Notes on Christian Jambet & the Question of the One

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If there is one conviction shared by the majority of contemporary philosophers, this is it: the one is not [l’un n’est pas]. . .Once affirmed, this conviction converts smoothly into various systems of thought, until either every attestation of the real is renounced, or at least until the real is thoroughly separated from its theological identity with the one. . .Whatever the merits of this decision may be, its unavoidable consequence is to conceal what is at stake, metaphysically, when the mind acknowledges that the highest power resides in the one. [1]

“Que peut la philosophie? « cette pensée avec laquelle on ne peut essentiellement rien entreprendre et à propos de laquelle les servantes ne peuvent s’empêcher de rire (Heidegger). Je suis voué à l’impuissance traditionnelle de la philosophie, plus simplement de la vie contemplative. Longtemps prisée en Occident comme le privilège, la meilleure part de l’homme, ce dont tout être qui mérite le nom d’homme ne peut être privé, ce par quoi l’on touche à l’éternité, cette heureuse impuissance a vu son sens renversé. Thalès ne vaut plus la servante. La vérité, séparée de la vie, ne vaut pas la vie qu’elle contribue à opprimer. [2]

Y a-t-il une philosophie française?

It would seem that Christian Jambet’s intervention in the history of philosophy have largely escaped the attention of the Anglophone reception of  contemporary “French philosophy.” Hence the importance of Peter Hallward’s reflections on Jambet’s life and work in his 2003 introduction to Jambet’s ‘Some Comments on the Question of the One’ published in Angelaki. [3] For Hallward, this relative neglect of Jambet’s work is a disservice to ourselves and to the image of French theory/philosophy that continues to be faithfully passed down within academia – especially given a person who was influenced by “Mao and Lacan” while also serving as “the translator of Rumi and Oscar Wilde” and “an attentive reader of Foucault, Deleuze, and Badiou.” Given this range and diversity of Jambet’s thought, and as Hallward puts it, Jambet quite frankly “makes mainstream work in comparative philosophy look positively parochial” [4] and constitutes a blindspot regarding our understanding of the developments specific to the French tradition.

According to Hallward, Jambet’s intervention can be understood as constituted by its two main concerns: revolution and philosophy. Regarding the latter, Jambet defends a view of philosophy, not as the pursuit of knowledge or opinion, but as the reflexive undertaking that, when applied to oneself (“an entering into discord with oneself”), transforms both the subject and its image of thought. That is, philosophy is to be found in all those acts, which pursue a line of inquiry that is also defined by its qualitative break with every prejudice and acculturated habit that is recognizable by its belonging to a certain ‘common sense.’ As Hallward writes: “a genuine “philosophical act takes place when its subjects overturn their conception of the world,” when, breaking with prejudice or habit, they devise ways of thinking along lines indifferent to all received representations of the world. Philosophy…is a reflexive work of transformation applied upon oneself…so as to accord with a way of thinking that holds, in principle for anyone at all.”[5] For Jambet, what is at stake in the practice of philosophy is the transformation of the thinking subject such that this subject’s mode of thought is marked by a break with those forms of thought sustained by either tradition (“good sense”) or convention (“common sense”).

Qu’est–ce que la revolution?

Given Jambet’s experiences as a member of the Maoist groups Union des Jeunesses Communistes and Gauche Prolétarienne and ultimate disappointment with the direction taken by Maoism in both China and France, he returns to and refashions a theory of revolutionary subjectivity (as developed in his text L’Ange from 1976 and furthered in his 1978 work Le Monde) which allows him to begin theorizing revolution as a “spiritual affair” – a revolution whose “most immediate enemies are those…who seek to harness its forces to merely social or historical ends.”[6] However, we should not understand this spiritual definition of revolution as a regression or inherent mysticism regarding Jambet’s political thought. Rather, for Jambet, revolution belongs to the category of Spirit precisely because it is Spirit that is said to be the locus of the genesis of novel forms of both thinking and living. This revolutionary spiritualism opposed to a theory of revolution bound by the dictates of History (world), says Hallward, allows Jambet to directly address what is at stake in both emancipatory politics as well as the history of Islam:

“Jambet’s decisive encounter with Corbin…is what determined him to look for such points of reference primarily in esoteric Shi’ite philosophy, in which the struggle between world and spirit (between a literal and law-bound conception of the Qu’ran and one that urges the invention of new forms of interpretation) is particularly acute. The question posed today by the likes of Khomeini and bin Laden is the question that has divided Islam from the beginning: is God’s will essentially mediated by rules and institutions and thus caught up in the enforcement of law, or “is God creative freedom, pure spontaneity, such that true believers express this divine freedom in their own spiritual practice,” as so many instances of “boundless spontaneity”?” [7]

So, for Jambet, revolution is decidedly ‘spiritual’ insofar as it is precisely those instances which belong to Spirit that are also acts/moments/thoughts/lives/etc., that realizes that novel and creative force, which expresses, not the relative and particular intentions of human agents, but the logic of that which can only be said to be absolutely free, creative, and spontaneous. If Revolution no longer answers to the demands of realizing historical institutions such as law, or the state, this is because to do so would ultimately mean reversing the relation between the absolute and what is relative to it – which, as Hallward notes, when translated in practical terms is a reversal defined by the very agendas set forth by Khomeini and bin Laden since each, in their own way, valorize a policing relation based on a ‘literal and law-bound conception of the Qu’ran’ (a metaphysical reversal whose political correlate is categorized as World). So, if revolution is to mean anything it must necessarily be so many instances (i.e. so many moments of a coming-into-being and in accordance with substance and attributes of which it is an expression) of the divine attribute of “boundless spontaneity.” And in this manner, says Jambet, revolution is nothing if not a spiritual affair.

However it is at this point in Jambet’s reconsideration of the fundamental features of revolution that we would be right to ask the following: what leads Jambet to think revolution from the vantage point of a substance based metaphysics? What is it that compels Jambet to deny the dictum that l’un n’est pas [the one is not] and to recuperate the existence of ‘the One’? In any event, it is the radical transformation of oneself and the world that remains at stake. And as Jambet will show, it is only by virtue of ‘the One’ that (i) Thought has access to the reality of revolution just as (ii) it is by virtue of ‘the One’ that revolution becomes a real possibility in Practice.

So, on what basis is Jambet able to claim that Revolution is only said of Spirit and not of the World? On what grounds does Jambet’s theory of revolution avoid turning into a politics founded upon an underlying mysticism and whose subject is characterized by a properly agnostic paralysis; or a less prosaic variant of a heavily mediated idealism? These questions become all the more serious since Jambet’s position seems to go against the very method (historical materialism) that allowed Marx and Engels to develop a theory of revolution whose promise was the universal emancipation of humanity. So, all of this is to ask: ‘can revolution be accomplished in thought and action if we abjure our relation History, which would be, for Jambet, an attribute, not of Spirit, but of the World?‘ On this point Hallward is again instructive since, for Jambet, revolution undoubtedly belongs to ‘Spirit’ insofar as its defining characteristics are only many expressions, or emanations, of its attributes:

“Any conception of spirit as absolute creativity must have at least three fundamental attributes…In the first place (for reasons similar to those embraced by Spinoza)…an unlimited creative force can only be singular, unique…In the second place (for reasons similar to those embraced by Hegel)…pure creativity can only be thought as subject rather than an object, and the only subject adequate to the One is God himself…In the third place, then (for reasons similar to those embraced by Bergson), we ourselves can know God only in so far as God thinks through us…The only true principle immune to radical doubt here is not “think” but “I am thought (by God)” – cogitor rather than cogito.”[8]


[1] Christian Jambet, ‘Some Comments on the Question of the One,’ Angelaki vol. 8, no. 2, (August, 2003), 36-41, 36.

[2] Christian Jambet, Apologie de Platon. 11.
[3]For more see Hallward’s introduction in Angelaki vol 8, no. 2, August 2003, 33-35.
[4] Ibid, 33.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid, 34.
[8] Ibid.


Bergsonian Science-Fiction: Deleuze, Eshun, and Thinking the Reality of Time


“To be more precise, science fiction is neither forward-looking nor utopian. Rather, in William Gibson’s phrase, science fiction is a means through which to preprogram the present […] Science fiction operates through the power of falsification, the drive to rewrite reality, and the will to deny plausibility, while the scenario operates through the control and prediction of plausible alternative tomorrows.”

– Kodwo Eshun, ‘Further Considerations on Afrofuturism’

“A book of philosophy should be in part a very particular species of detective novel, in part a kind of science fiction…What this book should therefore have made apparent is the advent of a coherence which is no more our own, that of mankind, than that of God or the world. In this sense, it should have been an apocalyptic book (the third time in the series of times).”

– Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition

This short essay aims to draw a single connection, along the theme of time, between Kodwo Eshun, Gilles Deleuze, via their shared Bergsonian premises. To do this, we will begin with Bergson’s account of the correct and misguided ways of understanding the structure and nature of Time in and of itself. Additionally, we’ll see how there is an implicit connection between Deleuze’s remarks in Difference and Repetition regarding the ‘powers of the false,’ simulacra, and the constitution of time as being ‘out of joint’ in Deleuze’s Third Synthesis, with Eshun’s description of Afrofuturism and its relationship to dramatization, the exaggeration of features of the present to contest the present, and so forth.

Thus, we begin with their shared Bergsonian premises regarding the individual, historical, and metaphysical aspects of temporality in order illustrate that the primary illusion, which we must disabuse ourselves of in order to grasp the philosophical and political import of the reality of Time, is the assumption that Kodwo Eshun’s Afrofuturism and Deleuze’s philosophy of Difference remain preoccupied with the future as such; with novelty and the accelerated proliferation of differences for their own sake.

I). Bergson – Geometrical vs. Vital Time

For Bergson the problem that we face in understanding Life, duration, etc., is imposing what he called the ‘geometric’ order onto the ‘vital’ order of Life (cf. Creative Evolution). Bergson maintains that the intelligibility of Life-itself is never grasped, as Aristotle thought, through the assumption that time is the measure of movement in space, and thus asserting that the nature and existence of Time depends on the nature and existence of Space for its own reality. If Time is not ontologically dependent on space; and if time is not reducible to the linear progression of the measure of movement; then this conception of Time-itself requires us to reconceptualize the very lexicon of temporality: the past, present, and future.

In Creative Evolution, Bergson gives his refutation of interpreting Life in terms of finality/final causes. Here, Bergson offers the means for a transvaluation of our temporal lexicon. On the ‘Finalist’ account, the future finds its reality in the past and present, follows a certain order, and is guaranteed due to first principles. Thus, for the finalists, the future remains fixed and dependent upon the linear progression of time.For Bergson (as it is for Deleuze and Eshun, as we will see), the future is precisely that which does not depend on the linear progression of time for its own reality.

From the ‘vitalist’ perspective (contra the finalists), Bergson writes, “we see…that which subsists of the direct movement in the inverted movement, a reality which is making itself in a reality which is unmaking itself…” (CE, 248). Just as the epigraph of Eshun’s notes that Afrofuturism was never concerned with the future as such but with the relation between the alternate futures the present world makes possible; and just as Deleuze notes that the science fiction aspects of a ‘good’ book mirror his reading of Nietzsche’s untimeliness as wresting from the present a future which does not repeat the violence of the past and present; Bergson could be seen here as giving this vital theorization of Time in its most ‘pure’ or theoretical way. The vital, as opposed to geometric, comprehension of the reality and structure of time supplants its linear definition (that renders the future as pre-determined and existentially dependent upon the iron laws of the past) with an understanding of the mutual conditioning of the ‘is not/no longer’ of the past and the ‘immediate past/immediate future’ of the present as the means by which multiple (and virtual) futures are prized from the reality of Time by the nature and structure of Time-as-such. 

II). Deleuze’s Third Synthesis of Time & Eshun’s Afrofuturism

Thus, when Deleuze offers his Third and final Synthesis of Time; the ‘static and ordinal’ synthesis where time exists ‘out of joint’ and thus gives a new order/meaning to how we understand time cosmologically, historically, cultural, and individually; what constitutes Time’s ‘out-of-jointness’ is precisely this revaluation of the past, present, and future understood on the finalist/linear/geometrical conception of time (as measure of movement) where what is understood is that time’s ontological existence; time as it exists independent of human agency; has no concern for the future.

For Deleuze, the temporal development of life taken in its broadest sense does not care about the preservation of species or even the preservation of its own natural processes. Time, as it is constituted by Life itself, must be understood as continuously producing various possible futures that are left up to the contingency of the other evolutionary, biological, chemical, etc., processes of Life itself. We might say that Time understood in this (vitalist) manner means that Life is the continual superabundance of an excess that Life can neither control nor wants to control (here, we should note that it is Deleuze who gets furthest from anthropomorphizing Life, the will to power, etc., and understands life in terms of the impersonal conditions of human existence as such, in contrast to the key thinkers he draws on for this synthesis-namely, Nietzsche and Bergson). It is the vitalist, according to Deleuze, who gives us access to Differences-themselves in their free and untamed state.

Thus, the Third Synthesis of Time as engendering time as out-of-joint and constitutes the ‘dissolved Self’ as one who acts against one’s time, can be seen through Eshun’s idea of science fiction’s activity as one of capitalizing on the ‘powers of falsification, the drive to rewrite reality, and the will to deny plausibility;’ against one’s time and, in the hope of a time to-come. Now, this future ‘to-come’ cannot be understood as utopian (in the pejorative sense) or an appeal to some variation of Messianic-time. Here, Eshun’s clarity is useful:

“it would be naïve to understand science fiction, located within the expanded field of the futures industry, as merely prediction into the far future, or as a utopian project for imagining alternative social realities. Science fiction might better be understood, in Samuel R. Delany’s statement, as offering “a significant distortion of the present.” To be more precise, science fiction is neither forward-looking nor utopian. Rather, in William Gibson’s phrase, science fiction is a means through which to preprogram the present. Looking back at the genre, it becomes apparent that science fiction was never concerned with the future, but rather with engineering feedback between its preferred future and its becoming present” (‘Further Considerations,’ 290).

The future as conceived by Deleuze and Eshun is incommensurable with, and the exact opposite of, either Utopian or Messianic time; these latter two conceptions of a future-to-come locate the determining temporal factor in the future while Deleuze and Eshun, following Bergson, locate the element that determines and actualizes a future as the relationship between the past and the present.

III). Possible Conclusions//Possible Futures

In What is Philosophy? Deleuze and Guattari define philosophy as the creation of concepts; an activity that requires the engendering of Thought in a subject, in order for that thinking-subject to fabricate a concept that is adequate to the Idea-Problem of their time. It is this tripartite criteria – Thinking; (posing) Problems; and (creating) Concepts – given by Deleuze (and Guattari) for the genesis and constitution of the praxis of philosophy that was already formulated in Difference and Repetition:

The famous phrase of the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, ‘mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve’, does not mean that the problems are only apparent or that they are already solved, but, on the contrary, that the economic conditions of a problem determine or give rise to the manner in which it finds a solution within the framework of the real relations of the society. Not that the observer can draw the least optimism from this, for these ‘solutions’ may involved stupidity or cruelty, the horror of war or ‘the solution of the Jewish problem’. More precisely, the solution is always that which a society deserves or gives rise to as a consequence of the manner in which, given its real relations, it is able to pose the problems set within it and to it by the differential relations it incarnates” (DR, 186).

What is significant regarding the equation ‘philosophy = concept creation,’ and the subsequent annihilation of any guarantee that the thinking-subject will be rewarded with optimism in their search for truth, is that these three elements that constitute the practice of Philosophy do not operate according to the linear/finalist conception of temporality.

That is, the thinker cannot hope for any optimism insofar as they are thinking precisely because what is given in a thought that adequately poses problems and creates concepts are the multiple solutions, or futures, that are harbored within every problem posed and concept created. Thus, philosophy properly understood according to Deleuze stands against the linear conception of time, where the reality of the future is fixed and furnished by the internal and originary principles of the past. And among his generation (though it perhaps needs no emphasis) it is Deleuze who takes the Bergsonian injunction with the most seriousness and gravity; the assertion that we must do violence to our habituated forms of cognition (Identity, Recognition, Reflection, Analogy) in order to sinew the order of philosophical practice to an actualized overcoming of the all-too-human qualities of our present.  As Bergson writes,

The duty of philosophy should be to intervene here actively, to examine the living without any reservation as to practical utility, by freeing itself from forms and habits that are strictly intellectual. Its own special project is to speculate, that is to say, to see; its attitude toward the living should not be that of science, which aims only at action, and which, being able to act only by means of inert matter, presents itself to the rest of reality in this single respect” (CE, 196).

And it is precisely through this Bergsonian theoretico-practical operation we apprehend a Deleuzean and Eshunian transvaluation of the time proper to the human. For the former, the overcoming of humanity means freeing oneself from the bad habits of cognition that we have been socialized into taking as synonymous with Thinking as such. For the latter, the overcoming of humanity means freeing oneself from the ongoing effects of the determination and construction of a global future that continues to exclude ever growing swaths of humanity; a logic already present the past of human history. To free oneself from what we have been acculturated to identify as philosophy (thought as commensurate with the aims of either the Church, the State, or Capitalist Democracy) and from the repetition of a Future than is the exacerbation of the past; this would be sufficient to throw time out of joint and to construct a ground from which a new ordering of time becomes possible.

Thus, philosophical activity (Deleuze) and Afrofuturism (Eshun) aren’t simply against their own socio-historical situatedness, or concerned with the future for its own sake. As we saw with Bergson in terms of Life, and as we apprehend implicitly in Eshun, we are not concerned with the theorization and determination of time because time (Life, History) has a concern for itself and its future. To the contrary: it is precisely because the past and the present, taken in themselves, have neither a concern for their own future nor the future of human existence that a thought and politics of the future is not one that is infatuated and enamored with the blind and intensifying processes of our present.

The Third Synthesis of Time is the science-fiction moment in Difference and Repetition, the books ‘apocalyptic’ moment when the I and Self are both fractured and dissolved in the reordering of Time; it’s what Eshun talks about when he says that sci-fi was never really about the future in the first place. To merely be ‘about the future’… such an interpretation is only possible if we take the reality of time to be founded upon the reality of space; a perspectival-position that revokes any philosophical and/or political potential for the existence of multiple futures within a single future-time from the current present of terrestrial life defined by its terrestrially instantiated death-drive.

Correlationism and Vitalism: Comments on Henri Bergson

Immanuel Critique

(Section from an article on Bergson)


At this initial juncture it is important to underscore how Bergson’s philosophy cannot be equated with the phenomenological tradition, at least in any straightforward sense, despite his profound influence on many of those thinkers; at least starting from Heidegger and up through Levinas, Sartre, and Merleau-Ponty. The reason for classifying Bergsonian philosophy as distinctly non-phenomenological has to do, primarily, with his own understanding of the relationship between subject and object; between thought and being; between what is given in my experience of the world and the world itself. That is to say, unlike Kant who has provided a systematic argument for why it is the case that our experience of the world is barred access from the thing-itself (noumena), it is important to see that Bergson’s own characterization of the relationship between thought and being is one which posits not a difference in kind between phenomenal experience and the noumena. Rather, for Bergson, there is only a difference in degree between my experience of reality and reality as it is in-itself. Now, this is not to say that Bergson cannot be said to share a lot of arguments with the phenomenological tradition. Rather, this section aims to show how, even if we want to include Bergson’s arguments and method within the tradition of phenomenology, the conclusions and aims of his project place him squarely outside of any phenomenology that perpetuates and/or modifies the initial assertion made by Kant regarding phenomenal experience. That is to say, any version of phenomenology that perpetuates the relationship of the transcendental subject and the world as one where the former is barred access from the fundamental nature of the latter cannot be attributed to Bergson, nor to legacy of Bergson’s influence on the history of philosophy.

Now, Heideggerian phenomenology stands in here as the chief example of such a contrast to Bergsonism. Whereas for someone like Heidegger, and Derrida after him, the inquiry into the meaning of Being; whether approached against the backdrop of western metaphysics or from within language itself;  only shows us that our access to Being is always stymied by the ineluctable nature of these conditions of doing philosophy. Now, the reason why Bergson cannot be said to belong to this lineage, or any other lineage which asserts a difference-in-kind between phenomenal experience and the noumena is due to one of the main tasks Bergson gives himself: namely, to show how these approaches to the nature of Being – whether through science, metaphysics, mathematics, or language – are in fact doomed at the outset but are not ineluctable features of human consciousness. Rather, what gives each of these schemas the appearance of being absolutely intractable features of experience is their adaptive, evolutionary, and biological history. Thus, for Bergson, and Deleuze after him, the obstacles which present themselves to our understanding of the structure of reality are no longer rendered as absolute limits of human consciousness. Rather, the obstacles which stand between consciousness and the world itself are merely the bad habits of thought which have served useful and important functions in the evolution of the human species but come back to haunt, and plague, how we approach the question of determining Being itself. So, here we see how the Heideggerian problems that arise from Heideggerian phenomenology are not so much absolute problems from the Bergsonian perspective: we can give an account as to why those mechanisms of consciousness, language, etc., have been useful in giving us the world as it accords to our specific interest, while not having to sacrifice the initial aspiration of determining fundamental features of the world-itself. From the Bergsonian perspective, one could say, the ineluctable features of our pursuit for the meaning of Being are not so much a priori inevitable, as they are merely the bad habits of thought that we have evolutionarily acquired.

However, before getting into the crucial aspects of Bergson’s argument, it is important to note certain historical relations between Bergson’s project and Hegel – if only to show how the Bergsonian project shares certain commitments to Hegel’s objective idealism and yet attempts to find other means of moving beyond any reliance on a transcendental subject as the guarantor of objective truth. That is, bringing Bergson and Hegel into conversation with one another will help us clarify how Bergson approaches the problems addressed by Kant and how Bergson himself differs from the traditional of German Idealism itself. Here it is useful to quote Ray Brassier’s commentary on this shift at length since it gets right to the heart of the dispute: “So…famously, in Hegel’s objective idealism, the relational synthesis which Kant takes to be constitutive of objectivity is simply transplanted from its localization in the subject and construed rather as the relation between subject and object, which Hegel recodes as the ‘self-relating negativity’ that yields the structure of reality” (Brassier, et. al., ‘Speculative Realism’). Now, the following question arises from the Hegelian transformation of Kant’s insight: “if you refuse to say that synthesis…is anchored in a subject, does this mean that you have to idealize the real by attributing to it this capacity for self-relation? A capacity for self-synthesis whereby a continuum of relation itself yields the type of discontinuity that gives rise to discrete objects? In other words, is there a principle of intelligibility encoded in physical reality?” (Brassier, Speculative Realism).

It is precisely this question – of a continuum of relation (Duration) that yields discontinuity as the condition for discrete objects (Matter) – that lies at the heart of Bergson’s project. That is, what brings Bergson into close proximity to Hegel is their shared commitment to the idea that it is not the subject which provides the transcendental guarantee between representation and the world. Rather, it is the world itself which is constituted by continuity and discontinuity; that is, it is because Nature is structured in this way, and because Nature produces Thought itself, that we can subsequently articulate why it is the case that we can posit the idea that human consciousness has something fundamental in common with the reality of Nature. The important addition here being that consciousness mirrors Nature in such a way that what guarantees the objectivity of our experience isn’t so much space, time, and the categories; rather, it is the common structure of  ‘self relating negativity’ in Hegel, or ‘real duration’ in Bergson, which Nature engenders within human consciousness that now replaces the guarantee of objectivity via the transcendental subject. This is something that we see explicitly in Bergson: “Evolution implies a real persistence of the past in the present, a duration which is, as it were, a hyphen, a connecting link. In other words, to know a living being or natural system is to get at the very interval of duration, while the knowledge of an artificial or mathematical system applies only to the extremity. Continuity of change, preservation of the past in the present, real duration – the living being seems, then, to share these attributes with consciousness. Can we go further and say that life, like conscious activity, is invention, is unceasing creation?” (CE, 22-23).

Here we see Bergson asserting a few important points that will allow us to see how he conceives of the claim that there is only a difference in degree between my lived experience of the world and the world in-itself. First, Bergson is clearly stating what he takes to be the proper object of philosophical inquiry. No longer is philosophy concerned with discrete objects as things-in-themselves. The task of philosophy, for Bergson, isn’t to come to a clear understanding of what my experience of certain objects in the world are in reality. Rather, philosophy’s task is to concern itself with how the past continuously manifests itself in the present, as the present, and influences the future. That is to say, the proper object of philosophy is duration. It is only by understanding duration as the object of philosophy that we will be able to move beyond the gridlock of any residual mathematical, and idealist, assumptions within thought.

Second, we see Bergson asserting an alliance between biology, the study of evolution, and the study of philosophy. Why? Not only is it due to their shared interest in understanding how matter, how species, individuals, etc., are the particular realizations of a historical process (evolution/duration). In addition, these three disciplines are concerned with providing us a very strong critique of what we take to be the nature of thinking and human consciousness. That is to say, and this is a theme that is heavily emphasized in someone like Deleuze, it is the nature of human intellectual activity to consider the world in accord with our biological, evolutionary, and social interests. This idea of the adaptive nature of human consciousness, then, undercuts any attempt to treat intellectual activity as being defined, in essence, as a mechanism that is predisposed to truth. In other words, it is the nature of human reason to approach the world through the lens of its interest. Or again, rational inquiry, perception, the intellect, and so forth, are not tools for acquiring eternal truths about the world but rather are evolutionary mechanisms that serve as the practical function of locating points of interest, points of indetermination where human freedom is capable of intervening, for the organism to further its own existence.

Thus, it is through this alliance of biology, evolutionary theory, and philosophy, that Bergson builds his argument that thought is not predisposed and naturally suited for a search for truth – whether this idea is guaranteed by some divine naturalism or transcendental subject. It is for this reason that Bergson will find in mathematics and in geometry, not only the highest expression of the human intellect as it functions according to its natural, instinctual, and evolutionary impulse; it is because of this image of mathematical/geometrical reasoning as the most natural habit of thought that Bergson takes it upon himself to underscore the error of equating certain scientific determinations of the world (mathematics and geometry, as well as older kinds of physics and chemistry) as being representative of the world in-itself. Thus, as Bergson writes, “The essential function of our intellect, as the evolution of life has fashioned it, is to be a light for our conduct, to make ready for our action on things, to foresee, for a given situation, the events, favorable or unfavorable, which may follow thereupon. Intellect therefore instinctively selects in a given situation whatever is like something already known; it seeks out, in order that it may apply its principle that ‘like produces like.’ In just this does the prevision of the future by common sense consist…Like ordinary knowledge, in dealing with things science is concerned only with the aspect of repetition.” (CE, 29).

Now, if the error of human consciousness is to be found in equating practical intellection with objective truth, this signals Bergson’s underlying premise regarding human consciousness and the task of philosophy: It is not the case that we are barred access from the world as it exists in-itself and for-itself; rather, it is simply the case that we will never approach the world as it exists in itself without correcting the fundamental error of equating consciousness in its natural attitude of determining what is objectively true. As Bergson writes in the opening pages of Creative Evolution regarding the relationship between my impatience at the dissolution of a sugar cube in water and the time it takes for the sugar itself to dissolve, “If I want to mix a glass of sugar and water, I must, willy nilly, wait until to the sugar melts. This little fact is big with meaning… It [the sugar cube] coincides with my impatience, that is to say, with a certain portion of my own duration, which I cannot protract or contract as I like. It is no longer something thought, it is something lived. It is no longer a relation, it is an absolute” (CE, 9-10).

That is to say, the relationship between subject and object, between Thought and Being, is not to be done away with but must be conceived under the proper schema; a schema that begins with Duration as being the true object of both philosophy, biology, evolutionary theory, and the World itself (and ultimately, Bergson hopes to show, it is actually Duration which is Being-itself and in our lived experience of Duration – of Being – we are no longer barred access from the Absolute, but are able to experience a limited portion of it. That is also to say that Bergson’s conception of the Absolute, of Duration, of Life, is one which says that the structure of reality is pure quality. In other words, any portion of the absolute expresses the absolute in its entirety. Or, if we subtract a portion of the absolute in our experience of it, we do not alter the essence of Absolute Duration – only insofar as we understand that the essence of Absolute Duration is nothing but pure difference and because every potential realization of the absolute must be qualitatively different from all other potential realizations of the Absolute, that we can be guaranteed in our limited relation of lived duration as being one of an absolute and not relative relation).

Now the third important point will be Bergson’s question regarding creativity. If thinking and the world partake in duration; are constituted, in essence, by real duration; then is it possible to attribute certain features that we find in conscious life to Duration itself? That is to say, because there is the common structure of duration (evolution, history, etc.) in both Thought and Being, can we then determine certain features about the structure of reality on the basis of certain findings we make about human consciousness? For Bergson, it appears that we can. For instance, what was once thought to merely be psychological memory – the mental process by which past events persist, and come to bear, on our present experience – has a natural correlate in the world itself. In other words, what gives us the conditions for never having the same experience twice (psychological memory) has a natural correlate in the very individuation of species and its members (ontological memory). This latter case, of ontological memory, is what gives some clarity to Bergson’s idea that the past preserves itself automatically. As he writes, “In reality, the past is preserved by itself, automatically. In its entirety, probably, it follows us at every instant; all that we have felt, thought and willed from our earliest infancy is there, leaning over the present…” (CE, 5).

Here, the example of our experience from infancy to the present isn’t simply a further articulation of psychological memory. Rather, what this shows is how Matter is the preservation of Memory automatically. In other words, the past preserves itself in the present through the creation, instantiation, and realization of a species with its individuals, and their habits and interests. It is in this way, by understanding that Matter is Memory preserved that we can understand how there is at once a psychological and ontological conception of memory – whereby ontological memory is the preservation of a historical evolution, or historical development, in the present via the individuation of species and this species’ self-reproduction (bare repetition) through individual beings. So, while our subjective memory is preserved by way of our interests and our habits, ontological memory is preserved at the historical, biological, and evolutionary register.

It is this discrepancy between psychological memory (subject/product) and ontological memory (object/process), when not understood, that gives rise to further errors of human cognition. As Bergson writes: “It is of no use to hold up before our eyes the dazzling prospect of a universal mathematic; we cannot sacrifice experience to the requirements of a system. That is why we reject radical mechanism” (CE, 39). Thus, one of the major pitfalls Bergson finds in the mathematical understanding of the structure of reality is its failure to account for what is precisely constitutive of lived experience – time, history, evolution, duration, the persistence of the past in the future, matter as the preservation via realization of memory, etc. That is to say, any conceptual framework that wants to determine the fundamental structure of reality and fails to account for the processual development of the world considered socio-psycho-biologically, cedes any capacity for accounting for reality itself.

Now we can see why Bergson privileges lived experience and why this may seem like a regression in the history of philosophy. For Bergson, lived experience is an adequate starting point for inquiries into the nature of reality because lived experience is the product (and repetition) of this natural process of evolution. That is to say, lived experience is the very instantiation of matter as memory preserved, of the past gnawing into the present, as the most recent individuation of the process of evolution, etc. In other words, lived experience is, in a certain sense, the experience of History itself only embodied in individuals. Now, the task then, is to reflect on lived experience as the embodiment of history in order to then move outside of any kind of subjectivism or psychologism, and into the terrain of the world (as another case of memory-history materialized in the present) itself.

It is for this reason that Bergson will have no problem beginning with the subject as the locus of philosophical inquiry. But it is also for this reason, in light of the various reasons that we have just mentioned, that Bergson’s emphasis on lived experience cannot be simply placed under the rubric of a certain brand of phenomenology, or even proto-phenomenology (where phenomenology here means the study of how the world appears to us in our experience of it) – since the Bergson’s task is to show how we have to move beyond lived experience in order to get to things themselves; to show how what appeared to be settled by Kant’s transcendental subject is in fact a perpetuation of certain errors in how we conceive of our relationship to the world itself. That is to say, when Bergson begins with lived experience it is not taken to mean the way in which I experience things in the world (though this is a crucial aspect of is, if not only for the critiques of the natural inclinations of intellection). Rather, to begin with lived experience is to take ourselves as the preservation of memory in the present. Or again, lived experience de-emphasizes individual subjectivity as the being which secures the objectivity of the world, in order to emphasize individuals as instantiations of the worlds objectivity itself – reality understood as process; reality understood as descent and ascent; as divergence and convergence; as Matter and Memory.

Now, in what sense can we talk about Bergson and Correlationism in the same breathe? If for no other reason, it is because Bergsonian philosophy represents one of the chief philosophical challenges to the task Kant assigned him self; namely, determining the nature and limits of human reason. Bergson remains a correlationist insofar as he continues to affirm that there is a necessary, ineluctable, relation between subject and object, between thought and being, where knowledge of either independent of the other is barred at the outset. However, the Bergsonian take on correlationism aims to show how the relation between thought and being is our very access to things-themselves. It is through the lived experience of my duration as it coincides with the duration of other beings that renders my relationship to the world an entry point into the Absolute itself. Thus we can see how Bergson at once remains close to Hegel while at the same time remaining distant from any phenomenological tradition that perpetuates the relationship between the transcendental subject and the world.