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And this is surely not common sense. Such, however, is his main view about what he regards as the two principal kinds of things in the universe, minds and material objects. Before examining it, a few words may be said about his last book, L'Evolution Créatrice,' which, as it does not add anything essential to this position, need not detain us long,
Here we have the same view, only expressed in a more obscurely metaphorical way. While in Matière et Mémoire' the opposition between mind and matter was reconciled, the gulf bridged, by the notion of alternate dilatation and contraction of the self in memory, here the reconciliation consists in supposing that both sides of the opposition spring from a common source, which is called the vital impulse.' We must picture the whole of reality as a kind of movement or stream, a continuous flux of ever-new creation. This current, which it seems is identical with consciousness, gets entangled in matter, which clogs its progress and sets up a movement in the reverse direction.
The object of the life-force is to extract from dead matter all it possibly can; and the chequered history of evolution is the history of this effort to make the best of the situation.
Bergson pretends that this hypothesis of a life-force thwarted and thrown back on itself by collision with refractory matter enables us to see that evolution must have followed the lines it actually has followed on our planet; the hypothesis of one original impulse common to plants and animals alike involves, for instance, the subsequent divergence of the three elements of vegetative torpor, instinct, and intelligence. Of course, the force will not always be successful; there are impasses and throwbacks in evolution. And in fact, of the four grand branches of animal life, two have led to impasses ; echinoderms and molluscs have renounced mobility after the manner of vegetables, and have shut themselves up in protective coverings. But arthropods and vertebrates, greatly daring, have escaped this danger; and in them life has won a victory over matter, though at the cost of an effort out of proportion to the result.
In what sense details like these could be deduced from the original impulse it is impossible to see; and it may be noticed that not all the details are even correct-for instance, his theory, now exploded, that plants, unlike animals, feed on inorganic substances. However that may be, in all this account dead matter is evidently conceived as something different in kind from the lifeforce or consciousness of which it hampers the progress; and in that case the gulf between matter and mind, which he aimed at bridging, will have opened again. But he bridges it again, this time by defining matter in terms of the psychic movement; the word 'matter' means merely an 'interruption or inversion of that movement. Matter, which seems positive to the physicist or geometrician, is an interruption or inversion of that true positivity which can only be expressed in psychic terms. In short his cosmology, he says, is an “inverted psychology,
To sum up, `Les Données' describes the nature of mind. The object of Matière et Mémoire' is to solve the difficulties as to the relation between mind and matter by proving that there is an affinity between them-an affinity expressed by taking them as the two extreme terms of a graduated scale. In 'L'Evolution Créatrice’ we have the same conception, with, in addition, the notion that reality, so far as mental, is a movement in a certain direction, and, so far as material, a movement in the opposite direction. Thus the demands of common-sense dualism, which takes both mind and matter to be real, are met, and, at the same time, the philosophical difficulties as to their connexion are explained. Is this a tenable position?
It would be possible, taking one by one the points in which Bergson discovers an affinity between matter and mind-as, for instance, his initial assumption that material objects are images—to argue that such plausibility as his theory possesses depends in every case on a confusion of ideas. But this would be a tedious process, and I think we can see, without going into details, that the whole position is untenable. For through all three books there runs an argument, to which he attaches the greatest importance, and which can only prove, if it can prove anything, that nothing whatever is real, in any sense of the word, except minds-not time, nor space, nor even material objects. He is therefore
mistaken in calling his philosophy a dualism. His philosophy might indeed still be a true description of the universe ; he might have discovered, though without realising it, good reasons for thinking that nothing whatever exists except our minds. Even if he had failed in doing this, he might still have succeeded in giving a true description of part of the universe ; his account, that is to say, of the nature of our minds might still be correct. I shall therefore try to point out that his philosophy fails in both these respects; since the argument in question, which might have led him to conclude that nothing is real except our minds, and which also underlies his account of the nature of our minds, can be seen to be quite valueless.
One of the most stubborn of our beliefs is that material objects exist independently of our minds, that they have the property of being real whether any mind is conscious of them or not; even the philosopher who sees reason to deny this cannot, as Hume confessed, prevent himself from believing it in practice.
Another belief which is held widely, though not perhaps so strongly and clearly as in the case of material objects, is that space and time also are real independently of any mind; that physical events may occur in time, and that physical objects may be situated in space, whether or not any mind is aware of these facts. And we must notice first of all, what Bergson himself never makes clear, that his view flatly contradicts these stubborn beliefs, since it denies that time or space or material objects can be real in the sense of existing independently of any mind. As regards time, he would no doubt admit this; for he thinks that the time with which scientific calculations deal, and which we take to be the time of our everyday life, is not real in any sense; and real duration,' he says, is only for a mind.' As to space, though he thinks that it is real in some sense, it is plain that he cannot mean it to be real independently of our minds; for he holds, as Kant did, that space is merely a form of our sensibility,' a way in which our minds arrange things; and, if so, it would seem that space cannot be real except when some
* He tries to distinguish his view from Kant's by saying that, while Kant's space is a 'ready-made' form, his is a form which is being made.' But I do not think this difference affects the argument.
mind is arranging things in it. Thus, in any case, his view, whether true or not, will not be identical with
There remains, it is true, one sense in which, even if space is merely a form of our sensibility, both it and the material objects in it might be called real; only he does not notice that his principal argument excludes the possibility of their being real even so.
This sense, in which material objects in space might be called real, even if space is only a form of our sensibility, is as follows. When Bergson says that we lend spatial forms to the external world, or that we fit matter into spatial forms, he might mean that the mind gives spatial properties to material objects, so that, at the moment when the mind does this, the objects actually have those properties. But let us see wbat this involves. That mind is the cause of matter being in space, that mind is the cause of all the causal relations that hold between physical events, that mind is the cause of one material object's being a different object from another, and that mind (owing to his theory of the connexion between number and spatial magnitude) is the cause of 2 + 2 being equal to 4-all these incredible consequences, and many others, are involved in his saying that matter actually has the properties which mind at any moment gives to it. I think that, if Bergson had realised that such consequences as these followed from his holding both that space is a form of our sensibility and that matter is really extended in space, he would not have tried to combine these views; if he had seen clearly that he must mean that our minds, for instance, make the earth go round the sun, and are the cause of the sun being outside our bodies rather than inside them, he would either have thrown overboard the Kantian doctrine of space, or would have given up his claim to agree with common sense. As it is, he tries to combine the two; and it is interesting to notice what makes the combination seem possible and plausible. Part of what he means by saying that space is a form of our sensibility is that we think that matter has spatial properties. Now that we do think this cannot be denied; but, unless one is on one's guard, this undoubtedly true statement is easily confused with the statement that our minds give spatial properties to matter; to say that we think matter
has spatial properties easily seems to be the same thing as saying that we give those properties to matter. But, of course, they are not the same thing. If we do give properties to matter, then matter has those properties at the moment; and that matter actually has certain properties is evidently not the same fact as that we think it has them; for what we think may be mistaken.
The whole plausibility of combining the Kantian doctrine of space with the view that material objects are really in space depends, I think, on this confusion, which is no doubt a very easy one to make ; Bergson is by no means the first philosopher who has fallen into it. At the same time it is odd that he should have fallen into it, because the principal argument in all his three books is to the effect that I think so and so' cannot possibly mean “So and so is true.' According to this argument, the fact that our minds entertain certain beliefs is not only not the same fact as that the beliefs are true, but is actually some evidence that the beliefs are false-a consideration which ought to have made it
-a perfectly plain to him that our thinking that matter has spatial properties is not the same fact as that matter has them. When this is clearly seen, it ceases to be plausible to suppose that, if space is a form of our sensibility, material objects extended in space are real in any sense whatever. What is more-and this makes the whole confusion still more curious-the argument in question proves, if it can prove anything, that, when we think that material objects are real, or that they are situated in space, we must be mistaken.
To this argument we must now turn,
Starting from the assumption that our minds have been developed primarily with a view to action, rather than to pure knowledge or speculation, Bergson infers that, owing to the prejudices of action,' our whole conception of the nature of reality, whether of our minds, of material objects, of space or of time, is radically vitiated. In order to understand reality, then, we must divest ourselves of these prejudices. Take the case of our own minds. To cut up the continuity of the external world into definite shapes and pieces, which we call material objects, helps us to act successfully on things; therefore our minds persistently do this, and, because the external