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Bergson, Duration, and Metaphysics

A Tract Book

By Anthony J. Fejfar

© Copyright 2006 by Anthony J. Fejfar

In his philosophical work, “Introduction to Metaphysics,” Henri Bergson

showcases the metaphysical concept of “Duration.” Instead of discussing the

metaphysical concepts of being, or substance, or logos, Bergson explicates the idea

of Duration. What is Duration? Well, it is not easy to say precisely. Duration

represents an enduring moment in time. One wonders whether duration is found

precisely in space-time, or beyond it in some sense.

Metaphysics are typically thought to function beyond space-time, but

perhaps they can manifest in the duration of space-time. Metaphysical concepts

or quiddities such as being, form, logos, and substance are thought to operate

independently of the knower outside of time. Bergson, however, places duration

within time, although it must be stated that duration does not represent ordinary


Perhaps we can better understand duration by considering some examples.

For many Native Americans, time flows. Those on “indian time” have a very

difficult time showing up on time for appointments. If a Native American says

that he will be at a certain place at a certain time, this is traditionally seen as an

approximation. If a Native American tells you that he will be there first thing in

the morning, he might show up at ten o’clock, rather than eight o’clock. I am not

saying this as a criticism. Nor am I saying that all Native Americans who have

been acculturated into “western” linear time necessarily function this way. But,

some Native Americans do experience time this way. Perhaps, then, Indian time is

an example of duration where space-time is curved or bends to manifest in an

alinear way.

In addition to Indian time, there is also “farm time.” While it took a

phenomenology class to critically reflect on the experience of time that I had

growing up, on my Grandpa’s farm in South Dakota, where I spent summer

vacations, growing up, time flowed differently. This “Bohemian Farm time” was

very different that the “school time” that I was accustomed to during the school

year. Similarly, for some people, it is possible that they experience “vacation

time” as qualitatively different. If you are on the type of vacation where you do

not have to keep a schedule, vacation time is qualitatively different different than

“work time.”

My point for the foregoing discussion of time is that it does lend support

for Bergson’s concept of Duration. Perhaps Duration is a different sort of time

than we are normally accustomed to. Perhaps space-time “bends” a bit to

manifest duration.

The notion that space-time can bend is consistent with Quantum Physics.

Because of Quantum Non-locality at a subatomic level it is possible that time

might bend or endure as a “moment” of duration, where the change in time is

qualitative. This is because with Quantum Non-locality, the shortest distance

between two points is not necessarily a linear straight line.

Now, a point that can be made is that perhaps meditation can change

enough of one’s subatomic structure in a person’s brain that time will be

experienced differently. Perhaps this accounts for the fact that some people say

that time “slows down” in an emergency situation. Moreover, some athletes say

that time can slow down so that it is easier to play a sport effectively. At some

“moment points” a baseball, or a tennis ball can slow down in a way that makes

it easier for the ball to be hit.

The point I wish to make is that if one can experience “moment points” of

duration as part of a person’s ordinary life, then it makes it easier to imagine that

some scientists, philosophers, or theologians, can intuit being, substance, or logos,

or other metaphysical quiddities which manifest outside of space-time. Such

metaphysical quiddities such as quantum form or quantum cause, then, manifest in

the duration of curved space-time, within space-time.


Henri Bergson, Introduction to Metaphysics

Edmund Husserl, Phenomenology