Henri Bergson was a modern philosopher who merged empiricism with a bit of rationalism to become part of a new empiricism that held room for intuition and movement with a flux through time. He essentially refused sciences claim to explain the universe in mechanical conditions; instead he considered life an unending creation, a matter of change and time unlike something static. In Henri Bergsons (originally?) dualistic realm there existed the distinctive modes of consciousness or knowing: analysis and intuition. Intuition consists of an internal grasping of an object, consequently capturing its very essence or heart.Analysis is basically an external or relative way to understand something, because of this it can be considered relatively superficial. One of Bergsons working illustrations of these variances is that of time. Within his works, Bergson addresses the issues of knowing through the discussion of mathematical versus real time. Through these explorations Bergson provides tenable grounds for belief in the intuitive knowing of the self, and proffers substantial justification for that of other selves.
First, the characteristics to both modes of knowing are important. Analysis or intellect reduces objects to elements that are already comprehended. Thus, analysis is expression through a function of something other than itself. This means externally moving around an object in order to perceive it. Other characteristics of analysis include transition or the development of symbols and concepts. Intellect gives an incomplete representation because of its relativity or stretch into infinity. As a method of positive science it employs mathematical time which freezes an object or renders it immobile.
Secondly, In Bergsons own words intuition is described as a: …kind of intellectual sympathy by which we place ourselves internal to an object in order to coincide with what is unique to it and consequently inexpressible. (Bergson, 7). Due to the direct connection to an object intuition is a simple act, an absolute. This entrance into an object or internalization then has the unrivaled ability to grasp the uniqueness of an object. Because intuition does not spatialize objects it possesses the capacity to exploit multiple images. Instead of using mathematical time intuition exists in real time grasping the duration of an object, or the reality of constant flux and mobility.
Next, Bergson maintains that because people are enduring beings with unpreventable
cumulative direction, that there cant be any two exact moments within one being. Furthermore,
even if two people uninhibitedly share a precise moment, because of their indisputably different past, the moment would not result in the same experience between the two.
…there are no two identical moments in the
life of the same conscious being. Take the
simplest sensation, suppose it constant, absorb
in it the entire personality: the consciousness
which will accompany this sensation cannot
remain identical with itself for two consecutive
moments, because the second moment always
contains, over and above the first, the memory
that has bequeathed it (Bergson, 26).
Finally, human experience does not perceive life as a simply uniform progression along a line extended in space but rather a continuous flow. Through his explanation of mathematical and real time Bergson made the separation between time as it is experienced and the mechanical clock time of scientific (empirical) thought. When a physicist views and observes objects in sequence or succession, time is presented to consciousness as duration or an endlessly flowing process. Instead of separate operations of instinct and intellect Bergson contended the real time is experienced as duration and apprehended by intuition. Mathematical time moves from moment to moment, but through the scientific process of analysis it is reversible or suspendible. In this manner, one can stop, reverse or take an object completely out of duration. However because experience is cumulative the living self is enduring. The issue of duration logically leads into self knowledge. The linear time of life conveys the past into the present, in effect giving it consciousness. It is the power of the memory that actually makes you a lasting self and forms consciousness. Bergson uses the power of intuition to uncover the conscious self:
…when I replace myself in duration by an
effort of intuition, I immediately perceive
how it is unity, multiplicity, and many other
things besides…we do penetrate into it,
however, and that can only be by an effort
of intuition. In this sense, an inner, absolute
knowledge of duration of the self by the self
Thus, according to Bergson intuitive knowing of other people would seem to be impossible, while intuitive knowing of the self is ostensible.