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A Review
Henri Louis Bergson's Book
Creative Evolution
Chapter I: The Evolution of Life Mechanism and Teleology
Topic 6: Biology, Physics and Chemistry
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 6...............Biology, Physics and Chemistry


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

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


"In this sense it might be said of life, as of consciousness, that at every moment it is creating something.(1)

"But against this idea of the absolute originality and unforeseeability of forms our whole [classical] intellect rises in revolt. The essential function of our intellect, as the evolution of life has fashioned it, is to be a light for our conduct, to make ready for our action on things, to foresee, for a given situation, the events, favorable or unfavorable, which may follow thereupon. [Classical] Intellect therefore instinctively selects in a given situation whatever is like something already known; it seeks this out, in order that it may apply its principle that "like produces like." In just this does the [classically analytic] prevision of the future by common sense consist. [Classical] Science carries this faculty to the highest possible degree of exactitude and precision, but does not alter its essential character. Like ordinary knowledge, in dealing with things science is concerned only with the aspect of repetition. Though the whole be original, science will always manage to analyze it into elements or aspects which are approximately a reproduction of the past. [Classical] Science can work only on what is supposed to repeat itselfthat is to say, on what is withdrawn, by hypothesis, from the action of real time. Anything that is irreducible and irreversible in the successive moments of a history eludes science."

Note (1) - In his fine work on Genius in Art (Le Génie dans l'art), M. Séailles develops this twofold thesis, that art is a continuation of nature and that life is creation. We should willingly accept the second formula; but by creation must we understand, as the author does, a synthesis of elements? Where the elements pre-exist, the synthesis that will be made is virtually given, being only one of the possible arrangements. This arrangement a superhuman intellect could have perceived in advance among all the possible ones that surround it. We hold, on the contrary, that in the domain of life the elements have no real and separate existence. They are manifold mental views of an indivisible process. And for that reason there is radical contingency in progress, incommensurability between what goes before and what follows—in short, duration.

(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

Quantum incommensurability—YES!
So we see, and agree:
Quantal reality
issi duration issi quanton(befores,afters).


"To get a notion of this irreducibility and irreversibility, we must break with scientific habits which are adapted to the fundamental requirements of thought, we must do violence to the mind, go counter to the natural bent of the intellect. But that is just the function of philosophy.

"In vain, therefore, does life evolve before our eyes as a continuous creation of unforeseeable form: the idea always persists that form, unforeseeability and continuity are mere appearance—the outward reflection of our own ignorance. What is presented to the senses as a continuous history would break up, we are told, into a series of successive states.

"What gives you the impression of an original state resolves, upon analysis, into elementary facts, each of which is the repetition of a fact already known. What you call an unforeseeable form is only a new arrangement of old elements. The elementary causes, which in their totality have determined this arrangement, are themselves old causes repeated in a new order. Knowledge of the elements and of the elementary causes would have made it possible to foretell the living form which is their sum and their resultant. When we have resolved the biological aspect of phenomena into physico-chemical factors, we will leap, if necessary, over physics and chemistry themselves; we will go from masses to molecules, from molecules to atoms, from atoms to corpuscles: we must indeed at last come to something that can be treated as a kind of solar system, astronomically. If you deny it, you oppose the very principle of scientific mechanism, and you arbitrarily affirm that living matter is not made of the same elements as other matter."

"—We reply that we do not question the fundamental identity of inert matter and organized matter."

(Our bold and color.)

This statement is incredibly important to a philosophy's foundational assumptions. E.g., Whether 'inert' matter values its own, recursive coobsfection.

"The only question is whether the natural systems which we call living beings must be assimilated to the artificial systems that science cuts out within inert matter, or whether they must not rather be compared to that natural system which is the whole of the universe. That life is a kind of mechanism I cordially agree. But is it the mechanism of parts artificially isolated within the whole of the universe, or is it the mechanism of the real whole? The real whole might well be, we conceive, an indivisible continuity. The systems we cut out within it would, properly speaking, not then be parts at all; they would be partial views of the whole. And, with these partial views put end to end, you will not make even a beginning of the reconstruction of the whole, any more than, by multiplying photographs of an object in a thousand different aspects, you will reproduce the object itself. So of life and of the physico-chemical phenomena to. which you endeavor to reduce it. Analysis will undoubtedly resolve the process of organic creation into an ever-growing number of physico-chemical phenomena, and chemists and physicists will have to do, of course, with nothing but these. But it does not follow that chemistry and physics will ever give us the key to life.

"A very small element of a curve is very near being a straight line. And the smaller it is, the nearer. In the limit, it may be termed a part of the curve or a part of the straight line, as you please, for in each of its points a curve coincides with its tangent. So likewise "vitality" is tangent, at any and every point, to physical and chemical forces; but such points are, as a fact, only views taken by a mind which imagines stops at various moments of the movement that generates the curve. In reality, life is no more made of physico-chemical elements than a curve is composed of straight lines."

(Our bold and color.)
32 "In a general way, the most radical progress a science can achieve is the working of the completed results into a new scheme of the whole, by relation to which they become instantaneous and motionless views taken at intervals along the continuity of a movement. Such, for example, is the relation of modern to ancient geometry. The latter, purely static, worked with figures drawn once for all; the former studies the varying of a function—that is, the continuous movement by which the figure is described. No doubt, for greater strictness, all considerations of motion may be eliminated from mathematical processes; but the introduction of motion into the genesis of figures is nevertheless the origin of modern mathematics. We believe that if biology could ever get as close to its object as mathematics does to its own, it would become, to the physics and chemistry of organized bodies, what the mathematics of the moderns has proved to be in relation to ancient geometry. The wholly superficial displacements of masses and molecules studied in physics and chemistry would become, by relation to that inner vital movement (which is transformation and not translation) what the position of a moving object is to the movement of that object in space. And, so far as we can see, the procedure by which we should then pass from the definition of a certain vital action to the system of physicochemical facts which it implies would be like passing from the function to its derivative, from the equation of the curve (i.e. the law of the continuous movement by which the curve is generated) to the equation of the tangent giving its instantaneous direction. Such a science would be a mechanics of transformation, of which our mechanics of translation would become a particular case, a simplification, a projection on the plane of pure quantity. And just as an infinity of functions have the same differential, these functions differing from each other by a constant, so perhaps the integration of the physico-chemical elements of properly vital action might determine that action only in part—a part would be left to indetermination."

(Our bold and color.)

Such a perspective is pretty decent for 100 years ago when real time analysis tools and techniques did not exist. But this Bergson still describes as classical analyticity, just hyped up a bit. (Hence, a good description for current improvements on von Neumann architecture digital computers—endless hyping-up and efforts to dodge Moore's law.) Today we have terahertz von Neumann processors and we are headed toward petahertz processors. Yet those are, just more, classical analyticity—faster. What we need are manageable quantum computers which can stand astride both actuality and nonactuality and choose threads of quantum evolution to ride. This quantum choice capability would allow us to evolve real threads quickly and select among them those we Value most, those better quantum threads. Instead of calling them "quantum computers" we will call them something like "evaluons (see note below), improvisons, qualitors, valutors, polydons, undulons, eventuons, or evolutors," etc. We like "anna" or "juco" for short. "Anna" is acronyms for an actuality-nonactuality issi nonactuality-actuality which shows our quantum straddle/astride we mentioned above. And "Juco" is a name for a quantum agent or Just Colleague described in chapters of our book, A Next Iteration. Juco innately evolves his answers to gain a best possible result for his sentient biological friends.

(Note: Reader, please note that we are currently developing a perceptual EEE evaluon emerscitecture. Its capabilities are quite dramatic and will radically change how we develop and use systems. Doug, 26Sep2000.)


"But such an integration can be no more than dreamed of; we do not pretend that the dream will ever be realized. We are only trying, by carrying a certain comparison as far as possible, to show up to what point our theory goes along with pure mechanism, and where they part company.

"Imitation of the living by the unorganized may, however, go a good way. Not only does chemistry make organic syntheses, but we have succeeded in reproducing artificially the external appearance of certain facts of organization, such as indirect cell-division and protoplasmic circulation. It is well known that the protoplasm of the cell effects various movements within its envelope; on the other hand, indirect cell-division is the outcome of very complex operations, some involving the nucleus and others the cytoplasm. These latter commence by the doubling of the centrosome, a small spherical body alongside the nucleus. The two centrosomes thus obtained draw apart, attract the broken and doubled ends of the filament of which the original nucleus mainly consisted, and join them to form two fresh nuclei about which the two new cells are constructed which will succeed the first. Now, in their broad lines and in their external appearance, some at least of these operations have been successfully imitated. If some sugar or table salt is pulverized and some very old oil is added, and a drop of the mixture is observed under the microscope, a froth of alveolar structure is seen whose configuration is like that of protoplasm, according to certain theories, and in which movements take place which are decidedly like those of protoplasmic circulation.(1)"

Note (1) - Bütschli, Untersuchungen über mikroskopische Schäume und das Protoplasma, Leipzig, 1892, First Part.

(Our bold and color.)

"If, in a froth of the same kind, the air is extracted from an alveolus, a cone of attraction is seen to form, like those about the centrosomes which result in the division of the nucleus.(1) Even the external motions of a unicellular organism—of an amoeba, at any rate—are sometimes explained mechanically. The displacements of an amoeba in a drop of water would be comparable to the motion to and fro of a grain of dust in a draughty room. Its mass is all the time absorbing certain soluble matters contained in the surrounding water, and giving back to it certain others; these continual exchanges, like those between two vessels separated by a porous partition, would create an ever changing vortex around the little organism. As for the temporary prolongations or pseudopodia which the amoeba seems to make, they would be not so much given out by it as attracted from it by a kind of inhalation or suction of the surrounding medium.(2) In the same way we may perhaps come to explain the more complex movements which the Infusorian makes with its vibratory cilia, which, moreover, are probably only fixed pseudopodia.

"But scientists are far from agreed on the value of explanations and schemas of this sort. Chemists have pointed out that even in the organic—not to go so far as the organized—science has reconstructed hitherto nothing but waste products of vital activity; the peculiarly active plastic substances obstinately defy synthesis. One of the most notable naturalists of our time has insisted on the opposition of two orders of phenomena observed in living tissues, anagenesis and katagenesis. The role of the anagenetic energies is to raise the inferior energies to their own level by assimilating inorganic substances."

Note (1) - Rhumbler, Versuch einer mechanischen Erklärung der indirekten Zell- und Kernteilung (Roux's Archiv, 1896).

Note (2) - Berthold, Studien über Protoplasmamechanik, Leipzig, 1886, p. 102. Cf. the explanation proposed by Le Dantec, Théorie nouvelle de la vie, Paris, 1896, p. 60.

(Our bold and color.)

"They construct the tissues. On the other hand, the actual functioning of life (excepting, of course, assimilation, growth, and reproduction) is of the katagenetic order, exhibiting the fall, not the rise, of energy. It is only with these facts of katagenetic order that physico-chemistry deals—that is, in short, with the dead and not with the living.(1) The other kind of facts certainly seem to defy physico-chemical analysis, even if they are not anagenetic in the proper sense of the word. As for the artificial imitation of the outward appearance of protoplasm, should a real theoretic importance be attached to this when the question of the physical framework of protoplasm is not yet settled? We are still further from compounding protoplasm chemically. Finally, a physico-chemical explanation of the motions of the amoeba, and a fortiori of the behavior of the Infusoria, seems impossible to many of those who have closely observed these rudimentary organisms. Even in these humblest manifestations of life they discover traces of an effective psychological activity.(2) But instructive above all is the fact that the tendency to explain everything by physics and chemistry is discouraged rather than strengthened by deep study of histological phenomena."

Note (1) - Cope, The Primary Factors of Organic Evolution, Chicago, 1896, pp. 475-484.

Note (2) - Maupas, "Etude des infuroires ciliés" (Arch. de zoologie expérimentale, 1883, pp. 47, 491, 518, 549, in particular). P. Vignon, Recherches de cytologie générale sur les épithé1iums, Paris, 1902, p. 655. A profound study of the motions of the Infusoria and a very penetrating criticism of the idea of tropism have been made recently by Jennings (Contributions to the Study of the Behavior of Lower Organisms, Washington, 1904). The "type of behavior" of these lower organisms, as Jennings defines it (pp. 237-252), is unquestionably of the psychological order.

(Our bold and color.)

"Such is the conclusion of the truly admirable book which the histologist E. B. Wilson has devoted to the development of the cell:

"The study of the cell has, on the whole, seemed to widen rather than to narrow the enormous gap that separates even the lowest forms of life from the inorganic world.(1)"

"To sum up, those who are concerned only with the functional activity of the living being are inclined to believe that physics and chemistry will give us the key to biological processes. (2) They have chiefly to do, as a fact, with phenomena that are repeated continually in the living being, as in a chemical retort. This explains, in some measure, the mechanistic tendencies of physiology. On the contrary, those whose attention is concentrated on the minute structure of living tissues, on their genesis and evolution, histologists and embryogenists on the one hand, naturalists on the other, are interested in the retort itself, not merely in its contents. They find that this retort creates its own form through a unique series of acts that really constitute a history. Thus, histologists, embryogenists, and naturalists believe far less readily than physiologists in the physico-chemical character of vital actions.

"The fact is, neither one nor the other of these two theories, neither that which affirms nor that which denies the possibility of chemically producing an elementary organism, can claim the authority of experiment. They are both unverifiable, the former because science has not yet advanced a step toward the chemical synthesis of a living substance, the second because there is no conceivable way of proving experimentally the impossibility of a fact. But we have set forth the theoretical reasons which prevent us from likening the living being, a system closed off by nature, to the systems which our science isolates."

Note (1) - E. B. Wilson, The Cell in Development and Inheritance, New York, 1897, p. 330.

Note (2) - Dastre, La Vie et la mort, p. 43.

(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. 14Nov2007  PDR Created: 20Sep2000  PDR
(10Jan2001 rev - Insert '[classical]' brackets on page 29.)
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