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A Review
Henri Louis Bergson's Book
Creative Evolution
Chapter I: The Evolution of Life Mechanism and Teleology
Topic 10: The Quest of a Criterion
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 10...............The Quest of a Criterion


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

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


"It will be said that resemblance of structure is due to sameness of the general conditions in which life has evolved, and that these permanent outer conditions may have imposed the same direction on the forces constructing this or that apparatus, in spite of the diversity of transient outer influences and accidental inner changes. We are not, of course, blind to the role which the concept of adaptation plays in the science of to-day. Biologists certainly do not all make the same use of it. Some think the outer conditions capable of causing change in organisms in a direct manner, in a definite direction, through physico-chemical alterations induced by them in the living substance; such is the hypothesis of Eimer, for example. Others, more faithful to the spirit of Darwinism, believe the influence of conditions works indirectly only, through favoring, in the struggle for life, those representatives of a species which the chance of birth has best adapted to the environment. In other words, some attribute a positive influence to outer conditions, and say that they actually give rise to variations, while the others say these conditions have only a negative influence and merely eliminate variations. But, in both cases, the outer conditions are supposed to bring about a precise adjustment of the organism to its circumstances. Both parties, then, will attempt to explain mechanically, by adaptation to similar conditions, the similarities of structure which we think are the strongest argument against mechanism. So we must at once indicate in a general way, before passing to the detail, why explanations from "adaptation" seem to us insufficient.

"Let us first remark that, of the two hypotheses just described, the latter is the only one which is not equivocal."

(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

Again, we see Bergson's Earth chauvinism. He assumes Earth's "general conditions" apply by some immanent effluvial emersion exemplified of Earth to reality's multiverse. This is an ugly classicist centricity to hear from Bergson. We concur, though, that all reality's impetus is quantum flux. Any sameness which may be generally attributed to reality's quantum flux we shall concur. But we think an unlimited variety of "life conditions" exist multiversally extant.


We offer a continuation of our prior remarks on conflict as a generator of harmony. Visualize conflict as actuality's inducement for mutual mutation, e.g., violin's strings and bow's horse hair. If we view living beings as aggregates of commingling, nested, recursive, patterns of Value—then we may consider them individually conflicting with one another and learning ways to generate Value or harmonize. Too, as aggregates like our violin and bow and virtuoso, we may view them in various Value-generating Quality interrelationships with other aggregates' patterns of Value. Now, for fun, consider conflict events as quantal. Then harmony appears as an event, or an unending string of events whose quantized alpha-omegas each may be as short as a Planck time. Our quantum local comtext Value pattern ensemble (virtuoso, violin, and bow—and their recursively nested inner quantum comstituents) judge events tentatively (we imagine them as Bergsonian durations), and better Value pattern outcomes quantally arise as a sequence of harmonious events. This is our Quantonics rendition of Bergson's exegetic of "adaptation."

56 "The Darwinian idea of adaptation by automatic elimination of the unadapted is a simple and clear idea. But, just because it attributes to the outer cause which controls evolution a merely negative influence, it has great difficulty in accounting for the progressive and, so to say, rectilinear development of complex apparatus such as we are about to examine. How much greater will this difficulty be in the case of the similar structure of two extremely complex organs on two entirely different lines of evolution! An accidental variation, however minute, implies the working of a great number of small physical and chemical causes. An accumulation of accidental variations, such as would be necessary to produce a complex structure, requires therefore the concurrence of an almost infinite number of infinitesimal causes. Why should these causes, entirely accidental, recur the same, and in the same order, at different points of space and time? No one will hold that this is the case, and the Darwinian himself will probably merely maintain that identical effects may arise from different causes, that more than one road leads to the same spot. But let us not be fooled by a metaphor. The place reached does not give the form of the road that leads there; while an organic structure is just the accumulation of those small differences which evolution has had to go through in order to achieve it. The struggle for life and natural selection can be of no use to us in solving this part of the problem, for we are not concerned here with what has perished, we have to do only with what has survived. Now, we see that identical structures have been formed on independent lines of evolution by a gradual accumulation of effects. How can accidental causes, occurring in an accidental order, be supposed to have repeatedly come to the same result, the causes being infinitely numerous and the effect infinitely complicated?"

(Our bold and color.)

Notice Bergson's over-use of cause-effect analyticity.



We would paraphrase and extrapolate: "[A] place reached does not give [any] forms of many roads that lead there…," however, any places' Bergsonian durations do!


"The principle of mechanism is that "the same causes produce the same effects." This principle, of course, does not always imply that the same effects must have the same causes; but it does involve this consequence in the particular case in which the causes remain visible in the effect that they produce and are indeed its constitutive elements. That two walkers starting from different points and wandering at random should finally meet, is no great wonder. But that, throughout their walk, they should describe two identical curves exactly superposable on each other, is altogether unlikely. The improbability will be the greater, the more complicated the routes; and it will become impossibility, if the zigzags are infinitely complicated. Now, what is this complexity of zigzags as compared with that of an organ in which thousands of different cells, each being itself a kind of organism, are arranged in a definite order?

"Let us turn, then, to the other hypothesis, and see how it would solve the problem. Adaptation, it says, is not merely elimination of the unadapted; it is due to the positive influence of outer conditions that have molded the organism on their own form. This time, similarity of effects will be explained by similarity of cause. We shall remain, apparently, in pure mechanism. But if we look closely, we shall see that the explanation is merely verbal, that we are again the dupes of words, and that the trick of the solution consists in taking the term "adaptation" in two entirely different senses at the same time.

"If I pour into the same glass, by turns, water and wine, the two liquids will take the same form, and the sameness in form will be due to the sameness in adaptation of content to container. Adaptation, here, really means mechanical adjustment. The reason is that the form to which the matter has adapted itself was there, ready-made, and has forced its own shape on the matter."

(Our bold and color.)




For fun, consider Bergson's last sentence philosophically in light of these topics: Buridan's ass (no pun), Irving Stein's Schrodinger Object precis, and quantum science's own 1934-5 EPR experiment on nonlocal action or superluminal action.


Former ("complexity of zigzags") is chaotic happenstance and latter ("organ") is an outcome of one of reality's methods of creation: evolution. (Yes, we anticipate your question: "What is an other one of reality's methods of creation?" Proemial emersion. Parthenogenetic latching of isotropic quantum flux. In our Quantonics view, latter precedes and enables quantum evolution. And then we have not even considered discreation.)


Bergson escapes SOM's OGT and uses multiple contexts to resolve a paradox. Superb!

58 "But, in the adaptation of an organism to the circumstances it has to live in, where is the pre-existing form awaiting its matter? The circumstances are not a mold into which life is inserted and whose form life adopts: this is indeed to be fooled by a metaphor. There is no form yet, and the life must create a form for itself, suited to the circumstances which are made for it. It will have to make the best of these circumstances, neutralize their inconveniences and utilize their advantages—in short, respond to outer actions by building up a machine which has no resemblance to them. Such adapting is not repeating, but replying,—an entirely different thing. If there is still adaptation, it will be in the sense in which one may say of the solution of a problem of geometry, for example, that it is adapted to the conditions. I grant indeed that adaptation so understood explains why different evolutionary processes result in similar forms: the same problem, of course, calls for the same solution. But it is necessary then to introduce, as for the solution of a problem of geometry, an intelligent activity, or at least a cause which behaves in the same way. This is to bring in finality again, and a finality this time more than ever charged with anthropomorphic elements. In a word, if the adaptation is passive, if it is mere repetition in the relief of what the conditions give in the mold, it will build up nothing that one tries to make it build; and if it is active, capable of responding by a calculated solution to the problem which is set out in the conditions, that is going further than we do—too far, indeed, in our opinion—in the direction we indicated in the beginning. But the truth is that there is a surreptitious passing from one of these two meanings to the other, a flight for refuge to the first whenever one is about to be caught in flagrante delicto of finalism by employing the second."

(Our bold and color.)






This is a key statement ("not repeating, but replying") by Bergson we have been anticipating. This last sentence of his states Pirsig's meme on cause and effect in an analogous way. Pirsig asks us to toss out SOM's cause and effect in favor of MoQ's affects and values. Pirsig restates SOM's A causes effect B with Bs value preconditions/affects As. (our plurals on Pirsig's original "B values precondition A."


"It is really the second [active adaptation] which serves the usual practice of science, but it is the first [passive adaptation] that generally provides its philosophy. In any particular case one talks as if the process of adaptation were an effort of the organism to build up a machine capable of turning external circumstances to the best possible account: then one speaks of adaptation in general as if it were the very impress of circumstances, passively received by an indifferent matter.

"But let us come to the examples. It would be interesting first to institute here a general comparison between plants and animals. One cannot fail to be struck with the parallel progress which has been accomplished, on both sides, in the direction of sexuality. Not only is fecundation itself the same in higher plants and in animals, since it consists, in both, in the union of two nuclei that differ in their properties and structure before their union and immediately after become equivalent to each other; but the preparation of sexual elements goes on in both under like conditions: it consists essentially in the reduction of the number of chromosomes and the rejection of a certain quantity of chromatic substance.(1) Yet vegetables and animals have evolved on independent lines, favored by unlike circumstances, opposed by unlike obstacles. Here are two great series which have gone on diverging. On either line, thousands and thousands of causes have combined to determine the morphological and functional evolution. Yet these infinitely complicated causes have been consummated, in each series, in the same effect. And this effect could hardly be called a phenomenon of "adaptation": where is the adaptation, where is the pressure of external circumstances?"

Note (1) - I P. Guérin, Les Connaissances actuelles sur la fécondation chez les phanérogames, Paris, 1904, pp. 144-148. Cf. Delage, L'Hérédité, 2nd edition, 1903, pp. 140 ff.

(Our brackets, bold, and color.)

Reader, we find this passive vis-à-vis active adaptation description of Bergson's confusing. Flux is active. Flux is impetus for adaptive change.


"There is no striking utility in sexual generation; it has been interpreted in the most diverse ways; and some very acute enquirers even regard the sexuality of the plant, at least, as a luxury which nature might have dispensed with.(1) But we do not wish to dwell on facts so disputed. The ambiguity of the term "adaptation," and the necessity of transcending both the point of view of mechanical causality and that of anthropomorphic finality, will stand out more clearly with simpler examples. At all times the doctrine of finality has laid much stress on the marvelous structure of the sense organs, in order to liken the work of nature to that of an intelligent workman. Now, since these organs are found, in a rudimentary state, in the lower animals, and since nature offers us many intermediaries between the pigment-spot of the simplest organisms and the infinitely complex eye of the vertebrates, it may just as well be alleged that the result has been brought about by natural selection perfecting the organ automatically. In short, if there is a case in which it seems justifiable to invoke adaptation, it is this particular one. For there may be discussion about the function and meaning of such a thing as sexual generation, in so far as it is related to the conditions in which it occurs; but the relation of the eye to light is obvious, and when we call this relation an adaptation, we must know what we mean. If, then, we can show, in this privileged case, the insufficiency of the principles invoked on both sides, our demonstration will at once have reached a high degree of generality.

"Let us consider the example on which the advocates of finality have always insisted: the structure of such an organ as the human eye."

Note (1) - Möbius, Beiträge zur Lehre von der Fortpflanzung der Gewächae, Jena, 1897, pp. 203-206 in particular. Cf. Hartog, "Sur les phénomènes de reproduction" (Année biologique, 1895, pp. 707-709).

(Our bold and color.)
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©Quantonics, Inc., 2000-2021 Rev. 8Aug2012  PDR Created: 20Sep2000  PDR
(31Dec2001 rev - Add top of page frame-breaker.)
(5Aug2002 rev - Add page 57 comment link: 1934-5 EPR.)
(21Feb2007 rev - Adjust format.)
(14Nov2007 rev - Reformat slightly.)
(8Aug2012 rev - Add p. 55 comments link to Doug's 'What is Immanence?')

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