I first came across him many years ago, when I read Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy. Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941) and his ideas about human experience of time passing and … The French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859–1941) analyzed the dialectic of comedy in his essay “Laughter,” which deals directly with the spirit of contradiction that is basic both to comedy and to life. The true purpose of knowledge is to know things deeply, to touch the inner essence of things via a form of empathy: “A true empiricism”, he wrote, “is that which proposes to get as near to the original itself as possible, to search deeply into its life, and so, by a kind of intellectual auscultation, to feel the throbbings of its soul.”. [10] But as the three images illustrate, it can be stated that duration is qualitative, unextended, multiple yet a unity, mobile and continuously interpenetrating itself. Russell clearly disliked Bergson’s philosophy and provided unconvincing reasons to justify his prejudice. To have complete access to the thousands of philosophy articles on this site, please, Bergson’s name is not usually included on shortlists of the philosophical greats, so it’s quite easy to miss him. Enjoy the best Henri Bergson Quotes at BrainyQuote. Until then he had been “Wholly imbued with mechanistic theories”, as he himself put it some years later in a letter to his friend, the American philosopher, William James. on Zeno's paradox was published in Foundations of Physics Letters and generated interest in 2003. Nothing within a duration can be the cause of anything else within it. The problem is consumers are never satisfied by what they’re offered.”. X. Let us consider that this action, in spite of its duration, is indivisible if one supposes that it goes on without stopping; that, if we intercalate a stop in it, we make two actions of it instead of one and that each of these actions will then be the indivisible of which we speak; that it is not the moving act itself which is never indivisible, but the motionless line it lays down beneath it like a track in space. It was William James who had originally pioneered this work over a century ago and not much was done in this field until the Hardy unit was set up in 1969. Whenever any given outlook – scientific, philosophical, political, economic or religious – becomes closed and dogmatic, it sooner or later has to undergo its own creative evolution and become more open to new ideas and insights. Henri Bergson’s thoughts on intuition, the harmonizing function of cognition, crystallize when he expands his notion of time as duration, which is the idea that time has a kind of subjective component to it. [7] To measure duration (durée), it must be translated into the immobile, spatial time (temps) of science, a translation of the unextended into the extended. Henri Bergson Biographical H enri Bergson (1859-1941), the son of a Jewish musician and an English woman, was educated at the Lycée Condorcet and the École Normale Supérieure, where he studied philosophy. We should not therefore confuse an abstract, arbitrary notion of practical convenience with the underlying truth that is continuously confirmed by our own experience. Only weeks before his death in 1941 and despite being seriously ill, Bergson insisted on registering as a Jew, even though he had been offered exemption by the Vichy government. London: George Allen and Unwin (1910). For a biologist to be accused of vitalist tendencies was equivalent to a charge of heresy. We’ve grown so used to living in a society ruled by production that we can barely even imagine one ruled by creation. Brit. By continuing to browse the site with cookies enabled in your browser, you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy. Henri Bergson was born in Paris as the son of a prosperous Jewish musician from Poland and an Anglo-Irish mother. Just because we close our eyes to the unceasing variation of every physical state, we are obliged when the change has become so formidable as to force itself on our attention, to speak as if a new state were placed alongside the previous one. Here Bergson distinguished between time as we actually experience it, lived time – which he called ‘real duration’ (durée réelle) – and the mechanistic time of science. A person with no memory might experience two identical moments but, Bergson says, that person's consciousness would thus be in a constant state of death and rebirth, which he identifies with unconsciousness. Henri Bergson tries to measure time and realises time can only be measured in decay. The mechanistic view alone is singularly ill-equipped to understand the immense variety and depth of human experience, to say nothing of the more subtle aspects of the phenomenon of consciousness. 27, October-December, 1913, 39).At the same time André Salmon wrote on Bergson and the Cubists (Paris-Journal, November 29, 1911). Share with your friends. In The Two Sources Bergson seemed to subscribe to a more traditional Christian theological notion of God. Like his German contemporary, Edmund Husserl, Bergson'soriginal training was in mathematics. Our deeper needs are vitally real – not at all the same thing as contrived wants. He wrote a paper on ‘Duration and Simultaneity with regard to Einstein’s Theory’ (1921). That is, he uses the word "time" to capture the common, pre- theoretical and uncontroversial aspects of time. ; New York, The Macmillan co In a society that put greater emphasis on creation than production, boredom would not even be an issue. In 1911 Alexandre Mercereau affirmed Bergson’s support for Cubism (Vers et Prose, no. [1] Duration is ineffable and can only be shown indirectly through images that can never reveal a complete picture. Smart) are apparently unaware of his total precedence by Bergson", The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Duration_(philosophy)&oldid=986271574, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 30 October 2020, at 20:38. I wanted to remain among those who tomorrow were to be persecuted”. Henri Bergson: Time, Memory And Modernism. Yet even this image is inaccurate and incomplete, for it represents duration as a fixed and complete spectrum with all the shades spatially juxtaposed, whereas duration is incomplete and continuously growing, its states not beginning or ending but intermingling.[10][11]. 2 For example, a long take can unfold in such a way as to introduce the novel and the unpredictable and become an example of “creative time” at play. With a more vitalistic perception, the intrinsic value of others and of humanity as a whole would by now have become something so written into our lives that it would be that much harder to demonise those we disliked. In truth, all sensation … The writer, Peter Lynds, was credited with producing an original new insight. Political and economic priorities would by now have changed radically and war would be seen as an absolute last resort. A few years before their deaths, Bergson wrote about Einstein, and Einstein mentioned Bergson one last time. John-Francis Phipps lives in Oxfordshire. The world of that time, violent and material, was dominated by the number and the quantity. He acknowledged that his reflections had in fact brought him closer to the Roman Catholic position, which he saw as the fulfillment of his Judaic faith. Since space is a homogeneous, quantitative multiplicity, as opposed to what Bergson calls a heterogenous, qualitative multiplicity,[8] duration becomes juxtaposed and converted into a succession of distinct parts, one coming after the other and therefore "caused" by one another. When I started reading Bergson’s works, I immediately took to his philosophy and writing style, although there are places where his argument is not easy to follow and some of the subtler nuances of his thought get lost in translation. Bergson's best-known book is "Creative Evolution" (1907). “If you tap the words ‘torture’, ‘rape’ or ‘slave’ into a search engine,” wrote Blacker, “You will not be led to human rights organizations or academic reports, but to thousand upon thousand of websites specialising in recreational sadism. [5] But to Bergson, the problem only arises when mobility and time, that is, duration, are mistaken for the spatial line that underlies them. When Rupert Sheldrake’s book A New Science of Life came out in 1981, the editor of a leading scientific journal used language more appropriate to the time of the Inquisition, in calling for it to be burnt. His thinking had widespread influence in a variety of disciplines. The nature of time is one of the most interesting, but also one of the most difficult, topics within metaphysics and Bergson had some very important things to say about it. I eventually wrote an introductory booklet on Bergson entitled A Living Philosophy (Now out of print, although most of the text is still available in another publication.). Where Immanuel Kant imagined a noumenal realm beyond the phenomenal (and deterministic) realm of … Quite early in his professional teaching career, Bergson had one of those life-changing eureka moments. The traffic jam caused by Bergson is a reminder that there was a time, not long ago, when philosophers were not relegated to the corners of academic libraries, but were embraced and read by all. This made me want to read Bergson and judge for myself, which I duly did and soon saw how wrong Russell was. [14] For Bergson, the primary disagreement was over metaphysical and epistemological claims made by the theory of relativity, rather than a dispute about scientific evidence for or against the theory. All rights reserved. Henri Bergson (1859-1941) was the leading French philosopher of the first half of the 20th century. The decision to break time into past, present, and future reflects a tendency to see time as more or less analogous to space. In his best known work, Creative Evolution (1907), Bergson made it clear that he accepted evolution as a scientifically established fact. See www.john-francis-phipps.co.uk. The fact that a mechanistic approach is essential for many aspects of scientific research does not mean that everything in life can be accounted for in reductionist, nothing-but mechanistic terms. Bergson's primary preoccupation was with the nature of time and no one (including, I think, Husserl and Heidegger) spent as much time thinking about time as Bergson did. There could therefore be no question of any nation, however powerful, embarking on pre-emptive wars against any other nation. This site uses cookies to recognize users and allow us to analyse site usage. Duration (French: la durée) is a theory of time and consciousness posited by the French philosopher Henri Bergson. Henri Bergson, in full Henri-Louis Bergson, (born Oct. 18, 1859, Paris, France—died Jan. 4, 1941, Paris), French philosopher, the first to elaborate what came to be called a process philosophy, which rejected static values in favour of values of motion, change, and evolution. His work remains influential, particularly in the realms of philosophy, cultural studies, and new media studies. [15], Bergson's ideas concerning the philosophy of time were somewhat rediscovered after a paper Even this image is incomplete, because the wealth of colouring is forgotten when it is invoked. Henri Bergson wonders and worries what, where and how time is. His philosophy offers a more integrated view of life, where science, technology, art, economics, politics and spirituality can all work together. Duration (French: la durée) is a theory of time and consciousness posited by the French philosopher Henri Bergson. He regarded the brain as an organ of choice, with a practical role. Instead, let us imagine an infinitely small piece of elastic, contracted, if that were possible, to a mathematical point. Henri Bergson (1859-1941) was an important French philosopher, extremely influential at the beginning of the 20th century, and a Nobel Prize winner in literature. But he never actually became a Catholic: “I would have become a convert”, he wrote, “had I not foreseen for years a formidable wave of anti-semitism about to break upon the world. [10] The image of two spools, however, is of a homogeneous and commensurable thread, whereas, according to Bergson, no two moments can be the same, hence duration is heterogeneous. The encounter took place during a talk Einstein gave at the prestigious Paris Société française de philosophie . Bergson: Time, Memory and Modernism Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay Henri Bergson (1859 – 1941) was a French philosopher whose philosophy had a marked influence on later 19th century poetry and also on 20th century modernist thought. For the individual, time may speed up or slow down, whereas, for science, it would remain the same. On the one hand, there’s the closed society based on conformity to rules and moral codes, interpreted in a strict, legalistic, literal way. Bergson proposed that the evolutionary process should be seen as the expression of an enduring life force (élan vital), that is continually developing. His mother was Anglo-Irish and his father Polish and an accomplished musician. While the debate was for the most part removed from Einstein’s legacy, it was periodically brought up by many of Bergson’s followers. Henri Bergson Woolf’s fascination with temporality has often been understood in relation to the theories of the French philosopher Henri Bergson, whose work had a profound influence on the ways in which modernist literature represented time and consciousness. Just as the physician does this to find out what is happening within the patient’s body, so the metaphysician practises a mental equivalent of auscultation to apprehend the inner essence of things. The first is of two spools, one unrolling to represent the continuous flow of ageing as one feels oneself moving toward the end of one's life-span, the other rolling up to represent the continuous growth of memory which, for Bergson, equals consciousness. Instead, we feel time as a continuous flow, with no clearly demarcated beginnings and ends. Arthur Mitchell, Henry Holt and Company, S E Robbins (2004) On time, memory and dynamic form. [13], Bergson had a correspondence with physicist Albert Einstein in 1922 and a debate over Einstein's theory of relativity and its implications. Henri Bergson was born in Paris in 1859 and died there in 1941. Free will is not really a problem but merely a common confusion among philosophers caused by the immobile time of science. At the age of 17, he won an open prize for an original solution to a mathematical problem, and in the same year he solved a problem Pascal claimed to have solved but left unpublished. One can see why his style, imagery and free usage of terms such as ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’ did not appeal to the logical positivists. This, he argued, is based on a misperception: it consists of superimposing spatial concepts onto time, which then becomes a distorted version of the real thing. [2], Bergson first introduced his notion of duration in his essay Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness. Henri Bergson's doctoral thesis was published in France in 1889, and much later translated into English (1910) under the title Time and Free Will.It contained basic ideas that Bergson developed further in Matter and Memory (1896) and Creative Evolution (1907), especially his idea of duration. This led me to change my point of view completely” (Encyc. Evolution has at its very heart this life force or vital impulse. “The pure present is an ungraspable advance of the past devouring the future. This, he argued, is based on a misperception: it consists of superimposing spatial concepts onto time, which then becomes a distorted version of the real thing. All this is mind-bogglingly profitable, because it taps into the age’s most compelling vices and weaknesses: cruelty, voyeurism, boredom. Site Navigation Mead Project Inventory Thus, to grasp duration, one must reverse habitual modes of thought and place oneself within duration by intuition. You’ve read one of your four complimentary articles for this month. After a teaching career as a schoolmaster in various secondary schools, Bergson was appointed to the École Normale Supérieure in 1898 and, from 1900 to 1921, held the chair of … But in this case it was a struggle over the nature and scope – of time itself – that attracted these two heavyweights: the philosopher, Henri Bergson, and Albert Einstein, physicist. Bergson then presents the image of a spectrum of a thousand gradually changing shades with a line of feeling running through them, being both affected by and maintaining each of the shades. Explanation: Bergson uses the word "time" like all of us do. The artist is not a special kind of person. [17], Theory of time and consciousness posited by the French philosopher Henri Bergson, Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution (1911) tr. Henri Bergson (1859-1941) Bergson advanced a theory of evolution based on a spiritual dimension of human life. He was widely popular during his lifetime and his lectures in Paris were attended not only by philosophers and students, but also by artists, theologians, social theorists, and even the general public. Recent advances in the new physics and cosmology have also led to a radical reappraisal of old ways of thinking about time and causality, subject/object, observer/observed. Every person is a special kind of artist. If the state which "remains the same" is more varied than we think, [then] on the other hand the passing of one state to another resembles—more than we imagine—a single state being prolonged: the transition is continuous. Bergson was born in Paris on October 18, 1859; he was the second ofseven children of a Polish Father and English mother; both of hisparents were Jewish. From a time of great influence, Bergson's works fell into years of neglect. The way we perceive time is surely a core perception, which affects all other perceptions. Site Navigation Mead Project Inventory In his preface, Bergson affirms the reality of mind and the reality of matter and tries to determine the relation of the one to the other by the study of memory, which he saw as the intersection or convergence of mind and matter. It is through this translation that the problem of free will arises. Despite the recovery of a more vitalistic outlook in attitudes towards physical and mental wellbeing, the main underlying perception of our modern, urban-industrial society remains mechanistic and soulless. Bergson lived the quiet life of a French professor, marked by the publication of his four principal works: Bergson uses one of his musical analogies to make the point: “As the symphony overflows the movements which scan it, so the mental/spiritual life overflows the cerebral/intellectual life. Terms such as ‘life force’ and ‘vital energy’ are now back in general usage. Had such a re-valuation of our natural habitat and its human, plant and animal inhabitants taken place half a century ago, our planet would probably be in much better shape today, allowing us to pass it on in a healthy state to our descendants. [1] Bergson became aware that the moment one attempted to measure a moment, it would be gone: one measures an immobile, complete line, whereas time is mobile and incomplete. Ten seconds of clock time can feel differently for two different people. His doctoral thesis was on Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness (1889). On the other hand, there’s the open society, which expresses creativity, imagination and spirituality via the arts, music, poetry, philosophy and mystical experience. Bergson sought to improve upon inadequacies he perceived in the philosophy of Herbert Spencer, due, he believed, to Spencer's lack of comprehension of mechanics, which led Bergson to the conclusion that time eluded mathematics and science. Hence Bergson decided to explore the inner life of man, which is a kind of duration, neither a unity nor a quantitative multiplicity. It is used as a defense of free will in a response to Immanuel Kant, who believed free will was only possible outside time and space. In order to investigate methodically this aspect of human experience, Hardy set up a research unit, originally at Oxford. Let us draw it out gradually in such a way as to bring out of the point a line which will grow progressively longer. I saw, to my great astonishment, that scientific time does not endure. Let’s suppose things had developed in a more balanced, Bergsonian way over the sixty years or more since his death: reason and intuition, intellect and imagination, matter and mind, the physical and the spiritual. Bergson also served on French diplomatic missions and from 1921-26 acted as president of the committee on international cooperation of the League of Nations. He believed that the failure to take into account the real time underlying the whole process results in the failure to appreciate the uniqueness of life. It is now at the University of Wales at Lampeter and is named after its founder (The Alister Hardy Research Centre). We think we’re seeing a continuous flow of movement, but in reality what we’re seeing is a succession of fixed frames or stills. Instead of fearing time and thinking of it as an endless space that has to be filled in, we would value it more and make sure we had time to express our own particular form of creativity, time to dream, time to do nothing in particular, to have a fallow period, time to sit silently, or walk mindfully. [4] He formulated four paradoxes to present mobility as an impossibility. With the ascendancy of the mechanistic outlook throughout most of the twentieth century, ‘vitalism’ became a dirty word in scientific circles. Henri Bergson (1859–1941), whose philosophical works emphasized motion, time, and change, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1927. They underlined—once again—just how wrong the perspective of the other remained. The brain keeps consciousness, feeling and thought tensely strained on life, and consequently makes them capable of efficacious action. Bergson’s central concern is with the opposition of the… France: Cultural and scientific attainments Maurice Barrès, and Henri Bergson. © Philosophy Now 2020. In order to exploit and abuse others and make war against them, you first have to devalue them. When one buying machine finally breaks down (when a customer dies), it is replaced by a new one, already well groomed in the dark arts of consumption. This time we shall have a more exact image of our development in duration. Let us fix our attention not on the line as line, but on the action which traces it. He focussed in particular on the condition known as aphasia – loss of the ability to use language. This sense of wonder comes as naturally to a person of scientific inclination as it does to an artistic or spiritually-minded person. One must accept time as it really is through placing oneself within duration where freedom can be identified and experienced as pure mobility.[9]. The most recent of his many books and pamphlets is On Being Alive: Reflections After 11th September. ... Bergson's doctoral dissertation, Time and Free Will (1889) presented his theories on the freedom of … Matter and Memory, translated by Nancy Margaret Paul and W. Scott Palmer. On the other hand, Bergson uses the word "duration" in a special, theoretical, technical sense. There can be no place in a genuinely ethical foreign policy for the doctrine that might is right. His next major work, Matter and Memory (1896), was an essay on the relation between mind and body. Yet these concepts put side-by-side can never adequately represent duration itself; The truth is we change without ceasing...there is no essential difference between passing from one state to another and persisting in the same state. But there aren’t really winners or losers in any debate about time. So time is perceived via a succession of separate, discrete, spatial constructs – just like seeing a film. Over the past twenty or thirty years, there has been an ever-increasing growth in demand for many varieties of alternative healing, some of which are becoming part of medical practice, the development of psychosomatic medicine and many different therapies. The source of the former is the intellect and the source of the latter is intuition. On this force we have today taken no hold precisely because our science of mind is in its infancy ...” He went on to say: “Together with this vitalist biology there would have arisen a medical practice which would have sought to remedy directly the insufficiencies of the vital force: it would have aimed at the cause and not the effects, at the centre instead of at the periphery ...”. [16] However, it was noted in a journal article shortly after that the ideas in this paper were preceded by Henri Bergson, evidently unbeknownst to Lynds or his paper's referees. Publication date 1910 Topics Consciousness, Free will and determinism, Space and time Publisher London, S. Sonnenschein & co., lim. Draining the River and Quivering the Arrow. In 1891 he married Louise Neuburger, a cousin of Marcel Proust, who was greatly influenced by Bergson’s theories on time and memory. [12], Because a qualitative multiplicity is heterogeneous and yet interpenetrating, it cannot be adequately represented by a symbol; indeed, for Bergson, a qualitative multiplicity is inexpressible. Its main function is to filter mental images, allowing through to consciousness those impressions, thoughts or ideas that are of practical biological value. He was born near Paris to a Jewish family, but as a teenager he lost his faith. London: George Allen and Unwin (1911). No two successive moments are identical, for the one will always contain the memory left by the other. They are treated retrospectively as a thing's spatial trajectory, which can be divided ad infinitum, whereas they are, in fact, an indivisible whole. He was born the year The Origin of Species was published and Creative Evolution adds a vital missing dimension to Darwinian theory. From this observation he concluded that memory, and so mind, makes use of the physical brain to carry out its own purposes. You can read four articles free per month. Above all, his philosophy provides a basis for a more creative, revalued and revitalized general outlook. Pogson, M.A. Over the years, the dominant western worldview has become de-vitalised and devalued, especially in politics and economics. We can never, he said, move past a single point because each point is infinitely divisible, and it is impossible to cross an infinite space. Pogson, M.A. There has been a revival of late of interest in his philosophy. To extend Bergson’s speculations, let’s imagine that the present green awakening and concern over the environment had started to get under way sixty years ago – I mean really take off, not just lone voices in the wilderness, such as Rachel Carson. This, Bergson argued, shows that it is not memory as such that is lost, but the bodily mechanism that is needed to express it. A biology quite different to ours would also have emerged: “A vitalist biology which would have sought, behind the sensible forms of living beings, the inward invisible force of which the sensible forms are the manifestations. Bergson became aware that the moment one attempted to measure a moment, it would be gone: one measures an immobile, complete line, whereas … You do not need to subscribe to any kind of religious faith, or belief in the supernatural, to stand in awe at the creative beauty of the evolutionary life force in all its incredibly varied and wonderful manifestations.