Sunday, October 25, 2015



D. R. Khashaba

Bergson’s insistence on fitting the distinction between the qualitative and the quantitative into the Cartesian separation of mind and extension burdens him with needless complications and confusions. When Plato for a while took Socrates’ seminal distinction between the intelligible and the perceptible to imply separation, that created the perplexities and paradoxes he himself exposed in the first part of the Parmenides. Kant’s insightful distinction between the phenomenal and the noumenal, taken as constituting two parallel worlds, foiled his attempt to reconcile freedom and causality. Reality is one. Philosophy explores the inside, science describes the outside. But ‘the inside and the outside’ is a metaphor and, like all netaphor, when pressed, breaks down, Fur the subjective and the objective are not on the same plane of being: they are two different metaphysical dimensions.

Bergson writes: “What duration is there existing outside us? The present only, or, if we prefer the expression, simultaneity. No doubt external things change, but their moments do not succeed one another, if we retain the ordinary meaning of the word, except for a consciousness which keeps them in mind.” This is needlessly confused because Bergson mixes the scientific approach with the philosophical approach. All that is real is in duration, else becoming faces us with an unintelligible riddle. The present is a fiction. That the moments of external things “do not succeed one another” is the absurdity that Hume discovered in the abstraction of the objective approach. But to investigate things empirically we have to work with the fictions of time and simultaneity and discrete successive moments. The confusion is evident in the f0llowing paragraph which I quote in full:

“Thus in consciousness we find states which succeed, without being distinguished from one another; and in space simultaneities which, without succeeding, are distinguished from one another, in the sense that one has ceased to exist when the other appears. Outside us, mutual externality without succession; within us, succession without mutual externality.”

Bergson returns to criticizing Kant but I don’t find it necessary to add to what I have already said on this issue. Bergson introduced the notion of duration in philosophical discussion but left in Time and Free Will his presentation of this important notion is obscure and confused. Whitehead account of duration is richer and more profound. In Chapter Eight of Quest of Reality (2013) I wronged Whitehead for censuring Bergson for anti-intellectualism. I can now see Whitehead’s point.

Cairo, October 25, 2015.


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