Immortality of the Past: Bergson and Whitehead

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


We have previously pointed out the extreme difficulty of separately discussing various aspects of the problem of time. The unitary and, in a sense, indivisible insight into the nature of duration is far from being undifferentiated; it is a kind of Gestalt which, in Jankélevitch’s happy words, is “complex, though not composed”; like any other Gestalt it is not built out of atomic, independent, mutually separable components. But as soon as one aspect of it is treated in isolation — and this happens almost inevitably when we begin to talk about it — such treatment tends to be misleading; we unconsciously confer the discontinuity of the discourse onto the complex indivisibility of the referent. We pointed out how the element of novelty is inseparable from the “mnemic” character of duration, that is, from the survival of the immediate past in the present; how the inseparability of these two aspects accounts for the inapplicability to duration of either the concept of arithmetical unity or multiplicity; how for the same reason duration is neither infinitely divisible nor discontinuous in the sense that it is composed of atomic units. We are now approaching the last couple of correlated aspects — the irreversibility of duration and the immortality of the past.


Separable Component Successive Phasis External Relation Present Duration Extreme Difficulty 
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  1. 4.
    B. Russell, Human Knowledge. Its Scope and Limits, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1962, p. 212.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    A. N. Whitehead, The Concept of Nature, Cambridge University Press, 1930, p. 73.Google Scholar

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© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1971

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  • Milič Čapek

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