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Bergson and His Philosophy by J. Alexander Gunn

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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.


March, 1920


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


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



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

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

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.



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.]



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

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

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).]

Moreover, we must recognize that the image is formed and perceived in
the object, not in the brain, even although it would seem that rays of
light coming from a point P are perceived along the path of the sensori-
motor processes in the brain and are afterwards projected into P. There
is not, however, an unextended image which forms itself in consciousness
and then projects itself into the position P. Really, the point P, and
the rays which it emits, together with the retina and nervous elements
affected in the process of perception, all form a single whole. The
point P is an indispensable factor in this whole and it is really in P
and not anywhere else that the image of P is formed and
perceived.[Footnote: Cf. Matter and Memory, p. 37 (Fr p. 31), also paper
entitled Notre croyance a la loi de causalite in the Revue de
metaphysique et de morale, 1900, p. 658.]

In the field of "pure" perception, that is to say, perception
unadulterated by the addition of memory-images, there can arise no image
without an object. "Sensation is essentially due to what is actually
present."[Footnote: Le Souvenir du present et la fausse reconnaissance,
p. 579 of Revue philosophique, Dec., 1908; also L'Energie spirituelle,
p. 141 (Mind-Energy).] Exactly how external stimuli, such as rays of a
certain speed and length, come to give us a certain image, e.g., the
sensation "red" or the sound of "middle C," we shall never understand.
"No trace of the movements themselves can be actually perceived in the
sensation which translates them."[Footnote: Time and Free Will, pp. 34-
35 (Fr. p. 26).] We only make trouble by regarding sensations in an
isolated manner and attempting to construct Perception from them. "Our
sensations are to our perceptions, that which the real action of our
body is to its possible or virtual action."[Footnote: Matter and Memory,
p. 58 (Fr. p. 48).] Thus, everything happens as if the external images
were reflected by our body into surrounding space. This is why the
surface of the body, which forms the common limit of the external and
internal, is the only portion of space which is both perceived and felt.
Just as external objects are perceived by me where they are, in
themselves and not in me, so my affective states (e.g. pains--which are
local, unavailing efforts) are experienced where they occur, in my body.
Consider the system of images which we term the "external world." My
body is one of them and around it is grouped the representation, i.e.,
its eventual influence on others. Within it occurs affection, i.e., its
actual effort upon itself. It is because of this distinction between
images and sensations that we affirm that the totality of perceived
images subsists, even if our body disappears, whereas we cannot
annihilate our body without destroying our sensations. In practice, our
"pure" perception is adulterated with affection, as well as with
memories. To understand Perception, however, we must--as previously
insisted upon--study it with reference to action. It is false to suppose
"that perception and sensation exist for their own sake; the philosopher
ascribes to them an entirely speculative function,"[Footnote: Matter and
Memory, p. 311 (Fr p. 261).] a proceeding which gives rise to the
fallacies of Realism and Idealism.

It has been said that the choice of perceptions from among images in
general is the effect of a "discernment" which foreshadows spirit. But
to touch the reality of spirit, we must place ourselves at the point
where an individual consciousness continues and retains the past in a
present, enriched by it.[Footnote: See Chapter VI on la duree. Time--
True and False.] Perception we never meet in its pure state; it is
always mingled with memories. The rose has a different scent for you
from that which it has for me, just because the scent of the rose bears
with it all the memories of all the roses we have ever experienced, each
of us individually.[Footnote: Time and Free Will, pp. 161-162 (Fr. p.
124).] Memory, however mingled with Perception, is nevertheless
fundamentally different in character.[Footnote: Le Souvenir du present
et la fausse reconnaissance, Revue philosophique, Dec., 1908, p. 580;
also L'Effort intellectuel, Revue philosophique, Jan., 1902, p. 23;
L'Energie spirituelle, pp. 141 and 197 (Mind-Energy).] "When we pass
from 'pure' Perception to Memory, we definitely abandon matter for
spirit."[Footnote: Matter and Memory, p. 313 (Fr. p. 263).]



Definition--Two forms--memorizing power related to habit; recalling
power or "pure" memory. Is memory a function of the brain?--Pathological
Phenomena. Memory something other than merely a function of the brain.
The "Box" theory--Memory records everything--Dreams--The well-balanced
mind--Memory a manifestation of spirit.

The importance of Memory is recognized by all persons--whether
psychologists or not. At the present time there is a growing interest in
systems of memory-training offered to the public, which aim at mental
efficiency as a means to success in life. Indeed, from the tone of some
advertisements seen in the press, one might be prompted to think that
Memory itself was the sole factor determining success in either a
professional or a business career. Yet, although we are likely to regard
this as a somewhat exaggerated statement, nevertheless we cannot deny
the very great importance of the power of Memory. How often, in everyday
life, we hear people excuse themselves by remarking "My memory failed
me" or "played me false" or, more bluntly, "I forgot all about that."
Without doubt, Memory is a most vital factor, though not the only one in
mental efficiency.[Footnote: The true ideal of mental efficiency must
include power of Will as well as of Memory.] It is an element in mental
life which puzzles both the specialist in psychology and the layman.
"What is this wonderfully subtle power of mind?" "How do we remember?"
Even the mind, untrained in psychological investigation, cannot help
asking such questions in moments of reflection; but for the psychologist
they are questions of very vital significance in his science. For
Bergson, as psychologist, Memory is naturally, a subject of great
importance. We must note, however, that for Bergson, as metaphysician,
it plays an even more important role, since his study of Memory and
conclusions as to its nature lead him on to a discussion of the relation
of soul and body, spirit and matter. His second large work, which
appeared in 1896, bears the title Matiere et Memoire. For him, Memory is
a pivot on which turns a whole scheme of relationships--material and
spiritual. He wrote in 1910 a new introduction for the English
Translation of this work. He there says that "among all the facts
capable of throwing light on the psycho-physiological relation, those
which concern Memory, whether in the normal or the pathological state,
hold a privileged position."[Footnote: Introduction to Matter and
Memory, p. xii.] Let us then, prior to passing on to the consideration
of the problem of the relation of soul and body, examine what Bergson
has to say on the subject of Memory.

At the outset, we may define Memory as the return to consciousness of
some experience, accompanied by the awareness that it has been present
earlier at a definite time and place.[Footnote: The above is to be taken
as a definition of the normal memory. In a subtle psychological analysis
in the paper entitled Le Souvenir du present et la fausse reconnaissance
in L'Energie spirituelle, pp. 117-161 (Mind-Energy), Bergson considers
cases of an abnormal or fictitious memory, coinciding with perception in
rather a strange manner. This does not, however, affect the validity of
the above definition.] Bergson first of all draws attention to a
distinction between two different forms of Memory, the nature of which
will be best brought out by considering two examples. We are fond of
giving to children or young persons at school selections from the plays
of Shakespeare, "to be learned by heart," as we say. We praise the boy
or girl who can repeat a long passage perfectly, and we regard that
scholar as gifted with a good memory. To illustrate the second type of
case, suppose a question to be put to that boy asking him what he saw on
the last half-holiday when he took a ramble in the country. He may, or
may not, be able to tell us much of his adventures on that occasion, for
whatever he can recall is due to a mental operation of a different
character from that which enabled him to learn his lesson. There is here
no question of learning by rote, of memorizing, but of capacity to
recall to mind a past experience. The boy who is clever at memorizing a
passage from Shakespeare may not have a good memory at all for recalling
past events. To understand why this is so we must examine these two
forms of Memory more closely and refer to Bergson's own words: "I study
a lesson, and in order to learn it by heart I read it a first time,
accentuating every line; I then repeat it a certain number of times. At
each repetition there is progress; the words are more and more linked
together, and at last make a continuous whole. When that moment comes,
it is said that I know my lesson by heart, that it is imprinted on my
memory. I consider now how the lesson has been learnt and picture to
myself the successive phases of the process. Each several reading then
recurs to me with its own individuality. It is distinguished from those
which preceded or followed it, by the place which it occupied in time;
in short, each reading stands out before my mind as a definite event in
my history. Again it will be said that these images are recollections,
that they are imprinted on my Memory. The same words then are used in
both cases. Do they mean the same thing? The memory of the lesson which
is remembered, in the sense of learned by heart, has ALL the marks of a
habit. Like a habit, it is acquired by the repetition of the same
effort. Like every habitual bodily exercise, it is stored up in a
mechanism which is set in motion as a whole by an initial impulse, in a
closed system of automatic movements, which succeed each other in the
same order and together take the same length of time. The memory of each
several reading, on the contrary, has NONE of the marks of a habit, it
is like an event in my life; it is a case of spontaneous recollection as
distinct from mere learnt recollection. Now a learnt recollection passes
out of time in the measure that the lesson is better known; it becomes
more and more impersonal, more and more foreign to our past
life."[Footnote: Matter and Memory, pp. 89-90 (Fr. pp. 75-76).] This
quotation makes clear that of these two forms of Memory, it is the power
of spontaneous recollection which is Memory par excellence and
constitutes "real" Memory. The other, to which psychologists usually
have devoted most of their attention in discussing the problem of
Memory, is habit interpreted as Memory, rather than Memory itself.
Having thus made clear this valuable and fundamental distinction--"one
of the best things in Bergson"[Footnote: Bertrand Russell's remark in
his Philosophy of Bergson, p. 7.]--and having shown that in practical
life the automatic memory necessarily plays an important part, often
inhibiting "pure" Memory, Bergson proceeds to examine and criticize
certain views of Memory itself, and endeavours finally to demonstrate to
us what he himself considers it to be.

He takes up the cudgels to attack the view which aims at blending Memory
with Perception, as being of like kind. Memory, he argues, must be
distinguished from Perception, however much we admit (and rightly) that
memories enter into and colour all our perceptions. They are quite
different in their nature. A remembrance is the representation of an
absent object. We distinguish between hearing a faint tap at the door,
and the faint memory of a loud one. We cannot admit the validity of the
statement that there is only a difference of intensity between
Perception and Recollection. "As our perception of a present object is
something of that object itself, our representation of the absent
object, as in Memory, must be a phenomenon of quite other order than
Perception, since between presence and absence there are no degrees, no
intermediate stages."[Footnote: Matter and Memory, p. 315 (Fr. p. 264).]
If we maintain that recollection is merely a weakened form of Perception
we must note the consequences of such a thesis. "If recollection is only
a weakened Perception, inversely, Perception must be something like an
intenser Memory. Now, the germ of English Idealism is to be found here.
This Idealism consists in finding only a difference of degree and not of
kind, between the reality of the object perceived, and the ideality of
the object conceived."[Footnote: Matter and Memory, p. 318 (Fr. p.
267).] The maintenance of such a doctrine involves the further
remarkable contention that "we construct matter from our own interior
states and that perception is only a true hallucination."[Footnote:
Matter and Memory, p 318 (Fr. p. 267).] Such a theory will not harmonize
with the experienced difference between Perceptions and
Memories.[Footnote: Le Souvenir du present et la fausse reconnaissance,
Revue philosophique, Dec., 1908, p. 568; also L'Energie spirituelle
(Mind-Energy).] We do not mistake the perception of a slight sound for
the recollection of a loud noise, as has already been remarked. The
consciousness of a recollection "never occurs as a weak state which we
try to relegate to the past so soon as we become aware of its weakness.
How indeed, unless we already possess the representation of a past,
previously lived, could we relegate to it the less intense psychical
states, when it would be so simple to set them alongside of strong
states as a present experience more confused, beside a present
experience more distinct?"[Footnote: Matter and Memory, p. 319 (Fr. p.
268).] The truth is that Memory does not consist in a regression from
the present into the past, but on the contrary, in a progress from the
past to the present. Memory is radically distinct from Perception, in
its character.

Bergson then passes on to discuss other views of Memory, and in
particular, those which deal with the nature of Memory and its relation
to the brain. It is stated dogmatically by some that Memory is a
function of the brain. Others claim, in opposition to this, that Memory
is something other than a function of the brain. Between two such
statements as these, compromise or reconciliation is obviously
impossible. It is then for experience to decide between these two
conflicting views. This empirical appeal Bergson does not shirk. He has
made a most comprehensive and intensive study of pathological phenomena
relating to the mental malady known as aphasia. This particular type of
disorder belongs to a whole class of mental diseases known as amnesia.
Now amnesia (in Greek, "forgetfulness") is literally any loss or defect
of the Memory. Aphasia (in Greek "absence of speech") is a total or
partial loss of the power of speech, either in its spoken or written
form. The term covers the loss of the power of expression by spoken
words, but is often extended to include both word-deafness, i.e., the
misunderstanding of what is said, and word-blindness--the inability to
read words. An inability to execute the movements necessary to express
oneself, either by gesture, writing, or speech, is styled "motor
aphasia," to distinguish it from the inability to understand familiar
gestures and written or spoken words, which is known as "sensory-
aphasia." The commonest causes of this disease are lesions, affecting
the special nerve centres, due to haemorrhage or the development of
tumours, being in the one case rapid, in the other a gradual
development. Of course any severe excitement, fright or illness,
involving a disturbance of the normal circulation in the cerebral
centres, may produce asphasia. During the war, it has been one of the
afflictions of a large number of the victims of "shell-shock." But,
whatever be the cause, the patient is reduced mentally to an elementary
state, resembling that of a child, and needs re-educating in the
elements of language.

Now, from his careful study of the pathological phenomena, manifested in
these cases, Bergson draws some very important conclusions in regard to
the nature of Memory and its relation to the brain. In 1896, when he
brought out his work Matiere et Memoire, in Paris, the general view was
against his conclusions and his opinions were ridiculed. By 1910, a
marked change had come about and he was able to refer to this in the new
introduction.[Footnote: See Bibliography, p. 158.] His view was no
longer considered paradoxical. The conception of aphasia, once
classical, universally admitted, believed to be unshakeable, had been
considerably shaken in that period of fourteen years. Localization, and
reference to centres would not, it was found, explain things
sufficiently.[Footnote: The work of Pierre Janet was largely influential
also in bringing about this change of view.] This involved a too rigid
and mechanical conception of the brain as a mere "box," and Bergson
attacks it very forcibly under the name of "the box theory." "All the
arguments," he says, "from fact which may be invoked in favour of a
probable accumulation of memories in the cortical substance, are drawn
from local disorders of memory. But if recollections were really
deposited in the brain, to definite gaps in memory characteristic
lesions of the brain would correspond. Now in those forms of amnesia in
which a whole period of our past existence, for example, is abruptly and
entirely obliterated from memory, we do not observe any precise cerebral
lesion; and on the contrary, in those disorders of memory where cerebral
localization is distinct and certain, that is to say, in the different
types of aphasia, and in the diseases of visual or auditory recognition,
we do not find that certain definite recollections are, as it were, torn
from their seat, but that it is the whole faculty of remembering that is
more or less diminished in vitality, as if the subject had more or less
difficulty in bringing his recollections into contact with the present
situation."[Footnote: Matter and Memory, p. 315 (Fr. pp. 264-265).] But
as it is a fact that the past survives under two distinct forms, viz.,
"motor mechanisms" and "independent recollections," we find that this
explains why "in all cases where a lesion of the brain attacks a certain
category of recollections, the affected recollections do not resemble
each other by all belonging to the same period, or by any logical
relationship to one another, but simply in that they are all auditive or
all visual or all motor. That which is damaged appears to be the various
sensorial or motor areas, or more often still, those appendages which
permit of their being set going from within the cortex rather than the
recollections themselves."[Footnote: Matter and Memory, p. 317 (Fr. p.
266).] Going even further than this, by the study of the recognition of
words, and of sensory-aphasia, Bergson shows that "recognition is in no
way affected by a mechanical awakening of memories that are asleep in
the brain. It implies, on the contrary, a more or less high degree of
tension in consciousness, which goes to fetch pure recollections in pure
memory, in order to materialize them progressively, by contact with the
present perception."[Footnote: Matter and Memory, p. 317 (Fr. p. 266).]

In the face of all this mass of evidence and thoroughness of argument
which Bergson brings forward, we are led to conclude that Memory is
indeed something other than a function of the brain. Criticizing Wundt's
view,[Footnote: As expressed in his Grundzuge der physiologische
psychologie, vol. I., pp. 320-327. See Matter and Memory, p. 164 (Fr. p.
137).]Bergson contends that no trace of an image can remain in the
substance of the brain and no centre of apperception can exist. "There
is not in the brain a region in which memories congeal and accumulate.
The alleged destruction of memories by an injury to the brain is but a
break in the continuous progress by which they actualize
themselves."[Footnote: Matter and Memory, p. 160 (Fr. p. 134).] It is
then futile to ask in what spot past memories are stored. To look for
them in any place would be as meaningless as asking to see traces of the
telephonic message upon the telephone wire.

"Memory," it has been said, "is a faculty which loses nothing and
records everything."[Footnote: Ball, quoted by Rouillard, Les Amnesies,
Paris, 1885, p. 25; Matter and Memory, p. 201 (Fr. p. 168).] This is
only too true, although normally we do not recognize it. But we can
never be sure that we have absolutely forgotten anything. Illness,
producing delirium, may provoke us to speak of things we had thought
were gone beyond recall and which perhaps we even wish were beyond
recall. A somnambulistic state or even a dream may show us memory
extending far further back than we could ordinarily imagine. The facing
of death in battle, we know, recalls to many, with extreme vividness,
scenes of early childhood which they had deemed long since forgotten.
"There is nothing," says Bergson, "more instructive in this regard than
what happens in cases of sudden suffocation--in men drowned or hanged.
The man, when brought to life again, states that he saw in a very short
time all the forgotten events of his life, passing before him with great
rapidity, with their smallest circumstances, and in the very order in
which they occurred."[Footnote: La Perception du Changement, pp. 30-31,
and Matter and Memory, p 200 (Fr p 168).] Hence we can never be
absolutely sure that we have forgotten anything although at any given
time we may be unable to recall it to mind. There is an unconscious
memory.[Footnote: Cf. Samuel Butler's Unconscious Memory.] Speaking of
the profound and yet undeniable reality of the unconscious, Bergson
says,[Footnote: Matter and Memory, pp 181-182 (Fr. pp. 152-153). See
also Le Souvenir du present et la fausse reconnaissance, Revue
philosophique, Dec., 1908, p. 592, and L'Energie spirituelle, pp. 159-
161 (Mind-Energy).] "Our unwillingness to conceive unconscious psychical
states, is due, above all, to the fact that we hold consciousness to be
the essential property of psychical states, so that a psychical state
cannot, it seems, cease to be conscious without ceasing to exist. But if
consciousness is but the characteristic note of the present, that is to
say, of the actually lived, in short, of the active, then that which
does not act may cease to belong to consciousness without therefore
ceasing to exist in some manner. In other words, in the psychological
domain, consciousness may not be the synonym of existence, but only of
real action or of immediate efficacy; limiting thus the meaning of the
term, we shall have less difficulty in representing to ourselves a
psychical state which is unconscious, that is to say, ineffective.
Whatever idea we may frame of consciousness in itself, such as it would
be if it could work untrammelled, we cannot deny that in a being which
has bodily functions, the chief office of consciousness is to preside
over action and to enlighten choice. Therefore it throws light on the
immediate antecedents of the decision and on those past recollections
which can usefully combine with it; all else remains in shadow." But we
have no more right to say that the past effaces itself as soon as
perceived than to suppose that material objects cease to exist when we
cease to perceive them. Memory, to use a geometrical illustration which
Bergson himself employs, comes into action like the point of a cone
pressing against a plane. The plane denotes the present need,
particularly in relation to bodily action, while the cone stands for all
our total past. Much of this past, indeed most of it, only endures as
unconscious Memory, but it is always capable of coming to the apex of
the cone, i.e., coming into consciousness. So we may say that there are
different planes of Memory, conic sections, if we keep up the original
metaphor, and the largest of these contains all our past. This may be
well described as "the plane of dream."[Footnote: See Matter and Memory,
p. 222 (Fr. p. 186) and the paper L'Effort intellectuel, Revue
philosophique, Jan., 1902, pp. 2 and 25, L'Energie spirituelle, pp. 165
and 199 (Mind-Energy).]

This connexion of Memory with dreams is more fully brought out by
Bergson in his lecture before the Institut psychologique international,
five years after the publication of Matiere et Memoire, entitled Le
Reve. [Footnote: Delivered March 26, 1901. See Bibliography, p. 153.]
The following is a brief summary of the view there set forth. Memories,
and only memories, weave the web of our dreams. They are "such stuff as
dreams are made on." Often we do not recognize them. They may be very
old memories, forgotten during waking hours, drawn from the most obscure
depths of our past, or memories of objects we have perceived
distractedly, almost unconsciously, while awake. They may be fragments
of broken memories, composing an incoherent and unrecognizable whole. In
a waking state our memories are closely connected with our present
situation (unless we be given to day-dreams!). In an animal memory
serves to recall to him the advantageous or injurious consequences which
have formerly arisen in a like situation, and so aids his present
action. In man, memory forms a solid whole, a pyramid whose point is
inserted precisely into our present action. But behind the memories
which are involved in our occupations, there are others, thousands of
others, stored below the scene illuminated by consciousness. "Yes, I
believe indeed," says Bergson, "that all our past life is there,
preserved even to the most infinitesimal details, and that we forget
nothing and that all that we have ever felt, perceived, thought, willed,
from the first awakening of our consciousness, survives indestructibly."
[Footnote: Dreams, p. 37. For this discussion in full, see pages 34-39,
or see L'Energie spirituelle, pp. 100-103 (Mind-Energy).] Of course, in
action I have something else to do than occupy myself with these. But
suppose I become disinterested in present action--that I fall asleep--
then the obstacle (my attention to action) removed, these memories try
to raise the trap-door--they all want to get through. From the multitude
which are called, which will be chosen? When I was awake, only those
were admitted which bore on the present situation. Now, in sleep, more
vague images occupy my vision, more indecisive sounds reach my ear, more
indistinct touches come to my body, and more vague sensations come from
my internal organs. Hence those memories which can assimilate themselves
to some element in this vague mass of very indistinct sensations manage
to get through. When such union is effected, between memory and
sensation, we have a dream.

In order that a recollection should be brought to mind, it is necessary
that it should descend from the height of pure memory to the precise
point where action is taking place. Such a power is the mark of the
well-balanced mind, pursuing a via media between impulsiveness on the
one hand, and dreaminess on the other. "The characteristic of the man of
action," says Bergson in this connexion, "is the promptitude with which
he summons to the help of a given situation all the memories which have
reference to it. To live only in the present, to respond to a stimulus
by the immediate reaction which prolongs it, is the mark of the lower
animals; the man who proceeds in this way is a man of impulse. But he
who lives in the past, for the mere pleasure of living there, and in
whom recollections emerge into the light of consciousness, without any
advantage for the present situation, is hardly better fitted for action;
here we have no man of impulse, but a dreamer. Between these two
extremes lies the happy disposition of a memory docile enough to follow
with precision all the outlines of the present situation, but energetic
enough to resist all other appeal. Good sense or practical sense, is
probably nothing but this."[Footnote: Matter and Memory, p. 198 (Fr. pp.

In the paper L'Effort intellectuel, contributed in 1902 to the Revue
philosophique, and now reprinted in L'Energie spirituelle,[Footnote: Pp.
163-202. See also Mind-Energy.]Bergson gives an analysis of what is
involved in intellectual effort. There is at first, he shows, something
conceived quite generally, an idea vague and abstract, a schema which
has to be completed by distinct images. In thought there is a movement
of the mind from the plane of the schema to the plane of the concrete
image. Various images endeavour to fit themselves into the schema, or
the schema may adapt itself to the reception of the images. These double
efforts to secure adaptation and cooperation may both encounter
resistance from the other, a situation which is known to us as
hesitation, accompanied by the awareness of obstacles, thus involving
intellectual effort.

Memory then, Bergson wishes us to realize, in response to his treatment
of it, is no mere function of the brain; it is something infinitely more
subtle, infinitely more elusive, and more wondrous. Our memories are not
stored in the brain like letters in a filing cabinet, and all our past
survives indestructibly as Memory, even though in the form of
unconscious memory. We must recognize Memory to be a spiritual fact and
so regard it as a pivot on which turn many discussions of vital
importance when we come to investigate the problem of the relation of
soul and body. For "Memory must be, in principle, a power absolutely
independent of matter. If then, spirit is a reality, it is here, in the
phenomenon of Memory that we may come into touch with it
experimentally."[Footnote: Matter and Memory, p. 81 (Fr. p. 68).]
"Memory," he would remind us finally, "is just the intersection of mind
and matter."[Footnote: Matter and Memory, Introduction, p. xii.] "A
remembrance cannot be the result of a state of the brain. The state of
the brain continues the remembrance; it gives it a hold on the present
by the materiality which it confers upon it, but pure memory is a
spiritual manifestation. With Memory, we are, in very truth, in the
domain of spirit."[Footnote: Matter and Memory, p. 320 (Fr. p. 268).]



The hypothesis of Psycho-physical Parallelism--Not to be accepted
uncritically--Bergson opposes it, and shows the hypothesis to rest on a
confusion of terms. Bergson against Epiphenomenalism--Soul-life unique
and wider than the brain--Telepathy, subconscious action and psychical
research--Souls and survival.

For philosophy in general, and for psychology in particular, the problem
of the relation of soul and body has prime significance, and moreover,
it is a problem with which each of us is acquainted intimately and
practically, even if we know little or nothing of the academic
discussions, or of the technical terms representing various views. It is
very frequently the terminology which turns the plain man away from the
consideration of philosophical problems; but he has some conception,
however crude it may be, of his soul or his mind and of his body. These
terms are familiar to him, but the sight of a phrase like "psycho-
physical parallelism" rather daunts him. Really, it stands for quite a
simple thing, and is just the official label used to designate the
theory commonly held by scientific men of all kinds, to describe the
relation of soul and body. Put more precisely, it is just the assertion
that brain and consciousness work on parallel lines.

Bergson does not accept the hypothesis of psycho-physical parallelism.
In the first of his four lectures on La Nature de l'Ame, given at London
University in 1911, we find him criticizing the notion that
consciousness has no independence of its own, that it merely expresses
certain states of the brain, that the content of a fact of consciousness
is to be found wholly in the corresponding cerebral state. It is true
that we should not find many physiologists or philosophers who would
tell us now that "the brain secretes thought as the liver secretes
bile."[Footnote: Cabanis (1757-1808). Rapports du physique et du morale
de l'homme, 1802. See quotation by William James in Human Immortality.
Note (4) in his Appendix.] But there was an idea that, if we could see
through the skull and observe what takes place in the brain, if we had
an enormously powerful microscope which would permit us to follow the
movements of the molecules, atoms, electrons, of the brain, and if we
had the key to the correspondence between these phenomena and the mind,
we should know all the thoughts and wishes of the person to whom the
brain belonged--we should see what took place in his soul, as a
telegraph operator could read by the oscillation of his needles the
meaning of a message which was sent through his instrument. The notion
of an equality or parallelism between conscious activity and cerebral
activity, was commonly adopted by modern physiology, and it was adopted
without discussion as a scientific notion by the majority of
philosophers. Yet the experimental basis of this theory is extremely
slight, indeed altogether insufficient, and in reality the theory is a
metaphysical conception, resulting from the views of the seventeenth
century thinkers who had hopes of "a universal mathematic." The idea had
been accepted that all was capable of determination in the psychical as
well as the physical world, inasmuch as the psychical was only a reflex
of the physical. Parallelism was adopted by science because of its
convenience.[Footnote: See The Times of Oct. 21, 1911.] Bergson,
however, pointed out that philosophy ought not to accept it without
criticism, and maintained, moreover, that it could not stand the
criticism that might be brought against it. Relation of soul and body
was undeniable, but that it was a parallel or equivalent relation he
denied most emphatically. That criticism he had launched himself with
great vigour in 1901 at a Meeting of the Societe francaise de
philosophie,[Footnote: See Bibliography, p. 153.] and on a more
memorable occasion, at the International Congress of Philosophy at
Geneva in 1904.[Footnote: See Bibliography, p. 154.] Before the
Philosophical Society he lectured on Le Parallelisme psycho-physique et
la Metaphysique positive, and propounded the following propositions:

1. If psycho-physical parallelism is neither rigorous nor complete, if
to every determined thought there does not correspond an absolutely
determined state (si a toute pensee determinee ne correspond pas un etat
cerebral determine absolument), it will be the business of experience to
mark with increasing accuracy the precise points at which parallelism
begins and ends.

2. If this empirical inquiry is possible, it will measure more and more
exactly the separation between the thought and the physical conditions
in which this thought is exercised. In other words, it will give us a
progressive knowledge of the relation of man as a thinking being to man
as a living being, and therefore of what may be termed "the meaning of

3. If this meaning of Life can be empirically determined more and more
exactly, and completely, a positive metaphysic is possible: that is to
say, a metaphysic which cannot be contested and which will admit of a
direct and indefinite progress; such a metaphysic would escape the
objections urged against a transcendental metaphysic, and would be
strictly scientific in form.

After having propounded these propositions, he defended them by
recalling much of the data considered in his work Matiere et Memoire
which he had published five years previously and which has been examined
in the previous chapter. The onus of proof lay, said Bergson, with the
upholders of parallelism. It is a purely metaphysical hypothesis
unwarrantable in his opinion as a dogma. He distinguishes between
correspondence--which he of course admits--and parallelism, to which he
is opposed. We never think without a certain substratum of cerebral
activity, but what the relation is precisely, between brain and
consciousness, is one for long and patient research: it cannot be
determined a priori and asserted dogmatically. Until such investigation
has been carried out, it behoves us to be undogmatic and not to allege
more than the facts absolutely warrant, that is to say, a relation of
correspondence. Parallelism is far too simple an explanation to be a
true one. Before the International Congress, Bergson launched another
attack on parallelism which caused quite a little sensation among those
present. Says M. E. Chartier, in his report: La lecture de ce memoire,
lecture qui commandait l'attention a provoque chez presque tous les
auditeurs un mouvement de surprise et d'inquietude. [Footnote: The paper
Le Paralogisme psycho-physiologique is given in Revue de metaphysique et
de morale, Nov., 1904, pp. 895-908. The Discussion in the Congress is
given on pp. 1027-1037. This was reissued under the title Le Cerveau et
la Pensee: une illusion philosophique in the collected volume of essays
and lectures, published in 1919, L'Energie spirituelle, pp. 203-223
(Mind-Energy).] He there set out to show that Parallelism cannot be
consistently stated from any point of view, for it rests on a fallacious
argument--on a fundamental contradiction. To grasp Bergson's points in
this argument, the reading of this paper in the original, as a whole, is
necessary. It is difficult to condense it and keep its clearness of
thought. Briefly, it amounts to this, that the formulation of the
doctrine of Parallelism rests on an ambiguity in the terms employed in
its statement, that it contains a subtle dialectical artifice by which
we pass surreptitiously from one system of notation to another ignoring
the substitution: logically, we ought to keep to one system of notation
throughout. The two systems are: Idealism and Realism. Bergson attempts
to show that neither of these separately can admit Parallelism, and that
Parallelism cannot be formulated except by a confusion of the two--by a
process of mental see-sawing as it were, which of course we are not
entitled to perform, Idealism and Realism being two opposed and
contradictory views of reality. For the Idealist, things external to the
mind are images, and of these the brain is one. Yet the images are in
the brain. This amounts to saying that the whole is contained in the
part. We tend, however, to avoid this by passing to a pseudo-realistic
position by saying that the brain is a thing and not an image. This is
passing over to the other system of notation. For the Realist it is the
essence of reality to suppose that there are things behind
representations. Some Realists maintain that the brain actually creates
the representation, which is the doctrine of Epiphenomenalism: while
others hold the view of the Occasionalists, and others posit one reality
underlying both. All however agree in upholding Parallelism. In the
hands of the Realist, the theory is equivalent to asserting that a
relation between two terms is equal to one of them. This involves
contradiction and Realism then crosses over to the other system of

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