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 Henri Bergson

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Erik

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PostSubject: Henri Bergson   Tue Mar 24, 2015 9:47 am

Henri Bergson: one of the most underrated philosophers.

I've been looking into his work lately. Some major themes:

1.) His philosophy was set up against the overly mechanistic, Darwinian philosophy of Herbert Spencer.

2.) He believed that the conventional view of space/time was incorrect, that space/time was, ultimately, not diced up in discrete moments or events; but rather a continuous flow, which could only be experienced through what he termed ' intuition ': a non-conceptual form of acquiring knowledge, essentially, akin to buddhist meditation.

3.) He believed that this continuous reality of space/time, what he called ' duration ', allowed room for free-will; since there, ultimately, isn't discrete or isolated events and moments ( E.g., A causes B --- X leads to Y --- mechanistic determinism ), free-will is possible, part of a creative life-force, which he famously called " Elan Vital ". This creative force is pro-active in the process of evolution --- a contrary view to the mechanistic, reactionary, Darwinian position of many at the time and today.

4.) He believed that mechanistic conceptions of the world were valid, but not as ultimate truths; they are constructs of our minds meant to aid us in maneuvering through existence. Ultimate reality is ' duration ', a continuous flow.

I'd like to dialogue with others who are familiar with him, so if you are, feel free to contribute to the thread.

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PostSubject: Re: Henri Bergson   Tue Mar 24, 2015 6:58 pm

I have read Creative Evolution.

I was impressed also.

What have you read?
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Erik

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PostSubject: Re: Henri Bergson   Tue Mar 24, 2015 9:38 pm

A Shieldmaiden wrote:
I have read Creative Evolution.

I was impressed also.

What have you read?

Nice to see you here, Shield.

Also, nice to see that you have read one of his works. I, actually, haven't read any of his books yet; but I plan to, eventually.

I'm familiar with his work from articles, biographies and so on.

If you could sum up the book you read of his ( Creative Evolution ), in this thread, that would be great.

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PostSubject: Re: Henri Bergson   Wed Apr 01, 2015 1:51 am

Erik wrote:

Quote :
Nice to see you here, Shield.

Also, nice to see that you have read one of his works. I, actually, haven't read any of his books yet; but I plan to, eventually.

I'm familiar with his work from articles, biographies and so on.

If you could sum up the book you read of his ( Creative Evolution ), in this thread, that would be great.

Thanks Erik.

I am not so sure that he was underrated as such, I thought he was rather widely read and admired.  I read Creative Evolution when I was very young.  I took it up again a couple of years ago.  Let me submit a particular passage from it.

 Chapter II
The Function of the Intellect.

We see that the intellect, so skilful in dealing with the inert, is awkward the moment it touches the living.  Whether it wants to treat the life of the body or the life of the mind, it proceeds with the rigor, the stiffness and the brutality of an instrument not designed for such use.  The history of hygiene or of pedagogy teaches us much in this matter.  When we think of the cardinal, urgent and constant need we have to preserve our bodies and to raise our souls, of the special facilities given to each of us, in this field, to experiment continually on ourselves and on others, of the palpable injury by which the wrongness of a medical or pedagogical practise is both made manifest and punished at once, we are amazed at the stupidity and especially at the persistence of errors.  We may easily find their origin in the natural obstinacy with which we treat the living like the lifeless and think all reality, however fluid, under the form of the sharply defined solid.  We are at ease only in the discontinuous, in the immobile, in the dead.

The intellect is characterised by a natural inability to comprehend life.

Instinct, on the contrary, is modelled on the very form of life.

While intelligence treats everything mechanically, instinct proceeds, so to speak, organically.  If the consciousness that slumbers in it should awake, if it were wound up into knowledge instead of being wound off into  action, if we could ask and it could reply, it would give up  to us the most intimate secrets of life.  For it only carries out further work by which life organises matter, so that we cannot say, as has often been shown, where organisation ends and instinct begins.  When the little chick is breaking its shell with a peck of its beak, it is acting by instinct and yet it does but carry on the movement which has borne it through embryonic life.
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Fixed Cross

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PostSubject: Re: Henri Bergson   Wed Apr 01, 2015 7:42 am

You young an wise creatures. Perhaps there is hope yet. I am so pleased to see Bergson appear so early on this forum. Because his message is the precise message that can vitalize human thought.

It is against this message, this insight into the unnaturalness of the object-based-intellect, that the scientific mind of our age has agitated so radically, by calling it 'religious' an 'superstitious'. Reality is supposed to be made of separate and isolatable "things". Even though every philosopher, but also every fisherman, farmer, every poet, lover and every sensible character observing the beat of his own heart, knows that the world is flowing and in this flow always giving off fruit, and thus that the world, in its flow, is increasing.

Bergson compares this early on in one of his books (I forgot which, I dipped into him randomly but with a honest and profound philosopher one is quickly able to gather the gist of the central theme) to a snowball; his metaphor for history unfolding into the present; his message is that the present can never be gathered from all the combined factors of history, because the present simply includes more than all of what came before. By the very virtue of having moved beyond history, of more events an perspectives having heaped up, there has been no linear progression from past to present, but the future is always unfathomable from the vantage point of the present. And of course we all now this to be true from experience. His logic is very simple but very hard to explain, I am doing a bad job now.

From my gleeful joy over Bergson coming up it can rightly be understood that my own philosophy results in a sympathetic world-model; because being is valuing, and because valuing always concerns both the inside and the outside, the world must forever be changing and as it changes, unfolding, increasing. Moreover this world is never reducible to objects; that is to say the objects to which we reduce them must never be understood as physical, as 'real', only as objects of the mind. It is the mind which objectifies, but nature can never endure an isolated thing, much less one that is ''still' - the laws of physics in fact give us that such objects can not exist.

Everything in science defies object-ness. There is always interaction implicit in every being, and yet the world also defies 'pure flux', because in order to interact, a thing must first exist. So what this leaves us with is the necessity to understand being as the verb that it is, as the activity that it is.

"Élan Vital" indeed, this is a term designating the same thing as what "self-valuing" designates; though as it is with words, they are forever hopelessly imperfect whenever they address something real. Words, in a sense, are the very problem. It is words that cause the mind of man to think in stagnant, isolate objects, and not in worlds of pulsating increase.

Élan Vital indicates the state in which a being must find itself in order to continue to be, "self-valuing and valuing in terms of self-valuing" i(which is the full term of the value-philosophical grammar) indicates the structure of the process whereby a being vitalizes itself and continues to be.

Last night before I went to sleep I thought of a phrase that sums up the natural morality of being as it is understood as unfolding, vital and thus increasing; as will to power yet, whereas certainly as cruel, also far more merciful and generous that that term suggests. After all power is only the sum of the efficiency of all beings in attaining their values, which much of the time include many loved ones. It is a orality that explains both why one would live to raise ones children but also why one would die to protect them; thus transcending the banal idea of power as ego-centric, or self-valuing as valuing some body of flesh and blood separate of the heart that values; the self is valuing. This is that phrase:

Rather than value your being, be your valuing.

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Erik

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PostSubject: Re: Henri Bergson   Thu Apr 02, 2015 5:30 pm

Nice excerpt from Bergson, Shield. I look forward to reading that book.

Fixed Cross,

Quote :
Everything in science defies object-ness. There is always interaction implicit in every being, and yet the world also defies 'pure flux', because in order to interact, a thing must first exist. So what this leaves us with is the necessity to understand being as the verb that it is, as the activity that it is.

Yes, science is too focused on the objective, or object-ness. I think this tendency is the result of swinging to the polar opposite end of theism/mysticism, trying to get as far away from religion as possible. The industrial revolution may even have played a part in this overly-mechanistic way of perceiving the word. Unfortunately, this has led to, in my strong opinion, ironically, a set-back in scientific advancement; most people have an erroneous view of the world, that it exists just as it is perceived, even when no one is perceiving it ( naive-realism ), that reality is made of clumps of inert 'things'. Consciousness will never be fully explained through materialism. We need to transcend this purely mechanistic way of thinking; Bergson realized this, and that's why I feel he should be discussed more.

Alfred North Whitehead has a similar process philosophy too, which is worth exploring.

I'm only loosely familiar with VO, but I'd be interested in learning more about it. Maybe you can create a thread here, sometime, explaining it.

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