Born in Paris in of Jewish parents, Henri Bergson received his education there and subsequently taught at Angers and Clermont-Ferraud before returning to Paris. He was appointed professor of philosophy at the College de France in and elected a member of the French Academy in Bergson developed his philosophy by stressing the biological and evolutionary elements involved in thinking, reasoning, and creating. He saw the vitalistic dimension of the human species as being of the greatest importance. Bergson's writings were acclaimed not only in France and throughout the learned world. In he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.
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He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature "in recognition of his rich and vitalizing ideas and the brilliant skill with which they have been presented".
Bergson's great popularity created a controversy in France where his views were seen as opposing the secular and scientific attitude adopted by the Republic's officials. Bergson lived the quiet life of a French professor, marked by the publication of his four principal works:. The public attended his open courses in large numbers. His great-grandmother, Temerl Bergson , was a well-known patroness and benefactor of Polish Jewry, especially those associated with the Hasidic movement.
The Bereksohns were a famous Jewish entrepreneurial family  of Polish descent. Henri Bergson's 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, his parents settled in France, Henri becoming a naturalized French citizen.
The novelist served as best man at Bergson's wedding. He had previously received a Jewish religious education. According to Hude , this moral crisis is tied to his discovery of the theory of evolution , according to which humanity shares common ancestry with modern primates, a process sometimes construed as not needing a creative deity.
After some hesitation as to whether his career should lie in the sphere of the sciences or that of the humanities , he decided in favour of the latter, to the dismay of his teachers. During this period, he read Herbert Spencer.
The year after his arrival at Clermont-Ferrand Bergson displayed his ability in the humanities by the publication of an edition of extracts from Lucretius , with a critical study of the text and of the materialist cosmology of the poet , a work whose repeated editions [ which? While teaching and lecturing in this part of his country the Auvergne region , Bergson found time for private study and original work. He crafted his dissertation Time and Free Will , which was submitted, along with a short Latin thesis on Aristotle Quid Aristoteles de loco senserit , "On the Concept of Place in Aristotle" , for his doctoral degree which was awarded by the University of Paris in Lachelier endeavoured "to substitute everywhere force for inertia, life for death, and liberty for fatalism".
Compare his memorial address on Ravaisson, who died in There, he read Darwin and gave a course on his theories. In he published his second major work, entitled Matter and Memory. This rather difficult work investigates the function of the brain and undertakes an analysis of perception and memory , leading up to a careful consideration of the problems of the relation of body and mind. Bergson had spent years of research in preparation for each of his three large works.
This is especially obvious in Matter and Memory , where he showed a thorough acquaintance with the extensive pathological investigations which had been carried out during the period. In Felix Alcan published a work which had previously appeared in the Revue de Paris , entitled Laughter Le rire , one of the most important of Bergson's minor productions. This essay on the meaning of comedy stemmed from 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.
The main thesis of the work is that laughter is a corrective evolved to make social life possible for human beings. We laugh at people who fail to adapt to the demands of society if it seems their failure is akin to an inflexible mechanism. Comic authors have exploited this human tendency to laugh in various ways, and what is common to them is the idea that the comic consists in there being "something mechanical encrusted on the living". He detailed in this essay his philosophical program, realized in the Creative Evolution.
On the death of Gabriel Tarde , the sociologist and philosopher, in , Bergson succeeded him in the Chair of Modern Philosophy. An illness prevented his visiting Germany from attending the Third Congress held at Heidelberg.
His third major work, Creative Evolution , the most widely known and most discussed of his books, appeared in Pierre Imbart de la Tour remarked that Creative Evolution was a milestone of new direction in thought.
Following the appearance of this book, Bergson's popularity increased enormously, not only in academic circles but among the general reading public. At that time, Bergson had already made an extensive study of biology including the theory of fecundation as shown in the first chapter of the Creative Evolution , which had only recently emerged, ca. Bergson served as a juror with Florence Meyer Blumenthal in awarding the Prix Blumenthal , a grant given between and to painters, sculptors, decorators, engravers, writers, and musicians.
Bergson traveled to London in and met there with William James , the Harvard philosopher 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. The two became great friends. James's impression of Bergson is given in his Letters under date of 4 October 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.
Four years later, a couple of articles by him appeared in the journal Mind : "What is an Emotion? Bergson quoted the first two of these articles in his work, Time and Free Will. In the following years, —91 appeared the two volumes of James's 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's investigations had been proceeding since registered from time to time by various articles which culminated in "The Principles" , have mistakenly dated Bergson's ideas as earlier than James's. It has been suggested [ by whom?
This article deals with the conception of thought as a stream of consciousness , which intellect distorts by framing into concepts. They are further apart in their intellectual position than is frequently supposed. Both have succeeded in appealing to audiences far beyond the purely academic sphere, but only in their mutual rejection of "intellectualism" as decisive as their actual agreement.
Although James was slightly ahead in the development and enunciation of his ideas, 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 can hardly be considered a pragmatist. For him, "utility," far from being a test of truth, was, in fact, the reverse: a synonym for error.
I have been re-reading Bergson's books, and nothing that I have read for years has so excited and stimulated my thoughts. I am sure that his philosophy has a great future; it breaks through old frameworks and brings things to a solution from which new crystallizations can be reached. He remarks on the encouragement he gained from Bergson's thought, and refers to his confidence in being "able to lean on Bergson's authority. The influence of Bergson had led James "to renounce the intellectualist method and the current notion that logic is an adequate measure of what can or cannot be".
It had induced him, he continued, "to give up 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".
These remarks, which appeared in James's book A Pluralistic Universe in , impelled many English and American readers to investigate Bergson's philosophy for themselves, but no English translations of Bergson's major work had yet appeared.
James, however, encouraged and assisted Arthur Mitchell in preparing an English translation of Creative Evolution. In August , James died. It was his intention, had he lived to see the translation finished, 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 coincidence, in that same year , Bergson penned a preface of sixteen pages entitled Truth and Reality for the French translation of James's book, Pragmatism. In it, he expressed sympathetic appreciation of James's work, together with certain important reservations. In response to invitations he visited England in May of that year, and on several subsequent occasions.
These visits were well received. Although necessarily brief statements, they developed and enriched the ideas in his books and clarified for English audiences the fundamental principles of his philosophy. The Clarendon Press published these in French in the same year. Oxford later conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Science. Two days later he delivered the Huxley Lecture at the University of Birmingham , taking for his subject Life and Consciousness.
In Bergson visited the United States of America at the invitation of Columbia University , New York, and lectured in several American cities, where very large audiences welcomed him. Meanwhile, his popularity increased, and translations of his works began to appear in a number of languages: English, German, Italian, Danish, Swedish, Hungarian, Polish, and Russian. Bergson found disciples of many types. In France movements such as neo-Catholicism and Modernism on the one hand and syndicalism on the other endeavoured to absorb and appropriate for their own ends some central ideas of his teaching.
The continental organ of socialist and syndicalist theory, Le Mouvement socialiste ,  portrayed the realism of Karl Marx and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon as hostile to all forms of intellectualism, and argued, therefore, that supporters of Marxist socialism should welcome a philosophy such as that of Bergson.
While social revolutionaries endeavoured to make the most out of Bergson, many religious leaders, particularly the more liberal-minded theologians of all creeds, e. The Roman Catholic Church , however, banned Bergson's three books on the charge of pantheism that is, of conceiving of God as immanent to his Creation and of being himself created in the process of the Creation.
In the Scottish universities arranged for Bergson to give the famous Gifford Lectures , planning one course for the spring and another for the autumn. Bergson delivered the first course, consisting of eleven lectures, under the title of The Problem of Personality , at the University of Edinburgh in the spring of that year. The course of lectures planned for the autumn months had to be abandoned because of the outbreak of war.
Bergson was not, however, silent during the conflict, and he gave some inspiring addresses. Meanwhile, he found time to issue at the request of the Minister of Public Instruction a brief summary of French Philosophy. Bergson did a large amount of traveling and lecturing in America during the war. He participated in the negotiations which led to the entry of the United States in the war.
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 the central idea of his own philosophy in action. To no other philosopher has it fallen, during his lifetime, to have his philosophical principles so vividly and so terribly tested.
As many of Bergson's contributions to French periodicals remained relatively inaccessible, he agreed to the request of his friends [ which?
The first of these was being planned when war broke out. The conclusion of strife was marked by the appearance of a delayed volume in The volume opens with the Huxley Memorial Lecture of , "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 volume is a most welcome production and serves to bring together what Bergson wrote on the concept of mental force, and on his view of "tension" and "detension" as applied to the relation of matter and mind. Like Bergson's, his writings were placed on the Index by the Vatican.
This argument, Merleau-Ponty says, which concerns not the physics of special relativity but its philosophical foundations, addresses paradoxes caused by popular interpretations and misconceptions about the theory, including Einstein's own. While living with his wife and daughter in a modest house in a quiet street near the Porte d'Auteuil in Paris, Bergson won the Nobel Prize for Literature in for having written The Creative Evolution.
He completed his new work, The Two Sources of Morality and Religion , which extended his philosophical theories to the realms of morality, religion, and art, in
The theory presented an evolution in which a free emergence of the individual intelligence could be recognized. It was thus wholly distinct from previous deterministic hypotheses that were either mechanistic or teleological and represented evolution as conditioned either by existing forces or by future aims. The evolution of matter is orderly and geometric; disorder, however, with free and unpredictable creativity, is the effect of the life force on its material surroundings. The argument is largely conducted by means of striking metaphor and analogy: life, for instance, is compared to a wave spreading outward toward a circumference that is broken down at one point only and to an artillery shell from which new shells scatter when it bursts. Creative evolution.
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He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature "in recognition of his rich and vitalizing ideas and the brilliant skill with which they have been presented". Bergson's great popularity created a controversy in France where his views were seen as opposing the secular and scientific attitude adopted by the Republic's officials. Bergson lived the quiet life of a French professor, marked by the publication of his four principal works:. The public attended his open courses in large numbers.
Its English translation appeared in The book was very popular in the early decades of the twentieth century. The book also developed concepts of time offered in Bergson's earlier work which significantly influenced modernist writers and thinkers such as Marcel Proust and Thomas Mann. For example, Bergson's term "duration" refers to a more individual, subjective experience of time , as opposed to mathematical, objectively measurable "clock time.