Essay on the Direct Data of ConsciousnessJune 27, 2021
In Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness, Bergson constructs the dualism of time and space, spirit and matter. The difference between these parallel differences is not a difference of degree, but a difference of nature. Being is thus divided into two as spirit, which is temporal, and matter, which is spatial.
The essay deals with the giving of time to consciousness with the concept of “duration”. At the beginning of the work, Bergson says that states of consciousness are not quantities and quantities, but qualities (qualités) and intensities (intensités). The natural state of consciousness life is that these experiences are in a constant state of change. But this change is gradual, and a sudden shift from one state of consciousness to another is a rare event. Although consciousness is a multiplicity of intensities, there is also an indivisible unity in it due to constant change. Ancient philosophy and science reduced time to a homogeneous and measurable space. Whereas, real time is not the time that the clocks mechanically represent in space with the movement of the hour and minute hands, but a constant change, an unstoppable formation that appears at every moment with different occurrences. Genuine time is nothing but a unique shift of our states of consciousness. This multiplicity cannot be measured, but is given to consciousness through feeling and can be perceived.
Bergson associates the idea of ”duration” with “memory”. Consciousness is memory, the preservation and recollection of memories is the work of the spirit, a property of being. Continuum is a movement in which every moment in consciousness is integrated with the moment that follows it. According to Bergson, a moment in duration does not disappear, it dissolves in the moment that follows it. The succession of moments is a continuous integration. So in every present I live, in every present, my past is fully present. However, the past is not fully represented in the present, we cannot fully remember the past in all its details, we forget it. What is the explanation for this? The idea of ”duration” does not only mean “continuity”, “continuity in being”; It changes and moves while resisting the lasting wear, aging, aging and extinction. The past does not pass, it remains in the being, what is once in the consciousness cannot be destroyed, but this persistence is dynamic, as soon as the present, the present, the past are added to the presents, the moving whole of the moments also changes.
In Bergson, then, fluidity or movement does not mean the loss of the continuity of existence. The continuum is the name of both the identical and the variable entity. This consciousness is a new substance different from spatial matter. This understanding of consciousness implies that the soul is not a physical substance that is solid or made up of parts. Based on the idea of duration, Bergson also objects to the tradition that rejects change, following Parmenides of Elea. According to him, this tradition cannot think of time properly. This tradition, too (as is often the case in Western thought) has thought of metaphysics using “intelligence”, so it falls short of grasping the whole of reality. However, the reality captured by “intuition” is both existence and change. As it is seen, Bergson is against the philosophies of being that reject change and the understanding of change that rejects existence.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook