Sunday, April 27, 2014

Bergson: Free Will through Subjective Experience

Advance in science always helps to promulgate new ideas for addressing long-standing multidisciplinary problems. Max Tegmark's recent book, the Mathematical Universe, is just such an example of new and interesting ways to apply science to understanding the problem of consciousness. However, before jumping into these ideas, it is important to have a fundamental knowledge of different theories of perception, cognition, and consciousness.
One place to turn for a basic theory of cognition is French process philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941). Although we might easily dismiss Bergson in our shiny modern era of real-time fMRIs, neo-cortical column simulation, and spike-timing calculations, Bergson's theories of perception and memory still stand as some of the most comprehensive and potentially accurate accounts of the phenomena.

Bergson's view is that there are two sides to experience: the quantitative measurable aspect, like a clock's objective ticking in minutes, and the qualitative subjective aspect, like what time feels like when we are waiting, or having fun with friends.

Bergson's prescription for more freedom and free will is tuning into subjective experience. In the example of time, it is to 'live in time,' experiencing time as duration, as internal themes and meldings of time.
We must tune into the subjective experience of time to exercise our free will. 
How this actually occurs is that we are more disposed to freedom and free will when we choose spontaneous action, which happens when we are oriented towards the qualitative aspects of internal experience, and see time as a dynamic overlap between states, not as boxes on a calendar.

Considering that we may espouse a futurist ethics that supports freedom, empowerment, inspiration, and creative expression of the individual in concert with society, the Bergsonian implementation would be ethics models that facilitate awareness of subjective experience, a point that Deleuze subsequently takes up in envisioning societies of individuals actualized in desiring-production.

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