Bergson and the Language of Process

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... For other considerations of the problem of language in Bergson please refer toKolakowski (1987),Lacey (1993), Lawlor (2003, andMullarkey (1995). ...
Metaphysics, according to Bergson, seeks to grasp an absolute by what he at times calls an effort of imagination and at others an intellectual effort. This effort of imagination or intellectual effort in turn creates the possibility for entering into an intuition. 1 An absolute is counterpoised, to his mind, against a relative, and taken together, absolute and relative knowledge comprise the two branches of knowledge. On the one hand, there is a kind of knowing that, remaining on the outside of the object, collects its data from a certain vantage point in the world. On the other, there is a kind of knowing that enters into the object of its investigation, harmonizes with it, sympathizes with it, and concerns itself only with the vantage point of the thing inside of itself. While the former gains merely relative knowledge, the latter approaches the goal of metaphysics, that is, absolute knowledge. In turn, Bergson says that the two kinds of knowing instantiate themselves as the projects of positive science and metaphysics (PM, 1396/191). Science seeks to uncover empirical facts, therefore, laying hold of relative knowledge. Conversely, finding that the absolute is the source of all that is relative, metaphysics aspires to lay aside particulars in order to become one with the absolute. Each branch of knowledge, science and metaphysics, has tools suitable for its field of investigation. Science, for instance, selects one particular perspective from which to survey. Then, for the purpose of allowing others to benefit from the results of the investigation, science makes use of symbols to express the pieces of knowledge gathered. However, metaphysics' primary tool for reaching the absolute is, pace Kant, the non-1 (PM, 1268/29, 1393/187). Hereafter parenthetical references to Bergson will use the abbreviations to his works found in the keyed Works Cited section of this essay. Reference is always made first to Henri Bergson, OEuvres, Édition du Centenaire, texts annotés par André Robinet, Introduction par Henri Gouhier, Paris: presses Universitaires de France, 1959, and then to the translated English editions.
The goal in this article is to compare Bergson’s and Whitehead’s treatment of language and in particular the extent to which each believed that language is capable of expressing the temporal dimension of experience.
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