Philosophic Thought in France and the United States: Essays Representing Major Trends in Contemporary French and American Philosophy

By Marvin Farber | Go to book overview

BERSGONIANISM AND EXISTENTIALISM

Auguste Cornu


INTRODUCTION

This study of the evolution of French bourgeois thought from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries, from rationalism to Bergsonianism and existentialism has the last two doctrines as its principal theme. It is written from the point of view of Marxist criticism, which does not deal with an undifferentiated humanity but with a society which is differentiated by the conflicts of classes. Marxist criticism holds that movements of thought can in the last analysis only be explained by the development of economic and social life and hence by the struggles of classes, which constitute the driving force of that development.

Obviously, any attempt to relate an ideological movement to a social and economic movement must avoid the danger of trying mechanically to establish a rigorous parallelism between the two movements; such an effort could not but be arbitrary and false. We should simply strive to show the close but broad connections which tie the development of spiritual life to the development of social life as seen in its class differentiations.

Contemporary French idealist philosophy, whose essential representatives are, first Bergsonianism, and then existentialism, is the ideology of the bourgeoisie, which was revolutionary during the rise of the class and conservative during its dominance, becomes reactionary during the phase of decadence, a phase marked by the disintegration of the capitalist system, more and more deeply undermined by economic and social contradictions. Bourgeois ideology no longer tends to change or to justify the real, but to escape from it.

____________________
*

Born in 1888. Until recently, professor of German at the Lycée Buffon in Paris. At present, professor of literature and comparative civilization at the University of Leipzig. Author of two theses for the doctor's degree, de K. Marx, and M. Hess et la gauche hégélienne , and also of Utopisme et marxisme ( 1937), K. Marx "et la revolution de 1848 en France", La Pensée, ( 1948), and K. Marx "et la pensée moderne" ( 1948).

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