Bergson and Pragmatism[1]

Addison Webster Moore

In view of the differences of opinion among the increasing number of expounders of Bergson, and with Professor Lovejoy's "Thirteen Pragmatisms" still in mind, one may well have misgivings about an attempt to discuss the relations between Bergson and pragmatism within the traditional limits of the period allotted to this paper.

As for Bergson, I think most of us will agree that "the elements are so mixed in him" that one may well say that he bids fair to become a mild rival of Kant in commentary possibilities. A Bergsonian Caird or Vaihinger will have no difficulty in pointing to a regress in Bergson which, if not quite so "transcendental" as in Kant, is no less "regressive." And sooner or later, some one is sure to suggest that Bergson, like Hegel, should be read backwards.

The doctrines of Bergson's philosophy which are commonly supposed to contain its chief points of contact with pragmatism are: first, its instrumental theory of knowledge; second, its anti-intellectualism which is a corollary of the instrumentalism; third, its evolutionism.

Of these proposed articles of alliance between Bergson and pragmatism, most attention has been given to the first two; to the instrumentalism, and the anti-intellectualism—to the latter especially by James. But, in my opinion, it is Bergson's evolutionism which pragmatism may receive with the most unhesitating hospitality, while it is precisely his instrumentalism and anti-intellectualism that diverge most widely from what

(398) I understand pragmatism to be. It is these two doctrines, therefore, which I wish particularly to discuss.


When we read in the second sentence of the introduction to Creative Evolution that the understanding is "an appendage of the faculty of action," that sounds indeed very much like pragmatism. And when further on we are told that one great stumbling block in the way of philosophy in the past has been the assumption that knowledge must be coexistent with the whole of reality,[2] that sounds like more pragmatism; and hereupon many pragmatists have hastened to extend to Bergson the right hand of fellowship, feeling that in view of so much apparently fundamental agreement, whatever differences remain could be easily adjusted. And if this agreement were as extensive and fundamental as these and many similar passages taken out of their connection indicate, this action would be justified. I say "out of their connection," for as we follow up the context of these statements, doubts of their pragmatic character begin to haunt us.

The proposition that thinking is an "appendage" or even an organic part of action, is far from constituting a pragmatic declaration of faith. `Action' is not the pragmatic password, much popular belief to the contrary. Not until one states first what he means by `action,' and what he considers its place in the rest of experience can his pragmatism be judged.

What, then, for Bergson, is the nature and function of this action to which or in which knowledge is instrumental? Is this action itself instrumental? If so, to or in what? Bergson's responses to these questions are, as he says, "frankly dualistic."[3] The action of which all reflective thinking is a part is the action of spirit on or through matter. Bergson hastens to let us know at once that he is aware of the difficulties which, as he says, have always beset this dualism. But he confides to us that he hopes to greatly lessen, if not to overcome them.

Now the fact that here at the outset Bergson is apprehensive

(399) of the historical difficulties of this dualism shows that it is for him an ontological one. For if he held this opposition as an instrumental, a logical one, there would be no fear of the sort of difficulties which he here anticipates. From the instrumental standpoint, this sort of dualism has no terrors. Instrumentally, there is a dualism for every pair of correlative categories. Whatever then may turn out to be the nature of Bergson's instrumentalism, it is apparent from the beginning that it cannot be what pragmatism means by instrumentalism.

Returning to our inquiry as to the character of the action of spirit on matter, of which thinking is a part, it is obvious that we can make little headway until we know something of what Bergson means by `spirit' and `matter.' In the large, this is of course a problem for some Bergsonian commentator, and I shall have to treat it here very summarily. At the outset, the opposition between spirit and matter appears to be very similar to the later scholastic antithesis of pure activity and an external, inert, purely negative, resistance. As we seek for a general characterization of this pure activity of spirit—which in Creative Evolution is real or pure duration—we are confronted, for reasons which we shall presently see, with two accounts of it. When he is trying to draw action and its resistance as closely together as possible, Bergson speaks of this activity as unconscious. The other and the characteristic view is that "consciousness is the best term we have for it." To be sure it is not satisfactory. But if consciousness be purged of all perceptions, specific memories, and conceptions, what is left will approximate the activity of real duration. Psychologically, the content of real duration oscillates between a cognitive and a volitional character. But it is contact with matter which slows up, condenses, and precipitates this pure activity, the imageless consciousness of real duration, into the imaged world of space and spatialized time.

But before long Bergson begins to feel the pressure of some of those difficulties which he anticipated at the start. Besides the obvious strain in the conception of the "action" of pure activity upon, or its "contact with," anything, there are all the troubles that belong to the metaphysical dualism of matter and

( 400) resistance. If spirit is really metaphysically independent of matter, why must it act upon or make its way through matter at all? Why may it not turn its back on matter and go on its way rejoicing? The only answer Bergson makes is that whichever way spirit turns it finds itself "confronted with matter." But if spirit is always thus confronted with matter, how can we say that this opposition is not essential to the very nature of spirit itself? This and the closely related difficulty in the conception of an activity without resistance, which real duration is if it can go on without matter, force upon Bergson the necessity for making a closer connection between the conceptions of activity and resistance. Hence the first statement of action must be revised. We are no longer to think of the action of which thought is an "appendage" as due to the collision of pure spirit or pure duration with an external matter already there in advance. We must now see that matter is nothing but the stoppage, the relaxation of the activity of pure duration, and its condensation and precipitation into the imagery of the spatial and temporal world. This revision Bergson calls "the ideal genesis of matter."

Though this amendment succeeds "in lessening," as Bergson says, the meta-physical chasm between pure duration and its resistance, the comfort, if any, is short-lived. For the revised conception has now to face the question: Whence this stoppage, why this relaxation and condensation of the continuity of real duration? Whatever the other difficulties, the first account of action had an answer to this question. It is matter already there which somehow (just how is not altogether clear) inhibits real duration and condenses it into a world of imagery. But now this condensation, this imagery is matter, and there is nothing here to account for or give meaning to the inhibition itself. Whenever the exposition reaches the point where this situation becomes acute, Bergson simply falls back upon the first position. Matter is thus by turns a prior condition of, and then identical with, the condensation of real duration into images. The full significance of this circle will be considered a little later. What I wish here to notice is, that in the opposition between the intellect and the imageless consciousness of real

( 401) duration, we have the correlative of what is perhaps the fundamental antithesis in pragmatism, namely, the distinction between immediate and reflective or logical experience. Not that the basis or the content of the terms of the distinction are the same in Bergson and in pragmatism. Far from it. Yet there is the common distinction of immediacy and reflection. But while reflection for Bergson is "instrumental" in the sense of being a part of action, this action, on either of the above interpretations of matter, is itself accidental. It stands in no vital relation to "real duration" as such. The imageless consciousness of real duration goes on not by the help of, but in spite of, reflection. In relation to Bergson's immediate experience reflective thought is therefore not an instrument, but an accident.

Here, then, is the first radical divergence between Bergson and pragmatism. For the pragmatist, the action of which thought is a part is no cosmic accident; it is not a fall from a beatific Eden of pure duration. The pragmatist's version of Eden is that

the fall happens before the apple of knowledge is eaten; that before the visit to the tree, the serpent of conflict and discord has already done his work; that in fact the eating of the apple, instead of the cause is an attempt to cure the fall—the fall, namely, of unreflective experience into conflict and consequent woe. Now the first effect of a cure often is to exaggerate the symptoms of the malady it treats. And this may well happen here. For the remedy, being knowledge, will isolate and emphasize the elements in conflict, and this might easily be mistaken for the original trouble, as it apparently is by Bergson. But the pragmatist believes that the original sin is to be found in the conflicts of immediate experience.

But when pragmatism says intelligence finds its material in the conflicts of immediate experience this does not mean that immediate experience is always and as such, in a state of conflict and disintegration. This, as Professor Bode has pointed out in his interesting article on immediacy,[4] was Kant's mistake. Bergson's, we may observe, is just the opposite. Immediate experience as such has perfect continuity while intellect is a disintegrating instead of a synthetic activity.

( 402)

Here, perhaps, some or all of you are demanding that something should be said about the meaning of `immediate experience.' The point is well taken. And this brings us to a second important difference between Bergson and pragmatism—the difference in their views both of the basis and the content of the distinction between immediacy and reflection. For Bergson, immediacy is a quality attaching to a certain fixed kind of content, namely, the imageless experience of real duration. For pragmatism, immediacy is a character of any and every sort of experience—impulse, feeling, imagery, will, action of all kinds, in so far as they are not under doubt and inquiry. Immediacy is not a property belonging to one particular part or content of experience. It is the functional, the relational property of being free from doubt. To call a character `functional,' however, does not mean that it may not in itself be perfectly specific and unique. `Over' and `under' are as specific as a color of the spectrum, though I suppose we should all agree that they are functional. So long as it is assumed that when a pragmatist speaks of "immediate experience" he has in mind "sensations" or "mental states" or even "action," the "misunderstandings" that have been so much complained of are sure to continue. It is true that in the early days of the pragmatic movement, so much was said of thought arising out of and returning into action that it is little wonder that immediate experience was taken to mean something called `action,' into which it was about as difficult to get content as into Bergson's real duration. But as the exposition continued, it was soon made clear that mere action was neither the origin nor the goal of thought; that the action of which thought is a part, arises in response to the demand of conflicting immediate experience for reorganization; this immediate experience including unreflective actions along with things and qualities of every sort, personal and impersonal.

This functional character of the distinction between immediate and reflective experience implies that our instrumentalism must be reciprocal. This brings into view a third difference between Bergson and pragmatism. If thought is instrumental to the reorganization of immediate experience, its demand for this reor-

( 403) -ganization is equally instrumental to thought. Instrumentalism is still for many an invidious term. To say intelligence is instrumental seems to many zealous defenders of the independence of thought to make intellect subordinate and in some way inferior in status to the rest of experience. The parallogism in this is, of course, elementary. So far as status is concerned, "let him that would be greatest be the servant of all." Besides, if we may indulge in a bit of Bergsonian animism, it is in the hour of sore distress that immediate experience comes supplicating the throne of intelligence. On the other hand, if we crown intellect lord of all, still even a lord must find it up-hill work trying to lord it all by himself, which is very much what a certain type of intellectualism seems to make intellect try to do. Now, if it be a fact that in our scientific and practical procedure we are obliged to treat the distinction and relation between immediate and reflective experience, not as ontological, accidental, and as moving in one direction, but as functional, indigenous and reciprocal, we should not be surprised to find that an exposition setting out with the former should find itself obliged to substitute the latter. And just this is constantly occurring in Bergson and is the explanation of the double role which nearly every important category in Bergson is forced to play. Let us examine a few instances. I am aware that what follows will appear to a Bergsonian to be the lowest dregs of intellectualism and to offer the best possible justification of all the hard things Bergson has said about the intellect. To this, I can only offer a denial of all captious intentions. I wish only to show the difficulties in the attempt to carry out the spirit and intent of an evolutional standpoint in philosophy, which Bergson undoubtedly represents, with a "non-evolutionary" logic.

We may begin with the antithesis of matter and what is variously called spirit, life, real duration, will, intuition. As we have already seen, matter is presented as sheer external resistance; or as the "inhibition" and "reversal" of pure duration or life; as something from which the latter is struggling to get free. But we do not go far in Creative Evolution before we read that "life is more than anything else a tendency to act on inert

( 404) matter."[5] What then would life or spirit do or be if it really succeeded in getting rid of matter? Here, perhaps, is the place to note in passing that Bergson's substitution in Creative Evolution of the term `life' for `spirit,' which is generally used in Matter and Memory, does valiant service in the work of getting rid of the ontological dualism. For in the former the term `life' has two meanings. One is identical with spirit, real duration, and is in direct opposition to matter; the other meaning is that of a living organism, in which of course matter is included.

But not only is there a recognition of a general dependence of spirit upon matter, but this dependence is specified, and it turns out to be for no less a matter than the individuation of spirit or "life" itself. "Regarded in itself, it (life) is an immensity of potentiality, thousands and thousands of tendencies which nevertheless are thousands and thousands only when specialized by matter. Contact with matter is what determines this dissociation. Matter divides actually what was but potentially. manifold."[6] .. "The matter that life bears along with it and into the interstices of which it inserts itself, alone can divide it into distinct individualities. The sub-division was vaguely indicated (in life itself), but never could have been made near without matter."[7]

Another phase of this dialectic appears in its relation to the notion of movement. On the one hand, matter is the stoppage, the cessation, of movement. It is sheer position in contrast with life as pure movement. On the other hand, life is one movement and matter another co-ordinate with it, but in opposition to it. "In reality life is a movement, materiality is the inverse of movement, and each of these two movements is simple, the matter which forms a world being undivided, also the life that runs through it cutting out living beings all along its track." "Of these two currents," continues Bergson, "the second runs counter to the first, but the first obtains, all the same, something from the second. There results a modus vivendi which is organization. This organization takes for our senses and our intellect

( 405) the form of parts external to other parts in space and time."[8]

It is obvious that such a passage, and it is one of a series, surrenders even as it proclaims the opposition of life and matter. For how could life cut living beings out of matter, if matter were nothing but the reverse movement of life? As such a movement, it would have to reverse this movement of cutting out living beings. But, on the contrary, it aids and abets it, not only so far as to secure a modus vivendi, but to the extent of real organization.

The oscillation in the treatment of instinct and intelligence is perhaps even more striking. At the outset, instinct and intellect are presented as two co-ordinate, radically divergent, yet "equally fitting" reactions of the life impulse on or through matter. Instinct which works only with living organs is much closer to the nature of life and real duration than intelligence which fashions its tools from inert matter. But soon we find that "it is the function of consciousness and especially of human consciousness to introduce into matter indetermination and choice," which are of the very essence of spirit. But "choice involves the anticipatory idea of several actions,"[9] and this is intellectual consciousness. Again, it is at the point of human consciousness only that spirit breaks through its prison walls of matter to freedom. But "consciousness in man is preeminently intellect."[10] Again, though both instinct and intelligence are, in Bergson's words, "equally fitting solutions of one and the same problem," the problem, viz. of action on or through matter, yet in the same paragraph we read: "that nature must have hesitated between two modes of psychical activity, instinct and intelligence, one, assured of immediate success, but limited in its effects, the other hazardous, but whose conquests, if it should reach independence might be extended indefinitely,"and, continues Bergson, "the greatest success was achieved on the side of the greatest risk"[11] (though "both are equally

( 406) fitting"). Also in this passage there is another illustration of the workings of Bergson's metaphysical logic, in the way in which the immediate certainty of instinct and the larger range of intellect are set over against each other as fixed but mechanically compensating possessions. He overlooks the fact that the instinct's lack of range may at any moment destroy its immediate certainty. The instinctive strike of the fish, which in the depths of an undiscovered mountain pool makes it immediately certain of a dinner, makes it equally certain to be a dinner for someone else, when man and his spoon hooks arrive. If there is hazard in widening the range there may be greater hazard in not widening it. If instinctive food and shelter are nowhere to be found, there is no doubt a hazard in substituting something else, but it is a hazard of life against the certainty of death if we stick to the instinctive form.

Of the dialectic in the treatment of consciousness, I will only point out that consciousness appears at one time as a function of the action of spirit or real duration, on matter. At another it is the best term we can get for the nature of real duration itself, which is struggling to get through and through with matter. In many passages in Creative Evolution, this ambiguity might be charged to a use of the term`consciousness' where intellectual consciousness is meant.[12] But it is difficult to continue this interpretation where, in Matter and Memory, we are explicitly told that pure memory, which there is the term for real duration, is unconscious; that it is precipitated into consciousness only by contact with matter, and where the conception of unconscious psychical states is defended with true Herbartian fervor.[13]

And this brings us to Bergson's reconciliation of matter and spirit. Now a reconciliation of two conceptions which are in as sharp metaphysical opposition as matter and spirit or real duration, is a serious undertaking. So long as the opposed concepts are kept busy with specific problems, this opposition gets little chance to know itself. But when a deliberate recon

( 407) -ciliation is proposed, this means that the members of the opposition are to be brought face to face with nothing on hand but just the business of reconciliation. And this is always an awkward situation. From Bergson's standpoint, there can be only one method of effecting this sort of abstract reconciliation. That is simply to persuade the parties to the opposition that they are, after all, very much alike; that there is, in fact, only a difference of degree, not of species, between them. Hence, the necessity for the operation of anęsthetizing life into unconsciousness, galvanizing matter into life. Matter is suddenly awakened from its inertness and begins to vibrate in rhythms much more rapid than those of consciousness, and therefore really nearer the continuity of pure duration than is consciousness itself. Instead of matter being a condensation of consciousness, consciousness appears to be a condensation of matter.[14] "The qualities of matter are just so many static views we take of its instability."[15] Finally, the only difference that remains is just the difference in the rhythms of motion—a difference of degree, not of kind.

But this reconciliation has a brief existence. For the moment Bergson starts to use these concepts of physical and psychical, in the discussion of a concrete problem, he discovers that there is more than a difference in degree between them. The difference between a physical and a psychical rose is primarily not one of degree. The physical rose is not redder or sweeter than the psychical one, neither is it merely more vivid and lively. This, as Bergson himself very clearly expounds at length, was the mistake of English sensationalism. There must be, as Bergson is here forced to say, a difference in kind; but (and this is the crucial question) what kind of a difference in kind? The only kind of a difference in kind which Bergson can assign is just a difference of ontological species, and when this in turn breaks down as we have seen, Bergson falls back again upon the difference of degree.

Here we have again, and perhaps in sharper outline than we have had before, the generic difference between Bergson and pragmatism. Bergson finds no alternative between a mere

( 408) difference of degree and a difference of ontological species. For instrumentalism there is an alternative. It is that the difference in kind between physical and psychical is a difference in the kind of function which any content otherwise recognized as the same may perform. It is obvious that what for our purpose is otherwise the same is now psychical and now physical just as it may be now under, then over; here good, there bad.[16]

If there are ardent Bergsonians present, some of you perhaps are saying: What a caricature of Bergson is this! As for instrumentalism, where, you will ask, can be found any more explicit recognition and use of instrumental logic than in Bergson's treatment of the categories of order and disorder, laws and genera, of being and nothing, and of the negative judgment? And the answer must be freely: Here is indeed such an extensive and systematic application of instrumental method that we marvel as we read how Bergson could have escaped feeling the necessity for returning and reconstructing the rest of his work so as to bring it into line with the treatment of these conceptions. As he does not do this, we can only conclude that Bergson simply does not appreciate the importance of what he is here doing. The fresh enthusiasm with which Bergson in these passages expounds the positive basis of the negative judgment, makes one wonder if Bergson has followed the work of modern English logicians, not to mention Hegel.[17]


Bergson's type of anti-intellectualism and his opposition of science and philosophy are of course but further consequences of the attempt to expound an evolutionary philosophy with a non-evolutionary logic. When he encounters the limitations and failure of this logic, instead of reforming it, he throws logic and the intellect over and takes his stand on pure immediacy.

Perhaps a Bergsonian would reply that there are some things that are past reforming. And to talk of reforming the intellect through what you call `instrumental logic' is like proposing to reform a liar by having him lie"functionally," or a burglar by teaching him "instrumental" burglary. The gist of Bergson's indictment of the intellect is briefly this: All intellection consists in treating objects as consisting of units or elements. We do this because we find that by so doing we can reproduce or destroy or alter or in some way control the object as a whole or ourselves in relation to the object. This succeeds (when it does succeed) in accomplishing the particular purpose for which we desire this control. But, though we may call this `knowing' or `thinking' the object, in this kind of knowing we do not experience the object in its unity, because we experience it in units. We know in part because we know in parts. Knowing fails in two ways: first, it destroys the integrity of the object, which otherwise we might experience through sympathetic intuition or intuitional sympathy; second, it does not even get at the parts themselves. For the moment we regard things as mere units or elements of something else, we disregard and ignore all the properties which these elements have except just those that make them elements in the thing we want. If we are hungry and seek the elements of bread, we ignore the properties in these units that might make them elements in painting a picture or in running an engine, unless we should happen to want to eat and to paint and to run an engine at the same time. Even then, we should pass over innumerable other possibilities.

We have tried, but in vain, as Bergson thinks, to remedy this, by attempting to find elements that have no other properties except just to be elements. These are the mathematical and spatial unit. But, says Bergson, and rightly, we never actually work with these units unless we are pure mathematicians, and even a pure mathematician must now and then do something besides counts. The moment we set about any other specific project than one in pure mathematics, we must operate with definite things as units and elements, and then begins again our process of ignoring and leaving out everything in the units except

( 410) that which concerns our little enterprise. Intellectual analysis, therefore, is doomed by its essential nature to mutilate, and therefore to be untrue to reality.

Observe in passing that this from the author of Creative Evolution sounds strangely like a passage from Bradley's Appearance and Reality. But what now from Bergson's standpoint can be done? Doubtless as matter-encumbered beings we must go on acting, therefore we must go on with our unitizing, spatializing science. But, we must remember that we are also members of the world of real duration—even as for Kant we are members of the "intelligible world." And with this in mind and by a special, not to say mystic, effort we may succeed in shutting out the world of action and its machinery of units and space, of causes and effects, and find ourselves in the world of real duration, and our experience in the form of intuition, which is the method of philosophy.

Still the inexorable dialectic pursues us. At one time this philosophical intuition seems to be cognitive. "As it is the business of science to act," says Bergson, "it is the business of philosophy to see, to speculate." But `seeing,"speculating' — these are visual terms, at least visual analogies, and vision, says Bergson, "is nothing but anticipated action." So we swing again to the side of feeling and impulse, and so far do we go in this direction that the creative impulse and intuition of the painter and the poet is contrasted with its "interruption" and "congealment" into lines and colors, words and letters. Whereupon we find ourselves wondering if we are to say that the creative intuition of the physician is interrupted by his patients; that of the lawyer by his clients; and the shop-keeper's by his customers.

Bergson seeks to avoid this absurdity by saying that the reason this congealment of the creative intuition into specific forms is felt as an interruption is because it has to use old material, old colors, old words, etc. If it could only completely create new material along with the new form, there would be no sense of interruption. But, aside from all the difficulties in the conception of a creation that is not a re-creation, if both the form and the matter must be wholly new, how then are we to keep hold of all

( 411) the past which Bergson so often insists is an essential character of real duration?

But supposing that in the experience of real duration we get rid of the unitizing method of the intellect, from the standpoint of Bergson's interest in not leaving out anything, are we any better off? For now we are missing all the images and qualities which the condensing intellect produces.

Instrumentalism quite agrees with Bergson that when, in science and practical procedure, we use some things as units or elements of something else, we do pass over possibilities in these elements which are not relevant to our purpose. But there is a consideration here which Bergson overlooks—one which measures the distance between a metaphysical and a functional logic. This is, that in the very process of unitizing, the intellect may recognize that its units are selected and constituted to control a certain object or class of objects.[18] It may freely see and confess that it is here "passing over" properties in the "elements" that are to be reckoned with at other times and places, and for other purposes. And where this is the case, how much basis then remains for the charge of omission and mutilation? Here, the very act of ignoring involves a recognition and acknowledgment of that which is ignored, the positive side of the exclusion is the recognition that what is here passed over may be of value in other situations, and may acquire value for situations similar to this. As against a logic which does not recognize this, Bergson's indictment of the intellect stands good. But his substitution of pure immediacy falls straight way into the same ditch from the other side.

Here, doubtless, a Bergsonian will say: "Do you not see that when you talk of excluding something as even temporarily irrelevant, you completely miss Bergson's conception of intuition, and pure duration? Suppose you do recognize that you are ignoring something or pushing it into the background, this does not alter the fact that it is being ignored and passed over. If you ignore my presence it is small comfort to be told that you

( 412) know you are ignoring me, and if you apologize by saying it is only temporary, that my turn will come soon, still as a logician, not to say as a mere human being, I am bound to recognize that some one else must then be left out and so on endlessly. And does not all this confirm Bergson's contention that action and intellect are necessarily mutilative, and that if we are to experience reality in its unbroken continuity it must be done in an experience in which nothing is even temporarily irrelevant or in the background?"

Noting, once more, how similar to Bradley's absolute "sentience" this would be and how it would raise again the problem of individuality, let us observe further that in terms of attention it abolishes the distinction and interaction between the focus and the fringe. And it is difficult to say whether for Bergson what we have left is all focus or all fringe, or a combination of both. Sometimes it is one and again the other—depending on whether real duration is construed cognitively, or volitionally. In terms of art, it removes the distinction between foreground and background. Some have characterized Bergson's work as an attempt to carry over into philosophy the standpoint and method of art. But in art the organic relation between focus and fringe, foreground and background, is fundamental.

But what I wish particularly to urge at this point is that Bergson does not see that the selection and construction of units and elements in the procedure of science involves the very sort of intuitive appreciation for which he is contending and which he is seeking elsewhere. In one of his "reconciling" passages, Bergson goes so far as to say that "Intellect and Intuition though opposed are yet supplementary processes," the first, as he says, retaining only moments—that which does not endure— the other bearing duration itself.[19] But while this is quite different from the negative opposition with which we began, it is still far from an organic relationship. There is no statement of how they supplement each other. The supplementation seems to consist of one furnishing something which the other does not in making up the content of real duration. But in scientific

( 413) procedure there is a real supplementation. It is precisely the presence of a fringe of intuitive appreciation of the continuum from which the "elements" are taken and of the ignored characters of the elements them-selves, that constitutes the sensitive alertness of the successful scientist. Not only as the immediate form of the "inspired" invention or discovery, but as a part of the more plodding process of verification is intuition as indispensable in science as in art.

Again it would be easy to cite passages from Bergson in which this is recognized—passages in which he speaks of the spontaneous and unpredictable character of the unitizing action of the intellect. But this spontaneity is not brought into any kind of organic connection with the results of the unitizing work of the intellect. It is simply a bit of real duration lodged in the interstices of the scientific process, saving science from a wholly unregenerate materialism.

In making intuition the method of philosophy, it is one of Bergson's cherished convictions that he is "saving" philosophy from the dogmatism of the realist on the one side, and the transcendentalism of the idealist on the other. And it is indeed true that, for Bergson, real duration is not merely a presupposition of moral experience. He is not obliged, as was Kant, to be content with saying: "we know that real duration is, but not what it is." In moral and artistic experience, real duration is directly present. "The Grail in my castle here is found." And yet it seems that it is only when we close our intellectual eyes to the castle and its contents, or fuse them into a unity of impulse and feeling that we get—we cannot say a glimpse, for a glimpse is an image, and an image is anticipated action—shall we say, then a sense—or using Bergson's own term, an intuition of the Grail of reality. But after all, is not this the very essence of transcendentalism—namely, an attempt to find reality in or with some part or function of experience to the exclusion of the rest? Logically are not the difficulties the same whether transcendentalism appeals to a superempirical process or to some one process or experience as against the others? Logically is not the crassest sensationalist as much of a tran-

( 414) -scendentalist as the absolute idealist? So it will not be strange if, as transcendentalism has appeared to some to be a bashful intuitionalism, Bergson's intuitionalism should seem to others to be a shy transcendentalism.

I am aware that I have dwelt far more on the differences than upon the large common ground between Bergson and pragmatism. My excuse must be that the latter has been emphasized so much, that it has seemed to me important differences were being overlooked and that a canvass of these would make for a better understanding both of Bergson and pragmatism.


  1. Presidential Address delivered 5 April 1912 before the Twelfth Annual Meeting of the Western Philosophical Association, at the University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois. 
  2. p. 190. 
  3. Matter and Memory, p. vii. 
  4. Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods 9: 141. 
  5. p. 96. 
  6. Ibid., p. 258. 
  7. Ibid., p. 269. 
  8. Ibid., p. 249. 
  9. Ibid., p. 96. 
  10. Ibid., pp. 266-267. 
  11. Ibid., p. 143. 
  12. This we may note is still a source of confusion in current discussion. 
  13. chap. 3. 
  14. p. 301. 
  15. p. 302. 
  16. For a detailed treatment of this distinction, see G. H. Mead's monograph on The Definition of the Psychical, and [Ed.: John] Dewey, Studies in Logical Theory, pp. 53-54. 
  17. So far as I know, Hegel's name does not occur in Bergson's works—though Kant is frequently in evidence. Yet there are passages in Bergson that might well pass for "Hegelisms"; e.g., "Consciousness in shaping itself into intellect, in concentrating itself on matter, seems to externalize itself in relation to itself." 
  18. Perry, "Notes on the Philosophy of Henri Bergson," Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods 8, no. 2: 677 ff. 
  19. Creative Evolution, p. 344. 

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