The Music of Entropy: A Bergsonian Theory of Criticism
The division between aesthetic and scientific models of knowledge, whose rivalry within criticism continues to fuel a "two cultures" debate, originates with the conception of 'substance' As the material basis of classical physics, substance is a quantity of rigid, indestructible bodies, whose rearrangements in absolute space form the logical equivalence of cause and effect, constituting an orderly mechanical system. The logical equivalence of cause and effect transforms the succession of past, present, and future into simultaneity, a timeless now. The passage of time is thereby not part of the physical universe, but is an adscititious quality of the perceiving mind. This subject-object dualism deprives time of its ontological status and relegates it to the phenomenal realm of aesthetic investigation. This dualism reaches a crisis in the second law of thermodynamics, according to which energy disperses in an irreversible direction, objectifying the passage of time while inevitably disordering the system (entropy). This problem is resolved through an implicit critique of substance that unifies Bergson's philosophy. His method of intuition, apprehension prior to conceptualization, collapses the subject-object duality to reveal a manifold universe of qualitative tensions. Matter and space are merged in pure duration, a process by which one moment penetrates the next in a continuum of irreversible becoming: a successive differentiated whole which remains a whole in spite of its successive character and which remains differentiated in spite of its dynamic wholeness. Thermodynamic irreversibility does not lead to entropy, but is the continuous organization of the universe. Bergson's intuition is corroborated by, and resolves outstanding paradoxes in, the logico-empirical discoveries of quantum mechanics and general relativity. Through this vision of a qualitative, creative universe, a theory of criticism is constructed that unites the scientific and the aesthetic into a single model of knowledge.
Keywords: Bergson, Theory of Criticism, Substance, Aesthetics, Science
Mr Justin Hayes
Fulbright-Hays Fellow, Council on African Studies, Yale University