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- Bergson and His Philosophy - 1/33 -


BERGSON AND HIS PHILOSOPHY

BY

J. ALEXANDER GUNN, M. A., FELLOW OF THE UNIVERSITY OF LIVERPOOL

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY ALEXANDER MAIR, M. A., PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF LIVERPOOL

CONTENTS

PREFACE

INTRODUCTION

I. LIFE OF BERGSON

II. THE REALITY OF CHANGE

III. PERCEPTION

IV. MEMORY

V. THE RELATION OF SOUL AND BODY

VI. TIME-TRUE AND FALSE

VII. FREEDOM OF THE WILL

VIII. EVOLUTION

IX. THE GOSPEL OF INTUITION

X. ETHICAL AND POLITICAL IMPLICATIONS

XI. RELATION TO RELIGION AND THEOLOGY

XII. REFLECTIONS

APPENDIX: BIBLIOGRAPHY

INDEX

PREFACE

The aim of this little work is practical, and it is put forth in the hope that it may be useful to the general reader and to the student of philosophy as an introduction and guide to the study of Bergson's thought. The war has led many to an interest in philosophy and to a study of its problems. Few modern thinkers will be found more fascinating, more suggestive and stimulating than Bergson, and it is hoped that perusal of the following pages will lead to a study of the writings of the philosopher himself. This is a work whose primary aim is the clear exposition of Bergson's ideas, and the arrangement of chapters has been worked out strictly with that end in view. An account of his life is prefixed. An up-to-date bibliography is given, mainly to meet the needs of English readers; all the works of Bergson which have appeared in England or America are given, and the comprehensive list of articles is confined to English and American publications. The concluding chapters endeavour to estimate the value of Bergson's thought in relation to Politics (especially Syndicalism), Ethics, Religion, and the development of thought generally.

My thanks are due to Professor Mair, Professor of Philosophy in the University of Liverpool, for having read the MS. while in course of preparation, for contributing an introduction, for giving some helpful criticism and suggestions, and, what is more, for stimulus and encouragement given over several years of student life.

Professor Bergson has himself expressed his approval of the general form of treatment, and I am indebted to him for information on a number of points. To Dr. Gillespie, Professor of Philosophy at Leeds, I am indebted for a discussion of most of the MS. following the reading of it. My thanks are also due to Miss Margaret Linn, whose energetic and careful assistance in preparing the MS. for the press was invaluable. I wish also to acknowledge kindness shown in supplying information on certain points in connexion with the bibliography by Mr. F. C. Nicholson, Librarian of the University of Edinburgh, by Mr. R. Rye, Librarian to the University of London, and by the University of London Press. I am grateful to Professor Bergson and to the Delegates of the Oxford University Press for permission to quote from La Perception du Changement, the lectures given at Oxford. Further I must acknowledge permission accorded to me by the English publishers of Bergson's works to quote passages directly from these authorized translations--To Messrs. Geo. Allen & Unwin, Ltd. (Time and Free Will and Matter and Memory), to Messrs. Macmillan & Co., Ltd. (Creative Evolution, Laughter, Introduction to Metaphysics), and to T. Fisher Unwin, Ltd. (Dreams). Through the kindness of M. Louis Michaud, the Paris publisher, I have been enabled to reproduce (from his volume of selections, Henri Bergson: Choix de textes et etude de systeme philosophique, Gillouin) a photograph of Bergson hitherto unpublished in this country.

J.A.G.

THE UNIVERSITY, LIVERPOOL March, 1920

INTRODUCTION

The stir caused in the civilized world by the writings of Bergson, particularly during the past decade, is evidenced by the volume of the stream of exposition and comment which has flowed and is still flowing. If the French were to be tempted to set up, after the German manner, a Bergson-Archiv they would be in no embarrassment for material, as the Appendix to this book--limited though it wisely is--will show. Mr. Gunn, undaunted by all this, makes a further, useful contribution in his unassuming but workmanlike and well-documented account of the ideas of the distinguished French thinker. It is designed to serve as an introduction to Bergson's philosophy for those who are making their first approach to it, and as such it can be commended.

The eager interest which has been manifested in the writings of M. Bergson is one more indication, added to the many which history provides, of the inextinguishable vitality of Philosophy. When the man with some important thought which bears upon its problems is forthcoming, the world is ready, indeed is anxious, to listen. Perhaps there is no period in recorded time in which the thinker, with something relevant to say on the fundamental questions, has had so large and so prepared an audience as in our own day. The zest and expectancy with which men welcome and listen to him is almost touching; it has its dangerous as well as its admirable aspects. The fine enthusiasm for the physical and biological sciences, which is so noble an attribute of the modern mind, has far from exhausted itself, but the almost boundless hope which for a time accompanied it has notably abated. The study of the immediate problems centring round the concepts of matter, life, and energy goes on with undiminished, nay, with intensified, zeal, but in a more judicious perspective. It begins to be noticed that, far from leading us to solutions which will bring us to the core of reality and furnish us with a synthesis which can be taken as the key to experience, it is carrying the scientific enquirer into places in which he feels the pressing need of Philosophy rather than the old confidence that he is on the verge of abolishing it as a superfluity. The former hearty and self- assured empiricism of science is giving way before the outcome of its own logic and a new and more promising spirit of reflection on its own "categories" is abroad. Things are turning out to be very far from what they seemed. The physicists have come to a point where, it may be to their astonishment, they often find themselves talking in a way which is suspiciously like that of the subjective idealist. They have made the useful discovery that if you sink your shaft deep enough in your search for reality you come upon Mind. Here they are in a somewhat unfamiliar region, in which they may possibly find that other instruments and other methods than those to which they have been accustomed are required. At any rate, they and the large public which hangs upon their words show a growing inclination to be respectful to the philosopher and an anxiety (sometimes an uncritical anxiety) to hear what he has to say.

No one needs to be reminded of the ferment which is moving in the world of social affairs, of the obscure but powerful tendencies which are forcing society out of its grooves and leaving it, aspiring but dubious, in new and uncharted regions. This may affect different minds in different ways. Some regret it, others rejoice in it; but all are aware of it. Time-honoured political and economic formulae are become "old clothes" for an awakened and ardent generation, and before the new garments are quite ready; the blessed word "reconstruction" is often mentioned. Men are not satisfied that society has really developed so successfully as it might have done; many believe that it finds itself in a cul-de-sac. But what is to be done? The experienced can see that many of the offered reforms are but the repetition of old mistakes which will involve us in the unhappy cycle of disillusion and failure. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, if men everywhere are seeking for a sign, a glimpse of a scheme of life, a view of reality, a hint of human destiny and the true outcome of human effort, to be an inspiration and a guide to them in their pathetic struggle out of the morass in which they, too obviously, are plunged. If Philosophy has anything to say which is to the point, then let Philosophy by all means say it. They are ready to attend. They may indeed expect too much from it, as those who best grasp the measure of Philosophy's task would be the first to urge.

This is the opportunity of the charlatan. Puzzled and half-desperate, we strongly feel the influence of the need to believe, are prone to listen to any gospel. The greater its air of finality and assurance the stronger is its appeal. But it is the opportunity also of the serious and competent thinker, and it is fortunate for the world that one of M. Bergson's quality is forthcoming. He is too wise a man, he knows the history of human thought too well, he realizes too clearly the extent of the problem to pretend that his is the last word or that he has in his pocket the final solution of the puzzle of the universe and the one and only panacea for human distresses. But he has one of the most subtle and penetrating intellects acting in and upon the world at this moment, and is more worthy of attention than all the charlatans. That he has obtained for himself so great an audience is one of the most striking and hopeful signs of the present time.

It is the more impressive inasmuch as Bergson cannot be said to be an easy author. The originality and sweep of his conceptions, the fine and delicate psychological analysis in which he is so adept and which is necessary for the development of his ideas--e.g., in his exposition of


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