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Duration and Science

Raleigh Miller
GSU; May 2008

O. Introduction

In this paper I will provide an account of Henri Bergson’s idea of pure duration. I
will discuss Bergson’s distinction between imaginative memory and repetitive memory,
and identify the relationship between distinct types of memory and different ways of
representing time. The goal will be to make sense of Bergson’s claim that pure duration
is the “the meaning of life”, or that which gives to life its fundamental normativity. In
section I, I will introduce Bergson’s claim that pure duration is not a homogenous
medium. The conclusion of this section will be that time is a qualitative heterogeneity,
and is conceived spatially (and, consequently, measured) only by an act of
conceptualization that provisionally considers heterogeneous times as simultaneities, and
consequently leaves duration behind. In section II, I will introduce Bergson’s argument
that physical science is thus rendered incapable of accounting for duration. As such, it is
not equipped to properly address problems of life science, to which pure duration is
essential. I will refer to Bergson’s provisional characterizations of animal psychology, in
order to draw a connection between pure duration and mechanistic repetitive memory. In
section III, I introduce and elaborate Bergson’s concept of “the meaning of life” and
show how it can be the case that pure duration is the meaning of life. I will suggest that
the intentionality of the mental is inextricable from our status as scientific beings, and
will suggest that both intentionality and science are made possible by pure duration, and
as such remain incapable of entertaining pure duration as their respective objects.
Consequently, I will conclude that scientific practice is fundamentally normative by
virtue of its being conditioned upon value-producing pure duration, and that science
remains blind to its normativity by virtue of its inability to fully encounter pure duration
as object.

I. Duration and Homogeneity

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In this section I will introduce Bergson's concept of pure duration. We will see
that pure duration is a sort of “mere” temporality, and that it is unmeasurable. Pure
duration exists prior to measurable time, and stands as a condition for the possibility of
measurable time. As the condition for existing temporally, pure duration plays a role in
Bergson’s understanding of the “meaning of life.” This seemingly extreme claim will
have to remain obscure until we are further along.
Pure duration stands to measurable time (or, as it will also be called, spatial time,
for reasons that will become clearer as we continue) as an original stands to its
conversion. That is, we make use of spatial time by converting pure duration into
something it is not. This something-it-is-not, I will show, is a quantitative homogeneity.
Space is a (in fact, the) quantitative homogeneity. Space is an unbounded medium which
lacks all qualities; it is the medium in which qualities appear. Pure duration, by contrast,
is a qualitative heterogeneity. It is characterized by an ego’s “letting itself live.” But it
may be difficult to isolate pure duration from spatial time, because our living through
pure duration is imbued with spatial time. In order to get an idea of pure duration itself,
we will have to proceed by indication. Meditation upon ways of being that stand
opposed to familiar everydayness—dreaming, ecstasy, listening to music, and some
speculations about the nature of the animal’s mental life—will give us access to pure
duration as qualitative heterogeneity. In future sections, I will align Bergson’s discussion
of pure duration and spatial time with two opposed types of memory, repetitive memory
and imaginative memory. This will lead us to a discussion of science and intentionality,
two ways in which the human subject encounters the world, both of which explicitly
employ imaginative memory (spatial time), and are thus made possible by pure duration,
which is itself unmeasured and unintentional. That is, the measurable and the intentional
have their transcendental grounding in qualitative, unmeasurable pure duration. These
last several claims, however, only serve to foreshadow things to come. In this section, I
aim only to make clear what pure duration is, and how it stands to spatial memory. This
will lead to Bergson’s assertion that science, whose proper province is the measurement
of phenomena, will not be able to account for life. This latter, claim, however, will be
made most clear by engaging with Bergson's account of memory, and so will be left for
the following section.

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Insofar as units of time (e.g. seconds, minutes) are utilizable in science, they are
ipso facto measurable. Insofar as they are measurable, they are numerable. What is it to
be numerable? When we count objects in the world, we suppose them to be identical in
relevant respects. For instance, when we count books on a shelf, we leave behind
heterogeneities between books and consider them as identical in relevant respects, which
is to say we consider only objects in the world that have relevant properties in common.
There may be many respects in which such objects are non-identical, but our
representation of the objects may be purged of such respects for the sake of counting.
That is, all such properties may be purged except one: the books must be non-identical
with respect to the space they occupy. If all the books on the shelf occupied the same
space, there would be one book. From this we may provisionally conclude that counting
objects require that objects be diverse in their spatial location.1
But perhaps another source of heterogeneity can provide the foundation of
number. Objects that occupy different temporal locations may be counted. For instance,
I may count the meals that I have eaten in the last three days. These meals are
heterogeneous, but they may not have been in any respect except that they occurred at
different times, and yet we count them. This common sense proposal is in line with
Kant’s understanding of time. Kant argued that both time and space are pure intuitions of
unbounded homogenous mediums2. If time and space are both homogeneous mediums,
then movement within either medium ought to be measurable. With respect to space,
Bergson accepts such a characterization:
If we now seek to characterize this act [of the mind], we see that it consists
essentially in the intuition, or rather the conception, of an empty homogeneous
medium. For it is scarcely possible to give any other definition of space. Space is
what enables us to distinguish a number of identical and simultaneous sensations

1 I leave aside a complication, but this may worry a reader. We may not necessarily demand that all the
books occupy different spaces, but that they not occupy the same space at the same time. Given that
time is what I’m discussing, this may appear to complicate my claim, but it needn’t. If we count books
one by one as they are subsequently placed in and removed from a single space, we are still able to
count them as different books. However, we are only able to do so because we retain the idea of the
previous books, and we assume that they are occupying some other space. So, as the seventh book is
placed on the desk in front of me (occupying the same space as the six previous books) I only note it as
the seventh by assuming that six other books exist simultaneously, and concurrently occupy six
different positions in space as I count this seventh book. Thank you to Ben Sheredos for drawing my
attention to this ambiguity.
2 This is not only Kant’s view, but a working assumption in philosophy of science. Hence the seemingly
unproblematic phrase “temporal location.”

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from one another; it is thus a principle of quantitative differentiation other than
that of qualitative differentiation, and consequently it is a reality with no quality.
(ID 57, my emphasis)

The act of mind referred to here is best understood in a Kantian fashion; that is,
experience is by its very nature an experience of heterogeneities, and it requires a
homogenous medium in which such heterogeneities obtain. That is, space as a
homogeneous medium is “an a priori form of sensibility”(ibid.) which is required for any
possible experience.
Kant thinks that time is an unbounded homogeneous medium; but could it be so?
Space, as homogeneous medium, has been defined as “a reality without quality.” If this
characterization is acceptable, then any other homogeneous medium must be the same; it
must without quality. But this is to say that any two things that are both homogeneous
mediums must have precisely the same qualities: namely, no qualities. This should strike
us as a problem. Bergson writes:
Now, if space is to be defined as the homogeneous, it seems that inversely every
homogeneous and unbounded medium will be space. For, homogeneity here
consisting in the absence of every quality, it is hard to see how two forms of the
homogeneous could be distinguished from one another. Nevertheless it is
generally agreed to regard time as an unbounded medium, different from space
but homogeneous like the latter: the homogeneous is thus supposed to take
two forms, according as its contents co-exist or follow one another. (ID 59)

The idea of two homogenous mediums demands that we consider two things
indiscernible but not identical; this is unacceptable consequence. Two things which share
all qualities in common are not, in fact, two things. The answer to this confounding
situation will lead us to Bergson's central conclusion, that time is a qualitative
heterogeneity. When we imagine the movement of a pendulum, it is never the case that
the pendulum occupies more than one position in space. “Outside of me, in space, there
is never more than a single position of the pendulum.” (ID 63) By an act of mind, we
consider different times, T1 and T2, and consider the movement of the pendulum
between these two times. In so doing we imagine T1 and T2 simultaneously. We
represent T1 and T2 as points on a line; insofar as they relate in the mind, they borrow
their relation from spatiality. All measurable representations of time treat moments as
points on a mental representation of a spatial line, but the moments must be intuited

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simultaneously in order to admit of differentiation for the sake of measurement. The two
points now considered are mentally represented as spatially external to one another, but
they are represented simultaneously. “Thus, within our ego, there is succession without
mutual externality; outside the ego, in pure space, mutual externality without succession.”
(Ibid.) To represent time as quantifiable is to assimilate our intuition of time to our
intuition of space, and to leave time as duration behind. This representation is
“symbolical”; only through the “inventive faculty” that is unique to the mental, and does
not reflect anything actually in the physical. Consider, however, the claim that “time as
duration” has been left behind. Upon reflection, we are skeptical; on what grounds to we
posit that such a thing as pure duration exists? How do we know (especially as our
everyday encounter with time is always already conceived as measurable) that anything
has been left behind?
In order to demonstrate that anything like an unextended temporality exists,
Bergson draws attention to dreaming or music.3 Each of these examples is intended to
draw our attention to a circumstance in which the ego “lets itself live” or experiences
time without any admixture of spatial representation. In a dream, says Bergson, we do
experience duration, but that duration is not measurable. Consider two phenomena that
are palpably different, but which ought to be familiar to all. First, your morning alarm
goes off. You turn off the alarm, and fall back asleep. You dream for what seems like
hours, and when you wake up you begin to panic. You are surely late, after all that
dreaming! But alas the clock indicates that you have been asleep for only nine minutes.
Enveloped in slumber, we do experience phenomena temporally. Dreamed events follow
one another, no doubt. But in contrast to our waking state, we are less equipped (not
entirely unequipped) to consider heterogeneous moments simultaneously. We do not
symbolize moments as points in an extended space, the distance between which could be

3 Bergson refers to dreams only once; he refers to musical phrases (whose successive moments, he says,
blend into one another in a way that resists their spatial exclusion from one another) multiple times. I
have developed my analysis around dreaming. My reason for doing so is simply that I think there could
be more intersubjective agreement about the phenomenology of dreaming (and particularly the
phenomenology of waking up from a dream) than about the phenomenology of listening to music.
Perhaps I am wrong about this, and if a reader considers my experiences of dreaming to be completely
contrary to their own, I refer them to Bergson's discussion of music as another possible inroad to
understanding his position. I think we will find, however, that the intersubjective agreement about the
phenomenology of dreaming requires that we agree upon very little before it may satisfactorily
demonstrate Bergson's point.

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measured in a manner analogous to points on a spatial plane. Our capacity to consider
time as homogenous medium is crippled, and thus we have inaccurate estimations of time
gone by. While dreaming, Bergson will say, the ego “lets itself live.” Consider a
contrasting situation. Your morning alarm goes off. Your hit the snooze button and fall
back asleep. You dream. Nine minutes later, your alarm goes off again, and you awake
with a startle. The feeling is not the same. One instantly knows that one has been asleep
nine minutes, and one feels as if they have been asleep for nine minutes. The feeling may
not be perfectly accurate; perhaps one feels as if one has dreamt for five minutes, or
fifteen. One does not, however, feel as if one has dreamt for hours. How could the
phenomenology of time spent dreaming differ so drastically? Surely the single act of
pressing a button would not so radically manipulate your mind that you would spend
those nine minutes dreaming differently. Rather, Bergson's account lends itself to a more
plausible story: the act of intuition through which one considers distinct moments of time
simultaneously, and allows for the measurement of time by symbolically representing
time spatially, remains latent while dreaming. The stimulus of the alarm, however, puts
our habit of representing time spatially back on-line, instantly re-orienting the dreamer to
their temporal situation, and allowing for the organizing of memory according to a
homogenous spatial medium. The act of intuition that converts duration into a
symbolically extended spatial representation occurs so quickly that it reconfigures the
way that the dream is represented in memory. Without the orienting stimulus of the
alarm, we cannot, through any act of intuition, correctly symbolize the duration of the
dream as within a homogeneous (spatial) medium, and our estimation errs.
This example draws attention to a mental conversion of duration into spatial time;
this conversion is an activity, in which we typically engage immediately upon waking.
We convert duration into an extended homogeneity, and thus represent time as spatial.
We do experience dreams in time, but this time does not admit of measurement until it
has been acted on by the mind, and this act is one of conversion. Bergson's concept of
pure duration merely requires that there is such a thing as duration prior to this
conversion. Time is only experienced as a quantitative homogeneity with the help of this
conversion. But this is a symbolical time. Prior to such a representation, there must be a
pure duration, existing independently of the act of spatial conversion, so that the latter

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may have an experience to convert. This pure duration is only recognizable in extreme
cases of the ego’s letting itself live, such as in the case of dreaming. In waking life, the
idea of pure duration may be quite foreign to us, but it underlies measurable time, and
exists as a condition for the possibility of measurable time.
Measuring time, by converting it into a spatial representation, allows us to
manipulate the course of events in our lives and to pursue projects, so our habit of
representing distinct moments in time simultaneously in space order to measure their
distance from one another is a useful habit. But it represents time as space, and leaves
duration behind. This conversion requires an object; so an unextended, heterogeneous
duration must always underlie our homogeneous, measurable temporal representations,
and stand to those representations as the condition for their possibility. The measurement
of time is essential to the physical sciences; measurable time is employed in scientific
claims. As such, pure duration, the unmeasurable expression of temporality, stands itself
as a condition for the possibility of the employment of measurable time in scientific
practice.
As was argued above, measurement requires number, and number requires
identity among objects in all relevant respects except their heterogeneous position within
a representation of a homogeneous medium. Consequently, phenomena can only be
measured with reference to a homogeneous medium. The conversion of temporal
phenomena into such a medium is required for time to be measurable mathematically.
What we measure is not duration, but symbolic time. Time is pure duration, and pure
duration does not admit of homogeneity, it does not allow for enumeration, and it cannot
be measured.
From here we are prepared to discuss the bearing of Bergson's conception of
duration upon scientific practice and intentionality. This conversation, however, will be
made much clearer by outlining Bergson's distinction between two types of memories,
repetitive memories and imaginative memories. To this I turn in the next section.

II. Animal Memory and Mechanism

The mental encounters time as pure duration, which does not essentially present

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itself to the mind as homogeneous medium, but instead as qualitative heterogeneity. By
representing moments in time simultaneously as points on a homogeneous plane, through
which measurements can be gathered, the mind represents time as space, and leaves
duration behind. Symbolic time is a representation of matter, and matter is the province
of the physical sciences. As Bergson writes, “matter is inert, it is the seat of necessity, it
proceeds mechanically. Thought seems to try and benefit from matter's mechanical
aptitude, to use it for actions,”(PP 67). This passage foreshadows Bergson's later
distinction between repetitive memory and imaginative memory. (MM, see especially
chapter 2) The former is a mechanical memory, habits of the body, akin to what we may
call “muscle memory.” Repetitive memory is oriented towards action. I am able to move
from the entrance of a building to my classroom without much thought, because I have
retained a spatial repetitive memory of the appropriate path from one to the other. To act
upon such memory, however, it is not necessary that I return mentally to the scenario by
which I acquired this memory, or that I take leave of the present at all. Repetitive
memory is “seated in the present and looking only to the future.” When constructing
memory of this sort, we are “setting up a mechanism” (MM 95). This mental activity is
akin to the act of physical mechanics upon matter. Repetitive memory is “habit
interpreted by memory rather than memory itself.” (Ibid) Imaginative memory, on the
contrary is “memory par excellence.” (Ibid). Imaginative memory stores past events and
images for the sake of reconsideration and reproduction. This distinction is made most
clear by considering a scenario in which both types of memory are at work. Consider a
skilled joke-teller. She is at a party and wishes to tell a joke that she heard several
months ago. Imaginative memory holds the past latent in the mind, ready to be
reproduced. As the joke was heard so long ago the joke-teller will need to access
imaginative memory (perhaps the memory of the image of the person who told her the
joke, the sound of certain words, and the recall of the mental narrative through which the
joke carried her) in order to tell the joke correctly. But how does she manage to tell the
joke well? Surely not by remembering the timing, precise word use, and inflection that
was used when she first encountered the joke. Rather, she possesses an acquired skill set
which is also latent, and accessible to be employed towards a particular action, joke-
telling. This skill set is an example of repetitive memory, seated in the present and

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oriented towards action. A lapse in her imaginative memory may leave her without the
punch line. A lapse in her repetitive memory may result in the joke being told
awkwardly, ineffectively4. Here imaginative memory and repetitive memory interact, but
we can see without much trouble how they are separately employed. Likewise, though I
may be able to move from the door of a building to my classroom without any trouble, I
could also tell the story of my first time entering the building, and thus utilize my
imaginative memory (though, again, my story-telling would employ repetitive memory.)
Bergson speculates (though with appropriate agnosticism on the issue) that
repetitive memory may be the type of memory to which animals are limited.
When a dog welcomes his master...he certainly recognizes him; but does this
recognition imply the evocation of a past image and the comparison of that image
with the present perception? Does it not rather consist in the animal's
consciousness of a certain special attitude by his body, an attitude which has been
gradually built up by his familiar relations with his master, and which the mere
perception of his master now calls forth in him mechanically?

Bergson may be wrong about animal memory. However, in order to make sense of the
argument, let us suppose that he is right. We may suppose that the dog greeting its
master is absent imaginative memory, and entirely consumed by repetitive memory. The
past image which played the appropriate causal role in the animal's recognition “does not
interest the animal enough to detach it from the fascinating present.” (MM 94) Bergson's
reference to the mental lives of animals is interesting, as it hearkens back to a passing
comment in a previous work, which regards duration as qualitative heterogeneity.
That our ordinary conception of duration depends on a gradual incursion of space
into the domain of pure consciousness is proved by the fact that, in order to
deprive the ego of the faculty of perceiving a homogeneous time, it is enough to
take away from it this outer circle of psychic states which it uses as a balance-
wheel. [When we do so] we no longer measure duration, but we feel it; from
quantity it returns to the state of quality; we no longer estimate past time
mathematically...Even in the waking state, daily experience ought to teach us to
distinguish between duration as quality, that which consciousness reaches
immediately and which is probably what animals perceive, and time so to speak
materialized, time that has become quantity by being set out in space. (ID 71, my
emphasis)

What sets the animal mind (as construed) apart from the human mind is its relationship

4 As no one laughs: “I guess you had to be there….”

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with temporality. Animal minds possess repetitive memory; humans possess imaginative
and repetitive memory. Animals experience duration as quality; humans experience
duration “immediately” as quality and mediately as quantity. The human capacity to
recall images from the past is conditioned upon the capacity to represent moments in time
as simultaneous points on homogeneous medium, and thus to represent time as quantity.
In imaginative memory we recollect moments, perceiving them simultaneously and as
simultaneous, and thus as measurable. Imaginative memory makes measurable (spatial)
time possible, and is thus the grounds upon which make use of time in scientific practice.
In this section I have investigated the relationship between, on the one hand, two
types of memory (repetitive memory and imaginative memory) and on the other hand,
two types of time (symbolic time, represented as a quantitative homogeneous medium,
and pure duration, a qualitative heterogeneity). I have suggested that imaginative
memory is intimately connected with time as a quantitative homogeneous medium. In
the following section, I will introduce Bergson's project of determining the “meaning of
life” and I will develop the relationship between duration and physical science, as well as
the relationship between existing in pure duration and being an intentional agent. I take
these to demonstrate a fundamental normativity of our scientific claims, contra science’s
claim to being indifferent to value, insofar as the pure duration is the condition of
possibility of scientific practice.

III. The Meaning of Life, Intentionality, and Scientific Practice

Bergson announces his project to be the elucidation of the meaning of life. The
meaning of life is understood as “the true sense of the distinction between the soul and
the body, as well as the reason why they unite and collaborate” (PP 64). What is sought
is a mark that distinguishes the spiritual from the material, accounting for what sets apart
living things as living. This mark will also make evident the source of valuing. This
anticipates Canguilhem’s5 later claim that life is norm-forming; to locate the meaning of
life is to understand the way in which life is a basically normative, or valuing process.
We have seen that both humans and animals encounter temporality as pure duration,

5 See The Normal and Pathological (1966)

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though humans differ from animals in their capacity to convert pure duration into spatial
time. In space there is no duration; everything that exists is simultaneous. Entering into
the qualitative medium of duration is what designates the spiritual. As the basis of our
fundamental encounter with quality, duration grounds our status as beings that value.6
Physical science requires the measurement of time. As such, the methodology of
physical science treats time as spatial, as homogeneous medium. Spatial time, however,
is made possible by the time in its original state, as pure duration. Thus, the possibility of
measuring time is conditioned upon time as unmeasurable qualitative heterogeneity. Pure
duration then, is a transcendental condition of measurable time. Scientific practice, by
relying on measurable time, ultimately rests on the unmeasurable. This is appropriate.
Pure duration, as the condition that makes possible the practice of physical science,
cannot itself be accounted for by the physical sciences. Likewise, the experience of
heterogeneity, of quality, of pure duration, is the meaning of life. It is what designates
the spiritual as set apart from the material, and as the source of quality is the source of
value. As such, the condition of the possibility of life is not itself capable of a scientific
account. The question we are to ask is whether this presents a problem for the so-called
life sciences—biology, psychology, sociology. Such disciplines aim to provide a
scientific account of life. Do such disciplines take themselves to be providing the
conditions for the possibility of life? Particularly, do they aim to address the conditions
of the possibility of such a thing as a life that admits of a meaning? We may plausibly
answer no, and rest assured that the practice of life sciences is not here presented as a
futile enterprise. Rather, the goal is to better understand what is accomplished in the
approach to life as practiced by such sciences. The life sciences come to life as it is
already being experienced; it is this experience of life to which they are held accountable.
Our experience of life, as indicated above, is imbued with spatial time. We naturally and
constantly convert spatial time into a homogeneous medium such that it may admit of
measurement. This is the encounter of time that is approached, documented, and
measured by the life sciences.
The conversion of pure duration into quantitative homogeneity, such that it may

6 Properly speaking, the alive is not to be equated with the spiritual. Plant life, we presume, does not
experience pure duration. Appropriately, however, plant life is not the sort that admits of a meaning,
and thus need not be accounted for in seeking the meaning of life.

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admit of measurement, is made possible by our access to imaginative memory. As
measurable time is the condition of the possibility of scientific practice, so our capacity
for imaginative memory makes our own engagement with science possible. In
imaginative memory we bring forth an image. We represent a past moment presently, as
simultaneous with other moments. Our capacity to bring an absent object to our mind is
our intentionality. Intentionality is the capacity of the mind to reach out to the world
through mental acts, to have thoughts that are about something; an intentional act (e.g.
belief) in some sense contains a representation of its object (e.g. a belief about a car
contains the representation of a car). Intentionality is taken by many (e.g. Brentano,
Husserl) to be the “mark of the mental.” An important connection emerges: pure
duration is the meaning of the life, the source of value, or, we might say, the mark of the
spiritual. Intentionality is tied up with imaginative memory. In intentional acts, we
represent to ourselves what we are not. In imaginative memory, we represent as now
what is past. We represent past moments simultaneously. As imaginative memory
allows for the spatial representation of time as measurable, imaginative memory stands as
the condition of the possibility of scientific practice. As they refer to objects, our
scientific claims are essentially intentional. When making claims about the world which
purport to be scientific, we represent to ourselves what we are not; our propositions
contain within them representations that reach out to the world. We encounter the world
as full of objects, which admit of scientific analysis. Bergson speaks of objects very
little, but we find a revealing comment in the introduction to Matter and Memory:

…the object exists in itself, and, on the other hand, the object is, in itself,
pictorial, as we perceive it: image it is, but a self existing image. (MM viii, my
emphasis)

The object is “self-existing image.” That is, in our encounter with the object, we
encounter an image, but take that image as external, as not us. Our encounters with
objects are intentional and imaginative.
I hope that complexities in this picture are beginning to reveal themselves. In
scientific practice we encounter objects, self-existing images. Our capacity to encounter
such objects as not us, though they are our images, to see them as self-existing, is by
virtue of our being intentional subjects. Likewise, our intentionality is wrapped up in our

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capacity for imaginative memory, by which we take past moments presently, while still
representing them as past. This same imaginative memory enables us to represent time as
spatial, as a homogenous quantitative medium that admits of measurement. This capacity
to represent spatial time makes scientific practice possible. A common lineage emerges.
Scientific practice relies, first, on imaginative memory by which we represent time as
measurable, and second on intentionality by which we represent objects as not us. Each
of these are in turn are derivative of pure duration, the meaning life, as a qualitative state
of being temporal in which the ego lets itself live, prior to the conversion of pure duration
into spatial time. This pure duration, as the meaning of life, that which brings to life its
potential for valuing, stands as the condition of possibility for imaginative memory and
hence of both scientific practice and our encounters of intentional objects. As has been
demonstrated, our encounter with intentional objects makes possible and makes
necessary our scientific practice, and both are made possible by our basic status as beings
of value, as beings that live in this normative sense. Our status as such beings originates
in our being in pure duration. As such we can make pure duration neither the object of an
intentional act, nor the object of quantitative measurement. It is for this reason that our
access to pure duration could only be made comprehensible by means of indication
(which we find in the above discussion of dreams, or Bergson’s discussion of music), not
of explication. As the condition of possibility of both intentionality and science, pure
duration cannot be accounted for by our activities as intentional agents or as scientists.
Pure duration is the meaning of life, the source of value. It is the condition of the
possibility of our status as intentional agents, and our status as scientific beings.
Incapable of accounting for duration (as it stands as the condition of their possibility) or
intentionality and our scientific practice each in turn cover up their origination in
duration. The source of value which makes possible our science is made absent by the
quantification of temporal phenomena, in taking time as a quantitative homogeneity.
Science purports to embody indifference, the absence of value, but pure duration, which
gives to life its capacity for valuing, underlies imaginative memory, which makes
possible scientific practice. Scientific practice remains blind to its source, pure duration,
the antithesis of indifference and the source of value.

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IV. Conclusions
In this paper I have considered Henri Bergson's concept of duration as an
unmeasurable qualitative heterogeneity, which we measure only by taking individual
moments, accessed through imaginative memory, and conceiving them as simultaneous
so that they may be quantified through the homogeneous medium of space. I have
considered the implications of Bergson's distinction between repetitive and imaginative
memories, and particularly considered some passing comments that Bergson made about
animal psychology. I have made use of Bergson's provisional understanding of Animal
psychology to illustrate the conceptual relationships between two kinds of time and two
kinds of memory. I finally considered Bergson’s project of elucidating the meaning of
life, and suggest the way in which pure duration may stand to accomplish that goal. Pure
duration, as our original encounter with quality stands as our original generator of value,
and as pure duration stands as the condition of the possibility of scientific practice and
intentional agency, both of the latter are rendered fundamentally normative. Both,
however, are blind to their formal normativity, as their status as conditioned upon the
possibility pure duration renders them incapable of directly encountering pure duration
itself.

Works Cited
All works are by Henri Bergson.
(ID) “The Idea of Duration” Henri Bergson: Key Writings. (Eds. Pearson, Keith and
Mullarkey, John.) Continuum. New York. (2002) pp. 49-81.

(MM) Matter and Memory. (Trans. Paul, N. M. and Palmer, W. S.) Cosimo Classics.
New york. (2007)

(PP) “Psychophysical Parallelism and Positive Metaphysics.” (Trans. Jean Gayon)


Excerpted in Continental Philosophy of Science. (Ed. Gutting, Gary). Blackwell
Publishing. Oxford. (2005)

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