Yuval Dolev, Michael Roubach (Eds.): Cosmological and Psychological Time

Cosmological and Psychological Time Book Cover Cosmological and Psychological Time
Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science 285
Yuval Dolev, Michael Roubach (Eds.)
Springer International Publishing
Hardcover $129.00
XIV, 218

Reviewed by: Esteban J. Beltrán Ulate (University of Costa Rica)

In their debut text Cosmological and Psychological Time, Yuval Dolev of Bar-Ilan University and Michael Roubach of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, guide readers through topics concerning Relativity Theory, Transience and Experience, Temporality and Phenomenology in an engaging series of 12 chapters. In this review, I outline the main ideas purported in each of the chapters with the aim of bringing the reader closer to the understanding the relevance of the chapters to the field of time and philosophy, without pretending to purport a total synthesis of the work.

The motivation of Dolev and Roubach’s text is described in the introduction, where the central character of time is captured, from two visions: continental and analytical. From the perspective of continental philosophy, which assumes that time is intimately bound up with the notions of consciousness and subject, an assumption exists that there is an independence between the mind and experience. In the middle of this bifurcation of continental and analytic philosophy, there is also a tension as to the conception of time as Presentism or Eternalism. Within the framework of this tension is a working group of representatives of both analytical and continental currents. From a series of academic meetings at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem, the text is derived, in order to contribute to the discussion of time from a double glance.

In the first section, “Relativity Theory”, there are four studies: “Physical Time and Experienced Time”, “Relativity, Global Tense and Phenomenology”, “Why Presentism Cannot Be Refuted by Special Relativity”, and “Einstein’s Bergson Problem: Communication, Consensus and Good Science”.

In “Physical Time and Experienced Time”, Denis Dieks assumes that the image of the Universal block is compatible with the human experience. By adopting this assumption, Dieks concludes that the human experience is detached from the critical view of the senses; thereby, breaking the sphere of experience as the way to reach information that will be confirmed by relativity. In this case, phenomenology is an intellectual tool that permits reflection and offers ideas that have been scientifically endorsed by relativity theorists. In sum, Dieks’s chapter is an analysis about A-Theory and B-Theory, the problems between both theories in relation to perception, and the dichotomy of understanding between how the naturalist-scientific and physic-psychological may converge. The author outlines several considerations about time from Newtonian physics and from relativity theory, with a special interest to the focus of flux time.

In “Relativity, Global Tense and Phenomenology”, Yuval Dolev confronts Dieck’s ideas developed in “Physical Time and Experienced Time”. Therein, he assumes that any task of interpreting relativity, absent a phenomenological approach, is inappropriate. Therefore, a global tense and the passage of time are immovable from experience. Concurrently, a phenomenological analysis of passage time establishes a framework of relativity; whereby, the inclusion of experience forces the abandonment of both Theory A and Theory B of time. Dolev disagrees with Dieck’s phenomenological analysis, his thesis about the block universe, as well as his assessment of the tension existing between the block universe and experience. He further postulates that relationship between the conditions of the local observer and the distance of the event that happens is problematized, suggesting the impossibility of any strict simultaneity between the event and the experience of the same, “The experience takes place not where the flares are igniting, but where the observer is located” (p. 26). Finally, Dolev assumes the there is a possible compatibility between Global Now with the relativity theory only after reflecting on a series of challenges he took as reference to the Now of Andromeda.

In “Why Presentism Cannot Be Refuted By Special Relativity”, Yehiel Cohen presents a third way to respect relativity theory in confronting the idea of a relationship existing between presentism and relativity. He also proposes that e-Lorentz transformations assume the notion of absolute simultaneity. Therein, Cohen confronts both, the conventionality of simultaneity and the relativity of simultaneity. The first part of the chapter develops a refutation of presentism by special relativity, taking note of Putnam’s thesis that, “there are no privileged Observers” (p. 42). Cohen then explains the notion of Conventionality of Simultaneity, where he describes how Sklar refutes Putnam’s thesis, and rather argues for Reichenbach’s synchronization of two clocks.

Midway through the text, Cohen adheres to a language that echoes Hinchliff’s terminology, deepening the notion of Point Presentism and Cone Presentism. This adherence extends first from an analysis of R(point) and the problem of now, and second from a scrutiny that concludes the untenable character of R(bcone). In summary, both R(point) and R(bcone) are assessed as flimsy, as Cohen conceives, because both are constituted by separate space-like events. Cohen’s work factually illustrates how an e-Lorentz transformation might be sustained, and concludes that, “presentism is not refuted by special relativity!” (p. 50). Cohen then culminates his chapter by confronting the problem of the Now as an open question.

Jimena Canales concludes the first section with the chapter, “Einstein’s Bergson Problem: Communication, Consensus and Good Science”. Here, Canales focuses on the Bergson-Einstein controversy; whereby, both men held differing opinions as to the possibility of physical time and a separate human existing apart from physical time. While the article does address both views, it also questions how the future of the debate may be shaped. Canales relates the origin of the controversy by describing the meeting between Einstein-Bergson in 1922. She also offers a short list of authors that represent opposing views concerning time in XX century. The opposing views she addresses regard physical time and the others regards psychological, yet she finds that, “neither of these labels do justice to the contributions of each men” (p. 57). Instead, Canales shows how Bergson is differs from Einstein, by evidencing their contrast through a comparison of the differences arising from their journals and the Letters of Einstein, which were the center the attention in the CIC meeting in Geneva (25 July, 1924). She further notes that it was in Geneva that Bergson and Einstein continued their debate, and critics to Bergson amalgamated, because, “[When] Einstein offered his official response…Bergson had not understood the physics of relativity” (p. 59).

Conversely, Cannels notes Bergson’s assumption that Einstein could not comprehend him because his lack of philosophical training—a point given heed by Bergson based on his supposition that the German (Einstein) did not read his book Duration of Simultaneity. Canales finishes the chapter by describing a third way the two men differ, favoring neither Einstein nor Bergson. Instead, she centers her attention on notion of communication, “science is replete with rhetorical strategies of nondialogue” (p. 69), Canales’ goal with this chapter is show a need for the perpetuation of improved rhetorical, argumentative, and persuasive practices, so as to benefit scientific communication practices and to establish a normative ideal of investigations. By instituting these two practices, a higher plane of communicatory practices can be established, providing the linchpin for garnering more of a consensus by generalists and specialists alike.

The Second Section, “Transience and Experience”, begins with a chapter written by Barry Dainton titled “Some Cosmological Implications of Temporal Experience”. The chapter illustrates constraints existing between the cosmological and phenomenological tradition. Therein, Dainton focuses his attention on the implications of temporal experience in metaphysical theorization regarding time. Dainton also defends Existentialism from objections and discusses the relationship between Existentialism and Cosmological conception, via block universe, presentism et al. He then adopts the notion of “extended presentism” as the most promising option for cosmology.

After observing the implications of motion, that Zeno, Russell, Broad and Slezak have noted, Dainton then revels an alternative called the “Extensional model”. Dainton also considers the merits of the Retentional and Extensional models of temporal experience, using music examples (Successions C-D-E-F-G) whose results are favorable to the scholars, thereby giving reason to accept the Extensional alternative to the Retentional account. Dainton explains Overlap Presentism’s characteristics, and unveils the compatibility between Existentialism and Ovelap Presentism. Dainton finishes the chapter by analyzing Bolzmann Brains theory, incorporating some of the differences between Brentano and Husserl’s thesis about time and which gives Dainton pause to reason the necessity for new approaches.

In “From Physical time to human time”, Jenann Ismael offers thne possibility of non-contradiction between flow time and conceives the universe as a block as a strategy for linking time and space. Ismael also adopts the idea that events that are represented by temporal perspectives are invariant of Eternalism point of view, based on his belief of there being, “[a] gap between the time everyday experience and the time of physics” (p. 107). Ismael, also confronts the problem of time by suggesting that, “some of the most difficult unsolved problems are much closer to the human scale and have to do with reconciling the way that physics tells us universe is with that we experience it” (p. 107), Lastly, he considers that the problem between familiar time and Block Universe present echoes of Parmenides and Heraclitus’s debate.

Ismael does provide some arguments regarding the historical perspective of natural thought, describing it as a combination of contents of memory and perception within the epistemic asymmetries of time. However, he proposes that it is the task of the investigator to advance from thought inside time (natural thought of history) to a thought outside of time as way to reconcile the Parmenidean and Hereclitian vision of time, or A-series and B-series. Ismael’s chapter concludes by developing new questions about physics time.

Tamar Levanon’s “Relation, Action and the Continuity of Transition” inquires as to the problem that exists between temporal experience and internal variation. This particularly relates to the succession of moments, whereby Levanon scrutinizes William James and Alfred North Whitehead’s thesis by contrasting in with Bertrand Russell`s thoughts. Levanon goes on to present the negation of Russell and conforms it to being a transition to James` and Whitehead`s approach. However, this factor does not mean that both authors share the same ideas. On one hand, Whitehead replaces succession from causation, while James refuses the notion of abstract succession. On the other hand, Russell considers succession as immediate experience between parts of one sense datum. Levanon concludes with by an following enlightening thought, “The claim is that temporality is already immersed with in our phases inevitably brings us back to the passage of time itself” (p. 141).

Ulrich Meyer’s chapter “Consciousness and the Present” defends the thesis there being a non-existent connection between consciousness and presentness, Meyer rather conceives, “whether the phenomenon of consciousness allows us to make a principled distinction between the preset and other times” (p. 143). Meyer starts describing two issues of philosophers of time, first the tension of Analytics and Continental Philosophers in the problem of relationship between physical time and human time, and second with the status of present moment, throw the view of Eternalists and Presentists (including a growing block view).

After explaining the dearth of independence between the issues cited, Meyer confronts the initial question, and bifurcates how consciousness could mark present through proposing that: (1) consciousness generates presentness or that (2) presentness brings about consciousness. This analysis is settled by George Myro’s theory and concludes with a reflection that divides the connection between consciousness and presentness.

Meir Hemmo and Orly Shenker’s chapter “The Arrow of Time” assumes that temporal directionality cannot be derived from science. Instead, the authors start with two uncontroversial facts: “we experience a direction of time”, and that, “we experience a direction of processes relative to this direction of time” (p. 155). The thesis of their chapter directs that physics is not the singular mode for analyzing time and that there are other modes for comprehending the direction of time. To support their claim, Hemmo and Shenker discuss the direction of thermodynamics, analyzing the argumentative structure from two points of view: (1) how to predict the increase of entropy towards future, and (2) from a historical analysis that proposes that entropy in thermodynamic retrodiction that entropy. Yet, for their claim to be properly contextualized, the authors introduce the reader to the notion of Past-Hypothesis. Their chapter concludes with the their submission that, “current physics is not complete, and its lacuna is in a very central and conspicuous place in the empirical data” (p. 156).

The third and final section, “Temporality and Phenomenology”, begins with Michael Roubach’s chapter “Heidegger’s Primordial Temporality and Other Notions of Time”. Therein, Roubach examines the notion of Heidegger’s “primordial temporality”, and reflects on this notion as the most basic form of time that is understood. Roubach delivers on his promise to argue for Heidegger’s claim of the existence of an, “ordinary notion of time [that] presupposes primordial temporality” (p. 165). Methodologically, Roubach explores the notion of primordial temporality (ursprüngliche Zeitlichkeit) in Being and Time, and assumes that some motivations arise to the problem or consciousness of time. In the middle of text, the authors invoke affinities between Heidegger and Brouwer’s intuitionism.

However, there are critics of Ricoeur and Blattner’s analysis of Heidegger’s thesis that  build an argument from Heidegger’s discussions of notion of time (futurity and finitude). Therein, a relationship between primordial temporality and consciousness of time and ordinary time is discovered. At the end of the text, Roubach rejects Ricoeur’s notion that “narrated time” precedes the Heideggerian perception of time, and rather considers the, “path [as] open for rethinking the relationship between conscious time and objective time” (p. 175), Roubach finishes evaluating the dichotomy between continental tradition and mathematical representation of time, and focuses on notion of primordial temporality as bridge between conscious and cosmological time.

The objective of Philip Turetzky’s “The Passive Syntheses of Time” is to describe Deleuze’s passive synthesis of time in order of its genesis. Turetzky’s chapter first compares lectures between how Husserl and Deleuze’s define and understand time, requiring a concurrent comparison from Hume’s influence. The text then discusses the idea of a non-unified field of the continental tradition based on a discussion of the Hursserlian topics of reductions, intentionality, genetic phenomenology and passivity. Turetzky’s then analyzes Deleuze’s three passive synthesis of time, concentrating on the third synthesis first, followed by the second and the first. Turetzky necessarily explains the notion of “caesura” and how it corresponds to Husserl’s notion of retention. Turetzky finishes his dense text by describing the project of Husserl in 1939 as “ground judgments in aesthetics” and demonstrating how the third synthesis is essential for second for Husserl’s conception of time (p. 201).

Dror Yinon concludes the text with his chapter “Change’s Order: On Deleuze’s Notion of Time”. Yinon’s chapter is based on the second chapter of Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition. He starts the chapter by analyzing the traditions that assume objective time is grounded on subjectivity and relating subjectivity with the transcendental structure of temporality. Yinon then deliberates about Deleuze’s three syntheses of time and focuses attention on Deleuze’s notion of change, concluding the chapter with McTaggart’s critique to time as change.

The ideas and underlying perceptions developed in Cosmological and Psychological Time denotes a great sum of learned reflection. Those scholars whose research concerns the nature of philosophy of time must access this text, as it brings a wide lens of analysis, and clarifies some important notions of the difficult topics discussed herein. In sum, I would submit that this text as a necessary addition to a researcher’s library, based on the depth it brings to the investigation of time and philosophy. The effort of the editors, Yuval Dolev and Michael Roubach, and all the contributors will, without a doubt, be recognized as relevant and timely.

Jimena Canales: The Physicist and the Philosopher

The Physicist and the Philosopher: Einstein, Bergson, and the Debate That Changed Our Understanding of Time Book Cover The Physicist and the Philosopher: Einstein, Bergson, and the Debate That Changed Our Understanding of Time
Jimena Canales
Princeton University Press
Paperback $24.95

Reviewed by: Stephen Chadwick (Massey University)

From the perspective of the twenty-first century it may seem strange to devote an entire book to the central figures discussed here. The physicist, Albert Einstein, quite rightly remains a cultural icon, renowned the world over for his revolutionary work in physics. The philosopher, on the other hand, Henry Bergson, is unlikely to be familiar to many of the general readers for which this book is written. This was not, of course, always the case, as is evidenced by the fact that both men were Nobel Prize Laureates, albeit in very different fields; Einstein received the Prize for physics in 1922 and Bergson for literature in 1927. In this book Jimena Canales successfully analysis just how important and influential both figures were in the first half of the twentieth-century as well as why Bergson’s fame subsequently dwindled whereas Einstein’s remained solid. However, the book also shows why, regardless of his current status, many of Bergson’s views are still just as important as those of Einstein.

The ‘debate that changed our understanding of time’, and the context in which it arose, is largely set out in Part One of the book and began at a meeting that occurred in Paris on 6th April 1922. It was hosted by the Société Française de Philosophie and Einstein had travelled from Germany especially for the event. In the audience were both physicists and philosophers who had been invited to hear Einstein speak about his general theory of relativity. The meeting was as much politically as intellectually motivated, for at that time there was great tension between France and Germany. He was thus invited to France ‘with the express purpose that his visit would serve to restore relations between German and French scholars’ (17). In many respects, as the book shows, this intended purpose was not achieved. The meeting took place only three years after Arthur Eddington had sailed to the island of Principe to measure the position of stars during a total solar eclipse, the result of which lent great weight to the truth of Einstein’s theory and made him a legend overnight. All facets of the theory were discussed but one particular aspect, its concept of time, was to cause great controversy and it is the ensuing debate on this topic that forms the core of this book.

In the audience that day was the famous French philosopher, Henry Bergson, who did not actually intend to speak. Like many other intellectuals of the day he fully understood the revolutionary nature of the scientific aspects of the theory of relativity and was astounded by the experimental results that lent it such strong support. However, Bergson did have a problem with Einstein’s conception of time, one that he considered was narrowly concerned with clocks and measurements. He thought that this conception was unnecessary for the science and was rather a dangerous ‘metaphysics’. When Einstein proclaimed that ‘there remains only a psychological time that differs from the physicist’s’ and ‘the time of the philosophers does not exist’ Bergson could remain silent no longer (5). Much of the remainder of the meeting centred upon this aspect of Einstein’s theory and whether ‘the time of the philosophers’ really does exist.

For Bergson this dualism regarding time was an inadequate description of reality, for although there was the time measured by clocks, and the time as experienced, these could not be separated as easily as Einstein proclaimed. As Canales notes, ‘Bergson’s perspective on time measurement could not be more different from Einstein’s. The philosopher was convinced about the importance of the unquantifiable aspects of time, whereas the physicist was equally convinced of the opposite’ (252). Bergson developed this view in his book Duration and Simultaneity published later that year.

In terms of the debate, most physics thought Einstein had won and that ‘rationality’ had triumphed over ‘intuition’. However, many others took Bergson’s view much more seriously as evidenced by what occurred at Einstein’s Nobel Prize ceremony, which occurred later that same year. Although it was by far the greater achievement, Einstein was not actually presented with the Prize for his work on relativity but rather for that on the photoelectric effect. One of the reasons given for this was that relativity ‘pertains essentially to epistemology and has therefore been the subject of lively debate in philosophical circles. It will be no secret that the famous philosopher Bergson in Paris has challenged this theory.’ So Einstein failed to secure the prize on the merits of his work on relativity not because of any scientific shortfall but because of the alleged ‘metaphysics’ coupled to it. Subsequently, however, Bergson’s view was discredited by most scientists because of what appeared to be a total lack of understanding of relativity. Bergson claimed that the central message of his book Duration and Simultaneity was to ‘explicitly prove that there is no difference, in what concerns Time, between a system in motion and a system in uniform translation’ (25). This is fundamentally at odds with the theory of relativity and can be empirically proven to be false. Bergson did, however, subsequently state that he did accept the effects of time dilation but claimed that this had no effect on his conception of time.

In Part Two of the book Canales takes us beyond the actual meeting that occurred in Paris and introduces us to the lives and ideas of many of the significant scientists and philosophers of the age who became embroiled in the debate. Amongst them are Paul Langevin, Henri Poincaré, Hendrik Lortentz, Albert Michelson, Ernst Cassirer, Martin Heidegger, Hans Reichenbach, Rudolph Carnap, Jean Becquerel, Arthur Eddington and Bertrand Russell. Some of these supported Bergson whilst others Einstein and in a few cases neither. For each of these Canales provides biographical information, explains how they were associated with Einstein and Bergson, and how their views influenced the debate concerning the nature of time. The sheer number of figures that are introduced is testament to how important this debate became as well as to the breadth of this study. In addition Canales examines how the Catholic Church as an institution reacted to this debate as well how Einstein and Bergson dealt with the emergence of the new science of quantum mechanics, many proponents of which felt that it somewhat rescued Bergson’s conception of time.

Part Three ‘focuses on the debate by taking us beyond the men, asking instead what drove them to fall into such a stark impasse in the first place’ (242). Canales takes us on a journey through the development of technologies that occurred during the twentieth-century and explores the effect these ‘things’ had on the two conceptions of time, noting ‘what do we find when we look even more carefully behind the scenes of the debate? We stumble upon certain things that drove ‘adversaries’ into absolutely opposite positions’ (241). The ‘things’ that she considers include clocks, the telegraph, the telephone and radio communications, cinematographic cameras and film, atoms and molecules. In each case she explains at length the effect they had on Einstein and Bergson and their theories of time. She claims that ‘Einstein and Bergson disagreed about the meaning, use, and importance of all of these things’ and ‘they played a central role in the twentieth-century divisions often associated with Bergson and Einstein’ (241).

In the final part, Canales examines the last comments that the physicist and the philosopher made about each other. We find that, whilst Bergson did not deny his genius, he considered Einstein to be a relentless self-promoter. Canales presents some fascinating comments Einstein made about himself, and also describes aspects of his behaviour which suggest that there was some truth in this. Bergson’s last thoughts on Einstein’s conception of time, in his book La Pensée et le mouvant, show that he held firm to his own view when he writes ‘with regard to Time attached to Space, to a fourth dimension of Space-Time, it has no existence . . . other than on paper’ (335). Furthermore, ‘the reality of [Einstein’s] Space-Time is purely mathematical, and one cannot transform it into a metaphysical reality, or into ‘reality’ tout court, without giving to this word a new meaning’ (335). Einstein, who outlived Bergson by over a decade, similarly held steadfast to his view of time up until the day he died. Writing to a friend shortly before he died he said ‘you cannot get used to the idea that subjective time with its own ‘now’ should not have any objective meaning. See Bergson!’ (338).

In this book Canales shows that the apparent difference between ‘the time of the universe’ discovered by Einstein, and ‘the time of our lives’ associated with Bergson, had a major impact on the views of subsequent scientists, humanists, and philosophers that is still felt to the present day. She cleverly demonstrates why this is the case whilst at the same time providing interesting biographical background of the main characters as well as presenting it in the context of the social and political upheavals that raged across the world during the first half of the twentieth-century. Her writing style and composition makes the book an enjoyable read and her clear exposition renders some difficult concepts in physics and philosophy easily accessible. The book will be of great interest to both the specialist and the general reader.

Jimena Canales: The Physicist and the Philosopher: Einstein, Bergson and the Debate That Changed Our Understanding of Time

The Physicist and the Philosopher: Einstein, Bergson, and the Debate That Changed Our Understanding of Time Book Cover The Physicist and the Philosopher: Einstein, Bergson, and the Debate That Changed Our Understanding of Time
Jimena Canales
Princeton University Press
Paperback $24.95

Reviewed by: Diana Soeiro (Nova University of Lisbon)

O nome do físico alemão Albert Einstein (1879-1955) é bem conhecido pelo público em geral. O do filósofo francês Henri Bergson (1859-1941), nem tanto. No entanto, em vida, ambos tiveram amplo reconhecimento. Einstein recebeu em 1922 o Prémio Nobel da Física e, Bergson, em 1927, o Prémio Nobel da Literatura e a Grã-Cruz da Legião de Honra (1930). Na época, enquanto a reputação de Bergson já era elevada, Einstein ainda começava a aparecer nos circulos académicos.

Mas mesmo para quem conhece ambos é estranho pensar que, realmente, com o passar do tempo, enquanto Einstein continua a ter uma presença no imaginário de muitos enquanto cientista (ou mesmo enquanto ‘o cientista’), Bergson não. Sendo ambos intelectuais de peso, porquê os destinos diferentes? Existem razões que possam explicar a recepção calorosa de Einstein e a relativa indiferença a Bergson?

Jimena Canales faz um trabalho extraordinário esclarecendo esta e muitas outras questões. Ainda que o enquadramento narrativo do livro seja descrever os acontecimentos que precederam, e que se seguiram, ao único encontro público entre Einstein e Bergson (a 6 de Abril de 1922, em Paris) é um facto que, ao fazer isto, Canales esclarece o leitor acerca do pano de fundo que contextualiza a investigação científica de todo o século XX. Soando ambicioso, a fluidez e naturalidade com que Canales desenvolve a sua obra, torna este livro faz com que este livro não se torne banal. Ao público em geral, torna um assunto complexo, acessível. Ao especialista, dada a amplitude de áreas e nomes que Canales inclui, oferece uma visão verdadeiramente multidisciplinar do panorama científico tornando a leitura ávida.

Durante o encontro de 1922, Einstein e Bergson tinham por assunto discutir cada uma das suas propostas relativamente à questão: “o que é o tempo?”. A escolha de um e de outro, para o debate, cumpria vários objectivos. Por um lado, como refere Canales, aproximar a França e a Alemanha que, num contexto pós-Primeira Guerra Mundial (1914-1918), tinham relações tensas (Capítulo 2). Por outro lado, Bergson tinha nome e era da área da Filosofia; Einstein era um jovem professor que muito rapidamente tinha assumido um lugar de destaque dentro da universidade, leccionando a recém-criada disciplina de Teoria Física, na Alemanha, e começando a ganhar fama nos círculos científicos. O que poderia acontecer se a “ciência primeira”, a Filosofia, entrasse em confronto com uma das mais recentes ciências, relativamente a um conceito central para ambas?

A propósito de confronto entre Filosofia e ciência, e oferecendo um contexto que o livro não oferece, relembramos Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), matemático e filósofo, cujo trabalho tem duas fases. Uma primeira em que a base do seu trabalho assenta na reflexão sobre elementos da Matemática e uma segunda fase, em que se percebe haver uma transição no pensamento de Husserl, que o torna particularmente focado em questões metafísicas. Para uns, a segunda fase é lamentável, evidenciando um Husserl que perdeu a orientação; para outros, essa mesma fase é um desenvolvimento natural da primeira, em que as suas reflexões ganham clareza, maturidade e lucidez.

Isto para dizer que, num contexto de século XX, o lugar da Filosofia face às várias novas ciências emergentes no início do século, é um tema central para compreender o confronto Einstein-Bergson que está também presente no trabalho de Husserl, que virá a criar uma das correntes filosóficas mais influentes, a Fenomenologia (base do que é conhecido hoje, no mundo Anglófono como Filosofia Continental). O confronto entre Filosofia e Ciência é, portanto, de grande relevância não apenas em diversos outros autores, mas até mesmo para a compreensão de um autor do século XX que é, não por acaso, incontornável.

No início do século XX, muito rapidamente, as ciências sociais emergem, resultado de um cruzamento entre as Humanidades (Filosofia e Artes) e o Positivismo (aqui entendido no sentido enunciado por Auguste Comte (1798-1857)), procurando não mais o “porquê” mas sim o “como”, submetendo a imaginação à razão. Objectividade é a palavra de ordem. O recurso à Matemática, aos números, torna-se assim elemento indispensável, marca de um verdadeiro conhecimento científico. Ainda hoje, números, estatísticas, gráficos são sinónimo de credibilidade. Isso é ciência.

Na altura do debate Einstein-Bergson, como Husserl viria a discutir pouco depois em A Crise das Ciências Europeias e a Fenomenologia Transcendental (1936), já se estava em plena crise das ciências. Entre as muitas perguntas que se levantavam, encontrava-se uma central: Qual o papel da Filosofia perante a emergência de uma nova concepção de ciência, positivista, e perante a emergência de novas ciências, ditas, sociais?

Como lembra Canales, nas palavras de Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), devemos assumir que a Filosofia é uma forma especial de ciência, “a ciência primeira”, sendo isso suficiente para reclamar a sua relevância? (Capítulo 11) Não. Heidegger, discípulo de Husserl, discordava de Husserl em vários aspectos, mas ambos estavam de acordo com o diagnóstico de que a Filosofia estava em uma época em que se encontrava ameaçada, precisando reafirmar sua legitimidade. O que fazer?

O encontro de Einstein e Bergson anuncia as duas posições que se virão a extremar cada vez mais ao longo do século, sendo que em 1922, a situação era já evidente: a decadência da Filosofia e o triunfo da ciência. (p.6) O encontro tornou-se, com o passar do tempo, cada vez mais significativo, porque simbólico de um “velho mundo” da ciência (Bergson) e de um “novo mundo” da ciência (Einstein). De lembrar que, em 1750, Denis Diderot (1713-1784) ainda considera “filosofia” e “ciência” como sinónimos. (p.40)

Acentuando ainda mais este contraste entre “velho” e “novo”, Bergson, toda a sua vida, permaneceu em França (mesmo durante a ocupação alemã, em 1941) enquanto Einstein nos anos 30, se mudou para o “novo mundo”.

Einstein, tendo visitado os Estados Unidos da América (EUA) pela primeira vez em 1921, com a subida de Hitler ao poder, em 1933, sabendo que não podia regressar à Alemanha, encontrou posição na universidade de Princeton (New Jersey). Tendo obtido cidadania americana em 1940, viveu nos Estados Unidos até ao fim da sua vida. (Boyer e Dubovsky 2001, 218) De reconhecido académico passou a celebridade científica.

Bergson, por sua vez, tendo feito conferências no Reino Unido e nos EUA, tendo vários trabalhos seus traduzidos em várias línguas e sendo amplamente reconhecido, não se tornou celebridade.

No dia do encontro, em 1922, Bergson tinha 62 anos e Einstein 43. Ambos se mencionaram mutuamente por várias vezes, ao longo de vários anos, talvez por perceberem que os tempos urgiam ao constante relembrar da sua diferença de posições. “O que é o tempo?”. Que posição defendia cada um?

Para Bergson, a teoria da relatividade explicava o tempo, do ponto de vista da Física, mas o que havia para saber acerca do tempo, nem de perto nem de longe, acabava aí. A Filosofia, sim, tinha uma contribuição a fazer que podia ser relevante para esclarecer a pergunta de forma mais completa.

Para Einstein “o tempo dos filósofos não existe” (p.19), acreditando que existem acontecimentos objectivos que são independentes dos indivíduos e que o dever da ciência é identificá-los. (p.20) A definição de tempo de Einstein assentava em medições e em relógios. Para Bergson, a ideia era aberrante. (p.42) Não que Bergson “não acreditasse” em relógios. Mas para ele, os relógios ajudavam a notar simultaneidades. No entanto, isso dizia ainda pouco acerca de ‘o que é o tempo’. Mais ainda, os relógios não medem a duração, dizia Bergson, permitem apenas “contar simultaneidades, o que é muito diferente” (p.43). Para Bergson, na duração há uma “perpétua criação de possibilidade e não apenas de realidade.” (p.44) O seu livro Duração e Simultaneidade (1922) é uma resposta ao conceito de tempo de Einstein. (p.14)

O contraste entre ambos é extremo. Einstein procurava a unidade do universo e leis imutáveis, Bergson procurava desencobrir a dinâmica incessante criadora. Einstein procurava consistência e simplicidade e Bergson, inconsistências e complexidades.

Para Einstein, havia um tempo psicológico (o da Filosofia) e um tempo físico (da Física), sendo que ao psicológico nada de concreto correspondia (p.47). Esta ideia repelia Bergson, em primeiro lugar, a dualidade apenas já não fazia sentido nenhum (p.5) Einstein dizia que Bergson (ainda que tivesse formação de base em Matemática) não percebia nada de Física e não compreendia os cálculos. A resposta de Bergson a Einstein foi largamente ignorada, tendo sido acusado de espiritualista, anti-ciência, contra o mecanismo e revivalista do oculto (p.9, 13)

Certo é que, para Bergson, o Tempo (capitalizado, como Bergson escrevia) nunca poderia ser inteiramente captado por números, instrumentos (relógios ou instrumentos de gravação) ou fórmulas matemáticas. (p.24)

Einstein queria salvar a relatividade da metafísica e, por isto, a perspectiva da Filosofa podia, e devia, ser evitada. Mas para Bergson, a questão do tempo mostrava como, mesmo a física, não podia escapar a relacionar o problema com a experiência humana. (p.48) A teoria da relatividade, para Bergson, dizia respeito à Epistemologia e não à Física e tinha de ser percebida, prioritariamente, à luz da Filosofia. (p.4) Ou seja, o que estava em causa era o método, ou seja, qual a forma de acesso em jogo na teoria da relatividade? Um acesso, sim, mas limitado, restrito, ao qual a realidade vivida do humano escapava por completo.

Segundo Bergson, Einstein explica alguma coisa acerca do tempo, mas não tudo, o que é estranho, para uma teoria que reclama a unidade de um todo e que toma isso mesmo, por princípio. É um paradoxo epistemológico e é aqui que reside o problema. Mais ainda, Einstein refere-se a si próprio como sendo “um físico de fé” (p.339). Einstein procede assim de forma dedutiva, a partir de um princípio de fé, como o próprio admite, e Bergson usa um método indutivo e daí o foco em avançar caso a caso. Não é de estranhar que à dada altura, Bergson tenha acusado Einstein de ser Cartesiano (apesar de Einstein ter acusado Bergson do mesmo).

Indo ainda mais longe, e apontando uma diferença epistemológica essencial, para Einstein, o universo não depende de qualquer observador, humano ou de qualquer outro tipo. Para Bergson, a componente humana é inescapável, mesmo quando se trata de ler um instrumento, sem a qual, este, não seria lido. (p.323)

Sobre o que terá contribuído para a separação entre ‘filosofia’ e ‘ciência’, Canales diz-nos que circa 1830, o termo “cientista” é usado como substituição de “filósofos da natureza”. Pouco depois, em 1840, aparece o termo “físico”, para descrever aquele que estuda a “força, matéria e as propriedades da matéria”. (p.40) Isto significa que primeiro o conceito de natureza deixa de estar associado à Filosofia e pouco depois o conceito de força também. Bergson, pretende recuperar os dois, captando a manifestação do tempo, de forma dinâmica, na experiência do vivido (segundo a natureza humana), dinâmica a qual depende de um impulso, de um motor vital, em constante movimento. Fortemente influenciado por Bergson, Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995) assume o conceito de força como central no seu trabalho, sendo um autor que fortemente contribuiu para uma redescoberta de Bergson.

Como mostra Canales, a mecânica quântica (que questiona a relatividade), a teoria do caos e a cibernética tornaram o trabalho de Bergson relevante outra vez. Bergson, tendo outrora aparecido como o representante de uma “velha ciência”, ressurgiu como relevante para compreender, por exemplo, as novas tecnologias (telégrafo, telefone e rádio — Capítulo 22) considerando que a comunicação excede a comunicação de sinais, como Einstein entendia. O que torna a comunicação significativa inclui imaginação e interpretação. (p.271)

Tendo por elemento central a disputa entre Einstein e Bergson, que na verdade é um evento que se viria a tornar símbolo do arquétipo epistemológico das duas posições nos círculos académicos, no século XX, Canales contextualiza o trabalho desenvolvido por Henri Poincaré (1854-1912), Albert A. Michelson (1852-1931, Prémio Nobel da Física, 1907), Hendrik Lorentz (1853-1928), Ernst Cassirer (1874-1945), Husserl, Heidegger, Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947), Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), León Brunschvicg (1869-1944), Gaston Bachelard (1884-1962), Franz Kafka (1883-1924), Deleuze e Bruno Latour (n.1947). Contextualiza também ambos os paradigmas epistemológicos relativamente ao esforço para estabelecer um calendário, ao esforço de medir de forma exacta o tempo, à reacção por parte da igreja católica a ambos os paradigmas, à passagem dos relógios de bolso para os relógios de pulso, (capítulo 21), ao cinema (Capítulo 24 e 25), e à microbiologia, que Einstein desconsiderava e que Bergson queria incluir na sua filosofia (capítulo 26).

Todos estes elementos, aparentemente dispersos e “secundários” têm um papel determinante, historicamente, para determinar a recepção e reputação de Einstein e Bergson. É esta riqueza, e clareza, de personalidades e eventos secundários, lidos à luz do encontro de Einstein e Bergson, que torna o livro de Canales inteligente, estimulante e relevante para muitos. É por isto que, certamente, muitos procuram este livro e espera-se que o venham a encontrar. Historiadores, filósofos, físicos, cientistas, interessados, especialistas em cada um dos autores referidos, poderão encontrar aqui uma contextualização simples e valiosa, que vinga por não ser simplista.

No tempo do debate, as posições de Einstein e Bergson eram entendidas como “ou-ou” (p.7) e para Caneles, hoje, não tem de ser assim, podemos viver com as duas. No fundo, a autora favorece a sugestão de Heidegger que, perante a dicotomia (nas suas palavras), entre “o tempo do relógio” e “o tempo vivido”, encontrava no ‘quotidiano’, o foco que resolvia a dicotomia entre ambas, visto que aí, os seus contornos tornavam indiscerníveis. (p.147)

Certo é que “[p]ara o melhor ou para o pior, o debate entre Einstein e Bergson não acabou, e provavelmente nunca irá acabar.” (p.39)


Boyer, Paul S. and Melvyn Dubofsky. 2001. The Oxford Companion to United States History. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lawlor, Leonard and Valentine Moulard Leonard “Henri Bergson”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), Acedido a 6 de Dezembro 2016.

Bourdeau, Michel, “Auguste Comte”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2015 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), Acedido a 6 de Dezembro 2016.