21 Jan 2010

Motions & Machines. TF §85 Mechanism, Dynamism, and Free Will. Bergson. Time and Free Will

by Corry Shores
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Motions & Machines

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 XXIX: Dynamism and Mechanism

Previously Bergson discussed our social tendencies. We normally translate our confused flux of inner states into distinct and fixed forms. We betoken them with a symbol or word, and then we place them into a homogeneous ideal space. Bergson concluded by suggesting this produces problems when we analyze causality, freedom and personality.

§85 Mechanism, Dynamism, and Free Will

Bergson will now discuss the rivalry between mechanism and dynamism. Dynamism begins with "the idea of voluntary activity, given by consciousness" (140b). [A lack of action would be no voluntary activity, so] dynamism represents inertia "by gradually emptying this idea" (140b). [It seems that matter would be inert until acted upon, hence] "it thus has no difficulty in conceiving free force on the one hand and matter governed by laws on the other" (140b).

Mechanism takes the opposite course. [It does not regard forces as being free. Rather, all events are determined necessarily from prior ones. This can also mean that more and more complex forms could perhaps evolve. However, it also means that with enough knowledge of the previous states, we could predict these more complex arrangements.] Bergson writes:

It assumes that the materials which it synthesizes are governed by necessary laws, and although it reaches richer and richer combinations, which are more and more difficult to foresee, and to all appearance more and more contingent, yet it never gets out of the narrow circle of necessity within which it at first shut itself up. (140c)

Les matériaux dont il opère la synthèse, il les suppose régis par des lois nécessaires, et bien qu'il aboutisse à des combinaisons de plus en plus riches, de plus en plus malaisées à prévoir, de plus en plus contingentes en apparence, il ne sort pas du cercle étroit de la nécessité, où il s'était enfermé d'abord. (107c)

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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