Saturday, March 01, 2008

four from bergson

The ruin, as well as the condition and/or processes or ruination, owe their coherence or incoherence to questions of time. "When" questions are our first point of access for the ruin. "How long" questions are our first point of access when encountering ruination. These questions and the time-based issues that they raise (for instance, the decay of a material or the dating of an artifact) together form the concept of temporality. This is a word that is tossed about in discourse but lacks any obvious distinction in its normal use from just saying "time passes by." Temporality, I would like to argue, is a reflective proposition of how time passes. It takes a stance on an issue. The temporality of solitary confinement would be different, therefore, than the temporality of one's childhood or traveling in a plane. So temporality in ruins and ruination deal with why and how. That said, to be tangibly realistic, the experience of time depends on duration. Henri Bergon, in Time and Free Will, includes an essay called The Idea of Duration. It begins positing numbers and what they mean as symbols versus durations--durations of successive circumstance (i.e. 34 as a "duration," Bergson calls it, of 34 sequential entities). He argues that either way, because time, once a moment passes by, is irretrievable, multiplicity (e.g., numbers) rely on spatial reasoning in that we use a spatial abstraction as a placeholder, in the same way that in some video games the stairs crumble as the character progresses. From this point, the essay opens up into a compelling intellectual menagerie which would take me a while to outline. Here are four quotations to think about with respect to space, duration, and our conceptions of the objects (such as ruins) that we encounter in the world:

In a word, we must distinguish between the unity which we think of and the unity which we set up as an object after having thought of it, also between number in process of formation and number once soon as we consider number in a finished state, we objectify it, and it then appears to be divisible to unlimited extent. In fact, we apply the term subjective to what seems to be completely and 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 of it.


Our final conclusion, therefore, is that there are two kins of multiplicity: that of material objects, to which the conception of number is immediately applicable; and the multiplicity of states of consciousness, which cannot be regarded as numerical without the help of some symbolical representation, in which a necessary element is

That is, "states of consciousness" as that which strings together the gaps, and does so necessarily as spatial reasoning.


For if time, as the reflective consciousness represents it, is a medium in which our conscious states form a discrete series so as to admit of being counted, and if on the other hand our conception of number ends in spreading out in space everything which can be directly counted, it is to be presumed that time, understood in the sense of a medium in which we make distinctions and count, is nothing but space.

and finally,

For [the co-existence of inextensive sensations] to give rise to space, there must be an act of the mind which takes them in all at the same time and sets them in juxtaposition: this unique act is very like what calls an a priori form of sensibility. If we now seek to characterize this act, we see that it consists essentially in the intuition, or rather the conception, of an empty homogeneous medium. For it is scarcely possible to give any other definition of space: space is what enables us to distinguish a number of identical and simultaneous sensations from one another; it is thus a principle of differentiation other than that of qualitative differentiation, and consequently it is a reality with no quality.

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