30 Dec 2008

Bergson, Time and Free Will, Chapter 2, §51 "The Units which Make up a Number Must be Identical"

by Corry Shores
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[The following is summary; my commentary is in brackets.]

Bergson, Time and Free Will

Chapter II, "The Multiplicity of Conscious States," "The Idea of Duration"

Part XVI: Numerical Multiplicity and Space

§51 "The Units which Make up a Number Must be Identical"

Number is a collection of units, but these units must be identical. So even though the shepherd can recognize each of his sheep individually, he still may also neglect their individual differences and count them all as a number of sheep. But when we put aside their common properties and focus on their particular features, we can no longer total them, but at best only enumerate them. (76a.c)

We place ourselves at these two very different points of view when we count the soldiers in a battalion and when we call the roll. Hence we may conclude that the idea of number implies the simple intuition of a multiplicity of parts or units, which are absolutely alike. (76d)

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Images from the pages summarized above, in the English Translation [click on the image for an enlargement]:

Images from the pages summarized above, in the original French [click on the image for an enlargement]:

Bergson, Henri. Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness, Transl. F. L. Pogson, (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 2001).

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French text from:

Bergson, Henri. Essai sur les données immédiates de la conscience. Originally published Paris: Les Presses universitaires de France, 1888.

Available online at:


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