30 Dec 2009

Through Three, Flows the Mind, of One. §76. Ch.4.One or Many Durations? Bergsonism. Deleuze

[The following summarizes parts of Deleuze's Bergsonism. My commentary is in brackets. Paragraph subheadings are my own.]

Gilles Deleuze

Le bergsonisme

Une ou plusieurs durées ?
One or Many Durations?

Previously Deleuze distinguished actual multiplicities (which are numerical and discontinuous) from virtual multiplicities (which are continuous and qualitative). Bergson thinks that Einstein's multiple time is an actual multiplicity, but real concrete lived duration for Bergson is a virtual multiplicity. Yet even though it is multiple, it is still single and universal.

§76 Through Three, Flows the Mind, of One

To understand how this is, we first recall Bergson explaining that we may be aware of two flows at once. We may be separately aware of each of them by dividing our attention between them. Or, we might think of them each in their uniqueness, but be conscious of them both in one act of awareness [see §40 of Duration and Simultaneity]. In this way, consciousness unites other contemporaneous flows. Bergson writes [underlined is Deleuze's quotation]:

When we are seated on the bank of a river, the flowing of the water, the gliding of a boat or the flight of a bird, the ceaseless murmur in our life's deeps are for us three separate things or only one, as we choose. We can interiorize the whole, dealing with a single perception that carries along the three flows, mingled, in its course; or we can leave the first two outside and then divide our attention between the inner and the outer; or, better yet, we can do both at one and the same time, our attention uniting and yet differentiating the three flows, thanks to its singular privilege of being one and several. Such is our primary idea of simultaneity. We therefore call two external flows that occupy the same duration 'simultaneous' because they both depend upon the duration of a like third, our own; this duration is ours only when our consciousness is concerned with us alone, but it becomes equally their when our attention embraces the three flows of a single indivisible act. (Bergson 36c.d)

So consciousness, which is duration, itself may unify duration. Bergson "endows duration with the power to encompass itself" (Deleuze 80c). If there were just two fluxes, the bird's flight and our consciousness for example, then we cannot say there are simultaneous fluxes. This is because a third flux is needed to bring the other two together.

The flowing of the water, the flight of the bird, the murmur of my life form three fluxes; but only because my duration is one of them, and also the element that contains the two others. Why not make do with two fluxes, my duration and the flight of the bird, for example? Because the two fluxes could never be said to be coexistent or simultaneous if they were not contained in a third one. The flight of the bird and my own duration are only simultaneous insofar as my own duration divides in two and is reflected in another that contains it at the same time as it contains the flight of the bird: There is therefore a fundamental triplicity of fluxes. (Deleuze 80c.d)

L'écoulement de l'eau, le vol de l'oiseau, le murmure de ma vie forment trois flux ; mais ils ne sont tels que parce que ma durée est l'un d'entre eux, et aussi l'élément qui contient les deux autres. Pourquoi ne pas se contenter de deux flux, ma durée et le vol de l'oiseau par exemple ? C'est que jamais deux flux ne pourraient être dits coexistants ou simultanés s'ils n'étaient contenus dans un même troisième. Le vol de l'oiseau et ma propre durée ne sont simultanés que dans la mesure où ma propre durée se dédouble et se réfléchit en une autre qui la contient en même temps qu'elle contient le vol de l'oiseau : il y a donc une triplicité fondamentale des flux. (80-81)

[In footnote 15, Deleuze cites part of Duration and Simultaneity (see §35) where Bergson discuss the fancied enlargement of our consciousness. We begin by considering our awareness of our immediate surroundings. Then we think of the space neighboring it on the outside. Then we continue to enlarge that halo until we are imagining the whole world, all anchored down in our consciousness. "Each of us is generally content with indefinitely enlarging, by a vague effort of imagination, his immediate physical environment, which, being perceived by him, participates in the duration of his consciousness. But as soon as this effort is precisely stated, as soon as we seek to justify it, we catch ourselves doubling and multiplying our consciousness, transporting it to the extreme limits of our outer experience, then, to the edge of the new field of experience that it has thus disclosed, and so on indefinitely - they are really multiple consciousnesses sprung from ours, similar to ours, which we entrust with forging a chain across the immensity of the universe and with attesting, through the identity of their inner durations and the contiguity of their outer experiences, the singleness of an impersonal time" / "Chacun de nous se contente en général d'élargir indéfiniment, par un vague effort d'imagination, son entourage matériel immédiat, lequel, étant perçu par lui, participe à la durée de sa conscience. Mais dès que cet effort se précise, dès que nous cherchons à le légitimer, nous nous surprenons dédoublant et multipliant notre conscience, la transportant aux confins extrêmes de notre expérience extérieure, puis au bout du champ d'expérience nouveau qu'elle s'est ainsi offert, et ainsi de suite indéfiniment : ce sont bien des consciences multiples issues de la notre, semblables à la nôtre, que nous chargeons de faire la chaîne à travers l'immensité de l'univers et d'attester, par l'identité de leurs durées internes et la contiguïté de leurs expériences extérieures, l'unité d'un Temps impersonnel" (Bergson 32c.d/59c-60). Deleuze says in the footnote that this (self-awareness of duration) is a reflexive act of duration which brings it close to the cogito. Also in this footnote, Deleuze refers also to §§34-35 of Duration and Simultaneity. Here Bergson speaks of a triplicity of continuities.
a) The flow of our internal life: "A melody to which we listen with our eyes closed, heeding it alone, comes close to coinciding with this time which is the very fluidity of our inner life" (Bergson 30c).
b) The flow of our voluntary movement; and,
c) The flow of movement in space: "To each moment of our inner life there thus corresponds a moment of our body and of all environing matter that is 'simultaneous' with it; this matter then seems to participate in our conscious duration. Gradually, we extend this duration to the whole physical world, because we see no reason to limit it to the immediate vicinity of our body" (Bergson 31a).]

So, our durational consciousness may envelop other fluxes (and itself included) and bring them together in one flowing act of consciousness. Hence your and my durations each have the power "to disclose other durations, to encompass the others, and to encompass itself ad infinitum" (80d).

This triplicity of flux then illustrates two essential characteristics of duration:

1) Duration is in one sense multiple, because it is made of a multiplicity of fluxes. Yet in another sense, it is single, because these multiple fluxes obtain their simultaneity from being unified in another duration. So we would not say that duration is indivisible. However it is not divisible like Einstein's multiple times. So it is divisible only in this special way.

2) Duration involves a succession. But it is more than just that. For, the successions are simultaneous coexisting fluxes.

Deleuze ends by citing two parts of Duration and Simultaneity. The first elaborates on the triplicity, and we provided it above in the quotation with the boat and bird fluxes [Deleuze quotes: Such is our primary idea of simultaneity. We therefore call two external flows that occupy the same duration 'simultaneous' because they both depend upon the duration of a like third, our own .... (Bergson 36d).] The second half of the quotation comes from §49. Bergson explains that science begins with real duration, then abstracts the conscious experience out of it, which produces a homogeneous extensive time. So if physical bodies exhibit a motion, science will think of it as having transpired across a certain number of simultaneities. But these would be like points on a line (it is a 'time-line'). And all the points on a line are simultaneous with each other, and not temporally successive. The only thing that makes this representation temporal and not spatial is the fact that we can trace it back to a consciousness that experiences the duration that unfolded during the movement. Bergson writes [underlined is Deleuze's quotation]:

this is time only because we can look back at what we have done. From the simultaneities staking out the continuity of motions, we are always prepared to reascend the motions themselves and, through them, the inner duration that is contemporaneous with them, thus replacing a series of simultaneities of the instant, which we count but which are no longer time, by the simultaneity of flows that leads us back to inner, real duration. (Bergson, Duration and Simultaneity 42c)

Hence at the heart of Bergson's multiplicity of fluxes is a concrete, internal conscious experience of duration.

Bergson, Henri. Duration and Simultaneity. Ed. Robin Durie. Transl. Mark Lewis and Robin Durie. Manchester: Clinamen Press, 1999.

Bergson, Henri. Durée et simultanéité: A propos de la théorie d'Einstein. Paris: Librairie Félix Alcan, 1923. Available online at: http://www.archive.org/details/dureetsimultan00berguoft

Deleuze, Gilles. Bergsonism. Transl. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. New York: Zone Books, 1991.Deleuze, Gilles.

Deleuze, Gilles. Le bergsonisme. Paris : Presses Universitaires de France, 1966.

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