Henri Bergson (1859 – 1941) was a French philosopher of immediate experience and intuition being more significant than rationalism and science for understanding reality. I cannot escape the objection that there is no state of mind, however simple, that does not change every moment.
QUOTATIONS from Henri Bergson
The eyes only see what the mind is prepared to comprehend.
Think like a man of action, act like a man of thought.
There are manifold tones of mental life, or, in other words, our psychic life may be lived at different heights, now nearer to action, now further removed from it, according to the degree of our attention to life.
The only cure for vanity is laughter, and the only fault that is laughable is vanity.
Homo sapiens, the only creature endowed with reason, is also the only creature to pin its existence on things unreasonable.
Laughter is the corrective force which prevents us from becoming cranks.
It seems that laughter needs an echo.
Our laughter is always the laughter of a group.
A situation is always comic if it participates simultaneously in two series of events which are absolutely independent of each other, and if it can be interpreted in two quite different meanings.
Some other faculty than the intellect is necessary for the apprehension of reality.
Sex appeal is the keynote of our civilization.
The motive power of democracy is love.
When we make the cerebral state the beginning of an action, and in no sense the condition of a perception, we place the perceived images of things outside the image of our body, and thus replace perception within the things themselves.
And I also see how this body influences external images : it gives back movement to them.
My body, an object destined to move other objects, it is, then, a center of action ; it cannot give birth to a representation.
The body, by the place which at each moment it occupies in the universe, indicates the parts and the aspects of matter on which we can lay hold: our perception, which exactly measures our virtual action on things, thus limits itself to the objects which actually influence our organs and prepare our movements.
I see plainly how external images influence the image that I call my body: they transmit movement to it.
Men do not sufficiently realize that their future is in their own hands. Theirs is the task of determining first of all whether they want to go on living or not. Theirs is the responsibility, then, for deciding if they want merely to live, or intend to make legitimate the extra effort required for fulfilling, even on this refractory planet, the essential function of the universe, that is, a machine for the making of gods.
We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.
The pure present is an ungraspable advance of the past devouring the future. In truth all sensation is already memory.
The idea of the future, pregnant with an infinity of possibilities, is thus more fruitful than the future itself, and this is why we find more charm in hope than in possession, in dreams than in reality.
But, then, I cannot escape the objection that there is no state of mind, however simple, which does not change every moment, since there is no consciousness without memory, and no continuation of a state without the addition, to the present feeling, of the memory of past moments. It is this which constitutes duration. Inner duration is the continuous life of a memory which prolongs the past into the present, the present either containing within it in a distinct form the ceaselessly growing image of the past, or, more profoundly, showing by its continual change of quality the heavier and still heavier load we drag behind us as we grow older. Without this survival of the past into the present there would be no duration, but only instantaneity.
The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.
The present contains nothing more than the past, and what is found in the effect was already in the cause.
In reality, the past is preserved by itself automatically.
In its entirety, probably, it follows us at every instant; all that we have felt, thought and willed from our earliest infancy is there, leaning over the present which is about to join it, pressing against the portals of consciousness that would fain leave it outside.
I cannot escape the objection that there is no state of mind, however simple, that does not change every moment.
Religion is to mysticism what popularization is to science.
Life does not proceed by the association and addition of elements, but by dissociation and division.
All the living hold together, and all yield to the same tremendous push. The animal takes its stand on the plant, man bestrides animality, and the whole of humanity, in space and in time, is one immense army galloping beside and before and behind each of us in an overwhelming charge able to beat down every resistance and clear the most formidable obstacles, perhaps even death.
The prestige of the Nobel Prize is due to many causes, but in particular to its twofold idealistic and international character: idealistic in that it has been designed for works of lofty inspiration; international in that it is awarded after the production of different countries has been minutely studied and the intellectual balance sheet of the whole world has been drawn up. Free from all other considerations and ignoring any but intellectual values, the judges have deliberately taken their place in what the philosophers have called a community of the mind.
Intuition is a method of feeling one’s way intellectually into the inner heart of a thing to locate what is unique and inexpressible in it.
Europe is overpopulated, the world will soon be in the same condition, and if the self-reproduction of man is not rationalized… we shall have war.
Fortunately, some are born with spiritual immune systems that sooner or later give rejection to the illusory worldview grafted upon them from birth through social conditioning. They begin sensing that something is amiss, and start looking for answers. Inner knowledge and anomalous outer experiences show them a side of reality others are oblivious to, and so begins their journey of awakening. Each step of the journey is made by following the heart instead of following the crowd and by choosing knowledge over the veils of ignorance
To perceive means to immobilize. We seize, in the act of perception, something which outruns perception itself.
In short, intelligence, considered in what seems to be its original feature, is the faculty of manufacturing artificial objects, especially tools to make tools, and of indefinitely urging the manufacture.
For life is tendency, and the essence of a tendency is to develop in the form of a sheaf, creating, by its very growth, divergent directions among which its impetus is divided.
Intelligence is the faculty of making artificial objects, especially tools to make tools.
There is no greater joy than that of feeling oneself a creator. The triumph of life is expressed by creation.
An absolute can only be given in an intuition, while all the rest has to do with analysis.
Genius is that which forces the inertia of humanity to learn.
In just the same way the thousands of successive positions of a runner are contracted into one sole symbolic attitude, which our eye perceives, which art reproduces, and which becomes for everyone the image of a man who runs.
You will obtain a vision of matter that is perhaps fatiguing for your imagination, but pure and stripped of what the requirements of life make you add to it in external perception.
There is nothing in philosophy which could not be said in everyday language.
The major task of the twentieth century will be to explore the unconscious, to investigate the subsoil of the mind.
Wherever anything lives, there is, open somewhere, a register in which time is being inscribed.
I cannot escape the objection that there is no state of mind, however simple, that does not change every moment
We regard intelligence as man’s main characteristic and we know that there is no superiority which intelligence cannot confer on us, no inferiority for which it cannot compensate
Instinct perfected is a faculty of using and even constructing organized instruments; intelligence perfected is the faculty of making and using unorganized instruments.
Spirit borrows from matter the perceptions on which it feeds and restores them to matter in the form of movements which it has stamped with its own freedom.
COMMENTS on Henri Bergson
The idea of the future, pregnant with an infinity of possibilities, is thus more fruitful than the future itself, and this is why we find more charm in hope than in possession, in dreams than in reality. Bergson starts that sentence off strong, with an infinity of possibilities, but dribbles it off into a whine about dreams and the wrong kind of hope. Bad hope is the kind that debilitates one, prevents action, and ends in despair and catatonic helplessness and false hope.
Men do not sufficiently realize that their future is in their own hands. Theirs is the task of determining first of all whether they want to go on living or not. Theirs is the responsibility, then, for deciding if they want merely to live, or intend to make legitimate the extra effort required for fulfilling, even on this refractory planet, the essential function of the universe, that is, a machine for the making of gods. This sentiment is even worse than the one above, in that the bravado of the first part of the paragraph drifts quickly into melancholy, despair and implied suicide. Then Bergson thinly veils a fantasy goal of struggling against this refractory world by groveling as a machine propitiating fantasy gods by manufacturing them out of vacuous mental space.
We are a way for the cosmos to know itself. This seems a little more human but it too isn’t living a life full of vigor but a groveling way to find a greater meaning than what is presented by the world we physically inhabit.
I cannot escape the objection that there is no state of mind, however simple, that does not change every moment. That is a true enough statement, but it is no more that stating the obvious function of the vast numbers of cells which make up brains. Every cell is changing, or at least ready to change in an instant when the right impulse strikes it.
To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.
The eyes only see what the mind is prepared to comprehend. There is an obvious interaction between the various components of brains and the external environment, and it does to some extent develop a verification process between the cells, but these are always ready with a little different input from either the outside or the inside of the brain to change their state, altering the view of their reality. If the mind is trying to see a particular thing it is strongly biased to see that thing, but with an unexpected tiny shift the whole comprehension changes radically. Various experiments demonstrate this phenomenon, such as the dual-pictures.
Life does not proceed by the association and addition of elements, but by dissociation and division. Sometimes yes – sometimes no.