Philosophy and the Adventure of the Virtual: Bergson and the Time of Life

Philosophy and the Adventure of the Virtual: Bergson and the Time of Life

Philosophy and the Adventure of the Virtual: Bergson and the Time of Life

Philosophy and the Adventure of the Virtual: Bergson and the Time of Life


With the development of new technologies and the Internet, the notion of the virtual has grown increasingly important. In this lucid collection of essays, Pearson bridges the continental-analytic divide in philosophy, bringing the virtual to centre stage and arguing its importance for re-thinking such central philosophical questions as time and life. Drawing on philosophers from Bergson, Kant and Nietzsche to Proust, Russell, Dennett and Badiou, Pearson examines the limits of continuity, explores relativity, and offers a concept of creative evolution.


Problems or Ideas emanate from imperatives of adventure or from events which appear in the form of questions.

(Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, 1968)

The appeal to the originating goes in several directions: the originating breaks up, and philosophy must accompany this break-up, this non-coincidence, this differentiation.

(Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and the Invisible, 1959-60)

To neglect differences of nature in favour of genres is thus to belie philosophy. We have lost the differences of nature.

(Deleuze, 'Bergson's Conception of Difference', 1956)

In this volume of essays I approach the question of time and the question of life through the elaboration of a philosophy of the virtual (the conjunction of the two questions constitutes the enigma of the book). in recent years the notion of the virtual has assumed a degree of extraordinary importance for attempts to articulate new experiences of the real (see, for example, the studies by Heim 1993, Levy 1998, Hayles 1999). As a conceptual innovation within philosophic modernity the notion is associated with the work of Bergson and assumes a role of vital importance in the texts of Deleuze. Indeed, Alain Badiou has gone so far as to claim that it is the principal name of Being in Deleuze's thinking. Within Bergson and Deleuze we have the distinction between virtual (continuous) multiplicities and actual (or discrete) multiplicities, a conception of the evolution of life as involving an actualization of the virtual in contrast to the less inventive or creative realization of the possible; the attempt to show that both perception and memory involve virtual images; and, in the case of Deleuze, a thinking of the event as virtual (pure reserve). Deleuze's conceives the virtual as a productive power of difference, a simplicity and potentiality, which denotes neither a deficient nor an inadequate mode of being. Hence the key formula, borrowed from Proust's Time Regained: the virtual is real without being

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