- Jul 24, 2014
On 23rd May, a keynote lecture, entitled « Temps, rythme, image chez Bergson et Bachelard (Time, rhythm, and image in Bergson and Bachelard) », was given by Professor Jean-Jacques Wunenburger of the University of Lyon III, and was held in the Kudan Building of Hosei University.
Despite some influence from the scientific revolution led by Einstein's theory of relativity, Bergson (1859-1941) directed his vision towards the realm of human « life » and the power of « life » to develop a unique philosophy. Bachelard (1884-1962) then revealed to him the buds of his own philosophy that he went on to build. As suggested by its title, the lecture on this occasion compared the two thinkers and developed arguments for demarcation between them.
Firstly, an investigation was carried out regarding a theme common to both : « time », and the difference in their interpretations of it. We were introduced to the time-space theory of both philosophers that is based on what Bergson calls « durée pure (pure duration)» in his Essai sur les données immédiates de la conscience (Essay on the immediate data of consciousness; 1889). For Bergson, time was a continuous flow that could never be grasped by scientific or mathematical intelligence. Bergson compared time to a melody for the above reasons, while, in contrast Bachelard explained time using the word rhythm. On this basis, an important foundation for his theory of time was the assertion that enduring, flowing things carry inside them time-space breaks as each moment is captured by consciousness in a contradictory and negative sequence. His time-space theory involved joining together every moment, or, being guided by moments towards infinity. Only rhythm can connect moments and infinity in this way. On this difference in interpretation of time between the two, Professor Wunenburger describes the former as « horizontal », and the latter as « vertical ». The following point is important here. Namely, when explaining a certain phenomenon in their time-space theories, Bergson is forced to show the form of a conflict between the state of duration had by life and a type of self-wise matter, while Bachelard uses the form of a conflict between two things that contradict one another and that exists within that phenomenon and cannot hide its subject of recognition. This point is linked to the problem of « force » relating to Creation that is common to both thinkers, and was next to unfold here.
The discussion then presented arguments on the problem of « force » that began to emerge at the conclusion of examination of their time theories. Here it is necessary to look also at the assertions about « Creation » made by Bergson in his L'Évolution créatrice (1907 ; Creative evolution) in addition to previously-mentioned Essay on the immediate data of consciousness. As raised earlier, Bergson talks of a creative process whereby a creative force, unpredictable and existing in the duration of actual life but not gathering inside the self - in other words, a heterogeneous force - clashes against a resistive force, that acts upon spatial matter - in other words, a force that tries to draw duration towards homogeneity. According to Bergson, the former force and the latter resistive force require that the former is heterogeneous while the latter is homogeneous, and, as a result, is born the internal and essential diversity of the self. Put another way, when Bergson speaks of diversity of essence, he always assumes an external dichotomy between two things. In contrast, Bachelard states that at the basis of duration must exist every discrete moment and a primary negativity, and so he describes Creation as forming through a dialectical sublation of internal contradictions of the object itself. An important point in his epistemology is the question of how discontinuous things can be changed into continuous things by imagination or poetic language. Through sublation of the opposition between the so-called Élan vital (life force) of duration and the resistive force of nothingness that is all discrete moments, the object is able to achieve noumenal depth. That is: for Bachelard, creative force and its resistive force are included structurally and purposely within each other.
Looking back so far, the whole discussion seems to have converged upon two points of issue. They are : how did either men accept otherness, opposed to self, that is one moment of resistive force in Creation ? and, how is differentiation and modification carried out of a certain phenomenon and a certain subject ? Our lecturer, Professor Wunenburger concluded that rather than the picture explained by Bergsonian Creation that relied too much on inter-penetrating continuity, focus on Bachelard's primary negativity more accurately describes the confusion of sameness and difference. This led on to the question and answer session.
The two thinkers were very deeply concerned with the way of recognition and the existence of creativity and change in forms, and, furthermore, time-space theory and subject. This lecture paused to question the mass of difficult issues surrounding the evaluation of their points of disagreement and commonality. In this respect, it is likely to remain a momentous thesis within the minds of all those present.
- Jul 22, 2014
Professor Hisashi Fujita of Kyushu Sangyo University gave a series of three classes. The title of the classes on this occasion was "Localiser l'illocalisable. Une lecture de Matière et Mémoire de Bergson (Locating the illocalisable. A reading of Matter and Memory by Bergson)". The text central to our study was Matière et Mémoire (Matter and Memory; 1896), the second of Henri Bergson (1859-1941)'s main works in which he deals with one of the universal themes in philosophy: the mind-body problem.
In this book, Bergson proposes that « memory » represents the realm of the mind (psychological things) of mind-body dualism, while « brain », the realm of the body (material/physical things). When considering the connection between memory and the brain, people firstly think of the memory being located somewhere in the brain. However, as is well known, Bergson gives a thorough criticism in this book of the hypothesis that memory resides within the brain. Memory, according to Bergson, is not the ability to sort and store recollections inside the head. Therefore he frequently criticised this assertion from his standpoint advocating the physical world. Ultimately, then, Bergson is preoccupied with the conceptual debate on memory, and does not sufficiently grasp the issue over its actual space and location. The classes developed in this way upon a background of the history of thought. One discussion left a deep impression : that of searching for logique du lieu (logic of location) and chorology in Matter and Memory through a comparison of the arguments of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) and the leading 20th century French philosophers. For certain, Bergson criticises the hypothesis that memory is reduced to a space somewhere, yet he does not deny that memory is given a "location". In fact, as one example in his book, various expressions concerning location such as "se placer (to place it)" are used about not only physical things but also psychological things like memory and notions. Therefore, "location", in a sense differentiated from space, is not in opposition to memory for Bergson. To put it plainly, by criticising the hypothesis that recognises the reality of memory, he aims, be it ironically, to give location to something without location, and as a result, Matter and Memory can be read as a work that gives thorough thought to location. More precisely, in order to understand the book, it is necessary to make a distinction between physical place with body, brain, or even "sensory perception" as object, and psychological location with memory and "duration" etc. as object. In different words, this viewpoint questions the discrepancy between location given objectively and location given subjectively. Important here is the aim of Matter and Memory that is to investigate place-location of two differing natures, rather than to question whether memory exists or not. In this way, these classes discussed Bergson's difficult text from a perspective surprising to the reader but in a way easy to understand, and as such provided extremely interesting content.