Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Bergson: Mind, matter and memory

"Thereby also some light may be thrown upon the problem toward which all our enquiries converge, that of the union of body and soul. The obscurity of this problem, on the dualistic hypothesis, comes from the double fact that matter is considered as essentially divisible and every state of the soul as rigorously inextensive, so that from the outset the communication between the two terms is severed. ... But if these two postulates involve a common error, if there is a gradual passage from the idea to the image and from the image to the sensation; if, in the measure in which it evolves toward actuality, that is to say, towards action, the mental state draws nearer to extension; if, finally, this extension once attained remains undivided and therefore is not out of harmony with the unity of the soul; we can understand that spirit can rest upon matter and, consequently, unite with it in the act of pure perception, yet nevertheless be radically distinct from it. It is distinct from matter in that it is, even then, memory, that is to say, a synthesis of past and present with a view to the future, in that it contracts the moments of this matter in order to use them and to manifest itself by actions which are the final aim of its unison with the body. We were right, then, when we said, at the beginning of this book, that the distinction between body and mind must be established in terms not of space but of time."

Bergson, Matter and Memory, p.220

(with thanks to Alise Piebalga for the reference)