The possible in the life and work of Henri Bergson

Brown, Steven D. and Lundy, Craig (2022) The possible in the life and work of Henri Bergson. The Palgrave Encyclopedia of the Possible. pp. 1-8.

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Abstract / Description

Henri Bergson (1859–1941) contributed major philosophical works on time, consciousness, evolution, and morality. His thinking remains central to debates on fundamental issues within philosophy and social science, particular around “process ontology.” Bergson’s work was of enormous influence to early-twentieth-century social science, and has seen a resurgence in the twenty-first century. This is in part due to the reception of Gilles Deleuze’s work, which engaged extensively with Bergson. In this entry, we focus on Bergson’s treatment of the relationship between “the possible” and “the real.” Bergson inverts the Platonic organization of these terms, where the real is constituted by the selection of ideal forms of possible. Bergson argues that this makes it impossible to understand how “unforseeable novelty” might emerge in the world. The possible is instead a “mirage” retrospectively posited as prior to the real. This treatment is part of a broader project of overcoming metaphysical mistakes which consist in seeing one philosophical term as adding fullness and positivity to another. In its place, Bersgson offers an account of life as dynamic, autopoietic emergence. In the final part of the entry we describe how an engagement with Bergson can afford social science approaches to memory, imagination, and lived experience as emergent patternings of life responding to life.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: virtual; duration; lived experience; vitalism; memory
Subjects: 100 Philosophy & psychology
100 Philosophy & psychology > 110 Metaphysics
100 Philosophy & psychology > 120 Epistemology, causation & humankind
100 Philosophy & psychology > 150 Psychology
100 Philosophy & psychology > 190 Modern western philosophy
300 Social sciences
Department: School of Social Sciences and Professions
Depositing User: Craig Lundy
Date Deposited: 04 May 2022 07:52
Last Modified: 04 May 2022 07:52


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