Idea of Time in Bergson’s Lectures

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The article focuses on two lecture courses - “The Idea of time” and “The History of the Idea of Time” - delivered by the French philosopher Henri Bergson at Collège de France in 1901-1903. While these courses cannot replace Bergson’s published works for understanding his philosophy, they can shed new light on Bergson’s popularity. Due to the requirements of the genre, Bergson presents his views in a most succinct and convincing manner and showcases his most original ideas. In these lectures Bergson reinterprets traditional philosophical categories such as the absolute and the relative, the infinite and the finite, and explores two major modes of cognition - conceptual and intuitive knowledge. Major thrust of Bergson’s arguments is targeted at conceptual cognition because it is incapable of grasping the duration. Conceptual cognition relies on signs to operate representations of reality. Bergson demonstrates that signs, including concepts, are general, fixating and they appeal to action. Conceptual cognition, therefore, is based on fragmenting continuous processes in reality. However, when discussing intuitive cognition Bergson provides but an outline by referring to “intellectual sympathy”, “plunging into the thing in itself”. Despite this apophatic description of the alternative - intuitive - mode of cognition Bergson insists on fundamental transformation of philosophy. We conclude that already in the early 1900s Bergson has in mind an entire project of reconstituting metaphysics and reorienting it towards the problem of time, what might be described as “temporal turn” in philosophy of the twentieth century.

About the authors

Andrey Sergeevich Menshikov

Ural Federal University

Author for correspondence.

Cand.Sc. in Philosophy, Associate professor at the Department of Philosophy

Mira 19, Ekaterinburg, Russian Federation, 620002


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Copyright (c) 2020 Menshikov A.S.

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