duration


duration
(DURÉE)
  ---- by Cliff Stagoll
  Henri Bergson interests Deleuze because of his radical departure from philosophy's orthodoxy. Duration (durée) is one of several of Bergson's key ideas adopted by Deleuze when developing his philosophy of difference. Typical of Deleuze's usual approach to Bergson, his interpretation and use of the concept is at once almost entirely sympathetic but strikingly idiosyncratic.
  According to Deleuze, one can only comprehend the notion of duration by using Bergson's method of philosophical intuition (intuition philosophique), a deliberate reflective awareness or willed self-consciousness. Intuition reveals consciousness (or, more generally, mental life) to be essentially temporal; ongoing mental activity that constitutes, in its dynamism and the mutual interpenetration of its states, a time internal to one's self. Mental life is, then, a kind of flowing experience, and duration is the immediate awareness of this flow.
  Bergson believes that intuition's findings are best expressed in images, and so explains duration by using analogies with music. Mental states flow together as if parts of a melody, with previous notes lingering and future ones anticipated in the unity of a piece, the permeation of each note by others revealing the extreme closeness of their interconnection. To try and grasp this flow as a complete set of notes is pointless, because the music is always on the verge of ending and always altered by the addition of a new note. To speak of 'mind' or 'consciousness' as a comprehensive system is to ignore an analogous attribute of duration: it is always flowing, overtaking what might be called the 'not yet' and passing away in the 'already'.
  Bergson considers quantification of duration to be inconsistent with its immediate, lived reality. It can be contrasted with 'clock time', the time of physics and practical life, which either spatialises time by situating elemental instants end-to-end on a referential grid or uses the digits of a time-piece as a crass and imprecise physical image. When arranged in accordance with these models, time becomes a series of separable instants, consciousness is 'situated' in time as a series of temporally disparate mental states, and movement is conceived in terms of relations between static positions. In other words, clock time abstracts from the notion of duration by distorting its continuity.
  But constitutive integration of moments of duration must not be overemphasised. Bergson's intuition confirms also that consciousness is not 'one long thought', as it were, but a flowing together of mental states that are different from one another in important ways. Bergson contends that differences between mental states allow us to mark one kind of thought or one particular thought from another, whilst constituting simultaneously a singular flow, a merging of thoughts as one consciousness. As such, duration is the immediate awareness of the flow of changes that simultaneously constitute differences and relationships between particulars.
  Several characteristics of duration are critical for Deleuze. In his early works on David Hume, Deleuze used duration as an explicatory tool, rendering anew Hume's accounts of habit, association and time. Subsequently, Deleuze adopts it as a means for exploring difference and becoming as key elements of life. If duration 'includes', as it were, all of the qualitative differences ('differences of kind') of one's lived experience, Deleuze argues, then it also emphasises the productive, liberating potential of these differences. Even in the continuity of one's consciousness, there is a disconnection between events that allows creativity and renewal. For example, one is able to call upon new concepts to reinterpret one's memories or perceive some vista anew in the light of one's exposure to a work of art.
  Deleuze uses duration to make some important philosophical points about time and difference. For philosophers such as Immanuel Kant, time is both a form of receptive experience about the world and a necessary condition for any human experience at all. As such, for Kant, time is not an empirical concept but an a priori necessity underlying all possible experience. Furthermore, he considers time to comprise a homogeneous series of successive instants, standing in need of synthesis.
  In contrast, duration is always present in the 'givenness' of one's experience. It does not transcend experience, and neither must it be derived philosophically. Furthermore, duration, unlike matter, cannot be divided into elements which, when divided or reconstituted, remain the same in aggregate as their unified form. Duration, as lived experience, brings together both unity and difference in a flow of interconnections. For Deleuze, these contrasts represent the difference between a dictatorial philosophy that creates 'superior' concepts that subsume and order the multiplicities and creativity of life and one that creates opportunities for change and variety.
  Connectives
   § intuition

The Deleuze dictionary. . 2010.

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