18 Feb 2010

Hypnotized by Determinism §97 Illustration from Hypnotic Suggestion. Bergson. Time and Free Will

by Corry Shores
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[The following is summary; my commentary is in brackets.]

Hypnotized by Determinism

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 discussed the theory of psychological determinism. Some argue that one mental state is the necessary result of prior ones. Bergson considered an example that might at first seem to support this theory. We are having a conversation. We are interrupted. Then we both return to a different but common idea, as if it followed naturally from where we left off. Despite this seeming to be evidence, Bergson has a different evaluation. The prior parts of our conversation did not produce in advance the present mental states. Rather, we have our current mental state that for some unknown reason is common between us, and then retroactively we each in our own way trace this state back to prior ones. Yet each one of us will trace it differently. So it must be that the supposed antecedent states are really ones that are obtained after the present ones happen.

§97 Illustration from Hypnotic Suggestion

Bergson will further illustrate with the example of hypnotism. The patient is put in a trance. The hypnotist gives her a suggestion. Later the patient will perform the suggested action. Up to then, she undergoes a series of mental states leading to the action. It seems then that the resulting act was predetermined by the sequence of previous states. Bergson offers his different interpretation. It was not the prior states that produced the action. Rather, the action was going to happen anyway. In a sense, the patient was attracted to doing that action. So then, she goes through the series of mental states that would lead her to that action. So the intermediary states were actually produced not by prior ones but by future ones; "these states are really effects and not causes" (157c).

Determinists will notice that this explanation still involves acting according to the will of the hypnotist. [But note that when we perform an action suggested under hypnosis, we later perform it, despite it not being what we normally would have done.] Bergson points-out that when we commit this act, we will it for no other reason than for willing's sake.

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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