25 Jan 2010

Determining Our Argument for Freedom. TF §87 Determinism: (1) Physical; (2) Psychological. Former Reducible to Latter... Bergson. Time and Free Will

by Corry Shores
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Determining Our Argument for Freedom

Henri Bergson

Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness
Essai sur les données immédiates de la conscience

The Organization of Conscious States; Free Will
De l'organization des états de conscience: la liberté

Part XXX: Physical Determinism

Previously Bergson explained a fundamental difference between dynamism and mechanism. For dynamists, facts are higher than the laws that might described them. However, mechanists believe that laws always govern the facts. Their divergent assumptions are based on different ways of defining simplicity. Mechanists find predictable things to be simple. Dynamists, however, regard those ideas most immediate and intuitable to be the simplest. We have immediate intuitions of our own free spontaneity. So dynamists regard law-governed predictability to be a more complex idea, because it is defined in terms of the more simpler idea of free spontaneity.

§87 Determinism: (1) Physical; (2) Psychological. Former Reducible to Latter, which Itself Rests on Inaccurate Conception of Multiplicity of Conscious States or Duration

[We noted before that dynamists find facts to be free of determination. However, after we observe factual situations, we might use those facts to support the determinists thesis. Bergson writes:] "A posteriori, however, definite facts are appealed to against freedom, some physical, others psychological" (142c). For example, we might say that our given actions were necessitated by our previous feelings, ideas "and the whole preceding series of our conscious states" (142cd). Or, as Bergson will soon show, we might say that freedom is incompatible with "the fundamental properties of matter, and in particular with the principle of the conservation of energy" (1472d). [See the next section and also this footnote for an explanation for why]. [Because there are these two ways to deny freedom,] there are thus two sorts of determinism, [based on] "two apparently different empirical proofs of universal necessity" (142d). Bergson will show that we may reduce the second form of determinism to the first form. He will then show that all physical determinism involves a certain psychological hypothesis. And then he will explain how psychological determinism is based on "an inaccurate conception of the multiplicity of conscious states, or rather of duration" (143a). In the end, we will uncover a self "whose activity cannot be compared to that of any other force" (143ab).

Images of the pages summarized above, from the English translation [click to enlarge]:

Images of the pages summarized above, from the original French [click to enlarge]:

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: http://www.archive.org/details/timeandfreewill00pogsgoog

Bergson, Henri. Essai sur les données immédiates de la conscience. Originally published, Paris: Les Presses universitaires de France, 1888. Available online at: http://www.archive.org/details/essaisurlesdonn00berguoft

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