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How is the idea of time related to free will
on 1 December 2009
Bergson's works are always inspirational and the remarkable thing is that he doesn't assume anything, he always explains what is needed unlike the standard treatises on philosophy by other philosophers. It is never that much of an effort to read Bergson and as such it makes his works far more accessible than usual for a philosopher, probably one of the reasons he was all the rage in the early 20th Century; people can actually understand what he was talking about. What is the reason for this? I think much of it has to do with his unwillingness to separate his insights into distinct pieces as is the norm in philosophy. His essays tend to flow along nicely without being stuck in difficult terminology which must be remembered as you progress, anything such as the word duration which has a special significance in Bergson work becomes part of the flow of the essay rather than being in any way special it is always reinforced through the dialogue. Another interesting aspect is his lack of references to others, possibly a result of the French way of Education which encourages self reliance and expression as much as possible.
In this work, one of his earliest (1887), Bergson introduces his concept of duration which is less of a concept than a real lived sense that is happening in your life right at this moment. But first he introduces the reader to the intensities of psychic states such as beauty, grace, joy, sorrow, pain etc and how a misinterpretation of real lived experience gives rise to a way of philosophy which separates real duration, as it is experienced, into space-like time, this is also evident in feelings which are modified through the space-like construction of experience. Although this first chapter fails to convince once you proceed onto the construction of the idea of duration you feel on much safer ground, one feels Bergson has seriously studied this phenomenon, not of course just in thought or conceptualisation but, in his own lived experience present at every moment. He goes on to explain the falseness of the spatialisation of time which inevitably leads to the paradoxes of Zeno in ancient days and determinism with its lack of human freedom. He overcomes the usual arguments of determinism by simply just not defining freedom or its prior conditions since this would once again introduce determinism and spatialise duration.
Bergson's work is simply highly insightful of the human condition far more than any dry attempt at it through the usual approaches such as Descarte's or Kant's. He literally lives his work using his own experience to enliven it, I mean literally enliven it, Bergson's work is living in a sense. It is less an argument than a movement through your own feelings and intuitions which then allow you to understand what he is saying, it isn't difficult concepts you can't wrap yourself round. It does occasionally suffer from a lack of clarity wich is an advantage other philosophers have over him but a careful reading will help.
Superb as always.