Time and Free will: tracing the essence of consciousness

Time and Free will: tracing the essence of consciousness

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Book review: Bergson, H., & Pogson, F. L. (1959). Time and free will: An essay on the immediate data of consciousness. London: George Allen and Unwin; etc.

Time and Free Will Image © The Radical Outlook

By Shahzada Rahim

© The Radical Outlook

The work of Bergson is a significant contribution in the field of metaphysics especially his 1909 milestone work ‘The creative revolution’ that attempted to resolve the theological and philosophical debate on human essence. As far as his book ‘Time and Free will’ is concerned, it was a landmark work in the domain of physiology, psychology, and philosophy. In this book, Bergson attempted to introduce the conception of duration or lived time, which he explained through the inner-self of men. Moreover, through this book, he criticized the earlier psychologist for falsifying the facts about human consciousness especially aspects of Fechner’s law that shows a close relationship between intensity, desires, and magnitude. He rejected the calculable relationship between the intensity of the stimulus and that of the corresponding sensation. To counter these falsified philosophical facts, Bergson introduced the concept of duration with extension, succession with simultaneity, and quality with quantity. Moreover, he also rejected the notion of scientific determinism in the context of human liberty and thus, pioneered the concept of ‘Open Society” involving the inner aspect of human Free will.

How the intense situation is not measurable at one certain magnitude? What can there be common between extensive and intensive? And intended and extended? For Bergson, it is the quantity that has both intensive and extensive magnitude but philosophers had set up a pure intensity as magnitude. We use the same words whether to think of greater intensity or greater extensity, we experience in both cases an analogous impression. It is because the term ‘greater and less’ call up both cases the same idea. However, there can be a diversion in the container image of an idea that is contracted in the present and that can be expanded in the future. Thus, we cannot decide about the intensity of the effect without knowing it. Bergson continues, if we compare the actual state of ego in the past with the actual state of ego in the future then there would be a change in experience and intensity.

The perception of the case in motion and its return into pleasure is the result of mastering the flow of time and of holding the future in the present. Then why do we become impatient? Basically, it is the rhythm of the movement, which has taken complete possession of our thought and will. Herbert Spencer maintained that if there is pleasure in something then that very ‘something’ contains a meaning (attractiveness, grace, and beauty). Thus, for Bergson, to understand the degree of grace and beauty then we must go through the minute if analysis. In addition, it is a clear fact that we define the beauty of nature through aesthetics.

For Bergson, the intensive difference often changes to extensive difference but with time being (extension of intention). It is the intensity of sensation through which we judge the greater or lesser amount of work not by mechanical work. For Bergson, it is the intensity of the sensation and feeling that defines our nature: who we really are? In addition, there are some states of the soul that seem rightly or wrongly self-sufficient such as reflective passion and aesthetic emotions. Moreover, for Bergson, it is the Psychic states, which form the fundamentals of emotions with the addition of psychic elements. In this regard, the whole changes in the surrounding can be termed as radical change. Nevertheless, the more we penetrate into our consciousness the less right we have to treat the psychological/ psychic state phenomenon[1]. For Bergson, it is with the sensation that we produce images of different types but the wholly dynamic way of thinking towards things is repugnant to the reflective consciousness.

the essence of pity needs some self-abasement and the increasing intensity of pity thus consists in qualitative progress, in transition from repugnance to fear, from fear to sympathy, and from sympathy itself to humility. Moreover, it is our will that can overcome our desires because it is our ‘Will”, which is going to watch over this force and from time to time, to open a passage for it regulating out the flow by the effect which it is desired to produce.

How desires became a passion? The intensity of aspect? For Bergson, if the growing intensity will hypostatize under the form of a growing desire then the growing alteration will heap with existing psychic states. Basically, the idea of the future is pregnant with an infinity of possibilities and is thus more fruitful than the future –for Bergson, this is why, and we find more charm in hope than in possession, in dreams than in realities. In the case of extreme joy, our perception and memories become more tinged with an indefinable quality that is full of wandering and happiness.

For Bergson, sorrows begin by being nothing more than a feeling towards the past, an impoverishment of our sensations and ideas. Moreover, the aesthetic feelings and their increasing intention are really different feelings. According to Bergson, the perception of the case in motion and its return into pleasure is the result of mastering the flow of time and of holding the future in the present. Then why do we become impatient? Basically, it is the rhythm of the movement, which has taken complete possession of our thought and will. Herbert Spencer maintained that if there is pleasure in something then that very ‘something’ contains a meaning (attractiveness, grace, and beauty). Thus, for Bergson, to understand the degree of grace and beauty then we must go through the minute if analysis. In addition, it is a clear fact that we define the beauty of nature through aesthetics. For instance, an artist always signifies his surrounding into the aesthetic sensation that impels him to draw or sketch the existing beauty. What actually exists? For Bergson, it is the level of the hypothesis that marks the beginning of observation and paves the way towards articulation. Moreover, it is the rhythm of nature that defines the real aspect of the human sensations and it is the law of rhythm that actually justifies and immolates the actually produced images that give coherence to the art of artist and poetry of poet. For Bergson, art involves impressing feelings not expressing feelings. For instance, the hypnotizer actually impresses the subject to bind himself to the hypnotizer expression.

When Lovers meet, says Darwin, we know that the heart beats quickly, their breathing is hurried and their faces flushed. In this regard, for Bergson, there is no essential difference between the intensity of deep-seated feelings and that of violent emotions. Fear, when strong says Herbert Spencer, expresses in cries, in efforts to escape in palpitation, in trembling.

According to Bergson, although, our experience of beauty is not specific every beauty contains an aesthetic character that is optional not caused. Moreover, during the state of hypnosis, the aesthetic feelings are real, which are less prone to variation than to the differences of state or nature.[2] But if we involved reason along with the depth of degrees of elevation then it will contradict and literally indulge the sensation and related feelings—remember the outward emotions often develops through imitations.

On the other hand, the successive intensities of aesthetic feelings thus correspond to the changes within us and are dimly discern in the fundamental emotions—the moral feelings of pity. For Bergson, its increasing intensity is qualitative progress and it is the feeling of horror at the root of pity that tries to justify the feeling of hate.[3] As Bergson said;

“If nature were committing some great injustice then it was necessary to get rid of all suspicion of complicity with her”

For Bergson, the essence of pity needs some self-abasement and the increasing intensity of pity thus consists in qualitative progress, in transition from repugnance to fear, from fear to sympathy, and from sympathy itself to humility. Moreover, it is our will that can overcome our desires because it is our ‘Will”, which is going to watch over this force and from time to time, to open a passage for it regulating out the flow by the effect which it is desired to produce. For Bergson, it is the reflection that shows the real sensation and that is how, through reflection, the sensation remained identical. In addition, there are superficial efforts and deep-seated feelings that influence consciousness.[4]

The general organic disturbances develop following the stimulation of ‘Modus Oblongata’—the lowest part of the brain, and this disturbance is the supreme expression of disgust. As Charles Darwin says ‘Great pain urges all animals…to make the most violent efforts and diversified efforts to escape from the cause of suffering…with men, the mouth may be closely compressed or more commonly the lips are retracted with the teethes clenched together…the eyes stare wildly…the brows are heavily contracted, perspirations bathes the body…the circulation and respirations are much affected’.

For Bergson, there are two extreme cases to deduce the fear: First, intellectual efforts or attention, and second, there are emotions, which may be called acute or violent anger or terror and certain varieties of joy and agony. Basically, it is the muscular contraction that the tension becomes pressure, fatigue, and pain—this refers to the relation of violent emotions with muscular tension. In this way, the emotions have free play while the consciousness does not dwell around.

When Lovers meet, says Darwin, we know that the heart beats quickly, their breathing is hurried and their faces flushed. In this regard, for Bergson, there is no essential difference between the intensity of deep-seated feelings and that of violent emotions. Fear, when strong says Herbert Spencer, expresses in cries, in efforts to escape in palpitation, in trembling. For Bergson, there are many types of sensations: magnitude sensation, effective sensations, and representative sensations. Therefore, the love, hatred, desire increases in violence are always projected outward and resemble peripheral sensations whereas, the intensity of the sensation depends on the external cause.[5] For Bergson, in the effective representation; there is a conscious expression of organic disturbance, the inward echo of the outward cause.

According to Henri Bergson, obsession is the very intense case of the sensations—when something shocking occurs; we often lose the consciousness of our personality. And, this state can last sometimes in the case of a very nervous subject. For instance, Foreigner’s talking to one another in a language, which do not understand seems to us to speak very loudly because their worlds no longer call upon ideas in our minds and thus, breaks in upon a kind of intellectual silence and monopolizes our attention like the ticking of watch at night.

On the other hand, pleasure and pain are the sign of future reactions rather than psychic translations of the past stimulus, says Bergson. Likewise, sometimes consciousness does not play the role of intermediate agent and the sign of the future action can be only grasped through sketching the aesthetic scenario—this presents the state of consciousness that cannot be the sign of future reaction. For Bergson, it is the involuntary movements, which have gone in their own way; if nature has made us ‘automata’ instead of the conscious being. Moreover, the intensity of pain can always be estimated by the extent of the organism affected and the pain always spreads in proportions depends on the intensity. For Bergson, the general organic disturbances develop following the stimulation of ‘Modus Oblongata’—the lowest part of the brain, and this disturbance is the supreme expression of disgust. As Charles Darwin says ‘Great pain urges all animals…to make the most violent efforts and diversified efforts to escape from the cause of suffering…with men, the mouth may be closely compressed or more commonly the lips are retracted with the teethes clenched together…the eyes stare wildly…the brows are heavily contracted, perspirations bathes the body…the circulation and respirations are much affected’. For Bergson, here the pleasures are compared with the body inclination and thus, in both the moral and physical world, attraction serves to define the movements.  

In this regard, if we put the representative sensations into context, it often posses an effective character. For instance, the amplitude of sound vibrates increases our head, and then our body seems to us to vibrate or receive the shock. Moreover, certain representative sensations, those of taste, smell and temperature have a fixed character of pleasantness and unpleasantness. When the sensations remain purely representative its external cause cannot exceed a certain degree of strength and weakness without inciting us to movements, which enables us to measure it.  

For Bergson, there is a muscular sensation, each of which differs from the corresponding term of proceeding series. Likewise, there was a different magnitude of the sensation of movements and the sensation of weight. For instance, the sensation of light qualitative changes of color is interpreted as qualitative changes in the intensity of the luminous source. Besides this, there is a change of color that defines every aspect of light—the spark, the lightning, and the blinking.

According to Henri Bergson, obsession is the very intense case of the sensations—when something shocking occurs; we often lose the consciousness of our personality. And, this state can last sometimes in the case of a very nervous subject. For instance, Foreigner’s talking to one another in a language, which do not understand seems to us to speak very loudly because their worlds no longer call upon ideas in our minds and thus, breaks in upon a kind of intellectual silence and monopolizes our attention like the ticking of watch at night.

Why sound ascends and descends in some cases? The ascendance and discordance of sound depend upon the intensity, the pitch, and the part played by the muscular efforts. For instance, the sensation of heat and cold soon become effective and are measured by the reaction called forth. For Bergson, it will be perceived that the magnitude of representative sensation depends on the cause of having been put into effect, while the intensity of the effective elements depends on more or less important reactions, which prolong the external stimulation and find their way into sensation itself[6]. Moreover, for Bergson, there is a muscular sensation, each of which differs from the corresponding term of proceeding series. Likewise, there was a different magnitude of the sensation of movements and the sensation of weight. For instance, the sensation of light qualitative changes of color is interpreted as qualitative changes in the intensity of the luminous source. Besides this, there is a change of color that defines every aspect of light—the spark, the lightning, and the blinking.

For Bergson, the change of sensation is not continuous as it is in the external cause. Moreover, it is the different intensities of color that correspond to so many different shades existing between this color and black; the degrees of saturation are like shades intermediate between the same color and pure white—black is then to intensity what white is to saturation.

According to Bergson, this depends on the fact that the light of the sun, which we consider as the normal white light during the day itself undergoes similar modification of shades when the luminous intensity varies. Moreover, white surfaces pass successively through different degrees of luminosity—the same case is with the sun. For Henri Bergson, this was all about constructing psychological formula from the direct measurement of our luminous sensations. Likewise, if we look closely at a sheet of paper lighted e.g by four candles, and put out the succession one, two, or three of them. You may say that the surface remains white and its brightness diminishes.

In the latter context, put aside what you remember of your past experiences and what you are accustomed to saying of the present one; you will find that what you really perceived is not a diminished illumination of the white surface. Basically, it is the layer of a shadow passing over this surface at the moment the candle is extinguished. For Bergson, the change of sensation is not continuous as it is in the external cause. Moreover, it is the different intensities of color that correspond to so many different shades existing between this color and black; the degrees of saturation are like shades intermediate between the same color and pure white—black is then to intensity what white is to saturation.


Author

Shahzada Rahim is a Geopolitical analyst and International Relations, Expert.


Endnotes

[1]  The inquiring mind of humans is always terrified from pessimism—the horror of existence at large. These are the famous words of Frederich Nietzsche, who talked about the meaning of the Dionysiac spirit that depends upon the sensibility of the people. Basically, it was the Dionysiac frenzy that gave rise to comedy and tragedy alike. Basically, this frenzy was the symptoms of decay, disorder, and over-ripeness—neurosis arises from health, from the youthful condition of the race.

[2] The formal ontology contains all forms of ontologisms—because there are significant categories, the fundamental concepts belonging to the essence of propositions known as apophasis. Basically, it is through apophasis, the pure signification truth can be converted into pure-object truths. Perhaps, this is the creation of eidetic sciences that is based on the eidetic ontology such as pure logic, pure mathematics, and pure theories of Time, space, and motion.  

[3] Throughout history, there has been a great debate on forms and substances that dates back to the ancient Greek era. The world ‘substance’ refers to what ‘stands under’ other things and what we know when we understood (grasps the nature of things). For instance, Aristotle’s primary and secondary substance, Aristotle called the individual ‘things’ such as individual ‘beings’—Primary substance.

Thus, the species or genera, which those individual things belong is called ‘Secondary substance’. For example, like a bed of wood (the nature of bed is wood).

[4] Throughout, there have always been attempts to understand the union of mind and body of the human species. It is because of the nature of ideas given that, they are particular things that occur in us on the occasion of our sense organs being stimulated besides the fact that we have ideas of what general words signify.

Sigmund Freud spoke about the murderous rage that some parents feel towards their offspring. According to Israelites, Isaac was one of those damaged children, who have experienced this parental hostility to the full. According to famous Existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, imagination is the ability to think about something that is not present—which is beyond human thinking of fear, rage, joy, agony, and guilt.

[5] For various philosophers of history, the building of cities and civilization was a sinful act but according to Jewish traditions, ‘Sin’ is an unfortunate fact of life. Just like the ‘Evil inclination’ that could be creative as Freud called it ‘Libido’, the instinct for life that is the source of energy, power, and desire—for Freud, the overall ‘Evil inclination or Libido” could be creative. It is because, without evil impulse, no one could build a home, nor marry a life, not beget children, and not engage in trade.

In a nutshell, Sin is the secret to learn to master the power of life we have by channeling it to the inner power that lies in the roots of our nature—this is why Civilizations were always built and destroyed with anger and discontent.

[6] Throughout history, people have contrasted art with nature and fiction with fact—what Nietzsche said, Art consists of fresh illusions while truth consists of stale illusions, illusions are so worn with the use that they have come with time, to be accepted as expressing the rock; the bottom fact of the universe. What is the truth? For Nietzsche, truth is ‘A mobile army of metaphors, metonymies, anthropomorphisms, a sum, in short, of human relationships, which rhetorically and poetically intensified or ornamented and transformed, come to be thought of, after long usage by people as fixed, binding and canonical. Truths are illusions, which we have forgotten are illusions, worn-out metaphors now, impotent to stir the senses; coins which have lost their faces and are considered now as a metal rather than currency.

There are also modes of being and for the great philosophers in history; there have been two modes: ‘authenticity and in-authenticity—we have choice between both.


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The Radical Outlook is an online news web Portal designed for in-depth news analysis from the Eurasian region and beyond. It is Founded by a geopolitical analyst Shahzada Rahim.
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