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Bergson’s Conception of Duration

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THE fundamental problem of philosophy is, How is the nature of real being to be defined? To this question Bergson has offered a somewhat novel answer. This answer we are to investigate in the present paper. We shall first attempt to understand what, in general, the answer is; and then we shall proceed to an evaluation of the answer in the light of the facts on which it is based. The opening sentence of Creative Evolution runs as follows: "The existence of which we are most assured and which we know best is unquestionably our own, for of every other object we have notions which may be considered external and superficial, whereas, of ourselves, our perception is internal and profound." Hence in answer to the question, What do we mean by real existence? our point of departure must be an analysis of conscious experience.
Philosophical Review Bergson’s Conception of Duration Author(s): G. Watts Cunningham Source: The Philosophical Review, Vol. 23, No. 5 (Sep., 1914), pp. 525-539 Published by: Duke University Press on behalf of Philosophical Review Stable URL: Accessed: 14-12-2017 01:11 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at Philosophical Review, Duke University Press are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The Philosophical Review This content downloaded from on Thu, 14 Dec 2017 01:11:11 UTC All use subject to BERGSON’S CONCEPTION OF DURATION. THE fundamental problem of philosophy is, How is the nature of real being to be defined? To this question Bergson has offered a somewhat novel answer. This answer we are to investigate in the present paper. We shall first attempt to understand what, in general, the answer is; and then we shall proceed to an evaluation of the answer in the light of the facts on which it is based. The opening sentence of Creative Evolution runs as follows: “The existence of which we are most assured and which we know best is unquestionably our own, for of every other object we have notions which may be considered external and superficial, whereas, of ourselves, our perception is internal and profound.” Hence in answer to the question, What do we mean by real existence? our point of departure must be an analysis of conscious experience. Consciousness is a privileged case where we may discover the precise meaning of the word ‘exist.’ One of the first characteristics that strikes us when we turn our attention to conscious existence is its mutability, its fluidity. It is constantly changing. State follows state with amazing rapidity; indeed, the various states themselves are nothing but processes which flow on with a never-ceasing rhythm. In consciousness I find nothing static. I discover “that I pass from state to state. I am warm or cold, I am merry or sad, I work or I do nothing, I look at what is around me or I think of something else. Sensations, feelings, volitions, ideas,-such are the changes into which my existence is divided and which color it in turns. I change, then, without ceasing.”‘ Now change presupposes time. It is, in fact, nothing but a temporal process. However change may be defined, it certainly cannot be defined unless time is taken into account. Apart from reference to time the attempt to define change involves a flagrant 1 Creative Evolution, p. I. 525 This content downloaded from on Thu, 14 Dec 2017 01:11:11 UTC All use subject to 526 THE PHILOSOPHICAL REVIEW. [VOL. XXIII. contradiction. So to be conscious, at least in the sense in which the finite individual is conscious, is just to be in time. Hence it follows that existence so far as conscious experience is concerned is essentially temporal in its nature; conscious existence means perduring from moment to moment within the stream of time. But what is time, and how does consciousness exist in the tem- poral stream? This is the question which we must now face and answer before we can gain much light on the problem before us. Perhaps it is not necessary for us here to enter into any detailed consideration of the manner in which Bergson approaches his conception of duration. A mere statement of the conclusion which he reaches will suffice for our present purpose. And that conclusion is that, so far as consciousness is concerned, to exist means to endure, and to endure is to be a “qualitative multi- plicity, with no likeness to number; an organic evolution which is yet not an increasing quantity; a pure heterogeneity within which there are no distinct qualities.”‘ Duration is the stuff out of which conscious existence is made; for a conscious being, to exist is to change and to change is to endure. Since duration is such a basic category in the Bergsonian metaphysics, it is necessary for us to examine very carefully into its nature if we would evaluate the system. With this conception stands or falls much of what Bergson has written on philosophical problems. The remaining part of this paper will be devoted to a critical examination of the conception. In the first place we shall look more carefully at the characteristics of duration upon which Bergson lays particular emphasis; and then we shall attempt to estimate the accuracy of the definition which he offers us. The fundamental characteristic of duration, suggested in the above quotation from Time and Free Will, is its ‘pure heterogeneity.’ This characteristic Bergson emphasizes in various passages which the reader will experience no difficulty in locating. And from this pure heterogeneity follow certain other features, two of which would seem to be of crucial importance. First of these is the fact that duration can be predicated 1 Time and Free Will, p. 226. This content downloaded from on Thu, 14 Dec 2017 01:11:11 UTC All use subject to No. 5.] BERGSON’S CONCEPTION OF DURATION. 527 only of a process which emerges continuously in the absolutely new. This consequence Bergson himself not only recognizes but insists upon. “The more we study the nature of time,” we are told, “the more we shall comprehend that duration means invention, the creation of forms, the continual elaboration of the absolutely new.”‘ In another passage he tells us that, if we plunge back into our deeper spiritual life, we find ourselves in a “duration in which the past, always moving on, is swelling un- ceasingly with a present that is absolutely new.”2 The same point is emphasized in many other passages both in Creative Evolution and in Time and Free Will, but it seems hardly necessary to quote them here. It is obvious that such a position is logically forced upon one who maintains that duration is pure heterogeneity: a purely heterogeneous process must perforce issue in the absolutely new. The second consequence from the heterogeneity of duration is that the change which takes place in it is essentially unfore- seeable. Before such change omniscience itself would stand helpless: what is to be the result of it could not possibly be known. This, once more, our author emphasizes. “Our personality,” he says, “shoots, grows and ripens without ceasing. Each of its moments is something new added to what was before. We may go further: it is not only something new, but something unforseeable. Doubtless, my present state is explained by what is in me and by what was acting on me a moment ago. In analyzing it I should find no other elements. But even a superhuman intelligence would not have been able to foresee the simple indivisible form which gives to these purely abstract elements their concrete organization. For to foresee consists of projecting into the future what has been perceived in the past, or of imagining for a later time a new grouping, in a new order, of elements already perceived. But that which has never been perceived, and which is at the same time simple, is necessarily unforeseeable. Now such is the case with each of our states, regarded as a moment in a history that is gradually unfolding: it is simple, and it cannot I Creative Evolution, p. II. 2 Ibid., pp. I99-200. This content downloaded from on Thu, 14 Dec 2017 01:11:11 UTC All use subject to 528 THE PHILOSOPHICAL REVIEW. [VOL. XXIII. have been already perceived, since it concentrates in its indivisibility all that has been perceived and what the present is adding to it besides. It is an original element of a no less original history.”‘ Duration, then, is heterogeneous. To endure means to pass on to the absolutely new and to do this in a manner that is, by its very nature, unforeseeable. “That each instant is a fresh endowment, that the new is ever up-springing, that the form just come into existence . . . could never have been foreseen . . . all this we can feel within ourselves. …” Such, in sum, is Bergson’s view of duration as his analysis of consciousness discloses its nature. This conception of duration, Bergson feels, is strengthened by other considerations. If time is to be thought of as real, he argues, the new must be ever up-springing and the forms that arise must be essentially unforeseeable; otherwise, time is only a repetition and not in any sense a reality. His own words on this point must be quoted: “The more I consider this point, the more it seems to me that, if the future is bound to succeed the present instead of being given alongside of it, it is because the future is not altogether determined at the present moment, and that if the time taken up by this succession is something other than a number, if it has for the consciousness that is installed in it absolute value and reality, it is because there is unceasingly being created in it . . . something unforeseeable and new.”3 So Bergson thinks that the conception of duration on which he is insisting here is basic to the reality of time itself. Either a heterogeneous duration or unreal time is the disjunction; but if time is unreal the fundamental characteristic of consciousness is a delusion. Despite the careful and detailed analysis of conscious experience upon which Bergson rests his conception of duration, an analysis that is very illuminating and suggestive, it seems to me that the conception as above defined is inadequate and fails to take into consideration some of the obvious features of conscious1 Op. cit., p. 6. 2 Ibid., p. I64. 3 Ibid., pp. 339-340. This content downloaded from on Thu, 14 Dec 2017 01:11:11 UTC All use subject to No. 5.1 BERGSON’S CONCEPTION OF DURATION. 529 ness. My objections to the conception are chiefly two. The first, an a priori objection which by some, particularly by those of the Bergsonian temperament, will be thought to be no real objection, is that the conception is by its very definition ir- rational. Those who remain untouched by this criticism may find the second objection better worth their consideration. And that objection is that the conception of duration as Bergson presents it is based upon a one-sided analysis of conscious experience. Let us notice each of these objections in turn. Beginning with the a priori objection, I dare venture to assert that it is not very difficult to indicate the source of the irration- ality of duration as above defined. A process of pure heterogeneity, in which the absolutely and wholly new is constantly arising and to which it is as constantly being added, is a process with which the intellect, by its very nature, is totally unable to deal. It is a monstrosity before which reason stands helpless and dazed. For the fundamental postulate of reason, I suppose, is that if there be evolution there must be some degree of homo- geneity in it; that, if there be a process of change which is intelligible, there must of necessity run through the process an element of identity. Change which lacks this continuity, as must be the case if change takes place in pure duration, is a process which simply cannot be conceived by the intellect; it is utterly irrational. If it is understood at all it must be ‘divined’; certain it is that it cannot be comprehended.’ On the basis of the assumption of such a heterogeneous and irrational evolution of the self, psychology and ethics take on the character of the miraculous. The past history of these sciences must be deemed a fortunate accident, and their future is full of unforeseen and unforeseeable pitfalls. If the evolution of selfconsciousness is such that it is constantly issuing in the totally new, in that which is in no real sense anticipated before it becomes an actuality, then there is no guarantee in what direction the process may go; it may shoot off at any angle, run up against any sort of an obstacle, and link with the past a thoroughly I Cf. Creighton, “The Notion of the Implicit in Logic,” THE PHILOSOPHICAL REVIEW, Vol. XIX, P. 58. This content downloaded from on Thu, 14 Dec 2017 01:11:11 UTC All use subject to 530 THE PHILOSOPHICAL REVIEW. [VOL. XXIII. discordant present. For the whole development is haphazard and irresponsible. How could psychology possibly deal with such an erratic process? Much more, how could ethics deal with it? Indeed, how could one individual meet another in the commonplace affairs of everyday experience? Conscious experience existing in pure duration would be of such a nature that no sort of sense, common or scientific, could hope to deal with it. Of course, the Bergsonian retort to such an objection as we have dared to suggest here is obvious. In the first place, it would be pointed out that a connection between the past and present in duration is not only admitted but emphasized: we should undoubtedly be reminded that duration is defined as an ‘organic whole,’ that the past abides in the present ‘actual and acting.” And, in the second place, amazement would be expressed that one should be so bold as to raise the objection that duration is unintelligible, when the main purpose of the author’s latest work is to show just that it is, and why it is, unintelligible. The reply, then, would be that our objection reduces, on the one hand, to a misinterpretation of the author’s meaning, and, on the other, to a complaint that the author has done the very thing which above all else he desired to do. Our rejoinder to the first part of this reply will be given below when we come to an investigation of the facts on which Bergson has based his conception of duration. So, for the present, we may pass it by. As regards the second part of the reply, of course, it must be admitted that Bergson does insist that duration is an essentially unintelligible notion, and it must also be admitted that its unintelligibility is for him one of its chief attractions. Despite this, however, I cannot but feel that the objection has real significance. The proof of the essential unintelligibility of a theory seems to me to establish a very strong presumption against its ontological value. There are doubtless many real phases of the duration of consciousness that are as yet unknown. But it is one thing to say that these are unknown, and it is alto- gether another thing to say that they are unknowable; between the two statements lies the whole diameter of rationality. It is I Creative Evolution, p. I5. Other passages to the same effect are numerous. This content downloaded from on Thu, 14 Dec 2017 01:11:11 UTC All use subject to No. 5.] BERGSON’S CONCEPTION OF DURATION. 531 difficult to see how, being constituted as we are, we can rest satisfied with the unintelligible: historically we have not been able to do so, and theoretically it would seem we cannot do so. The unintelligible must remain in a state of unstable equilibrium, and the theory that supports it must ever rest under the suspicion that somewhere it is seriously in error. In this connection it is interesting and perhaps instructive to notice that Bergson presents various arguments for his conception of duration. It is such a theory, he contends, as will explain the facts of conscious existence. Duration is heterogeneous, we are informed, because each conscious state is an original element in a no less original history; hence follows its unintelligibility. But, on second thought, it seems rather odd that one must perforce present arguments in favor of a conception which is by definition unintelligible. One instinctively (should we say ‘intuitively’?) feels that something is radically wrong with such procedure. And it is bootless to contend that ‘intuition’ gives us inside information concerning the nature of duration and that the intellect only sets forth in words for purposes of social intercourse the information thus mysteriously revealed. For it would seem that ‘intuition’ apart from the intellect could at most give us information concerning the mere brute fact of duration: only intelligence could discern the fact that the past in its entirety abides in the present, that the present is absolutely new, that, in short, duration possesses such and such characteristics. Duration must be handled by the intellect if it is to be thought of as anything more than a mere unutterable experience such as is a feeling of pleasure or of discomfort. But how can the intellect be expected to manipulate an unintelligible notion? There is a difficulty here that concerns something of basic importance. This something, of course, is the problem of the nature of intelligence itself, a problem which would lie beyond the limits of the present paper. Suffice it to say that the picturesque position in which Bergson here finds himself indicates that his solution of the problem is at least questionable.’ I Further discussion of this problem I hope to undertake at another time. I wish to take this opportunity, however, to record my belief that there is a whole- This content downloaded from on Thu, 14 Dec 2017 01:11:11 UTC All use subject to 532 THE PHILOSOPHICAL REVIEW. [VOL. XXIII. We turn now to the second difficulty which we have noted in connection with this conception of duration, namely, that it is based upon an incomplete analysis of conscious experience. And here we are face to face with the fundamental weakness of the whole matter. It will aid us in our discussion to summarize briefly Bergson’s analysis of consciousness. And this can best be done in his own words. “In reality, the past is preserved by itself, auto- matically. In its entirety, probably, it follows us at every instant; all that we have felt, thought and willed from our earliest infancy is there, leaning over the present which is about to join it, pressing against the portals of consciousness that would fain leave it outside . . . even though we have no distinct idea of it, we feel vaguely that our past remains present to us. What are we, in fact, what is our character, if not the condensation of the history that we have lived from our birth-nay, even before our birth, since we bring with us pre-natal dispositions? Doubtless we think with only a small part of our past, but it is with our entire past, including the original bent of our soul, that we desire, will and act. Our past, then, as a whole, is made manifest to us some truth implied in Bergson’s contention that duration is essentially unintelligible. And that implied truth is that conscious experience cannot be adequately explained in terms of mechanical categories. If duration were intelligible in this sense, then free will, which Bergson is so anxious to save from the clutches of mechanism, would undoubtedly be out of the question and absolute determinism would hold undisputed sway in the field of moral phenomena. But to deny that consciousness can be adequately accounted for by means of mechanical categories, to insist that one cannot predict conduct as the astronomer would predict an eclipse, is not by any means equivalent to the assertion that conduct is unintelligible. It is not inconceivable that intelligence may make use of categories other than the mechanical; in plain fact, it is obvious that intelligence does just this in the biological sciences. (See Haldane, Mechanism, Life and Personality, Lecture III, for an interesting and illuminating discussion of this point from the physiological standpoint.) Why, then, may it not employ nonmechanical categories in connection with the problems of conscious experience, and why may not consciousness be thoroughly intelligible in terms of such cate- gories? If the physicist takes matter and energy as fundamental conceptions for his science, that is no reason why these are basic to ethics also; but it is also no reason why ethical phenomena are by their nature beyond the province of intelligence. We must insist upon the intelligibility of duration, else we are compelled to argue for an essentially irrational conception-which would seem to be an approach to absurdity; but we must also make use of those principles of explanation which the facts to be explained force upon us. This content downloaded from on Thu, 14 Dec 2017 01:11:11 UTC All use subject to No. 5.] BERGSON’S CONCEPTION OF DURATION. 533 in its impulse; it is felt in the form of tendency, although a small part of it only is known in the form of idea.”‘ Thus conscious experience is explained exclusively in terms of the past which is somehow automatically prolonged into the present; and the past which is thus prolonged into the present is simply the cumulative sum of all preceding presents in the history of the individual experience. We have, thus, a never-ceasing conjunction of the past with the present; but the past is just the old, and the present is just the new in experience. Hence the heterogeneity and unforseeability of duration. Now I submit that this analysis of conscious experience does not take into account all of the facts. It lays the emphasis exclusively on the past: all of the work of conserving experience falls on the dynamic memory.2 Not a word is said concerning the function of what we may term the dynamic imagination. But the imagination is, I am prone to think, as essential to consciousness as is memory. Consciousness has a forward-reaching as well as a backward-reaching aspect; and no analysis which leaves the former out of consideration can, it would seem, be called complete. Let us follow this point. Viewing the problem from the psychological standpoint, we must say that the conscious present is experienced in the act of attention, and that the process of conscious experience consists in the series of such acts of attention. Therefore the psychological problem of consciousness, so far as its persistence in time is concerned, reduces to the problem of the attentive consciousness. Under what conditions does the attentive consciousness take place? is, thus, equivalent to the question, How is the conscious present linked with the conscious past? In the third chapter of his very instructive book, Attention, Professor Pillsbury has developed at considerable length the conditions of the attentive consciousness. It is not necessary here to summarize the details of his discussion of the problem, but it is to the point to notice that among these conditions he finds it necessary to enumerate purposes, both particular and 1OP. cit., p. 5. 2 See Matter and Memory, pp. 89 ff. This content downloaded from on Thu, 14 Dec 2017 01:11:11 UTC All use subject to 534 THE PHILOSOPHICAL REVIEW. [VOL. XXIII. general, both immediate and remote. These, he contends, as it seems to me with indisputable accuracy, are essential conditions of an act of attention. Every act of attention is the expression of a purpose, either immediate or remote, either in the form of a clearly conceived end or in the form of a sub-conscious tendency; and apart from purpose, in this sense, the attentive act can neither be understood nor explained.’ Illustration of this point seems hardly necessary, since the matter is so obvious once it is presented. Any ordinary case of perception is an illustration. By this time it is a fairly old story with the psychologist that perception itself is active, that a man’s interests and purposes are largely instrumental in determining even what he shall observe in the world around him. And the more advanced consciousness is the more marked does this control of purposes become. We recall the famous case of Sedg wick and Darwin, who, while spending many hours in Cwm Idw where there were glacial phenomena so conspicuous that ” a house burnt down by fire did not tell its story more plainly than did this valley,” failed utterly to observe these phenomena, and all because they happened to be interested in a problem which was foreign to the nature of the evidence there disclosed. And what is true of perception is true of every other form of conscious experience where attention is involved, that is to say, is true of every really efficient consciousness. Purposes, then, are actually involved in the attentive con- sciousness; they are determining conditions of it. But purposes are not merely past, they are also partly future; not in the sense that they exist in the future, of course, but in the sense that they anticipate the future, and, through this anticipatory quality, control the passing ‘presents’ of conscious experience. And this is true whether purposes exist as clearly conceived ends or as tendencies of which we are in no sense clearly conscious. Nor should the objection be raised that this is impossible. If there is no difficulty in accepting the statement of the physiologist to the effect that a nerve-cell by acting now can control future action in which it is concerned, that its present activity does at the moment produce a future effect, there should be no difficulty 1 In this connection see Haldane, op. cit., pp. io8 ff. This content downloaded from on Thu, 14 Dec 2017 01:11:11 UTC All use subject to No. 5.] BERGSON’S CONCEPTION OF DURATION. 535 in accepting the psychologists’ statement that states of consciousness corresponding to these neurological processes can do the same. It is not impossible. The fact is that states of conscious- ness do thus influence states that are not yet, but are still to be; an unbiased examination of conscious experience forces this fact upon us. So, from the point of view of psychological analysis, we are compelled to say that conscious existence in time cannot be explained solely in terms of organic memory; the past and the present are not the only dimensions of the temporal consciousness. Every act of attention involves purposes, and purposes are neither exclusively past nor exclusively present, nor yet partly past and partly present. In some sense, every present of consciousness is both past and future; past in so far as it is an expression of dynamic memory, and future in so far as it incorporates in itself the propulsion of anticipatory purposes and aims. There are other and weighty considerations that point to the existence of this forward-reaching aspect of consciousness. The process of cognition itself is inexplicable apart from it. “The ends of the logical process, the demand for meaning, which is the essential nature of the logical mind, is functionally operative at every stage of development, so that each prior stage of experience, as representative of those ends, is connected through identity with the later.”‘ And unless this identity between the earlier and later stages of experience be taken account of, the development of a continuous cognitive experience becomes an inexplicable mystery. A satisfactory theory of knowledge must be written in teleological terms. Once more, the ethical consciousness points in the same direc- tion. The fundamental characteristic of moral experience, the very spring of morality itself, namely, the feeling of moral obliga- tion, is in the last analysis nothing but the discrepancy between the self that now is and the self that ought to be. And it is impossible to explain a moral character without consideration of purposes that are present in moments of moral decision. It may be, and doubtless frequently is the case that such purposes 1 Creighton, op. cit., p. 6i. If the reader is inclined to forget that a state of consciousness is more than a mere psychic event, I would refer him to this discussion of the nature of the ‘implicit.’ This content downloaded from on Thu, 14 Dec 2017 01:11:11 UTC All use subject to 536 THE PHILOSOPHICAL REVIEW. [VOL. XXIII. are not conscious in the sense that they are explicitly recognized by the agent in the moments of moral conflict and indecision; they often are, as Bergson rightly insists, hidden in the depths of the self, which on occasion, heats and blazes up with compelling power. But the all-important fact that they are present in experience, even though submerged below the surface of the stream, and that they are potent in determining the nature of the con- duct that flows from them-this fact must be borne in mind by us when we come to theorize concerning the modus operandi of conduct. Otherwise, we are either confined to the limits of strict determinism or left to the tender mercies of a purely negative theory. Furthermore, the very experience of duration, as duration and not a. mere series of successive instants, is inexplicable if the aspect of consciousness on which we are here insisting is left out of account. The proof of this which Kant has given in the famous Transcendental Deduction of the Categories, and which has been repeated with variations by many thinkers since his day, has, so far as I am aware, not been shown to be false. How time could possibly be continuous, a qualitative succession in which each new moment of experience springs out of the past without a break, it is impossible to say unless somehow the past reaches out into the future and anticipates what it is to bring by way of addition to the present that now is. As Green has said, and has well said, “We must be on our guard against lapsing into the notion that a process ad infinitum, a process not relative to an end, can be a process of development at all.”‘ We might add that such a process could not be a continuous process at all; from the standpoint of the individual living through such a process it could be only a succession of disconnected instants, and not a succession possessing real continuity experienced as such. That we may have a continuous experience in time the past and the present must be organic to each other; and this is possible only provided the principle which makes them organic involves to some degree at least the future. If, now, all of this is true, conscious duration must be more than mere memory overflowing into the present. Duration as an 1 Prologomena to Ethics, p. i26. This content downloaded from on Thu, 14 Dec 2017 01:11:11 UTC All use subject to No. 5.1 BERGSON’S CONCEPTION OF DURATION. 537 experienced fact is a meaningless conception, nay, is impossible, unless consciousness has a forward-reaching aspect which gives to it its continuity. Bergson himself really assumes this throughout his discussion of duration, though he is apparently unaware of the assumption. For example, in a passage already quoted he tells us that our past “is made manifest to us in its impulse,” that it “is felt in the form of tendency.” If meaning is put into these words, the characteristic of consciousness which Bergson has failed explicitly to take account of must be accepted; consciousness as tendency is certainly more than consciousness as past history; it involves an end. Again, we are told that dura- tion is truly experienced by us if, when listening to a poet reading his verses, we sympathize with his thought and do not content ourselves with attending merely to the series of words in which he clothes his ideas.’ But,, though Bergson seems to think differently, it is certain to my mind that such an experience cannot be explained at all unless the memory involved in the experi- ence has imagination operative in it. When I follow the poet’s thought I certainly do more than simply remember what he has already said; my experience is obviously something more than the mere summation of the words and ideas to which the poet gives expression in the passing moments of his recital. If this were not the case it would be impossible for me to enter sympathetically into the poet’s thought. Besides remembering what has preceded, I anticipate what is to come; in fact, my memory of what has preceded is vitally connected with this anticipation of what is to come, and they can be separated from each other only verbally. I hold in abeyance what I have heard in order that its meaning may be completed by what is to follow; and until the later context is supplied what I have heard is fragmen- tary and incoherent. Thus Bergson really assumes the point which he is anxious to deny, and he must assume it if his words are to have any meaning at all. Once more he tells us that con- sciousness “shoots, grows, and ripens without ceasing “; and this idea is repeated in various passages. But if the words here used are anything more than meaningless metaphors conscious experience must be in some real sense anticipatory. It might possibly 1 Creative Evolution, p. 209. This content downloaded from on Thu, 14 Dec 2017 01:11:11 UTC All use subject to 538 THE PHILOSOPHICAL REVIEW. [VOL. XXIII. ‘shoot’ blindly (though how such promiscuous ‘shooting’ could be regarded as an organic development is certainly far from clear but how it could possibly ‘grow’ and ‘ripen’ blindly it is impossible to think. The very words here used imply that consciousness is a teleological process, especially when we recall the fact that the past is to be regarded as an ‘organic whole’ which is ‘actual and acting’ in the present. In another passage duration is defined as “the continuous progress of the past which gnaws into the future and which swells as it advances.”‘ But it is allimportant to remark that the ‘gnawing’ of the past is without result and that its ‘swelling’ is wholly unwarranted, unless the past and the future are really somehow connected, unless the future is already in some real sense contained in the past. These passages might be paralleled by others did it seem necessary; but fortunately this does not seem to be necessary. Whether Bergson really makes the assumption we here accuse him of or whether he does not is of no special concern, except in so far as it indicates that in order to speak intelligibly concerning conscious experience teleological terms must be used. I think we must unques- tionably admit as true that “for a conscious being, to exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.”2 But we must also, as unquestionably it seems to me, put the emphasis explicitly upon the fact that the change is really towards some sort of ‘maturity,’ and that endless creation of oneself by ‘maturing’ is a meaningless jumble of words unless that which is ‘created’ is, in point of actual fact, the explication and elaboration of that which is to ‘mature.’ So in answer to the reply to our objection above suggested, namely, that Bergson admits and insists upon the fact that the past in its entirety and as an ‘organic whole’ is active in the conscious present, we are compelled to say that this very admission is forced upon him by the facts of conscious experience and against the logic of his position, and, furthermore, that this admission logically implies that duration cannot be purely heterogeneous, that the future must also be operative in the present, and that to separate them and identify the future with 1 Op. cit., P. 4. 2 Ibid., p. 7. This content downloaded from on Thu, 14 Dec 2017 01:11:11 UTC All use subject to No. 5.1 BERGSON’S CONCEPTION OF DURATION. 539 the ‘new’ is a vicious abstraction. It is absurd and contrary to fact to say that the past is actual and acting in the present unless the present in which the past is now actual and acting is organic to that past: this Bergson rightly admits. But it is equally absurd and contrary to fact to contend that the future could ever become organic to the present, could ever so unite with the present as to make of it later an organic element within the past, unless it already is organically involved in the present and past: this Bergson wrongly refuses to admit. We conclude, then, that the analysis upon which Bergson bases his conception of duration is an inadequate analysis. It leaves out of account that aspect of consciousness by means of which the psychologist explains any presence of conscious experience, apart from which both cognitive and ethical experience are inexplicable, and which makes even the experience of duration itself possible. This anticipatory aspect of consciousness must be included in our analysis, or one fundamental characteristic of conscious experience is neglected. When we supply the above omission from our author’s analysis, we are compelled to introduce into the definition of duration an element that is abhorrent to him. For we must define duration teleologically. It ceases to be a pure heterogeneity, and becomes the elaboration of a growing and ripening homogeneity; the past is never merely old nor is the present ever wholly new. Finite consciousness is more than a summation of entirely past experiences constantly merging into the future which is totally hetero- geneous. On the contrary, it is a personal existence, which, though in time, is forward-reaching in its nature, though itself subject to never-ceasing change, is not wholly blind and undirected in its changes. One essential characteristic of it is its anticipatory nature, its tendency to become, not just anything, but something. The dynamic imagination is as fundamental to conscious existence as is the dynamic memory; ideals certainly play a no less significant r6le in character than habit. In fact, the latter is just the former inverted. G. WATTS CUNNINGHAM. MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE. This content downloaded from on Thu, 14 Dec 2017 01:11:11 UTC All use subject to