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Bergson: A Dooyeweerdian Perspective

Henri Bergson proposed some ideas that, at his time, were quite outstanding, and which remained unappreciated until relatively recently. His book Creative Evolution, a philosophical discussion about the nature of evolution, which severely criticises the traditional Spencerian view, was so beautifully written that it won him the Nobel Prize for literature.

Some of his main ideas are (a) that time must not be assumed to be clock time, but psychical time, duree, and that (b) the 'meaning' of evolution is to arrive at sentient beings who can convert physical energy into free action. Both these ideas find echoes in Dooyeweerd, though also some clear differences. So this page tries to provide an overview of what Dooyeweerd would affirm in Bergson, what he would critique and what he would enrich.

Dooyeweerd knew something of of Bergson's work, but was then intent, not on affirming, critiquing and enriching, but in trying to show how the Immanence Standpoint had deeply infected almost all of Western thought, despite its hugely varied forms. Bergson, he argued, was also thus infected, and so missed out on some promising ideas. Though Dooyeweerd clearly sees through some of Bergson's ambiguities, what Dooyeweerd knew of Bergson seems to have been limited (there is no reference to Creative Evolution nor later writings; see Dooyeweerd's index summary below).

So this page does not intend to confine itself solely to what Dooyeweerd wrote in his New Critique [NC], which is limited, but to try to take more of Bergson's thought and more of Dooyeweerd's. It will be built up over a time.

Berson's idea Dooyeweerd affirms Dooyeweerd critiques Dooyeweerd enriches
This page only just started.
This table starts with the following few entries
but should be built up over time.
duree: psychical time, time as we feel it passing Cosmic time in its psychical aspect. Bergson's is a good argument for his era, when most others presumed that time is identical with clock (physical) time. Bergson tries to reduce everything to psychic time. Cosmic time has many more aspects.
The idea that evolution has meaning that is beyond its biotic meaning:
why evolution happened; what it was aiming at.
Like Aristotle's final cause insofar as evolution has a direction,
but unlike it insofar as f.c. is too determined.
Evolution has [been given] an initial impetus in a particular direction.
All our being, including that of evolution, is meaningfulness that transcends us. Evolution is a biotic functioning, but there are ten aspects later than it, which provide wider meaningfulness.
The unpredictability of evolution is affirmed by the idea that the Creation responds to aspectual laws in a non-determined way.
Bergson eloquently pleads for a direction for evolution that is 'given to' it, but he draws back from discussion of the source of this direction, this 'initial impetus'. Idea of law-side with many aspects can provide a source for this 'initial impetus', which is multi-aspectual and even less determined than Bergson thought.
The meaning of evolution is to produce sentient beings which can act freely (by having a nervous system, which depends on other organs that convert physical energy into a form it can use). The biotic aspect anticipates the psychic.
(Anticipation is that an earlier aspect does not fulfil its whole meaningfulness without meaningfulness from later aspects.)
But Bergson stops at the psychic aspect. He sees everything as free mental acts, and is not interested in the difference between those that communicate, that build, that analyse, that maintain justice, etc.). Question: Is it that Bergson knew of the differences in kind of free mental act and decided to let others discuss them, or that he was largely blind to their differences, expecting them to be just differences that are arbitrary or contingent on complex environment, and therefore not worth studying?


Dooyeweerd's index entry about Bergson is as follows:

To be completed =====


This page, '', is part of a collection of pages that links to various thinkers, within The Dooyeweerd Pages, which explain, explore and discuss Dooyeweerd's interesting philosophy. Email questions or comments would be welcome.

Written on the Amiga and Protext.

Copyright (c) at all dates below Andrew Basden. But you may use this material subject to conditions.

Created: 7 September 2017 Last updated: