The Unity and Multiplicity of Duration: Bergson, Russell and Brouwer

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


We are now in a better position to understand why Bergson so persistently warns against confusing ‘numerical multiplicity’ which, according to him, is basically of a spatial nature, and the ‘qualitative multiplicity’ of duration. It is obvious that the notion of ‘qualitative multiplicity’ or ‘heterogeneous continuity’ is a difficult and complex one, being as far as possible from the mental “thick fog” to which Bertrand Russell ironically compares it.1 In the basic intuition of duration we cannot neglect one of the complementary features without getting a distorted or one-sided notion of it. If we insist exclusively on the multiplicity and diversity of successive moments, we obtain what Bergson calls ‘poussière des instants’, which are mutually external and separate, no matter how close they are imagined; if we insist on the unity of duration, we easily forget the heterogeneity of its successive phases and get the idea of empty, homogeneous, container-like time which in virtue of its homogeneity has the character of static eternity rather than of an incomplete growing process.


Concrete Reality Participle Past Reidel Publishing Company Fait Accompli Subsequent Moment 
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  1. 4.
    B. Russell, The Principles of Mathematics, The Norton Library, New York, 1964, p. 347. Originally published in 1903.Google Scholar
  2. 12.
    L. E. W. Brouwer, ‘Intuitionism and Formalism’, in Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society XX (1913) 81–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1971

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  • Milič Čapek

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