Category Archives: Matter and Memory – Henry Bergson

Matter and Memory – Henry Bergson part3


But this theory of “pure perception” had to be both qualified and completed in regard to two points. For the so-called “pure” perception, which is like a fragment of reality, detached just as it is, would belong to a being unable to mingle with the perception of other bodies that of its own body, that is to say, its affections; nor would it be able to mingle with its intuition of the actual moment that of other moments, that is to say, its memory. In other words, we have, to begin with, and for the convenience of study, treated the living body as a mathematical point in space and conscious perception as a mathematical instant in time. We then had to restore to the body its extensity and to perception its duration. By this we restored to consciousness its two subjective elements, affectivity and memory.
What is an affection? Our perception, we said, indicates the possible action of our body on others. But our body, being extended, is capable of acting upon itself as well as upon other bodies. Into our perception, then, something of our body must enter. When we are dealing with external bodies, these are, by hypothesis, separated from ours by a space, greater or lesser, which measures the remoteness in time of their promise or of their menace: this is why our perception of these bodies indicates only possible actions. But the more the distance diminishes between these bodies and our own, the more the possible action tneds to transform itself into a real action, the call for action becoming more urgent in the measure and proportion that the distance diminishes. And when this distance is nil, that is to say, when the body to be perceived is our own body, it is a real and no longer a virtual action that our perception sketches out. Such is, precisely, the nature of pain, an actual effort of the damaged part to set things to rights, an effort that is local, isolated, and thereby condemned to failure, in an organism which can no longer act except as a whole. Pain is, therefore, in the place where it is felt, as the object is at the place where it is perceived. Between the affection felt and the image percieved there is this difference, that the affection is within our body, the image outside our body. And that is why the surface of our body, the common limit of this and of other bodies, is given to us in the form both of sensations and of an image.
In this interiority of affective sensation consists its subjectivity; in that exteriority of images in general, their objectivity. But here again we encounter the ever-recurring mistake with which we have been confronted througout this work. It is supposed that perception and sensation exist for their own sake; the philosopher ascribes to them an entirely speculative function; and, as he has overlooked those real and virtual actions with which sensation and perception are bound up and by which, according as the action is virtual or real, perception and sensation are characterized and distinguished, he becomes unable to find any other difference between them than a difference of degree. Then, profiting by the fact that affective sensation is but vaguely localizde (because of the effort it involves in an indistinct effort) at once he declares it to be unextended, and these attenuated affections or unextended sensations he sets up as the material with which we are supposed to build up images in space. Thereby he condemns himself to an impossibility of explaining either whence arise the elements of consciousness, or sensations, which he sets up as so many absolutes, or how, unextended, they find their way to space and are coordinated there, or why, in it, they adopt a particular order rather than any other, or finally, how they manage to make up an experience which is regular and common to all men. This experience, the necessary field of our activity, is, on the contrary, what we should start from. Pure perceptions, therfore, or images, are what we should posit at the outset. And sensations, far from being the materials from which the image is wrought, will then appear as the impurity which is introduced into it, being that part of our own body which we project inot all others.


But, as long as we confine ourselves to sensation and to pure perception, we can hardly be said to be dealing with the spirit. No doubt we demonstrate, in opposition to the theory of an epiphenomenal consciousness, that no cerebral state is the equivalent of a perception. No doubt the choice of perceptions from among images in general is the effect of a discernment which foreshadows spirit. No doubt also the material universe itself, defined as the totality of images, is a kind of consciousness, a consciousness in which everything compensates and neutralizes everything else, a consciousness of which all the potential parts, balancing each other by a reaction which is always equal to the action, reciptocally hinder each other from standing out. But to touch the reality of spirit we must place ourselves at the point where an individual consciousness, continuing and retaining the past in a present enriched by it, thus escapes the law of necessity, the law which ordains that the past shall ever follow itself in a present which merely repeats it in another form and that all things shall ever be flowing away. When we pass from pure perception to memory, we definitely abandon matter for spirit.


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Matter and Memory – Summery and Conclusion part2

Here we seem to return to realism. But realism, unless corrected on an essential point, is as unacceptable as idealism and for the same reason. Idealism, we said, cannot pass from the order manifested in perception to the order which is successful in science, that is to say, to reality. Inversely, realism fails to draw from reality the immediate consciousness which we have of it. Taking the point of view of ordinary realism, we have, on the one hand, a composite matter made up of more or less independent parts, diffused throughout space, and, on the other hand, a mind which can have no point of contact with matter, unless it be, as materialists maintain, the unintelligible epiphenomenon. If we prefer the standpoint of the Kantian realism, we find between the “thing-in itself,” that is to say, the real, and the “sensuous manifold” from which we construct our knowledge, no conceivable relation, no common measure. Now, if we get to the bottom of these two extreme forms of realism, we see that they converge toward the same point: both raise homogeneous space as a barrier between the intellect and things. The simpler realism makes of this space a real medium, in which things are in suspension; Kantian realism regards it as an ideal medium, in which the multiplicity of sensations is coordinated; but for both of them this medium is given to begin with as the necessary condition of what comes to abide in it. And if we try to get to the bottom of this common hypothesis, in its turn, we find that it consists in attributing to homogeneous space a disinterested office: space is supposed either merely to uphold material reality or to have the function, still purely speculative, of furnishing sensations with means of coordinating themselves. So the obscurity of realism, like that of idealism, comes from the fact that, in both of them, our conscious perception and the conditions of our conscious perception are assumed to point to pure knowledge, not to action. But now suppose that this homogeneous space is not logically anterior, but posterior to material things and to the pure knowledge which we can have of them; suppose that extensity is prior to space; suppose that homogeneous space concerns our action and only our action; being like an infinitely fine network which we stretch beneath material continuity in order to render ourselves master of it, to decompose it according to the plan of our activities and our needs. Then, not only has our hypothesis the advantage to bringing us into harmony with science, which shows us each thing exercising an influence on all the others and, consequently, occupying, in a certain sense, the whole of the extended (although we perceive of this thing only its center and mark its limits at the point where our body ceases to have any hold upon it). Not only has it the advantage, in metaphysic, of suppressing or lessening the contradictions raised by divisibility in space – contradictions which always arise, as we have shown, from our failure to dissociate the two points of view, that of action from that of knowledge. It has, above all the advantage of overthrowing the insurmountable barriers raised by realism between the extended world and our perception of it. For whereas this doctrine assumes, on the one hand, an external reality which is multiple and divided, and, on the other hand, sensations alien from extensity and without possible contact with it, we find that concrete extensity is not really divided, any more than immediate perception is in truth unextended. Starting from realism, we come back to the point to which idealism had led us; we replace perception in things. And we see realism and idealism ready to come to an understanding when we set aside the postulate, uncritically accepted by both, which served them as a common frontier.

To sum up: if we suppose an extended continuum, and, in this continuum, the center of real action which is represented by our body, its activity will appear to illuminate all those parts of matter with which at each successive moment it can deal. The same needs, the same power of action, which have delimited our body in matter, will also carve out distinct body in the surrounding medium. Everything will happen as if we allowed to filter through us that action of external things which is real, in order to arrest and retain that which is virtual: this virtual action of things upon our body and of our body upon things is our perception itself. But since the excitations which our body receives from surrounding bodies determine unceasingly, within its substance, nascent reactions – since this internal movements of the cerebral substance thus sketch out at very moments our possible action on things, the state of the brain exactly corresponds to the perception. It is neither its cause, nor its effect, nor in any sense its duplicate: merely continues it, the perception being our virtual action and the cerebral state our action already begun.

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Matter and Memory – Summary and Conclusion


The idea that we have disengaged from the facts and confirmed by reasoning is that our body is an instrument of action, and of action only. In no degree, in no sense, under no aspect, does it serve to prepare, far less to explain, a representation. Consider external perception: there is only a difference of degree, not of kind, between the so-called perceptive faculties of the brain and the reflex functions of the spinal cord. While the spinal cord transforms the excitations received into movements which are more or less necessarily executed, the brain puts them into relation with motor mechanisms which are more or less freely chosen;

but that which the brain explains in our perception is action begun, prepared or suggested, it is not perception itself.

Consider memory. The body continues to have motor habits capable of acting the past over again; it can begin to have attitudes in which the past will insert itself; or, again, by the repetition of certain cerebral phenomena, which have prolonged former perceptions, it can furnish the action of remembering a point of attachment with the actual, a means of recovering its lost influence upon present reality: but in no case can the brain store up recollections or images. Thus,

neither in perception, nor in memory, nor a fortiori in the higher attainments of mind, does the body contribute directly to representation.

By developing this hypothesis under its manifold aspects and thus pushing dualism to an extreme, we appeared to divide body and soul by an impassable abyss. In truth, we were indicating the only possible means of bringing them together.


All the difficulties raised by this problem, either in ordinary dualism, or in materialism and idealism, come from considering, in the phenomena of perception and memory, the physical and the mental as duplicates of one another. Suppose I place myself at the materialist point of view of consciousness regarded as a byproduct of brain activity: I am quite unable to understand why certain cerebral phenomena are accompanied by consciousness, that is to say, of what use could the conscious repetition of the material universe I have begun by assuming it to be a fact, or how could it ever arise. Suppose I prefer idealism: I then allow myself only perceptions, and my body is one of them. But whereas observation shows me that the images I perceive are entirely changed by very slight alternatins of the image I call my body (since I have only to shut my eyes and my visual universe diassappears), science assures me that all phenomena must succeed and condition one another according to a determined order, in which effects are strictly proportioned to causes. I am obliged, therefore, to seek, in the image which I call my body, and which follows me everywhere, for changes which shall be the equivalents – but the well-regulated equivalents, now deducible from each other – of the images which succeed one another around my body: the cerebral movements, to which I am led back in this way again are the duplicates of my perceptions. It is true that these movements are still perceptions, “possible” perceptions – so that this second hypothesis is more intelligible than the first; but, on the other hand, it must suppose, in its turn, an inexplicable correspondence between my real perception of things and my possible perception of certain cerebral movements which do not in any way resemble these things. When we look at it closely, we shall see that this is the reef upon which all idealism is wrecked:

there is no possible transition from the order which is perceived by our senses to the order which we are to conceive for the sake of our science, – or, if we are dealing more particularly with the Kantian idealism, no possible transition from sense to understanding.

So my only refuge seems to be ordinary dualism. I place matter on this side, mind on that, and I suppose that cerebral movements are the cause or the occasion of my representation of objects. But if they are its cause, if they are enough to produce it, I must fall back, step-by-step, upon the materialistic hypothesis of a conciousness regarded as a byproduct of brain activity. If they are only its occasion, I thereby suppose that they do not resemble it in any way, and so, depriving matter of all the qualities which I conferred upon it in my representation, I come back to idealism. Idealism and materialism are then the two poles between which this kind of dualism will always oscillate; and when, in order to maintain the duality of substances, it decides to make them both of equal rank, it will be led to regard them as two translations of one and the same original, two parallel and predetermined developments of a single principle, and thus to deny their reciprocal influence, and, by an inevitable consequence, to sacrifice freedom.

Now, if we look beneath these three hypotheses, we find that they have a common basis: all three regard the elementary operations of the mind, perception and memory, as operations of pure knowledge. What they place at the origin of consciousness is either the useless duplicate of an external reality or the inert (lacking) material of an intellectual construction entirely disinterested (impartial): but they always neglect the relation of perception with action and of memory with the manner of its activity. Now, it is no doubt possible to conceive, as an ideal limit, a memory and a perception that are impartial; but, in fact, it is toward action that memory and perception are turned; it is action that the body prepares. Do we consider perception? The growing complexity of the nervous system push and pull the excitation received onto an ever larger variety of motor mechanisms and so sketches simultaneously an ever larger number of possible actions. Do we turn to memory? We note that its primary function is to evoke all those past perceptions which are analogous to the present perception, to recall to us what preceded and followed them, and so to suggest to us that decision which is the most useful. But this is not all. By allowing us to grasp in a single intuition multiple moments of duration, it frees us from movement of the flow of things, that is to say, from the rhythm of necessity. The more of the moments memory can contract into one, the firmer is the hold which it gives to us on matter: so the memory of a living being appears indeed to measure, above all, its powers of action upon things and to be only the intellectual reverberation of this power. Let us start, then, from this energy, as from the true principle: let us suppose that the body is a center of action, and only a center of action. We must see what consequences then result for perception, for memory, and for the relations between body and mind.


To take perception first. here is my body with its “perceptive centers.” These centers vibrate, and I have the representation of things. On the other hand, I have supposed that these vibrations can neither produce nor translate my perception. It is, then, outside them. Where is it? I cannot hesitate as to the answer: positing my body, I posit a certain image, but with it also the aggregate of the other images, since there is no material image which does not owe its qualities, its determinations, in short, its existence, to the place which it occupies in the totality of the universe. My perception can, then, only be some part of these objects themselves; it is in them rather than they in it. But what is it exactly within them? I see that my perception appears to follow all the vibratory detail of the so-called sensitive nerves; yet I know that the role of their vibrations is solely to prepare the reaction of my body on neighboring bodies, to sketch out my virtual actions. Perception, therefor, consists in detaching, from the totality of objects, the possible action of my body upon them. Perception appears, then, as only a choice. It creates nothing; its office, on the contrary, is to eliminate from the totality of images all those on which I can hove no hold, and then, from each of those which I retain, all that does not concern the needs of the image which I call my body, at least, much simplified, is the way we explain or describbe schematically what we have called pure perception. Let us mark out at once the intermediate place which we thus take up between realism and idealsm.

That every reality has a kinship, an analogy – in short, a relation with consciousness – this is what we concede to idealism by the very fact that we term things “images.” No philosophical doctrine, moreover, provided that it is consistent with itself, can escape from this conclusion. But, if we could assemble all the states of consciousness, past, present and possible, of all conscious beings, we should still only have gathered a very small part of material reality because images outrun perception on every side. It is just these images that science and metaphysic seek to reconstitute, thus restoring the whole of a chain of which our perception grasps only a few links. But, inorder thus to discover between perception and reality the relation of the part to the whole, it is necessary to leave to perception its true office, which is to prepare actions. This is what idealism fails to do. Why is it unable, as we said just now, to pass form the order manifested in perception to the order which is successful in science, that is to say, from the contingency with which our sensations appear to follow each other to the determinism which binds together the phenomena of nature? Precisely because it attributes to consciousness, in perception, a speculative role, so that it is impossible to see what interest this speculative role, so that it is impossible to see what interest this consciousness has in allowing to escape, between two sensations, for instance, the intermediate links through which the second might be deduced from the first. This intermediaries and their strict order thus remain obscure, whether, with Mill, we make the intermediaries into “possible sensations,” or, with Kant, hold the substructure of the order to be the work of an impersonal understanding. But suppose that my conscious perception has an entirely practical destination, simply indicating, in the aggregate of things, that which intereests my possible action upon them: I can then understand thatall the rest excapes me, and that, nevertheless, all the rest is o fhte same nature as what I perceive. My consciousness of matter is then no longer either subjective, as it is for English idealism, or relative, as it is for the kantian idealism. It is not subjective, for it is in things rather than in me. It is not relative, because between the “phenomenon” and the “thing” is not that of appearance to reality, but merely that of the part to the whole.

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Matter and Memory by Henri Bergson – Introduction


This book affirms the realty of spirit and the reality of matter and tries to determine the relation of the one to the other by the study of a definite example, that of memory. It is, then, frankly dualistic. But, on the other hand, it deals with body and mind in such a way as, we hope, to lessen greatly, if not to overcome, the theoretical difficulties which have always beset dualism, and which cause it, though suggested by the immediate verdict of consciousness and adopted by common sense, to be held in small honor among philosophers.

These difficulties are due, for the most part, to the conception, now realistic, now idealistic, which philosophers have of matter. The aim of our first chapter is to show that realism and idealism both go too far, that it is a mistake to reduce matter to the perception which we have of it, a mistake also to make of it a thing able to produce in us perceptions, but in itself of another nature than they. Matter, in our view, is an aggregate of “images.” And by “image” we mean a certain existence which is more than that which the idealist calls a representation, but less than that which the realist calls a thing – an existence placed halfway between the “thing” and the “representation.” This conception of matter is simply that of common sense. It would greatly astonish a man unaware of the speculations of philosophy if we told him that the object before him, which he sees and touches, exists only in his mind and for his mind or even, more generally, exists only for mind, as Berkeley held. Such a man would always maintain that the object exists independently of the consciousness which perceives it. But, on the other hand, we should astonish him quite as much by telling him that the object is entirely different from that which is perceived in it, that it has neither the color ascribed to it by the eye nor the resistance found in it by the hand. The color, the resistance, are, for him, in the object: they are not states of our mind; they are part and parcel of an existence really independent of our own. For common sense, then, 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.

This is just the sense in which we use the word image in our first chapter. We place ourselves at the point of view of a mind unaware of the disputes between philosophers. Such a mind would naturally believe that matter exists just as it is perceived; and, since it is perceived as an image, the mind would make of it, in itself, an image. In a word, we consider matter before the dissociation which idealism and realism have brought about between its existence and its appearance. No doubt it has become difficult to avoid this dissociation now that philosophers have made it. To forget it, however, is what we ask of the reader. If, in the course of this first chapter, objections arise in his mind against any of the views that we put forward, let him ask himself whether these objections do not imply his return to one or the other of the two points of view above which we urge him to rise.

Philosophy made a great step forward on the day when Berkeley proved, as against the “mechanical philosophers,” that the secondary qualities of matter have at least as much reality as the primary qualities. His mistake lay in believing that, for this, it was necessary to place matter within the mind and make it into a pure idea. Descartes, no doubt, had put matter too far from us when he made it one with geometrical extensity. But, in order to bring it nearer to us, there was no need to go to the point of making it one with our own mind. Because he did go as far as this, Berkeley was unable to account for the success of physics, and, whereas Descartes had set up the mathematical relations between phenomena as their very essence, he was obliged to regard the mathematical order of the universe as a mere accident. So the Kantian criticism became necessary, to show the reason of this mathematical order and to give back to our physics a solid foundation – a task in which, however, it succeeded only by limiting the range and value of our senses and of our understanding. The criticism of Kant, on this point at least, would have been unnecessary; the human mind, in this direction at least, would not have been led to limit its own range; metaphysics would not have been sacrificed to physics, if philosophy had been content to leave matter half way between the place to which Descartes had driven it and that to which Berkeley drew it back – to leave it, in fact, where it is seen by common sense.

There we shall try to see it ourselves. Our first chapter defines this way of looking at matter; the last sets forth the consequences of such a view. But, as we said before, we treat of matter only in so far as it concerns the problem dealt with in our second and third chapters, that which is the subject of this essay: the problem of the relation between soul and body.

This relation, though it has been a favorite theme throughout the history of philosophy, has really been very little studied. If we leave on one side the theories which are content to state the “union of soul and body” as an irreducible and inexplicable fact, and those which speak vaguely of the body as an instrument of the soul, there remains hardly any other conception of the psychophysiological relation than the hypothesis of “epiphenomenalism” or that of “parallelism,” which in practice – I mean in the interpretation of particular facts – both end in the same conclusion. For whether, indeed, thought is regarded as a mere function of the brain and the state of consciousness as an epiphenomenon of the state of the brain, or whether mental states and brain states are held to be two versions, in two different languages, of one and the same original, in either case it is laid down that, could we penetrate into the inside of a brain at work and behold the dance of the atoms which make up the cortex, and if, on the other hand, we possessed the key to psychophysiology, we should know every detail of what is going on in the corresponding consciousness.

This, indeed, is what is most commonly maintained by philosophers as well as by men of science. Yet it would be well to ask whether the facts, when examined without any preconceived idea, really suggest an hypothesis of this kind. that there is a close connection between a state of consciousness and the brain we do not dispute. But there is also a close connection between a coat and the nail on which it hangs, for, if the nail is pulled out, the coat falls to the ground. Shall we say, then, that the shape of the nail gives us the shape of the coat, or in any way correspond to it? No more are we entitled to conclude, that there is any parallelism between the two series psychical and physiological. When philosophy pleads that the theory of parallelism is born out of the results of positive science, it enters upon an unmistakably vicious circle; for, if science interprets connection, which is a fact, as signifying parallelism, which is an hypothesis (and an hypothesis to which it is difficult to attach an intelligible meaning), it does so, consciously or unconsciously, for reasons of a philosophical order: it is because science has been accustomed by a certain type of philosophy to believe that there is no hypothesis more probable, more in accordance with the interests of scientific inquiry.

Now, as soon as we do, indeed, apply to positive facts for such information as my help us to solve the problem, we find it is with memory that we have to deal. This was be expected, because memory – we shall try to prove in the course of this work – is just the intersection of mind and matter. But we may leave out the reason here: no one, at any rate, will deny that, among all the facts capable of throwing light on the psychophysiological relation, those which concern memory, whether in the normal or in the pathological state, hold a privileged position. Not only is the evidence here extremely abundant (consider the enormous mass of observations collected in regard to the various kinds of aphasia), but nowhere else have anatomy, physiology and psychology been able to lend each other such valuable aid. Anyone who approaches, without preconceived ideas and on the firm ground of facts, the classical problem of the relations of soul and body, will soon see this problem as centering upon the subject of memory, and, even more particularly, upon the memory of words: it is from this quarter, undoubtedly, that will come the light which will illumine the obscurer parts of the problem.

The reader will see how we try to solve it. Speaking generally, the physical state seems to us to be, in most cases, immensely wider than the cerebral state, I mean that the brain state indicates only a very small part of the mental state, that part which is capable of translating itself into movements and locomotion. Take a complex thought which unrolls itself in a chain of abstract reasoning. This thought is accompanied by images, that are at least nascent(freshly generated in a reactive form). And these images themselves are not pictured in consciousness without some foreshadowing, in the form of a sketch or a tendency, of the movements by which these images would be acted or played in space – would, that is to say, impress particular attitudes upon the body, and set free all that they implicitly contain of spatial movement. Now, of all the thought which is unrolling, this, in our view, is what the cerebral state indicates at every moment. he who could penetrate into the interior of a brain and see what happens there, would probably obtain full details of these sketched-out, or prepared, movements; there is no proof that he would learn anything else. Were he endowed with a superhuman intellect, did he possess the key to psychophysiology, he would know no more of what is going on in the corresponding consciousness than we should know of a play from the comings and goings of the actors upon the stage.

That is to say, the relation of the mental to the cerebral is not a constant, any more than it is simple, relation. According to the nature of the play that is being acted, the movements of the players tell us more or less about it: nearly everything, if it is a pantomime; next to nothing, if it is a delicate comedy. Thus our cerebral state contains more or less of our mental state in the measure that we reel off our psychic life into action or wind it up into pure knowledge.

There are then, in short, divers tones of mental life, or, in other words, our psychic life may be lived at different heights, now nearer to action, now further removed from it, according to the degree of our attention to life. Here we have one of the ruling ideas of this book – the idea, indeed, which served as the starting point of our inquiry. That which is usually held to be a greater complexity of the psychical state appears to us, from our point of view, to be a greater dilatation of the whole personality, which, normally narrowed down by action, expands with the unscrewing of the vice in which it has allowed itself to be squeezed, and, always whole and undivided, spreads itself over a wider and wider surface. That which is commonly held to be a disturbance of the psychic life itself, an inward disorder, a disease of the personality, appears to us, from our point of view, to be an unloosing or a braking of the tie which binds this psychic life to its motor accompaniment, a weakening or an impairing of our attention to outward life. This opinion, as also that which denies the localization of the memory-images of words and explains aphasia quite otherwise than by such localization, was considered paradoxical at the date of the first publication of the present work (1896). It will appear much less so now. The conception of aphasia then classical, universally admitted, believed to be unshakable, has been considerably shaken in the last few years, chiefly by reasons of an anatomical order, but partly also by reasons of the same kind as those which we then advance. And the profound and original study of neuroses made by Professor Pierre Janet has led him, of late years, to explain all psychasthenic forms of disease by these same considerations of psychic “tension” and of attention to reality which were then presumed to be metaphysical.

In truth, it was not altogether a mistake to call them by that name. Without denying to psychology, any more than to metaphysics, the right to make itself into an independent science, we believe that each of these two sciences should set problems to the other and can, in a measure, help it to solve them. How should it be otherwise, if psychology has for its object the study of the human mind working for practical utility, and if metaphysics is but this same mind striving to transcend the conditions of useful action and to come back to itself as to a pure creative energy? Many problems, which appear foreign to each other as long as we are bound by the letter of the terms in which these two sciences state them, are seen to be very near akin, and to be able to solve each other when we thus penetrate into their inner meaning. We little thought, at the beginning of our inquiry, that there could be any connection between the analytical study of memory and the question, which is debated between realists and idealists or between mechanists and dynamists, with regard to the existence or the essence of matter. Yet this connection is real, it is even intimate; and, if we take it into account, a cardinal metaphysical problem is carried into the open field of observation, where it may be solved progressively, instead of forever giving rise to fresh disputes of the schools within the closed lists of pure dialectic. The complexity of some parts of the present work is due to the inevitable dovetailing of problems which results from approaching philosophy in such a way. But through this complexity, which is due to the complexity of reality itself, we believe that the reader will find his way if he keeps a fast hold on the two principles which we have used as a clue throughout our own researches. The first is that in psychological analysis we must never forget the utilitarian character of our mental functions, which are essential turned toward action. The second is that the habits formed in action find their way up to the sphere of speculation, where they create fictitious problems, and that metaphysics must begin by dispersing this artificial obscurity.

H. Bergson
Paris, October 1910

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