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  • Bergson-Deleuze Encounters: Transcendental Experience and the Thought of the Virtual
  • Bican Polat
Valentine Moulard-Leonard. Bergson-Deleuze Encounters: Transcendental Experience and the Thought of the Virtual. Albany: SUNY Press, 2008. x + 197 pages.

In her Bergson-Deleuze Encounters, Valentine Moulard-Leonard sets herself to the task of evaluating the continuities and discontinuities between Bergson’s and Deleuze’s philosophies of difference with regard to their respective conceptions of transcendental experience. The first three chapters of the book present an excellent rendering of some of the major problematics of Bergson’s philosophy. The first chapter begins with an elaboration of what Moulard-Leonard calls “the material genesis of consciousness” in Bergson’s Matter and Memory. Thereafter, she traces the origin of memory as both a psychological and an ontological phenomenon in Bergson’s oeuvre. Emphasizing Bergson’s theory of attentive recognition, which indicates the process through which imaginative memory frees itself from the pragmatic orientation of the body, Moulard-Leonard specifies a domain of experience wherein the emergence of thought can be situated, that is, where thinking is liberated from automatism. In the latter three chapters, she contrasts Bergson’s and Deleuze’s respective descriptions of this (transcendental) experience with regard to their distinct conceptions of truth and creativity. [End Page 1201]

Revisiting the fundamental distinction between two multiplicities that Bergson presents in Time and Free Will, Moulard-Leonard begins by outlining the main features of Bergson’s philosophy of difference as a systematic response to the problem of dualism in both idealist and realist approaches. Instead of a dichotomous understanding of mind and body, Bergson proposes the problem of difference within the context of the relation between quantitative multiplicities, which coincide with space, and qualitative multiplicities, which correspond to duration. Quantitative multiplicities constitute a homogenous space that consists of nothing but differences of degree, whereas qualitative multiplicities constitute a heterogeneous and qualitative continuity composed of differences in kind. Hence the old problem of mind vs. body or thought vs. extension becomes problematized as the relation between differences in kind and differences in degree. Having demonstrated the ways in which Bergson turned classical philosophical dualisms into a philosophy of difference, Moulard-Leonard aims to trace certain consequences of this insight in Bergson’s subsequent work, Matter and Memory. In this work, Bergson describes matter as an ensemble of self-dependent images as opposed to both idealism’s tendency to reduce matter to a subjective representation within the mind and realism’s tendency to posit matter as an objective thing that produces subjective representations in the mind. Placed halfway between the “thing” and the “representation,” these images exist in themselves; they act and react on one another. The interactions of these images constitute an objective order of absolute exteriority where each image varies for itself and undergoes the action of the surrounding images according to the laws of causal determinism. There is no organizing center until a certain image stands out as a privileged one by letting others organize themselves around it. According to Bergson, this organizing center is the body, which can be known from without by perception and from within by affection. Therefore, the body is constituted as the site where affection-images interpose themselves between the movement-images that are received and executed. Hence consciousness, as the feeling of spontaneity, arises out of sensibility in the interval between movements received as perceptions and movements executed as actions. For Bergson, the brain is the zone of indetermination that introduces a delay between these “centripetal” (received) and “centrifugal” (executed) movements. The body, as the organizing center amidst images, is located within the present: it coincides with space where it can receive and execute actions coming from without according to its cerebral arrangements.

Yet the survival of recollections cannot merely depend upon these motor mechanisms, inasmuch as they are merely located in the order of the present, of differences in degree. As Moulard-Leonard insists, memory-images cannot depend entirely on the brain for their survival: on the contrary, the brain depends on memory for its conservation in time. Bergson proposes two different kinds of survival for memory: in motor mechanisms and independent recollections. Similarly, recognition, which involves drawing...


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