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A Review
Henri Louis Bergson's Book
Creative Evolution
Chapter IV: The Cinematographical Mechanism Of Thought
and the Mechanistic Illusion

A Glance at the History of Systems

Real Becoming and False Evolutionism.

Topic 43: Descartes
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

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Topic 43...............Descartes


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

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


"That metaphysics hesitated at first between the two paths seems to us unquestionable. The indecision is visible in Cartesianism. On the one hand, Descartes affirms universal mechanism: from this point of view movement would be relative,(1) and, as time has just as much reality as movement, it would follow that past, present and future are given from all eternity. But, on the other hand (and that is why the philosopher has not gone to these extreme consequences), Descartes believes in the free will of man. He superposes on the determinism of physical phenomena the indeterminism of human actions, and, consequently, on time-length a time in which there is invention, creation, true succession. This duration he supports on a God who is unceasingly renewing the creative act, and who, being thus tangent to time and becoming, sustains them, communicates to them necessarily something of his absolute reality. When he places himself at this second point of view, Descartes speaks of movement, even spatial, as of an absolute.(2)

"He therefore entered both roads one after the other, having resolved to follow neither of them to the end. The first would have led him to the denial of free will in man and of real will in God. It was the suppression of all efficient duration, the likening of the universe to a thing given, which a superhuman intelligence would embrace at once in a moment or in eternity. In following the second, on the contrary, he would have been led to all the consequences which the intuition of true duration implies. Creation would have appeared not simply as continued, but also as continuous. The universe, regarded as a whole, would really evolve. The future would no longer be determinable by the present; at most we might say that, once realized, it can be found again in its antecedents [I.e., quantum reality is qualitatively affective. Pirsig says it similarly to Bergson: "Bs Value preconditions As," vis-à-vis a classical "A causes B."], as the sounds of, a new language can be expressed with the letters of an old alphabet if we agree to enlarge the value of the letters and to attribute to them, retroactively, sounds which no combination of the old sounds could have produced beforehand. Finally, the mechanistic explanation might have remained universal in this, that it can indeed be extended to as many systems as we choose to cut out in the continuity of the universe; but mechanism would then have become a method rather than a doctrine. [Practically, for today's Millennium III science and philosophy, it is important to remake this distinction for mathematics. I.e., it is a method, not a doctrine. Indeed 'modern' mathematics is a provincial, parochial, passé classical method, naught more.] It would have expressed the fact that science must proceed after the cinematographical manner, that the function of science is to scan the rhythm of the flow of things and not to fit itself into that flow.—Such were the two opposite conceptions of metaphysics which were offered to philosophy.

"It chose the first. The reason of this choice is undoubtedly the mind's tendency to follow the cinematographical method, a method so natural to our intellect, and so well adjusted also to the requirements of our science, that we must feel doubly sure of its speculative impotence to renounce it in metaphysics. But ancient philosophy also influenced the choice. Artists for ever admirable, the Greeks created a type of suprasensible truth, as of sensible beauty, whose attraction is hard to resist. As soon as we incline to make metaphysics a systematization of science, we glide in the direction of Plato and of Aristotle. once in the zone of attraction in which the Greek philosophers moved, we are drawn along in their orbit. [Ah! The great wail of SOM's song of seduction, "Sing oh Muse of Achilles' wrath."]"

Note (1) - Descartes, Principes, ii. § 29.
Note (2) - Descartes, Principes, ii. §§ 36 ff.

(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
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To contact Quantonics write to or call:

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

©Quantonics, Inc., 2000-2009 Rev. 15Nov2007  PDR Created: 20Sep2000  PDR
(8Jul2001 rev - Correct link to page 30.)
(14Dec2001 rev - Add top of page frame-breaker.)
(15Nov2007 rev - Reformat slightly.)

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