THE METAPHYSICS OF HENRI BERGSON'S DURATION AND INTUITION

(All numbers following quotations are page numbers referring to Bergson's Introduction to Metaphysics translated by T. E. Hulme, G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York & London, The Knickerbocker Press, 1912)

It would be unfair to do an analytical examination of Bergson's concepts of duration and intuition without first recognizing the intellectual milieu of his time.  It was a period in which materialism was being accorded considerable emphasis.
Bergson, to the contrary was an advocate of the doctrine of duration and elan vital espousing the concept that a universal life force permeated every aspect of entities physical and as well as mental.  He was convinced that the processes of the evolution of life forms could not be correctly explained through the "billiard ball" mechanistic philosophy of his day.  Moreover, he attempted to show that intuition is not a mere mental characteristic devoid of reasoning but does in fact tend toward rational processes which are seated in the biology of the brain.
The implication of Bersgon's doctrine is that duration is not merely the passage of time as we customarily conceive it.  What, then, is it?
Underlying the whole of creation in Bergson's thesis is his concept of duration, which in essence is a permeative and ubiquitous elan vital that itself is the spirit and activity of an evolving but creating god.
Pure duration is the ever-going-onness which underlies or is reality.  It excludes all idea of juxtaposition and extension.  It is the life-force, the vital impetus, the inner life, the never-ending-flux which can be discovered only by drawing oneself in from the periphery towards the center.
Moreover, Bergson uses different terms to describe various forms of duration as if the underlying duration is constituted of many and different characteristics.  Yet, his interchanging and intermingling of the terms seem to suggest that the characteristics of all of them are the same.  As a consequence, the concept is one of eternal development, growth and movement whatever name it goes by whether it be "life," "time," or "duration."  And at times he implies that these come from a life-force which is similar to Plotinus's emanating being.
In describing duration as a succession of states, each of which announces that which follows and contains that which precedes it, he seems to be borrowing the concept of Emergent Evolution espoused by Conwy Lloyd Morgan and Samuel Alexander.  Our past is an indispensable, indivisible part of duration.  Duration

may just as well be compared to a continual rolling up like that of a thread on a ball, for our past follows up, it swells incessantly with the present that it picks up on its way.(12)

I'd like to offer the following analogy for the sake of simplicity.  Duration is a constant growth and development.  It is like a tree that could not exist if its past did not remain in existence as it developed from the proper ingredients from the soil, sun, and air.  But what of the tree after it has decayed?
Bergson would say the form of the tree was a superficial or accidental distinction.  The tree as a tree was unimportant in itself.  The form of the tree was a mere incident in the continual never-ending-flux, i.e., change, duration which is the underlying activity, reality, or vital impetus.  What is the significance of this?  Few would deny that all things are in a constant state of change since science and experience offered countless examples of change on the macroscopic and microscopic levels of the presumed physical world.
We can, however, never get at the truth of reality viewing it from the outside according to Bergson.  That is, we can become aware of duration only through intuition--an intuition which by an exertion of our consciousness, enables us to insert ourselves in the heart of the objects we wish to understand.  It would be absolutely impossible to represent duration conceptually because we would be talking about the memory of duration not the actual experience of duration.

These concepts laid side by side, never actually give us more than our artificial reconstruction of the objects, of which they can only symbolize certain general, and, in a way, impersonal aspects; it is therefore useless to believe that with them we can seize a reality of which they represent to us the shadow alone. (19)

It is, in other words, impossible to present a faithful picture of duration by juxtaposing concepts of unity, multiplicity, continuity, finite or infinite divisibility.  Duration can be suggested to us by images of concepts but it can be presented to us directly only by intuition.
An explanation is needed, however, as to the reason why duration can be directly intuited.  It is evident that Bergson denies the ability of intellect alone to cope with achieving knowledge of the absolute.  Intellect is capable of dealing only with non-living matter, abstract formulae, geometrical concepts, or equations of identity.

Our intellect, when it follows its natural bent, proceeds on the one hand by solid perceptions, and on the other by stable conceptions.  It starts from the immobile, and only conceives and expresses movement as a function of immobility.  It takes up its position in ready-made concepts, and endeavors to catch in them, as in a net, something of the reality which passes. . . .  But in doing that, it lets that which is its very essence escape from the real. (66)

Bergson would have us believe that the warmth, freedom, creativity, and exuberance of life, and more are lost, i.e., cease to exist, in the labyrinth of abstraction and that intellect is the mold in which the richness, joy, and creativity of life, is jellied into an inert motionless and static dead matter.

Analysis operates always on the immobile, whilst intuition places itself in mobility or what comes to the same thing, in duration. (47). . . .  And the intuition of duration, when, it is exposed to the rays of the understanding, . . .quickly turns into fixed, distinct and immobile concepts. (76)

To Bergson, duration or reality is that vital impetus which is mysterious and unpredictable and inexpressible.  It is the power that moves the world.  Since it is not communicable and cannot be discovered through rational processes, it can be discovered only through individual experiences of intuition.
Bergson analyzes duration though it forces him to take two opposing views of it by the very nature of concepts and analysis.  These views he calls "multiplicity" and "unity."  But he goes on to say that when they are combined, the result, i.e., duration, will have something miraculous, i.e., not subject to the laws of the universe, about it, and can present neither a diversity of degrees nor a variety of forms, since like all miracles, it either is or it is not.  However, there is a multiplicity of successive states of consciousness.  A unity binds them together.  Duration is the synthesis of this unity and this multiplicity.  But Bergson says,

If we place ourselves from the first, by an effort or intuition, in the concrete flow of duration. . .we shall then find no logical reason for positing multiple and diverse durations. (62). . . .  The intuition of our duration brings us into contact with a whole continuity of durations which we must try to follow, whether upwards or downwards. (63)

Elsewhere, Bergson speaks in the same vein as if imagination and experience perform the same functions of understanding as if they are forms or aspects of intuition.  Consider the following:

When I speak of an absolute movement, I am attributing to the moving object an interior and, so to speak, states of mind.  I also imply that I am in sympathy with those states, and that I insert myself in them by an effort of imagination.  Then according as the object is moving or stationary, according as it adopts one movement or another, what I experience will vary.  And what I experience will depend neither on the point of view I may take up in regard to the object, since I am inside the object itself, nor on the symbols by which I may translate the motion, since I have rejected all translations in order to possess the original.  In short, I shall no longer grasp the movement from without, remaining where I am, but from where it is, from within, as it is in itself.  I shall possess an absolute. (2)

If Bergson means, in the light of this quotation and the rest of the essay, that the basis of all genuine knowledge requires immediate data of experience, as a stage in the progress of inquiry and the process of experiencing, I agree with him.  Moreover, there is no denying its truth if he holds that to understand the nature of the self, one must actively contemplate his own ego, and recognize, for himself, experiences and attitudes similar to the other.
If Bergson means that he can recreate those experiences and attitudes to the absolute degree through the process of imagining himself at the center of the other's ego, or of the moving object if he infers that by intuition he can know reality, a reality that would exist even if there were no individuals to experience it, he is unwittingly abusing language and cannot verify how this could possibly be accomplished.  By this I assume he means that our duration is a part of the indivisible continuity of durations.

In both cases (i.e., downwards or upwards) we can extend ourselves indefinitely by an increasingly violent effort, in both cases we transcend ourselves. (63)

When we go downwards, we find duration becomes more attenuated until we reach a point where pure homogeneity is sensed, pure repetition that is nothing but the same dead matter, i.e., static lifeless materiality.  However, if we go up in the other direction, upward, we

approach a duration which strains, contracts, and intensifies itself more and more; at the limit would be eternity. (63)

But this is not the eternity of death with which Bergson equates conceptual eternity.  There is a living

moving eternity in which our own particular duration would be included as the vibrations are in light. (64)

  This eternity is the concentration of all durations.  Materiality is the dispersion of duration.  By this, there is no doubt, he is referring to the concept of materialism which he feels does not and cannot explain the essence of life and reality.  Only an intuition of duration and mobility can give that knowledge.
For Bergson the door to reality is intuition.  Intuition affords us an immediate awareness of reality.  This is somewhat akin to Plotinus's awareness of God, except instead of becoming one with reality -- never-ceasing duration, which nevertheless we are anyway -- we come face to face with it feeling its surging activity -- its ever-changing indeterminate mobility.
This can be accomplished by searching into our inner-selves, by making strenuous efforts to insert our consciousness and our imagination into the contemplated reality.  It can be done by a kind of "intellectual sympathy" by which one places oneself within an object in order to coincide with what is unique in it and consequently inexpressible.

If there exists any means of expressing a reality absolutely instead of knowing it relatively, of placing oneself within it instead of looking at it from outside points of view, of having the intuition instead of making the analysis--in short of seizing it without any expression, translation, or symbolic representation--metaphysics is that means. (9)

Bergson then gives us an example of the exercise of intuition which he concludes cannot be denied.

There is one reality, at least, which we all seize from within, by intuition and not by simple analysis.  It is our own personality in its flowing through time--our self which endures. (9)

After breaking through the outer crust of perceptions which come to the self from the outer world, we find under this crust memories of these perceptions which have been

detached from the depth of my personality and drawn to the surface by the perceptions which resemble them. (10)

It is after such inner searching as this that Bergson then experiences a

. . .continuous flux which is not comparable to any flux I have ever seen. (11)

We should take note that Bergson offers this as a psychical method by which we may get at reality not only in our inner selves but also in exterior objects.  He proceeds to show us why this is achievable as he answers the following charge which he puts to himself.

But if metaphysics is to proceed by intuition, if intuition has the mobility of duration as its object, and if duration is of a physical nature, shall we not be confining the philosopher to the exclusive contemplation of himself. (55)

Such a charge, says Bergson in effect, would be invalid because duration is a "singular nature" and because the

. . .character of metaphysical intuition is essentially active--almost--violent. (56)

Moreover,

. . .failing to see that the method, we speak of alone permits us to go beyond idealism, as well as realism, to affirm the existence of objects inferior and superior (though in a certain sense interior, to us), to make them co-exist together without difficulty, and to dissipate gradually the obscurities that analysis accumulates round these great problems. (56)

We need no further proof than this of Bergson's belief in one's ability to know the reality which exists in the heart of things even though they are external objects.  But take note that it is only a belief.  He goes on to say that intuition is an indefinite series of acts, all doubtless of the same kind, but each of a very

particular species [and that] this diversity of acts corresponds to all the degrees of being. (56)  

Of the many ways this might be interpreted, I suspect he is saying in effect that the various acts which go into the making of intuition are concomitant activities for various types (degrees) of being.  From this and from the remark in the opening quotation,

I am attributing to the moving object an interior, and so to speak, states of mind,

I must infer that all objects, through which the vital impetus permeates, must also have some degree of intuition depending upon the amount of strength with which the vital impetus allows itself to permeate the object.  All states of consciousness and intuition come from the vital impetus and therefore there must be some sort of connective sympathy which allows Bergson's state of mind or intuition to be in sympathy with those states.

SUMMARY

We cannot know reality through the intellect.  Just as Fats Wallar, when asked, "What is jazz?" wily replied, "If you gotta ask, you ain't got it," Bergson insists that only intuition, and later, imagination can give us knowledge of it.  This is done first by looking deeply into our own personalities.  In this manner we can intuit the never-ending flux, duration, which is the essence of our beings.
If we cannot intuit this duration, which is reality, we will never know reality at all because the sciences cannot give us knowledge of reality inasmuch as they deal in concepts and with static dead matter.
This intuition by which we come to know reality, i.e., duration, is a series of acts of direct participation in the immediate experience.  That is, one must be more than an outside observer.  He must be part of the awareness and of the actual object.  Only in this manner can we know, i.e., experience, duration.  He seems to be equating experience, here, borrowing from Samuel Alexander's, Space Time and Deity, with knowledge.
But Bergson also says that you can know reality of other objects by an effort of imagination whereby you imagine yourself in the heart of the exterior object.  In that case, then, imagination is knowledge but knowledge can also be other than imagination.
The experience we would receive or immerse ourselves in, is a ceaseless flow and indeterminate, changing process, i.e., "duree."  In short, duration is a heterogeneous flux, a constant becoming, i.e., motion, again an Alexander concept.  It is ever driving forward, never backwards, striving toward the future.  It is unpredictable, and creates in novel fashions.  It never exhausts itself and is the epitome of freedom.  It is not communicable by concepts or images and must be directly intuited.

CRITICISM

Though Bergson's concepts may be interesting to some philosophers, I have great difficulty in making sense of his thesis because his language weighs so heavily on the use of metaphors and such metaphysical terms as 'God,' 'spirit,' 'duration,' 'motion,' 'Elan Vital' (i.e., a life force), and 'absolute.'  Since references to such terms are speculative and beyond the parameters of verification, I must conclude at the outset that his underlying thesis is essentially a complex of metaphysics and fallacies of hypostatization.  Intuition is not possible in the absence of a complex of experiences.  And experiences do not occur in a non-physical "universe."
Obviously, if there were no such thing as matter/energy, there would be no "duration" driving, so to speak, an evolutionary process.  And, obviously, if there were not a conscious, physical, thinking biological entity, there would be no such mental activity as "intuition."
Is human intuition strictly individualistic?  Is there not a social aspect to be considered?  There is little question but that most intuitive conclusions of one age are dependent upon absorbing knowledge acquired in a previous age.  It is unlikely, for instance, that Einstein would have intuited Relativity if Galileo, Newton, and other scientists had not preceded him.
What can "movement as a function of immobility" possibly mean?  Bergson seems to be suggesting that science is a useless pursuit because it does not get at the reality of things.  Surely it is naive to imply that scientists are not aware that all physical entities are permeated with internal motions of molecules, atoms, etc., not to mention that there is no such substance as "immobility."  It is an idea arising from the deficiency and peculiarities of language.  It "makes sense" only in speaking of its relation to some other object that is moving as it is.
Moreover, the use of the term, "dead matter," flies in the face of fact.  All matter is in motion and "possesses" internal motion, the interactions of its molecules, atoms, and subatomic "particles."  Science has shown us that all matter interacts with other matter or to use an anthropomorphic term is "sensitive" to other matter.  Were this not so, it is very highly probable that life and consciousness would never have evolved.
What does he mean when he uses such a term as "solid perception?"  Does he mean a "perception of a solid object?"  Perceptions are dynamic, not static, and at least for human visual perceptions are dependent upon energy, (light) distance, angle of viewing, normalcy of vision, etc.
Such metaphysical concepts as duration, intuition, elan vital and time make no sense in the absence of a physical universe.  Bergson speaks of such metaphysical "entities" as if a physical universe is dependent upon them despite clear evidence to the contrary.
Two basic characteristics of everything in the universe are change and motion, not duration, and are necessary conditions for the concept of time to make sense.  No such thing as a static state exists in reality.  It is only from linguistic and mental abstraction that we conceive such states.  Moreover, duration by any concept of it does not occupy space.  It is only the object that can be spoken of, colloquially, as enduring.
In the absence of a physical universe there would be no metaphysical "entities," principles, or any other non- physicality, such as the duration and intuition, he conceives.  He should be speaking of such "entities" as functions of the physical entities that constitute the universe.
Now that Bergson has instructed us on how to intuit knowledge of duration, what do we do with it?  Is this the fulfillment of life?  Do we spend the rest of our days intuiting duration for the pleasure it will afford us?  How can this knowledge of the reality of duration be utilized once we have "grasped" it?  Moreover, must we continually intuit it in order to know it or is it the case that once we intuit it, we know it forever after and no longer need to intuit it?
But, even though Bergson insists it is incommunicable, he persists in describing it in detail in an analogous manner to that of theists describing what is biblically defined to be an unknowable god.  At least the latter achieve some psychological comfort and spiritual value from their unverifiable beliefs.
But duration?  Since it is incommunicable, we are unable to put it to any practical use.  Knowing it prevents us from attending to other matters because to know it requires us to exert full concentration to intuit it--like contemplating our navels--at the expense of other experiences.
I can't conceive what becoming, flux, and movement are other than different terminology for a function of change, the interaction of objects, a change of spatial position.  Surely, they, as with the term, 'relation,' have no autonomous ontology; if the objects were to cease to exist so would they.
It might be retorted in like manner that the same argument would apply to the concept of matter, i.e., that I am resting it on an assumption of simple materialism.  This I would deny, for in the context of the world as we perceive it, I know an object when I perceive it, so long as we understand that the fundamental characteristics of knowledge are that all knowledge is based on some assumption(s), is possible, probable, verifiable, predictably recurrent, public, i.e., subject to our sense faculties, directly or indirectly, and that all public knowledge is based on the assumption that there is a physical world beyond our perceptions.  I repeat, I know what objects are and am making no attempt to say what the dissection of objects, to the smallest component "particles," possibly would entail.  That would require the need for a different concept and levels of language with predictive value which Bergson's language does not provide.
With the concept of matter, a multitude of verifiable perceptual predictions can be made, whereas with duration either you experience it, or you don't, and at that you have to strain your imagination each time you do it or you are left with only the vague memory of it.  If this is what Bergson is saying, then to learn of duration through " imagination" makes duration a mere "image" of imagination, not fact.
Bergson, however, would contend that "objects," that is, separable entities, are the waste matter of the vital impetus.  That is, they come into existence after duration or the vital force has been in action.  I contend that there could not have been motion (duration) without "objects."  It is of no consequence whether these "objects" are called by the name of matter, energy, or fields of force, etc.
Moreover, in everyday life, we construct different and new objects either by cohesion or some other connecting or separating method, for instance a portrait from paint, a house from lumber, or lumber from trees, etc.  The fact remains that the concept of motion, as activity or duration, has to, and does, include some form of physical concept of objects, that is, something that is directly or indirectly observable, measurable, occupies space, and is moving in spacetime.
If it is to be contended that matter, i.e., objects did not always exist, then there is an automatic exclusion of motion, activity, or flux also.  For to state that activity or motion exists in a field of force, for instance, and then to state that a field of force has no "objects" in it, that is, nothing in it, is to state first that a field of force is nothing, and secondly, that motion can exist in a "field" of nothing.
Such use of language is sheer nonsense.  It is the same game theists play when they define God to be spirit, define spirit to be "not matter," which means "nothing," (though originally "spiritus" meant "the moving breeze,") which equates to "God is nothing" while giving the impression to the uninformed that God is something.
I have never yet heard of motion in relation to the world of reality being meaningfully defined without the inclusion of something that can move.  It should be obvious to any normal thinking person that pure motion, i.e., motion without objects, cannot evolve into something and that nothingness cannot cause something.  To imply that pure motion is substance out of which something will emerge is to insult one's intelligent use of language that can be verified.
Even assenting to Bergson's concept of duration, without questioning its nature, any communication about duration would have to be of the memory of the experience of it, not of reality itself.  And at that it is a memory of an individual experience of duration.
Surely it must be recognized that each of us has different experiences of the same thing. And, as a consequence, each of us is going to have a different idea of what reality is.  Or, would Bergson insist that since we are all part of this duration only one idea of duration can be acquired.  The fact remains, however, that individuals rarely, if ever, agree as to the identical similarity of their experiences.
As to Bergson's intuition, the history of the sciences (and by the word, science, I include all systems of research in any field where repeatable predictive outcome has been achieved) shows that they are built on foundations of facts that first may have been intuited, conceived, guessed, hypothesized, or come upon accidentally).
But let us not delude ourselves.  The important thing to remember, is that before being accepted by the scientific community, each of these facts has been experimentally verified.
It is unfortunate that there are scientists today who are leaning to metaphysical concepts akin to, not only Bergson's durational motion but to motion theorists who preceded him.  String theory, mathematically derived, is the current theory which posits at least the five types of strings one of which is described as curlicues or strings of "activity," i.e., pure motion, with particular and different shapes.
Now there's an odd use of language.  Apparently Einstein's, Russell's and Hardy's admonitions, that mathematics does not describe the universe, fall on deaf ears.
Contrary to Bergson's duration however, mathematics is an efficient tool that helps us to control our environment at least on a probability basis and fits within a pattern of other facts all of which allow for predictive value.  And, if a theory has no predictive value, what will be its function?  Certainly there is none within Bergson's theory of intuition.
Let us not forget that around the foundations of the durable sciences are piles of rubble made up of the multitude of wrong guesses, discarded hypotheses and misguided intuitions.  For each of these guesses, hypotheses, and intuitions which was accepted by the test of already substantiated facts, there are literally thousands which have been thrown to the heap of discards.  But at least in this context, intuition is not the completely useless concept that it is in Bergson's thesis.
What is the meaning and/or of what value is a "theory," i.e., a story, which cannot call facts for it or against it?  By his own admission, Bergson's intuitional knowledge of duration or elan vital is non-communicable, indescribable, and therefore not susceptible to conformation.  It is, therefore, unfalsifiable.
What then?  There is no alternative, as in theistic religion, but for each individual to consider his intuition more valid, in the colloquial use of that term, than any other.  And since Bergson posits the ability to obtain knowledge of duration through intuition, why not knowledge of any sort?  To this Bergson does admit, for he would not be able to escape not doing so.  This, however, puts him in the dilemma of admitting that my intuition that he is wrong, is right.
About now, I imagine, Bergson would counter to the effect that I am misinterpreting his term 'intuition,' that I am associating it with feelings and emotions, whereas he considers it a direct participation or immersion into the immediacy of experience, imagination or the current of direct awareness of that continuous flux.  But, it is still only a metaphorical way of saying "feelings and emotions,"
I can't observe the inner workings of my personality or the directional movement of an inanimate exterior object into the center of which I project myself and my imagination; nor, I believe, can anyone else.  I can only exert my imagination, that is, make it work with deliberate effort and more intensive concentration until I feel myself immersed--contrary to fact.  How else can anyone "observe" non-observable phenomena?
Is it not obvious, then, that intuition is not only unreliable, if left to itself or as a complement to the intellect, but the most unreliable method for attainment of knowledge of any sort.
Moreover, Bergson is far amiss for his insistence on retaining a grossly narrow concept of intellect.  He seems to be clearly unaware of the history of the failures of the role intuition has played in acquiring knowledge.  As the evidence attests, it is only one of the many "tools, an idea, a hunch, an opening door to a glimmer of thought which functions as a starting point upon which the intellect takes over and does the difficult work of experiment and research pointing the way to possible, and comparatively infrequently, probable knowledge.
Intellect is far more than that which deals with spatial forms, lifeless entities, and dead static matter, formulas, and concepts such as in math and geometry.  For one thing, it is the task of the intellect to interpret and organize experiential and experimental data.
Bergson ignores the fact that such data has connections, and relations to which we give meaning.  He does admit elsewhere, however, that in infinitesimal calculus, a method for "obtaining" motion from within has been created.  But because of the use of symbols in science, and his false belief that "metaphysics complements the sciences," he believes that the intellect should be supplemented by intuition.  He fails to understand that metaphysics does not complement science, if it is accepted as a fact rather than as a tool, but rather weakens it.  This is so because the strength and value of science lie in prediction and verifiability, both or which are absent in metaphysical claims.
Aside from mathematics, however, the intellect operates in this flux of which he speaks, and it does not harm the intellect one wit to occupy itself with the recognition and the organization of such facts as curiosity, diversity, novelty, dynamic change, freedom, creativity, individuality, learning, reasoning, music, art, etc., for, above all else, there is no one intelligence designated by the term 'intellect'.  There are, rather, various and distinct intelligences, some of which are lacking in some of us, that help us to adapt to the complex challenges that our environment imposes upon us.  The intellect does not, nor does it try to, reduce these facts to a dead monotony.
It is the "mental act" of reflection that organizes the perceptions, the impulses, the emotions and feelings, and our evaluations not only of ourselves but all of life's experiences.  Far from treating "dead" matter and static abstractions alone, "the intellect" interprets and interrelates the entire life of the ego or self in its place or association with nature and humanity.
As a consequence, our impulses and desires, our actions become a dynamic part in an harmonious personality.  Our acts become socially and universally significant.  As a result, as Rousseau said, "we submit our emotions, which otherwise might be led astray, to the restraint of reason."  Our personalities take on higher sentiments because of this restraint.  Our moral conventions come into play; our values, once the effect of our experiences reach higher levels become the instruments by which we conduct ourselves as more refined and civilized individuals.
There is no doubt but that we should seek first-hand experience of reality in living, acting, and in feeling.  But at the same time if the universe is to be anything more than an indeterminate uncommunicable madhouse of events, or crazy patch work, the emphasis must be put on understanding ourselves and nature or learning to control and organize ourselves and nature into a greater practical and social harmony.
Moreover, the inquisitiveness of our minds must be satisfied.  This is done most efficiently through the analytical or scientific method.  It is a natural characteristic of man to interpret, and mentally, to organize his perceptions of the world about him.  This is part of the great task fulfilled by the intellect.  It certainly could never begin to be fulfilled by intuition, since it is no easy task to intuit knowledge or to acquire it, in any legitimate sense of the term, in the absence of a complex method for doing so.  This, in turn, raises the possibility that most of us would never attain to such a level of intuitive intelligence, which indeed would leave mankind considerably less to look forward to than it now has.
Intuition may suffice for the life of the lower animals.  Man, however, relies upon his awareness of his awareness.  The progress of mankind is being achieved because of that quality of intellect.  There is no history of any animals, whatever is their level of intelligence, having achieved even a modicum of the progress of man.  And, I think, no one would deny that they have intuition in the nature of instinct.
Bergson, of course, would insist that he does not mean that man's intuition suffices without intellect, but that he intends for intuition to supplement the intellect.
What can he mean by this if at the same time, he says that the intellect distorts reality and that just as soon as the intellect analyzes reality, it no longer has a true concept of it?  All this amounts to saying is that the intellect can never know the truth even with intuition to intuit reality, for the knowledge of intuition and that of intellect just can't meet on a common ground.  And so we are left with a choice of which is the better and more efficient concept to accept.
Though Bergson might have said, "my theory of intuition," he tacitly lived and conducted his life as an analyst, though not necessarily as an analytical philosopher.  Most of the judgments he made or any one of us makes in daily life are done with an analysis of the consequences to follow.
Bergson seldom offers proof or logical procedure to substantiate his statements.  He asserts; he does not deduce his ideas from verifiable facts.  The above quotations are typical of his speculative and metaphysical pursuits.  However, such intellectual pursuits appeal to metaphysical "concepts" that by their very nature lie beyond the possibility of verification.  Consequently, as is the case with so much philosophical jargon, even if some of it serves society well as tools or ideals to follow, such claims as Bergson's are epistemic nonsense and, I repeat, constitute an elaborate complex of metaphors and fallacies of hypostatizations.  It seems to me, they serve no purpose, useful to society at large, other than to exercise the brain and stimulate opposing arguments.

Previous file Index Next file Of this file

For more information: passch2@verizon.net

© 1997 by Pasqual S. Schievella