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Henri Bergson

Henri Bergson

Overview
Henri-Louis Bergson was a major French philosopher
French philosophy
French philosophy, here taken to mean philosophy in the French language, has been extremely diverse and has influenced Western philosophy as a whole for centuries, from the medieval scholasticism of Peter Abelard, through the founding of modern philosophy by René Descartes, to 20th century...

, influential especially in the first half of the 20th century. Bergson convinced many thinkers that immediate experience and intuition
Intuition (knowledge)
Intuition is the ability to acquire knowledge without inference or the use of reason. "The word 'intuition' comes from the Latin word 'intueri', which is often roughly translated as meaning 'to look inside'’ or 'to contemplate'." Intuition provides us with beliefs that we cannot necessarily justify...

 are more significant than rationalism
Rationalism
In epistemology and in its modern sense, rationalism is "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification" . In more technical terms, it is a method or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive"...

 and science
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

 for understanding reality
Reality
In philosophy, reality is the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or might be imagined. In a wider definition, reality includes everything that is and has been, whether or not it is observable or comprehensible...

.

He was awarded the 1927 Nobel Prize in Literature
Nobel Prize in Literature
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"...

 "in recognition of his rich and vitalizing ideas and the brilliant skill with which they have been presented".

Bergson was born in the Rue Lamartine in Paris, not far from the Palais Garnier
Palais Garnier
The Palais Garnier, , is an elegant 1,979-seat opera house, which was built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera. It was originally called the Salle des Capucines because of its location on the Boulevard des Capucines in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, but soon became known as the Palais Garnier...

 (the old Paris opera house) in 1859 (the year in which France emerged as a victor in the Second Italian War of Independence
Second Italian War of Independence
The Second War of Italian Independence, Franco-Austrian War, Austro-Sardinian War, or Austro-Piedmontese War , was fought by Napoleon III of France and the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia against the Austrian Empire in 1859...

, and in the month before the publication of Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

's On the Origin of Species).
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Quotations

Think like a man of action, act like a man of thought.

Quoted in Forbes magazine, Vol. 143 (1989)

Intuition is a method of feeling one's way intellectually into the inner heart of a thing to locate what is unique and inexpressible in it.

Quoted in Georgia O'Keeffe, 1887-1986 : Flowers in the Desert (2000) by Britta Benke, p. 28
Encyclopedia
Henri-Louis Bergson was a major French philosopher
French philosophy
French philosophy, here taken to mean philosophy in the French language, has been extremely diverse and has influenced Western philosophy as a whole for centuries, from the medieval scholasticism of Peter Abelard, through the founding of modern philosophy by René Descartes, to 20th century...

, influential especially in the first half of the 20th century. Bergson convinced many thinkers that immediate experience and intuition
Intuition (knowledge)
Intuition is the ability to acquire knowledge without inference or the use of reason. "The word 'intuition' comes from the Latin word 'intueri', which is often roughly translated as meaning 'to look inside'’ or 'to contemplate'." Intuition provides us with beliefs that we cannot necessarily justify...

 are more significant than rationalism
Rationalism
In epistemology and in its modern sense, rationalism is "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification" . In more technical terms, it is a method or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive"...

 and science
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

 for understanding reality
Reality
In philosophy, reality is the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or might be imagined. In a wider definition, reality includes everything that is and has been, whether or not it is observable or comprehensible...

.

He was awarded the 1927 Nobel Prize in Literature
Nobel Prize in Literature
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"...

 "in recognition of his rich and vitalizing ideas and the brilliant skill with which they have been presented".

Overview


Bergson was born in the Rue Lamartine in Paris, not far from the Palais Garnier
Palais Garnier
The Palais Garnier, , is an elegant 1,979-seat opera house, which was built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera. It was originally called the Salle des Capucines because of its location on the Boulevard des Capucines in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, but soon became known as the Palais Garnier...

 (the old Paris opera house) in 1859 (the year in which France emerged as a victor in the Second Italian War of Independence
Second Italian War of Independence
The Second War of Italian Independence, Franco-Austrian War, Austro-Sardinian War, or Austro-Piedmontese War , was fought by Napoleon III of France and the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia against the Austrian Empire in 1859...

, and in the month before the publication of Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

's On the Origin of Species). His father, the musician Michał Bergson, was of a Polish Jewish family background (originally bearing the name Bereksohn). His mother, Katherine Levison, daughter of a Yorkshire doctor, was from an English and Irish
Irish people
The Irish people are an ethnic group who originate in Ireland, an island in northwestern Europe. Ireland has been populated for around 9,000 years , with the Irish people's earliest ancestors recorded having legends of being descended from groups such as the Nemedians, Fomorians, Fir Bolg, Tuatha...

 Jewish background. The Bereksohns were a famous Jewish entrepreneurial family of Polish descent. Henri Bergson's great-great-grandfather, Szmul Jakubowicz Sonnenberg, called Zbytkower, was a prominent banker and a protégé of Stanisław August Poniatowski,
King of Poland from 1764 to 1795.

Henri Bergson's family lived in London for a few years after his birth, and he obtained an early familiarity with the English language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 from his mother. Before he was nine, his parents crossed the English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

 and settled in France, Henri becoming a naturalized French citizen.

Henri Bergson married Louise Neuberger, a cousin of Marcel Proust
Marcel Proust
Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust was a French novelist, critic, and essayist best known for his monumental À la recherche du temps perdu...

 (1871–1922), in 1891. (The novelist served as best man at Bergson's wedding.) Henri and Louise Bergson had a daughter, Jeanne, born deaf in 1896.

Bergson's sister, Mina Bergson (also known as Moina Mathers
Moina Mathers
Moina Mathers, born as Mina Bergson , was an artist and occultist at the turn of the 20th century. She was the sister of French philosopher Henri Bergson, the first man of Jewish descent to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1927...

), married the English occult author Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers
Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers
Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers , born Samuel Liddell Mathers, was one of the most influential figures in modern Occultism...

, a founder of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was a magical order active in Great Britain during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which practiced theurgy and spiritual development...

, and the couple later relocated to Paris as well.

Bergson lived the quiet life of a French professor, marked by the publication of his four principal works:
  1. in 1889, Time and Free Will
    Time and Free Will
    Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness is the title of Henri Bergson's doctoral thesis, first published in 1889...

    (Essai sur les données immédiates de la conscience)
  2. in 1896, Matter and Memory
    Matter and Memory
    Matter and Memory is one of the four main works by the French philosopher Henri Bergson . Its subtitle is "Essay on the relation of body and spirit", and the work presents an analysis of the classical philosophical problems concerning this relation...

    (Matière et mémoire)
  3. in 1907, Creative Evolution
    Creative Evolution (book)
    Creative Evolution is a 1907 book by French philosopher Henri Bergson. Its English translation appeared in 1911. The book provides an alternate explanation for Darwin's mechanism of evolution, suggesting that evolution is motivated by an élan vital, a "vital impetus" that can also be understood...

    (L'Evolution créatrice)
  4. in 1932, The Two Sources of Morality and Religion (Les deux sources de la morale et de la religion)


In 1900 the College of France selected Bergson to a Chair of Greek and Latin Philosophy, which he held until 1904. He then replaced Gabriel Tarde
Gabriel Tarde
Jean-Gabriel De Tarde or Gabriel Tarde in short French sociologist, criminologist and social psychologist who conceived sociology as based on small psychological interactions among individuals , the fundamental forces being imitation and innovation.- Theory :Among the concepts...

 in the Chair of Modern Philosophy, which he held until 1920. The public attended his open courses in large numbers.

Education and career


Bergson attended the "Lycée Fontanes" (known as the Lycée Condorcet
Lycée Condorcet
The Lycée Condorcet is a school founded in 1803 in Paris, France, located at 8, rue du Havre, in the city's IXe arrondissement. Since its inception, various political eras have seen it given a number of different names, but its identity today honors the memory of the Marquis de Condorcet. The...

1870-1874 and 1883- ) in Paris from 1868 to 1878. He had previously received a Jewish religious education. Between 14 and 16, however, he lost his faith. According to Hude (1990), this moral crisis is tied to his discovery of the theory of evolution, according to which humanity shares common ancestry with modern primates, a process construed by some as not needing a creative deity.

While at the lycée Bergson won a prize for his scientific work and another, in 1877 when he was eighteen, for the solution of a mathematical problem. His solution was published the following year in Annales de Mathématiques. It was his first published work. After some hesitation as to whether his career should lie in the sphere of the sciences or that of the humanities
Humanities
The humanities are academic disciplines that study the human condition, using methods that are primarily analytical, critical, or speculative, as distinguished from the mainly empirical approaches of the natural sciences....

, he decided in favour of the latter, to the dismay of his teachers. When he was nineteen, he entered the famous École Normale Supérieure
École Normale Supérieure
The École normale supérieure is one of the most prestigious French grandes écoles...

. During this period, he read Herbert Spencer
Herbert Spencer
Herbert Spencer was an English philosopher, biologist, sociologist, and prominent classical liberal political theorist of the Victorian era....

. He obtained there the degree of Licence-ès-Lettres, and this was followed by that of Agrégation de philosophie
Agrégation
In France, the agrégation is a civil service competitive examination for some positions in the public education system. The laureates are known as agrégés...

in 1881.

The same year he received a teaching appointment at the lycée in Angers
Angers
Angers is the main city in the Maine-et-Loire department in western France about south-west of Paris. Angers is located in the French region known by its pre-revolutionary, provincial name, Anjou, and its inhabitants are called Angevins....

, the ancient capital of Anjou
Anjou
Anjou is a former county , duchy and province centred on the city of Angers in the lower Loire Valley of western France. It corresponds largely to the present-day département of Maine-et-Loire...

. Two years later he settled at the Lycée Blaise-Pascal in Clermont-Ferrand
Clermont-Ferrand
Clermont-Ferrand is a city and commune of France, in the Auvergne region, with a population of 140,700 . Its metropolitan area had 409,558 inhabitants at the 1999 census. It is the prefecture of the Puy-de-Dôme department...

, capital of the Puy-de-Dôme
Puy-de-Dôme
Puy-de-Dôme is a department in the centre of France named after the famous dormant volcano, the Puy-de-Dôme.Inhabitants were called Puydedomois until December 2005...

 département.

The year after his arrival at Clermont-Ferrand Bergson displayed his ability in the humanities by the publication of an edition of extracts from Lucretius
Lucretius
Titus Lucretius Carus was a Roman poet and philosopher. His only known work is an epic philosophical poem laying out the beliefs of Epicureanism, De rerum natura, translated into English as On the Nature of Things or "On the Nature of the Universe".Virtually no details have come down concerning...

, with a critical study of the text and of the materialist
Materialism
In philosophy, the theory of materialism holds that the only thing that exists is matter; that all things are composed of material and all phenomena are the result of material interactions. In other words, matter is the only substance...

 cosmology
Cosmology
Cosmology is the discipline that deals with the nature of the Universe as a whole. Cosmologists seek to understand the origin, evolution, structure, and ultimate fate of the Universe at large, as well as the natural laws that keep it in order...

 of the poet (1884), a work whose repeated editions give sufficient evidence of its useful place in the promotion of classical study among the youth of France. While teaching and lecturing in this part of his country (the Auvergne
Auvergne (province)
Auvergne was a historic province in south central France. It was originally the feudal domain of the Counts of Auvergne. It is now the geographical and cultural area that corresponds to the former province....

 region), Bergson found time for private study and original work. He crafted his dissertation Time and Free Will, which was submitted, along with a short Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 thesis on Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 (Quid Aristoteles de loco senserit), for his doctoral degree which was awarded by the University of Paris
University of Paris
The University of Paris was a university located in Paris, France and one of the earliest to be established in Europe. It was founded in the mid 12th century, and officially recognized as a university probably between 1160 and 1250...

 in 1889. The work was published in the same year by Félix Alcan
Félix Alcan
Felix Mardochée Alcan was a French Jewish publisher and scholar; born at Metz, March 18, 1841; grandson of Gerson Lévy, author of Orgue et Pioutim, and son of Moyse Alcan, a well-known publisher at Metz....

. He also gave courses in Clermont-Ferrand on the Pre-Socratics
Pre-Socratic philosophy
Pre-Socratic philosophy is Greek philosophy before Socrates . In Classical antiquity, the Presocratic philosophers were called physiologoi...

, in particular on Heraclitus
Heraclitus
Heraclitus of Ephesus was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, a native of the Greek city Ephesus, Ionia, on the coast of Asia Minor. He was of distinguished parentage. Little is known about his early life and education, but he regarded himself as self-taught and a pioneer of wisdom...

.

Bergson dedicated Time and Free Will to Jules Lachelier (1832–1918), then public education minister
Minister of National Education (France)
The Ministry of National Education, Youth, and Sport , or simply "Minister of National Education," as the title has changed no small number of times in the course of the Fifth Republic) is the French government cabinet member charged with running France's public educational system and with the...

, a disciple of Félix Ravaisson (1813–1900) and the author of a philosophical work On the Founding of Induction
Inductive reasoning
Inductive reasoning, also known as induction or inductive logic, is a kind of reasoning that constructs or evaluates propositions that are abstractions of observations. It is commonly construed as a form of reasoning that makes generalizations based on individual instances...

(Du fondement de l'induction, 1871). Lachelier endeavoured "to substitute everywhere force for inertia, life for death, and liberty for fatalism". (Bergson owed much to both of these teachers of the École Normale Supérieure. Compare his memorial address on Ravaisson, who died in 1900.)

Bergson settled again in Paris, and after teaching for some months at the municipal college
Municipal college
A municipal college is a city-supported institution of higher learning.The oldest municipal college in the United States is the College of Charleston located in historic Charleston, South Carolina. The College of Charleston is also the thirteenth oldest institution of higher education in the country...

, known as the College Rollin, he received an appointment at the Lycée Henri-Quatre, where he remained for eight years. There, he read Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

 and gave a course on his theories. Although Bergson had previously endorsed Lamarckism
Lamarckism
Lamarckism is the idea that an organism can pass on characteristics that it acquired during its lifetime to its offspring . It is named after the French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck , who incorporated the action of soft inheritance into his evolutionary theories...

 and its theory of the heritability of acquired characteristics
Inheritance of acquired characters
The inheritance of acquired characteristics is a hypothesis that physiological changes acquired over the life of an organism may be transmitted to offspring...

, he came to prefer Darwin's hypothesis of gradual variations, which were more compatible with his continuist vision of life.

In 1896 he published his second major work, entitled Matter and Memory. This rather difficult work investigates the function of the brain and undertakes an analysis of perception
Perception
Perception is the process of attaining awareness or understanding of the environment by organizing and interpreting sensory information. All perception involves signals in the nervous system, which in turn result from physical stimulation of the sense organs...

 and memory
Memory
In psychology, memory is an organism's ability to store, retain, and recall information and experiences. Traditional studies of memory began in the fields of philosophy, including techniques of artificially enhancing memory....

, leading up to a careful consideration of the problems of the relation of body and mind. Bergson had spent years of research in preparation for each of his three large works. This is especially obvious in Matter and Memory, where he showed a thorough acquaintance with the extensive pathological investigations which had been carried out during the period.

In 1898 Bergson became Maître de conférences at his alma mater
Alma mater
Alma mater , pronounced ), was used in ancient Rome as a title for various mother goddesses, especially Ceres or Cybele, and in Christianity for the Virgin Mary.-General term:...

, l'Ecole Normale Supérieure, and later in the same year received promotion to a Professorship. The year 1900 saw him installed as Professor at the Collège de France
Collège de France
The Collège de France is a higher education and research establishment located in Paris, France, in the 5th arrondissement, or Latin Quarter, across the street from the historical campus of La Sorbonne at the intersection of Rue Saint-Jacques and Rue des Écoles...

, where he accepted the Chair of Greek and Latin Philosophy
Greek philosophy
Ancient Greek philosophy arose in the 6th century BCE and continued through the Hellenistic period, at which point Ancient Greece was incorporated in the Roman Empire...

 in succession to Charles L'Eveque.

At the first International Congress of Philosophy, held in Paris during the first five days of August, 1900, Bergson read a short, but important, paper, "Psychological Origins of the Belief in the Law of Causality" (Sur les origines psychologiques de notre croyance à la loi de causalité). In 1900 Felix Alcan
Félix Alcan
Felix Mardochée Alcan was a French Jewish publisher and scholar; born at Metz, March 18, 1841; grandson of Gerson Lévy, author of Orgue et Pioutim, and son of Moyse Alcan, a well-known publisher at Metz....

 published a work which had previously appeared in the Revue de Paris
Revue de Paris
Revue de Paris was a French literary magazine founded in 1829 by Louis Desiré Veron....

, entitled Laughter
Laughter (Bergson)
Laughter is the title of a collection of three essays written by French philosopher Henri Bergson, first published in 1900. It was written in French, the original title is Le Rire. Essai sur la signification du comique .- Publication :The three essays were first published in the French review Revue...

(Le rire), one of the most important of Bergson's minor productions. This essay on the meaning of comedy stemmed from a lecture which he had given in his early days in the Auvergne. The study of it is essential to an understanding of Bergson's views of life, and its passages dealing with the place of the artistic in life are valuable. The main thesis of the work is that laughter
Laughter
Laughing is a reaction to certain stimuli, fundamentally stress, which serves as an emotional balancing mechanism. Traditionally, it is considered a visual expression of happiness, or an inward feeling of joy. It may ensue from hearing a joke, being tickled, or other stimuli...

 is a corrective evolved to make social life possible for human beings. We laugh at people who fail to adapt to the demands of society, if it seems their failure is akin to an inflexible mechanism. Comic
Comedy
Comedy , as a popular meaning, is any humorous discourse or work generally intended to amuse by creating laughter, especially in television, film, and stand-up comedy. This must be carefully distinguished from its academic definition, namely the comic theatre, whose Western origins are found in...

 authors have exploited this human tendency to laugh in various ways, and what is common to them is the idea that the comic consists in there being "something mechanical encrusted on the living".

In 1901 the Académie des sciences morales et politiques elected Bergson as a member, and he became a member of the Institute. In 1903 he contributed to the Revue de métaphysique et de morale
Revue de métaphysique et de morale
The Revue de métaphysique et de morale is a French philosophy journal co-founded in 1893 by Léon Brunschvicg, Xavier Léon and Élie Halévy. The journal initially appeared six times a year, but since 1920 has been published quarterly...

a very important essay entitled Introduction to Metaphysics
Introduction to Metaphysics
An Introduction to Metaphysics is a 1903 essay by Henri Bergson that explores the concept of reality. For Bergson, reality occurs not in a series of discrete states but as a process similar to that described by process philosophy or the Greek philosopher Heraclitus...

(Introduction à la metaphysique), which is useful as a preface to the study of his three large books. He detailed in this essay his philosophical program, realized in the Creative Evolution.

On the death of Gabriel Tarde
Gabriel Tarde
Jean-Gabriel De Tarde or Gabriel Tarde in short French sociologist, criminologist and social psychologist who conceived sociology as based on small psychological interactions among individuals , the fundamental forces being imitation and innovation.- Theory :Among the concepts...

, the sociologist and philosopher, in 1904, Bergson succeeded him in the Chair of Modern Philosophy. From 4 to 8 September of that year he visited Geneva
Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

, attending the Second International Congress of Philosophy, when he lectured on The Mind and Thought: A Philosophical Illusion (Le cerveau et la pensée: une illusion philosophique). An illness prevented his visiting Germany to attend the Third Congress held at Heidelberg
Heidelberg
-Early history:Between 600,000 and 200,000 years ago, "Heidelberg Man" died at nearby Mauer. His jaw bone was discovered in 1907; with scientific dating, his remains were determined to be the earliest evidence of human life in Europe. In the 5th century BC, a Celtic fortress of refuge and place of...

.

His third major work, Creative Evolution, the most widely known and most discussed of his books, appeared in 1907. It constitutes one of the most profound and original contributions to the philosophical consideration of evolution. Pierre Imbart de la Tour remarked that Creative Evolution was a milestone of new direction in thought. By 1918, Alcan
Alcan
Rio Tinto Alcan Inc. is a Canadian company based in Montreal. It was created on November 15, 2007 as the result of the merger between Rio Tinto PLC's Canadian subsidiary, Rio Tinto Canada Holding Inc., and Canadian company Alcan Inc. On the same date, Alcan Inc. was renamed Rio Tinto Alcan Inc..Rio...

, the publisher, had issued twenty-one editions, making an average of two editions per annum for ten years. Following the appearance of this book, Bergson's popularity increased enormously, not only in academic circles, but among the general reading public.

At that time, Bergson had already made an extensive study of biology
Biology
Biology is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy. Biology is a vast subject containing many subdivisions, topics, and disciplines...

, knowing of the theory of fecundation (as shown by the first chapter of the Creative Evolution), which had only recently emerged, ca. 1885 — no small feat for a philosopher specializing in the history of philosophy
History of philosophy
The history of philosophy is the study of philosophical ideas and concepts through time. Issues specifically related to history of philosophy might include : How can changes in philosophy be accounted for historically? What drives the development of thought in its historical context? To what...

, in particular of Greek and Latin philosophy. He also most certainly had read, apart from Darwin, Haeckel, from whom he retained his idea of a unity of life and of the ecological solidarity between all living beings, as well as Hugo de Vries
Hugo de Vries
Hugo Marie de Vries ForMemRS was a Dutch botanist and one of the first geneticists. He is known chiefly for suggesting the concept of genes, rediscovering the laws of heredity in the 1890s while unaware of Gregor Mendel's work, for introducing the term "mutation", and for developing a mutation...

, whom he quoted his mutation theory of evolution (which he opposed, preferring Darwin's gradualism). He also quoted Charles-Édouard Brown-Séquard
Charles-Édouard Brown-Séquard
Charles-Édouard Brown-Séquard FRS , also known as Charles Edward, was a Mauritian physiologist and neurologist who, in 1850, became the first to describe what is now called Brown-Séquard syndrome.-Early life:...

, the successor of Claude Bernard
Claude Bernard
Claude Bernard was a French physiologist. He was the first to define the term milieu intérieur . Historian of science I. Bernard Cohen of Harvard University called Bernard "one of the greatest of all men of science"...

 at the Chair of Experimental Medicine in the College of France, etc.

Bergson served as a juror with Florence Meyer Blumenthal
Florence Meyer Blumenthal
Florence Meyer Blumenthal was a philanthropist who founded the Fondation franco-américaine Florence Blumenthal , which awarded the Prix Blumenthal from 1919-1954 to painters, sculptors, decorators, engravers, writers, and musicians — to promote Franco- American relations.For their altruism,...

 in awarding the Prix Blumenthal
Prix Blumenthal
The Prix Blumenthal was a grant or stipend awarded through the philanthropy of Florence Meyer Blumenthal — and the foundation she created, Fondation franco-américaine Florence Blumenthal — to discover young French artists, aid them financially, and in the process draw the United States...

, a grant given between 1919-1954 to painters, sculptors, decorators, engravers, writers, and musicians.

Relationship with James and Pragmatism


Bergson travelled to London in 1908 and met there with William James
William James
William James was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher who was trained as a physician. He wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology, psychology of religious experience and mysticism, and on the philosophy of pragmatism...

, the Harvard philosopher who was Bergson's senior by seventeen years, and who was instrumental in calling the attention of the Anglo-American public to the work of the French professor. The two became great friends. James's impression of Bergson is given in his Letters under date of 4 October 1908:
"So modest and unpretending a man but such a genius intellectually! I have the strongest suspicions that the tendency which he has brought to a focus, will end by prevailing, and that the present epoch will be a sort of turning point in the history of philosophy."


As early as 1880, James had contributed an article in French to the periodical La Critique philosophique, of Renouvier and Pillon, entitled Le Sentiment de l'Effort. Four years later, a couple of articles by him appeared in the journal Mind: "What is an Emotion?" and "On some Omissions of Introspective Psychology". Bergson quoted the first two of these articles in his 1889 work, Time and Free Will. In the following years 1890-91 appeared the two volumes of James's monumental work, The Principles of Psychology, in which he refers to a pathological phenomenon observed by Bergson. Some writers, taking merely these dates into consideration and overlooking the fact that James's investigations had been proceeding since 1870 (registered from time to time by various articles which culminated in "The Principles"), have mistakenly dated Bergson's ideas as earlier than James's.

It has been suggested that Bergson owes the root ideas of his first book to the 1884 article by James, "On Some Omissions of Introspective Psychology," which he neither refers to nor quotes. This article deals with the conception of thought as a stream of consciousness
Stream of consciousness (psychology)
Stream of consciousness refers to the flow of thoughts in the conscious mind. The full range of thoughts that one can be aware of can form the content of this stream, not just verbal thoughts...

, which intellect
Intellect
Intellect is a term used in studies of the human mind, and refers to the ability of the mind to come to correct conclusions about what is true or real, and about how to solve problems...

 distorts by framing into concepts. Bergson replied to this insinuation by denying that he had any knowledge of the article by James when he wrote Les données immédiates de la conscience. The two thinkers appear to have developed independently until almost the close of the century. They are further apart in their intellectual position than is frequently supposed. Both have succeeded in appealing to audiences far beyond the purely academic sphere, but only in their mutual rejection of "intellectualism" as final is their real unanimity. Although James was slightly ahead in the development and enunciation of his ideas, he confessed that he was baffled by many of Bergson's notions. James certainly neglected many of the deeper metaphysical aspects of Bergson's thought, which did not harmonize with his own, and are even in direct contradiction. In addition to this, Bergson can hardly be considered a pragmatist. For him, "utility," far from being a test of truth, was in fact the reverse: a synonym for error.

Nevertheless, William James hailed Bergson as an ally. In 1903, he wrote:


I have been re-reading Bergson's books, and nothing that I have read since years has so excited and stimulated my thoughts. I am sure that that philosophy has a great future, it breaks through old cadres and brings things into a solution from which new crystals can be got.


The most noteworthy tributes James paid to Bergson come in the Hibbert Lectures
Hibbert Lectures
The Hibbert Lectures are an annual series of non-sectarian lectures on theological issues. They are sponsored by the Hibbert Trust, which was founded in 1847 by the Unitarian Robert Hibbert with a goal to uphold "the unfettered exercise of private judgement in matters of religion."...

 (A Pluralistic Universe), which James gave at Manchester College, Oxford, shortly after meeting Bergson in London. He remarks on the encouragement he has received from Bergson's thought, and refers to the confidence he has in being "able to lean on Bergson's authority." (Also see James's reservations about Bergson below.)

The influence of Bergson had led James "to renounce the intellectualist method and the current notion that logic
Logic
In philosophy, Logic is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science...

 is an adequate measure of what can or cannot be". It had induced him, he continued, "to give up logic, squarely and irrevocably" as a method, for he found that "reality, life, experience, concreteness, immediacy, use what word you will, exceeds our logic, overflows, and surrounds it".

These remarks, which appeared in James's book A Pluralistic Universe in 1909, impelled many English and American readers to an investigation of Bergson's philosophy for themselves, but no English translations of Bergson's major work had yet appeared. James, however, encouraged and assisted Dr. Arthur Mitchell
Arthur Mitchell
Arthur Mitchell may refer to:*Arthur Mitchell antiquary, commissioner of Lunacy*Arthur Mitchell , former England Test cricketer*Arthur Mitchell , African-American dancer and choreographer...

 in his preparation of the English translation of Creative Evolution. In August 1910, James died. It was his intention, had he lived to see the completion of the translation, to introduce it to the English reading public by a prefatory note of appreciation. In the following year the translation was completed and still greater interest in Bergson and his work was the result. By coincidence, in that same year (1911), Bergson penned a preface of sixteen pages entitled Truth and Reality for the French translation of James's book, Pragmatism. In it he expressed sympathetic appreciation of James's work, coupled with certain important reservations.

From April 5 to 11, Bergson attended the Fourth International Congress of Philosophy held at Bologna
Bologna
Bologna is the capital city of Emilia-Romagna, in the Po Valley of Northern Italy. The city lies between the Po River and the Apennine Mountains, more specifically, between the Reno River and the Savena River. Bologna is a lively and cosmopolitan Italian college city, with spectacular history,...

, in Italy, where he gave an address on "Philosophical Intuition". In response to invitations he visited England in May of that year, and on several subsequent occasions. These visits were well received. His speeches offered new perspectives and elucidated many passages in his three major works: Time and Free Will, Matter and Memory, and Creative Evolution. Although necessarily brief statements, they developed and enriched the ideas in his books and clarified for English audiences the fundamental principles of his philosophy.

The lectures on change


In May 1911 Bergson gave two lectures entitled The Perception of Change (La perception du changement) at the University of Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

.The Clarendon Press published these in French in the same year.
His talks were concise and lucid, leading students and the general reader to his other longer writings. Oxford later conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Science
Doctor of Science
Doctor of Science , usually abbreviated Sc.D., D.Sc., S.D. or Dr.Sc., is an academic research degree awarded in a number of countries throughout the world. In some countries Doctor of Science is the name used for the standard doctorate in the sciences, elsewhere the Sc.D...

.

Two days later he delivered the Huxley Lecture at the University of Birmingham
University of Birmingham
The University of Birmingham is a British Redbrick university located in the city of Birmingham, England. It received its royal charter in 1900 as a successor to Birmingham Medical School and Mason Science College . Birmingham was the first Redbrick university to gain a charter and thus...

, taking for his subject Life and Consciousness. This subsequently appeared in The Hibbert Journal
The Hibbert Journal
The Hibbert Journal was a large, quarterly magazine in sorftback book format, issued since 1902 by the Hibbert Trust, best described by its subtitle; "A Quarterly Review of Religion, Theology and Philosophy"....

(October, 1911), and since revised, forms the first essay in the collected volume Mind-Energy (L'Energie spirituelle). In October he again travelled to England, where he had an enthusiastic reception, and delivered at University College London
University College London
University College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and the oldest and largest constituent college of the federal University of London...

 four lectures on La Nature de l'Âme [The nature of the soul].

In 1913 Bergson visited the United States of America at the invitation of Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

, New York, and lectured in several American cities, where very large audiences welcomed him. In February, at Columbia University, he lectured both in French and English, taking as his subjects: Spirituality and Freedom and The Method of Philosophy. Being again in England in May of the same year, he accepted the Presidency of the British Society for Psychical Research, and delivered to the Society an impressive address: Phantoms of Life and Psychic Research (Fantômes des vivants et recherche psychique).

Meanwhile, his popularity increased, and translations of his works began to appear in a number of languages: English, German, Italian, Danish, Swedish, Hungarian, Polish and Russian. In 1914 Bergson's fellow-countrymen honoured him by his election as a member of the Académie française
Académie française
L'Académie française , also called the French Academy, is the pre-eminent French learned body on matters pertaining to the French language. The Académie was officially established in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister to King Louis XIII. Suppressed in 1793 during the French Revolution,...

. He was also made President of the Académie des Sciences morales et politiques, and in addition he became Officier de la Légion d'honneur
Légion d'honneur
The Legion of Honour, or in full the National Order of the Legion of Honour is a French order established by Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of the Consulat which succeeded to the First Republic, on 19 May 1802...

, and Officier de l'Instruction publique.

Bergson found disciples of many varied types, and in France movements such as neo-Catholicism
Neo-Catholicism
Neo-Catholicism is a term that some traditionalist Catholics use to describe a set of beliefs pertaining to both theology and political ideology...

 or Modernism
Modernism (Roman Catholicism)
Modernism refers to theological opinions expressed during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but with influence reaching into the 21st century, which are characterized by a break with the past. Catholic modernists form an amorphous group. The term "modernist" appears in Pope Pius X's 1907...

 on the one hand and syndicalism
Syndicalism
Syndicalism is a type of economic system proposed as a replacement for capitalism and an alternative to state socialism, which uses federations of collectivised trade unions or industrial unions...

 on the other, endeavoured to absorb and to appropriate for their own immediate use and propaganda some of the central ideas of his teaching. The continental organ of socialist
Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 and syndicalist theory, Le Mouvement socialiste
Le Mouvement socialiste
The Le Mouvement socialiste was a revolutionary syndicalist journal in France founded in 1899 by Hubert Lagardelle and dissolved in 1914. Other key founders included Karl Marx's grandson Jean Longuet and Émile Durkheim's nephew Marcel Mauss...

,
portrayed the realism of Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

 and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was a French politician, mutualist philosopher and socialist. He was a member of the French Parliament, and he was the first person to call himself an "anarchist". He is considered among the most influential theorists and organisers of anarchism...

 as hostile to all forms of intellectualism, and that, therefore, supporters of Marxian socialism should welcome a philosophy such as that of Bergson. Other writers, in their eagerness, asserted the collaboration of the Chair of Philosophy at the College de France with the aims of the Confédération Générale du Travail
Confédération générale du travail
The General Confederation of Labour is a national trade union center, the first of the five major French confederations of trade unions.It is the largest in terms of votes , and second largest in terms of membership numbers.Its membership decreased to 650,000 members in 1995-96 The General...

and the Industrial Workers of the World
Industrial Workers of the World
The Industrial Workers of the World is an international union. At its peak in 1923, the organization claimed some 100,000 members in good standing, and could marshal the support of perhaps 300,000 workers. Its membership declined dramatically after a 1924 split brought on by internal conflict...

. It was claimed that there is harmony between the flute of personal philosophical meditation and the trumpet of social revolution.

While social revolutionaries endeavoured to make the most out of Bergson, many leader
Leadership
Leadership has been described as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task". Other in-depth definitions of leadership have also emerged.-Theories:...

s of religious thought, particularly the more liberal-minded theologians of all creeds, e.g., the Modernists and Neo-Catholic Party in his own country, showed a keen interest in his writings, and many of them endeavoured to find encouragement and stimulus in his work. The Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 however took the step of banning Bergson's three books, accused of pantheism
Pantheism
Pantheism is the view that the Universe and God are identical. Pantheists thus do not believe in a personal, anthropomorphic or creator god. The word derives from the Greek meaning "all" and the Greek meaning "God". As such, Pantheism denotes the idea that "God" is best seen as a process of...

 (that is, of conceiving of God as immanent to his Creation and of being himself created in the process of the Creation ) by placing them upon the Index of prohibited books
Index Librorum Prohibitorum
The Index Librorum Prohibitorum was a list of publications prohibited by the Catholic Church. A first version was promulgated by Pope Paul IV in 1559, and a revised and somewhat relaxed form was authorized at the Council of Trent...

 (Decree of 1 June 1914).

Later life


In 1914, the Scottish universities arranged for Bergson to give the famous Gifford Lectures
Gifford Lectures
The Gifford Lectures were established by the will of Adam Lord Gifford . They were established to "promote and diffuse the study of Natural Theology in the widest sense of the term — in other words, the knowledge of God." The term natural theology as used by Gifford means theology supported...

, planning one course for the spring and another for the autumn. Bergson delivered the first course, consisting of eleven lectures, under the title of The Problem of Personality, at the University of Edinburgh
University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1583, is a public research university located in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The university is deeply embedded in the fabric of the city, with many of the buildings in the historic Old Town belonging to the university...

 in the spring of that year. The course of lectures planned for the autumn months had to be abandoned because of the outbreak of war. Bergson was not, however, silent during the conflict, and he gave some inspiring addresses. As early as 4 November 1914, he wrote an article entitled Wearing and Nonwearing forces (La force qui s'use et celle qui ne s'use pas), which appeared in that unique and interesting periodical of the poilu
Poilu
Poilu is a warmly informal term for a French World War I infantryman, meaning, literally, hairy one. The term came into popular usage in France during the era of Napoleon Bonaparte and his massive citizen armies, though the term grognard was also common. It is still widely used as a term of...

s
, Le Bulletin des Armées de la République Française. A presidential address, The Meaning of the War, was delivered in December, 1914, to the Académie des sciences morales et politiques.

Bergson contributed also to the publication arranged by The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph is a daily morning broadsheet newspaper distributed throughout the United Kingdom and internationally. The newspaper was founded by Arthur B...

in honour of King Albert I of the Belgians
Albert I of Belgium
Albert I reigned as King of the Belgians from 1909 until 1934.-Early life:Born Albert Léopold Clément Marie Meinrad in Brussels, he was the fifth child and second son of Prince Philippe, Count of Flanders, and his wife, Princess Marie of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen...

, King Albert's Book (Christmas, 1914).
In 1915 he was succeeded in the office of President of the Académie des Sciences morales et politiques by Alexandre Ribot
Alexandre Ribot
Alexandre-Félix-Joseph Ribot was a French politician, four times Prime Minister.-Biography:He was born in Saint-Omer, Pas-de-Calais.After a brilliant academic career at the University of Paris, where he was lauréat of the faculty of law, he rapidly made his mark at the bar...

, and then delivered a discourse on "The Evolution of German Imperialism
Imperialism
Imperialism, as defined by Dictionary of Human Geography, is "the creation and/or maintenance of an unequal economic, cultural, and territorial relationships, usually between states and often in the form of an empire, based on domination and subordination." The imperialism of the last 500 years,...

". Meanwhile he found time to issue at the request of the Minister of Public Instruction a brief summary of French Philosophy. Bergson did a large amount of travelling and lecturing in America during the war. He participated to the negotiations which led to the entry of the United States in the war. He was there when the French Mission under René Viviani
René Viviani
Jean Raphaël Adrien René Viviani was a French politician of the Third Republic, who served as Prime Minister for the first year of World War I. He was born in Sidi Bel Abbès, in French Algeria. In France he sought to protect the rights of socialists and trade union workers.-Biography:His...

 paid a visit in April and May 1917, following upon America's entry into the conflict. Viviani's book La Mission française en Amérique (1917), contains a preface by Bergson.

Early in 1918 the Académie française
Académie française
L'Académie française , also called the French Academy, is the pre-eminent French learned body on matters pertaining to the French language. The Académie was officially established in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister to King Louis XIII. Suppressed in 1793 during the French Revolution,...

received Bergson officially when he took his seat among "The Select Forty" as successor to Emile Ollivier
Émile Ollivier
Olivier Émile Ollivier was a French statesman. Although a republican, he served as a cabinet minister under Emperor Napoleon III and led the process of turning his regime into a "liberal Empire".-Early life and career:Émile Ollivier was born in Marseille...

 (the author of the historical work L'Empire libéral). A session was held in January in his honour at which he delivered an address on Ollivier. In the war, Bergson saw the conflict of Mind and Matter, or rather of Life and Mechanism; and thus he shows us the central idea of his own philosophy in action. To no other philosopher has it fallen, during his lifetime, to have his philosophical principles so vividly and so terribly tested.

As many of Bergson's contributions to French periodicals remained relatively inaccessible, he agreed to the request of his friends to have such works collected and published in two volumes. The first of these was being planned when war broke out. The conclusion of strife was marked by the appearance of a delayed volume in 1919 . It bears the title Spiritual Energy: Essays and Lectures (L'Energie spirituelle: essais et conférences). The advocate of Bergson's philosophy in England, Dr. Wildon Carr, prepared an English translation under the title Mind-Energy. The volume opens with the Huxley Memorial Lecture of 1911, "Life and Consciousness", in a revised and developed form under the title "Consciousness and Life". Signs of Bergson's growing interest in social ethics and in the idea of a future life of personal survival are manifested. The lecture before the Society for Psychical Research is included, as is also the one given in France, L'Âme et le Corps, which contains the substance of the four London lectures on the Soul. The seventh and last article is a reprint of Bergson's famous lecture to the Congress of Philosophy at Geneva in 1904, The Psycho-Physiological Paralogism (Le paralogisme psycho-physiologique), which now appears as Le cerveau et la pensée: une illusion philosophique. Other articles are on the False Recognition, on Dreams, and Intellectual Effort. The volume is a most welcome production and serves to bring together what Bergson wrote on the concept of mental force, and on his view of "tension" and "detension" as applied to the relation of matter and mind.

In June 1920, the University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

 honoured him with the degree of Doctor of Letters
Doctor of Letters
Doctor of Letters is a university academic degree, often a higher doctorate which is frequently awarded as an honorary degree in recognition of outstanding scholarship or other merits.-Commonwealth:...

. In order that he might devote his full time to the great new work he was preparing on ethics, religion, and sociology, the Collège de France relieved Bergson of the duties attached to the Chair of Modern Philosophy there. He retained the chair, but no longer delivered lectures, his place being taken by his disciple, the mathematician and philosopher Edouard Le Roy
Edouard Le Roy
Édouard Louis Emmanuel Julien Le Roy was a French philosopher and mathematician.Le Roy was received at the École Normale Supérieure in 1892, and at the agrégation in mathematics in 1895...

, who supported a conventionalist
Conventionalism
Conventionalism is the philosophical attitude that fundamental principles of a certain kind are grounded on agreements in society, rather than on external reality...

 stance on the foundations of mathematics
Foundations of mathematics
Foundations of mathematics is a term sometimes used for certain fields of mathematics, such as mathematical logic, axiomatic set theory, proof theory, model theory, type theory and recursion theory...

, which was adopted by Bergson. Le Roy, who also succeeded to Bergson at the Académie française and was a fervent Catholic, extended to revealed truth
Revelation
In religion and theology, revelation is the revealing or disclosing, through active or passive communication with a supernatural or a divine entity...

 his conventionalism, leading him to privilege faith, heart and sentiment to dogma
Dogma
Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, or a particular group or organization. It is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from, by the practitioners or believers...

s, speculative theology
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

 and abstract reasonings. Like Bergson's, his writings were placed on the Index by the Vatican.

Bergson then published Duration and Simultaneity: Bergson and the Einsteinian Universe (Durée et simultanéité), a book on physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

, which he followed with a polemical conversation with Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history...

 at the French Society of Philosophy. The latter book has been often considered as one of his worst, many alleging that his knowledge of physics was very insufficient, and that the book did not follow up contemporary developments on physics. It was not published in the 1951 Edition du Centenaire in French, which contained all of his other works, and was only published later in a work gathering different essays, titled Mélanges. Duration and simultaneity took advantage of Bergson's experience at the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

, where he presided starting in 1920 the International Commission on Intellectual Cooperation (the ancestor of the UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

, which included Einstein, Marie Curie
Marie Curie
Marie Skłodowska-Curie was a physicist and chemist famous for her pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first person honored with two Nobel Prizes—in physics and chemistry...

, etc.).

Living with his wife and daughter in a modest house in a quiet street near the Porte d'Auteuil in Paris, Bergson won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1927 for having written The Creative Evolution. Because of serious rheumatics ailments
Rheumatology
Rheumatology is a sub-specialty in internal medicine and pediatrics, devoted to diagnosis and therapy of rheumatic diseases. Clinicians who specialize in rheumatology are called rheumatologists...

, he could not travel to Stockholm, and sent instead a text subsequently published in La Pensée et le mouvant. He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. The Academy’s elected members are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business, and public affairs.James Bowdoin, John Adams, and...

 in 1928.

After his retirement from the Collège, Bergson began to fade into obscurity: he suffered from a degenerative illness (rheumatism, which left him half paralyzed). He completed his new work, The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, which extended his philosophical theories to the realms of morality, religion and art, in 1935. It was respectfully received by the public and the philosophical community, but all by that time realized that Bergson's days as a philosophical luminary were past. He was, however, able to reiterate his core beliefs near the end of his life, by renouncing all of the posts and honours previously awarded him, rather than accept exemption from the antisemitic laws
Statute on Jews
The Statute on Jews was discriminatory legislation against French Jews passed on October 3, 1940 by the Vichy Regime, grouping them as a lower class and depriving them of citizenship before rounding them up at Drancy internment camp then taking them to be exterminated in concentration camps...

 imposed by the Vichy
Vichy France
Vichy France, Vichy Regime, or Vichy Government, are common terms used to describe the government of France that collaborated with the Axis powers from July 1940 to August 1944. This government succeeded the Third Republic and preceded the Provisional Government of the French Republic...

 government.

Bergson inclined to convert to Catholicism, writing in his will on February 8, 1937: My thinking has always brought me nearer to Catholicism, in which I saw the perfect complement to Judaism.
Though wishing to convert to Catholicism, as stated in his will, he did not convert in view of the travails inflicted on the Jewish people by the rise of nazism
Nazism
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

 and antisemitism in Europe in the 1930s; he did not want to appear to want to leave the persecuted. On 3 January 1941 Bergson died in occupied Paris from pneumonia contracted after standing for several hours in a queue for registration as a Jew.
A Roman Catholic priest said prayers at his funeral per his request. Henri Bergson is buried in the Cimetière de Garches, Hauts-de-Seine
Hauts-de-Seine
Hauts-de-Seine is designated number 92 of the 101 départements in France. It is part of the Île-de-France region, and covers the western inner suburbs of Paris...

.

Philosophy


Bergson rejected what he saw as the overly mechanistic predominant view of causality (as expressed in, say, finalism). He argued that we must allow space for free will to unfold in an autonomous and unpredictable fashion. While Kant saw free will as something beyond time and space and therefore ultimately a matter of faith, Bergson attempted to redefine the modern conceptions of time, space, and causality in his concept of Duration, making room for a tangible marriage of free will with causality. Seeing Duration as a mobile and fluid concept, Bergson argued that one cannot understand Duration through "immobile" analysis, but only through experiential, first-person intuition
Intuition (Bergson)
Intuition is the philosophical method of French philosopher Henri Bergson.In An Introduction to Metaphysics, Bergson introduces two ways in which an object can be known: absolutely and relatively. Pertaining to each mode of knowledge is a method through which it can be gained...

.

Bergson's other philosophical concepts include Élan vital
Élan vital
Élan vital was coined by French philosopher Henri Bergson in his 1907 book Creative Evolution, in which he addresses the question of self-organisation and spontaneous morphogenesis of things in an increasingly complex manner. Elan vital was translated in the English edition as "vital impetus", but...

, or the living, creative force that he saw as driving evolution and also as showing up in mankind's impulse to create. Bergson also discussed the nature and mechanism of laughter.

Creativity


Bergson considers the appearance of novelty as a result of pure undetermined creation, instead of as the predetermined result of mechanistic forces. His philosophy emphasises pure mobility, unforeseeable novelty, creativity and freedom; thus one can characterize his system as a process philosophy
Process philosophy
Process philosophy identifies metaphysical reality with change and dynamism. Since the time of Plato and Aristotle, philosophers have posited true reality as "timeless", based on permanent substances, whilst processes are denied or subordinated to timeless substances...

. It touches upon such topics as time and identity, free will
Free will
"To make my own decisions whether I am successful or not due to uncontrollable forces" -Troy MorrisonA pragmatic definition of free willFree will is the ability of agents to make choices free from certain kinds of constraints. The existence of free will and its exact nature and definition have long...

, perception, change, memory, consciousness, language, the foundation of mathematics and the limits of reason.

Criticizing Kant
KANT
KANT is a computer algebra system for mathematicians interested in algebraic number theory, performing sophisticated computations in algebraic number fields, in global function fields, and in local fields. KASH is the associated command line interface...

's theory of knowledge exposed in the Critique of Pure Reason
Critique of Pure Reason
The Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant, first published in 1781, second edition 1787, is considered one of the most influential works in the history of philosophy. Also referred to as Kant's "first critique," it was followed by the Critique of Practical Reason and the Critique of Judgement...

and his conception of truth — which he compares to Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

's conception of truth as its symmetrical inversion (order of nature/order of thought) — Bergson attempted to redefine the relations between science and metaphysics, intelligence and intuition
Intuition (Bergson)
Intuition is the philosophical method of French philosopher Henri Bergson.In An Introduction to Metaphysics, Bergson introduces two ways in which an object can be known: absolutely and relatively. Pertaining to each mode of knowledge is a method through which it can be gained...

, and insisted on the necessity of increasing thought's possibility through the use of intuition, which, according to him, alone approached a knowledge of the absolute and of real life, understood as pure duration. Because of his (relative) criticism of intelligence, he makes a frequent use of images and metaphors in his writings in order to avoid the use of concept
Concept
The word concept is used in ordinary language as well as in almost all academic disciplines. Particularly in philosophy, psychology and cognitive sciences the term is much used and much discussed. WordNet defines concept: "conception, construct ". However, the meaning of the term concept is much...

s, which (he considers) fail to touch the whole of reality, being only a sort of abstract net thrown on things. For instance, he says in The Creative Evolution (chap.III) that thought in itself would never have thought it possible for the human being to swim, as it cannot deduce swimming from walking. For swimming to be possible, man must throw itself in water, and only then can thought consider swimming as possible. Intelligence, for Bergson, is a practical faculty rather than a pure speculative faculty, a product of evolution used by man to survive. If metaphysics is to avoid "false problems", it should not extend to pure speculation the abstract concepts of intelligence, but rather use intuition.

The Creative Evolution in particular attempted to think through the continuous creation of life, and explicitly pitted itself against Herbert Spencer
Herbert Spencer
Herbert Spencer was an English philosopher, biologist, sociologist, and prominent classical liberal political theorist of the Victorian era....

's evolutionary philosophy. Spencer had attempted to transpose Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

's theory of evolution in philosophy and to construct a cosmology
Cosmology
Cosmology is the discipline that deals with the nature of the Universe as a whole. Cosmologists seek to understand the origin, evolution, structure, and ultimate fate of the Universe at large, as well as the natural laws that keep it in order...

 based on this theory (Spencer also coined the expression "survival of the fittest
Survival of the fittest
"Survival of the fittest" is a phrase originating in evolutionary theory, as an alternative description of Natural selection. The phrase is today commonly used in contexts that are incompatible with the original meaning as intended by its first two proponents: British polymath philosopher Herbert...

"). Bergson disputed what he saw as Spencer's mechanistic philosophy .

Henri Bergson’s Lebensphilosophie (Philosophy of Life) can be seen as a response to the mechanistic philosophies
Mechanism (philosophy)
Mechanism is the belief that natural wholes are like machines or artifacts, composed of parts lacking any intrinsic relationship to each other, and with their order imposed from without. Thus, the source of an apparent thing's activities is not the whole itself, but its parts or an external...

 of his time, but also to the failure of finalism. Indeed, he considers that finalism is unable to explain "duration" and the "continuous creation of life", as it only explains life as the progressive development of an initially determined program — a notion which remains, for example, in the expression of a "genetic
Genetics
Genetics , a discipline of biology, is the science of genes, heredity, and variation in living organisms....

 program"; such a description of finalism was adopted, for instance, by Leibniz.

Bergson regarded planning beforehand for the future as impossible, since time itself unravels unforeseen possibilities. Indeed, one could always explain a historical event retrospectively by its conditions of possibility. But, in the introduction to the Pensée et le mouvant, he explains that such an event created retrospectively its causes, taking the example of the creation of a work of art, for example a symphony: it was impossible to predict what would be the symphony of the future, as if the musician knew what symphony would be the best for his time, he would realize it. In his words, the effect created its cause. Henceforth, he attempted to find a third way between mechanism and finalism, through the notion of an original impulse, the élan vital, in life, which dispersed itself through evolution into contradictory tendencies (he substituted to the finalist notion of a teleological aim a notion of an original impulse).

Duration



The foundation of Henri Bergson’s philosophy, his theory of Duration, he discovered when trying to improve the inadequacies of Herbert Spencer
Herbert Spencer
Herbert Spencer was an English philosopher, biologist, sociologist, and prominent classical liberal political theorist of the Victorian era....

’s philosophy. Bergson introduced Duration as a theory of time
Time
Time is a part of the measuring system used to sequence events, to compare the durations of events and the intervals between them, and to quantify rates of change such as the motions of objects....

 and consciousness
Consciousness
Consciousness is a term that refers to the relationship between the mind and the world with which it interacts. It has been defined as: subjectivity, awareness, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive control system of the mind...

 in his doctoral thesis Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness as a response to another of his influences: Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher from Königsberg , researching, lecturing and writing on philosophy and anthropology at the end of the 18th Century Enlightenment....

.

Kant believed that free will could only exist outside of time and space, that we could therefore not know whether or not it exists, and that it is nothing but a pragmatic faith. Bergson responded that Kant, along with many other philosophers, had confused time with its spatial representation. In reality, Bergson argued, Duration is unextended yet heterogeneous, and so its parts cannot be juxtaposed as a succession of distinct parts, with one causing the other. Based on this he concluded that determinism is an impossibility and free will pure mobility, which is what Bergson identified as being the Duration.

Intuition



Duration, as defined by Bergson, then is a unity and a multiplicity, but, being mobile, it cannot be grasped through immobile concepts. Bergson hence argues that one can grasp it only through his method of intuition
Intuition (Bergson)
Intuition is the philosophical method of French philosopher Henri Bergson.In An Introduction to Metaphysics, Bergson introduces two ways in which an object can be known: absolutely and relatively. Pertaining to each mode of knowledge is a method through which it can be gained...

. Two images from Henri Bergson’s An Introduction to Metaphysics may help one to grasp Bergson's term intuition, the limits of concepts, and the ability of intuition to grasp the absolute. The first image is that of a city. Analysis, or the creation of concepts through the divisions of points of view, can only ever give us a model of the city through a construction of photographs taken from every possible point of view, yet it can never give us the dimensional value of walking in the city itself. One can only grasp this through intuition; likewise the experience of reading a line of Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

. One may translate the line and pile commentary upon commentary, but this commentary too shall never grasp the simple dimensional value of experiencing the poem in its originality itself. The method of intuition, then, is that of getting back to the things themselves.

Élan vital


Élan vital ranks as Bergson's third essential concept, after Duration and intuition. An idea with the goal of explaining evolution, the Élan vital first appeared in 1907’s Creative Evolution. Bergson portrays Élan vital as a kind of vital impetus which explains evolution in a less mechanical and more lively manner, as well as accounting for the creative impulse of mankind. This concept led several authors to characterize Bergson as a supporter of vitalism
Vitalism
Vitalism, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is#a doctrine that the functions of a living organism are due to a vital principle distinct from biochemical reactions...

—although he criticized it explicitly in The Creative Evolution, as he thought, against Driesch
Hans Adolf Eduard Driesch
Hans Adolf Eduard Driesch was a German biologist and philosopher from Bad Kreuznach. He is most noted for his early experimental work in embryology and for his neo-vitalist philosophy of entelechy. He is also credited with performing the first cloning of an animal in the 1880s.-Early years:Driesch...

 and Johannes Reinke
Johannes Reinke
Johannes Reinke was a German botanist and philosopher who was a native of Ziethen, Lauenburg. He is remembered for his research of benthic marine algae....

 (whom he cited) that there is neither "purely internal finality nor clearly cut individuality in nature":
Hereby lies the stumbling block of vitalist theories (...) It is thus in vain that one pretends to reduce finality to the individuality of the living being. If there is finality in the world of life, it encompasses the whole of life in one indivisible embrace.

Laughter


In the idiosyncratic Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic, Bergson develops a theory not of laughter itself, but of how laughter can be provoked (see his objection to Delage, published in the 23rd edition of the essay). He describes the process of laughter (refusing to give a conceptual definition which would not approach its reality), used in particular by comics and clown
Clown
Clowns are comic performers stereotypically characterized by the grotesque image of the circus clown's colored wigs, stylistic makeup, outlandish costumes, unusually large footwear, and red nose, which evolved to project their actions to large audiences. Other less grotesque styles have also...

s, as the caricature of the mechanism nature of humans (habits, automatic acts, etc.), one of the two tendencies of life (degradation towards inert matter and mechanism, and continual creation of new forms). However, Bergson warns us that laughter’s criterion of what should be laughed at is not a moral criterion and that it can in fact cause serious damage to a person’s self-esteem
Self-esteem
Self-esteem is a term in psychology to reflect a person's overall evaluation or appraisal of his or her own worth. Self-esteem encompasses beliefs and emotions such as triumph, despair, pride and shame: some would distinguish how 'the self-concept is what we think about the self; self-esteem, the...

. This essay made his opposition to the Cartesian
Cartesianism
Cartesian means of or relating to the French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes—from his name—Rene Des-Cartes. It may refer to:*Cartesian anxiety*Cartesian circle*Cartesian dualism...

 theory of the animal-machine obvious.

Reception


From his first publications, Bergson's philosophy attracted strong criticism from different quarters, although he also became very popular and durably influenced French philosophy
French philosophy
French philosophy, here taken to mean philosophy in the French language, has been extremely diverse and has influenced Western philosophy as a whole for centuries, from the medieval scholasticism of Peter Abelard, through the founding of modern philosophy by René Descartes, to 20th century...

. The mathematician Edouard Le Roy
Edouard Le Roy
Édouard Louis Emmanuel Julien Le Roy was a French philosopher and mathematician.Le Roy was received at the École Normale Supérieure in 1892, and at the agrégation in mathematics in 1895...

 became Bergson's main disciple. Nonetheless, Suzanne Guerlac has argued that his institutional position at the Collège de France, delivering lectures to a general audience, may have retarded the systematic reception of his thought: "Bergson achieved enormous popular success in this context, often due to the emotional appeal of his ideas. But he did not have the equivalent of graduate students who might have become rigorous interpreters of his thought. Thus Bergson's philosophy--in principle open and nonsystematic--was easily borrowed piecemeal and altered by enthusiastic admirers".

Alfred North Whitehead
Alfred North Whitehead
Alfred North Whitehead, OM FRS was an English mathematician who became a philosopher. He wrote on algebra, logic, foundations of mathematics, philosophy of science, physics, metaphysics, and education...

 acknowledged Bergson's influence on his process philosophy
Process philosophy
Process philosophy identifies metaphysical reality with change and dynamism. Since the time of Plato and Aristotle, philosophers have posited true reality as "timeless", based on permanent substances, whilst processes are denied or subordinated to timeless substances...

 in his 1929 Process and Reality
Process and Reality
In philosophy, especially metaphysics, the book Process and Reality by Alfred North Whitehead sets out its author's philosophy of organism, also called process philosophy...

.
However, Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic. At various points in his life he considered himself a liberal, a socialist, and a pacifist, but he also admitted that he had never been any of these things...

, Whitehead's collaborator on Principia Mathematica
Principia Mathematica
The Principia Mathematica is a three-volume work on the foundations of mathematics, written by Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell and published in 1910, 1912, and 1913...

, was not so entranced by Bergson's philosophy. Although acknowledging Bergson's literary skills, Russell saw Bergson's arguments at best as persuasive or emotive speculation but not at all as any worthwhile example of sound reasoning or philosophical insight. The epistemologist Gaston Bachelard
Gaston Bachelard
Gaston Bachelard was a French philosopher. He made contributions in the fields of poetics and the philosophy of science. To the latter he introduced the concepts of epistemological obstacle and epistemological break...

 explicitly alluded to him in the last pages of his 1938 book The Formation of the Scientific Mind. Others influenced by Bergson include Vladimir Jankélévitch
Vladimir Jankélévitch
Vladimir Jankélévitch was a French philosopher and musicologist.- Biography :Jankélévitch was the son of Russian Jewish parents, who had emigrated to France....

, who wrote a book on him in 1931, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ was a French philosopher and Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist and took part in the discovery of both Piltdown Man and Peking Man. Teilhard conceived the idea of the Omega Point and developed Vladimir Vernadsky's concept of Noosphere...

 and Gilles Deleuze
Gilles Deleuze
Gilles Deleuze , was a French philosopher who, from the early 1960s until his death, wrote influentially on philosophy, literature, film, and fine art. His most popular works were the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus , both co-written with Félix...

 who wrote Le bergsonisme in 1966. Bergson also influenced the phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty
Maurice Merleau-Ponty
Maurice Merleau-Ponty was a French phenomenological philosopher, strongly influenced by Karl Marx, Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger in addition to being closely associated with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir...

 and Emmanuel Lévinas
Emmanuel Lévinas
Emmanuel Levinas was a Lithuanian-born French Jewish philosopher and Talmudic commentator.-Life:Emanuelis Levinas received a traditional Jewish education in Lithuania...

, although Merleau-Ponty had reservations about Bergson's philosophy. The Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis
Nikos Kazantzakis
Nikos Kazantzakis was a Greek writer and philosopher, celebrated for his novel Zorba the Greek, considered his magnum opus...

 studied under Bergson in Paris and his writing and philosophy were profoundly influenced as a result.

Many writers of the early 20th century criticized Bergson's intuitionism
Intuitionism
In the philosophy of mathematics, intuitionism, or neointuitionism , is an approach to mathematics as the constructive mental activity of humans. That is, mathematics does not consist of analytic activities wherein deep properties of existence are revealed and applied...

, indeterminism, psychologism
Psychologism
Psychologism is a generic type of position in philosophy according to which psychology plays a central role in grounding or explaining some other, non-psychological type of fact or law...

 and interpretation of the scientific impulse. Those who explicitly criticized Bergson, either in published articles or in letters, included Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic. At various points in his life he considered himself a liberal, a socialist, and a pacifist, but he also admitted that he had never been any of these things...

 George Santayana
George Santayana
George Santayana was a philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist. A lifelong Spanish citizen, Santayana was raised and educated in the United States and identified himself as an American. He wrote in English and is generally considered an American man of letters...

, G. E. Moore, Ludwig Wittgenstein
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein was an Austrian philosopher who worked primarily in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language. He was professor in philosophy at the University of Cambridge from 1939 until 1947...

, Martin Heidegger
Martin Heidegger
Martin Heidegger was a German philosopher known for his existential and phenomenological explorations of the "question of Being."...

, Julien Benda
Julien Benda
Julien Benda was a French philosopher and novelist. He remains famous for his essay The Betrayal of the Intellectuals.- Life :...

, T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

, Wyndham Lewis
Wyndham Lewis
Percy Wyndham Lewis was an English painter and author . He was a co-founder of the Vorticist movement in art, and edited the literary magazine of the Vorticists, BLAST...

, Paul Valéry
Paul Valéry
Ambroise-Paul-Toussaint-Jules Valéry was a French poet, essayist, and philosopher. His interests were sufficiently broad that he can be classified as a polymath...

, André Gide
André Gide
André Paul Guillaume Gide was a French author and winner of the Nobel Prize in literature in 1947. Gide's career ranged from its beginnings in the symbolist movement, to the advent of anticolonialism between the two World Wars.Known for his fiction as well as his autobiographical works, Gide...

, Jean Piaget
Jean Piaget
Jean Piaget was a French-speaking Swiss developmental psychologist and philosopher known for his epistemological studies with children. His theory of cognitive development and epistemological view are together called "genetic epistemology"....

, Marxist philosophers Theodor W. Adorno
Theodor W. Adorno
Theodor W. Adorno was a German sociologist, philosopher, and musicologist known for his critical theory of society....

, Lucio Colletti
Lucio Colletti
Lucio Colletti was one of the most important Italian philosophers of the twentieth century, and one of a select few to be known also outside Italy...

, Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre was a French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic. He was one of the leading figures in 20th century French philosophy, particularly Marxism, and was one of the key figures in literary...

, and Georges Politzer
Georges Politzer
Georges Politzer was a French philosopher and Marxist theoretician of Hungarian origin, affectionately referred to by some as the "red-headed philosopher" . He was a native of Oradea, a city in present-day Romania.-Biography:Politzer was already a militant by the time of his involvement in the...

, as well as Maurice Blanchot
Maurice Blanchot
Maurice Blanchot was a French writer, philosopher, and literary theorist. His work had a strong influence on post-structuralist philosophers such as Jacques Derrida.-Works:...

, American philosophers such as Irving Babbitt
Irving Babbitt
Irving Babbitt was an American academic and literary critic, noted for his founding role in a movement that became known as the New Humanism, a significant influence on literary discussion and conservative thought in the period between 1910 to 1930...

, Arthur Lovejoy, Josiah Royce
Josiah Royce
Josiah Royce was an American objective idealist philosopher.-Life:Royce, born in Grass Valley, California, grew up in pioneer California very soon after the California Gold Rush. He received the B.A...

, The New Realists (Ralph B. Perry, E. B. Holt, and William Pepperell Montague
William Pepperell Montague
William Pepperell Montague was a philosopher of the New Realist school. Montague stressed the difference between his philosophical peers as adherents of either "objective" and "critical realism"....

), The Critical Realists (Durant Drake, Roy W. Sellars, C. A. Strong, and A. K. Rogers), Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, Roger Fry
Roger Fry
Roger Eliot Fry was an English artist and art critic, and a member of the Bloomsbury Group. Establishing his reputation as a scholar of the Old Masters, he became an advocate of more recent developments in French painting, to which he gave the name Post-Impressionism...

 (see his letters), Julian Huxley
Julian Huxley
Sir Julian Sorell Huxley FRS was an English evolutionary biologist, humanist and internationalist. He was a proponent of natural selection, and a leading figure in the mid-twentieth century evolutionary synthesis...

 (in Evolution: The Modern Synthesis
Evolution: The Modern Synthesis
Evolution: The Modern Synthesis, a 1942 book by Julian Huxley , is one of the most important books of the modern evolutionary synthesis.- Publication history :Allen & Unwin, London...

) and Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf
Adeline Virginia Woolf was an English author, essayist, publisher, and writer of short stories, regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century....

 (for the latter, see Ann Banfield
Ann Banfield
Ann Banfield, a professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley.She has taught at Berkeley since 1975 and is a specialist in linguistics, critical theory and the use of philosophy as a cornerstone of modernism...

, The Phantom Table).

The Vatican
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 accused Bergson of pantheism
Pantheism
Pantheism is the view that the Universe and God are identical. Pantheists thus do not believe in a personal, anthropomorphic or creator god. The word derives from the Greek meaning "all" and the Greek meaning "God". As such, Pantheism denotes the idea that "God" is best seen as a process of...

, while free-thinkers
Freethought
Freethought is a philosophical viewpoint that holds that opinions should be formed on the basis of science, logic, and reason, and should not be influenced by authority, tradition, or other dogmas...

(who formed a large part of the teachers and professors of the French Third Republic
French Third Republic
The French Third Republic was the republican government of France from 1870, when the Second French Empire collapsed due to the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, to 1940, when France was overrun by Nazi Germany during World War II, resulting in the German and Italian occupations of France...

) accused him of spiritualism
Spiritualism
Spiritualism is a belief system or religion, postulating the belief that spirits of the dead residing in the spirit world have both the ability and the inclination to communicate with the living...

. Still others have characterized his philosophy as a materialist emergentism
Emergent materialism
In the philosophy of mind, emergent materialism is a theory which asserts that the mind is an irreducible existent in some sense, albeit not in the sense of being an ontological simple, and that the study of mental phenomena is independent of other sciences.The view can be divided into emergence...

 — Samuel Alexander
Samuel Alexander
Samuel Alexander OM was an Australian-born British philosopher. He was the first Jewish fellow of an Oxbridge college.-Early life:...

 and C. Lloyd Morgan
C. Lloyd Morgan
Conwy Lloyd Morgan, FRS was a British psychologist. He is best remembered for the experimental approach to animal psychology now known as "Morgan's canon"....

 explicitly claimed Bergson as their forebear. According to Henri Hude (1990, II, p. 142), who supports himself on the whole of Bergson's works as well as his now published courses, accusing him of pantheism is a "counter-sense". Hude alleges that a mystical experience
Mysticism
Mysticism is the knowledge of, and especially the personal experience of, states of consciousness, i.e. levels of being, beyond normal human perception, including experience and even communion with a supreme being.-Classical origins:...

, roughly outlined at the end of Les Deux sources de la morale et de la religion, is the inner principle of his whole philosophy, although this has been contested by other commentators.

Charles Sanders Peirce took strong exception to those who associated him with Bergson. In response to a letter comparing his work with that of Bergson he wrote, “a man who seeks to further science can hardly commit a greater sin than to use the terms of his science without anxious care to use them with strict accuracy; it is not very gratifying to my feelings to be classed along with a Bergson who seems to be doing his utmost to muddle all distinctions.” William James’s students resisted the assimilation of his work to that of Bergson. See, for example, Horace Kallen
Horace Kallen
-Biography:Born in the then German Bernstadt, Silesia to Jacob David Kallen and Esther Rebecca , an Orthodox rabbi and his wife, Kallen came to the United States as a child in 1887. He studied philosophy at Harvard University where he was a student of George Santayana, earning his B.A. in 1903...

’s book on the subject James and Bergson. As Jean Wahl
Jean Wahl
Jean André Wahl was a French philosopher.-Early career:He was professor at the Sorbonne from 1936 to 1967, broken by World War II. He was in the U.S...

 described the “ultimate disagreement” between James and Bergson in his System of Metaphysics: “for James, the consideration of action is necessary for the definition of truth, according to Bergson, action...must be kept from our mind if we want to see the truth”. Gide even went so far as to say that future historians will over-estimate Bergson’s influence on art and philosophy just because he was the self-appointed spokesman for “the spirit of the age”.

As early as the 1890s, Santayana attacked certain key concepts in Bergson’s philosophy, above all his view of the New and the indeterminate:

the possibility of a new and unaccountable fact appearing at any time,” he writes in his book on Hermann Lotze, “does not practically affect the method of investigation;...the only thing given up is the hope that these hypotheses may ever be adequate to the reality and cover the process of nature without leaving a remainder. This is no great renunciation; for that consummation of science...is by no one really expected.


According to Santayana and Russell, Bergson projected false claims onto the aspirations of scientific method, claims which Bergson needed to make in order to justify his prior moral commitment to freedom. Russell takes particular exception to Bergson’s understanding of number in chapter two of Time and Free-will. According to Russell, Bergson uses an outmoded spatial metaphor (“extended images”) to describe the nature of mathematics as well as logic
Logic
In philosophy, Logic is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science...

 in general. “Bergson only succeeds in making his theory of number possible by confusing a particular collection with the number of its terms, and this again with number in general”, writes Russell (see The Philosophy of Bergson and A History of Western Philosophy).

Furthermore, writers such as Russell, Wittgenstein
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein was an Austrian philosopher who worked primarily in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language. He was professor in philosophy at the University of Cambridge from 1939 until 1947...

, and James saw élan vital as a projection of subjectivity onto the world. The external world, according to certain theories of probability
Probability
Probability is ordinarily used to describe an attitude of mind towards some proposition of whose truth we arenot certain. The proposition of interest is usually of the form "Will a specific event occur?" The attitude of mind is of the form "How certain are we that the event will occur?" The...

, provides less and less indeterminism with further refinement of scientific method. In brief, one should not confuse the moral, psychological, subjective demand for the new, the underivable and the unexplained with the universe. One's subjective sense of duration differs the (non-human) world, a difference which, according to the ancient materialist Lucretius
Lucretius
Titus Lucretius Carus was a Roman poet and philosopher. His only known work is an epic philosophical poem laying out the beliefs of Epicureanism, De rerum natura, translated into English as On the Nature of Things or "On the Nature of the Universe".Virtually no details have come down concerning...

 should not be characterized as either one of becoming or being, creation or destruction (De Rerum Natura).

Suzanne Guerlac has argued that the more recent resurgence of scholarly interest in Bergson is related to the growing influence of his follower Deleuze within continental philosophy: "If there is a return to Bergson today, then, it is largely due to Gilles Deleuze whose own work has etched the contours of the New Bergson. This is not only because Deleuze wrote about Bergson; it is also because Deleuze's own thought is deeply engaged with that of his predecessor, even when Bergson is not explicitly mentioned." Leonard Lawlor and Valentine Moulard agree with Guerlac that "the recent revitalization of Bergsonism [...] is almost entirely due to Deleuze." They explain that Bergson's concept of multiplicity "is at the very heart of Deleuze's thought, and duration
Duration
In music duration is an amount of time or a particular time interval. A duration is a property of a note that becomes one of the bases of rhythm.A tone may be sustained for varying lengths of time...

 is the model for all of Deleuze's 'becomings.' The other aspect that attracted Deleuze, which is indeed connected to the first, is Bergson's criticism of the concept of negation in Creative Evolution. [...] Thus Bergson became a resource in the criticism of the Hegelian dialectic, the negative."

See also


Bergson's concepts:
  • Duration (philosophy)
  • Intuition (Bergson)
    Intuition (Bergson)
    Intuition is the philosophical method of French philosopher Henri Bergson.In An Introduction to Metaphysics, Bergson introduces two ways in which an object can be known: absolutely and relatively. Pertaining to each mode of knowledge is a method through which it can be gained...

  • Élan vital
    Élan vital
    Élan vital was coined by French philosopher Henri Bergson in his 1907 book Creative Evolution, in which he addresses the question of self-organisation and spontaneous morphogenesis of things in an increasingly complex manner. Elan vital was translated in the English edition as "vital impetus", but...



Related themes:
  • Philosophy of biology
    Philosophy of biology
    The philosophy of biology is a subfield of philosophy of science, which deals with epistemological, metaphysical, and ethical issues in the biological and biomedical sciences...

  • Process philosophy
    Process philosophy
    Process philosophy identifies metaphysical reality with change and dynamism. Since the time of Plato and Aristotle, philosophers have posited true reality as "timeless", based on permanent substances, whilst processes are denied or subordinated to timeless substances...



Related theorists:
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Schelling
  • Alfred North Whitehead
    Alfred North Whitehead
    Alfred North Whitehead, OM FRS was an English mathematician who became a philosopher. He wrote on algebra, logic, foundations of mathematics, philosophy of science, physics, metaphysics, and education...

  • William James
    William James
    William James was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher who was trained as a physician. He wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology, psychology of religious experience and mysticism, and on the philosophy of pragmatism...

  • Gilles Deleuze
    Gilles Deleuze
    Gilles Deleuze , was a French philosopher who, from the early 1960s until his death, wrote influentially on philosophy, literature, film, and fine art. His most popular works were the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus , both co-written with Félix...

  • Charles Peguy
    Charles Péguy
    Charles Péguy was a noted French poet, essayist, and editor. His two main philosophies were socialism and nationalism, but by 1908 at the latest, after years of uneasy agnosticism, he had become a devout but non-practicing Roman Catholic.From that time, Catholicism strongly influenced his...

  • Gaston Bachelard
    Gaston Bachelard
    Gaston Bachelard was a French philosopher. He made contributions in the fields of poetics and the philosophy of science. To the latter he introduced the concepts of epistemological obstacle and epistemological break...

  • N.O. Lossky


Lists:

Further reading

  • Ansell-Pearson, Keith. Philosophy and the Adventure of the Virtual: Bergson and the Time of Life. London: Routledge, 2002.
  • Bachelard, Gaston
    Gaston Bachelard
    Gaston Bachelard was a French philosopher. He made contributions in the fields of poetics and the philosophy of science. To the latter he introduced the concepts of epistemological obstacle and epistemological break...

    . The Dialectic of Duration. Trans. Mary Mcallester Jones. Manchester: Clinamen Press, 2000.
  • Deleuze, Gilles
    Gilles Deleuze
    Gilles Deleuze , was a French philosopher who, from the early 1960s until his death, wrote influentially on philosophy, literature, film, and fine art. His most popular works were the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus , both co-written with Félix...

    . Bergsonism. Trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. New York: Zone Books, 1988.
  • Deleuze, Gilles
    Gilles Deleuze
    Gilles Deleuze , was a French philosopher who, from the early 1960s until his death, wrote influentially on philosophy, literature, film, and fine art. His most popular works were the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus , both co-written with Félix...

    . Cinema 1: The Movement-Image
    Cinema 1: The Movement Image
    Cinema 1: The Movement Image is a book by the philosopher Gilles Deleuze that combines philosophy with film criticism. It was originally published in French as L'Image-mouvement. Cinéma 1 . It was translated into English by Hugh Tomlinson. In the Preface to the French edition Deleuze says that,...

    . Trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986.
  • Deleuze, Gilles
    Gilles Deleuze
    Gilles Deleuze , was a French philosopher who, from the early 1960s until his death, wrote influentially on philosophy, literature, film, and fine art. His most popular works were the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus , both co-written with Félix...

    . Cinema 2: The Time-Image. Trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989.
  • Grosz, Elizabeth
    Elizabeth Grosz
    Elizabeth A. Grosz is an Australian feminist academic living and working in the USA. She is known for philosophical interpretations of the work of French philosophers Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze, as well as her readings of the works of French feminists, Luce...

    . The Nick of Time: Politics, Evolution, and the Untimely. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004.
  • Guerlac, Suzanne. Thinking in Time: An Introduction to Henri Bergson. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2006.
  • Horkheimer, Max
    Max Horkheimer
    Max Horkheimer was a German-Jewish philosopher-sociologist, famous for his work in critical theory as a member of the 'Frankfurt School' of social research. His most important works include The Eclipse of Reason and, in collaboration with Theodor Adorno, The Dialectic of Enlightenment...

    . "On Bergson's Metaphysics of Time". Trans. Peter Thomas, revised by Stewart Martin. Radical Philosophy 131 (2005) 9-19.
  • James, William
    William James
    William James was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher who was trained as a physician. He wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology, psychology of religious experience and mysticism, and on the philosophy of pragmatism...

    . "Bergson and his Critique of Intellectualism". In A Pluralistic Universe. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1996. 223-74.
  • Lawlor, Leonard. The Challenge of Bergsonism: Phenomenology, Ontology, Ethics. London: Continuum Press, 2003.
  • Merleau-Ponty, Maurice
    Maurice Merleau-Ponty
    Maurice Merleau-Ponty was a French phenomenological philosopher, strongly influenced by Karl Marx, Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger in addition to being closely associated with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir...

    . "Bergson". In In Praise of Philosophy and Other Essays. Trans. John O'Neill. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1963. 9-32.
  • Merleau-Ponty, Maurice
    Maurice Merleau-Ponty
    Maurice Merleau-Ponty was a French phenomenological philosopher, strongly influenced by Karl Marx, Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger in addition to being closely associated with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir...

    . "Bergson in the Making". In Signs. Trans. Richard McCleary. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1964. 182-91.
  • Mullarkey, John, ed. The New Bergson. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1999.
  • Russell, Bertrand
    Bertrand Russell
    Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic. At various points in his life he considered himself a liberal, a socialist, and a pacifist, but he also admitted that he had never been any of these things...

    . “The Philosophy of Bergson”. The Monist 22 (1912): 321-47.

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