La réhabilitation du temps : Bergson et les sciences daujourdhui (French Edition)


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Interdiciplinary Research Group / Groupe de recherche interdisciplinaire

Il n'y a sans doute rien de semblable sur le continent. Depuis , Catherine Francblin est critique free lance. Elle doit montrer le rang et la place de la Nation. Quel symbole des tiraillements de la politique romaine du Second Empire! Depuis , la Villa Bonaparte est devenue Ambassade de France.

Elle est par excellence le lieu de rencontre entre la France et la Curie romaine. Svenska Dagbladet , 29 juin Son prochain livre - une biographie sur Louis XIV - sortira en Au grand salon, les quais de Stockholm, peints par Albert Marquet, voisinent avec le parc du Luxembourg vu par Chapelain-Midi. Nombreuses sont les raisons de cette fascination et de cet attachement. Laurent Bili Ambassadeur de France en Turquie depuis Paul Claudel, Correspondances , L'actuel site de l'ambassade de France constitue un patrimoine historique exceptionnel auquel la France accorde une importance capitale.

Danielle Elisseeff est historienne et sinologue. These movements are neither the cause nor the result of the i- they are part of it, they phenomenon ; traction. Ribot has studied 1 Le mecanisme de V attention. Alcan, Attention con tracts the frontal muscle : this muscle. In extreme cases the mouth is opened wide. With children and with many adults eager attention gives rise to a protrusion of the lips, a kind of pout. But, once this exclusion is made, we believe that we are still conscious of a growing tension of soul, of an immaterial effort which increases. Analyse this impression and you will find nothing but the feeling of a muscular -Contraction which spreads over a wider surface or changes its nature, so that the tension becomes pressure, fatigue and pain.

Now, we do not see any essential difference between the effort of attention and what may be intensity called the effort psychic tensionof : acute desire, uncontrolled anger, passion- ion - ate love, violent hatred. Each of these states may be reduced, we believe, to a of system muscular contractions co-ordinated an idea but by ; in the case of attention, it is the more or less reflec tive idea of in the case of knowing ; emotion, the unrefiective idea of The acting.

Darwin has given a remarkable description of the physiological symptoms of rage. The action of the heart is much accelerated. The face red dens or may turn deadly pale. The respiration is laboured, the chest heaves, and the dilated nostrils quiver. The whole body often trembles. The voice The teeth are clenched or ground is affected. The gestures represent more or less plainly the. But, though this idea determines the direction of the emotional state and the accompanying movements, the growing in tensity of the state itself is, we believe, nothing but the deeper and deeper disturbance of the organism, a disturbance which consciousness has no difficulty in measuring by the number and extent of the bodily surfaces concerned.

It will be useless to assert that there is a restrained rage which is all the more intense. Eliminate, in short, all trace of organic disturbance, all tendency towards muscular contraction, and all that will be left of anger will be the idea, or, if you still insist on making it an emotion, you will be unable to assign it any intensity.

Suppress them entirely, and the more or less intense state of terror will be succeeded by an idea of terror, the wholly intellectual representation of a danger which it concerns us to avoid. There are also high degrees of joy and sorrow, of desire, aversion and even shame, the height of which will be found to be nothing but the reflex movements begun by the organism and perceived by conscious ness. We blush and involuntarily clench the fingers when we feel shame, even if it be retrospective. The acuteness of these emotions is estimated by the number and nature of the peripheral sensations which accompany them.

Little by little, and proportion as the emotional in state loses its violence and gains in depth, the peripheral sensations will give place to inner states it will be no longer our outward move ; ments but our ideas, our memories, our states of consciousness of every description, which will turn in larger or smaller numbers in a definite direction. There is, then, no essential difference from the point of view of intensity between the deep-seated feelings, of which we spoke at the beginning, and the acute or violent emotions which we have just passed in review.

To say that love, hatred, desire, increase in violence is to assert that they are projected outwards, that they radiate to the surface, that peripheral sensations are substituted for innersuperstates : but ficial or deep-seated, the violent or reflective, intensity of these feelings always consists in the multiplicity of simple states which consciousness dimly discerns in them. We have hitherto confined ourselves to feelings and efforts, complex states the intensity of which Magnitude of does not absolutely depend on an ex- sensations. Affective and ternal cause.

But sensations seem to us representative sensations. The intensity of sensations varies with the external cause of which they are said to be the conscious equivalent : how shall we explain the presence of quantity in an effect which is inexten- sive, and in this case indivisible? To answer this question, we must first distinguish between the so-called affective and the representative sensa tions. There is no doubt that we pass gradually from the one to the other and that some affective element enters into the majority of our simple representations.

But nothing prevents us from isolating this element and inquiring separately, in what does the intensity of an affective sensation, a pleasure or a pain, consist? We notice that a more intense sensation generally corresponds to a greater nervous disturbance ; but inasmuch as these disturbances are uncon scious as movements, since they come before con sciousness in the guise of a sensation which has no resemblance at all to motion, we do not see how they could transmit to the sensation anything of their own magnitude.

And it will retain nothing of it if it is merely the conscious translation of a movement of molecules for, just because this movement is ; translated into the sensation of pleasure or pain, it remains unconscious as molecular movement. It past stimulus. It must be noticed in addition that we rise by imperceptible stages from automatic to free movements, and that the latter differ from the former principally in introducing an affective sensation between the external action which occasions them and the volitional reaction which ensues.

If pleasure and pain make their appearance in certain privileged beings, it is resistance to the automatic probably to call forth a reaction which would have taken place either : sensation has nothing to do, or it is nascent free dom. But how would it enable us to resist the reaction which preparation if it did not is in acquaint us with the nature of the latter by some definite sign?

And what can this sign be except the sketching, and, as it were, the prefiguring of the automatic movements in the very future midst of the sensation which is being experienced? The affective state must then correspond not merely to the physical disturbances, movements or phe nomena which have taken place, but also, and especially, to those which are in preparation, those which are getting ready to be.

It is certainly not obvious at sight how this first hypothesis simplifies the problem. But the difference between the two hypotheses is considerable. But the auto matic movements which tend to follow the stimulus as its natural outcome are likely to be conscious as movements : or else the sensation itself, whose function is to invite us to choose between this automatic reaction and other possible movements, would be of no avail. The intensity of affective sensations might thus be nothing more than our consciousness of the involuntary movements which are being begun and outlined, so to speak, within these states, and which would have gone on in their own way if nature had made us automata instead of conscious beings.

If such be the case, we shall not compare a pain of increasing intensity to a note which grows louder and but rather to a Intensity o! Within the characteristic sen sation, which gives the tone to all the others, consciousness distinguishes a larger or smaller number of sensations arising at different points of the periphery, muscular contractions, organic movements of every kind the choir of these : elementary psychic states voices the new demands of the organism, when confronted by a new situa tion.

In other words, we estimate the intensity of a pain by the larger or smaller part of the organism which takes interest in it. Richet l 1 L homme tt I intelligence, p, I has observed that the slighter the pain, the more to a particular spot if it precisely is it referred ; becomes more intense, it is referred to the whole of the member affected. If the stimulus is stronger, in stead of being confined to the pneumo-gastric nerve, it spreads and affects almost the whole organic system.

The face turns pale, the smooth muscles of the skin contract, the skin is covered with a cold perspiration, the heart stops beating : in a word there is a general organic disturbance following the stimulation of the medulla oblongata, and this disturbance is the supreme expression of disgust. And what can we un derstand here by increasing intensity, if it is not the constantly increasing number of sensations 1 Ibid. Darwin has drawn a striking picture of the reactions following a pain which becomes more and more acute.

With men mouth may the be closely compressed, or more commonly the lips are retracted with the teeth clenched or ground together. The eyes stare wildly Perspiration bathes the body. The cir culation and respiration are much affected. Analyse your idea of any suffering which you call extreme : do you not mean that it unbearable, that is to say, that it urges the is organism to a thousand different actions in order to escape from can picture to myself a it?

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I nerve transmitting a pain which is independent of all automatic reaction ; and I can equally understand that stronger or weaker stimulations influence this nerve differently. But I do not see how these differences of sensation would be interpreted by our consciousness as differences of quantity unless we connected them with the reactions which usually accompany them, and which are more or less extended and more or 1 The Expression of the Emotions, ist ed.

I these subsequent re less important. Without actions, the intensity of the pain would be a quality, and not a magnitude. We have hardly any other means of comparing several pleasures with one another. And what can our preference be, except a certain the effect of which disposition of our organs, is that, when two pleasures are offered simultane ously to our mind, our body inclines towards one them inclination itself and of? Analyse this you will find a great many little movements which begin and become perceptible in the organs con cerned, and even in the rest of the body, as if the organism were coming forth to meet the pleasure as soon as it is pictured.

When we define inclina tion as amovement, we are not using a metaphor. When confronted by several pleasures pictured by our mind, our body turns towards one of them spontaneously, as though by a reflex action. It rests with us to check it, but the attraction of the pleasure is nothing but this movement that is begun, and the very keenness of the plea sure, while we enjoy it, is merely the inertia of the organism, which is immersed in it and rejects every other sensation. Without this vis inertiae which we become conscious by the of very resistance which we offer to anything that might distract us, pleasure would be a state, but no longer a magnitude.

We have studied the affective sensations separ ately, but we must now notice that many repre- The intensity sentative sensations possess an affective tive sensations, character, andthus call forth a reaction Many also af-. A con-. In proportion as the amplitude of sound-vibrations increases, our head and then our body seem to us to vibrate or to receive a shock. Certain representative sensations, those of taste, smell and temperature, have a fixed character of pleasantness or unpleasantness. Between flavours which are more or less bitter you hardly distinguish anything but differ will ences of quality ; they are like different shades of one and the same colour.

But these differ ences of quality are at once interpreted as differ ences of quantity, because of their affective char acter and the more or less pronounced movements of reaction, pleasure or repugnance, which they suggest to us. Besides, even when the sensation remains purely representative, its external cause cannot exceed a certain degree of strength or weakness without inciting us to movements which enable us to measure it. In the former case the sensation said to be of slight intensity, and in is the latter case very intense.

Thus, in order to perceive a distant sound, to distinguish what we call a faint smell or a dim light, we strain all our faculties, we pay attention. And, inversely, we recognize a sensation of extreme intensity by the irresistible reflex movements to which it incites us, or by the powerlessness with which it affects us. When a cannon is fired off close to our ears or a dazzling lightsuddenly flares up, we lose for an instant the consciousness of our personality this state ; may even last some time in the case of a very nervous subject. It must be added that, even within the range of the so-called medium inten when we are dealing on even terms with a sities, representative sensation, we often estimate its importance by comparing it with another which it drives away, or by taking account of the per sistence with which it returns.

Thus the ticking of a watch seems louder at night because it easily monopolizes a consciousness almost empty of sensations and ideas. With these so-called medium sensations, however, we approach a series of psychic states, the intensity of which is likely to possess a new meaning. For, in most cases, the organism hardly reacts at all, at least in a way that can be perceived and yet ; we still make a magnitude out of the pitch of a sound, the intensity of a light, the saturation of a colour.

Doubtless, a closer observation of what takes place in the whole of the organism when we hear such and such a note or perceive such and such a colour has more than one sur prise in store for us. Has not C. Fere shown that every sensation is accompanied by an in crease in muscular force which can be measured by the dynamometer?

Now, the nature of this element is easy to deter- 1 C. F6r, Sensation et Mouvcment. I proportion as a sensation loses Now, this cause is ex tensive and therefore measurable a constant : experience, which began with the first glimmer ings of consciousness and which continues throughout the whole of our life, shows us a definite shade of sensation corresponding to a definite amount of stimulation. We thus associ ate the idea of a certain quantity of cause with a certain quality of effect and finally, as happens ; in the case of every acquired perception, we trans fer the idea into the sensation, the quantity of the cause into the quality of the effect.

At this very moment the intensity, which was nothing but a certain shade or quality of the sensation, becomes a magnitude. We shall easily understand this process if, for example, we hold a pin in our right hand and prick our left hand more and more deeply. At first we shall feel as it were a tickling, then a touch which is succeeded by a prick, then a pain localized at a point, and finally the spreading of this pain over the surrounding zone.

But yet we spoke at first of one and the same sensation which spread further and further, of one prick which increased in intensity. The reason is that, without noticing it, we localized in the sensation of the left hand, which is pricked, the progressive effort of the right hand, which pricks. Now, it is easy to see that the intensity of every representative sensation ought to be understood in the same way. The sensations of sound display well marked degrees of intensity.

We have already spoken of the necessity J of taking into account The sensa-. We have shown that a very intense sound is one which en grosses our attention, which supplants all the others. But take away the shock, the well- marked vibration, which you sometimes feel in your head or even throughout your body : take away the clash which takes place between sounds heard simultaneously what will be left : except an indefinable quality of the sound which is heard? But immediately inter this quality is preted as quantity because you have obtained it yourself a thousand times, e.

And has it not been said that to hear is to speak to one self? Some neuropaths cannot be present at a conversation without moving their lips this ; is only an exaggeration of what takes place in the case of every one of us. How will the ex pressive or rather suggestive power of music be explained, if not by admitting that we repeat to ourselves the sounds heard, so as to carry ourselves back into the psychic state out of which they emerged, an original state, which nothing will express, but which something may suggest, viz. Now, besides the intensity, we distinguish another characteristic property of the sound, its pitch.

I grant that a sharper sound calls up the picture of a higher position in space. But does it follow from this that the notes of the scale, as auditory sensations, differ otherwise than in quality? Forget what you have learnt from physics, exa mine carefully your idea of a higher or lower note, and see whether you do not think simply of the greater or less effort which the tensor muscle of your vocal chords has to make in order to produce the note?

As the effort by which your voice passes from one note to another is discon tinuous, you picture to yourself these successive notes as points in space, to be reached by a series of sudden jumps, in each of which you cross an empty separating interval : this is why you establish intervals between the notes of the scale. Now, why is the line along which we dispose them vertical rather than horizontal, and why do we say that the sound ascends in some cases and descends in others? It must be remembered that the high notes seem to us to produce some sort of resonance in the head and the deep notes in the thorax this perception, whether real or : illusory, has undoubtedly had some effect in making us reckon the intervals vertically.

And as he breathes out the air upwards, he will attribute the same direction to the sound produced by the current of air hence the sympathy of a larger ; part of the body with the vocal muscles will be represented by a movement upwards. In this way it became customary to assign a certain height to each note of the scale, and as soon as the physicist was able to define it by the number of vibrations in a given time to which it corresponds, we no longer hesi tated to declare that our ear perceived differ ences of quantity directly.

But the sound would remain a pure quality if we did not bring in the muscular effort which produces it or the vibra tions which explain it. The experiments of Blix, Goldscheider and Donaldson l have shown that the points on the The sensations surface of the body which feel cold are heat a oli L Th ee not the same as those which feel heat.

A more intense heat is really another kind of heat. We call it more intense because we have experienced this same change a thousand times when we approached nearer and nearer a source of heat, or when a growing surface of our body was affected by it. Besides, the sensations of heat and cold very quickly become affective and incite us to more or less marked reactions by which we measure their external cause : hence, we are inclined to set up similar quantitative differences among the sensations which correspond to lower intensities of the cause.

But I shall not insist any further every one must question himself ; carefully on this point, after making a clean sweep of everything which his past experience has taught him about the cause of his sensations and coming face to face with the sensations themselves. The result of this examination is likely to be as follows : it will be perceived that the magnitude of a repre sentative sensation depends on the cause having been put into the effect, while the intensity of the affective element depends on the more or less important reactions which prolong the external stimulations and find their way into the sensation itself.

The same thing will be experienced in the case of pressure and even weight. Look again and see whether you do not bring in the more and more intense, i. When the psychophysi- cist lifts a heavier weight, he experiences, he says, an increase of sensation. Examine whether this increase of sensation ought not rather to be called a sensation of increase.

The whole question is centred in this, for in the first case the sensation would be a quantity like its external cause, whilst in the second it would be a quality which had become representative of the magnitude of its cause. The distinction between the heavy and the light may seem to be as old-fashioned and as childish as that between the hot and the cold. But the very childishness of this distinction makes it a psychological reality. And not only do the heavy and the light impress our consciousness as generically different, but the various degrees of lightness and heaviness are so many species of these two genera.

It must be added that the difference of quality is here translated spontane ously into a difference of quantity, because of the more or extended effort which our body makes less in order to lift a given weight. Of this you will soon become aware if you are asked to lift a basket which, you are told, is full of scrap-iron, whilst in fact there is nothing in it.

It is chiefly by the number and nature of these sympathetic which take place at different points of the efforts, organism, that you measure the sensation of weight at a given point and this sensation would ; be nothing more than a quality if you did not thus introduce into it the idea of a magnitude. What strengthens the illusion on this point is that we have become accustomed to believe in the immedi ate perception of a homogeneous movement in a homogeneous space. If I afterwards lift a heavier weight to the same height with the same speed, I pass through a new series ofmuscular sensations, each of which differs from the corresponding term of the preceding series.

Of this I could easily convince myself by examining them closely.

Lenoir, René

It thus materializes this differ ence at the extremity of the arm which moves ; itpersuades itself that the sensation of movement has been identical in both cases, while the sensa tion of weight differed in magnitude. But move ment and weight are but distinctions of the reflec tive consciousness what : ispresent to conscious ness immediately is the sensation of, so to speak, a heavy movement, and this sensation itself can be resolved by analysis into a series of muscular sensations, each of which represents by its shade its place of origin and by its colour the magnitude of the weight lifted.

Shall we call the intensity of light a quantity, or shall we treat it as a quality? It has not perhaps been sufficientlyJ noticed what a large The sensation Qua- of light. We chaws in know from long experience that, when we intensity ol , j rr luminous have a difficulty in the distinguishing and details of objects, the outlines light is at a distance or on the point of out. Any increase or diminution in the number of luminous sources alters the way in which the sharp lines of bodies stand out and also the shadows which they project.

As the luminous source is brought nearer, violet takes a bluish tinge, green tends to become a whitish yellow, and red a bril liant yellow. Inversely, when the light is moved away, ultramarine passes into violet and yellow into green finally, red, green and violet tend to be ; come a whitish yellow. Physicists have remarked these changes of hue for some time J but what ; is still more remarkable is that the majority of men do not perceive them, unless they pay attention to them or are warned of them.

Having made up our mind, once for all, to interpret changes of quality as changes of quantity, we begin by assert ing that every object has its own peculiar colour, definite and invariable. And when the hue of objects tends to become yellow or blue, instead of saying that we see their colour change under the influence of an increase or diminution of light, we assert that the colour remains the same but that our sensation of luminous intensity increases or diminishes. We thus substitute once more, for the qualitative impression received by our con sciousness, the quantitative interpretation given by our understanding.

This depends on the fact that the. For the physicist speaks of degrees of luminous intensity as of real quantities and, in fact, he measures : them by the photometer. The psychophysicist goes still further : he maintains that our eye estimates the intensities of light. Of these experiments we shall not dispute the result, nor shall we deny the value of photometric processes but we must see how ; we have to interpret them. Look closely at a sheet of paper lighted e. But you are aware that ds et? Put aside what you remember of your past experiences and what you are accus tomed to say of the present ones you will find ; that what you really perceive is not a diminished illumination of the white surface, it is a layer of shadow passing over this surface at the moment the candle is extinguished.

This shadow is a reality to your consciousness, like the light itself.


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If you call the first surface in all its brilliancy white, you will have to give another name to what you now see, for it is a different thing : it is, if we may say so, a new shade of white. This is the reason why the change in the sensation isnot continuous, as it is in the external cause, and why the light can increase or decrease for a certain period without producing any apparent change in the illumination of our white surface : the illumination will not appear to change until the increase or decrease of the external light is suffi cient to produce a new quality.

The variations in brightness of a given colour the affective sensa tions of which we have spoken above being left aside would thus be nothing but qualitative changes, were it not our custom to transfer the cause to the effect and to replace our immediate impressions by what we learn from experience and science. The same thing might be said of degrees of saturation.

Indeed, if the different intensities of a colour correspond to so many different shades existing between this colour and black, the degrees of saturation are like shades intermediate between same colour and pure white. Every this colour, we might say, can be regarded under two aspects, from the point of view of black and from the point of view of white.

And black is then to intensity what white is to saturation. A candle placed at a in photome- certain distance from a sheet of paper - illuminates it in a certain way you : c SSl? From this you conclude that if you had doubled the distance without increas ing the intensity of the luminous source, the result ant illumination would have been only one-fourth as bright. But it is quite obvious that you are here dealing with the physical and not the psy chological effect. For it cannot be said that you have compared two sensations with one another : you have made use of a single sensation in order to compare two different luminous sources with each other, the second four times as strong as the first but twice as far off.

In a word, the physicist never brings in sensations which are twice or three times as great as others, but only identical sensa tions, destined to serve as intermediaries between two physical quantities which can then be equated with one another. The sensation of light here plays the part of the auxiliary unknown quantity which the mathematician introduces into his calcu lations, and which is not intended to appear in the final result.

But the object of the psychophysicist is entirely different : it is the sensation of light itself which he studies, and claims to measure. I differences, after the method of Fechner ; some times tJ he will compare r one sensation The psycho- physicist directly with another. Dei- than has hitherto been differs far less boauf s ex- 1. Delbceuf places an observer in front of three concentric rings which vary in brightness. Let us suppose that two hues of grey are simul taneously produced on two of the rings and kept unchanged ; let us call them A and B.

Delbceuf alters the brightness, C, of the third ring, and asks the observer to tell him whether, at a certain moment, the grey, B, appears to him equally dis tant from the other two. A moment comes, in fact, when the observer states that the contrast A B equal to the contrast B C, so that, according is to Delbceuf, a scale of luminous intensities could be constructed on which we might pass from each sensation to the following one by equal sensible contrasts our sensations would thus be measured : by one another.

As soon as it is proved that two sen sations can be equal without being identical, psy- chophysics will be established. But it is this equality which seems to me open to question it : is easy to explain, in fact, how a sensation of luminous intensity can be said to be at an equal distance from two others. Moreover it would be easy for us to assign each of them its place in the series. For although the extensive cause varies continuously, the changes in the sensation of colour are discon tinuous, passing from one shade to another shade. However numerous, then, may be the shades inter mediate between the two colours, and B, it A will always be possible to count them in thought, at least roughly, and ascertain whether this num ber almost equal to that of the is shades which separate B from another colour C.

In the latter case it will be said that B is equally distant from A and C, that the contrast is the same on one side as on the other. If not, it is only by a metaphor that a sensation can be said to be an equal distance from two others. Now, if the views which we have before enu merated with regard to luminous intensities are it will be recognized that the nu3i.

But there is this difference, that in all our past experience the succession of grey tints has been produced in connexion with a progressive increase or decrease in illumination. Hence we do for the differences of brightness what we do not think of doing for the differences of colour we promote the changes of quality into : variations of magnitude. The contrast A B will thus be declared equal to the contrast B C when our imagination, aided by our memory, inserts between A and B the same number of intermediate shades as between B and C.

It is needless to say that this will necessarily be a very rough estimate. We may anticipate that it will vary considerably with different persons. Above all it is to be ex pected that the person will show more hesitation and that the estimates of different persons will differ more widely in proportion as the difference in brightness between the rings A and B is increased, for a more and more laborious effort will be required to estimate the number of intermediate hues.

This is exactly what happens, as we shall easily perceive by glancing at the two tables drawn up by Delboeuf. But let us leave these divergences on one side let : us assume that the observers are always consist ent and always agree with one another will it ; then be established that the contrasts A B and B C are equal? It would first be necessary to 1 Elements de psychophysique, pp. I contrasts prove that two successive elementary are equal quantities, whilst, in fact, we only know that they are successive. It would then be neces sary to prove that inside a given tint of grey we the less intense shades which our imagina perceive tion has run through in order to estimate the objective intensity of the source of light.

In a word, Delbceuf psychophysics assumes a the s oretical postulate of the greatest importance, which is disguised under the cloak of an experi mental result, and which we should formulate as follows : When the objective quantity of light is continuously increased, the differences between the hues of grey successively obtained, each of which represents the smallest perceptible increase equal to one of physical stimulation, are quantities another.

And besides, any one of the sensations obtained can be equated with the sum of the differences which separate from one another all previous sensations, going from zero upwards. Nor shall we raise any difficulty about granting the probable existence of a law of this nature. It is here really a question not of measuring a sensation but only of deter mining the exact moment at which an increase of stimulus produces a change in it.

Now, if a definite amount of stimulus produces a definite shade of sensation, it is obvious that the minimum amount of stimulus required to produce a change in this shade is also definite and since it is not ; constant, it must be a function of the original stimulus. The whole of psychophysics is Involved in this transition, which is therefore worthy of our closest consideration.

And the transition will thus be JoE made from a proved law, which only concerned the occurrence of a sensation, to an unprovable law which gives its measure. Q Q being a constant. Fechner realized that measurement could not be introduced into psychology without first defining what meant by the equality and is Can two sen- , ,. Undoubtedly in the physical world equality is not synonymous with identity. But the reason is that every phenomenon, every object, is there presented under two aspects, the one qualitative and the other extensive : nothing prevents us from putting the first one aside, and then there remains nothing but terms which can be directly or indirectly superposed on one another and consequently seen to be identical.

Now, this qualitative element, which we begin by eliminating from external objects in order to measure them, is the very thing which psycho- physics retains and claims to measure. And it is no use trying to measure this quality Q by some physical quantity Q which lies beneath it for : it would be necessary to have previously shown that Q is a function of Q and this would not be , possible unless the quality Q had first been measured with some fraction of itself.

In a word, it seems, on the one hand, that two different sensations cannot be said to be equal unless some identical residuum remains after the elimination of their qualitative difference ; but, on the other hand, this qualitative difference being all that we perceive, it does not appear what could remain once it was eliminated.

Lenoir, René [WorldCat Identities]

The novel feature in Fechner s treatment is that he did not consider this difficulty insur- mountable. Therefore you can set aside the specific shade or quality of these suc cessive differences a common residuum will ; remain in virtue of which they will be seen to be in a manner identical have the common : they all character of being minima. Such will be the defini tion of equality which we were seeking.

Now, the definition of addition will follow For if naturally. The only remaining before step will then be to utilize this twofold definition in order to establish, first of all, a relation between the differences AS and AE, and then, through the substitution of the differentials, between the two variables.

True, the mathematicians may here lodge a protest against the substitution of differential for difference the psychologists may; ask, too, whether the quantity AS, instead of being constant, does not vary as the sensation S itself x finally, taking the psychophysical law ; for granted, we may all debate about its real meaning. But, by the mere fact that AS is re garded as a quantity and S as a sum, the funda mental postulate of the whole process is accepted.

Now it is just this postulate which seems to us open to question, even if it can be understood. I am now notified Quantities. No doubt the notification consists in the fact that the original state S has changed : 1 Latterly it has been assumed that AS is proportional to S. I ithas become S but the transition from S to S ; could only be called an arithmetical difference if were conscious, so to speak, of an interval I between S and S and if my sensation were felt , to rise from S to S by the addition of something.

By giving this transition a name, by calling it AS, you make it first a reality and then a quantity. Now, not only are you unable to explain in what sense this transition is a quantity, but reflection will show you that it is not even a reality the ; only realities are the states S and S through which I pass. No doubt, if S and S were numbers, I could assert the reality of the difference S S 7 even though S and S alone were given the ; reason is that the number S S, which is a certain sum of units, will then represent just the successive moments of the addition by which we pass from S to S But if S and S are simple states, in.

And what, then, can the transition from the first state to the second be, if not a mere act of your thought, which, arbitrarily and for the sake of the argument, assimilates a succession of two states to a differentiation of two magnitudes?


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Either you keep to what consciousness presents to you or you have recourse to a conventional we can speak rnode of representation. The most acute of Fechner s critics, Jules Tannery, has made the latter point per fectly clear. I do not see that this is anything but a definition, which is as legitimate as it is arbitrary.

He inquired whether certain sensa tions did not appear to us immediately as equal although different, and whether it would not be possible to draw up, by their help, a table of sensations which were double, triple or quadruple those which preceded them. The mistake which Fechner made, as we have just seen, was that he believed in an interval between two successive 1 Revue scicntifique, March 13 and April 24, But if the two terms between which the passing takes place could be simultaneously, there would then given be a contrast besides the transition and al ; though the contrast is not yet an arithmetical difference, it resembles it in a certain respect ; for the two terms which are compared stand here side by side as in a case of subtraction of two numbers.

Suppose now that these sensations belong to the same genus and that in our past experience we have constantly been present at their march past, so to speak, while the physical stimulus increased continuously it is extremely : probable that we shall thrust the cause into the effect, and that the idea of contrast will thus melt into that of arithmetical difference.

As we have noticed, moreover, that the sen shall sation changed abruptly while the stimulus rose continuously, we shall no doubt estimate the dis tance between two given sensations by a rough guess at the number of these sudden jumps, or at least of the intermediate sensations which usually serve us as landmarks. To sum up, the contrast will appear to us as a difference, the stimulus as a quantity, the sudden jump as an element of equality combining these three fac : tors, we shall reach the idea of equal quantitative differences.

Not only is there here a con trast between similar sensations, but these sen sations correspond to a cause whose influence has always been felt by us to be closely connected with its distance and, as this distance can vary ; continuously, we cannot have escaped noticing in our past experience a vast number of shades of sensation which succeeded one another along with the continuous increase in the cause. We are therefore able to say that the contrast between one shade of grey and another, for example, seems to us almost equal to the contrast between the latter and a third one and if we define two equal ; sensations by saying that they are sensations which a more or less confused process of reasoning interprets as such, we shall in fact reach a law like that proposed by Delbceuf.

But it must not be forgotten that consciousness has here passed through the same intermediate steps as the psychophysicist, and that its judgment is worth here just what psychophysics is worth ; it a symbolical interpretation of quality as is quantity, a more or less rough estimate of the number of sensations which can come in between two given sensations. The difference is thus not as great as is believed between the method of least noticeable differences and that of mean gradations, between the psychophysics of Fechner and that of Delbceuf. In a word, psychophysics is condemned by all in a vicious circle, for the its origin to revolve theoretical postulate on which it rests condemns it to experimental verification, and it cannot be experimentally verified unless its postulate is first granted.

The fact is that there is no point of contact between the unextended and the extended, between quality and quantity. We can interpret the one by the other, set up the one as the equivalent of the other but sooner ; or later, at the beginning or at the end, we shall have to recognize the conventional character of this assimilation. In truth, psychophysics merely formulates with precision and pushes to its extreme consequences a conception familiar to common sense. And the more our knowledge increases, the more we perceive the extensive behind the intensive, quantity behind quality, the more also we tend to thrust the former into the latter, and to treat our sensations as magnitudes.

It thus encourages and even exag gerates the mistake which common sense makes on the point.

The Existential Phenomenology of Simone de Beauvoir

The moment was inevitably bound to come at which science, familiarized with this confusion between quality and quantity, between sensation and stimulus, should seek to measure the one as measures the other it such was the : object of psychophysics. In this bold attempt Fechner was encouraged by his adversaries them selves, by the philosophers who speak of intensive magnitudes while declaring that psychic states can not be submitted to measurement.

For if we grant that one sensation can be stronger than another, and that this inequality is inherent in the sensa tions themselves, independently of all association of ideas, of all more or less conscious consideration of number and space, it is natural to ask by how much the first sensation exceeds the second, and to set up a quantitative relation between their intensities. Jean Epstein Corporeal cinema and film philosophy. Related Content. Front matter. Author: Dana Mills. Terms and Conditions Privacy notice Contact Us. Powered by: Sheridan PubFactory.

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