In his book on Bergson, Deleuze states that ʻthere cannot be a difference in kind but only a difference in degree between the faculty of the brain and the function. In short: we have to recognize that there could be no projected research topic less Deleuzian and Bergsonian, a priori, than this one: “On Deleuze’s Bergsonism. The first book dedicated to Gilles Deleuze’s seminal study of Henri Bergson’s philosophy Henri Bergson is widely accepted as one of the most significant.
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This article is intended to raise a number of connected issues. It concludes by suggesting that certain theories of self-organization, in particular the theory of autopoiesis developed by Humberto Deleuez, Francisco Varela and, latterly, Fritjof Capra, might help us to reassess how we view the relationship between discipline, subjectivity and freedom. It can also, bergeonism, be found implicitly in recent shifts delsuze focus made in some branches of contemporary neuroscience and related philosophies of bergsohism.
Connected to this is the second proposition. Indeed, even the classical language of perception is misleading in that it implies a world outside, a mind inside, and a series bergsonismm intermediate channels through which information is passed. But there is no such separation. The world is somehow re-presented to the mind, or to consciousness, as though there were a homunculus hidden inside our heads looking at images projected onto a screen and listening to sounds from hidden internal delruze.
The third proposition of Bergsonist philosophy is that there is no such representation. As Deleuze puts it. The brain does not manufacture representations, but only complicates the relationship between a received movement excitation and an executed movement response.
But this zone of indetermination is not created by mental re-presentation of the world to an occult cogito which hold the levers of the motor systems in its control. This leads us to the fourth proposition, which is that consciousness is the product of a process of selection — or a resolution of forces. First, certain aspects of the world are selected as being of interest. Second, a new entity comes into existence in the world — the temporary articulation of the body, brain, nervous system and environment bergsonis which is that segment of consciousness.
The virtual is, then, the totality of the material universe in all its unfathomable complexity of movement. But not only does it impinge, by virtue of its contact with the senses; it enters the body. And this body is already awash with virtual complexity dleeuze its own from the quantum level up, through the machinery of the cell, to the complex electrical, chemical, hydraulic, pneumatic and kinetic functioning of the body and its organs. The brain and nervous system comprise a machine which, amongst other things, actualizes consciousness by selecting, from this totality, that which is of relevance for the conscious exercise of will.
In response to the impinging world the body, brain and nervous system generate a multitude of possible thoughts, actions and utterances, and, as Brian Massumi puts it. Out of the pressing crowd an individual action or expression will emerge and seleuze registered consciously.
Because we are our bodies, though, we cannot help feeling this totality of movement washing over us. Emotion proper occurs when selection has taken bergsoinsm and certain of those affective bergsonnism have been assimilated into consciousness, given a name, and placed within a narrative which makes them meaningful I am angry because … bergsonismm.
This is the fabric of connections within the virtual but outside of — never actualized in — consciousness. All of the thinkers I shall be discussing are virulently anti-Cartesian for the obvious de,euze that the Cartesian assertion of an irreducible, occult cogito sustained outside bergspnism the normal material realm robs them of their whole purpose — which is to explain consciousness in terms of the material operations of the brain and nervous system.
With regard to the second theme of connectionism, delsuze the claims made by philosopher and neuroscience expert Andy Clark. If brains are best understood as controllers of environmentally situated activity, then might it not be fruitful to locate the neural contribution as just one important element in a complex causal web, spanning brains, bodies, and world?
Clark describes a number of pieces of research brgsonism demonstrate clearly this de-centred quality of cognition, and also how deeply integrated the sensory and motor aspects of the nervous system really are. Clark quotes cognitive science researcher Dana H.
Changing gaze is analogous to changing the memory reference in a silicon computer. Clark lists some of the props which we use in our environment to enable us to perform functions which would otherwise be impossible for our brain and nervous system alone. He argues that, in fact, the most complex routines are connected and distributed in this way. When we produce academic articles, for example, he claims that[t]he biological brain is just a part albeit a crucial and special part of a spatially and temporally extended process, involving lots of extraneural operations, whose joint action creates the intellectual product.
And consequently, when we ask precisely where consciousness and agency lie, we have to confront a very peculiar question:. Is there a real sense in which the cognitive agent as opposed to the bare biological organism is thus revealed as an extended entity incorporating brain, body, and some aspects of the local environment?
When it is recognized that crucial features of this local environment are in the case of human consciousness language, culture and social networks, then what we have is a theory of decentred subjectivity entirely in accord with poststructuralist theories of the past couple of decades.
Of the claims of a person that a plenum of representations exist in their mindhe says:. When we marvel, in those moments of heightened self-consciousness, at the glorious richness of our conscious experience, the richness we marvel at is actually the richness of the world outside, in all its ravishing detail.
And Dennett, like the other Bergsonists, argues that consciousness is actualized through a process of selection. Others, such as the neuroscientist Gerald Edelman, have provided testable hypotheses regarding how these selection processes might work in the brain. He has developed a selectionist model of learning and perception, based around a multiplicity of different mapping schemas which include autonomic, visual, auditory, olfactory, sensory-motor, language, and memory systems. The excitation of these systems converges around organically based homeostats the interests of the organism.
Edelman has built complex automata which display delezue characteristics of independent, unpredictable learning behaviour, and independent categorization of the world — providing they have homeostats which enable them to discriminate between movement in the sensory apparatus that is of interest and that which is not.
In other words, they are able to create ordered structures of cognition by independently selecting that which is of interest in the world, and categorizing it. Importantly, Edelman has pointed to the central importance of memory in this process of creating consciousness; a point to which I shall return.
In understanding consciousness, Deleuzd says that we cannot limit ourselves to the phenomenology of consciousness while bracketing out the rest of the world — for it is precisely the totality, deleuzw virtual, which provides the conditions of possibility for consciousness.
Sean Watson: The new Bergsonism / Radical Philosophy
Actualized consciousness is a composite of elements, a selected and combined subset from the virtual. Bergsonist philosophies place a huge emphasis on the role of memory in the creation of conscious experience. But how does this relate to the concept of the virtual? For Bergson there are two elemental lines: Each is a dimension of concrete multiplicity.
Our experience of space and time is always of the composite, so we cannot easily see these discrete elements; but according to Bergson pure instantaneous extension contains differences of degree only — differences of number, size, quantity. Pure extension is qualitatively homogenous but discontinuous, segmented and broken up into parts of differing quantity.
Duration, on the other hand, is the line of multiplicity of quality. It is continuous and ever-changing; constantly dividing into differences of kind. Bergson himself initially viewed duration as a psychological property only. But we have seen that Dennett, in his critique of qualia, argues that experienced qualities are not in some inner psychological space but in the encounter between brain, body and the world itself.
This has some strange consequences when we ask the question: Where are recollections preserved? For Bergson, all of duration is somehow coexistent. We do not have to preserve recollections because they preserve themselves, as the pure differentiation of quality.
The dimension of duration is no more destructible than is the dimension of space. But our recollection still remains virtual; we simply prepare ourselves to receive it by adopting the appropriate attitude. Little by little it comes into view like a condensing cloud; from the virtual state it passes into the bergsonidm.
Is there any reason why he should? Does it have anything to recommend it? We have already seen that conscious experience of quality, even in the present, is dependent on an element of memory.
Now, Dennett says that representation in the brain does not really exist. But how can we have memory that does not involve having bergsonsim of some sort? To answer this, Dennett would have to delehze on the issue of the nature of duration and memory, which, so far, he has not really done. On the face of it these claims look, frankly, ridiculous. In what sense can duration sensibly bsrgsonism seen as an indestructible ontological ground? How indeed can we do without representations of the past?
Surely our memories cannot in any meaningful way be a re-established link with the past itself — surely they must be representations? Bergson, however, insists that the deeleuze system is in no sense an apparatus which may serve to fabricate, or even to prepare, representations.
Its function is to receive stimulation, to provide motor apparatus, and to present the largest possible number of these apparatuses to a given stimulus. The more it develops, the more numerous and the more distant are the points of space which it brings into relation with ever more complex motor mechanisms.
Edelman, Clark, and others, are sure that the mind is not composed of representations. In truth, though, all of them retain models of physical depeuze which are rather static. What kind of physical structure is not inert, stable, dependent on equilibrium, at some level?
Could an answer to this latter question give us some clues about the question of duration itself? The answer lies in somehow taking seriously deleze claim — berrgsonism by Bergson — that we misunderstand the nature of duration when we spatialize it — when we think of it as a fourth dimension of extension. We seem unable to conceive of it bergsonlsm any other way.
The analogue clock is itself a bergsonisj of time, and even when using digital timepieces we think of time as number, quantity, and therefore as extension. Pure duration is, however, the dimension of differentiation of quality — of Becoming. How can we think of the structures of the body and the mind in terms of a duration which is pure Becoming?
Fritjof Capra, in his recent work The Web of Lifeattempts to develop an analysis of life, cognition and consciousness which is rooted in a theory of structure that is truly dynamic. Capra also rejects this dualism. Indeed one could argue that such a model of consciousness is itself a product of the delusion of spatialized duration. Dissipative structures are material structures or patterns which appear in thermodynamically speaking far from equilibrium environments.
The new Bergsonism
It is well known that much of this paradigm was developed in the analysis of turbulence. If a liquid is placed in a closed container and shaken, then it will dynamically rearrange itself for a short while but eventually stabilize in the bottom of the container and cease moving — it will reach equilibrium.
This turbulence can appear to be random and chaotic; it can then suddenly and again unpredictably develop into an ordered structure — a whirlpool. Such a structure is not a structure in the same sense that a clock or a building, or a piece of furniture is a structure. When we construct a building we do not expect it to exchange every atom in its structure for other atoms within seconds of its construction.
We do not expect to have to feed it with energy constantly in order to stop it from disintegrating. But this is the case with a whirlpool. It is a far from equilibrium dissipative-structure. Indeed the atmospheric chemist James Lovelock and microbiologist Lynn Margulis have argued that the whole planet should be regarded as a far from equilibrium environment. Biological structures, though, are a special category of dissipative-structures, according to Capra and the Chilean biologists Francisco Varela and Humberto Maturana, from whom Capra derives a number of key themes.