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Frédéric Wurms: « The ambition of Bergson’s ‘creative evolution’ is unprecedented and enormous! »

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When I decided to dedicate my thesis to Bergson, at a time when this philosopher seemed old-fashioned, I focused on reading his early works in particular Matter and memory (1896), and I wasn’t very comfortable with it creative development (1907) nor with source of morals and religion (1932) who seemed to me metaphysical In the bad sense of the term, that’s too much of a guess! Over time, I have not stopped re-evaluating these books.

This notebook first invites you to discover the first pages of creative development Provided in the first excerpt. What is astonishing, in the way Bergson called his thought, is that the title of his work announces a general theory of life and evolution, at a time when Charles Darwin’s theses are much discussed, and that he « begins by repeating his ideas. Description for « Duration », As we experience it in our consciousness. If he seems to content himself with the summary arguments already formulated in Matter and memory However, this passage brings an important novelty: Bergson presents duration not only as an internal phenomenon of consciousness, but as a general model, which he proposes to apply to other existence, to material things, to life or the universe as a whole. Ambition creative development So it is unprecedented and formidable!

A little later, he takes the example of a lump of sugar that dissolves in a glass of water to make us understand that what we experience within our consciousness, that is, the flow, the irreversible modification of psychological states, is also valid for all that surrounds us. One could oppose the analysis of the piece of sugar in Bergson and the analysis of the piece of wax in René Descartes. at metaphysical meditations, Descartes invites us to think about what happens when the flame approaches a piece of wax: the latter softens, changes its color and smell, its qualities are modified, but it retains one property, which is the occupation of a small space. With the image of sugar dissolving in water, Bergson answers: What is permanent in a sugar cube is not a void, it is the fact of being subjected to change as well as the quality of being sweet, and the quality that sugar will impart to the water as it dissolves. Here we are on the cusp of a major thesis: the universe, for Bergson, is entirely temporal and qualitative. It’s not primarily space, it’s streams taken over time.

“For Bergson, the change of life itself has an inner unity, is moved by a creative force and has its own dynamism and coherence.”
Frederick Worms

In the same way, what impresses Bergson in Charles Darwin’s theory is the idea of ​​evolution, and thus change. However, he has a crucial point of contention with Darwin. For the latter, the species changes due to external constraints, in order to survive, to adapt to its environment. But for Bergson, the change of life itself has an inner unity, not a mere transformation under fetters; This change must be driven by a creative force and must have its dynamism and coherence. The unity of the change of living beings must not be sought simply in external conditions, but it cannot be found either in a higher or external transcendence of life, as Bergson tells us: this unity must be life itself, what he callsLife force.

The second excerpt that you will discover in this notebook belongs to the third chapter of creative development Specifically dedicated to « The meaning of life ». Bergson advances here by speculative comparisons, and goes very far. His idea is that there is a movement of creation in the universe, which is similar to the movement of life on Earth. Just as the momentum of life on Earth recedes, collides with the resistances of matter and splits into types, the general motion of the universe, which expands, leads to partial cooling, loss of energy, and collapse to form worlds. Similar to galaxies and solar systems ‘spray drops’ That comes from the initial creators list. The comparisons are valid on several levels: there is the force of creation and the force of inertia that struggle simultaneously in us, in life and in the universe. One of the major controversies raised by this chapter is whether, according to Bergson, it is life that creates the universe or whether there is a creative force more powerful than life itself. There is only one repetition of the word « Machine » In this text, very important, which will be taken up and amplified next source of morals and religion (1932): For Bergson there is indeed a divine creative principle that creates the universe, the first impulse going back to the planets; On some of these planets, this creative impetus is revived by what he calls life, which goes back to species; In some species, movement is stimulated in turn by consciousness. Therefore, it is not vital life that creates the universe but a force similar to life, although it is more powerful than it.

I am of the opinion that in philosophy one should not avoid cosmology! Without doing theology, we can seek to understand what life and death teach us about existence in general. Like Bergson, I call myself « vital » but « energetic-critical »: I find it difficult to follow Bergson when he evokes life with a capital V, but I believe that the opposition of life and death operates in the universe, that there are moments of creation and destruction. The cosmology of creation and destruction, in keeping with the pre-Socratic thinker Empedocles who is not afraid to assert that love and death govern planetary motions, and that there are dynamics of fusion and separation, suits me well enough.

In this excerpt is still understood« free work ». It is the idea that there is no real change that can be fully explained from the outside. If there is a change, a passage from point A to point B, a shift from frequency to action, the emergence of a new species, there is an active principle within this change, the object of change, which is the awareness of our actions, the vital impetus for the emergence of species. For Bergson, the mechanical interpretation of the changes, which postulates that same reasons necessarily produce the same effects, It is not enough, because it does not make it possible to explain the emergence of novelty, creation, and freedom, therefore. It must therefore be abandoned to rediscover the dimension of the soul, but to a soul that is not a separate, intrinsic entity, which participates in matter and participates in the propagation of the world over time. Free action in Bergson’s view is that force of creation or active spirit, irreducible to the physical mechanisms described by conventional science, of which we cannot have classical scientific knowledge, but which we can understand intuitively. »

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