Monday, March 17, 2008

1. Reflections on Bergson


Bergson writes that “we involuntarily fix at a point in space each of the moments which we count, and it is only on this condition that the abstract units come to form in sum.” In this way, spatial ideas become placeholders for lost moments. Therefore,

a. a point in time accompanies the collection of all items or signs toward a sum.
b. the moment in time is forever lost and irretrievable once it passes.
c. thus, a sequence relies on spatial placeholders to arrive at a sum.
d. this is the essence of duration.

That is, duration has telos, described by the act of place-holding itself. Moreover, this telos is implicit to the conscious recognition of those things (mental representations) that describe these place-holders. That is to say, place-holding as a process, and the conscious appropriation of content that occurs in the act of place-holding together establish the idea of a sum as the ends of a duration. Bergson says something similar when he writes that “every number is a collection of units, as we have said, and on the other hand every number is itself a unit, in so far as it is a synthesis of the units which compose it,” and “this unity thus includes a multiplicity, since it is the unity of a whole.” (51) Indeed, Bergson continues that “when we look at a number in its finished state, this union is an accomplished fact: the points have become lines, the divisions have been blotted out, the whole displays all the characteristics of continuity.” (52)
Architecturally, the above list may mean that:

a. dimension is measured through the gathering of such information in experiential sequence. One first discerns the boundaries of a room upon entering, often according to how the entry happens.
b. the moment in time is retrievable in that it refers to constructed signs that are repetitiously accessible.
c. nonetheless, spatial placeholders in architecture come from constructed space itself, and as such a sequence relies on spatial placeholders to arrive at a sum; the sum is a fully-discerned progression of space, or a progression of space that is discerned appropriate to the visitor and her purposes.
d. this is the essence of architecture as sensory comportment which describes it as an environment of continuous components and thus, through accessing it in time, has duration.

Bergson’s next big point is nice given this list of architectural possibilities. Speaking of divisibility of the sum, having been “objectified” in that it is thought of as a semiotic entity and in a finished state, he writes that “it then appears to be divisible to unlimited extent. In fact, we apply the term ‘subjective’ to what seems to be completely adequately known, and the term ‘objective’ to what is known in such a way that a constantly increasing number of new impressions could be substituted for the idea which we actually have for it.” (52) This is a reversal of what would be popularly held; the subjective would be that which is not adequately known, at least to a community and often to an individual (since we now discredit personal experience as being not-what-it-really-is-yet-there-is-no-Really-Is-except-in-your-head-and
-that’s-not-what-really-is), and the objective would be that which is certainly adequately known and indivisible only within the parameters of the certainly-adequately-known’s rational rules. Bergson says that this is because the totality is something that belongs to the mind; that is, the mind is a necessary partner in constructing unity:
“What properly belongs to the mind is the indivisible process by which it concentrates attention successively on different parts of a given space; but the parts which have thus been isolated remain in order to join with the others, and once the addition is made, they may be broken up in any way whatever. They are therefore parts of space, and space is, accordingly, the material with which the mind builds up number, the medium in which the mind places it.” (53) For Bergson, the mind is the final synthesizing agent, making the parts of space seamless. This is why the subjective for Bergson is that which is certainly and adequately known. Within that unity, the mind may divide at will, break down the moments of sense and experience, in a way which re-objectifies the elements of space as distinct items in the sequence. How this happens, however, is left up to the individual and is not adequately known, and therefore objective, at least until the mind creates a new synthesis.

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