1 Jan 2010

There is Virtually One Duration Because Actually There are Three. §78. 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 discussed the unity and universality of Bergson's duration. On the one hand, it is made-up of a multiplicity of concurrent fluxes. And relativity theory might seem to suggest that there is a multiplicity of different times. But those who come to this conclusion forget that the perspectives are reciprocal. On the one hand, we may take the perspective of one person's conscious duration, and consider how he views another person's conscious duration. Yet on the other hand, we may take this second person's perspective and see how she sees the first one. In fact, as philosophers interested in the philosophical implications of relativity theory, we are inclined to consider both people's own perspectives together at once, because they are relative. What we find then is that although duration is made of a multiplicity of qualitatively different fluxes, they are all brought together in one universal durational consciousness.

§78 There is Virtually One Duration Because Actually There are Three

Deleuze will now examine Bergson's way to imagine a universal impersonal duration beginning first by considering our own conscious duration [Deleuze draws this from §35 of Duration and Simultaneity]. We imagine that there are many human consciousnesses scattered all over the universe. We note how our own consciousness shares an experience with our neighbor. So we share a duration. But that neighbor shares with his neighbor, and that neighbor with his next neighbor, until we can imagine all minds sharing one duration. Then we may then see from our own individual consciousness the whole of one duration shared by a multiplicity of consciousnesses. Bergson writes [underlined is what Deleuze quotes]:

All human consciousnesses are of a like nature, perceive in the same way, keep in step, as it were, and live the same duration. But, nothing prevents us from imagining as many human consciousnesses as we please, widely scattered through the whole universe, but brought close enough to one another for any two consecutive ones, taken at random, to overlap the fringes of their fields of outer experience. Each of these two outer experiences participates in the duration of each of the two consciousnesses. And, since the two consciousnesses have the same rhythm of duration, so must the two experiences. But the two experiences have a part in common. Through this connecting link, then, they are reunited in a single experience, unfolding in a single duration which will be, at will, that of either of the two consciousnesses. Since the same argument can be repeated step by step, a single duration will gather up the events of the whole physical world along its way; and we shall then be able to eliminate the human consciousness that we had at first laid out at wide intervals like so many relays for the motion of our thought; there will be nothing more than an impersonal time in which all things will pass. [Bergson 32a.b]

Toutes les consciences humaines sont de même nature, perçoivent de la même manière, marchent en quelque sorte du même pas et vivent la même durée. Or, rien ne nous empêche d'imaginer autant de consciences humaines qu'on voudra, disséminées de loin en loin à travers la totalité de l'univers, mais juste assez rapprochées les unes des autres pour que deux d'entre elles consécutives, prises au hasard, aient en commun la portion extrême du champ de leur expérience extérieure. Chacune de ces deux expériences extérieures participe à la durée de chacune des deux consciences. Et puisque les deux consciences ont le même rythme de durée, il doit en être ainsi des deux expériences. Mais les deux expériences ont une partie commune. Par ce trait d'union, alors, elles se rejoignent en une expérience unique, se déroulant dans une durée unique qui sera, à volonté, celle de l'une ou de l'autre des deux consciences. Le même raisonnement pouvant se répéter de proche en proche, une même durée va ramasser le long de sa route les événements de la totalité du monde matériel ; et nous pourrons alors éliminer les consciences humaines que nous avions d'abord disposées de loin en loin comme autant de relais pour le mouvement de notre pensée : il n'y aura plus que le temps impersonnel où s'écouleront toutes choses. [Bergson 58c-59b]

Hence Deleuze says that although each durational flux is different in kind from the rest and undergoes different levels of expansion and contraction [in the sense of the cone diagram, see this entry or this one], nonetheless they all communicate in a single and identical Time. And because this Time is necessarily the same as the duration each one experiences, the universal Time is the condition for the multiplicity of fluxes.

We see then that we need our own third consciousness to engulf the others. This gives us both our own flux as well as it represents for us the universal Time that encompass the multiplicity of fluxes.

So in the previous paragraphs, we have been discussing what seems to be a contradiction in Bergson's notion of duration. On the one hand, each person's duration is qualitatively different from the rest. While on the other hand, there is supposedly only one duration. [We see then that one individual's duration is not different than the duration that all minds share, and furthermore, the mind of an individual is needed to take the third role and encompass other fluxes, so that there can be this common flow.] Also recall the three options Bergson considers regarding the question of whether duration is one or multiple [See §73 of Bergsonism].

1) Generalized pluralism: each mind experiences its own different flux.
2) Limited pluralism: all exterior things participate in our durations because we all belong to the whole of the universe.
3) Monism: there is one consciousness shared by all.

Deleuze says that Bergson's theory of duration combines the one and the many without contradiction, and Bergson's theory does so in part because it takes a little from each of these three hypothesis. [Recall first Bergson's distinction between virtual and actual multiplicities (see §32 and also §33 of Bergsonism). Virtual multiplicities are ones that do not contain a numerical set of distinct components. They only potentially do, because we may extract a number of elements when our minds commit an action that analyzes them out into distinct components. We saw this in §77 with the Achilles and tortoise example. The conscious durations of Achilles and the tortoise are individually different. But we consider them racing together at once. They are originally together in the single flow of our consciousness which contemplates them. Then, in a secondary act of consciousness, we divide the one flow into two constituent parts. So we see that the one original flow of them both running is a virtual multiplicity. Then, after secondarily dividing it into parts, it is an actual multiplicity of numerically distinct pieces. The one universal time then would be a virtual multiplicity that we may secondarily divide up into an actual multiplicity including for example your or my conscious flow. So] Deleuze writes: "There is only one time (monism), although there is an infinitely of actual fluxes (generalized pluralism) that necessarily participate in the same virtual whole (limited pluralism) / il n'y a qu'un seul temps (monisme), bien qu'il y ait une infinité de flux actuels (pluralisme généralisé), qui participent nécessairement au même tout virtuel (pluralisme restreint)" (Deleuze 82d/83c).

So Bergson maintains that each actual flux is qualitatively different from the rest. [Recall that we use one sense of term 'virtual' when discussing how the past continually contracts to the present (again, see this entry or this one). The virtual past actualizes in the present by contracting with it and affecting how we perceive present things and how we act in the present moment. The past is always alive in the present, and helps shape it. Yet it has passed. So it is virtual, but no less real than the present actuality it helps to craft. Recall also that the virtual past might be contracted intensely in the present moment, like when we act habitually and automatically. Consider for example a musician who has recited a piece over-and-over until memorizing it. She need only begin the first note, and the rest follow automatically. All her past virtual memories contract into that present moment of performance. But if after the show someone asks how she learned the piece, her memories of reciting it will expand or 'relax' in her mind so she may 'see' them with her 'mind's eye,' so to speak. The musician feels a different flow of time in each case. Hence differences in contraction and dilation are one way that each flux is qualitatively different from the other ones. Now, we are using the term 'virtual' in another sense here as well. A unified flow that may be divided secondarily is a virtual multiplicity that is divisible into an actual multiplicity (again, see §32 and §33 of Bergsonism). We will associate the two senses of the term 'virtual' in the following way. The contracted or dilated virtuality of each individualized actual duration was primarily united in the virtual multiplicity of the universal duration. Hence Deleuze writes:]

Bergson in no way gives up the idea of a difference in kind between actual fluxes; any more than he gives up the idea of differences of relaxation (détente) or contraction in the virtuality that encompasses them and is actualized in them. But he considers that these two certainties do not exclude, but on the contrary imply, a single time. In short: Not only do virtual multiplicities imply a single time, but duration as virtual multiplicity is this single and same Time. (82-83)

Bergson ne renonce en rien à l'idée d'une différence de nature entre les flux actuels ; pas davantage à l'idée de différences de détente ou de contraction dans la virtualité qui les englobe et s'actualise en eux. Mais il estime que ces deux certitudes n'excluent pas, au contraire impliquent un temps unique. Bref : non seulement les multiplicités virtuelles impliquent un seul temps, mais la durée comme multiplicité virtuelle est ce seul et même Temps. (83d)

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment