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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 47: The Evolution of Spencer
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 47...............The Evolution of Spencer


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

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


"That the thought of the nineteenth century called for a philosophy of this kind, rescued from the arbitrary, capable of coming down to the detail of particular facts, is unquestionable. Unquestionably, also, it felt that this philosophy ought to establish itself in what we call concrete duration. The advent of the moral sciences, the progress of psychology, the growing importance of embryology among the biological sciences—all this was bound to suggest the idea of a reality which endures inwardly, which is duration itself. So, when a philosopher arose who announced a doctrine of evolution, in which the progress of matter toward perceptibility would be traced together with the advance of the mind toward rationality, in which the complication of correspondences between the external and the internal would be followed step by step, in which change would become the very substance of thingsto him all eyes were turned. The powerful attraction that Spencerian evolutionism has exercised on contemporary thought is due to that very cause. However far Spencer may seem to be from Kant, however ignorant, indeed, he may have been of Kantianism, he felt, nevertheless, at his first contact with the biological sciences, the direction in which philosophy could continue to advance without laying itself open to the Kantian criticism."

(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

No arrogance intended, but we agree with Pirsig that it is not a good expenditure of one's resources to learn a plethora of specific antique philosophies. Rather it is worthwhile to understand their generalities. Nearly all Western philosophical ISMs prior 1975 are SOM ISMs. Their greatest generality is dichotomy of subject and object and worship of either individually or both together as an either/or relation. All of this within an iron-clad Aristotelian materialist convention and syllogistic logic.


"But he had no sooner started to follow the path than he turned off short. He had promised to retrace a genesis, and, lo! he was doing something entirely different. His doctrine bore indeed the name of evolutionism; it claimed to remount and redescend the course of the universal becoming; but, in fact, it dealt neither with becoming nor with evolution.

"We need not enter here into a profound examination of this philosophy. Let us say merely that the usual device of the Spencerian method consists in reconstructing evolution with fragments of the evolved. If I paste a picture on a card and then cut up the card into bits, I can reproduce the picture by rightly grouping again the small pieces. And a child who working thus with the pieces of a puzzle-picture, and putting together unformed fragments of the picture finally obtains a pretty colored design, no doubt imagines that he has produced design and color. Yet the act of drawing and painting has nothing to do with that of putting together the fragments of a picture already drawn and already painted. So, by combining together the most simple results of evolution, you may imitate well or ill the most complex effects; but of neither the simple nor the complex will you have retraced the genesis, and the addition of evolved to evolved will bear no resemblance whatever to the movement of evolution.

"Such, however, is Spencer's illusion. He takes reality in its present form; he breaks it to pieces, he scatters it in fragments which he throws to the winds; then he "integrates" these fragments and "dissipates their movement." Having imitated the Whole by a work of mosaic, he imagines he has retraced the design of it, and made the genesis."

(Our bold.)






Bergson shows us philosophy's profound difference twixt new borne of information and new borne of evolution. Latter begs EEE. Former begs rearrangement of that which has already evolved. Really, both involve more or less evolution, but EEE begs emergence where information may not. William James spends significant time on pattern novelty: genuine newness. Music is a good example. We have all heard clones of others' tunes. They are quite readily impeached. Yet when Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue first appeared, little doubt that it was genuinely novel. Few had used pattern recursion so extensively in semi-classical music prior. But his American in Paris almost sounds like a clone, a cut-up picture rearranged. Interesting, eh? How many musicians can you name who have entrapped themselves in this musical information vis-à-vis musical evolution process? Many have. Many painters too!


"Is it matter that is in question? The diffused elements which he integrates into visible and tangible bodies have all the air of being the very particles of the simple bodies, which he first supposes disseminated throughout space. They are, at any rate, "material points," and consequently unvarying points, veritable little solids: as if solidity, being what is nearest and handiest to us, could be found at the very origin of materiality! The more physics progresses, the more it shows the impossibility of representing the properties of ether or of electricity—the probable base of all bodies—on the model of the properties of the matter which we perceive. But philosophy goes back further even than the ether, a mere schematic figure of the relations between phenomena apprehended by our senses. It knows indeed that what is visible and tangible in things represents our possible action on them. It is not by dividing the evolved that we shall reach the principle of that which evolves. It is not by recomposing the evolved with itself that we shall reproduce the evolution of which it is the term.

"Is it the question of mind? By compounding the reflex with the reflex, Spencer thinks he generates instinct and rational volition one after the other. He fails to see that the specialized reflex, being a terminal point of evolution just as much as perfect will, cannot be supposed at the start. That the first of the two terms should have reached its final form before the other is probable enough; but both the one and the other are deposits of the evolution movement, and the evolution movement itself can no more be expressed as a function solely of the first than solely of the second."

(Our bold and color.)



Bergson (apparently) did not know of quantum reality's absolute change impetus as relentless flux which evolves all reality. So, in a pure quantum sense, all evolved patterns of reality are always evolving patterns of reality. He apparently classically objectifies 'the evolved.' He makes 'the evolved' stand still, which in quantum reality it cannot do (even our pure Platonic ideas and intellectual concepts). Mayhaps he is describing Spencer's own objectification of 'the evolved.' Anyone who objectifies reality places oneself in very unsafe philosophical and scientific territory! Doug 19Nov2000.



[Agree. See our Classical vis-à-vis Quantonic Time Quantons. Each of many 'nexts' depends upon an ensemble of quanton Value preconditions, at each Planck moment or special or Quality Event.]


"We must begin by mixing the reflex and the voluntary. We must then go in quest of the fluid reality which has been precipitated in this twofold form, and which probably shares in both without being either. [This better embraces quantum reality's relentless absolute flux.] At the lowest degree of the animal scale, in living beings that are but an undifferentiated [appeared true 100 years ago, not now] protoplasmic mass, the reaction to stimulus does not yet call into play one definite mechanism, as in the reflex; it has not yet choice among several definite mechanisms, as in the voluntary act; it is, then, neither voluntary nor reflex, though it heralds both [via quantum cohesion]. We experience in ourselves something of this true original activity when we perform semi-voluntary and semi-automatic movements to escape a pressing danger [Pirsig's hot stove! Pre-intellectual quantum cohesive experience and pragma.]. And yet this is but a very imperfect imitation of the primitive character, for we are concerned here with a mixture of two activities already formed, already localized in a brain and in a spinal cord [Did Bergson just objectify brain and spinal cord?], whereas the original activity was a simple thing, which became diversified through the very construction of mechanisms like those of the spinal cord and brain. But to all this Spencer shuts his eyes, because it is of the essence of his method to recompose the consolidated with the consolidated, instead of going back to the gradual process of consolidation, which is evolution itself.

"Is it, finally, the question of the correspondence between mind and matter? Spencer is right in defining the intellect by this correspondence. He is right in regarding it as the end of an evolution. But when he comes to retrace this evolution, again he integrates the evolved with the evolved—failing to see that he is thus taking useless trouble, and that in positing the slightest fragment of the actually evolved he posits the whole—so that it is vain for him, then, to pretend to make the genesis of it."

(Our brackets and bold.)
367 "For, according to him, the phenomena that succeed each other in nature project into the human mind images which represent them. To the relations between phenomena, therefore, correspond symmetrically relations between the ideas. And the most general laws of nature, in which the relations between phenomena are condensed, are thus found to have engendered the directing principles of thought, into which the relations between ideas have been integrated. Nature, therefore, is reflected in mind. The intimate structure of our thought corresponds, piece by piece, to the very skeleton of things—I admit it willingly; but, in order that the human mind may be able to represent relations between phenomena, there must first be phenomena, that is to say, distinct facts, cut out in the continuity of becoming. And once we posit this particular mode of cutting up such as we perceive it to-day, we posit also the intellect such as it is to-day, for it is by relation to it, and to it alone, that reality is cut up in this manner. Is it probable that mammals and insects notice the same aspects of nature, trace in it the same divisions, articulate the whole in the same way? And yet the insect, so far as intelligent, has already something of our intellect. Each being cuts up the material world according to the lines that its action must follow: it is these lines of possible action that, by intercrossing, mark out the net of experience of which each mesh is a fact. No doubt, a town is composed exclusively of houses, and the streets of the town are only the intervals between the houses: so, we may say that nature contains only facts, and that, the facts once posited, the relations are simply the lines running between the facts. But, in a town, it is the gradual portioning of the ground into lots that has determined at once the place of the houses, their general shape, and the direction of the streets: to this portioning we must go back if we wish to understand the particular mode of subdivision that causes each house to be where it is, each street to run as it does."

"Now, the cardinal error of Spencer is to take experience already allotted as given, whereas the true problem is to know how the allotment was worked. I agree that the laws of thought are only the integration of relations between facts. But, when I posit the facts with the shape they have for me to-day, I suppose my faculties of perception and intellection such as they are in me to-day; for it is they that portion the real into lots, they that cut the facts out in the whole of reality. Therefore, instead of saying that the relations between facts have generated the laws of thought, I can as well claim that it is the form of thought that has determined the shape of the facts perceived, and consequently their relations among themselves: the two ways of expressing oneself are equivalent; they say at bottom the same thing. With the second, it is true, we give up speaking of evolution. But, with the first, we only speak of it, we do not think of it any the more. For a true evolutionism would propose to discover by what modus vivendi, gradually obtained, the intellect has adopted its plan of structure, and matter its mode of subdivision. This structure and this subdivision work into each other; they are mutually complementary; they must have progressed one with the other. And, whether we posit the present structure of mind or the present subdivision of matter, in either case we remain in the evolved: we are told nothing of what evolves, nothing of evolution. [Quantonics and QTMs do this however!]

"And yet it is this evolution that we must discover. Already, in the field of physics itself, the scientists who are pushing the study of their science furthest incline to believe that we cannot reason about the parts as we reason about the whole; that the same principles are not applicable to the origin and to the end of a progress; that neither creation nor annihilation, for instance, is inadmissible when we are concerned with the constituent corpuscles of the atom. [In our sincerest opinion, this view of science is incorrect. We believe that QTMs and learning to use them habitually lift us from this scientific mind trap. Doug 19Nov2000.]"

(Our brackets, color and bold.)

See our Quantonics' note on two versions of complementarity.
369 "Thereby they tend to place themselves in the concrete duration, in which alone there is true generation and not only a composition of parts. It is true that the creation and annihilation of which they speak concern the movement or the energy, and not the imponderable medium through which the energy and the movement are supposed to circulate. [At that time, 100 years ago, they could not perceive an absolute open isoconic isoflux as their "imponderable medium."] But what can remain of matter when you take away everything that determines it, that is to say, just energy and movement themselves? The philosopher must go further than the scientist. Making a clean sweep of everything that is only an imaginative symbol, he will see the material world melt back into a simple flux, a continuity of flowing, a becoming. And he will thus be prepared to discover real duration there where it is still more useful to find it, in the realm of life and of consciousness. For, so far as inert matter is concerned, we may neglect the flowing without committing a serious error: matter, we have said, is weighted with geometry; and matter, the reality which descends, endures only by its connection with that which ascends. But life and consciousness are this very ascension. When once we have grasped them in their essence by adopting their movement, we understand how the rest of reality is derived from them. Evolution appears and, within this evolution, the progressive determination of materiality and intellectuality by the gradual consolidation of the one and of the other. But, then, it is within the evolutionary movement that we place ourselves, in order to follow it to its present results, instead of recomposing these results artificially with fragments of themselves. Such seems to us to be the true function of philosophy." (Our brackets, bold, and color.)
370 "So understood, philosophy is not only the turning of the mind homeward, the coincidence of human consciousness with the living principle whence it emanates, a contact with the creative effort: it is the study of becoming in general, it is true evolutionism and consequently the true continuation of science—provided that we understand by this word a set of truths either experienced or demonstrated, and not a certain new scholasticism that has grown up during the latter half of the nineteenth century around the physics of Galileo, as the old scholasticism grew up around Aristotle." (Our bold and color.)
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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.)
(21Jan2002 rev - Add page 368 comment on two kinds of complementarity.)
(15Nov2007 rev - Reformat slightly.)

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