16 Jan 2009

Bergson, Time and Free Will, Chapter 1, §2 "Such Differences Applicable to Magnitudes but not to Intensities"

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

Bergson, Time and Free Will

Chapter I, "The Intensity of Psychic States"

Part I, "Intensity and Extensity"

§2 "Such Differences Applicable to Magnitudes but not to Intensities"

One number or physical object is greater-or-lesser than another. Quantification applies to such extensive magnitudes. Here we compare unequal "spaces." A greater space contains the smaller one.

But how can a more intense sensation contain one of less intensity?


Mais comment une sensation plus intense contiendra-t-elle une sensation de moindre intensité?


Common sense tells us that we arrive at higher sensations after first passing through lower ones. However, this conception of intensity produces vicious circular reasoning.

The reason we may arrange numbers in ascending order is because they relate to each other as containers and contents. We superpose one quantity upon another to see which contains the other.

But intensities, however, cannot be superposed upon each other. So we have no grounds to say that intensities increase or decrease. For, we have no cause to consider them yet as magnitudes.

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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).

Available online at:


French text from:

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


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