bergson's def of "image"

from Matter and Memory, by Henri Bergson, with and against whom Gilles Deleuze works his Cinema theories. I'm making my way through these works, and I will be writing about them here at kind of ... for a bit.

To begin: "... realism and idealism both go too far, ... it is a mistake to reduce matter to the perception which we have of it, a mistake also to make of it a thing able to produce in us perceptions, but in itself of another nature than they. Matter, in our view, is an aggregate of 'images.' And by 'image' we mean a certain existence which is more than that which the idealist calls a representation, but less than that which the realist calls a thing, -- an existence placed half-way between the 'thing' and the 'representation.' This conception of matter is simply common sense" (viii).

it might seem easy to get super-resistant to Bergson, here, especially with his formulation of "half-way," but i don't (maybe i have no common sense?). for he explores this conception reasonably well, continuing with a useful scenario:

"It would greatly astonish a man unaware of the speculations of philosophy if we told him that the object before him, which he sees and touches, exists only in his mind and for his mind, or even, more generally, exists only for mind ... " (viii).

sure. and there is even an obligatory nod to the "superiority" of philosophy, so keep going, say the academics. sure. and but so ...

"Such a man would always maintain that the object exists independently of the consciousness which perceives it. But, on the other hand, we should astonish him quite as much by telling him that the object is entirely different from that which is perceived in it, that is has neither the colour ascribed to it by the eye, nor the resistance found in it by the hand. The colour, the resistance, are, for him, in the object: they are not states of our mind; they are part and parcel of an existence really independent of our own. For common sense, then, the object exists in itself, and, on the other hand, the object is, in itself pictorial, as we perceive it: image it is, but a self-existing image" (viii).

There is much to love and worry and explore in this, but for now, I must "take my leave" (since we are adopting poses; i love Bergson's prescient adoption of YodaSpeak, btw). I am heading to campus to teach but will pick this up again as I work through Bergson and Deleuze on Cinema. You are excited for this.


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before leaving this for today, i'll add that i appreciate Bergson's space between "thing" and "representation" as it recalls for me WJT Mitchell's concept of the image as a relationship between "the picture-beholder" and the image as a "field of mutual desire" (xv). Mitchell elaborates this intensity by suggesting that "images are not everything, but ... they manage to convince us that they are" (2).

Later, relevant to what Michel Chion calls "the audio-visual contract," Mitchell asserts that an image can "pass over the boundary between vision and hearing in the notion of an 'acoustic image'" (2).

elaboration to come, i hope :)
mer19 said…
You might want to look at what Mark Hansen says about the relationship between Bergson and Deleuze in -New Philosophy for New Media_. That being said, I completely disagree with what he says, and in fact, Hansen seems to set up Deleuze as a straw man. This is now the consensus of most careful readers of both Bergson and Deleuze. But what do I know....
mer, thanks. there is a LOT of *certainty* in talks of Bergson's value for image/film theory. Same goes for Delueze. i'm glad i'm coming to the convo "late" and am especially enjoying Richard Ruston's piece, "Deleuzian Spectatorship" (Screen 50: Spring 2009) for what it rethinks about how D has been taken up by film scholars (i.e., they don't work w/ his Cinema books but instead w/ the Usual Suspects ... his work Big Books w/ Guattari). interesting.

since i am working this through rather for myself or from outside of Film Studies or Philosophy, i feel some freedom to think about these generalizations, and this feels promising.

thanks for the citation. i will def want to look at Hansens' book.
spirithound said…
I'm writing an exam tomorrow, with Bergson as a part of it, and your post has helped me understand the concept of "images" :D
glad to help! good luck on the exam :)

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