25 Jan 2009

Bergson, Time and Free Will, Chapter 1, §27 "Pleasures Compared by Bodily Inclination"

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

Bergson, Time and Free Will

(Essai sur les données immédiates de la conscience)

Chapter I, "The Intensity of Psychic States"

Part VIII: "Affective Sensations"

§27 "Pleasures Compared by Bodily Inclination"

Previously Bergson argued that the sensation of pain is made-up of many constituent sensations. None are any greater or less than the others, and there is always a fixed total of all the sensations. However, a larger number of sensations might participate in the experience of pain, which gives us the impression that the main site of pain increases in intensity.

[After a fine meal at a restaurant, the waiter presents a desert tray with numerous different delicious desert possibilities. We are not certain what we want. We begin to point to the chocolate cake, but the key-lime pie seems to pull our finger its direction. As we take the pie and begin to eat it, our pleasure seems to increase.]

For Bergson, a greater pleasure is a pleasure that we more prefer. When tempted at once with two pleasures, our organs incline us toward one and not the other. This inclination is our preference. Such a tendency towards pleasure is made-up of many smaller constituent movements that we can feel all throughout our body, as we are pulled toward the pleasure. The thing desired attracts us, and our spontaneous reflexes impel us toward it, even though we might halt that motion after it begins. The stronger our tendency toward the pleasurable thing, the more intense we consider the sensation of pleasure it gives us. But this inertial force of motion (vis inertiae) is not itself a sensation of pleasure. So pleasure then is not a magnitude. Like pain, it is a matter of the number of body parts participating in the pleasure of the sensation. (38-39)

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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.


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