The Deeper Meaning of the ‘Indivisible Heterogeneity’ Of Duration

  • Milič Čapek
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 7)


It has already been pointed out that the alleged contradiction between the indivisibility and the heterogeneity of duration is due to a semantic misunderstanding. As long as we understand, on the one hand, the terms “indivisibility” or “unity” in a rigid and static sense — we might say in an Eleatic sense — while, on the other hand, the term “heterogeneity” is made synonymous with “arithmetical multiplicity,” the contradiction is obvious and unavoidable. As soon as we drop these two antagonistic terms, the contradiction disappears. But we have the right to drop them only if we convincingly show that there are certain types of experience which resist translation into arithmetical terms; in other words, to which neither the concepts of abstract, undifferentiated unity nor of abstract, atomic multiplicity apply. It was already pointed out that feelings of transition in general and the perception of melody in particular are such experiences. But these examples require further analysis, since they are so easily misinterpreted. Feelings of transition are easily misunderstood as being located “between” the substantive sections of our stream of thought, and as such are easily misconceived as other quasi-atomic items, existing betweenor abovethe atomic sensations or images whose connections they were supposed to restore. Thus arises the idealistic notion of the unifying act, which, when it was placed by Kant completely outside of concrete and moving experience, acquired the barren and homogeneous unity of the transcendental Ego, a unity as pure and absolute as that of a geometrical point. On the other hand, in the experience of melody our attention is almost inevitably focussed on the sensory diversity of the tones, and this diversity is naturally misconceived in the sense of an arithmeticalmultiplicity. The example of Herbart, that forgotten ancestor of Russell’s and Wittgenstein’s logical atomism, shows it quite convincingly.


Modern Physic Concrete Duration Reidel Publishing Company Idealistic Notion Geometrical Line 
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© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1971

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  • Milič Čapek

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