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Bergson on Duration (Existence)

The amazing thing about any discussion in the subject of Metaphysics is that the word “metaphysics” itself means nothing. In the original English translations of the works of Aristotle the book “Physics” was followed by a book that had no title. Since the subject of the hitherto unnamed book contained a similar subject matter as “De Physica” it was determined that the two should be placed back to back, thus the unnamed work was given the name “Metaphysics.” Which means creatively, “After Physics.” It should be nice to know that every time you hear someone talk about metaphysical investigations into ghosts and zombies; that not only is their whole conversation about to be bullshit, but the word they use to describe what they are doing is also meaningless aside from being an indicator of place.

That’s just a little aside, but the today’s post is going to consider the aspect of duration and how we experience time. I’m reading Henri Bergson the man we can credit (or blame) for phenomenology even though his name is largely unassociated with the subject because so many people prefer to read the work of the Nazi (er, Philosopher) Martin Heidegger.* Bergson’s “The Creative Mind” is the subject of the first book of my Existence class. What I’ve read so far allows me to maintain my opinion that Phenomenology is just a fancy word for linguistic metaphysics but Bergson seems to be a lot clearer than most of the “revolutionary” thinkers of this subject. Mostly because it seems that Bergson avoids being unnecessarily technical, it’s as if he wants regular people to understand what he is talking about as well as academics.

The most interesting claim that Bergson has made so far is that we have no vocabulary for time. I love when Philosophy intersects so well with science fiction. I wanted to quibble about this but then I thought about it and I could not. Bergson is right, which is odd because he makes up three things which normally don’t belong together: French, Philosophy, and Correct. Usually you have to drop one of those three terms before a true statement can be found.**

We talk of the fourth dimension as though it were one of the first three. A person “moves” forward in time, even though they don’t actually move. Or Doc Brown goes “back in time” while never leaving HillDale (or whatever the name of that town was). Our language of time is actually the language of space. Which is probably why things like Tacheon particles are so mind bending, these hypothetical things are said to move against the normal condition of time. Which is about as impossible as me trying to pull ofo that previous sentence without using language reserved for spatial movement. (oooh meta-irony)

The thing about the duration argument is that it transposes into another of his arguments about duration. The thing about duration, he suggests, is that we never notice things as they happen. Change for instance isn’t a noticeable thing. When thing A becomes thing B, we notice either A or B, but never the transition property or the A/B that must have taken place before A became B. This is what the Creationist assholes are always asking for, that transition fossil that will “prove” evolution,*** but even when that is presented we still don’t have the A/B.

I’m also reminded of what Ricky Roma said in Glengarry Glen Ross about sex, he said that it was never the orgasm that you remembered it was some little detail, her arm on your neck or afterward she brings cafe au lait and cigarette. Which is true, the duration of an event is unnoticed because our experiences are almost always about looking backward. On Thursday night Gwen hid my keys in a tool box, I wasted all day Friday looking for the keys only to have them turn up Saturday in a tool box (she put them away). The whole day Friday felt enormously long as I endured (which is always an unpleasant thing) the feeling of having lost something that I needed. As I was searching I was looking forward to the feeling of accomplishment of finding it, not exactly living in the moment is it?

And as much as we should all do that, we don’t exactly experience a first person view of falling do we?

*Actually a Nazi.
**E.G.: Voltaire: French + Correct – Philosophy= true. Foucault: French + Philosopher – Correct = True. Machiavelli: Correct + Philosophy – French = True.
***Which of course is complete bullshit since such a thing does exist (the archaeopteryx) and they ignore it as all good conspiracy positers do.

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