Henri Bergson: Of images, memories and the “retrospective illusion”

Adding some colour to 陳綺貞’s images and memories…

Of Henri Bergson and to beware the “retrospective illusion”:

We attribute any true affirmation with a retroactive effect; or rather we will imprint a retrograde movement… The consequences of this illusion are innumerable. Our appreciation of men and events is entirely imbued with the belief in the retrospective value of true judgment, a retrograde movement which executes automatically in time…

-Henri Bergson, La Pensée et le mouvant
[Official English title is, strangely, The Creative Mind
hmmm, whatever, couldn’t find a translation anyway]

And of images, memories, and matter/body:

…our conception of pure memory should lead us, by a parallel road, to attenuate the second opposition, that of quality and quantity. For we have radically separated pure recollection from the cerebral state which continues it and renders it efficacious. Memory is then in no degree an emanation of matter; on the contrary, matter, as grasped in concrete perception which always occupies a certain duration, is in great part the work of memory.


Now, at the same time that our actual and so to speak instantaneous perception effects this division of matter into independent objects, our memory solidifies into sensible qualities the continuous flow of things. It prolongs the past into the present, because our action will dispose of the future in the exact proportion in which our perception, enlarged by memory, has contracted the past. To reply, to an action received, by an immediate reaction which adopts the rhythm of the first and continues it in the same duration, to be in the present and in a present which is always beginning again,-this is the fundamental law of matter…


It is distinct from matter in that it is, even then, memory, that is to say a synthesis of past and present with a view to the future, in that it contracts the moments of this matter in order to use them and to manifest itself by actions which are the final aim of its union with the body. We were right, then, when we said, at the beginning of this book, that the distinction between body and mind must be established in terms not of space but of time.


-Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory, Chapter IV: “The Delimiting and Fixing of Images. Perception and Matter. Soul and Body”


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