(Bergson) (Talmud)

Such is the primary and the most apparent operation of the perceiving mind: it marks out divisions in the continuity of the extended, simply following the suggestions of our
requirement and the needs of practical life. But, in order to divide the real in this manner, we must first persuade ourselves that the real is divisible at will. Consequently we must throw beneath the continuity of sensible qualities, that is to say, beneath concrete extensity, a network, of which the meshes may be altered to any shape whatsoever and become as small as we please


If there are actions that are really free, or at least partly indeterminate, they can only belong to beings able to fix, at long intervals, that becoming to which their own becoming clings, able to solidify it into distinct moments, and so to condense matter and, by assimilating it, to digest it into movements of reaction which will pass through the meshes of natural necessity. The greater or less tension of their duration, which expresses, at bottom, their greater or less intensity of life, thus determines both the degree of the concentrating power of their perception and the measure of their liberty. The independence of their action upon surrounding matter becomes more and more assured in the degree that they free themselves from the particular rhythm which governs the flow of this matter. So that sensible qualities, as they are found in our memory shot perception, are in fact the successive moments obtained by a solidification of the real.

–Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory, translated by N.M. Paul and W.S. Palmer, pp.209-10

On divisibility, the creation of division, the solidification of the real in perception, the mesh of natural necessity, and the action of beings who across intervals are “really free,” all of this reminds me of Talmud. That is to say, Bergson helps bring Talmud, which pays such keen attention to the distribution of objects, into the philosophy of perception. Talmud is a mesh that divides up and cuts up the real, and the rabbis are “free” in the way Bergson. describes. While Bergson is critical of intellect, I think this passage gets at what Talmud does and how it enacts arhythmic awareness vis-a-vis the world.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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