Space and Duration. A Chunk of Bergson

To give this argument a stricter form, let us imagine a straight line of unlimited length, and on this line a material point A, which moves. If this point were conscious of itself, it would feel itself change, since it moves : it would perceive a succession; but would this succession assume for it the form of a line ? No doubt it would, if it could rise, so to speak, above the line which it traverses, and perceive simultaneously several points of it in juxtaposition : but by doing so it would form the idea of space, and it is in space and not in pure duration that it would see displayed the changes which it undergoes. We here put our finger on the mistake of those who regard pure duration as something similar to space, but of a simpler nature. They are fond of setting psychic states side by side, of forming a chain or a line of them, and do not imagine that they are introducing into this operation the idea of space properly so called, the idea of space in its totality, because space is a medium of three dimensions. But how can they fail to notice that, in order to perceive a line as a line, it is necessary to take up a position outside it, to take account of the void which surrounds it, and consequently to think a space of three dimensions ?

If our conscious point A does not yet possess the idea of space—and this is the hypothesis which we have agreed to adopt—the succession of states through which it passes cannot assume for it the form of a line ; but its sensations will add themselves dynamically to one another and will organize themselves, like the successive notes of a tune by which we allow ourselves to be lulled and soothed. In a word, pure duration might well be nothing but a succession of qualitative changes, which melt into and permeate one another, without precise outlines, without any tendency to externalize themselves in relation to one another, without any affiliation with number : it would be pure heterogeneity. But for the present we shall not insist upon this point ; it is enough for us to have shown that, from the moment when you attribute the least homogeneity to duration, you surreptitiously introduce space. ( Bergson, 2001, p.61)


Bergson, H. Time and free will: An essay on the immediate data of consciousness. [Kindle DX edition]. Retrieved from:


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