Henri Bergson’s Matter and Memory: Law of Masters

2 Jun

I call this law the law of masters because it says that one thing is the master of another. I do not think that this is universally called the Law of Masters, but in the essay, there is little else it is identified as. If there is something that this law is universally called (will state it below) please say so in the comments and I will change the title of this post. I just read this part of Bergson’s essay of Matter and Memory and saw this italicized proclamation.

“Perception is master of space in the exact measure in which action is master of time.” (Bergson)

I feel that declaring that perception is master of space is the main proclamation but I think the fact that action is master of time is also introduced when it is compared with perception mastering space. 2 philosophical things are to be argued from this law in Matter and Memory. As I do in most of my work I like to thoroughly explain what each statement means and argue for or against each statement.

There is a paragraph that Bergson writes that leads up to this law. I would like to explain his pre-statements to fully understand his justification for the law.

First, the beginning sentence states that “the degree of independence of which a living being is master allows then of an a priori estimate of the number and the distance of the things with which it is in relation” (Bergson). I took out an alternate definition Bergson uses:  “the zone of indetermination which surrounds its activity” (Bergson). I took this out because I feel it confuses the reader. 2 explanations to think about and relate to the condition he explains I feel is too much to do for my purposes right now. Now lets analyze this first sentence. If something is independent to a certain degree of the thing it masters, the amount of independence allows an ‘a priori’ estimate of the number and distance of the relation of the master and the mastered.  A things independence of the thing it masters creates an ‘a priori’ estimation of number and distance of the master and the mastered. So if a master has independence of what it masters an a priori estimation of the number and distance between the master and the mastered. I just stated those things because I wanted to break down into understandable terms the first sentence. What is a priori? A priori in Kant and others is knowledge and/or perception of things before the fact/ before something comes into existence/before something happens. So, if a master has independence, it has pre-existential/pre-occurence knowledge about the number and distance between the master and the mastered. This shows that the master has a lot more knowledge and power over what is mastered.

“Whatever this relation may be, we can affirm that its amplitude gives the exact measure of the indetermination of the act which is to follow” (Bergson). The first part of the sentence states that there is a relation between the master and the mastered (as shown in the first sentence). Lets define amplitude in this case. I find 4 definitions of the word amplitude but I feel this one matches our situation the best: the extent or range of a quality, property, process, or phenomenon. Amplitude is the range of phenomenon I think in this case.  The relation between the master and the mastered, has the condition where its range of phenomenon gives the measure of indetermination of the act that follows. This just states that the relation between the master and the mastered allows one to know a lot about the act that will follow in the relation between the master and mastered.

Bergson states that the above 2 statements allows us to follow that: perception is master of space in the extent measure in which action is master of time (Bergson). Perception is the master of space just like action is the master of time. I would like to relate each of the masteries to the above 2 statements that allowed Bergson to infer the law of masters (as I call it). The degree of independence of perception from space allows perception to have an a priori estimate of the number and distance between itself (perception) and its mastered item space. Because Bergson inferred this law from the first 2 sentences, he declares that perception is independent, consistent of a priori knowledge, and masterful. Also, perception relating to space is able to affirm that the range of phenomenon in perception and space gives the exact measure of indetermination of the actions to follow in the perception (also space, but this need not be said because perception’s actions correlates with space’s actions). Because of these things, it is for sure by Bergson that perception is the master of time.

Action’s independence of time allows action to have an a priori knowledge of the estimate of the number and distance between action and time. The relation between action and time allows us to affirm that the range of phenomenon gives the exact measure of the indetermination of the act that follows in action (also in time, but again, the actions in action correlate directly with the actions in time due to their relation).

Because of these things, it is inferred by Bergson that perception is the master of space just like action is the master of time. Action/time is used as a comparison with perception and space. Perception and space might be the main thing Bergson states in this law, but I think in the comparison, he states that action is the master of time and it is just as important as perception and space.

Think about what it means for something to master another. If mastery is not familiar, it should be looked up because the mastery of one thing over another is the heart of Bergson’s law/argument. If one thing masters another, it governs its actions. If one thing masters another, it can represent the mastered all by itself without the need of the mastered. If something masters another, the master is independent of the mastered.  The mastered is dependent on the thing it is mastered by. Mastered in this situation can be thought of as subjugated, outsmarted, held hostage, conquered, learned totally,  supervised, defeated,….etc. Could go on and on. If the idea of something mastering another is not clear, please say so. I want everything to be clear and understandable before positions on Bergson’s law are argued.

I want to have the correct tactics in explaining a philosopher’s justifications for a proposition and arguing why one would think either argument, along with clearly explaining my position in this cosmos. I wanted to go beyond my usual topics lately to test my tactics at explanation and argumentation. If you have suggestions and criticisms, say so in comments below. Please by frank and critical.

Going on with Bergson’s mastery law. Lets deal with the first part of his law: perception is master of space. What is perception? What we perceive is our world. Perception is what we see, how we interpret the world around us, and our placement of opinions about the world. What is space? Space is the physical world with or without things in it. It can be concluded that Bergson thought that perception governs how we see space, therefore perception masters space. I think that this law can be related to neutral monism and solipsism because according to Bergson, our own perceptions created by the self/soul govern the nature of space (the things and spaces around us). Neutral monism states that the world is created from the self and the material of the world comes from the self/soul because the self perceives the world. To neutral monism, the only thing that matters is the self’s perception of the world. The perception that the self creates is our only way of knowing anything. We cannot know anything about the physical space without our own perceptions according to Bergson and neutral monists (solipsists too). Because perception governs how we see everything around us, space cannot be understood or seen without perception, therefore according to Bergson, perception masters space (Bergson’s/neutral monists/solipsists position only, not mine).

Action masters time. Time might be thought of as a governing item, but what happens in time masters it according to Bergson. Because action happens so frequently, time shows relation in occurrences.  Actions occur so frequently and are more important than the relations between when they happen. Because, according to Bergson, action has more importance, involvedness, and relevance than time does, therefore action masters time.

Based on explanations of perception mastering space, and action mastering time, if you want, comment below on one or both things and if you think Bergson is right or wrong.

On Bergson’s statement that perception masters space, I strongly disagree with Bergson. A little bit back in this work, where I correlated this thought with neutral monism and solipsism, I still feel this thought is close to those things. Neutral monism and solipsism think that the self is the only means for perception and creation of the world (space). I disagree with neutral monism and solipsism whole heartedly, and this first part of Bergson’s mastery law correlates directly with these things, therefore I strongly disagree with the fact that perception masters space. I do not think perception masters anything. Perception is only our sight, interpretation and slim understanding of the world around us. Perception is the only small possible way we can understand anything. Many many things lie outside our possibility of perception. Perception cannot possibly perceive all that exists and goes on in the cosmos, therefore perception is not worth much. There are many things we cannot understand and perception is our only means of understanding the world. If perception is not worth much and cannot allow us to understand all that exists, perception masters nothing. God is infinitely enormous in his size, power, thought and creation powers. Compared to God, our minds are infinitely small and useless. We cannot go beyond regular perception to understand the world unless we have gone to heaven. Philosophy only correlates to things on this world, therefore perception is all we have. Perception cannot perceive the works, love and existence (knowledge too) of God, therefore perception cannot master anything and sure does not master space.

If perception does not master space, what then masters space? God masters space. God created space and all in it. I believe in Godly Spinozistic substance monism where God is the only substance of creation in the universe. God created space not the self.

On the statement by Bergson that action masters time, I agree with Bergson. I have some apprehensions to whole heartedly agreeing with this thought, but for my understanding at this moment, I believe that action masters time. I want to first talk about what I think time is in this world. Time to God is basically nothing. Time that is long to us, is infinitely small to God. Time is only a device for referring to when things happen. Everything exists, and time is not a necessary thing to explain everything and its existences. Time is just a device for understand the phenomenon of when. If nothing ever happened, time would not be necessary. For example, the Precambrian time as referred to in geology is a time where everything began to evolve from cyanobacteria and very very little happened in this time. The Precambrian time covers a long long long time in history with little divisions in it. This time is so long because very little happened in it. If a lot happened in evolution and geology, it would be divided down to the epoch just like the Phanerozoic era. Because nothing really happened in the Precambrian time, time was not really necessary to divide much up. If nothing happens, time is not necessary to define when each action happens. If tons of things happen in one small time period, time is infinitely necessary to explain the occurrence of events and divide up each time in between big occurrences. I believe then, action masters time. Action happens in this world and a when is necessary to fully explain the action (why,where, how it happened). If an action did not happen, a when would not be necessary to explain anything because nothing would need to be explained. Because of all this, I feel that action fully masters time because time would not be necessary unless action of some kind existed.

I feel that the big part of Bergson’s argument here is wrong, but his comparison to his big argument is the thing that is correct. For more information or if you have questions, comment below, direct message on twitter, or email me at cosmosuniversez@yahoo.com

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