Henri Bergson’s Understanding of PhilosophyJune 27, 2021
According to Bergson, philosophy is science. We cannot distinguish it from other sciences neither in method nor in the certainties it achieves. Just as the physicist’s explanations do not consist of impressions and assumptions, the methodological results of the philosopher can be as accurate as the physicist’s explanations.
Bergson follows Descartes in his understanding of philosophy as science. Descartes likened knowledge to a tree: The roots of this tree were metaphysics, the trunk was physics, and its branches were other sciences. Bergson also wants to establish a continuity between metaphysics and physics. However, Descartes considered it appropriate for philosophy as a science to take mathematics as an example and use a method that combines intuition and déduction. In other words, mathematics provided the model of science that Descartes used to establish the science of philosophy. Bergson’s model of science is not mathematics, it is biology. What is the reason for this change? In the 19th century, biology made great progress by going beyond the schemes of Cartesian mathematics. Bergson attributes the separation of metaphysics and science from each other as a result of scientific developments in the 19th century, to the fact that metaphysics worked with a mathematical model from Descartes to Kant. Biology broadly means “science of life”. However, the meaning of the term has not only been limited to organic life, but has also expanded to include psychic life and social life. According to Bergson, in order to reconcile metaphysics with the life sciences, it is necessary to abandon thinking of metaphysics as a universal mathematics. Already in the 19th century, the experimental sciences were able to make progress thanks to the rejection of the idea that all knowledge could be expressed in the language of universal mathematics. Thus, Bergson gives metaphysics a new task: to search for facts by following the life sciences, to choose concepts suitable for them, and to rethink experience by creating new intelligibility criteria. Bergson declares that his philosophy has ended the Cartesian era of Western philosophy.
Bergson’s philosophy carries with it a revolt against “rationalism” and “scientism” that rely too much on the knowing power of the mind. In this respect, it can be associated with the ideas that developed as a rationality critique in the 20th century thought. Bergson’s dual beginning separating the world of matter and the world of life, and his view that there is an epistemological difference between knowing matter and knowing life, has been a source of inspiration for philosophical views that reject materialism. Bergson, on the one hand, was influenced by the evolutionary thought of the developing science of biology, on the other hand, he puts forward a philosophical understanding based on action rather than reflection (reflexion). Because of these features, Bergson XX. He is considered as one of the thinkers who formed the world of thought of the 20th century. In this section, we will try to show his thoughts that affect our century based on his works.
The focal problem in Bergson’s universe of thought is the concept of “time”. He approached the concept of time by criticizing the explanations of all philosophers up to his age. According to him, the time understood by the old philosophy is the phenomenon that science qualifies as a measurable space (space). Such a view does not suffice to solve the problem of the concept of time. Time is a formation and creative development of human consciousness. For this reason, it is not outside of human consciousness, but in the process of development. Human consciousness is a separate entity created by memory. The origin of memory is the extension of the past into the present. Because of this feature, memory is not static, it is an uninterrupted flow from the past to the present. As a matter of fact, “memory, which means the prolongation of the past in the present, constitutes the essence of man’s conscious existence. There is no question of the past going back. Experiment shows this directly.”
Man is a being shaped not by the spirit-body duo, but by the “I”. The “I”, on the other hand, is a “shell part” of human consciousness, forming layers such as reason, understanding, logic, and science. The main factor in shaping this section is to comply with the generally valid conditions of the society in which one lives. The operation of this shell part depends on the “causality principle”. The essence that constitutes the interior of consciousness is the entity called the “basic self” (moi fondamental). The “basic self” is in constant motion, in a breakthrough. For him, there is no stagnation, no determination. Changes in consciousness have a great effect on the formation of the “I”. Intermittent comprehension of the changes in consciousness, which have the quality of a continuous flow, leads to the emergence of the concept of “I”.
Change has the characteristics of a development process, in this respect it is an uninterrupted progress. Progress is for the living being. Bergson differs from previous sages by drawing a distinctive meaning from the concept of “change”. According to him, change is not to move from one state to another, but to make a creative leap to introduce a new species, which is the essence of life.
As a matter of fact, “change must turn into a general situation in order to reach the stage that will allow a new species to emerge.