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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Eternal motion makes for long, long sentences., 23 Nov 2006
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This review is from: An Introduction to Metaphysics (Paperback)
This is a very small book. Eleven pages of introduction, much of which does not directly cover the translated work itself, forty-one pages of Bergson, a la Hulme, and no real footnotes or endnotes to speak of. Despite that, if you can burrow your way through paragraphs three pages long, then this still manages to convey some hefty ideas.

From the first page Bergson sets out his duality of analytic and intuitive types of knowledge. The analytic responds to its object by translation and approaches asymptotically by means of images and concepts ("symbols"), the intuitive is the subjective actuality of the thing, which he calls "absolute" and "perfect" for being itself, not an imperfect reflection.

He then ties this in to psychology; the analytic approach creates a man "clothed" in discrete and static "psychical states", rather than try to develop an intuitive awareness of the man, the duration of his personality and the underlying causes of his condition. Duration is the important aspect here; it is, for Bergson, the true reality (much like the flux of Heraclitus) and stasis is merely a flawed, human way of perceiving the world, a way that assumes some vested-interest or intention.

That we see the world in discrete positions or "suppositions" explains Zeno's `flighted arrow' paradox. For Zeno, an arrow in flight should actually be still, as any object occupying a space equal to itself must be at rest in that space; ergo at each moment of its flight the arrow is at rest. In response, Bergson argues it is the "supposition" of moments of flight upon the moving object that creates paradox.

To overcome this conceptual "frozen surface" and truly appreciate, by intuition, the world in and as motion "is extremely difficult. The mind has to do violence to itself, has to reverse the direction of operations in which it usually thinks, has perpetually to revise, or rather to recast, all its categories." Ultimately Bergson sees this as the merging of metaphysics and positivism, an inversion of the legacy of Platonic thought and the systematising of the "integral experience" of knowledge.

Bergson won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1927 and this is a work rich in simile and metaphor; check his analogy of the intuitive faculty as the creative impulse involved in writing. Despite the fact some of his paragraphs do seem interminable and this is by no means an `introduction' to be taken lightly, I would definitely recommend taking the day off work to devote yourself to what it has to say.
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An Introduction to Metaphysics
An Introduction to Metaphysics by Henri Bergson (Paperback - 1 Nov 1999)
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