Creative Evolution

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H. Holt, 1911 - Evolution - 407 pages
Creative Evolution, originally published in 1911 by Henry Holt and Company, is the work which catapulted Bergson from obscurity into world-wide fame. A study of the philosophical implications of biological evolutionary theory, the impact of this book reached far beyond biology and seemed to many to herald a new age in philosophy and the sciences.
 

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Page 2 - We are seeking only the precise meaning that our consciousness gives to this word 'exist,' and we find that, for a conscious being, to exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.
Page 9 - ... \the present contains nothing more than the past, and what is found in the effect was already in the cause...
Page 242 - In reality, life is a movement, materiality is the inverse movement, and each of these two movements is simple, the matter which forms a world being an undivided flux, and undivided also the life that runs through it, cutting out in it living beings all along the track. Of these two currents, the second runs counter to the first, but the first obtains, all the same, something from the second.
Page 95 - We choose in reality without ceasing; without ceasing, also, we abandon many things. The route we pursue in time is strewn with the remains of all that we began to be, of all that we might have become.
Page 33 - If this be true, it is no less certain that the existing world lay potentially in the cosmic vapour, and that a sufficient intelligence could, from a knowledge of the properties of the molecules of that vapour, have predicted, say the state of the fauna of Britain in 1869, with as much certainty as one can say what will happen to the vapour of the breath on a cold winter's day .... The teleological and the mechanical views of nature are not, necessarily, mutually exclusive.
Page 170 - Our eye perceives the features of the living being, merely as assembled, not as mutually organized. The intention of life, the simple movement that runs through the lines, that binds them together and gives them significance, escapes it. This intention is just what the artist tries to regain, in placing himself back within the object by a kind of sympathy, in breaking down, by an effort of intuition, the barrier that space puts up between him and his model...
Page 169 - But it is to the very inwardness of life that intuition leads us, by intuition I mean instinct that has become disinterested, self-conscious, capable of reflecting upon its object and of enlarging it indefinitely.
Page 263 - The matter that it bears along with it, and in the interstices of which it inserts itself, alone can divide it into distinct individualities. On flows the current, running through human generations, subdividing itself into individuals. This subdivision was vaguely indicated in it, but could not have been made clear without matter. Thus souls are continually being created, which, nevertheless, in a certain sense pre-existed. They are nothing else than the little rills into which the great river of...
Page 42 - For each of our acts we shall easily find antecedents of which it may in some sort be said to be the mechanical resultant. And it may equally well be said that each action is the realization of an intention. In this sense mechanism is everywhere, and finality everywhere, in the evolution of our conduct. But if our action be one that involves the whole of our person and is truly ours, it could not have been foreseen, even though its antecedents explain it when once it has been accomplished.
Page 25 - To get a notion of this irreducibility and irreversibility, we must break with scientific habits which are adapted to the fundamental requirements of thought, we must do violence to the mind, go counter to the natural bent of the intellect. But that is just the function of philosophy.

About the author (1911)

Born in Paris in 1859 of Jewish parents, Henri Bergson received his education there and subsequently taught at Angers and Clermont-Ferraud before returning to Paris. He was appointed professor of philosophy at the College de France in 1900 and elected a member of the French Academy in 1914. Bergson developed his philosophy by stressing the biological and evolutionary elements involved in thinking, reasoning, and creating. He saw the vitalistic dimension of the human species as being of the greatest importance. Bergson's writings were acclaimed not only in France and throughout the learned world. In 1927 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. In defiance of the Nazis after their conquest of France, Bergson insisted on wearing a yellow star to show his solidarity with other French Jews. Shortly before his death in 1941, Bergson gave up all his positions and renounced his many honors in protest against the discrimination against Jews by the Nazis and the Vichy French regime.

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