Mark Sinclair: Habit and Time as "Flowing Duration"

On The June 22, 2020

Please contact for connection
Video-conference seminar

In this talk, I show how it is that reflection on habit leads to reflection on time as duration, and how it is possible to argue that, at bottom, time is really the most fundamental form of habit.

In the late nineteenth century, as is well known, Henri Bergson develops a notion of time as ‘real duration’; this is time as immediately experienced and as irreducible to the spatial categories by which we ordinarily measure and conceive it.

It is little appreciated, however, that in his 1875 L’habitude et l’instinct Albert Lemoine, in reflecting on habit, promotes a non-linear notion of ‘flowing duration’ according to which it is not possible to say – as we would ordinarily – that the past is simply earlier than the present and the future simply later than the present. Lemoine in 1875 articulates something like the conception of duration that Bergson will elaborate in 1889 … but in reflecting on habit.

Mark Sinclair is Reader in Philosophy at the University of Roehampton, London and a 2019-2020 fellow at the Collegium de Lyon.