chapter  Three
24 Pages

Freedom

WithMark Sinclair

Henri Bergson claims that we have an experience of freedom, a direct experience of our freedom to shape our own acts. On Bergson’s analysis, however, given that the human being can be considered as both mind and body, determinist positions can take two distinct but interrelated forms: physical determinism and psychological determinism. In the brief passage that separates the discussion of physical determinism from psychological determinism, he does so not by denying that forces operate in the mind, but only by denying that the principle of the conservation of force or energy is applicable in psychology. To consider alternative possibilities as a condition of the free act is to spatialise psychical life, to risk ceding victory to the determinist, and to pass over a more primitive sense of freedom present in immediate experience. Wholly free acts, then, are rare, they express one’s whole self, which is to say, the entirety of one’s past, and freedom is a matter of degree.