1 Jan 2009

Bergson, Time and Free Will, Chapter 1, §46 "We Can Speak of 'Arithmetical Difference' Only in a Conventional Sense"

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 XIV: "Psychophysics"

§46 "We Can Speak of 'Arithmetical Difference' Only in a Conventional Sense"

We have two ways to consider sensation change S to S' [for more on this change, see the entry on §45, and for more background, see this entry on Fechner's Law and the entries for §41; §42; §43; and §44]:

1) We may consider the change in the way that consciousness presents it to us. This way, we find the difference between S and S' like the difference between shades of a rainbow rather than as intervals of magnitude. Or,

2) we may consider the change in accordance with a conventional mode of representation. In this second case, we might use the symbol ΔS to represent the change. (66-67) But here we are using a convention: S to S' = ΔS. And because this gives numerical quantity to the change, we deal with it by arithmetical conventions, like addition, which are not necessarily inherent to the nature of sensation. Bergson cites Fechner's critic, Jules Tannery, as saying that assigning the change a numerical value does little more than give it an arbitrary and illegitimate definition. (67b)

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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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