Henri Bergson (1859 - 1941)

Henri-Louis Bergson (October 18, 1859 - January 4, 1941) was a French philosopher, influential at least in France, but out of the main currents of his time.
Bergson's life was the quiet and uneventful one of a French professor, the chief landmarks in it being the publication of his three principal works, first, in 1889, the Essai sur les donnees immediates de la conscience (Time and Free Will), then Matiere et Memoire (Matter and Memory) in 1896, and L'Evolution creatrice (Creative Evolution) in 1907.

Both Gilles Deleuze and Henri Bergson were, to extremely varying degrees, philosophers interested in cinema who used cinema to suit their particular intellectual needs. In the case of Bergson, he cultivated his ideas during a zeitgeist that included the invention of cinema (late 19th century). To a large extent, Bergson's philosophical ideas were shaped by the same cultural, economic, and technological climate that gave rise to narrative cinema. Deleuze on the other hand, erected a two-volume Bergsonian philosophy of cinema toward the end of the century that stands as one of the most stimulating studies of time and cinema. Although a self-professed Bergsonian, Deleuze's sprawling philosophical style is in stark contrast to Bergson's precise and systematic philosophical system. Deleuze's postmodern style is part of its appeal -playful, mercurial, and open to creative interpretation. Terms that are meant to carry critical weight are introduced offhandedly and then left hanging for pages. One neologism gives birth to three others. In a sense, Deleuze's style, forever Becoming, is more Bergsonian than Bergson. --Donato Totaro,"


Bergson, all the rage in the early 1900's, has now been rediscovered, thanks in part to the work of Deleuze et al. Time and Free Will is a great exemplar of Bergson's work and his idea of the duree and the spatialization of time. Bergson presents to the reader an energetic flux which is the precondition of our more vulgar concept of time. With this flux, the past is pulled along by the future and presented to consciousness in the present as a heterogeneous conglomeration, inseperable and uncategorizable. It is this work which inspired the stream of consciousness novelists, especially Proust. But the most remarkable element of Time and Free Will is its demand on the reader to live the duree, to return to the duree and forget oneself in it. The goal is freedom and authenticity and this can only be achieved when letting oneself go, flying like a bird, and despatializing time. This book does not only open the door to phenomenology, but it also contributes in a significant way to french existentialist thought.