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A Review
Henri Louis Bergson's Book
Time and Free Will
Chapter III: The Organization of Conscious States - Free Will
Topic 33: Real Duration and Contingency
by Doug Renselle
Doug's Pre-review Commentary
Start of Review




Bibliography Author's
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17


18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 Conclusion Index

Move to any Topic of Henri Louis Bergson's Time and Free Will,
or to beginning of its review via this set of links
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Topic 33...............Real Duration and Contingency


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

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


""To be conscious of free will," says Stuart Mill, "must mean to be conscious, before I have
Determinist and libertarian doctrines of "possible acts." decided, that I am able to decide either way.(1) This is really the way in which the defenders of free will understand it and they
assert that when we perform an action freely, some other action would have been "equally possible." On this point they appeal to the testimony of consciousness which shows us, beyond the act itself, the power of deciding in favour of the opposite course. Inversely, determinism claims that, given certain antecedents, only one resultant action was possible. "When we think of ourselves hypothetically," Stuart Mill goes on, "as having acted otherwise than we did, we always suppose a difference in the antecedents. We picture ourselves as having known something that we did not know, or not known something that we did know."(2) And, faithful to his principle, the English philosopher assigns consciousness the role of informing us about what is, not about what might be. We shall not insist for the moment on this last point: we reserve the question in what sense the ego perceives itself as a determining cause. But beside this psychological question there is another, belonging rather to metaphysics, which the determinists and their opponents solve a priori. along opposite lines."

Note (1): Examination of Sir W. Hamilton's Philosophy. 5th ed., (1878), p. 580.
Note (2): Ibid. p. 583.

(Our bold, color, and violet bold italic problematics.)

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
  • orange-bold - text ref'd by index pages
  • 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

Opposite is a purely classical term. It is used often, just as Bergson uses it, with the immediately preceding. Classicists' use of thelogos just prior their use of opposite affords them an artificial badge of self-assessed importance. It says they know and are telling us that there is only one opposite. In this classical guise we have, again, mistaken presumption of 1-1 correspondence and causality.

In quantum reality there are n¤ classical opposites! There are only quantum complements. And quantum c¤mplements are n¤t classical per se lisr objects. All quantum c¤mplements are subjective ensembles of vast quantum qualities, which we in Quantonics call "interrelationships." When classicists "encrust" subjective quantum ensembles they induce and educe classical propertyesque symbolic and noumenal specificity. They turn quantum animacy into classical state-icity. They turn quantons into classically objective dichons. They turn robust quantum c¤mplexity (view as quantum ensemble c¤mpl-ement-exity) into naïve and endarkened classical simplicity.

We can make similar arguments for Bergson's use of difference. "...their use of difference affords them an artificial badge of self-assessed importance" that they know only two classical objects must/can be compared to establish "a difference." But quantum reality denies any such possibility of ideal classical binary "difference" comparison. See our omnifference.


"The argument of the former implies that there is only one possible act corresponding to given antecedents: the believers in free will assume, on the other hand, that the same series could issue in [classically monistically, just one of] several different [classically separable and distinct] acts, equally possible. It is on this question of the equal possibility of two contrary actions or volitions that we shall first dwell: perhaps we shall thus gather some indication as to the nature of the operation by which the will makes its choice.

"I hesitate between two possible actions X and Y, and I go in turn from one to the other. This means
Geometrical (and thereby deceptive) representation of the process of coming to a decision. that I pass through a series of states, and that these states can be divided into two groups according as I incline more towards X or in the contrary direction. Indeed, these opposite inclinations alone
have a real existence, and X and Y are two symbols by which I represent at their arrival- or termination-points, so to speak, two different tendencies of my personality at successive moments of duration. Let us then rather denote the tendencies themselves by X and Y; will this new notation give a more faithful image of the concrete reality? It must be noticed, as we said above, that the self grows, expands, and changes as it passes through the two contrary states: if not, how would it ever come to a decision? Hence there are not exactly two contrary states, but a large number [animate quantum ensembles] of successive and different states within which I distinguish, by an effort of imagination, two opposite directions."

(Our brackets, bold, color, and violet bold italic problematics.)

"Thus we shall get still nearer the reality by agreeing to use the invariable signs X and Y to denote, not these tendencies or states themselves, since they are constantly changing, but the two
different directions which our imagination ascribes to them for the greater convenience of language. It will also be understood that these are symbolical representations, that in reality there are not two tendencies, or even two directions, but a self which lives and develops by means of its very hesitations, until the free action drops from it like an over-ripe fruit.

"But this conception of voluntary activity does not satisfy common sense, because, being essentially
The only reality is the living developing self, in which we distinguish by abstraction two opposite tendencies or directions. a devotee of mechanism, it loves clear-cut [classically naïve and simple] distinctions, those which are expressed by sharply defined words or by different positions in space. Hence it will picture a self which, after having traversed a series M 0 of conscious states,
when it reaches the point 0 finds before it two directions 0 X and 0 Y, equally open. These directions thus become things, real paths into which the highroad of consciousness leads, and it depends only on the self which of them is entered upon."

(Our link, bold and color, and violet bold italic problematics.)
177 "In short, the continuous and living activity of this self, in which we have distinguished, by abstraction only, two opposite directions, is replaced by these directions themselves, transformed into indifferent inert things awaiting our choice. But then we must certainly transfer the activity of the self somewhere or other. We will put it, according to this hypothesis, at the point 0: we will say that the self, when it reaches 0 and finds two courses open to it, hesitates, deliberates and finally decides in favour of one of them. As we find it difficult to picture the double direction of the conscious activity in all the phases of its continuous development, we separate off these two tendencies on the one hand and the activity of the self on the other: we thus get an impartially active ego hesitating between two inert and, as it were, solidified courses of action. Now, if it decides in favour of 0 X, the line 0 Y will nevertheless remain; if it chooses 0 Y, the path 0 X will remain open, waiting in case the self retraces its steps in order to make use of it. It is in this sense that we say, when speaking of a free act, that the contrary action was equally possible. And, even if we do not draw a geometrical figure on paper, we involuntarily and almost unconsciously think of it as soon as we distinguish in the free act a number of successive phases, the conception of opposite motives, hesitation and choice—thus hiding the geometrical symbolism under a kind of verbal crystallization."

(Our link, bold, color, and violet bold italic problematics.)







Note here that choice is classically di-chotomous. It, as used, is n¤t a quantum ensemble selectings process.


"Now it is easy to see that this really mechanical conception of freedom issues naturally and logically in the most unbending determinism.

"The living activity of the self, in which we distinguish by abstraction two opposite tendencies,
If this symbolism represents the facts, the activity of the self has always tended in one direction, and determinism results. will finally issue either at X or Y. Now, since it is agreed to localize the double activity of the self at the point 0, there is no reason to separate this activity from the act in which it will issue and which forms part and parcel of it. And if experience shows that the decision has been in
favour of X, it is not a neutral activity which should be placed at the point 0, but an activity tending in advance in the direction 0 X, in spite of apparent hesitations. If, on the contrary, observation proves that the decision has been in favour of Y, we must infer that the activity localized by us at the point 0 was bent in this second direction in spite of some oscillations towards the first. To assert that the self, when it reaches the point 0, chooses indifferently between X and Y, is to stop half way in the course of our geometrical symbolism; it is to separate off at the point 0 only a part of this continuous activity in which we undoubtedly distinguished two different directions, but which in addition has gone on to X or Y: why not take this last fact into account as well as the other two? Why not assign it the place that belongs to it in the symbolical figure which we have just constructed?"

(Our brackets, bold, color, and violet bold italic problematics.)

"But if the self, when it reaches the point 0, is already determined in one direction, there is no use in the other way remaining open, the self cannot take it. And the same rough symbolism which was meant to show the contingency of the action performed, ends, by a natural extension, in proving its absolute necessity.

"In short, defenders and opponents of free will agree in holding that the action is preceded by a
Libertarians ignore the fact that one path has been chosen, and not the other. kind of mechanical oscillation between the two points X and Y. If I decide in favour of X, the former will tell me: you hesitated and deliberated, therefore Y was
possible. The others will answer: you chose X, therefore you had some reason for doing so, and those who declare that Y was equally possible forget this reason: they leave aside one of the conditions of the problem. Now, if I dig deeper underneath these two opposite solutions, I discover a common postulate: both take up their position after the action X has been performed, and represent [geometrically] the process of my voluntary activity by a path M 0 which branches off at the point 0, the lines 0 X and 0 Y symbolizing the two directions which abstraction distinguishes within the continuous activity of which X is the goal. But while the determinists take account of all that they know, and note that the path M 0 X has been traversed, their opponents mean to ignore one of the data with which they have constructed the figure, and after having traced out the lines OX and OY, which should together represent the progress of the activity of the self, they bring back the self to the point 0 to oscillate there until further orders."

(Our bold, color, and violet bold italic problematics.)
180 "It should not be forgotten, indeed, that the figure, which is really a splitting of our psychic
But the figure merely gives the stereotyped memory of the process and not the dynamic progress which issued in the act. activity in space, is purely symbolical, and, as such, cannot be constructed unless we adopt the hypothesis that our deliberation is finished and our mind made up. If you trace it beforehand, you assume that you have reached the end and are present in imagination at the final
act. In short this figure does not show me the deed in the doing but the deed already done. Do not ask me than whether the self, having traversed the path M 0 and decided in favour of X, could or could not choose Y: I should answer that the question is meaningless, because there is no line M 0, no point 0, no path 0 X, no direction 0 Y. To ask such a question is to admit the possibility of adequately representing time by space and a succession by a simultaneity. It is to ascribe to the figure we have traced the value of a description, and not merely of a symbol; it is to believe that it is possible to follow the process of psychic activity on this figure like the march of an army on a map. We have been present at the deliberation of the self in all its phases until the act was performed: then, recapitulating the terms of the series, we perceive succession under the form of simultaneity, we project time into space, and we base our reasoning, consciously or unconsciously, on this geometrical figure."
(Our brackets, bold, color, and violet bold italic problematics.)

"But this figure represents a thing and not a progress; it corresponds, in its inertness, to a kind of stereotyped memory of the whole process of deliberation and the final decision arrived at: how could it give us the least idea of the concrete movement, the dynamic progress by which the deliberation issued in the act? And yet, once the figure is constructed, we go back in imagination into the past and will have it that our psychic activity has followed exactly the path traced out by the figure. We thus fall into the mistake which has been pointed out above: we give a mechanical explanation of a fact, and then substitute the explanation for the fact itself. [Further, we then assume said mechanical explanation is a tautology, as Aristotle did. We blunder further and assume a tautology permits modular induction, as Peano did.] Hence we encounter insuperable difficulties from the very beginning: if the two courses were equally possible, how have we made our choice? If only one of them was possible, why did we believe ourselves free? And we do not see that both questions come back to this: Is time space? [N¤! But we can classically model time with incremental space, Sir, as you did in a prior topic. Further, we ask, "What is space?" Define it! Classically mass, space, and time are measurable but not definable. But quantumly, our heuristic is that mass, space, and time are definable in terms of absolute quantum flux.]

"If I glance over a road marked on the map and follow it up to a certain point, there is nothing
Fundamental error is confusion of time and space. The self infallible in affirming immediate experience of freedom, but cannot explain it. to prevent my turning back and trying to find out whether it branches off anywhere. But time is not a line along which one can pass again. Certainly, once it has elapsed, we are justified in picturing the successive moments as external to one another and in thus
thinking of a line traversing space; but it must then be understood [and n¤t confused] that this line does not ["cann¤t"] symbolize the time which is passing [classically inexplicable fact] but the time which has passed [classically faulty explanation]."

(Our brackets, link, bold, color, and violet bold italic problematics.)


"Defenders and opponents of free will alike forget this—the former when they assert, and the latter when they deny the possibility of acting differently from what we have done. The former reason thus: "The path is not yet traced out, therefore it may take any direction whatever." To which the answer is: "You forget that it is not possible to speak of a path till the action is performed: but then it will have been traced out." The latter say: "The path has been traced out in such and such a way: therefore its possible direction was not any direction whatever, but only this one direction." To which the answer is: "Before the path was traced out there was no direction, either possible or impossible, for the very simple reason that there could not yet be any question of a path." Get rid of this clumsy symbolism, the idea of which besets you without your knowing it; you will see that the argument of the determinists assumes this puerile form: "The act, once performed, is performed," and that their opponents reply: "The act, before being performed, was not yet performed." In other words, the question of freedom remains after this discussion exactly where it was to begin with; nor must we be surprised at it, since freedom must be sought in a certain shade or quality of the action itself and not in the relation of this act to what it is not or to what it might have been. All the difficulty arises from the fact that both parties picture the deliberation under the form of an oscillation in space, while it really consists in a dynamic progress in which the self and its motives, like real living beings, are in a constant state [rather, unending quantum ensemblings] of becoming. The self, infallible when it affirms its immediate experiences, feels itself free and says so; but, as soon as it tries to explain its freedom to itself, it no longer perceives itself except by a kind of refraction through space. Hence a symbolism of a mechanical kind, equally incapable of proving, disproving, or illustrating free will."

(Our brackets, bold, color, and violet bold italic problematics.)

And Bergson forgets that quantum free will is n¤t individual just "we/our" free will, rather quantum free will is a quantum complementary animate everywhere associative ensemble of free wills "selectings whatings happenings nextings." Reality authorizes all individuals to participate in quantum emergence of Its n¤vel nextings.


As we say, "Dump SOM, dumb CTMs!"

Pragma are performing!


This is a very large issue! Two immediate topics for consideration here: SOM loop creating mind-whir-lock, and Planck oscillations as DQ.

Quantum self is free to select; however, outcomings are quantum ensemble indeterminate. Why? Other "selves" compenetrate and complement our quantum ensemble in which we are selecting. They are selecting on our ensemble too. Some with greater, some with lesser Value. Selection is a quantum ensemble of Valuations.

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©Quantonics, Inc., 2001-2010 Rev. 26Nov2008  PDR Created: 23Feb2001  PDR
(21Jul2002 rev - Change QELR links to A-Z pages.)
(25Aug2002 rev - Add 'consensus' link to common sense above.)
(17Jun2003 rev - Add Chapter Title link to Pogson's Index item on 'Duration.')
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