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Creative Evolution [Paperback]

Henri Louis Bergson
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

15 Mar 2007
This early work on evolution is both expensive and hard to find in its first edition. It contains an explanation of Henri Bergman’s proposal that the mechanisms of evolution are motivated by humanity’s natural creative impulse. This is a fascinating work thoroughly recommended for anyone interested in the history of evolutionary ideas. Many of the earliest books, particularly those dating back to the 1900s and before, are now extremely scarce. We are republishing these classic works in affordable, high quality, modern editions, using the original text and artwork.


Product details

  • Paperback: 484 pages
  • Publisher: Bergson Press (15 Mar 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1406761206
  • ISBN-13: 978-1406761207
  • Product Dimensions: 2.7 x 13.8 x 21.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,111,405 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

'Palgrave Macmillan is to be congratulated for reissuing these classic Bergson texts. This is a timely decision since Bergson was the great thinker of life and it seems, nearly one hundred years later, that we find ourselves once again required to conceive life. Keith Ansell Pearson and John Mullarkey have been at the forefront of the new conception of life, therefore no better editors for these volumes could be selected.' - Professor Leonard Lawlor, Department of Philosophy, University of Memphis, USA

'Long absent from the center of discussion in Western philosophy, Bergson has recently made a reappearance. The Centennial Series of his works undertaken by Palgrave Macmillan thus comes at an opportune time, making it possible for those interested in Bergson's ideas t have access to newly annotated versions of several of his chief writings, freshly introduced and discussed. It is particularly good to see the republication of Mind-Energy, a treasure trove of Bergsonian insights long out of print.' - Professor Pete A.Y. Gunter, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, University of North Texas, USA
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Henri-Louis Bergson was a major French philosopher, influential especially in the first half of the 20th century. Bergson convinced many thinkers that immediate experience and intuition are more significant than rationalism and science for understanding reality. He was awarded the 1927 Nobel Prize in Literature "in recognition of his rich and vitalizing ideas and the brilliant skill with which they have been presented". In 1930, France awarded him its highest honour, the Grand-Croix de la Legion d'honneur. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Evolution Philosophy 24 Jun 2003
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
My only previous exposure to Bergson was Russell's less than complementary essay in his History of Western Philosophy. The Bergson of this book was unrecognisable - he comes across as an early philosopher of science more than anything, although his science is biology, rather than physics.
The main thrust of the book concerns his analysis of the concepts of organisation/matter, intelligence/instinct. The first two sections of the book are remarkably lucid, interweaving the then contemporary biological thought with Bergson's own philosophical insight. The latter two sections steer more into abstract territory, and probably require a wider acquaintance with his other thought to be fully appreciated (certainly I found them more valuable on a second reading when I had a bit more Bergson under my belt). While they are worth persevering with on their own merits, if you find them unpalatable I think the more original and interesting portion of the book is the first two sections, and I also believe these sections can be extracted from the book without doing too much damage. All in all, if you have an interest in evolutionary biology from a philosophical standpoint this is very worthwhile. Only three stars however due to limited introduction, glosses etc., although if you don't have any French this is the only thing available.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the light shining between Heraclitus and Bohm 21 April 2007
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Henri Bergson's seminal "Creative Evolution" starts off with the flowing movement so prevalent in his philosophy of the organism, one idea flows into the next in a smooth undivided motion. Not only does Bergson explain his work with analogies and examples supported by the biology of the time, thereby distancing himself from the purely intellectual pursuit of most philosophy, trapped in the world of the mind, but he demonstrates his thought in the very way of exposition he uses throughout the book. One feels his thought is produced like a Mozart symphony, all at once with no corrections needed. This aptly demonstrates the idea of duration and time he proposes in this book. His influence is profound in thinkers such as David Bohm and Alfred North Whitehead which so to speak "run with it" in the parlance of baseball. This is a book worth reading twice for its rich display of creativity and also to reread sections not followed the first time. One does feel however that at times the flow is interrupted by disturbances in his mode of thinking leading to disjointed reading. Nonetheless, not only does he open a whole new way of thought free of dualism and the old patterns of mechanism, but he also explains the reason for mechanistic thought itself.
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Bergson developed an alternative to Darwin's theory of evolution without relying on divine design or intervention. Science has moved on and some of the experimental bases of his theory would now be considered doubtful by biologists and other scientists. Nonetheless, there has been a renewal of interest in Bergson's work amongst European philosophers, and this, coupled with Bergson's easily-readable style and this good translation, makes this book an interesting and pleasurable one to read.
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Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended for fans of Rupert Sheldrake's theories 13 Aug 2007
By Gregory Olsen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Bergson's thesis is that Darwinian and Lamarkian evolution are only half the story and that there is a creative urge inherent in life that defines the direction of evolution. It is distinguished from Creationism in that his system does not posit and eschaton or final perfect form, nor an external agent (God).

It has some similarity with biologist Rupert Sheldrake's theory of morphic fields. In his theory, there is an energy field (as yet undetected by modern physics) that controls the shape of organic molecules, i.e., one protein is shaped one way and the same collection of atoms gets shaped another way under the same pH and temperature.

Aldous Huxley mentions Bergson's theory of consciousness several times in his writings. Bergson thinks that consciousness pervades everything, and that intellect serves as a filter that presents only what is comprehensible to mental categories. This has several implications. One is the possibility for a monistic metaphysic. The other is that it leaves open the possibility of perceiving an alternate reality (what excited Huxley).

Chapter 3 is about his metaphysics, which are not very clearly expressed. There appear to be avenues unexplored by him. What are the consequences of matter being infused with consciousness? Magic? Why is it that intellect and geometrical thinking is what produces objects in perception? What is the mechanism.

What does have value is his theory that chaos is not the absence of repeatability, but is a stochastic process that can be understood as an aggregate of individual "wills." This is used to support his vital theory of evolution. That each organism "wills" its variation in seemingly random fashion, but at a higher order, it produces the regularity of genera.

Chapter 4 is a critique of various philosophic systems after establishing his "cinematographic" theory of perception. His basic point is that matter is in continual flux, yet we are only able to perceive it as a sequence of discrete states, hence the illusion of permanence.
58 of 70 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars the light shining between Heraclitus and Bohm 28 Oct 1999
By Frank Bierbrauer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Henri Bergson's seminal ``Creative Evolution'' starts off with the flowing movement so prevalent in his philosophy of the organism, one idea flows into the next in a smooth undivided motion. Not only does Bergson explain his work with analogies and examples supported by the biology of the time, thereby distancing himself from the purely intellectual pursuit of most philosohpy, trapped in the world of the mind, but he demonstrates his thought in the very way of exposition he uses throughout the book. One feels his thought is produced like a Mozart symphony, all at once with no corrections needed. This aptly demonstrates the idea of duration and time he proposes in this book. His influence is profound in thinkers such as David Bohm and Alfred North Whitehead which so to speak ``run with it'' in the parlance of baseball. This is a book worth reading twice for its rich display of creativity and also to reread sections not followed the first time. One does feel however that at times the flow is interrupted by disturbances in his mode of thinking leading to disjointed reading. Nonetheless, not only does he open a whole new way of thought free of dualism and the old patterns of mechanism, but he also expalins the reason for mechanistic thought itself.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Professor Bergson Begins Modern Science and Intuits Quantum Physics' Improbable Secrets 21 Aug 2009
By Richard Lee Fulgham - Published on Amazon.com
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This book must be read slowly and deliberately -- do so and it will give you an insight into the brilliance of one of the most revolutionary and extraordinarily perceptive philosopher scientists of the 20th Century, IMO.
Bergson changed the way scientists see the world by introducing his conception of an "original impetus", which began simply (if "intelligently") and evolved matter into living, increasingly complex lifeforms and concurrently evolved an increasingly complex consciousness within it -- as an "imperceptable thread" (my wording) ultimately called the elan vital.
In my case, after reading carefully and filling the book's margins with notes, Professor Bergson seems to be proving (showing) that all science up until his time (circa 1930's) was concerned with objects as they were at a particular moments, whereas in fact these objects were and are in a state of continual "being" (duration), making their actuality or essence unknowable.
He chronologically takes us through the writings of Plato and Aristotle (the natural trend of the intellect)-- Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz (becoming in modern science) -- and even through the Criticism of Kant and the evolutionism of Spencer. Bergson thoroughly critques each philosophy and shows us why they are not dealing the world as it really is.
Through this he weaves his own philosophical system based on Creation and Evolution by (quote):
". . . showing us in the intellect a local effect of evolution, a flame, perhaps accidental, which lights up the coming and going of living beings in the narrow passage open to their action: an lo! . . . (making) of this lantern glimmering in a tunnel a Sun which can illuminate the world.
"Boldly (Kantian and Spencerian science) proceeds with the powers of conceptual thought alone, to the ideal reconstruction of things, even of life. . . . But the essence of things escapes us, and will escape us always; WE MOVE AMONG RELATIONS; THE ABSOLUTE IS NOT IN OUR PROVINCE; WE ARE BROUGHT TO STAND BEFORE THE UNKNOWABLE.
" . . . BUT AN INTELLECT BENT UPON THE ACT TO BE PERFOMED AND THE REACTION TO FOLLOW . . . WOULD DIG TO THE VERY ROOT OF NATURE AND MIND."
In simpler words, the observation of any object changes reality for that object. It is only real as a moving "being", animated by an original impetus and kept real by an "elan vital" which cannot be known because "being" cannot be defined. What we call "real things" are illusions which beomce "real" to us only when we stop their duration. Heidegger spends thousands of pages unsuccessfully trying to define "being", which ultimately he can only label as "dasein". What we observe as the real world is matter and consciousness evolving concurrently from simple to complex as they move through space and time.
This means that the original impetus, the spark, the first flame, began neither in space nor time. Later quantum physics would support Bergson's insight, considering that an electron (as one example) cannot be seen without turning it into something else, or ever stranger, disappearing into what can only be other universes parallel to our own.
IMO, this means a creative force must exist that animates matter and consciousness; and that could only have originated in that Singularity outside time and space which I in my particular need call the thought of "God". You can call "it" what you will: the Tao, Bhudda, Nature, et al.
In my possession is a 1932 edition of "Creative Evolution" which had lingered on a library shelf over eighty years but had been checked out only three times after 1970. Sometimes I wonder where are my fellow philosophers and why I seem in my pained isolation to be the last of the 20th Century philosophers of mind. But that is because I am a crazed crackpot in the collective mind of those who measure men by their wealth. My contemporaries are in the universities, religious orders and lecture tours, where they belong. Yet even I am animated by the elan vital. Even I am part of the "God" finally perceived by Henri Bergson.
"Creative Evolution" was a sensation when it first appeared in 1932, the work of an already distinguished Professor Bergson of the College de France. It gave the world at last a new and scientific conception of the God long intuited by prophets, priests, poets, writers and grizzled, scarred, aging gray bearded philosophers like myself, dumb beasts of intellectual burdens, who desperately need a new physics to help us embrace an unknowable God created out of a Singularity and connecting our minds and bodies to what the Apostle Paul called Love.

Richard Lee Fulgham, Bel Air, 2009
35 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the opus of the advocate of vitality.... 16 May 2000
By Craig Chalquist, PhD, author of TERRAPSYCHOLOGY and DEEP CALIFORNIA - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Despite Lord Russell's criticism that "intuition works best in bats, bees, and Bergson," in this work Bergson not only finishes the uprooting of the Western and Platonic disembodied intellect (a deconstruction taken only so far by Kant), he presents us with the spectacle of unbridled life creatively shaping, not only its world, but itself in accord with its own telos: the need for eyesight creating the eye, so to speak. Difficult in places but a treasure, although one could wish he gave more credit to Nietzsche's obviously great impact on him. Jungians would do well to peruse Bergson too.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary Originality 19 Jun 2012
By David Milliern - Published on Amazon.com
A big part of the reason I read books is to come across a couple of works that are as creative as Bergson's "Creative Evolution." Bergson creates and presents a very unique philosophy, which builds upon his metaphysics, and, from there, has developed numerous original ideas. The whole framework is intended to refute the Kantian system, and illustrate the shortcomings of the empirical and rationalist traditions that brought about the Kantian system.

Anyone who intends to read this book should know that Bergson wrote it at a time when Darwinism was "on its deathbed"; that is, right before Darwinism would turn the corner, moving toward, what would be, Julian Huxley's "New Synthesis." Therefore, Bergson's work should not be viewed as a typical, modern assault on Darwinism, as Bergson's intention was to deal with scientific observables without the luxury of seeing how a process of natural selection could preserve and enhance structure. In such a historically unique state, Bergson developed a number of ideas about why evolution would have to be creative. Though I do not have any specialization in the field of biology, its philosophy, or its history, Bergson's ideas strike me as holding weight; and I would be very interested in hearing how knowledgeable philosopher of biology or biologist might respond to such points Bergson makes, like the peculiar reciprocity of function exhibited by photosynthesis in plant cells and respiration in animal cells. I hope this gives a taste of just how scientific and philosophical (and certainly not religious) Bergson's approach is in this work. I found it fascinating, and it led me to studying more of Darwin's work.

Overall, I number this work among the most creative works I have ever read. In fact, as I was reading it, I immediately saw many, many philosophical idea that must have been influential to Heidegger, Deleuze, and Meillassoux. Furthermore, from the standpoint of Kant, I think Creative Evolution presented a few perspectives on Kant that I had not previously considered. All in all, I think this book is a must-read.
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