, 113, 124 Aristotle's view reversed ix, 28 listening to time 65 questions of subject and object put in terms of ix reconceiving time 57 states in time and objects in space 40


Index 92-4 vision 5-8, 14, 19-25, 50, 64-6, 106-7 of the continuity of inner life 79 of creative action 121 of death 88 foresight 87-8 of the ideas 56 an invisible but efficacious presence 88 of matter 8, 20 of the mystic 87, 101-3, 107 of singularities 58 symbolic vision 76,101-3,107,110 visual unity 9 vitality 52 vital impetus (elan vital) 62, 98-100, 102-3 vital need for food 86 vital schema 117 voice 100-1, 103, 107-8 silent voice 101, 103, 107
war 86, 91-8 essential versus accidental 93-4 the war-instinct 86, 91-4, 96-7 Wesen 53-4 the whole x, 7, 10-15, 43 of images 27 of language 71-2, 75 of memory 82, 118 of obligation 33,71,90 of the past 41,45,81-2 of space 41 never given x, 76, 126 whole-part relation 7, 10-15, 22, 43, 45-6, 75, 90, 106, 124 will 41, 91, 102-3, 121 genius of the will 103 of the mystic 102-3 will to live 99 will to power 28 wit (espirit) 83-4 words 73-5, 77, 83, 106 the world 11-14, 17, 41, 44, 48, 61, 64, 73, 95, 106, 115, 117, 120, 122, 124 world politics 86 a world without others 62, 68, 70, 73


ton 67
touch 18, 24, 64-6 Tournier, Michel 62 training 74, 89, 91, 93 transcendence xi, 62 transcendent being 13 transformation xi, 22, 36, 85, 99, 101, 103, 107, 110 transmission and division of movement 17 trumpery see direction unbalance see imbalance the unconscious x, 27, 40, 49, 57-8, 60, 63, 100-1, 107, 118, 120 unconscious material point 23 unconscious memories 42, 44, 46, 50, 69-70 unconscious operations of memory 32 unconscious psychical states 39, 44 unconscious spirit 13 unconsciousness as impotence 39 understanding 2, 73-5, 77-8 unity 6, 9, 54, 82, 89 universality x, 50, 52, 56-7, 109 universe 12-13, 23, 46 Urdoxa 3 utility 2-3, 10, 22, 32, 35, 38, 64, 67-9, 131 the useful 69 useful action 53 useful effect repeated 32, 35, 39, 47, 72 uselessness 34 vanity 93, 96, 103, 106, 134 verbalism 71 veridical hallucination 13-14, 19-20 vibration 4, 6-8, 15-18, 53, 57, 73, 101 virtuality 5, 9, 24, 36, 38, 82 virtual identity 9 virtual image 24, 53 virtual instinct 71 virtual invisibility 55, 65 virtual multiplicity 121-2 of war 92

Zeno's paradoxes x