Bergson, Henri

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Bergson, Henri

Henri Bergson (äNrē´ bĕrgsôN´), 1859–1941, French philosopher. He became a professor at the Collège de France in 1900, devoted some time to politics, and, after World War I, took an interest in international affairs. He is well known for his brilliant and imaginative philosophical works, which won him the 1927 Nobel Prize in Literature. Among his works that have been translated into English are Time and Free Will (1889), Matter and Memory (1896), Laughter (1901), Introduction to Metaphysics (1903), Creative Evolution (1907), The Two Sources of Morality and Religion (1932), and The Creative Mind (1934). Bergson's philosophy is dualistic—the world contains two opposing tendencies—the life force (élan vital) and the resistance of the material world against that force. Human beings know matter through their intellect, with which they measure the world. They formulate the doctrines of science and see things as entities set out as separate units within space. In contrast with intellect is intuition, which derives from the instinct of lower animals. Intuition gives us an intimation of the life force which pervades all becoming. Intuition perceives the reality of time—that it is duration directed in terms of life and not divisible or measurable. Duration is demonstrated by the phenomena of memory.

See H. W. Carr, The Philosophy of Change (1914, repr. 1970); H. M. Kallen, William James and Henri Bergson (1914); P. A. Y. Gunter, Bergson and the Evolution of Physics (1969); L. Kołakowski, Bergson (1985); G. Deleuze, Bergsonism (tr. 1988).

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