On Bergson's Reformation of Philosophy


  • Keith Ansell-Pearson University of Warwick




Creative Evolution, philosophy, science, life, matter, finality


In this essay I focus on the text Creative Evolution (1907) and show that although Bergson intended to make a contribution to the science of biology and to the philosophy of life, the primary aim of the text is to show the need for a fundamental reformation of philosophy. Bergson wants to show how, through an appreciation of the evolution of life, philosophy can expand our perception of the universe. I examine in detail the two essential claims he makes in the text: first, that we have to see the theory of knowledge and the theory of life as deeply related; second, that there is a need to “think beyond the human condition” or human state. Indeed, Bergson conceives philosophy as the discipline that “raises us above the human condition” and makes the effort to “surpass” it. This reveals itself to be something of an extraordinary endeavour since it means bringing the human intellect into rapport with other kinds of consciousness. Moreover, if we do not place our thinking about the nature, character, and limits of knowledge within the context of the evolution of life then we risk uncritically accepting the concepts that have been placed at our disposal. It means we think within pre-existing frames. We need, then, to ask two questions: first, how has the human intellect evolved?, and second, how can we enlarge and go beyond the frames of knowledge available to us?