Unlimited

Sometimes I feel that philosophy should be situated between or in terms of what is limited and what is unlimited. I have two statements to say that I believe are utterly true: There is nothing that arises outside of discourse. Discourse is just one thing of the universe, Or one aspect — however one would […]

Unlimited

The rise of cognitive science: A survey of the most relevant historical landmarks

Perhaps you have heard someone talking of minds as computers. In Venezuela, it is common to hear people saying stuff like “let me process that” (déjame procesarlo) as if they were some sort of machine. But why do people sometimes think about themselves in this way? Why do some philosophers believe that minds are […]

The rise of cognitive science: A survey of the most relevant historical landmarks

Henri Bergson: the theory of the inner relativity

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painting by Steve Hester 

Henri Bergson was a French philosopher (1859-1941) and one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century. His philosophy revolves around motion, change and evolution.

His work in Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness showed the fundamental difference between time as perceived by consciousness (la durée or duration) and the objective mathematical time read on a watch. Consciousness doesn’t perceive the instant or the objective present, for it is infinitesimal. It perceives a duration which can be very long or very short.

For example, if I am working unwillingly for one hour on my blog, time doesn’t fly. On the contrary, if I love what I am doing on my blog, I will not feel the time passing by. Although, the time, in both cases,  is one hour and the same according to the watch, I live it, thus perceive it,  differently.

Bergson analyzed the awareness that man has of his inner self to show that psychological facts are qualitatively different from any other, charging psychologists in particular with falsifying the facts by trying to quantify and number them.

Based on this analysis of the subjective time versus the objective time, he somehow criticized Albert Einstein for keeping the theory of relativity external to the human mind without taking into consideration one’s inner perception of the time, which is also relative.

Consciousness is memory and therefore a link between past and future through its duration. This empirical complexity is what makes human free beings, forever preserving the past and anticipating the future.

If our legs belong to us, so do our thoughts, right?

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We use our legs to walk but we think with words. Our legs are ours, so is our body and the way we use it which is exclusively subjective. What about words? Are they ours or are they shared collectively throughout history?

Talking or writing gives us the feeling that words are ours. We use them through certain ways and styles. Think about poetry or storytelling: writers create worlds and words upon image creation. If this isn’t creativity what would it be?

So if we think with words and words are ours, are thoughts ours too? Is thinking a solitary activity such as walking or is it a collective sport?

Our world today seems to go for collective intelligence rather than individual solitary ones. Democracy then needs constant deliberations.  This means that, unlike our legs, words and thoughts became nowadays more collective than ever before.

However, there is a thin line between thinking and debating. If the latter is collective, thinking must remain solitary. The reason is that debating can’t take place unless there is an idea to discuss. More dangerously, it is even better not to think in a world inhabited by political ideologies.

All philosophers claimed the much needed solitude for thinking, as in stepping away from the world. This is where we vision the world from a distance and can redefine it. This is when thinking can be individual and subjective. And this is where we can use shared and inherited words the way we want to.

Thinking alone is testing the ability to think far from others. It is also a risk; one might lose, get lost or become depressed. How many times do we dread thoughts at night right before sleeping?

“Legs” and “thoughts” change constantly their meanings.