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A Review
Henri Louis Bergson's Book
Creative Evolution
Chapter I: The Evolution of Life Mechanism and Teleology
Topic 8: Radical Finalism
by Doug Renselle
Doug's Pre-review Commentary
Start of Review

Chapter I II
Introduction 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 
Chapter III IV
22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45  46 47

Move to any Topic of Henri Louis Bergson's Creative Evolution,
or to beginning of its review via this set of links
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Topic 8...............Radical Finalism


(Most quotes verbatim Henri Louis Bergson, some paraphrased.)

(Relevant to Pirsig, William James Sidis, and Quantonics Thinking Modes.)


"In such a doctrine, time is still spoken of: one pronounces the word, but one does not think of the thing. For time is here deprived of efficacy, and if it does nothing, it is nothing. Radical mechanism implies a metaphysic in which the totality of the real is postulated complete in eternity, and in which the apparent duration of things expresses merely the infirmity of a mind that cannot know everything at once. But duration is something very different from this for our consciousness, that is to say, for that which is most indisputable in our experience. We perceive duration as a stream against which we cannot go. It is the foundation of our being, and, as we feel, the very substance of the world in which we live. It is of no use to hold up before our eyes the dazzling prospect of a universal mathematic; we cannot sacrifice experience to the requirements of a system. That is why we reject radical mechanism.

"But radical finalism is quite as unacceptable, and for the same reason. The doctrine of teleology, in its extreme form, as we find it in Leibniz for example, implies that things and beings merely realize a programme previously arranged. But if there is nothing unforeseen, no invention or creation in the universe, time is useless again. As in the mechanistic hypothesis, here again it is supposed that all is given. Finalism thus understood is only inverted mechanism. It springs from the same postulate, with this sole difference, that in the movement of our finite intellects along successive things, whose successiveness is reduced to a mere appearance, it holds in front of us the light with which it claims to guide us, instead of putting it behind. It substitutes the attraction of the future for the impulsion of the past. But succession remains none the less a mere appearance, as indeed does movement itself."

(Our bold and color.)

Bergson restarts his footnote counts on each page. So to refer a footnote, one must state page number and footnote number.

Our bold and color highlights follow a code:

  • black-bold - important to read if you are just scanning our review
  • green-bold - we see Bergson suggesting axiomatic memes
  • violet-bold - an apparent classical problematic
  • blue-bold - we disagree with this text segment while disregarding context of Bergson's overall text
  • gray-bold - quotable text
  • red-bold - our direct commentary

There is much to ponder here, much to write, but succinctly, Bergson appears to be comparing:

He appears to be comparing worseship of classical deterministic-linear-functions of homogeneousc timec with bettership of quantization and scintillation as fluxq issi crux chanceq, choiceq, changeq evolutionaryq processingsq of heterogeneousq timingsq.

His "all is given," shows a "veiled classical naïveté" of dialectical monistic linear planning as mechanism. "All is given," for Doug, implies knowc ledgec worseship of classical state-icity.

His "Finalism thus understood is only inverted mechanism" implies, at least to Doug, as an a posteriori backward looking, fearing one's six, worsehip of ideal Einsteinian 'probability' as stux sux bivalent.

Doug - 9Feb2015.




"In the doctrine of Leibniz, time is reduced to a confused perception, relative to the human standpoint, a perception which would vanish, like a rising mist, for a mind seated at the centre of things.

"Yet finalism is not, like mechanism, a doctrine with fixed rigid outlines. It admits of as many inflections as we like. The mechanistic philosophy is to be taken or left: it must be left if the least grain of dust, by straying from the path foreseen by mechanics, should show the slightest trace of spontaneity. The doctrine of final causes, on the contrary, will never be definitively refuted. If one form of it be put aside, it will take another. Its principle, which is essentially psychological, is very flexible. It is so extensible, and thereby so comprehensive, that one accepts something of it as soon as one rejects pure mechanism. The theory we shall put forward in this book will therefore necessarily partake of finalism to a certain extent. For that reason it is important to intimate exactly what we are going to take of it, and what we mean to leave.

"Let us say at once that to thin out the Leibnizian finalism by breaking it into an infinite number of pieces seems to us a step in the wrong direction. This is, however, the tendency of the doctrine of finality. It fully realizes that if the universe as a whole is the carrying out of a plan, this cannot be demonstrated empirically, and that even of the organized world alone it is hardly easier to prove all harmonious: facts would equally well testify to the contrary. Nature sets living beings at discord with one another. She everywhere presents disorder alongside of order, retrogression alongside of progress. But, though finality cannot be affirmed either of the whole of matter or of the whole of life, might it not yet be true, says the finalist, of each organism taken separately? Is there not a wonderful division of labor, a marvellous solidarity among the parts of an organism, perfect order in infinite complexity?"

(Our bold and color.)










"Does not each living being thus realize a plan immanent in its substance?—This theory consists, at bottom, in breaking up the original notion of finality into bits. It does not accept, indeed it ridicules, the idea of an external finality, according to which living beings are ordered with regard to each other: to suppose the grass made for the cow, the lamb for the wolf—that is all acknowledged to be absurd. But there is, we are told, an internal finality: each being is made for itself, all its parts conspire for the greatest good of the whole and are intelligently organized in view of that end. Such is the notion of finality which has long been classic. Finalism has shrunk to the point of never embracing more than one living being at a time. By making itself smaller, it probably thought it would offer less surface for blows.

"The truth is, it lay open to them a great deal more. Radical as our own theory may appear, finality is external or it is nothing at all.

"Consider the most complex and the most harmonious organism. All the elements, we are told, conspire for the greatest good of the whole. Very well, but let us not forget that each of these elements may itself be an organism in certain cases, and that in subordinating the existence of this small organism to the life of the great one we accept the principle of an external finality. The idea of a finality that is always internal is therefore a self-destructive notion. An organism is composed of tissues, each of which lives for itself. The cells of which the tissues are made have also a certain independence. Strictly speaking, if the subordination of all the elements of the individual to the individual itself were complete, we might contend that they are not organisms, reserve the name organism for the individual, and recognize only internal finality. But every one knows that these elements may possess a true autonomy."

(Our bold and color.)











"To say nothing of phagocytes, which push independence to the point of attacking the organism that nourishes them, or of germinal cells, which have their own life alongside the somatic cells—the facts of regeneration are enough: here an element or a group of elements suddenly reveals that, however limited its normal space and function, it can transcend them occasionally; it may even, in certain cases, be regarded as the equivalent of the whole.

"There lies the stumbling-block of the vitalistic theories. We shall not reproach them, as is ordinarily done, with replying to the question by the question itself: the "vital principle" may indeed not explain much, but it is at least a sort of label affixed to our ignorance, so as to remind us of this occasionally,(1) while mechanism invites us to ignore that ignorance. But the position of vitalism is rendered very difficult by the fact that, in nature, there is neither purely internal finality nor absolutely distinct individuality.The organized elements composing the individual have themselves a certain individuality, and each will claim its vital principle if the individual pretends to have its own. But, on the other hand, the individual itself is not sufficiently independent, not sufficiently cut off from other things, for us to allow it a "vital principle" of its own."

Note (1) - There are really two lines to follow in contemporary neo-vitalism: on the one hand, the assertion that pure mechanism is insufficient, which assumes great authority when made by such scientists as Driesch or Reinke, for example; and, on the other hand, the hypotheses which this vitalism superposes on mechanism (the "entelechies" of Driesch, and the " dominants " of Reinke, etc.). Of these two parts, the former is perhaps the more interesting. See the admirable studies of Driesch—Die Lokalisation morphogenetischer Vorgänge, Leipzig, 1899; Die organischen Regulationen, Leipzig, 1901; Naturbegriffe und Natururteile, Leipzig, 1904; Der Vitalismus als Geschichte und als Lehre, Leipzig, 1905; and of Reinke—Die Welt als Tat, Berlin, 1899; Einleitung in die theoretische Biologic, Berlin, 1901; Philosophic der Botanik, Leipzig, 1905.

(Our bold and color.)





Compare Bergson's "But the position of vitalism is rendered very difficult by the fact that, in nature, there is neither purely internal finality nor absolutely distinct individuality." with Mae-wan Ho's quanton(coherence,autonomy).

If you have studied Bergson well you see correspondence with his two major classical illusions-self-delusions:

  1. Reality is stable as "purely internal finality", and
  2. Objects in reality are independent from one another as "absolutely distinct individuality."

Finality requires ideal classical stoppability. Quantum reality is unstoppable!

Quantum coherence and everywhere~included~middle~holographic~association (EIMHA) belie any classical illusions of 'independence,' like mathematics' 'independence axiom,' plus geometry's 'invariant intervals' and stable independent 'identities.'



"An organism such as a higher vertebrate is the most individuated of all organisms; yet, if we take into account that it is only the development of an ovum forming part of the body of its mother and of a spermatozoon belonging to the body of its father, that the egg (i.e. the ovum fertilized) is a connecting link between the two progenitors since it is common to their two substances, we shall realize that every individual organism, even that of a man, is merely a bud that has sprouted on the combined body of both its parents. Where, then, does the vital principle of the individual begin or end? Gradually we shall be carried further and further back, up to the individual's remotest ancestors: we shall find him solidary with each of them, solidary with that little mass of protoplasmic jelly which is probably at the root of the genealogical tree of life. Being, to a certain extent, one with this primitive ancestor, he is also solidary with all that descends from the ancestor in divergent directions. In this sense each individual may be said to remain united with the totality of living beings by invisible bonds. So it is of no use to try to restrict finality to the individuality of the living being. If there is finality in the world of life, it includes the whole of life in a single indivisible embrace. This life common to all the living undoubtedly presents many gaps and incoherences, and again it is not so mathematically one that it cannot allow each being to become individualized to a certain degree. But it forms a single whole, none the less; and we have to choose between the out-and-out negation of finality and the hypothesis which co-ordinates not only the parts of an organism with the organism itself, but also each living being with the collective whole of all others.

"Finality will not go down any easier for being taken as a powder. Either the hypothesis of a finality immanent in life should be rejected as a whole, or it must undergo a treatment very different from pulverization."

(Our bold and color.)




See our One is the Onliest. Consider Bergson's Heisenbergian uncertainty intuition: "individualized to a certain degree."

Bergson intuits quantum reality's qualitative, included-middle both/and. Mae-wan Ho describes it as both multiversal cohesion and individual autonomy. In Quantonics' notation: quanton(cohesion,autonomy).

Bergson's use of "powder" and "pulverization" characterize classical analyticity's integral and differential calculus predilections for limitless reduction of material reality. That's an interesting way to think of classical reality: a pre-existing quantitative monolithic and homogeneous material continuum which may be limitlessly pulverized.



44 "The error of radical finalism, as also that of radical mechanism, is to extend too far the application of certain concepts that are natural to our intellect. Originally, we think only in order to act. Our intellect has been cast in the mold of action. Speculation is a luxury, while action is a necessity. Now, in order to act, we begin by proposing an end; we make a plan, then we go on to the detail of the mechanism which will bring it to pass. This latter operation is possible only if we know what we can reckon on. We must therefore have managed to extract resemblances from nature, which enable us to anticipate the future. Thus we must, consciously or unconsciously, have made use of the law of causality. Moreover, the more sharply the idea of efficient causality is defined in our mind, the more it takes the form of a mechanical causality. And this scheme, in its turn, is the more mathematical according as it expresses a more rigorous necessity. That is why we have only to follow the bent of our mind to become mathematicians. But, on the other hand, this natural mathematics is only the rigid unconscious skeleton beneath our conscious supple habit of linking the same causes to the same effects; and the usual object of this habit is to guide actions inspired by intentions, or, what comes to the same, to direct movements combined with a view to reproducing a pattern. We are born artisans as we are born geometricians, and indeed we are geometricians only because we are artisans. Thus the human intellect, inasmuch as it is fashioned for the needs of human action, is an intellect which proceeds at the same time by intention and by calculation, by adapting means to ends and by thinking out mechanisms of more and more geometrical form."

(Our bold and color.)


We agree! This is a BIG reason why CTMs temporarily won out 2500 years ago (i.e., a naïve Greek objective Aristotelian thing-king methods vis-à-vis many and more comprehensive Sophist think-king modes. Speed and raw survival were more of an issue then than now. Classicists' world view was much simpler. Now our realization of how complex reality is, mandates more comprehensive thinking modes to achieve both speed and complexity management together. See an old email to TLS where Doug expresses his opinions, and exposes SOM's biformal underbelly.




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©Quantonics, Inc., 2000-2028 Rev. 9Feb2015  PDR Created: 20Sep2000  PDR
(31Dec2001 rev - Add top of page frame-breaker.)
(24May2005 rev - Adjust colors. Release page constraints.)
(15Sep2006 rev - Adjust colors and reformat.)
(14Nov2007 rev - Reformat slightly.)
(17Mar2008 rev - Update p. 42 comments.)
(8Aug2012 rev - Add p. 41 text link to Doug's 'What is Immanence?')
(29Apr2013 rev - Add 'Radical Finalism' anchor.)
(9Feb2015 rev - Update p. 39 commentary.)

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