Henri Bergson by Vladimir Jankélévitch

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  • 8/20/2019 Henri Bergson by Vladimir Jankélévitch




    T R A N S L A T E D B Y N I L S F . S C H O T T

  • 8/20/2019 Henri Bergson by Vladimir Jankélévitch





    T R A N S L A T E D B Y N I L S F. S C H O T T

    I N T R O D U C T I O N B Y A L E X A N D R E L E F E B V R E

    D U K E U N I V E R S I T Y P R E S S

    Durham & London 2015

  • 8/20/2019 Henri Bergson by Vladimir Jankélévitch


    Henri Bergson by Vladimir Jank élé vitch© Presses Universitaires de France, 1959English translation © 2015 Duke University PressAll rights reservedPrinted in the United States of Americaon acid-free paper ∞

     ypeset in Adobe Caslon Pro by Westchester Publishing Services

    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Jank élé vitch, Vladimir.[Henri Bergson. English]Henri Bergson / Vladimir Jank élé vitch ; edited by AlexandreLefebvre and Nils F. Schott ; translated by Nils F. Schott ;introduction by Alexandre Lefebvre.pages cmIncludes bibliographical references and index.

    978-0-8223-5916-6 (hardcover : alk. paper) 978-0-8223-5935-7 (pbk. : alk. paper) 978-0-8223-7533-3 (e-book)1. Bergson, Henri, 1859–1941. I. Lefebvre, Alexandre, 1979–II. Schott, Nils F. III. itle.2430.43315 2015194—dc232015003367 

    Cover art: Henri Bergson (1859–1941), French philosopher, sittingin his garden. World History Archive/Alamy.

    Preface to Bergson (1930) by Henri Bergson © Presses Universi-taires de France. Letters to Vladimir Jank élé vitch by Henri Bergson

     were originally published in Correspondances  (2002) and M é langes  (1972) © Presses Universitaires de France. “Letter to Louis Beauducon First Meeting Bergson” was originally published in Une vie entoutes lettres  (1995) © Editions Liana Levi. “What Is the Value of

    Bergson’s Tought? Interview with Françoise Reiss” and “SolemnHomage to Henri Bergson” were originally published in Premi è reset derni è res pages  by Vladimir Jank élé vitch, edited by FrançoiseSchwab © Éditions du Seuil, 1994.

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    ’  vii


    . Jankélévitch on Bergson: Living in ime  xi Alexandre Lefebvre 


    . Organic otalities  3.  Te Whole and Its Elements 4.  Te Retrospective View and the Illusion of the Future Perfect 11

    . Freedom 23.  Actor and Spectator 24

    .  Becoming  30

    .  Te Free Act 49

    . Soul and Body 66.  Tought and Brain 66

    .  Recollection and Perception 79

    .  Intellection 89

    .  Memory and Matter 94

    . Life 109.  Finality 109

    .  Instinct and Intellect 119.  Matter and Life 137 

    C O N T E N T S

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    . Heroism and Saintliness 151.  Suddenness 152

    .  Te Open and the Closed 156

    .  Bergson’s Maximalism 159

    . Te Nothingness of Concepts andthe Plenitude of Spirit 167 

    .  Fabrication and Or ganization: Te Demiurgic Prejudice 167 

    .  On the Possible 179

    . Simplicity... and Joy 191.  On Simplicity 191

    .  Bergson’s Optimism 203


    247 Preface to the First Edition of Henri Bergson () 247 

    Letters to Vladimir Janké l é vitch by Henri Bergson 248

    Letter to Louis Beauduc on First Meeting Bergson () 250

    What Is the Value of Bergson’s Tought? Interview withFrançoise Reiss () 251

    Solemn Homage to Henri Bergson () 253




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    “Jankélévitch’s works,” Arnold Davidson writes, are characterized “by his

    inimitable style of writing, his invention of a vocabulary, and a rhythmof prose whose texture is a perpetual challenge for any translator to tryto capture.” Tis is true of Henri Bergson in more ways than one. Its re-composition for the second edition of 1959—on which this translation isbased—combines a very early treatise with a text in which Jankélévitch hasfound his voice. It brings together a reenactment of Bergson’s philosophyin an often breathless current with a melodic interweaving of motifs. Yet italso implies the occasional disparity. Tis is a stylistic matter, but concerns

    documentation, for example, as well. Our goal in editing and translatingthe texts included in this volume, which comprises nearly all of Janké-lévitch’s writings on Bergson,  has thus been twofold: on the one hand, toremain close to the text with its idiosyncrasies and, on the other, to makeit as accessible as possible to a wider audience without intimate knowl-edge of Ancient Greek, Latin, Russian, and German (languages in which Jankélévitch not only quotes but in which he even writes on occasion)and who may not have the wide-ranging philosophical knowledge (to

    mention but one eld) Jankélévitch seems to presuppose in his readersbut in fact may have been one of the few to possess.

     We have, therefore, retained Jankélévitch’s capitalization, punctua-tion, and so forth, wherever doing so does not contravene American usageoutright. Tat said, we have adapted the use of tenses, for example, andchanged what would appear in English as incomplete sentences by supple-menting subjects and verbs, by dropping prepositions (where warranted),or by combining sentences. More often, however, we have broken upsentences, as Jankélévitch uses semicolons the way others use periods.Further, suspension points (...) are a central rhetorical device for him,and distinct from ellipses ( . . . ). o reveal the structure of Jankélévitch’s

    E D I T O R S ’ P R E F A C E

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     viii ’

    argument and to make the text more manageable, we have broken downparagraphs, which in the original can run to several pages.

     Tere are relatively few direct quotations in the book. Jankélévitch in-stead weaves references into his text, frequently without marking them.

    Very often, these seem less to refer to any specic passage of a text than topossible connections to be established with the discussion he is currentlyengaged in. Quotations from texts written in Greek, Latin, and Germanhave been replaced by translations, and the number of terms and phrasesin other languages has been greatly reduced. Where they are available, we have used existing translations but modied them, when needed, toconform to Jankélévitch’s reading of a text. Tis applies in particular toGreek texts but, of course, to Bergson’s books as well. We have also kept

    parenthetical mentions of French terms to a minimum.All references have been checked. In the 1959 edition of Henri Berg-

    son, Jankélévitch refers to the original Alcan editions for some of Berg-son’s books and the newer Presses Universitaires de France () editionsfor others, but does not do so consistently. Although we have taken on what Jankélévitch calls the “long and tedious labor” of aligning these refer-ences,  this means that occasionally, it is not entirely clear what passage ex-actly Jankélévitch meant to point to. In such cases, references are to entire

    paragraphs (which can span several pages) or longer discussions. Missingreferences have been supplied, evidently incorrect ones silently corrected.All references are found in the notes.

    References to other authors have been specied where possible, al-though some—like the reference to Lermontov’s poetry—are too generalto be pinpointed, others simply too obscure. Where possible, Jankélévitch’sreferences have been updated to refer to newer translations or more ac-cessible editions. Given the richness of the text, which would require a

    critical apparatus of immense proportions, we have opted to provide onlya minimum of explanatory notes.

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    AC K N O WL E D G M E N T S

     We are grateful for the funding provided by the School of Philosophical

    and Historical Inquiry and the School of Social and Political Sciences atthe University of Sydney. We warmly thank Sophie Jankélévitch, JoanneLefebvre, Anne Eakin Moss, Melanie White, and Frédéric Worms fortheir invaluable assistance, the anonymous reviewers for Duke Univer-sity Press for their helpful comments, and especially our editor, CourtneyBerger, for her support, hard work, and good cheer.

    In the process of editing and translating the book, we have been greatlyhelped by the staff of a large number of libraries, including, in Paris, the

     various branches of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the Biblio-thèque Sainte Geneviève, the libraries of the Sorbonne and the AmericanUniversity of Paris, the American Library in Paris, and the Bibliothèquepublique d’information; in the United States, the Library of Congress, theNew York Public Library, and the Sheridan Libraries of the Johns HopkinsUniversity; in Berlin, the University and Philological Libraries at the FreeUniversity and the Staatsbibliothek; and the University of Sydney Library.

     Tis pro ject has brought us together many years after our graduate

    studies in the Humanities Center at Te Johns Hopkins University. Wededicate this volume to our teachers there, Paola Marrati and Hent deVries.

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    I N T R O D U C T I O N


    L I V I N G I N T I M E

     Alexandre Lefebvre 

     Just twenty-one years old and a doctoral student of the École Normale

    Supérieure, Vladimir Jankélévitch met Henri Bergson at his Paris home. Tis was a big moment for the young student. France’s greatest livingphilosopher was not only a hero to him but, on top of that, also the subjectof his very rst article, which only weeks previously had been acceptedfor publication. Keen to speak with the master himself, the two met foran hour and a half. Tese are the rst impressions he noted down for afriend:

    Speaking of Bergson: last Sunday, I nally saw the great man at hishome; we chatted for a good hour and a half. His is a charming sim-plicity, and I beg you to believe that one feels much more at ease withhim—great man that he is—than with that fussy B[réhier]. Picture alittle bony fellow (and I imagined him to be tall) whose 65 years show, with very round blue eyes that seem to latch onto something in thedistance when he speaks. His speech is slow (an academic’s deforma-tion!) but very simple and without affectation, despite some surprising

    images that, bursting into the conversation with abrupt impertinence,remind the listener that it is Bergson he’s listening to. 

     Tis meeting took place in 1923 and, over the years, a close intellectualfriendship blossomed between them that would last until the end ofBergson’s life.  Te pattern of their exchanges was for Jankélévitch tosend an article that he had written on Bergson’s philosophy for comment,and, in turn, receive a warm and encouraging reply. So, for example, in1924 Jankélévitch passed along his “wo Philosophies of Life: Bergson,Guyau” and in 1928 sent “Prolegomena to Bergsonism” and “Bergsonismand Biology.” Tanks to the reputation gained from these early writ-ings, not to mention the high esteem Bergson held him in, Jankélévitch

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     was soon asked by a former student of Bergson’s if he would write ashort book. He accepted enthusiastically. “Delacroix has asked me for abook on Bergson for the ‘Great Philosophers’ series (to be published byAlcan),” he told his friend. “I accepted. I can say that the book is almost

    done. All that’s left is to write it. It’s a one- or two- year job.” 

    Perhaps this statement was a little brash on Jankélévitch’s part. But,then again, it didn’t prove untrue. Te rst edition of Henri Bergson waspublished in 1930 and to acclaim. It received very positive reviews. And,most impressively, it included a fulsome preface in the form of a letterby Bergson himself.

    Dear Sir, You have done me the honor of dedicating a work to the whole of

    my writings. I have read it closely, and I want you to know the interestI took in reading it and the delight it has given me. Not only is youraccount exact and precise; not only is it informed by such a completeand extended textual study that the citations seem to answer, all bythemselves, the call of ideas; above all, it also demonstrates a remarkabledeepening of the theory and an intellectual sympathy that led you todiscover the stages I went through, the paths I followed, and sometimes

    the terms that I would have used if I had expounded what remainedimplicit. I add that this work of analysis goes hand in hand with a sin-gularly interesting effort of synthesis: often my point of arrival was for you a point of departure for original speculations of your own.

    Allow me to send my compliments and thanks for this penetratingstudy, and please trust, dear Sir, in my highest regard.

    . . 

     Tese glowing lines are helpful to introduce the avor of Jankélévitch’s

    reading of Bergson. First of all, it is clear that Bergson did not see thisbook as merely an exegesis of his work. Neither did he think of his rela-tionship to Jankélévitch as a one- way street where the master would sim-ply lead his disciple. His preface points instead to a mutual enrichment of young and old philosopher. And this wasn’t mere politeness or ne wordson Bergson’s part. Te proof is that several of his own key later essays—most notably, “Te Possible and the Real” and the “Introductions” ofCreative Mind — would be devoted to amplifying themes from his own work that Jankélévitch had originally highlighted in his study, such as thecritique of retrospection and the categories of the possible and nothing-ness. ruly, what higher praise is there?

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    Another notable feature of Bergson’s preface is his gratitude to Janké-lévitch for treating his oeuvre as a living doctrine, as something that was unpredictable in its development and that continues to grow in newdirections. Tis is signicant in light of the reception of Bergson at the

    time, which was undergoing a major shift. Prior to the First World War,Bergson had been the philosopher of the avant-garde par excellence.  rue, he was world famous. And yes, the educated public and high so-ciety ocked to his lectures. But he was also the vital point of referencefor leading artistic and political movements of the day, no matter howdiverse. Cubism, symbolism, literary modernism, anarchism, and manyothers, all took their cue from him. Yet despite this tremendous successand effect—or likely, because of it—Bergson remained a relative outsider

    in academic philosophy. After the Great War, however, all that changes. On the one hand, the

    onetime patron saint of youth, art, and culture is dismissed as a dated es-tablishment gure. And, on the other hand, the onetime renegade phi-losopher is elevated to the position of a historical “great,” one perfectlyat home on a shelf with Descartes, Pascal, and Kant. Raymond Aron, aclassmate of Jankélévitch’s, sums up Bergson’s reversal of status particularly well: “Bergson is someone everyone knows, to whom some people listen,

    and who nobody regards as contemporary.” A great merit of Jankélévitch’sbook for Bergson, then, is to resist this rather unhappy experience of beingembalmed alive, of being canonized and shelved all at once. By plumbingthe undiscovered depths of his works, and by glimpsing the paths by whichit could be renewed and extended, Jankélévitch reinvigorates the élan of adoctrine that was at great risk of becoming a classic.

    Bergson thus praises Jankélévitch for representing a vital doctrine stillin the making. Tis, however, is itself a tricky point; and, after Bergson’s

    death in 1941, things get more complicated. Te reason is that Janké-lévitch will write not just one but two versions of Henri Bergson. Tereis the rst 1930 edition, and then another in 1959. It is this second editionthat we have prepared for the present volume. What is the differencebetween the two? Te 1959 edition has three more chapters.  By andlarge, these extra chapters treat Bergson’s nal work, Te wo Sourcesof Morality and Religion, which had not yet appeared when the rst volume was published in 1930. Tus, Jankélévitch adds one chapter onheroism and sainthood, another on simplicity and joy, and an appendixon Bergson’s thought and Judaism. He also writes a new introductionand conclusion.

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    Stated in these terms, however, the difference between the two edi-tions appears to be merely quantitative: the 1930 edition has ve chapters,the 1959 edition has eight. But, in truth, there is a more basic and yet lesstangible difference. It relates to the lavish praise given by Bergson in his

    preface to the rst edition. What he admires in Jankélévitch is his abil-ity to place the reader within a process of philosophical creation, one in which the doctrine is in the midst of working itself out and with all therisks and unpredictability that this involves. But the situation is different,of course, in 1959. Ten, nearly twenty years after Bergson’s death, the ob- ject of Jankélévitch’s commentary effectively changes. No longer workingon a philosophy that is ying and running, he is, instead, writing on onethat has own its course and run its race. He is, in other words, address-

    ing a completed doctrine. Te result is a fascinating overlay. By necessity, Jankélévitch’s second edition (1959) combines the original commentary ofthe rst edition (1930)— which, as Bergson said, does its utmost to honora living and breathing philosophy—together with a later perspective thatnow has the whole and complete philosophy before it.

     Te marvelous texture of Jankélévitch’s book can be put in other, moreBergsonian terms. At its most basic level, Bergson’s philosophy boils downto an awareness (or perhaps better, a perception) that the past and the

    present are very different from one another. Te past is time that is doneand gone, and, because of that, can be analyzed, broken down, and recon-structed in a great many ways. But that’s not the case for the present. Be-cause it is in the making, the present is open-ended, unpredictable, andresistant to analysis. Seen from the perspective of this difference, then, Jankélévitch’s Henri Bergson is something more than a substantively richcommentary on Bergson. Tanks to its creation in two different editions,it is also a work that uniquely presents—or rather, that uniquely is —the

    temporalities that Bergson had labored his whole life to present and dis-tinguish: a living present, thick and unforeseeable; and an accomplishedpast, available to analysis and retrospection.

    Why Read Janké l é vitch’s Henri Bergson?

    Here, then, is one tempting reason to read Jankélévitch’s Henri Bergson:its composition exhibits the very temporalities that Bergson sought torepresent. But there are, of course, other reasons. Some, we might say,concern Jankélévitch’s own philosophical development; others concern

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    his interpretation of Bergson and the features that distinguish it fromexisting commentaries.

    Let’s begin with the rst point: Henri Bergson is not only a great bookon Bergson; it is also a great book by  Jankélévitch in his own right and

    a key point of reference for his oeuvre. Here a remark of Bergson’s isparticularly apt. In “Philosophical Intuition,” he claims that any greatphilosopher has, in all honesty, only one or two “innitely simple” ideasthat are elaborated over the course of his or her life. aking up the sug-gestion, what would we say is Jankélévitch’s “big idea”? What single ideacould possibly span a most prolic and diverse oeuvre, one that includesover forty books in philosophy and musicology? Te answer is given inhis letters: irreversibility. “Irreversibility,” he says, is “the primitive fact

    of spiritual life . . . [it is] the very center of moral life.”  What does hemean by irreversibility? Nothing other than the fact that we live in timeand that we cannot, in a literal sense, undo what has already been done:

    It strikes me that irreversibility represents objectivity  par excellence.Objectivity, experientially speaking, is that on which we can’t doanything. . . . Te will can do anything—except one thing: undo that which it has done. Te power of undoing is of another order: of the

    order of grace, if you will. It is a miracle. Orpheus could have notlooked back. But the moment he did, Eurydice is lost forever. Godalone could do it, if he wanted. Te mind [l’esprit ] thus carries in itselfthe supreme objectivity, and yet it is true, as idealism tells us, that thisobjectivity depends on us. It would take too long to tell you how thiscan be conrmed in all the domains of spiritual life.

     When we scan the titles of Jankélévitch’s oeuvre we see that they revolvearound the problem of irreversibility. His works on forgiveness, bad con-

    science, the instant, nostalgia, evil and harm, and above all, on death, areall meditations of how moral, aesthetic, and religious life responds to andaccommodates, for better or worse, the basic fact of irreversibility. It isfor this reason that Jankélévitch’s writings on Bergson have a very specialplace in his corpus.

    Put it this way: if we were to turn the tables on Bergson and ask himto identify his own big idea, an excellent candidate would be irrevers-ibility. Underlying Bergson’s conception of lived and effective time (whathe calls “duration”) is an awareness that it cannot be broken down, reor-dered, and reconstructed without distortion, without betraying its nature

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    as  time and turning into something else (that which he calls “space”). Asone commentator puts it, “Bergson will affi rm a dynamic ontology ofirreversible time.”  In this respect, we might say that Jankélévitch is aBergsonian moralist (and, in another register, a Bergsonian musicologist).

    His writings recast a range of moral problems and topics through Berg-son’s appreciation of the irreversibility of time. His book on Bergson,then, could rightfully be called the ground zero of his own philosophicalpro ject. Not just because it is his rst work, but more importantly,because it is his original (and with the second edition following later, arenewed) attempt to formulate what will become the dening theme ofhis philosophy.

    Let’s turn now to his reading of Bergson. What makes it special? o

    my mind, its great virtue is to present Bergson as a philosopher of exis-tence. By this, I mean that the dening feature of Jankélévitch’s exposi-tion is to consistently couple Bergson’s insights on the nature of time,memory, evolution, and morality, together with Bergson’s (and also hisown) reections on a concrete way of life that would be in harmony withthese realities. Understood in this way, the great end of Bergson’s philos-ophy is to present a mode of living that would be more intensely present,receptive, loving, and ultimately joyful. Tat is Jankélévitch’s accomplish-

    ment. He convincingly portrays Bergson as a philosopher who strivesto effect a personal or “existential” transformation in his readers just asmuch as he seeks to furnish a theoretical discourse to explain reality.

    My introduction to this volume will esh out this line of interpretation.Right away, though, I should say that Jankélévitch is not alone in read-ing Bergson this way. Just recently, for example, I was happy to discover a volume on Bergson in the popular “Life Lessons” book series.  Moreover,two of Bergson’s greatest readers— William James and Frédéric Worms—

    place a philosophy of existence at the center of their respective interpreta-tions of Bergson. James, for his part, affi rms that Bergson exacts a “certaininner catastrophe”—that is, a reorientation of perception and attitude—ineach of his readers.  Likewise, Worms argues, “It is as if Bergson’s phi-losophy rediscovered from the outset the most ancient task of philosophy, which is not to distinguish between concepts, but between ways of con-ducting oneself, not only to think, but also to intervene in life, to reformor transform it.”  Other readers have also been drawn to Bergson for thisreason. Pierre Hadot, the contemporary thinker who more than anyonehas revived an appreciation of philosophy “as a way of life,” describes his

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    attraction to Bergson and Bergsonism precisely in these terms. “For me,”he says in an interview, “the essential of Bergsonism will always be theidea of philosophy as transformation of perception.”  For Hadot as well,the basic aim of Bergsonism is to transform our everyday orientation or

     way of life.Although such interpretations of Bergson abound, Jankélévitch’s bookis the most determined and comprehensive effort in that direction. Tismakes it an especially important text for an English-speaking audience. Why? Because the English-language reception of Bergson’s philosophyhas been dominated by another great work of interpretation that side-lines the philosophy of existence: Gilles Deleuze’s Bergsonism (1966). Tisbook almost single-handedly revived interest in Bergson in the English-

    speaking world. But it is interesting in light of Jankélévitch’s efforts thatit deliberately underplays the psychological, spiritual, and existentialaspects of Bergson’s thought. I would like here to briey turn to De-leuze’s interpretation and mark out its basic differences from that of Jankélévitch’s.

    Deleuze’s Bergsonism

    It is not at all controversial to claim that Deleuze effectively revived inter-est in Bergson for English speakers. Indeed, the “Henri Bergson” entryfor the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy  begins on just this note: “Whilesuch French thinkers as Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, and Lévinas explicitlyacknowledged his inuence on their thought, it is generally agreed thatit was Gilles Deleuze’s 1966 Bergsonism that marked the reawakening ofinterest in Bergson’s work.”  Consider too that most of the recent major works on Bergson in English are guided by Deleuze’s interpretation, such

    as John Mullarkey’s Bergson and Philosophy  (1999), Keith Ansell-Pearson’sPhilosophy and the Adventure of the Virtual  (2002), and Leonard Lawlor’sTe Challenge of Bergsonism (2003).

     Why is Deleuze’s interpretation so prominent? Certainly Deleuze’s sta-tus and the key role that Bergson plays in his own thought is a signicantreason, along with the fact that Bergsonism is a short book and that it wastranslated into English relatively early in relation to his other works. Butmost importantly, Bergsonism  is an indisputably powerful work of inter-pretation. It is tremendously systematic, tightly presented, and speaks ina commanding no-nonsense tone. For all its strengths, though, balance

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    is not one of them. Deleuze is highly selective in terms of the conceptshe chooses to exposit. And he is determined to demonstrate a clear-cutprogression in Bergson’s thought.

    It’s helpful here to draw out these two features in order to contrast

    Deleuze’s and Jankélévitch’s respective interpretations. First, Deleuzeinterprets Bergson’s philosophy in terms of a progression, wherein theinsights of his early writings are fully realized only in his later work. Andit’s not as if Deleuze is coy about this feature of his interpretation. o thecontrary, he couldn’t be more up front about it! Just look at the famousrst lines of Bergsonism: “Duration, Memory, Élan Vital  mark the majorstages of Bergson’s philosophy. Tis book sets out to determine, rst, therelationship between these three notions and, second, the progress they in-

     volve.”  With his talk of stages and progress, this is a bold opening move.Indeed, it is a highly—an incredibly!—anti-Bergsonian gambit. No doubt,it buys Deleuze a sharp and systematic presentation; but it comes at theprice of faithfulness to precisely what Jankélévitch labored hard to capture:the real duration and lived development of Bergson’s philosophy. Or, toput the point in more technical terms, at the outset of his interpretationof Bergson, Deleuze avowedly (I am tempted to say, brazenly) occupiesthe very standpoint that Bergson had spent a lifetime problematizing: a

    retrospective vision that sees movement only in terms of the destinationit reaches.

     What is that destination according to Deleuze? It is Bergson’s even-tual realization of the ontological, and not merely psychological, natureof duration. Bergson’s trajectory, in other words, is said by Deleuze totrace a progressive realization that the notion of duration he uncovers inhis early work cannot be conned to merely psychological or subjectiveexperience. Duration, instead, comes to be recognized as the very sub-

    stance of life and being. As Suzanne Guerlac states, for Deleuze it is asif Bergson’s thought “self-corrects” as it moves away from “the phenom-enological cast of the early work, toward the purely ontological characterof Creative Evolution.”   At every point in his interpretation Deleuze iskeen to push past Bergson’s analysis of subjective experience toward anontological—or, as he puts it, an “inhuman” or “superhuman” —register ofduration.

     Tis brings us to the second feature of Bergsonism: Deleuze’s selectconcentration on themes and concepts from Bergson’s philosophy. Be-cause Deleuze is keen to demonstrate that psychological duration is onlya particular case of ontological duration, he systematically underplays

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    the subjectivist, spiritualist, and phenomenological dimensions of Berg-son’s thought. Here again, Guerlac is helpful to characterize this bent ofDeleuze’s interpretation: “It is as if, in Le bergsonisme  (1966), Deleuze hadcarefully edited out all those features of Bergson’s thought that might ap-

    pear ‘metaphysical’ (the soul, life, value, memory, choice), all those featuresthat distinguish the human being from the machine, that suggest an ap-peal to experience and a phenomenological perspective. It is perhaps thisgesture that most clearly delineates the contours of the New Bergson.”  In Deleuze’s interpretation, then, there is a studied avoidance of preciselythose psychological and existential features of duration that Jankélévitchforegrounds.

     Tis tendency to avoid the psychological and subjective has conse-

    quences for which texts Deleuze decides to focus on. In a nutshell, themore ontological works (especially  Matter and Memory   and Creative

     Evolution) are in; the more psychological (or “phenomenological” or “ex-istential”) texts are out. Deleuze, for example, largely restricts his discus-sion of Bergson’s rst work, ime and Free Will: An Essay on the ImmediateData of Consciousness  (1889), to its mathematical theory of multiplicities.He also makes no reference to Bergson’s essay on laughter and the comic. Yet by far the most signicant omission of Deleuze’s text concerns Berg-

    son’s nal great work, Te wo Sources of Morality and Religion (1932). InBergsonism, Deleuze devotes a scant seven pages to it. And it’s not dif-cult to see why given that wo Sources  is, in large measure, a book onthe emotions and has as its centerpiece an account of the pressure andpull of obligation and the aspiration to love.  Clearly, for Deleuze, thisfeature of wo Sources  does not sit well within a narrative that recountsBergson’s career as progressively moving away from a theory of subjec-tive experience toward an ontological account of duration. 

    Did Deleuze read Jankélévitch’s book on Bergson? It is hard to be-lieve he didn’t. Te second edition of Henri Bergson was published wellbefore Deleuze would have begun writing Bergsonism. Yet there is nota single mention of Jankélévitch’s book.  In light of their basic differ-ences of approach, this is perhaps not so surprising. In terms of style andcomposition, and also with respect to their substantive and textual focalpoints, the two books are at opposite ends of the spectrum. First, Janké-lévitch writes out Bergson’s philosophy from the perspective of the livedpresent, whereas Deleuze explicitly adopts a retrospective position. Second, Jankélévitch privileges the psychological dimensions of Bergson’s workthat Deleuze eschews. And third, Jankélévitch gives special attention to

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    those texts that Deleuze downplays (namely, ime and Free Will  and woSources ). But while these differences may once have marked a contest overBergson’s philosophy, today they are a genuine boon. For as Nietzschesaid with respect to the ancients, “we will not hesitate to adopt a Stoic rec-

    ipe just because we have proted in the past from Epicurean recipes.” 

     So too with us. English readers of Bergson have long enjoyed Deleuze’sinterpretation. Jankélévitch’s book will hopefully provide just as reward-ing fare. o continue Nietzsche’s metaphor, we could say that by holdingthe divergent but not incompatible perspectives of Henri Bergson  andBergsonism in mind, we have the unique chance to have our Bergsoniancake and eat it too.

     Janké l é vitch on Bergson

     Jankélévitch’s Henri Bergson is a comprehensive commentary on Berg-son’s philosophy, with chapters devoted to all four of his major books.But, as is the nature of Jankélévitch’s writing, it also includes a series of what one might call improvisations on Bergsonian themes, such as life,embodiment, and joy. At times this interweaving of interpretation andimprovisation makes it diffi cult to keep the principal lines of the book

    in sight. o conclude this introduction I would like to briey sketch itsstructure and a few of its animating problematics.

     Te structure is relatively straightforward. Jankélévitch lays it outearly in chapter 1:

     Te experience of duration determines [the] true and internal style[of Bergson’s philosophy]. Duration is what we nd in the “innitelysimple” image at issue in the lecture “Philosophical Intuition,” and it

    is really the lively source of Bergson’s meditations. Before we follow itssuccessive incarnations by way of four problem-types—the effort of in-tellection, freedom, nality , heroism—we have to go back to the “primi-tive fact” that, in matters of the soul, governs all of Bergson’s asceticapproach. (4)

    Duration and the experience of duration is the core (or “primitive fact”)of Bergson’s philosophy according to Jankélévitch. As such, chapter 1 isdedicated to an exposition of its three modalities: past (which he calls“succession”), present (which he calls “coexistence”), and future (whichhe calls “becoming”). From there, as Jankélévitch says, he takes up thetheme of duration within the context of four “problem-types” that map,

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     with some degree of overlap, onto each of Bergson’s major works. Tus,chapters 2 and 3 treat duration in relation to intellection and freedom inime and Free Will  and Matter and Memory ; chapter 4 addresses duration with respect to nalism and teleology in Creative Evolution; and chapter 5

    addresses the temporality of heroism and love in wo Sources . Te nal twochapters work a bit differently. Here Jankélévitch’s aim is to make explicitcertain understated motifs that traverse Bergson’s philosophy. In this vein,chapter 6 (which, in the 1930 edition, was the nal chapter) extracts Berg-son’s tacit critique of the categories of “nothingness” and “possibility.”  Chapter 7 does the same but this time with positive concepts: the pres-ence of joy and the imperative of simplicity that imbue all of Bergson’s writing. Finally, as a kind of coda, the book compares conceptions of

    time in Judaism and Bergson.As I’ve suggested, Jankélévitch interprets Bergson in terms of a phi-

    losophy of existence: namely, as a doctrine that sets out a way of life at-tuned to the nature of duration. But why is a life lived in sync with time,so to speak, so important for Bergson? What are the stakes? Jankélévitchidenties them straightaway in chapter 1: human beings, and us modernsin particular, have an inveterate tendency to deny and repress time andmovement, such that we both misapprehend the world and also close off

    pathways of self-understanding and experience. He calls this tendencythe “illusion” or “idol” of retrospectivity (16).

    Like the devil it is, this idol has many guises. ruth be told, it takesa different form for each facet of human life, whether it is our self-understanding, our conception of freedom, our appreciation of nature,our depiction of morality, or how we envisage the future. As Jankélévitchputs it, “Bergson for his part never relented in denouncing, more or lessimplicitly, this idol in all problems of life” (16). But underlying all of its

    manifestations, the core of the illusion of retrospectivity is to reconstructany event or phenomenon as a modication of already given parts. Itsessence, in other words, is to deny novelty in favor of an explanationthat represents any process of change either as an increase or decreaseof existing elements or else as a rearrangement of them. From the per-spective of this illusion, then, a new sensation or feeling is seen as anintensication or diminution of a previous one; freedom is envisaged asa deliberation between alternatives; an organism is comprehended as theproduct of its combined parts; all-embracing love is grasped as the expan-sion of exclusive attachments; and the future is seized as the predictedoutcome of a reshuffl ed present. Jankélévitch will track down all of these

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    permutations. But again, if we can set aside the details of his reading, theoverarching point is that for Bergson the illusion of retrospection isn’t justan error of understanding. Its failing is not simply that it gets the world,or ourselves, or the nature of change “wrong.” Its effects, rather, are practi-

    cal. Te distortion we suffer is not merely cognitive but also existential.Here we can speak concretely. One way to approach Jankélévitch’sHenri Bergson is as a treatise on the different dispositions or moods thatare vitiated by the retrospective illusion. He highlights three in partic-ular: naivety, wonder, and simplicity. Indeed, the threatened loss of oneof these dispositions is at the heart of each of his readings of Bergson’smajor works: naivety in ime and Free Will   and  Matter and Memory , wonder in Creative Evolution, and simplicity in wo Sources   and Cre-

    ative Mind . In each case, Jankélévitch demonstrates that for Bergson theretrospective illusion confounds our knowledge of the world and of our-selves, that it undermines particular experiences, and most disastrously,that it blocks joyful and intense modes of life. I will briey summarizeeach in turn.

     “Naivety” is a keyword in Henri Bergson, especially in the early chapters

    on ime and Free Will  (chapter 2, “Freedom”) and  Matter and Memory  (chapter 3, “Soul and Body”). With it, Jankélévitch marks Bergson’s goalto “place us, once again, in the presence of immediately perceived qualities ”(29). But for Jankélévitch this term is also an exegetical device. He usesit, on the one hand, to mark the fundamental continuity between Berg-son’s rst two books in that both seek to recover a capacity for unpreju-diced and immediate perception. But he also uses it, on the other hand,as a foil to contrast these same works and show genuine evolution—in

    the sense of an unplanned and innovative development—in Bergson’soeuvre.

    Let us consider the contrast. Jankélévitch says that Bergson seeks “im-mediately perceived qualities.” But perceived qualities of what? What isthe “object,” for lack of a better word, that Bergson seeks a naive percep-tion of? Jankélévitch observes that it changes over the course of the twobooks. In ime and Free Will , Bergson seeks an unmediated perceptionof spiritual life and consciousness. Te problem in this text, accordingto Jankélévitch, is how to regain a naive (or pure, or exact) perception ofourselves in light of the abstract and distancing nature of intellection.

     Matter and Memory , by contrast, has a slightly but signicantly different

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    goal. Certainly, the desire for naive perception remains; but, at the sametime, Jankélévitch notices that its object changes. Whereas before in imeand Free Will  it was a question of perceiving ourselves, now, in  Matterand Memory , it becomes a question of how to perceive things in the

     world (“images,” as Bergson would say) outside the associations, opin-ions, and prejudices we foist on them. As Jankélévitch puts it, Bergson’sthrust in Matter and Memory  is “to dissociate the immediate given fromthe ‘suggestions’ of habit and association” (88). Te conclusion Janké-lévitch draws from this comparison is brilliant. He demonstrates thatthe very reality Bergson uncovers in his rst book (i.e., the rich thicknessof spiritual life and the deep self) becomes a key obstacle to confront inhis second book: namely, how the wholeness of the person obtrudes his

    or her past (i.e., his or her memory) on the world, such that, in the end,true knowledge and experience of things fall into mere recognition andfamiliarity.

    In one sense, then, Jankélévitch’s analysis of naivety shows variationin Bergson’s work. Yet to xate on this variation is to miss the forestfor the trees. We must not forget that Jankélévitch is equally keen toprove just how steadfast Bergson is in his search for lost naivety andunprejudiced perception. Tis is, indeed, the ambition that links ime

    and Free Will  and  Matter and Memory . Driving the critique of intellec-tion and retrospection in ime and Free Will , Jankélévitch returns timeand again to Bergson’s concrete ambition: to show the possibility of apure perception of the self so that we may become fully present to ourown experience. His aim, in Jankélévitch’s words, is to release us fromthe state of living as a “posthumous consciousness [that] lets the mi-raculous occasions of contemporaneity pass by forever” (17). Te sameholds, mutatis mutandis, for Matter and Memory . While Bergson’s criti-

    cal apparatus may take aim at a different target, Jankélévitch is clear thathis goal remains constant: to regain an immediate perception of the world—a “learned naivety”—that is nothing short of a mode of life, a way of being that is more receptive, sensitive, and present. “No othertheory has ever shown more forcefully and more lucidly to what extentlearned simplicity, which separates us from our dear and old supersti-tions, in reality brings us closer to the center of the mind. Tose whorecollect too much will always remain ignorant of the innocence of life.But those who know how to renounce memory will nd themselves,and in themselves, reality” (105). “Tat,” he concludes, “is what Berg-son’s philosophy asks of us.”

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     Jankélévitch’s commentary on Bergson’s most famous book, Creative Evolution, begins with an examination of a particularly entrenched idol ofretrospection: nalism or teleology. Finalism is the doctrine that natu ral

    processes and evolution are directed toward a goal. Or, in Jankélévitch’smore pointed denition, its essence is to “subject life to the execution ofa transcendent program.” Its principal sin, he elaborates, is “to exhaustthe unforeseeable movement of life in advance, in a ctitious future thatis not ‘to come’ (except on paper) and that, mentally is already past” (110).In chapter 4 (“Life”) Jankélévitch enumerates the manifold errors of un-derstanding that nalism commits. Tese include misrepresenting im-manent or vital causality, not acknowledging discontinuity in evolution,

    and failing to grasp the pluri-dimensional character of evolution.But along with these errors of understanding, Jankélévitch also diag-

    noses a moral (or rather, an existential) failing that stems from nalismand retrospection. He calls it, borrowing from Schopenhauer, “teleo-logical astonishment” (114). Such astonishment happens, according to Jankélévitch, when nalism is combined—as it almost always is— witha conception of nature as created by a demiurge or creator. Te result isthe discourse of creationism: a view that evolution is purposive and that

    biological life is made the same way that an artisan produces his work,namely by crafting parts into a whole. Creationism is thus, for Janké-lévitch, a striking case of the retrospective idol. Or more exactly, it is aspecies of that idol: it is the form retrospection takes when confronted with the plurality and movement of life. Creationism both eliminates thecreativity of time by turning evolution into design and also portrays vitalcreation in terms of an unfathomably complicated combination of parts.For these reasons, Jankélévitch charges it with the errors of retrospec-

    tion. Fair enough. But why, then, does he see in it a moral failing as well?Because it is narcissistic. “In thus reducing the operation of nature to aprocedure of the mechanical type,” writes Jankélévitch, “our intellect in a way admires itself. It is in fact one of the intellect’s most absurd maniasto thus create within things a certain complicated order in order to enjoythe spectacle. It is perpetually lunatic and loses itself in the ridiculouscontemplation of its own image” (114).

     Te casualty of this kind of astonishment is wonder. For when wegape at the so-called complexity of this kind of artisanal creation, or when we reel at the so-called greatness of the craftsman behind it, what

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     we really opt for is admiration of feats drawn from our own likeness. Tisis why, according to Jankélévitch, Bergson’s efforts in Creative Evolution seek to regain a disposition of wonder: “For the one who adopts an en-tirely different scale from the beginning, who from the outset conceives

    an entirely different metempirical and supernatural order, stupid amaze-ment  would no doubt make way for wonder  and veneration of the sublimething” (116). No doubt, inculcating a disposition of wonder is diffi cult. Itrequires us to swim against a very strong current. For to do so we mustresign ourselves to remain contemporary with the history of vitality andnot subject it to a transcendent plan. Or positively speaking—and ina line that might as well have come from the pen of Deleuze—we mustreorient ourselves according to a “nominalism of the virtual,” in which

    open-ended tendencies are acknowledged as the genuine realities of life(181). But the upshot of an attunement to duration is to attain an ad-equate comprehension of life as process and movement and, in so doing,rescue wonder—that existential attitude at the heart of philosophicalinquiry—from its degradation into a merely astonished contemplationof ourselves.


    In French as in English, the word “simplicity” has several meanings. Itcan designate something that is undivided and unalloyed. And it can alsorefer to a way of being that is plain, unpretentious, and uncomplicated.For Jankélévitch, the virtue of Bergson’s work—the “beautiful aridity” ofhis philosophy (203)—is that it combines these different meanings. Andin the three concluding chapters of Henri Bergson, he sets out to showhow Bergsonian simplicity can infuse all the different dimensions of ourlife: moral (chapter 5, “Heroism and Saintliness”), intellectual (chapter 6,

    “Te Nothingness of Concepts and the Plenitude of Spirit”), and affec-tive and aesthetic (chapter 7, “Simplicity... and Joy”).

    Consider intellectual simplicity. Like so many other major philoso-phers of the twentieth century—such as the later Wittgenstein, J. L.Austin, Stanley Cavell, John Dewey, Jacques Derrida, and RichardRorty—Bergson advances a method (he calls it “intuition”) to releaseus from long-standing but ultimately fruitless problems of philosophy. Tese problems include, for example, Zeno’s paradoxes on movement, theKantian relativity of knowledge, as well as vexing concepts of possibilityand nothingness. But while there are innumerable pseudo- problems and

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    idle concepts according to Bergson, for him they all stem from one andthe same fault: our inveterate tendency to confuse time with space andquality with quantity. What is the solution? A critical method able todistinguish these categories and analyze each on its own terms, pure

    and unalloyed. Tat, as Jankélévitch explains at length, is precisely whatBergson’s philosophy provides: a means to think “quantity quantita-tively” and “quality qualitatively” (152). Or, to revert to the language ofsimplicity, Bergson’s achievement is to furnish a way of thinking of time,space, quality and quantity “simply” (i.e., as unalloyed with one another)in order to attain a tranquil or “simple” mind.

    Readers steeped in interpretations of Bergson will know that this as-pect of Jankélévitch’s analysis is not unique. Other commentators stress

    the link between Bergson’s method of intuition and simplicity of mind.It is, for example, a staple of Deleuze’s rst chapter in Bergsonism (“Intu-ition as Method”). However, Jankélévitch goes a step further in positingthat for Bergson intellectual simplicity cannot be isolated from simplic-ity in other walks of life. He recognizes, in other words, the internalconnection between intellectual simplicity on the one hand, and moral,affective, and aesthetic simplicity on the other.

     Tese latter kinds of simplicity go by different names in Jankélévitch’s

    interpretation: love, grace, and charm. And his passages on these distinct virtues are among the most moving in the book. But if we view themtogether, it becomes clear why Jankélévitch represents Bergson’s philoso-phy as renewing l ’esprit de nesse  and culminating in a great “thawing ofthe soul” (201). For the simplicity sought by his philosophical methodaims, in the nal analysis, at the simplicity of what ancient philosophers would have called a “philosophical” way of life: a mode of being that up-ends not just our mental habits but also our moral and affective constitu-

    tion. “Perhaps,” Jankélévitch proposes, “there is even only one Simplicity,or rather one single spirit of simplicity... Tere is thus no difference whatsoever between the pure movement that swallows up all Zeno’saporias and the ascetic who leaps over [merely material] well-being ina single jump. For intuition is the asceticism of the mind; and asceticism,in turn, is nothing but intuition become the diet, catastasis, and perma-nent exercise of our soul” (165). Put this way, the simplicity that Bergsonurges is comprehensive. Indeed, it is more than that. In touching thedifferent areas of our life, and in urging a change in all of them, it mightbe called maximalist.

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    ’ If we were to boil down Jankélévitch’s reading of Bergson to its essence, we could say that for him Bergson’s philosophy rests on the affi rmation—and not just the recognition—that we live in time. As he states in the

    appendix, “Tere is no other way of being for man than becoming. Be-coming, namely being while not being, or not being while being, bothbeing and not being (is this not the way it is conceived in Aristotle’sPhysics? )—this is the only way man has of being a being! Man, turninghis gaze away from the mirage of the timeless, put down roots in the joyful plenitude” (223–24). Now, when we hear a line like this today ourrst reaction may be to think we already know the lesson. Yes, yes: move-ment and ux is our own reality. We’ve heard it before and since Bergson!

    But to read Jankélévitch’s interpretation of Bergson may raise a naggingsense that our assent to this proposition is only notional or theoretical.Because what Jankélévitch is talking about is something different. It isreal assent. It is an awareness that assenting to this proposition—thatis, that our mode of being is becoming—involves our entire being andthat to adhere to it will change our entire life, right down to our habitsand ethos. It involves, to use a term Jankélévitch raises time and again, aconversion.

    Speaking at a gathering to commemorate the hundred- year anniver-sary of Bergson’s birth, Jankélévitch begins his address by adapting Ki-erkegaard’s observation that the least Christian person in the world is,in fact, not the atheist or pagan but instead the satised soul who goesto church once a week on Sunday and forgets about Christ the rest ofthe time. Te same goes, Jankélévitch says, for Bergson and Bergsonism.

     We know that at the end of his life, Bergson preached the return to

    simplicity. One may wonder whether what we’re doing here tonightis very Bergsonian. One may wonder whether it is very Bergsonian,generally, to commemorate Bergson. Tere are two ways not to beBergsonian. Te rst is to be Bergsonian only on anniversaries, as ifthat exempted us from being Bergsonian all the other days, as if wehad to square accounts once and for all. On that account, we may say, we might be better off being anti-Bergsonian. Tis anniversary mustnot resemble the all soul’s days that the living in vented in order to

    think of their dead only once a year and then to think of them nomore. I hope, therefore, that it is about a renewal of Bergson’s thoughtand that we won’t wait for the second centenary to talk about it again.

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     Te second way not to be Bergsonian is to treat Bergson like a his-torical sample, to repeat what he said instead of acting the way he did,or to “situate” Bergson’s philosophy instead of rethinking Bergson the way Bergson wanted to be rethought. Tese two pseudo-Bergsonisms,

    that of the anniversary Bergsonians and that of the historians, bringme to the two main points of this speech. 

    Henri Bergson takes aim at these kinds of “holiday” Bergsonians. In thiscategory are those who think of Bergson only now and again, but it alsoincludes professional philosophers and philosopher tourists for whomBergson’s work would be just another doctrine or method among others—as if his insights could be hived off to a specialist set of questions on time,memory, or life. It is to this casual reader— whether lay or professional—that Jankélévitch opposes his maximalist interpretation. For what driveshis book is the attempt to interpret each line Bergson wrote as if it couldinvite or initiate, as he puts it, “a conversion that implies a reversal of all ourhabits, of all our associations, of all our reexes” (239). Or, in the more la-conic phrase of his 1930 preface, Jankélévitch seeks “less to give an expo-sition of Bergson’s philosophy than to make it understandable.”  Toseare, for him, related but distinct tasks.

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    I N T R O D U C T I O N

     Tere is only one way to read a philosopher who evolves and changes

    over time: to follow the chronological order of his works and to begin withthe beginning. Tis order, to be sure, does not always correspond to theorder of increasing diffi culty; for example, reading  Matter and Memory , which dates from 1896, is much more arduous a task than reading the1900 text Laughter . But Bergson’s philosophy [le bergsonisme ] is neithera mechanic fabrication nor an architecture built step by step, as some ofthe great “systems” are. All  of Bergson’s philosophy gures, each time in anew light, in each of his successive books— just as, in Plotinus’s doctrine

    of emanation, all hypostases gure in each hypostasis. In the same way,Leibniz presents his entire philosophy in each of his works: does not eachmonad express the entire universe from its individual point of view? Isnot the entire universe mirrored in the Monadology ’s drop of water? Temicrocosm is a miniature of the Cosmos. Schelling, another philosopherof becoming, writes, “what I consider is always consider the totality,” andthis totality he calls potential (Potenz). Bergson writes each of his booksoblivious of all the others, without even worrying about the inconsis-

    tencies that might at times result from their succession. Bergson delvesinto each problem as if this problem were the only one in the world.He follows each “line of facts” independently of all the other lines, justas the é lan vital  follows divergent lines of evolution. He leaves it to thecommentators to resolve possible contradictions and to harmonize thesedivergences. Te conciliation will no doubt work itself out innitely. It will work itself out, not within the coherence of logic but in the musicalaffi nity of themes and in the continuity of an é lan. For in Bergson order  resembles a kind of obsessive digression  more than it resembles the pa-tient work of the system builders’ marquetry. Bergsonian intuition, al- ways total and undivided, simple and whole, grows continually in a single

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    organic thrust. In this sense Bergson’s philosophy is as complete in theeighteen pages of the essay on “Te Possible and the Real” as it is inthe four hundred pages of Creative Evolution.

    Bergson, this great genius in perpetual becoming, was very impres-

    sionable. Te essay on “Te Possible and the Real,” which is of capital im-portance for understanding Bergson’s philosophy, appeared (in Swedish)in November 1930, after Bergson had read my Bergson. In this book, whichhad come to his attention at the beginning of 1930,  I had shown theimportance of the illusion of retrospectivity , talked about the possible inthe future perfect , and signaled the central character of the critique of theNothing, already anticipated by Bergson himself in his 1920 address tothe Oxford meeting. Bergson thus became aware of the brilliant origi-

    nality, the creative fecundity of his own intuitions only bit by bit. Teintuition is born in 1906, in an article in the Revue philosophique  aboutthe idea of Nothing; then in 1907, in the pages of Creative Evolution dedicated to the ideas of Nothing and Disorder; in 1920, it rst becomesaware of itself; at the end of 1930 and in 1934, in Te Creative Mind , Berg-son nally, inuenced by his interpreters, reconstitutes the movementthat has carried him from the originary dawning to the metaphysics ofchange and creative plenitude. In Bergson’s evolution, as in all volition

    or causation, there is a retroaction of the present on the past and, afterthe fact, an ideal reconstruction of becoming. Te end, as Schelling says,testies to the beginning.

    A melody played backward, going upstream beginning with the lastnote, will only be an unspeakable cacophony. Tis is what ime and FreeWill  lets us understand. How could we ever understand a living philoso-phy that develops irreversibly in the dimension of becoming if we beganat the end or in the middle? Te temporal order of a sonata is not an

    accident but its very essence. In Bergson’s philosophy, the temporal orderand the succession of moments are not details of protocol: they are Berg-son’s philosophy itself and the Bergsonian ipseity of a philosophy un-like the others. Te rst requirement for understanding Henri Bergson’sBergsonism is not to think it against the ow of time. Bergson’s philoso-phy wants to be thought in the very sense of futurition, that is to say, inits place .

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     Te following abbreviations of Bergson’s works have been used in the notes. Page

    references to , , ,, and  are, rst, to the critical editions publishedby Presses Universitaires de France since 2007 (whose pagination is identical to

    their previous editions), then to the authorized translations published in Bergson’s

    lifetime. Te bibliography provides detailed bibliographic information on the

    translations and on other works by Bergson we refer to in the notes.

       Dur é e et simultané it é , 1922; Duration and Simultaneity 

      Les deux sources de la morale et de la religion, 1932; Te wo Sources of

     Morality and Religion

     Essai    Essai sur les donné es immé diates de la conscience , 1889; ime and FreeWill: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness 

       L’  É volution cr é atrice , 1907; Creative Evolution

       L’  É nergie spirituelle , 1919; Mind- Energy 

        Mati è re et mé moire , 1896; Matter and Memory 

       La pens é e et le mouvant , 1934; Te Creative Mind 

    Rire   Le rire , 1900; Laughter 

    References to biblical texts are to the New Revised Standard Version.


    1. Davidson, “Introductory Remarks,” 545.

    2. We have not included two long early essays Jankélévitch wrote on Berg-

    son: “Deux philosophies de la vie: Bergson, Guyau” (1924) and “Bergsonisme et

    biologie” (1929), reproduced in Premières et dernières pages , 13–62 and 64–76. Te

    themes and theses of these two texts are developed throughout Henri Bergson,

    especially in chapter 2, “Freedom,” and chapter 4, “Life.” 3. In a bibliographical note at the end of the introduction, page 3 of the

    French text.

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     Janké l é vitch on Bergson

    1. “wo Philosophers of Life: Bergson, Guyau” was published in the Revue

     philosophique  in 1924. Reproduced in Jankélévitch, Premières et dernières pages ,


    2. Te letter is included among the supplementary pieces in this volume. 3. In his testament, Bergson includes Jankélévitch among the close friends

    he calls upon to defend his memory. Correspondances , 1670.

    4. Bergson’s reply to the second of these articles is included in the appendix

    to this volume.

     5. Jankélévitch, Une vie en toutes lettres , 158.

    6. See, for example, Henri Gouhier’s 1932 review in  Nouvelles littéraires, ar-

    tistiques et scientiques  and reproduced in Jankélévitch’s Une vie en toutes lettres ,


    7. Tis preface is also included among the supplementary pieces.8. As a historian of Bergson and Bergsonism puts it, “Te exegete [i.e., Janké-

    lévitch] perceived what the author saw only confusedly. . . the elaboration of

     which will be a collaboration between interpreter and originator” (Azouvi, La

     gloire de Bergson, 276). Jankélévitch was, quite naturally, moved by this develop-

    ment. In the introduction to the second edition of Henri Bergson he admires

    the openness and generosity of his former teacher (see below, 1–2).

    9. Tere are several good books on Bergson’s impact on culture, arts, and poli-

    tics. See Azouvi, La gloire de Bergson; Soulez, Bergson politique ; Soulez and Worms,Bergson; Guerlac, Literary Polemics  and Tinking in ime ; Antliff, Inventing Berg-

    son; Curle, Humanité ; and Lefebvre and White, Bergson, Politics, and Religion.

    10. See Soulez and Worms, Bergson, 73–118.

    11. Indeed, the series in which Jankélévitch’s Henri Bergson  is published is

    itself a sign of the times: it includes volumes on Descartes and Pascal.

    12. Cited in Azouvi, La gloire de Bergson, 318. Aron wrote these words in


    13. On this point, see Jankélévitch’s touching homage to Bergson on the

    hundred- year anniversary of his birth, “With the Whole Soul,” includedin the appendix to this volume. He begins with the claim that one way of

    being decidedly non-Bergsonian is to treat Bergson as a classic or “histori-

    cal specimen.”

    14. Jankélévitch also makes small changes to the 1930 chapters but these are

    minor and usually make reference to a later work of Bergson’s that had not

     yet appeared in 1930. Jankélévitch also removes Bergson’s preface because, of

    course, Bergson did not live to see the second edition.

    15. Bergson, “Philosophical Intuition,” 88–89.

    16. For a list in English of Jankélévitch’s philosophical works, see the appen-

    dix of his Forgiveness , 167–68. For a list of his philosophical and musicological

     works, see his Cours de philosophie morale , 249–51.

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    17. Jankélévitch, Une vie en toutes lettres , 172–73.

    18. Jankélévitch, Une vie en toutes lettres , 195–96. See also 345, 349.

    19. For English-language introductions to the themes of time and irre-

     versibility in Jankélévitch’s writings on philosophy and music respectively,

    see Kelley’s “ranslator’s Introduction” and Davidson’s “Te Charme   of

     Jankélévitch.”20. Guerlac, Tinking in ime , 19.

    21. Foley, Life Lessons from Bergson.

    22. James, A Pluralistic Universe , 266, citing Gaston Rageot.

    23. Worms, Bergson ou les deux sens de la vie , 8.

    24. Hadot, Te Present Alone Is Our Happiness , 125–26.

    25. Lawlor and Moulard Leonard, “Henri Bergson.”

    26. Deleuze, Bergsonism, 13. Deleuze’s concluding paragraph of Bergsonism re-

    peats this language: “What progress [do these concepts] indicate in Bergson’sphilosophy?”

    27. Guerlac, Tinking in ime , 180.

    28. Deleuze, Bergsonism, 28.

    29. Guerlac, Tinking in ime , 179–80.

     30. See my Human Rights as a Way of Life: on Bergson’s Political Philosophy.

     31. I do not suggest that Bergson’s wo Sources  is unimportant for Deleuze,

    only that it receives little attention in Bergsonism. o the contrary, the inuence

    of this text is evident from the beginning to the end of Deleuze’s career. For

    example, in his book on Hume in 1953, Deleuze integrates a core insight fromwo Sources , namely that what distinguishes human beings from other living

    creatures is the habit of contracting habits. See Deleuze, Empiricism and Sub-

     jectivity , 66. Similarly, I cannot help but feel that, in making the to and fro of

    territorialization and deterritoralization the centerpiece of A Tousand Plateaus ,

    Deleuze and Félix Guattari adapt Bergson’s insight that all human beings and

    human societies—and indeed, life in general—are caught in a continual pro-

    cess of opening and closing.

     32. I note that while Deleuze did not cite Jankélévitch, neither did Janké-

    lévitch cite Deleuze’s early essays on Bergson: “Bergson, 1859–1941” and “Berg-

    son’s Conception of Difference” were both published in 1956 (reproduced in De-

    leuze, Desert Islands and Other exts ). It is plausible, however, that Jankélévitch

    didn’t know of the work of the young Deleuze.

     33. Nietzsche, Posthumous Fragments , Fall 1881. Cited in Hadot, What Is An-

    cient Philosophy? , 322.

     34. Tese are themes, as we said earlier, that Bergson himself would go on to

    esh out in his later essays.

     35. Tis speech is included in the appendix to this volume. 36. Jankélévitch’s 1930 preface is included in the appendix to this volume, 247.

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    1. [Schelling, Philosophie der Offenbarung, Werke , VISupp:239.]

    2. Pascal, Pensées , no. 298 [283], 94. [References to the Pensées  are to the frag-

    ment numbers used by Krailsheimer and, in brackets, Brunschvicg, followed by

    the page number in the English translation.] 3. Letter to the author of 6 August 1930 [see below, 248–49]. In this Bergson,

     which was completed in January 1930, I developed a study on the Possible,

    the Nothing, and the illusion of retrospectivity that had appeared in the Revue

    de métaphysique et de morale under the title “Prolégomènes au bergsonisme”

    [“Prolegomena to Bergson’s Philosophy”] in 1928. Bergson included the Swedish

    article of November 1930 in Te Creative Mind  in 1934 [“Te Possible and the

    Real”], and it is in that book that he is for the rst time systematically aware of a

    logic of retrospection (Introduction, part I).

    4. [Schelling, Werke, VISupp:239.]

    Chapter . Organic otalities 

    [Epigraph. Pascal, Pens é es , no. 919 (553), “Te Mystery of Jesus Christ,” 290.]

    1. Brunschvicg, Spinoza , ch. 2, esp. 34–37.

    2.   2/4; cf.   196/125.

     3. Schlegel, Philosophie des Lebens , 1st lecture,  10:7.

    4. Letter to Harald Høffding, Key Writings , 366–68, esp. 367. In his articleon Bergson, Richard Kroner correctly distinguishes in Bergson’s philosophy be-

    tween the point of view of intuitionist metaphysics and the spiritual perspective

    of duration. But, like Høffding, he wrongly begins with a metaphysical frame-

     work. Cf. Brunschvicg, Progrès , 2:659.

     5. [  117–42/126–52.]

    6. [Cf. Semon, Te Mneme.]

    7. [ Jankélévitch here refers to the opening remarks, pp. 1–6, of the 1928 edition

    of Janet’s L’évolution de la mémoire et de la notion du temps , which are not included

    in the 2006 reprint; compare, however, chapter 8 of that book, “Le problème de

    la mémoire,” 145–62.]

    8. [ 2/1.]9. [Cf.   250/297.]

    10. Plato, Philebus  18–23, 548.

    11. [Rostand, “Hymn to the Sun.”]

    12. [Cf. Alexander of Aphrodisias, De Mixtione , 16.]

    13.    12/8. Cf. Simmel, Te View on Life , 65–66, 74–75, and 123–24, “Te

    Picture Frame,” 11–14.14. Plotinus,  Enneads , IV.3.8, 56–60/57–61, cf. IV.2.1, 10/11: “but is a whole in

    each of the divided parts” and I.8.2, p. 280/281. [References are to the Loeb edition

    of the Enneads , with the rst number indicating the page number of the Greek