On Bergson’s Valuation of Habit

Preface to second edition (the first rough edition was typed and cataloged in 2009)

I feel compelled to throw my philosophical musings out into the oversized world of the Internet where many ideas indeed generate, thrive, and die, though not necessarily all of these nor occurring in that order. The story to this “criticism” stems from lectures given by Elizabeth Grosz during 2006-2007 to which I was fortunate enough to be an audience. I largely agreed with Bergson’s ontology but certain parts of it I indeed disagree: for example the word “bifurcation” being uttered by Grosz’s lips is one such instance that enters my mind as a nuisance for it is disagreeable and untidy to my philosophical views. I am not yet able to scholarly disagree with Bergson on any matter because I have never read any of his works, though I used to have the intent. Rather I am disagreeing with Grosz’s version of Bergson that she spoke of during her lectures. I may insert/delete words into the rough edition below to bring clarity. I will also include the archiving system numbers for any bizarre posterity purposes, which doubtless will never happen, but there’s always more than a zero chance. Enough babble!

Introduction to the hybridized edition:

Bergson puts habits into a positive light for the convienent function they serve the human animal. I believe that he would want this to be thought of in the immediate aftermath of the Darwinian reconception of the geneology of the world of which Bergson was arguably at the forefront. The human ability to form habits specifically, and the larger kingdom of life generally, are something Bergson wants to point out, perhaps in contrast to romantic (and enlightenment) views of human ingenuity as something distinct, ahistorical, and special. I can appreciate what Bergson is doing, and I’m sure he was and has made great strides for what ideas are now legal to possess (akin to Picasso painting a blue horse paved the way for more drastic yet less daring surrealism) in the realm of thought. However, at the base level of a habit being something so ordinary and full of bland industrial lifestyles, I had to speak out against it. Forgive my haste, but I must get to bed for my standard 7.5 hours of sleep.

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Description: criticism of the bergsonian valuing of habit, it takes adventure out and is a belittling view of how much interaction can take place


Having habits towards objects allows us to see other parts of the objects that we normally would weed out if we didn’t have the habits already established. In other words, we can put our focus past driving the car once driving a particular route becomes a habit, and we can turn our attention to listening to a podcast. I think Bergson is being overly conservative in this sense, and not opening up the possibility of both ourselves gaining higher awareness of more of the objects own ability to evolve. We become inclined to stabalize the object for our use rather than exploring its ability to evolve and create new relationships with it, which at the very least would be artistic and at the most would be that and very useful.

If there is this background of habitualness, this is a sort of regimentation that takes away opportunities for adventure that I think we all need life to be. Bergson is defending the status quo, or the temporary trends of life, which are somewhat regressive, and colonial, as something that is beyond questioning and deserves to be normalized.

By habitualizing an interaction with an object, we are subtracting from the potential for deepening, curving layers of unforetold interactions. The object surely we should presume wants to interact at a higher level than a conservative, habitualizing life-form that Bergson thinks praiseworthy. What is the reason for this assertion? That consciousnesses stems from motion, as I’m sure Bergson would agree, and so to remain an inert box that isn’t moved around, massaged, placed anew and allowed to dissolve in countless ways over some set amount of time to affect and be affected by reality, is a sad state for the box. Not only is the box boxed in, but increasingly we will be, by all our habits. This allows us the ability to maintain a more stable identity, as we have many stable reference points in the objects we habitually gather unto ourselves—but what sort of weak identity is this for a human? The beings that have within them the most versatile and deep rooted ephemeralities that in an instant a whole world from molar to micro can be changed drastically. Waves and sevaws coursing through a deepening being to be reduced to interactions that the intent of which is banality.

We lose so much when we reduce our daily lives to a series of habits for the pitiful reward of some “free time”. When we opt for easiness, we descent towards nothingness.


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