Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Bergson's Zombie

Bergson would be regarded as being firmly in the panpsychist camp but he appears in is first book Time and Free Will to grant at the very least the conceivability of the zombie. In the first chapter in which he argues for the idea of sensation as a quality which is illicitly transformed into a quantity he discusses the various positions of the psychophysicists but the part that attracted my attention was:

It must be noticed in addition that we rise by imperceptible stages from automatic to free movements, and that the latter differ from the former principally in introducing an affective sensation between the external action which occasions them and the volitional reaction which ensues. Indeed all our actions might have been automatic, and we can surmise that there are many organised beings in whose case an external stimulus causes a definite reaction without calling up consciousness as an intermediate agent.
(pg.32 original)

In a following observation on page 35:
The intensity of affective sensation might thus be nothing more than our consciousness of the involuntary movements which are being begun and outlined, so to speak, within these states, and which would have gone on in their own way if nature had made us automata instead of conscious beings.

It is interesting that he does not automatically confer consciousness on a being which has passed a certain threshold of complexity. Emergence is not a given. In fact he places the concept of freedom central in his consideration of consciousness. Immediately following the first citation supra he remarks:

If pleasure and pain make their appearance in certain privileged beings, it is probably to call forth a resistance to the automatic reaction which would have taken place: either sensation has nothing to do, or it is nascent freedom.

This relation of freedom to consciousness is given a central role in Creative Evolution. That book more than any other evinces that characteristic which would make it highly unlikely if Bergson were around today that he would find a berth in a major Anglo-American University philosophy department. I mean enthusiasm, particularly if it has any taint of its etymological basis of en theos the god within. Even enthusiasm in the opposite direction as with Dawkins makes them sniffy.

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