Return to Review

If you're stuck in a browser frame - click here to view this same page in Quantonics!

A Review
Henri Louis Bergson's Book
Creative Evolution
Chapter II: The Divergent Directions of the
Evolution of Life, Torpor, Intelligence, Instinct
Topic 22: Development of Animal Life
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
says, "You are here!")

Topic 22...............Development of Animal Life


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

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


"It must not be forgotten that the force which is evolving throughout the organized world is a limited force, which is always seeking to transcend itself and always remains inadequate to the work it would fain produce. The errors and puerilities [naïveté, childishness] of radical finalism are due to the misapprehension of this point. It [i.e., finalism] has represented the whole of the living world as a construction, and a construction analogous to a human work [i.e., anthropocentrism]. All the pieces have been arranged with a view to the best possible functioning of the machine [i.e., formal, analytic, radical mechanism]. Each species [Aristotelian object] has its reason for existence, its part to play, its allotted place; and all join together [i.e., synthetically], as it were, in a musical concert, wherein the seeming discords are really meant to bring out a fundamental harmony. In short, all goes on in nature as in the works of human genius [i.e., Protagoras' "Man is the measure of all things."], where, though the result may be trifling, there is at least perfect adequacy between the object made and the work of making it.

"Nothing of the kind in the evolution of life. There, the disproportion is striking between the work and the result. From the bottom to the top of the organized world we do indeed find one great effort; but most often this effort turns short, sometimes paralyzed by contrary forces, sometimes diverted from what it should do by what it does, absorbed by the form it is engaged in taking, hypnotized by it as by a mirror. Even in its most perfect works, though it seems to have triumphed over external resistances and also over its own, it is at the mercy of the materiality which it has had to assume. It is what each of us may experience in himself. Our freedom, in the very movements by which it is affirmed, creates the growing habits that will stifle it if it fails to renew itself by a constant effort: it is dogged by automatism. The most living thought becomes frigid in the formula that expresses it. The word turns against the idea.

The letter kills the spirit. And our most ardent enthusiasm, as soon as it is externalized into action, is so naturally congealed into the cold calculation of interest or vanity, the one takes so easily the shape of the other, that we might confuse them together, doubt our own sincerity, deny goodness and love, if we did not know that the dead retain for a time the features of the living."

(Our brackets, 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

It has been nearly 10 years since Doug first studied Bergson's p. 127 narrative. Rereading it again, just now, it dawns on Doug how Bergson is omniscribing Doug's memeo of quantum~partiality. Also see more on partiality at Doug's enthymeme and enthymemetics. Bergson shows and tells us how nature's goals are pure, i.e., transcendence, hæ~r results are perpetually~evolving and thus always incomplete: quantum~partial.

Doug may n¤t have noticed this had he n¤t been working on a economic comparison of Keynesian communism vav Hayekian capitalism. So if we apply Doug's opus there to Bergson's topics here, can we make any quantum~assessments regarding nature as more Keynesian; perhaps more Hayekian?

Keynes and his fellow commie pinko economists want socially planned "equal results," and "economic stability." They hate uncertainty and wors[e]ship determinism.

Hayek and his fellow Austrian capitalistic economists want "equal opportunity," "diversity of results," and "capitalistic competition" among all free~will individuals.

Which of those most closely correlates nature's modes of creative evolution? Hayek is more resonant nature. Keynes is wholly dissonant nature; next page Bergson uses "discordant."

Doug's summary here is that capitalism is more natural than communism. Individualism is more natural than socialism! Any socialistic democracy is unnatural. Nature is intrinsically quantum~uncertain! Quantum~uncertainty is built into nature. Attempts to 'stabilize' nature are for naught, be they social 'control' of weather, social 'control' of people, 'social' control of states, whatever...

Doug - 28-29Jun2010.

Again, we see Bergson treading heavily on evils of (socialist, state-ic) Exclusive Static Quality, ESQ. Again, we refer you to a portion of our dialogue with Jon on two kinds of virtue: ESQ virtue which has lost its Quality, and evolute virtue which commingles its vital impetus and evolves under its influence and mediation.



"The profound cause of this discordance lies in an irremediable difference of rhythm. Life in general is mobility itself; particular manifestations of life accept this mobility reluctantly, and constantly lag behind. It is always going ahead; they want to mark time. Evolution in general would fain go on in a straight line; each special evolution is a kind of circle. Like eddies of dust raised by the wind as it passes, the living turn upon themselves, borne up by the great blast of life. They are therefore relatively stable, and counterfeit immobility so well that we treat each of them as a thing rather than as a progress, forgetting that the very permanence of their form is only the outline of a movement. At times, however, in a fleeting vision, the invisible breath that bears them is materialized before our eyes. We have this sudden illumination before certain forms of maternal love, so striking, and in most animals so touching, observable even in the solicitude of the plant for its seed. This love, in which some have seen the great mystery of life, may possibly deliver us life's secret. It shows us each generation leaning over the generation that shall follow. It allows us a glimpse of the fact that the living being is above all a thoroughfare, and that the essence of life is in the movement by which life is transmitted.

"This contrast between life in general, and the forms in which it is manifested, has everywhere the same character. It might be said that life tends toward the utmost possible action [Flux is crux!], but that each species prefers to contribute the slightest possible effort. Regarded in what constitutes its true essence, namely, as a transition from species to species, life is a continually growing action. But each of the species, through which life passes, aims only at its own convenience."

(Our bold and color.)





Bergson's green, bold sentence is what we call, "…transition from isonic Dynamic Quality to quantons(DQ,SQ)." Others call it "face of change," "edge of now," "surprise," "change," etc. We can visualize it as Bergson's duration whose fulcrum of change we show as a comma in our quanton(DQ,SQ).


Life is quantons in Quantonic interrelationships. Life shows junctures of quantum uncertainty. It shows patterns of value in evolute, valuing interrelationships with other patterns of value.

Quantum least actions: efficiencies of actions and times.



"It goes for that which demands the least labor. [Least action. Least time.] Absorbed in the form it is about to take, it falls into a partial sleep, in which it ignores almost all the rest of life; it fashions itself so as to take the greatest possible advantage of its immediate environment with the least possible trouble. Accordingly, the act by which life goes forward to the creation of a new form, and the act by which this form is shaped, are two different and often antagonistic movements. The first is continuous with the second, but cannot continue in it without being drawn aside from its direction, as would happen to a man leaping, if, in order to clear the obstacle, he had to turn his eyes from it and look at himself all the while.

"Living forms are, by their very definition, forms that are able to live. In whatever way the adaptation of the organism to its circumstances is explained, it has necessarily been sufficient, since the species has subsisted. In this sense, each of the successive species that paleontology and zoology describes was a success carried off by life. But we get a very different impression when we refer each species to the movement that has left it behind on its way, instead of to the conditions into which it has been set. Often this movement has turned aside; very often, too, it has stopped short; what was to have been a thoroughfare has become a terminus. From this new point of view, failure seems the rule, success exceptional and always imperfect. We shall see that, of the four main directions along which animal life bent its course, two have led to blind alleys, and, in the other two, the effort has generally been out of proportion to the result. [We cannot avoid our own solipsist, anthropocentric perspectives of reality.]

"Documents are lacking to reconstruct this history in detail, but we can make out its main lines."

(Our bold and brackets.)







Many truths! But Pirsig has shown us how apparent failure implies imminent success. Persistence always wins! Failure cannot cope with persistence! And we can ask, "Are failure and success a classical dichotomy or a quantum paralogism? Is it both failure and success? Is it either failure or success? Is failure a contradiction of success or its always-attendant complement? Does failure bespeak opportunity or tell of loss?" (Reader, it is safe to answer most 'or' questions you see in Quantonics other than "No!". You may safely answer "Mu!" And you may also answer, "Yes!" See our Are You Alive or Dead.)



"We have already said that animals and vegetables must have separated soon from their common stock, the vegetable falling asleep in immobility, the animal, on the contrary, becoming more and more awake and marching on to the conquest of a nervous system. Probably the effort of the animal kingdom resulted in creating organisms still very simple, but endowed with a certain freedom of action, and, above all, with a shape so undecided that it could lend itself to any future determination. These animals may have resembled some of our worms, but with this difference, however, that the worms living today, to which they could be compared, are but the empty and fixed examples of infinitely plastic forms, pregnant with an unlimited future, the common stock of the echinoderms, molluscs, arthropods, and vertebrates.

"One danger lay in wait for them, one obstacle which might have stopped the soaring course of animal life. There is one peculiarity with which we cannot help being struck when glancing over the fauna of primitive times, namely, the imprisonment of the animal in a more or less solid sheath, which must have obstructed and often even paralyzed its movements. The molluscs of that time had a shell more universally than those of to-day. The arthropods in general were provided with a carapace; most of them were crustaceans. The more ancient fishes had a bony sheath of extreme hardness.(1) The explanation of this general fact should be sought, we believe, in a tendency of soft organisms to defend themselves against one another by making themselves, as far as possible, undevourable. Each species, in the act by which it comes into being, trends towards that which is most expedient."

Note (1) - See, on these different points, the work of Gaudry, Essai de paléontologie philosophique, Paris, 1896, pp. 14-16 and 78-79.

(Our bold.)



"Just as among primitive organisms there were some that turned towards animal life by refusing to manufacture organic out of inorganic material and taking organic substances ready made from organisms that had turned toward the vegetative life, so, among the animal species themselves, many contrived to live at the expense of other animals. For an organism that is animal, that is to say mobile, can avail itself of its mobility to go in search of defenseless animals, and feed on them quite as well as on vegetables. So, the more species became mobile, the more they became voracious and dangerous to one another. Hence a sudden arrest of the entire animal world in its progress towards higher and higher mobility; for the hard and calcareous skin of the echinoderm, the shell of the mollusc, the carapace of the crustacean and the ganoid [sturgeon-like scales/plates of bony armor] breast-plate of the ancient fishes probably all originated in a common effort of the animal species to protect themselves against hostile species. But this breast-plate, behind which the animal took shelter, constrained it in its movements and sometimes fixed it in one place. If the vegetable renounced consciousness in wrapping itself in a cellulose membrane, the animal that shut itself up in a citadel or in armor condemned itself to a partial slumber. In this torpor the echinoderms and even the molluscs live to-day. Probably arthropods and vertebrates were threatened with it too. They escaped, however, and to this fortunate circumstance is due the expansion of the highest forms of life.

"In two directions, in fact, we see the impulse of life to movement getting the upper hand again. The fishes exchanged their ganoid breast-plate for scales. Long before that, the insects had appeared, also disencumbered of the breast-plate that had protected their ancestors. Both supplemented the insufficiency of their protective covering by an agility that enabled them to escape their enemies, and also to assume the offensive, to choose the place and the moment of encounter."

(Our brackets.)



"We see a progress of the same kind in the evolution of human armaments. The first impulse is to seek shelter; the second, which is the better, is to become as supple as possible for flight and above all for attack—attack being the most effective means of defense. So the heavy hoplite [Greek armored soldier] was supplanted by the legionary; the knight, clad in armor, had to give place to the light free-moving infantryman; and in a general way, in the evolution of life, just as in the evolution of human societies and of individual destinies, the greatest successes have been for those who have accepted the heaviest risks.

"Evidently, then, it was to the animal's interest to make itself more mobile. As we said when speaking of adaptation in general, any transformation of a species can be explained by its own particular interest. This will give the immediate cause of the variation, but often only the most superficial cause. The profound cause is the impulse which thrust life into the world, which made it divide into vegetables and animals, which shunted the animal on to suppleness of form, and which, at a certain moment, in the animal kingdom threatened with torpor, secured that, on some points at least, it should rouse itself up and move forward.

"On the two paths along which the vertebrates and arthropods have separately evolved, development (apart from retrogressions connected with parasitism or any other cause) has consisted above all in the progress of the sensori-motor nervous system. Mobility and suppleness were sought for, and also,—through many experimental attempts, and not without a tendency to excess of substance and brute force at the start—variety of movements. But this quest itself took place in divergent directions."

(Our brackets. Bold brown added to refer Durant's source of inspiration. See Durant's The Story of Philosophy, 2nd ed. p. 501.)

As a awful tease, we offer Durant's next two paragraphs after his dark brown quote (paraphrase) of Bergson:

"It is with instincts as with organs; they are the tools of the mind; and like all organs that are attached and permanent, they become burdens when the environment that needed them has disappeared. Instinct comes ready-made, and gives decisive — and usually successful — responses to stereotyped and ancestral situations; but it does not adapt the organism to change, it does not enable man to meet flexibly the fluid complexities of modern life. It is the vehicle of security, while intellect is the organ of an adventurous liberty. It is life taking on the blind obedience of the [dialectical and political] machine.

"How significant it is that we laugh, usually, when a living thing behaves like matter, like a mechanism; when the clown tumbles about aimlessly, and leans against pillars that are not there; or when our best beloved falls on an icy path, and we are tempted to laugh first and ask questions afterward. That geometrical life which Spinoza almost confused with deity is really a reason for humor and tears; it is ridiculous and shameful that men should be machines; and ridiculous and shameful that their philosophy should describe them so." Our brackets. See The Story of Philosophy, by William James Durant, p. 501. See, more generally, Chapter X about 14 pages into it on Bergson (as one of 'The European Philosophers'). Doug.

A slight shift in con(m)temporaneity is apropos here in Durant's potentia of describing GW Bush's profound inabilities to change and adapt to massive and quantum~comtextual changings in USA culture... Bush, if not literally, then figuratively is about to become USA's Nicolae Ceausescu. Doug's opinion.

Doug - 22Oct2006.



"A glance at the nervous system of the arthropods and that of the vertebrates shows us the difference. In the arthropods, the body is formed of a series more or less long of rings set together; motor activity is thus distributed amongst a varying—sometimes a considerable—number of appendages, each of which has its special function. In the vertebrates, activity is concentrated in two pairs of members only, and these organs perform functions which depend much less strictly on their form.(1) The independence becomes complete in man, whose hand is capable of any kind of work.

"That, at least, is what we see. But behind what is seen there is what may be surmised—two powers, immanent in life and originally intermingled, which were bound to part company [i.e., form islands] in course of growth.

"To define these powers, we must consider, in the evolution both of the arthropods and the vertebrates, the species which mark the culminating point of each. How is this point to be determined? Here again, to aim at geometrical precision will lead us astray. There is no single simple sign by which we can recognize that one species is more advanced than another on the same line of evolution [rather, there is quantum uncertainty]. There are manifold characters [i.e., many islands], that must be compared and weighed in each particular case, in order to ascertain to what extent they are essential or accidental and how far they must be taken into account.

"It is unquestionable, for example, that success is the most general criterion of superiority, the two terms being, up to a certain point, synonymous. By success must be understood, so far as the living being is concerned, an aptitude to develop in the most diverse environments, through the greatest possible variety of obstacles, so as to cover the widest possible extent of ground."

Note (1) - See, on this subject, Shaler, The Individual, New York, 1900, pp. 118-125.

(Our brackets, bold, and color.)



More hint of an evolute tendency toward both increasing cohesion and increasing independence, just as Mae-wan Ho told us.

See Doug's 'What is Immanence?' Doug - 8Aug2012.



"A species which claims the entire earth for its domain is truly a dominating and consequently superior species. Such is the human species, which represents the culminating point of the evolution of the vertebrates. But such also are, in the series of the articulate, the insects and in particular certain hymenoptera. It has been said of the ants that, as man is lord of the soil, they are lords of the sub-soil.

"On the other hand, a group of species that has appeared late may be a group of degenerates; but, for that, some special cause of retrogression must have intervened. By right, this group should be superior to the group from which it is derived, since it would correspond to a more advanced stage of evolution. Now man is probably the latest comer of the vertebrates;(1) and in the insect series no species is later than the hymenoptera, unless it be the lepidoptera, which are probably degenerates, living parasitically on flowering plants.

"So, by different ways, we are led to the same conclusion. The evolution of the arthropods reaches its culminating point in the insect, and in particular in the hymenoptera, as that of the vertebrates in man. Now, since instinct is nowhere so developed as in the insect world, and in no group of insects so marvelously as in the hymenoptera, it may be said that the whole evolution of the animal kingdom, apart from retrogressions towards vegetative life, has taken place on two divergent paths, one of which led to instinct and the other to intelligence."

Note (1) - This point is disputed by M. René Quinton, who regards the carnivorous and ruminant mammals, as well as certain birds, as subsequent to man (R. Quinton, L'Eau de mer milieu organique, Paris, 1904, p. 435). We may say here that our general conclusions, although very different from M. Quinton's, are not irreconcilable with them; for if evolution has really been such as we represent it, the vertebrates must have made an effort to maintain themselves in the most favorable conditions of activity—the very conditions, indeed, which life had chosen in the beginning.

(Our bold and color.)

We see successors to H. sapiens. Tentatively, we call them Neo sapiens, and anticipate their appearance by Millennium VIII. How can we say that? Our human genome is under Bergson's vital impetus, just as he says. We see rather massive and profound alterations and extensions on our chromosomes, especially pairs (i.e., bi-somias) 21 and 23. We are not just seeing tri-somias, but n-somias. Also, we are just now beginning to recognize prions as potent agents of genetic mutation of both intrachromosomal DNA and its RNA. (See Nature, 26Sep2000, article on yeast prions and [PSI*].) Too, we see H. sapiens as agents of genetic change in all species including humans. It is inevitable if no other major crises like asteroids or volcanoes terminate human life on Earth.



"Vegetative torpor, instinct, and intelligence—these, then, are the elements that coincided in the vital impulsion common to plants and animals, and which, in the course of a development in which they were made manifest in the most unforeseen forms, have been dissociated by the very fact of their growth. The cardinal error which, from Aristotle onwards, has vitiated most of the philosophies of nature, is to see in vegetative, instinctive and rational life, three successive degrees of the development of one and the same tendency, whereas they are three divergent directions of an activity that has split up as it grew. The difference between them is not a difference of intensity, nor, more generally, of degree, but of kind.

"It is important to investigate this point. We have seen in the case of vegetable and animal life how they are at once mutually complementary and mutually antagonistic. Now we must show that intelligence and instinct also are opposite and complementary. [Again, we see a quantum both/and.] But let us first explain why we are generally led to regard them as activities of which one is superior to the other and based upon it, whereas in reality they are not things of the same order: they have not succeeded one another, nor can we assign to them different grades.

"It is because intelligence and instinct, having originally been interpenetrating, retain something of their common origin [i.e., quantum awareness]. Neither is ever found in a pure state [i.e., they always form quantonic interrelationships]. We said that in the plant the consciousness and mobility of the animal, which lie dormant, can be awakened; and that the animal lives under the constant menace of being drawn aside to the vegetative life. The two tendencies—that of the plant and that of the animal—were so thoroughly interpenetrating, to begin with, that there has never been a complete severance between them: they haunt [quantum interrelate] each other continually; everywhere we find them mingled; it is the proportion that differs [i.e., forms a quantum uncertainty interrelationship]. So with intelligence and instinct."

(Our brackets, bold, and color.)






We would show that mutuality as a quantum both/and.



Interpenetrating is Fritjof Capra's word too. See Capra's, The Tao of Physics, his chapter titled 'Interpenetration.' James used 'compenetrating.' We see both terms as co-artifacts of physial and intrinsic quantum awareness.



"'There is no intelligence in which some traces of instinct are not to be discovered, more especially no instinct that is not surrounded with a fringe of intelligence. It is this fringe of intelligence that has been the cause of so many misunderstandings. From the fact that instinct is always more or less intelligent, it has been concluded that instinct and intelligence are things of the same kind, that there is only a difference of complexity or perfection between them, and, above all, that one of the two is expressible in terms of the other. In reality, they accompany each other only because they are complementary, and they are complementary only because they are different, what is instinctive in instinct being opposite to what is intelligent in intelligence.

"We are bound to dwell on this point. It is one of the utmost importance.

"Let us say at the outset that the distinctions we are going to make will be too sharply drawn, just because we wish to define in instinct what is instinctive, and in intelligence what is intelligent, whereas all concrete instinct is mingled with intelligence, as all real intelligence is penetrated by instinct. Moreover, neither intelligence nor instinct lends itself to rigid definition: they are tendencies, and not things. [I.e., they are quantons!] Also, it must not be forgotten that in the present chapter we are considering intelligence and instinct as going out of life which deposits them along its course. Now the life manifested by an organism is, in our view, a certain effort to obtain certain things from the material world. No wonder, therefore, if it is the diversity of this effort that strikes us in instinct and intelligence, and if we see in these two modes of Psychical activity, above all else, two different methods of action on inert matter."

(Our brackets, bold, and color.) We are willing and confident to make an even stronger heuristic statement: "There is no constituent of actuality in which some traces of quantum awareness are not to be discovered."

Agree! Misunderstandings arise due to Aristotelian material objectivism's insistence upon "A is either A or not A, and A cannot be both A and not A." Quantum reality says Aristotle's excluded-middle syllogistic logic is pure folly, puerility taken to its limit. Quantum reality's middle is included, period!







Bergson's use of "inert matter" is just more classical residual legacy. There is no such idea, i.e., "inert matter" is not a 'real' concept. All 'matter' is in unending flux! It is under, as he has said, "endless vital impetus."


Return to Chapter Index

To contact Quantonics write to or call:

Doug Renselle
Quantonics, Inc.
Suite 18 #368 1950 East Greyhound Pass
Carmel, INdiana 46033-7730

©Quantonics, Inc., 2000-2021 Rev. 8Aug2012  PDR Created: 20Sep2000  PDR
(31Dec2001 rev - Add top of page frame-breaker.)
(9Oct2003 rev - Add p. 132 anchor for source of Durant quote. Change wingdings to GIFs for browser compatibility.)
(22Oct2006 rev - Release page constraints. Adjust colors. Expand page 132 comments.)
(15Nov2007 rev - Reformat slightly.)
(3Apr2008 rev - Reformat slightly.)
(10Apr2008 rev - Recolor legacy red text markup to bold brown.)
(20Dec2008 rev - Add 'Quantum Awareness' anchor.)
(28Jun2010 rev - Doug sees Bergson's p. 127 narrative as Bergson's omniscriptionings of quantum~partiality. See novel commentary.)
(29Jun2010 rev - Repair Ceausescu link. Add "diversity of results" comment to p. 127 commentary update.)
(3Jul2010 rev - Add page index links.)
(8Aug2012 rev - Add p. 133 comments link to Doug's 'What is Immanence?')

Return to Review