2 Jan 2010

Simultaneity is Absolute. §81. 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 Bergson's reaction to Einstein's theory of broken-up simultaneities. Bergson shows that the theory presupposes simultaneities which are absolute. One of these absolute simultaneities is the flow of all flows (which is concurrent with our own consciousness), and hence simultaneities cannot break apart.

§81 Time is One, Because It's a Special Kind of Many

[Recall Bergson's distinction between virtual and actual multiplicities (see §78 of Bergsonism). There is one flow of all flows. Only secondarily may we divide it up into discrete numerically different constituent flows. Because it requires a second act to extract the constituent flows, the universal flow of duration is a virtual multiplicity. But after our mental acts of division, it becomes an actual multiplicity. Einstein's relativity performs such a division, and looks at other flows from the perspective of a particular one out of the group. As a result, we might come to conclude that there is a plurality of times. But these other times are not real lived times. All lived times are concurrent with each other, with the ultimate flow, and with our conscious duration. Einstein wants it both ways. He would like to assign other flows a different temporality, which would not be livable, while in the same stroke call them 'times', as though they were in the same category as lived time. This lived time is only found in the virtual multiplicity. So by trying to have it both ways,] Einstein confuses the virtual with the actual (85a). [Recall also Bergson's distinction between image and symbol from §79. Physicists use math to produce a symbolic representation of the time in other moving systems. But they are not so much imagining the people in the other systems as much as they fictionalize or merely symbolize them. For if the physicists really imagined the other people, they would also take-on their conscious perspective, and thereby find their own system to be the system of reference.] Relativity physicists regard their symbolic tokens, which stand for fictionalized observers, as being in another sense real conscious beings. This explains how they also confuse the virtual with the actual.

So we began with the question, is duration one or multiple? We found that in one sense it is multiple. But this is a virtual multiplicity, which means it is primarily united and only secondarily divided into spatially-distinct actual fluxes. Hence "Only the hypothesis of a single time can, according to Bergson, account for the nature of virtual multiplicities" (85b). Scientists normally spatialize time by representing successive moments along a drawn time-line. But then we see the line all at once. The moments are no longer successive, but rather simultaneous and instantaneous. This deprives them of their real durational character. Einstein spatializes time in yet a new and different way. At different places in space are objects moving at different speeds. The object in one place, moving at its speed, will have a different time-flow than another object moving a different speed through its place. Deleuze writes: "By confusing the two types - actual spatial multiplicity and virtual temporal multiplicity - Einstein has merely invented a new way of spatializing time" (85bc). However, this spatialization of time has advanced the sciences profoundly. [In footnote 24, or the one on p.87 of the French, Deleuze cites two parts of Duration and Simultaneity (reference to be added later). The first one could be: "We have just seen how the notation of a fourth dimension is introduced automatically, so to speak, into the theory of relativity. This undoubtedly accounts for the often expressed opinion that we are indebted to this theory for the earliest suggestion of a four-dimensional environment merging time and space" (Bergson 103a). The second one, regarding the advantages of assuming a space-time manifold, could be: "And much is gained, for the expression with which we provide him is that of a new physical truth: it points out how the 'transmission' of light behaves with regard to the 'translation' of bodies" (119c).]

And yet, the mathematics involved in these four-dimensional calculations does not tell us something about the real nature of time. Although it is beneficial to science, it only produces symbols for a temporality that no one could possibly experience.

this achievement is that of a symbol for expressing composites, not that of something experienced that is capable, as Proust would say, of expressing "a little time in the pure state." (85c)

cette conquête est celle d'un symbole pour exprimer les mixtes, non pas celle d'un vécu capable d'exprimer, comme dirait Proust, « un peu de temps à l'état pur ». (87c)

And as we noted, time, as a virtual multiplicity, is more fundamentally a unity. Deleuze writes:

Being, or Time, is a multiplicity. But it is precisely not "multiple"; it is One, in conformity with its type of multiplicity. (85cd)

L'Être, ou le Temps, est une multiplicité ; mais précisément il n'est pas «multiple », il est Un, conformément à son type de multiplicité. (87cd)

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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