Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Joad on Bergson - "It all depends on what you mean by the Self" (Guide to Philosophy publ. 1936)

There is thus no self which changes, there is, indeed, nothing which changes, for in asserting the existence of that which changes we are asserting the existence of omething which, from the mere fact that it is subject to change, is not itself change ; there is simply change.The truth that we are beings whose reality consists in continuous change is for Bergson the clue to the understanding of the universe itself. For the universe is shown by him to belong to the same stream of change or “becoming” as Bergson calls it (since it never is actually any one thing, but is always on the way to becoming something else), as we do ourselves. Just as we are unable to
penetrate through the continuous changes of our consciousness to something stable that underlies them, so, when we consider the nature of the world around us, do we find it impossible to discover anything which passes through changes but is itself something other than the changes which occur to it. The universe, in other words, is itself a stream of perpetual change.
The development of Bergson's metaphysical theory, which includes the assertion that intuition is the faculty by means of which reality is known, and conception of the intellect as a faculty which misrepresents reality by cutting up the flow of change into apparently static objects, thus generating
such paradoxes as that of Zeno's arrow and Achilles and the Tortoise, will be described in a later chapter.
(from Guide To Philosophy by C.E.M. Joad publ. London 1936)

Paul Raymont in his blog has several posts on Joad
which were interesting so when I came across a copy of the Guide I for €1 couldn’t leave it after me. It is fairly extensively annotated and underlined so I would surmise that it passed through the hands of a student at some point. They could have done worse. He has the rare capacity of being able to explicate complex systems in a clear way without falsifying through over simplification. Chapter VII on The Problem of Change: Teleology and Mechanism is worth a read. Bergson is given some pages in this section and again toward the end he offers in Chapter XIX an Outline of Bergson’s Philosophy in 16 pages which has the advantage over other short treatments in delineating what Bergson though significant for Bergson. The ‘Guide’ was written in 1936 and thus a good while after Bergson’s debate with Einstein in 1922 which marked the beginning of the decline in his reputation.

He has another extensive treatment -Outline of Whitehead’s Philosophy - which I haven’t read. That will surely test his explanatory powers. For those of you with 1T of memory there is a copy of the guide on Internet Archive which is 229 mb complete with shots of fingers holding its pages. Too spooky.

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