HotFreeBooks.com
Bergson and His Philosophy
by J. Alexander Gunn
1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

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 duree—make exacting demands upon those readers who wish to closely follow his thought. An interesting fact is that this is realized most of all by those who come to Bergson with a long process of philosophical discipline behind them. It is not surprising when we remember what he is trying to do, namely, to induce philosophical thought to run in new channels. The general reader has here an advantage over the other, inasmuch as he has less to unlearn. In the old words, unless we become as little children we cannot enter into this kingdom; though it is true that we do not remain as little children once entry is made. This is a serious difficulty for the hard-bitten philosopher who at considerable pains has formed conceptions, acquired a technique, and taken an orientation towards life and the universe which he cannot dismiss in a moment. It says much for the charitable spirit of Bergson's fellow- philosophers that they have given so friendly and hospitable a reception to his disturbing ideas, and so essentially humane a man as he must have been touched by this. The Bahnbrecher has his troubles, no doubt, but so also have those upon whose minds he is endeavouring to operate. Reinhold, one of Kant's earliest disciples, ruefully stated, according to Schopenhauer's story, that it was only after having gone through the Critique of Pure Reason five times with the closest and most scrupulous attention that he was able to get a grasp of Kant's real meaning. Now, after the lapse of a century and a half, Kant to many is child's play compared with Bergson, who differs more fundamentally from Kant than the Scoto-German thinker did from Leibniz and Hume. But this need not alarm the general reader who, innocent of any very articulate philosophical preconceptions, may indeed find in the very "novelty" of Bergson's teaching a powerful attraction, inasmuch as it gives effective expression to thoughts and tendencies moving dimly and half-formed in the consciousness of our own epoch, felt rather than thought. In this sense Bergson may be said to have produced a "philosophy for the times." In one respect Bergson has a marked advantage over Kant, and indeed over most other philosophers, namely, in his recognized masterly control over the instrument of language. There is a minimum of jargon, nothing turgid or crabbed. He reminds us most, in the skill and charm of his expression, of Plato and Berkeley among the philosophers. He does not work with so fine and biting a point as his distinguished countryman and fellow-philosopher, Anatole France, but he has, nevertheless, a burin at command of remarkable quality. He is a master of the succinct and memorable phrase in which an idea is etched out for us in a few strokes. Already, in his lifetime, a number of terms stamped with the impress of Bergson's thought have passed into international currency. In this connexion, has it been remarked that while an Englishman gave to the French the term "struggle for life," a Frenchman has given to us the term elan vital? It is worthy of passing notice and gives rise to reflections on the respective national temperaments, fanciful perhaps, but interesting. It is not, however, under the figure of the etcher's art or of the process of the mint that we can fully represent Bergson's resources of style. These suggest staccato effects, hard outlines, and that does not at all represent the prose of this writer. It is a fine, delicately interwoven, tissue-like fabric, pliant and supple. If one were in the secret of M. Bergson's private thoughts, it might be discovered that he does not admire his style so much as others do, for his whole manner of thought must, one suspects, have led him often to attempt to express the inexpressible. The ocean of life, that fluide bienfaisant in which we are immersed, has no doubt often proved too fluid even for him. "Only the understanding has a language," he almost ruefully declares in L'Evolution creatrice; and the understanding is, for him, compared with intuition peu de chose. Yet we can say that in what he has achieved his success is remarkable. The web of language which he weaves seems to fit and follow the movements of his thought as the skin ripples over the moving muscles of the thoroughbred. And this is not an accidental or trivial fact. M. Bergson may possibly agree with Seneca that "too much attention to style does not become a philosopher," but the quality of his thought and temperament does not allow him to express himself otherwise than lucidly. Take this, almost at random, as a characteristic example. It must be given, of course, in the original:

L'intelligence humaine, telle que nous la representons, n'est point du tout celle que nous montrait Platon dans l'allegorie de la caverne. Elle n'a pas plus pour fonction de regarder passer des ombres vaines que de contempler, en se retournant derriere elle, l'astre eblouissant. Elle a autre chose a faire. Atteles comme des boeufs de labour, a une lourde tache, nous sentons le jeu de nos muscles et de nos articulations, le poids de la charrue et la resistance du sol: agir et se savoir agir, entrer en contact avec la realite et meme la vivre, mais dans la measure seulement ou elle interesse l'oeuvre qui s'accomplit et le sillon qui se creuse, voila la fonction de l'intelligence humaine."

That is sufficiently clear; we may legitimately doubt whether it is an adequate account of the function of the human intelligence, but we cannot be in any doubt as to what the view is; and more than that, once we have become acquainted with it, we are not likely to forget it.

For the student as yet unpractised in philosophical reflection, Bergson's skill and clarity of statement, his fertility in illustration, his frequent and picturesque use of analogy may be a pitfall. It all sounds so convincing and right, as Bergson puts it, that the critical faculty is put to sleep. There is peril in this, particularly here, where we have to deal with so bold and even revolutionary a doctrine. If we are able to retain our independence of judgment we are bound sooner or later, in spite of Bergson's persuasiveness, to have our misgivings. After all, we may begin to reflect, he has been too successful, he has proved too much. In attempting to use, as he was bound to do, the intelligence to discredit the intelligence he has been attempting the impossible. He has only succeeded in demonstrating the authority, the magisterial power, of the intelligence. No step in Philosophy can be taken without it. What are Life, Consciousness, Evolution, even Movement, as these terms are employed by Bergson, but the symbolization of concepts which on his own showing are the peculiar products of the human understanding or intelligence? It seems, indeed, on reflection, the oddest thing that Philosophy should be employed in the service of an anti-intellectual, or as it would be truer to call it a supra- intellectual, attitude. Philosophy is a thinking view of things. It represents the most persistent effort of the human intelligence to satisfy its own needs, to attempt to solve the problems which it has created: in the familiar phrase, to heal the wounds which it has itself made. The intellect, therefore, telling itself that it is incompetent for this purpose, is a strange, and not truly impressive, spectacle.

We are not enabled to recover from the sense of impotency thus created by being referred to "intuition." Bergson is not the first to try this way out. It would be misleading, no doubt, to identify him with the members of the Scottish School of a hundred years ago or with Jacobi; he reaches his conclusion in another way, and that conclusion is differently framed; nevertheless, in essence there is a similarity, and Hegel's comments[Footnote: Smaller Logic, Wallace's translation, c. v.] on Bergson's forerunners will often be found to have point with reference to Bergson himself.

It is hardly conceivable that any careful observer of human experience would deny the presence and power of intuition in that experience. The fact is too patent. Many who would not give the place to intuition which is assigned to it by Bergson would be ready to say that there may be more in the thrilling and passionate intuitive moments than Philosophy, after an age-long and painful effort, has been able to express. All knowledge, indeed, may be said to be rooted in intuition. Many a thinker has been supported and inspired through weary years of inquiry and reflection by a mother-idea which has come to him, if not unsought yet uncompelled, in a flash of insight. But that is the beginning, not the end, of his task. It is but the raw material of knowledge, knowledge in potentia. To invert the order is to destroy Philosophy not to serve it, is, indeed, a mere counsel of desperation. An intuitive Philosophy so- called finds itself sooner or later, generally sooner, in a blind alley. Practically, it gives rise to all kinds of crude and wasteful effort. It is not an accident that Georges Sorel in his Reflexions sur la Violence takes his "philosophy" from Bergson or, at least, leans on him. There are intuitions and intuitions, as every wise man knows, as William James once ruefully admitted after his adventures with nitrous oxide, or as the eaters of hashish will confess. To follow all our intuitions would lead us into the wildest dervish dance of thought and action and leave us spent and disheartened at the end. "Agnosticism" would be too mild a term for the result. Our intuitions have to be tried and tested; there is a thorny and difficult path of criticism to be traversed before we can philosophically endorse them and find peace of mind. What Hoffding says is in a sense quite true: "When we pass into intuition we pass into a state without problems." But that is, as Hoffding intends us to understand, not because all problems are thereby solved, but because they have not yet emerged. If we consent to remain at that point, we refuse to make the acquaintance of Philosophy; if we recognize the problems that are really latent there, we soon realize that the business of Philosophy is yet to be transacted.

The fact is that in this part of his doctrine—and it is an important part—the brilliant French writer, in his endeavours to make philosophizing more concrete and practical, makes it too abstract. Intuition is not a process over against and quite distinct from conceptual thought. Both are moments in the total process of man's attempt to come to terms with the universe, and too great emphasis on either distorts and falsifies the situation in which we find ourselves on this planet. The insistence on intuition is doubtless due, at bottom, to Bergson's admiration for the activity in the creative artist. The border-line between Art and Philosophy becomes almost an imaginary line with him. In the one case as in the other we have, according to him, to get inside the object by a sort of sympathy. True, there is this difference, he says, that aesthetic intuition achieves only the individual—which is doubtful—whereas the philosophic intuition is to be conceived as a "recherche orientee dans la meme sens que l'art, indeed, but qui prendrait pour objet la vie en general." He fails to note, it may be observed, that the expression of the aesthetic intuition, that is to say, Art, is always fixed and static. This in view of other aspects of his doctrine is remarkable. But apart from this attempt to practically identify Art and Philosophy—a hopeless attempt— there is, of course, available as a means of explanation the well-known and not entirely deplorable tendency of the protestant and innovator to overstate his case, to bring out by strong emphasis the aspect with which he is chiefly concerned and which he thinks has been unduly neglected. This, as hinted, has its merits, and not only or chiefly for Philosophy, but also, and perhaps primarily, for the conduct of life. If he convinces men, should they need convincing, that they cannot be saved by the discursive reason alone, he will have done a good service to his generation, and to the philosophers among them who may (though they ought not to) be tempted to ignore the intuitive element in experience.

The same tendency to over-emphasis can be observed elsewhere. It is noticeable, for instance, in his discussions of Change, which are so marked and important a feature in his writings. His Philosophy has been called, with his approval apparently, the Philosophy of Change, though it might have been called, still more truly and suggestively, the Philosophy of Creation. It is this latter phase of it which has so enormously interested and stimulated the world. As to his treatment of Change, it reveals Bergson in one of his happiest moods. It is difficult to restrain one's praise in speaking of the subtle and resourceful way in which he handles this tantalizing and elusive question. It is a stroke of genius. The student of Philosophy, of course, at once thinks of Heraclitus; but Bergson is not merely another Heraclitus any more than he is just an echo of Jacobi. He places Change in a new light, enables us to grasp its character with a success which, if he had no other claim to remembrance, would ensure for him an honourable place in the History of Philosophy. In the process he makes but a mouthful of Zeno and his eternal puzzles. But, as Mr. Gunn also points out,[Footnote: See p. 142.] Change cannot be the last word in our characterization of Reality. Pure Change is not only unthinkable—that perhaps Bergson would allow—but it is something which cannot be experienced. There must be points of reference—a starting point and an ending point at least. Pure Change, as is the way with "pure" anything, turns into its contradictory. Paradoxical though it may seem, it ends as static. It becomes the One and Indivisible. This, at least, was recognized by Heraclitus and is expressed by him in his figure of the Great Year.

It is not my purpose, however, to usurp the function of the author of this useful handbook to Bergson. The extent of my introductory remarks is an almost involuntary tribute to the material and provocative nature of Bergson's discussions, just as the frequent use by the author of this book of the actual words of Bergson are a tribute to the excellence and essential rightness of his style. The Frenchman, himself a free and candid spirit, would be the last to require unquestioning docility in others. He knows that thereby is the philosophic breath choked out of us. If we read him in the spirit in which he would wish to be read, we shall find, however much we may diverge from him on particular issues, that our labour has been far from wasted. He undoubtedly calls for considerable effort from the student who takes him, as he ought to be taken, seriously; but it is effort well worth while. He, perhaps, shines even more as a psychologist than as a philosopher—at least in the time- honoured sense. He has an almost uncanny introspective insight and, as has been said, a power of rendering its result in language which creates in the reader a sense of excitement and adventure not to be excelled by the ablest romancer. Fadaises, which are to be met with in philosophical works as elsewhere, are not to be frequently encountered in his writings. There is always the fresh breeze of original thought blowing here. He is by nature as well as by doctrine the sworn foe of conventionality. Though he may not give us all we would wish, in our haste to be all-wise, let us yet be grateful to him for this, that he has the purpose and also the power to shake us out of complacency, to compel us to recast our philosophical account. In this he is supremely serviceable to his generation, and is deserving of the gratitude of all who care for Philosophy. For, while Philosophy cannot die, it may be allowed to fall into a comatose condition; and this is the unpardonable sin. ALEXANDER MAIR

LIVERPOOL UNIVERSITY

This huge vision of time and motion, of a mighty world which is always becoming, always changing, growing, striving, and wherein the word of power is not law, but life, has captured the modern imagination no less than the modern intellect. It lights with its splendour the patient discoveries of science. It casts a new radiance on theology, ethics and art. It gives meaning to some of our deepest instincts, our strangest and least explicable tendencies. But above and beyond all this, it lifts the awful weight which determinism had laid upon our spirits and fills the future with hope; for beyond the struggle and suffering inseparable from life's flux, as we know it, it reports to us, though we may not hear them, "the thunder of new wings."

Evelyn Underhill



CHAPTER I

LIFE OF BERGSON

Birth and education—Teaches at Clermont-Ferrand—Les donnees immediates de la conscience—Matiere et Memoire—Chair of Greek Philosophy, then of Modern Philosophy, College de France—L'Evolution creatrice—Relations with William James—Visits England and America—Popularity—Neo- Catholics and Syndicalists—Election to Academie francaise—War-work— L'Energie spirituelle.

Bergson's life has been the quiet and uneventful one of a French professor, the chief landmarks in it being the publication of his three principal works, first, in 1889, the Essai sur les donnees immediates de la conscience, then Matiere et Memoire in 1896, and L'Evolution creatrice in 1907. On October 18th, 1859, Henri Louis Bergson was born in Paris in the Rue Lamartine, not far from the Opera House.[Footnote: He was not born in England as Albert Steenbergen erroneously states in his work, Henri Bergsons Intuitive Philosophie, Jena, 1909, p. 2, nor in 1852, the date given by Miss Stebbing in her Pragmatism and French Voluntarism.] He is descended from a prominent Jewish family of Poland, with a blend of Irish blood from his mother's side. His family lived in London for a few years after his birth, and he obtained an early familiarity with the English language from his mother. Before he was nine years old his parents crossed the Channel and settled in France, Henri becoming a naturalized citizen of the Republic.

In Paris from 1868 to 1878 he attended the Lycee Fontaine, now known as the Lycee Condorcet. While there he obtained a prize for his scientific work and also won a prize when he was eighteen for the solution of a mathematical problem. This was in 1877, and his solution was published the following year in Annales de Mathematiques. It is of interest as being his first published work. After some hesitation over his career, as to whether it should lie in the sphere of the sciences or that of "the humanities," he decided in favour of the latter, and when nineteen years of age, he entered the famous Ecole Normale Superieure. While there he obtained the degree of Licencie-es-Lettres, and this was followed by that of Agrege de philosophie in 1881.

The same year he received a teaching appointment at the Lycee in Angers, the ancient capital of Anjou. Two years later he settled at the Lycee Blaise-Pascal in Clermont-Ferrand, chief town of the Puy de Dome department, whose name is more known to motorists than to philosophers. The year after his arrival at Clermont-Ferrand he displayed his ability in "the humanities" by the publication of an excellent edition of extracts from Lucretius, with a critical study of the text and the philosophy of the poet (1884), a work whose repeated editions are sufficient evidence of its useful place in the promotion of classical study among the youth of France. While teaching and lecturing in this beautiful part of his country (the Auvergne region), Bergson found time for private study and original work. He was engaged on his Essai sur les donnees immediates de la conscience. This essay, which, in its English translation, bears the more definite and descriptive title, Time and Free Will, was submitted, along with a short Latin Thesis on Aristotle, for the degree of Docteur-es-Lettres, to which he was admitted by the University of Paris in 1889. The work was published in the same year by Felix Alcan, the Paris publisher, in his series La Bibliotheque de philosophie contemporaine.

It is interesting to note that Bergson dedicated this volume to Jules Lachelier, then ministre de l'instruction publique, who was an ardent disciple of Ravaisson and the author of a rather important philosophical work Du fondement de l'Induction (1871), who in his view of things endeavoured "to substitute everywhere force for inertia, life for death, and liberty for fatalism."[Footnote: Lachelier was born in 1832, Ravaisson in 1813. Bergson owed much to both of these teachers of the Ecole Normale Superieure. Cf. his memorial address on Ravaisson, who died in 1900. (See Bibliography under 1904.)]

Bergson now settled again in Paris, and after teaching for some months at the Municipal College, known as the College Rollin, he received an appointment at the Lycee Henri-Quatre, where he remained for eight years. In 1896 he published his second large work, entitled Matiere et Memoire. This rather difficult, but brilliant, work investigates the function of the brain, undertakes an analysis of perception and memory, leading up to a careful consideration of the problems of the relation of body and mind. Bergson, we know, has spent years of research in preparation for each of his three large works. This is especially obvious in Matiere et Memoire, where he shows a very thorough acquaintance with the extensive amount of pathological investigation which has been carried out in recent years, and for which France is justly entitled to very honourable mention.

In 1898 Bergson became Maitre de conferences at his Alma Mater, L'Ecole Normale Superieure, and was later promoted to a Professorship. The year 1900 saw him installed as Professor at the College de France, where he accepted the Chair of Greek Philosophy in succession to Charles L'Eveque. The College de France, founded in 1530, by Francois I, is less ancient, and until recent years has been less prominent in general repute than the Sorbonne, which traces back its history to the middle of the thirteenth century. Nevertheless, it is one of the intellectual headquarters of France, indeed of the whole world. While the Sorbonne is now the seat of the University of Paris, the College is an independent institution under the control of the Ministre de l'Instruction publique. The lectures given by the very eminent professors who fill its forty- three chairs are free and open to the general public, and are attended mainly by a large number of women students and by the senior students from the University. The largest lecture room in the College was given to Bergson, but this became quite inadequate to accommodate his hearers.

At the First International Congress of Philosophy, which was held in Paris, during the first five days of August, 1900, Bergson read a short, but important, paper, Sur les origines psychologiques de notre croyance a la loi de causalite. In 1901 Felix Alcan published in book form a work which had just previously appeared in the Revue de Paris entitled Le Rire, one of the most important of his minor productions. This essay on the meaning of the Comic was based on 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. In 1901 he was elected to the Academie des Sciences morales et politiques, and became a member of the Institute. In 1903 he contributed to the Revue de metaphysique et de morale a very important essay entitled Introduction a la metaphysique, which is useful as a preface to the study of his three large books.

On the death of Gabriel Tarde, the eminent sociologist, in 1904, Bergson succeeded him in the Chair of Modern Philosophy. From the 4th to the 8th of September of that year he was at Geneva attending the Second International Congress of Philosophy, when he lectured on Le Paralogisme psycho-physiologique, or, to quote its new title, Le Cerveau et la Pensee: une illusion philosophique. An illness prevented his visiting Germany to attend the Third Congress held at Heidelberg.

His third large work—his greatest book—L'Evolution creatrice, appeared in 1907, and is undoubtedly, of all his works, the one which is most widely known and most discussed. It constitutes one of the most profound and original contributions to the philosophical consideration of the theory of Evolution. Un livre comme L'Evolution creatrice, remarks Imbart de la Tour, n'est pas seulment une oeuvre, mais une date, celle d'une direction nouvelle imprimee a la pensee. By 1918, Alcan, the publisher, had issued twenty-one editions, making an average of two editions per annum for ten years. Since the appearance of this book, Bergson's popularity has increased enormously, not only in academic circles, but among the general reading public.

He came to London in 1908 and visited William James, the American philosopher of Harvard, 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. This was an interesting meeting and we find James' impression of Bergson given in his Letters under date of October 4, 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 in some quarters erroneous ideas prevail regarding both the historical and intellectual relation between James and Bergson, it may be useful to call attention to some of the facts here. As early as 1880 James contributed an article in French to the periodical La Critique philosophique, of Renouvier and Pillon, entitled Le Sentiment de l'Effort.[Footnote: Cf. his Principles of Psychology, Vol. II., chap xxvi.] Four years later a couple of articles by him appeared in Mind: What is an Emotion?[Footnote: Mind, 1884, pp. 188-205.] and On some Omissions of Introspective Psychology.[Footnote: Mind, 1884, pp. 1-26.] Of these articles the first two were quoted by Bergson in his work of 1889, Les donnees immediates de la conscience. In the following years 1890-91 appeared the two volumes of James' 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' investigations had been proceeding since 1870, registered from time to time by various articles which culminated in The Principles, have mistakenly assigned to Bergson's ideas priority in time.[Footnote: For example A. Chaumeix: William James (Revue des Deux Mondes, Oct, 1910), and J. Bourdeau: Nouvelles modes en philosophie, Journal de Debats, Feb., 1907. Cf. Flournoy: La philosophie de William James. (Eng. Trans. Holt and James, pp. 198-206).] On the other hand insinuations have been made to the effect that Bergson owes the germ-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 particular article deals with the conception of thought as a stream of consciousness, which intellect distorts by framing into concepts. We must not be misled by parallels. Bergson has replied to this insinuation by denying that he had any knowledge of the article by James when he wrote Les donnees immediates de la conscience.[Footnote: Relation a William James et a James Ward. Art. in Revue philosophique, Aug., 1905, lx., p. 229.] The two thinkers appear to have developed independently until almost the close of the century. In truth they are much further apart in their intellectual position than is frequently supposed.[Footnote: The reader who desires to follow the various views of the relation of Bergson and James will find the following works useful. Kallen (a pupil of James): William James and Henri Bergson: a study in contrasting theories of life. Stebbing: Pragmatism and French Voluntarism. Caldwell: Pragmatism and Idealism (last chap). Perry: Present Philosophical Tendencies. Boutroux: William James (Eng. Tr.). Flournoy: La philosophie de James (Eng. Tr.). And J. E. Turner: An Examination of William James' Philosophy.] Both have succeeded in appealing to audiences far beyond the purely academic sphere, but only in their mutual rejection of "intellectualism" as final is there real harmony or unanimity between them. It will not do to press too closely analogies between the Radical Empiricism of the American and the Doctrine of Intuition of the Frenchman. Although James obtains a certain priority in point of time in the development and enunciation of his ideas, we must remember that 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 is no pragmatist, for him "utility," so far from being a test of truth, is rather the reverse, a synonym for error.

Nevertheless, William James hailed Bergson as an ally very enthusiastically. Early in the century (1903) we find him remarking in his correspondence: "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 paid by him to Bergson were those made in the Hibbert Lectures (A Pluralistic Universe), which James gave at Manchester College, Oxford, shortly after he and Bergson met in London. He there remarked upon the encouragement he had received from Bergson's thought, and referred to the confidence he had in being "able to lean on Bergson's authority." [Footnote: A Pluralistic Universe, pp. 214-15. Cf. the whole of Lecture V. The Compounding of Consciousness, pp. 181-221, and Lecture VI. Bergson and His Critique of Intellectualism, pp. 225-273.] "Open Bergson, and new horizons loom on every page you read. It is like the breath of the morning and the song of birds. It tells of reality itself, instead of merely reiterating what dusty-minded professors have written about what other previous professors have thought. Nothing in Bergson is shop-worn or at second- hand." [Footnote: Lecture VI., p. 265.] The influence of Bergson had led him "to renounce the intellectualist method and the current notion that logic is an adequate measure of what can or cannot be." [Footnote: A Pluralistic Universe, p. 212.] It had induced him, he continued, "TO GIVE UP THE 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." [Footnote: A Pluralistic Universe, p. 212.]

Naturally, these remarks, which appeared in book form in 1909, directed many English and American readers to an investigation of Bergson's philosophy for themselves. A certain handicap existed in that his greatest work had not then been translated into English. James, however, encouraged and assisted Dr. Arthur Mitchell in his preparation of the English translation of L'Evolution creatrice. In August of 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 a coincidence, in that same year (1911), Bergson penned for the French translation of James' book, Pragmatism,[Footnote: Le Pragmatisme: Translated by Le Brun. Paris, Flammarion.] a preface of sixteen pages, entitled Verite et Realite. In it he expressed sympathetic appreciation of James' work, coupled with certain important reservations.

In April (5th to 11th) Bergson attended the Fourth International Congress of Philosophy held at Bologna, in Italy, where he gave a brilliant address on L'Intuition philosophique. In response to invitations received he came again to England in May of that year, and has paid us several subsequent visits. These visits have always been noteworthy events and have been marked by important deliverances. Many of these contain important contributions to thought and shed new light on many passages in his three large works, Time and Free Will, Matter and Memory, and Creative Evolution. Although necessarily brief statements, they are of more recent date than his books, and thus show how this acute thinker can develop and enrich his thought and take advantage of such an opportunity to make clear to an English audience the fundamental principles of his philosophy.

He visited Oxford and delivered at the University, on the 26th and 27th of May, two lectures entitled La Perception du Changement, which were published in French in the same year by the Clarendon Press. As Bergson has a delightful gift of lucid and brief exposition, when the occasion demands such treatment, these lectures on Change form a most valuable synopsis or brief survey of the fundamental principles of his thought, and serve the student or general reader alike as an excellent introduction to the study of the larger volumes. Oxford honoured its distinguished visitor by conferring upon him the degree of Doctor of Science. Two days later he delivered the Huxley Lecture at Birmingham University, taking for his subject Life and Consciousness. This subsequently appeared in The Hibbert Journal (Oct., 1911), and since revised, forms the first essay in the collected volume L'Energie spirituelle or Mind-Energy. In October he was again in England, where he had an enthusiastic reception, and delivered at London University (University College) four lectures on La Nature de l'Ame. In 1913 he visited the United States of America, at the invitation of Columbia University, New York, and lectured in several American cities, where he was welcomed by very large audiences. In February, at Columbia University, he lectured both in French and English, taking as his subjects: Spiritualite et Liberte 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: Fantomes 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, Magyar, Polish and Russian. In 1914 he was honoured by his fellow-countrymen in being elected as a member of the Academie francaise. He was also made President of the Academie des Sciences morales et politiques, and in addition he became Officier de la Legion d'Honneur, and Officier de l'Instruction publique. He found disciples of many varied types, and in France movements such as Neo-Catholicism or Modernism on the one hand and Syndicalism on the other, endeavoured to absorb and to appropriate for their own immediate use and propaganda some of the central ideas of his teaching. That important continental organ of socialist and syndicalist theory, Le Mouvement socialiste, suggested that the realism of Karl Marx and Prudhon is 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 Confederation Generale du Travail and the Industrial Workers of the World. It was claimed that there is harmony between the flute of personal philosophical meditation and the trumpet of social revolution. These statements are considered in the chapter dealing with the political implications of Bergson's thought.

While social revolutionaries were endeavouring to make the most out of Bergson, many leaders 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, however, which still believes that finality was reached in philosophy with the work of Thomas Aquinas, in the thirteenth century, and consequently makes that mediaeval philosophy her official, orthodox, and dogmatic view, took the step of banning Bergson's three books by placing them upon the Index (Decree of June 1, 1914).

It was arranged by the Scottish Universities that Bergson should deliver in 1914 the famous Gifford Lectures, and one course was planned for the spring and another for the autumn. The first course, consisting of eleven lectures, under the title of The Problem of Personality, was delivered at Edinburgh University in the Spring of that year.

Then came the War. The course of lectures planned for the autumn months had to be abandoned. Bergson has not, however, been silent during the conflict, and he has given some inspiring addresses. As early as November 4th, 1914, he wrote an article entitled La force qui s'use et celle qui ne s'use pas, which appeared in that unique and interesting periodical of the poilus, Le Bulletin des Armees de la Republique Francaise. A presidential address delivered in December, 1914, to the Academie des sciences morales et politiques, had for its title La Significance de la Guerre. This, together with the preceding article, has been translated and published in England as The Meaning of the War. Bergson contributed also to the publication arranged by The Daily Telegraph in honour of the King of the Belgians, King Albert's Book (Christmas, 1914). In 1915 he was succeeded in the office of President of the Academie des Sciences morales et politiques by M. Alexandre Ribot, and then delivered a discourse on The Evolution of German Imperialism. Meanwhile he found time to issue at the request of the Minister of Public Instruction a delightful little summary of French Philosophy. Bergson did a large amount of travelling and lecturing in America during the war. He was there when the French Mission under M. Viviani paid a visit in April and May of 1917, following upon America's entry into the conflict. M. Viviani's book La Mission francaise en Amerique, 1917, contains a preface by Bergson.

Early in 1918 he was officially received by the Academie francaise, taking his seat among "The Select Forty" as successor to M. Emile Ollivier, the author of the large and notable historical work L'Empire liberal. 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 in action the central idea of his own philosophy. To no other philosopher has it fallen, during his lifetime, to have his philosophical principles so vividly and so terribly tested. We are too close to the smoking crucible of war to be aware of all that has been involved in it. Even those who have helped in the making of history are too near to it to regard it historically, much less philosophically. Yet one cannot help feeling that the defeat of German militarism has been the proof in action of the validity of much of Bergson's thought.

As many of Bergson's contributions to French periodicals are not readily accessible, he agreed to the request of his friends that these should be collected and published in two volumes. The first of these was being planned when war broke out. The conclusion of strife has been marked by the appearance of this delayed volume in 1919. It bears the title L'Energie spirituelle: Essais et Conferences. The noted expounder of Bergson's philosophy in England, Dr. Wildon Carr, has 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'Ame 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, Le paralogisme psycho-physiologique, which now appears as Le Cerveau et la Pensee: 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 has written on the concept of mental force, and on his view of "tension" and "detension" as applied to the relation of matter and mind.

It is Bergson's intention to follow up this collection shortly by another on the Method of Philosophy, dealing with the problems of Intuition. For this he is preparing an important introduction, dealing with recent developments in philosophy. This second volume will include the Lectures on The Perception of Change given at Oxford, The Introduction to Metaphysics, and the brilliant paper Philosophical Intuition. In June, 1920, Cambridge honoured him with the degree of Doctor of Letters. In order that he may be able to devote his full time to the great new work he is preparing on ethics, religion, and sociology, Bergson has been relieved of the duties attached to the Chair of Modern Philosophy at the College de France. He still holds this chair, but no longer delivers lectures, his place being taken by his brilliant pupil Edouard Le Roy. Living with his wife and daughter in a modest house in a quiet street near the Porte d'Auteuil in Paris, Bergson is now working as keenly and vigorously as ever.



CHAPTER II

THE REALITY OF CHANGE

Fundamental in Bergson's philosophy. We are surrounded by changes—we ourselves change—Belief in change—Simplicity of change—Immobility is composite and relative—All movement is indivisible. The fallacy of "states"—Intellect loves the static—Life is dynamic—Change, the very stuff of life, constitutes reality.

Throughout the history of thought we find that the prevailing philosophies have always reflected some of the characteristics of their time. For instance, in those periods when, as historians tell us, the tendency towards unity, conformity, system, order, and authority was strong, we find philosophy reflecting these conditions by emphasizing the unity of the universe; while in those periods in which established order, system, and authority were disturbed, the philosophy of the time emphasizes the idea of multiplicity as opposed to the unity of the universe, laying stress on freedom, creative action, spontaneity of effort, and the reality of change. There can be little doubt that this is the chief reason why Bergson's philosophy has found such an amount of acceptance in a comparatively short period. The response to his thought may be explained very largely by this, that already his fundamental ideas existed, although implicit, unexpressed, in the minds of a great multitude of thoughtful people, to whom the static conceptions of the universe were inadequate and false.

We must not, on the other hand, overlook the fact that Bergson's statements have in their turn given an emphasis to all aspects of thought which take account of the reality of change and which realize its importance in all spheres. A writer on world politics very aptly reminds us that "life is change, and a League of Peace that aimed at preserving peace by forbidding change would be a tyranny as oppressive as any Napoleonic dictatorship. These problems called for periodic change. The peril of our future is that, while the need for change is instinctively grasped by some peoples as the fundamental fact of world- politics, to perceive it costs others a difficult effort of thought."[Footnote: H. N. Brailsford on Peace and Change, Chap. 3 of his Book A League of Nations.] However difficult it may be for some individuals and for some nations to grasp it, the great fact is there— the reality of change is undeniable.

Bergson himself would give to his philosophy the title, The Philosophy of Change, and this for a very good reason, for the principle of Change and an insistence on its reality lies at the root of his thought.[Footnote: He suggested this as a sub-title to Dr. H. Wildon Carr for his little work Henri Bergson (People's Books). Dr. Wildon Carr's later and larger work bears this as its full title.] "We know that everything changes," we find him saying in his London lectures, "but it is mere words. From the earliest times recorded in the history of philosophy, philosophers have never stopped saying that everything changes; but, when the moment came for the practical application of this proposition, they acted as if they believed that at the bottom of things there is immobility and invariability. The greatest difficulties of philosophy are due to not taking account of the fact that Change and Movement are universal. It is not enough to say that everything changes and moves—we must believe it."[Footnote: Second of the four lectures on La Nature de l'Ame delivered at London University, Oct. 21, 1911. From report in The Times for Oct. 23, 1911, p. 4.] In order to think Change and to see it, a whole mass of prejudices must be swept aside—some artificial, the products of speculative philosophy, and others the natural product of common-sense. We tend to regard immobility as a more simple affair than movement. But what we call immobility is really composite and is merely relative, being a relation between movements. If, for example, there are two trains running in the same direction on parallel lines at exactly the same speed, opposite one another, then the passengers in each train, when observing the other train, will regard the trains as motionless. So, generally, immobility is only apparent, Change is real. We tend to be misled by language; we speak, for instance, of 'the state of things'; but what we call a state is the appearance which a change assumes in the eyes of a being who, himself, changes according to an identical or analogous rhythm. "Take, for example," says Bergson, "a summer day. We are stretched on the grass, we look around us—everything is at rest—there is absolute immobility—no change. But the grass is growing, the leaves of the trees are developing or decaying—we ourselves are growing older all the time. That which seems rest, simplicity itself, is but a composite of our ageing with the changes which takes place in the grass, in the leaves, in all that is around us. Change, then, is simple, while 'the state of things' as we call it, is composite. Every stable state is the result of the co- existence between that change and the change of the person who perceives it."[Footnote: La Nature de l'Ame, lecture 2.]

It is an axiom in the philosophy of Bergson that all change or movement is indivisible. He asserts this expressly in Matter and Memory,[Footnote: Matter and Memory, p. 246 ff. (Fr. p. 207 ff).] and again in the second lecture on The Perception of Change he deals with the indivisibility of movement somewhat fully, submitting it to a careful analysis, from which the following quotation is an extract—"My hand is at the point A. I move it to the point B, traversing the interval AB. I say that this movement from A to B is a simple thing— each of us has the sensation of this, direct and immediate. Doubtless, while we carry our hand over from A to B, we say to ourselves that we could stop it at an intermediate point, but then that would no longer be the same movement. There would then be two movements, with an interval of rest. Neither from within, by the muscular sense, nor from without, by sight, should we have the same perception. If we leave our movement from A to B such as it is, we feel it undivided, and we must declare it indivisible. It is true that when I look at my hand, going from A to B, traversing the interval AB, I say to myself 'the interval AB can be divided into as many parts as I wish, therefore the movement from A to B can be divided into as many parts as I like, since this movement covers this interval,' or, again, 'At each moment of its passing, the moving object passes over a certain point, therefore we can distinguish in the movement as many stopping-places as we wish—therefore the movement is infinitely divisible.' But let us reflect on this for a minute. How can the movement possibly coincide with the space which it traverses? How can the moving coincide with the motionless? How can the object which moves be said to 'be' at any point in its path? It passes over, or, in other words, it could 'be' there. It would 'be' there if it stopped there, but, if it stopped there, it is no longer the same movement with which we are dealing. It is always at one bound that a trajectory is traversed when, on its course, there is no stoppage. The bound may last a few seconds, or it may last for weeks, months, or years, but it is unique and cannot be decomposed. Only, when once the passage has been made, as the path is in space, and space is infinitely divisible, we picture to ourselves the movement itself as infinitely divisible. We like to imagine it thus, because, in a movement it is not the change of position which interests us, it is the positions themselves which the moving object has left, which it will take up, which it might assume if it were to stop in its course. We have need of immobility, and the more we succeed in presenting to ourselves the movement as coinciding with the space which it traverses, the better we think we understand it. Really, there is no true immobility, if we imply by that, an absence of movement."[Footnote: Translated from La Perception du Changement, pp. 19-20.] This immobility of which we have need for the purposes of action and of practical life, we erect into an absolute reality. It is of course convenient to our sense of sight to lay hold of objects in this way; as pioneer of the sense of touch, it prepares our action on the external world. But, although for all practical purposes we require the notion of immobility as part of our mental equipment, it does not at all help us to grasp reality. Then we habitually regard movement as something superadded to the motionless. This is quite legitimate in the world of affairs; but when we bring this habit into the world of speculation, we misconceive reality, we create lightheartedly insoluble problems, and close our eyes to what is most alive in the real world. For us movement is one position, then another position, and so on indefinitely. It is true that we say there must be something else, viz., the actual passing across the interval which separates those positions. But such a conception of Change is quite false. All true change or movement is indivisible. We, by constructing fictitious states and trying to compose movement out of them, endeavour to make a process coincide with a thing—a movement with an immobility. This is the way to arrive at dilemmas, antinomies, and blind-alleys of thought. The puzzles of Zeno about "Achilles and the Tortoise" and "The Moving Arrow" are classical examples of the error involved in treating movement as divisible.[Footnote: Bergson in Matter and Memory examines Zeno's four puzzles: "The Dichotomy," "Achilles and the Tortoise," "The Arrow" and "The Stadium."] If movement is not everything, it is nothing, and if we postulate, to begin with, that the motionless is real, then we shall be incapable of grasping reality. The philosophies of Plato, of Aristotle, and of Plotinus were developed from the thesis that there is more in the immutable than in the moving, and that it is by way of diminution that we pass from the stable to the unstable.

The main reason why it is such a difficult matter for us to grasp the reality of continuous change is owing to the limitations of our intellectual nature. "We are made in order to act, as much as and more than in order to think—or, rather, when we follow the bent of our nature, it is in order to act that we think."[Footnote: Creative Evolution, p. 313 (Fr. p. 321).] Intellect is always trying to carve out for itself stable forms because it is primarily fitted for action, and "is characterized by a natural inability to comprehend life" and grasp Change.[Footnote: Creative Evolution, p. 174 (Fr. p. 179).] Our intellect loves the solid and the static, but life itself is not static- -it is dynamic. We might say that the intellect takes views across the ever-moving scene, snapshots of reality. It acts like the camera of the cinematograph operator, which is capable only of producing photographs, successive and static, in a series upon a ribbon. To grasp reality, we have to do what the cinematograph does with the film—that is, introduce or rather, re-introduce movement.[Footnote: Creative Evolution, pp. 320- 324 (Fr. pp. 328-332).] The stiff photograph is an abstraction bereft of movement, so, too, our intellectual views of the world and of our own nature are static instead of being dynamic. Human life is not made up of childhood, adolescence, manhood, and old age as "states," although we tend to speak of it in this way. Life is not a thing, nor the state of a thing—it is a continuous movement or change. The soul itself is a movement, not an entity. In the physical world, light, when examined, proves itself to be a movement. Even physical science, bound, as it would seem, to assert the fixity and rigidity of matter, is now of the opinion that matter is not the solid thing we are apt to think it. The experiments of Kelvin and Lodge and the discovery of radium, have brought forward a new theory of matter; the old-fashioned base, the atom, is now regarded as being essentially movement; matter is as wonderful and mysterious in its character as spirit. Further we must note that the researches of Einstein, culminating in the formulation of his general Theory of Relativity and his special Theory of Gravitation, which are arousing such interest at the present time, threaten very seriously the older static views of the universe and seem to frustrate any efforts to find and denote any stability therein.[Footnote: Consult on this Dr. Einstein's own work of which the translation by R. W. Lawson is just published: Relativity: The Special and the General Theory. Methuen, 1920.] In the light of these discoveries, Bergson's views on the reality of Change seem less paradoxical than they might formerly have appeared. The reality of Change is, for Bergson, absolute, and on this, as a fundamental point, he constructs his thought. In conjunction with his study of Memory, it leads up to his discussions of Real Time (la duree), of Freedom, and of Creative Evolution. We must then, at the outset of any study of Bergson's philosophy, obtain a grasp of this universal 'becoming'—a vision of the reality of Change. Then we shall realize that Change is substantial, that it constitutes the very stuff of life. "There are changes, but there are not things that change; change does not need a support. There are movements, but there are not, necessarily, constant objects which are moved; movement does not imply something that is movable."[Footnote: Translated from La Perception du Changement, Lecture 2, p. 24.]

To emphasize and to illustrate this point, so fundamental in his thought, Bergson turns to music. "Let us listen," he says, "to a melody, letting ourselves be swayed by it; do we not have the clear perception of a movement which is not attached to any mobility—of a change devoid of anything which changes? The change is self-sufficient, it is the thing itself. It avails nothing to say that it takes time, for it is indivisible; if the melody were to stop sooner, it would not be any longer the same volume of sound, but another, equally indivisible. Doubtless we have a tendency to divide it and to represent it to ourselves as a linking together of distinct notes instead of the uninterrupted continuity of the melody. But why? Simply because our auditive perception has assumed the habit of saturating itself with visual images. We hear the melody across the vision which the conductor of the orchestra can have of it in looking at his score. We represent to ourselves notes linked on to notes on an imaginary sheet of paper. We think of a keyboard on which one plays, of the bow of a violin which comes and goes, of the musicians, each one of whom plays his part in conjunction with the others. Let us abstract these spatial images; there remains pure change, self-sufficing, in no way attached to a 'thing' which changes."[Footnote: Translated from La Perception du Changement, pp. 24-25.]

We must conceive reality as a continual flux, then immobility will seem a superficial abstraction hypostatized into states, concepts, and substances, and the old difficulties raised by the ancients, in regard to the problem of Change, will vanish, along with the problems attached to the notion of "substance" in modern thought, because there is nothing substantial but Change. Apart from Change there is no reality. We shall see that all is movement, that we ourselves are movement—part of an elan, a poussee formidable, which carries with it all things and all creatures, and that in this eternity—not of immutability but of life and Change—"we live and move and have our being."[Footnote: La Perception du Changement, concluding paragraph, p. 37.]



CHAPTER III

PERCEPTION

Images as data—Nerves, afferent and efferent, cannot beget images, nor can the brain give rise to representations—All our perception relative to action. Denial of this involves the fallacies of Idealism or of Realism—Perception and knowledge—Physiological data—Zone of indetermination—"Pure" perception—Memory and Perception.

From the study of Change we are led on to a consideration of the problems connected with our perception of the external world, which has its roots in change. These problems have given rise to some very opposing views—the classic warfare between Realism and Idealism. Bergson is of neither school, but holds that they each rest on misconceptions, a wrong emphasis on certain facts. He invites us to follow him closely while he investigates the problems of Perception in his own way.

"We will assume for the moment that we know nothing of theories of matter and theories of spirit, nothing of the discussions as to the reality or ideality of the external world. Here I am in the presence of images, in the vaguest sense of the word, images perceived when my senses are opened to them, unperceived when they are closed. ... Now of these images there is ONE which is distinct from all the others, in that I do not know it only from without by perceptions, but from within by affections; it is my body."[Footnote: Matter and Memory, p. 1 (Fr. p. 1).] Further examination shows me that these affections "always interpose themselves between the excitations from without and the movement which I am about to execute."[Footnote: Matter and Memory, p. 1 (Fr. p. 1).] Indeed all seems to take place as if, in this aggregate of images which I call the universe, nothing really new could happen except through the medium of certain particular images, the type of which is furnished me by my body."[Footnote: Matter and Memory, p. 3 (Fr. p. 2).] Reference to physiology shows in the structure of human bodies afferent nerves which transmit a disturbance to nerve centres, and also efferent nerves which conduct from other centres movement to the periphery, thus setting in motion the body in whole or in part. When we make enquiries from the physiologist or the psychologist with regard to the origin of these images and representations, we are sometimes told that, as the centrifugal movements of the nervous system can evoke movement of the body, so the centripetal movements—at least some of them—give rise to the representation, mental picture, or perception of the external world. Yet we must remember that the brain, the nerves, and the disturbance of the nerves are, after all, only images among others. So it is absurd to state that one image, say the brain, begets the others, for "the brain is part of the material world, but the material world is not part of the brain. Eliminate the image which bears the name 'material world,' and you destroy, at the same time, the brain and the cerebral disturbances which are parts of it. Suppose, on the contrary, that these two images, the brain and the cerebral disturbance, vanish; ex hypothesi you efface only these, that is to say, very little—an insignificant detail from an immense picture—the picture in its totality, that is to say, the whole universe remains. To make of the brain the condition on which the whole image depends is a contradiction in terms, since the brain is, by hypothesis, a part of this image."[Footnote: Matter and Memory, p. 4 (Fr. pp. 3-4).] The data of perception are external images, then my body, and changes brought about by my body in the surrounding images. The external images transmit movement to my body, it gives back movement to them. My body or part of my body, i.e., my brain, could not beget a whole or part of my representation of the external world. "You may say that my body is matter or that it is an image—the word is of no importance. If it is matter, it is a part of the material world, and the material world consequently exists around it and without it. If it is an image—that image can give but what has been put into it, and since it is, by hypothesis, the image of my body only, it would be absurd to expect to get from it that of the whole universe. My body, an object destined to move other objects, is then a centre of action; it cannot give birth to a representation."[Footnote: Matter and Memory, p. 5 (Fr. p. 4).] The body, however, is privileged, since it appears to choose within certain limits certain reactions from possible ones. It exercises a real influence on other images, deciding which step to take among several which may be possible. It judges which course is advantageous or dangerous to itself, by the nature of the images which reach it. The objects which surround my body reflect its possible action upon them. All our perception has reference, primarily, to action, not to speculation.[Footnote: Cf. Creative Evolution, p. 313 (Fr. p. 321).] The brain centres are concerned with motor reaction rather than with conscious perception, "the brain is an instrument of action and not of representation."[Footnote: Matter and Memory, p. 83 (Fr. p. 69).] Therefore, in the study of the problems of perception, the starting- point should be action and not sensation. All the confusions, inconsistencies and absurdities of statement, made in regard to our knowledge of the external world, have here their origin. Many philosophers and psychologists "show us a brain, analogous in its essence to the rest of the material universe, consequently an image, if the universe is an image. Then, since they want the internal movements of this brain to create or determine the representation of the whole material world—an image infinitely greater than that of the cerebral vibrations—they maintain that these molecular movements, and movement in general, are not images like others, but something which is either more or less than an image—in any case is of another nature than an image—and from which representation will issue as by a miracle. Thus matter is made into something radically different from representation, something of which, consequently, we have no image; over against it they place a consciousness empty of images, of which we are unable to form any idea. Lastly, to fill consciousness, they invent an incomprehensible action of this formless matter upon this matterless thought."[Footnote: Matter and Memory, p. 9 (Fr. pp. 7-8).]

The problem at issue between Realists and Idealists turns on the fact that there are two systems of images in existence. "Here is a system of images which I term 'my perception of the universe,' and which may be entirely altered by a very slight change in the privileged image—my body. This image occupies the centre. By it all the others are conditioned; at each of its movements everything changes as though by a turn of a kaleidoscope. Here, on the other hand, are the same images, but referred each one to itself, influencing each other no doubt, but in such a manner that the effect is always in proportion to the cause; this is what I term the 'universe.'"[Footnote: Matter and Memory, p. 12 (Fr. p. 10).] The question is, "How is it that the same images can belong at the same time to two different systems—the one in which each image varies for itself and in the well-defined measure that it is patient of the real action of surrounding images—the other in which all change for a single image and in the varying measure that they reflect the eventual action of this privileged image?"[Footnote: Matter and Memory, p. 13 (Fr. p. 11).] We may style one the system of science, the other the system of consciousness. Now, Realism and Idealism are both incapable of explaining why there are two such systems at all. Subjective Idealism derives the system of science from that of consciousness, while materialistic Realism derives the system of consciousness from that of science. They have, however, this common meeting-place, that they both regard Perception as speculative in character—for each of them "to perceive" is to "know." Now this is just the postulate which Bergson disputes. The office of perception, according to him, is to give us, not knowledge, but the conditions necessary for action.[Footnote: Notre croyance a la loi de causalite (Revue de metaphysique et de morale, 1900), p. 658.] A little examination shows us that distance stands for the degree in which other bodies are protected, as it were, against the action of my body against them, and equally too for the degree in which my body is protected from them.[Footnote: Le Souvenir du present et la fausse reconnaissance in L'Energie spirituelle, pp. 117-161 (Mind- Energy), or Revue philosophique, 1908, pp. 561-593.] Perception is utilitarian in character and has reference to bodily action, and we detach from all the images coming to us those which interest us practically.

Bergson then examines the physiological aspects of the perceptual process. Beginning with reflex actions and the development of the nervous system, he goes on to discuss the functions of the spinal cord and the brain. He finds in regard to these last two that "there is only a difference of degree—there can be no difference in kind—between what is called the perceptive faculty of the brain and the reflex functions of the spinal cord. The cord transforms into movements the stimulation received, the brain prolongs into reactions which are merely nascent, but in the one case as in the other, the function of the nerve substance is to conduct, to co-ordinate, or to inhibit movements.[Footnote: Matter and Memory, pp. 10-11 (Fr. p. 9).] As we rise in the organic series we find a division of physiological labour. Nerve cells appear, are diversified and tend to group themselves into a system; at the same time the animal reacts by more varied movements to external stimulation. But even when the stimulation received is not at once prolonged into movement, it appears merely to await its occasion; and the same impression which makes the organism aware of changes in the environment, determines it or prepares it to adapt itself to them. No doubt there is in the higher vertebrates a radical distinction between pure automatism, of which the seat is mainly in the spinal cord, and voluntary activity which requires the intervention of the brain. It might be imagined that the impression received, instead of expanding into more movements spiritualizes itself into consciousness. But as soon as we compare the structure of the spinal cord with that of the brain, we are bound to infer that there is merely a difference of complication, and not a difference in kind, between the functions of the brain and the reflex activity of the medullary system."[Footnote: Matter and Memory, pp. 17- 18 (Fr. p. 15).] The brain is no more than a kind of central telephone exchange, its office is to allow communication or to delay it. It adds nothing to what it receives, it is simply a centre where perceptions get into touch with motor mechanisms. Sometimes the function of the brain is to conduct the movement received to a chosen organ of reaction, while at other times it opens to the movement the totality of the motor tracks. The brain appears as an instrument of analysis in regard to movements received by it, but an instrument of selection in regard to the movements executed. In either case, its office is limited to the transmission and division of movements. In the lower organisms, stimulation takes the form of immediate contact. For example, a jelly- fish feels a danger when anything touches it, and reacts immediately. The more immediate the reaction has to be, the more it resembles simple contact. Higher up the scale, sight and hearing enable the individual to enter into relation with a greater number of objects and with objects at a distance. This gives rise to an amount of uncertainty, "a zone of indetermination," where hesitation and choice come into play. Hence, says Bergson: "Perception is master of space in the exact measure in which action is master of time."[Footnote: Matter and Memory, p. 23 (Fr. p. 19).]

In the paper read before the First International Congress of Philosophy at Paris in 1900, on Our Belief in the Law of Causality,[Footnote: Notre croyance a la loi de causalite (Revue de metaphysique et de morale, Sept., 1900, pp. 655-660).] Bergson showed that it has its root in the co-ordination of our tactile impressions with our visual impressions. This co-ordination becomes a continuity which generates motor habits or tendencies to action.

There now comes up for consideration the question as to why this relation of the organism, to more or less distinct objects, takes the particular form of conscious perception, and further, why does everything happen as if this consciousness were born of the internal movements of the cerebral substance? To answer this question, we must turn to perceptual processes, as these occur in our everyday life. We find at once that "there is no perception which is not full of memories. With the immediate and present data of our senses, we mingle a thousand details out of our past experience."[Footnote: Matter and Memory, p. 24 (Fr. p. 20).] To such an extent is this true that the immediate data of perception serve as a sign to bring much more to the mind. Psychological experiments have conclusively proved that we never actually perceive all that we imagine to be there. Hence arise illusions, examples of which may be easily thought of—incorrect proof-reading is one, while another common one is the mistake of taking one person for another because of some similarity of dress. What is actually perceived is but a fraction of what we are looking at and acts normally as a suggestion for the whole. Now, although it is true that, in practice, Perception and Memory are never found absolutely separate in their purity, yet it is necessary to distinguish them from one another absolutely in any investigation of a psychological nature. If, instead of a perception impregnated with memory-images, nothing survived from the past, then we should have "pure" perception, not coloured by anything in the individual's past history, and so a kind of impersonal perception. However unreal it may seem, such a perception is at the root of our knowledge of things and individual accidents are merely grafted on to this impersonal or "pure" perception. Just because philosophers have overlooked it, and because they have failed to distinguish it from that which memory contributes to it, they have regarded Perception as a kind of interior and subjective vision, differing from Memory only by its greater intensity and not differing in nature. In reality, however, Perception and Memory differ fundamentally.

Our conscious perception is just our power of choice, reflected from things as though by a mirror, so that representation arises from the omission of that in the totality of matter which has no bearing on our needs and consequently no interest for us. "There is for images merely a difference of degree and not of kind between 'being' and 'being consciously perceived.'"[Footnote: Matter and Memory, p. 30 (Fr. p. 25).] Consciousness—in regard to external perception—is explained by this indeterminateness and this choice. "But there is in this necessary poverty of conscious perception, something that is positive, that foretells spirit; it is, in the etymological sense of the word, discernment.'"[Footnote: Matter and Memory, p. 31 (Fr. p. 26).] The chief difficulty in dealing with the problems of Perception, is to explain "not how Perception arises, but how it is limited, since it should be the image of the whole and is in fact reduced to the image of that which interests you."[Footnote: Matter and Memory, p. 34 (Fr. p. 29).] We only make an insuperable difficulty if we imagine Perception to be a kind of photographic view of things, taken from a fixed point by that special apparatus which is called an organ of perception—a photograph which would then be developed in the brain-matter by some unknown chemical and psychical process. "Everything happens as though your perception were a result of the internal motions of the brain and issued in some sort from the cortical centres. It could not actually come from them since the brain is an image like others, enveloped in the mass of other images, and it would be absurd that the container should issue from the content. But since the structure of the brain is like the detailed plan of the movements among which you have the choice, and since that part of the external images which appears to return upon itself, in order to constitute perception, includes precisely all the points of the universe which these movements could affect, conscious perception and cerebral movement are in strict correspondence. The reciprocal dependence of these two terms is therefore simply due to the fact that both are functions of a third, which is the indetermination of the Will."[Footnote: Matter and Memory, p. 35 (Fr. p. 29).]

1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse