2 Jan 2010

Simultaneity is Absolute. §80. 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 showed how relativity theory is Bergson's best way to demonstrate his thesis that there is a universal duration that we all share. Bergson takes strictly the premise that there is no absolute reference frame. This means we should not just take one perspective and determine from it the temporalities for all other moving things. Rather, as philosophers interested in the reality of time and not in making accordant physics calculations, we take all perspectives equally and simultaneously. What we find then is that there is no grounds to say the time flow of one is different from another.

§80 Simultaneity is Absolute

Hence, notes Deleuze, Bergson himself claims that relativity theory "demonstrates the opposite of what it asserts about the plurality of time" (Deleuze 84bc). [In footnote 21, the first on p.86 of the French, Deleuze cites §§81-82 of Duration and Simultaneity]

[Recall the previous paragraph. Deleuze explained Bergson's distinction between image and symbol. We might rightly form an image to better grasp the relations between our fluxes. But note that these relations are ones that we are actually living and experiencing. Compare this image to when a physicist determines the temporality for a system moving relative to his chosen point-of-reference. Perhaps he might imagine himself living that other person's life, and sharing her consciousness. But then he would also consider that other location to be the point-of-reference. This would disrupt the physicist's calculations. So he picks one and remains with it for the purpose of his figures. All the while, he is computing the temporal distortions that the other observer would have to be experiencing, in order for all the calculations to come-out accordantly. Would we say still that the physicist imagines this other person? If so, it is not in the same way as in the previous case. We know that the figures he finds for the other observer are the same that the other observer would find for the first physicist. So what he forms are not images of the other observer, but rather a mathematical symbol for them. And this symbol does not even represent the actual time that the other observer experiences. Rather, it represents merely the fact that we are taking one person's perspective instead of the other.]

Bergson also critiques Einstein's conclusion that what seem to be distant simultaneous events in a person's own moving system are not simultaneous from the perspective of the reference-frame.

[In footnote 22, Deleuze will reference §§84-87 of Duration and Simultaneity. In these passages, Bergson discusses relativity's break-up of simultaneities. He has us consider system S and system S'. They are duplicates of each other. S' breaks off and travels at a constant speed. On S there are a group of distant events which are simultaneous, events A, B, C, D, and E. On S' there are the corresponding events A', B', C', D', and E'. Bergson already demonstrated from the twin paradox that observers on both systems experienced the same flow of time. So what is simultaneous in S should in fact be simultaneous in S' as well.] Bergson does not reject the idea that there is temporal variance in the simultaneities of moving systems. What he argues, according to Deleuze, is that the variance is limited to the symbolic representations which are a product of choosing one perspective over another. The temporal distortion is not something that the moving observer could possibly live [for it leads to impossibilities like the twin paradox].

[In the text and continuing into footnote 23 (the third on p.86 of the French), Deleuze goes on to distinguish four sorts of simultaneities that Bergson deals with.
1) Relativist simultaneity. This is the simultaneity between distant clocks. (See §45 and §§83-85 of Duration and Simultaneity)
2) The two simultaneities in the instant. This is the simultaneity between the event and the nearby clock that marks the moment of the event in that location. (See §44)
3) The simultaneity of event and conscious duration. This is the simultaneity between the exterior event and the contemporaneous moment of our consciousness. (See §44-46)
4) The simultaneity of fluxes. This is the simultaneity of all flows together. Our mind can consider all flows flowing together. All the while, our mind itself is flowing. This exhibits the unity of all flows. Our mind's flow, then, would be no different from the flow that unites all flows. (See §42)

Deleuze continues the footnote by referring to Merleau-Ponty's In Praise of Philosophy. Here Merleau-Ponty speaks of our mind's coexistence of all flows. It allows us to extend ourselves into the multiplicious world around us. In fact, doing so, he thinks, is the proper activity of the philosopher. Deleuze writes "Merleau-Ponty clearly shows how the theme of simultaneity, according to Bergson, confirms a genuine philosophy of 'coexistence' " (Deleuze 131).]

Einstein says that the simultaneity between distant clocks varies according to the speed of the system. Yet, Bergson shows that this relative simultaneity presupposes other simultaneities which are not variable but are rather absolute:
1) The simultaneity between two nearby events: "the simultaneity between two instants, taken from external movements (a nearby phenomenon and a moment of the clock)" (84d).
2) The simultaneity between these instants and a moment of our conscious duration.
These two simultaneities presupposes another one,
3) The simultaneity of all fluxes together (it is presupposed, as we saw in §78 of Bergsonism, because in order for us to distinguish simultaneities, they must already have been together in a greater flow).

Hence we see that "The Bergsonian theory of simultaneity thus tends to confirm the conception of duration as the virtual coexistence of all the degrees of a single and identical time" (85a).

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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