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Thinking in Time: An Introduction to Henri Bergson Paperback – 6 Apr 2006

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press (6 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801473004
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801473005
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 0.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 467,352 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Guerlac presents a Bergson who is both historical and current, a Bergson who emerged during a period of technological upheaval not unlike our own cybernetic moment. . . . Drawing on Guerlac's formidable expertise in the areas of Continental philosophy, literature, and the history of science, the book is a brilliant and timely introduction to Bergson's thought." James Meyer, Artforum, December 2006"

"Recent years have seen a serious and significant renaissance of interest in Henri Bergson, a key intellectual figure of the first half of the twentieth century. Bergson offers new possibilities for thinking today, and interest in his work is now widespread, being felt across the humanities and social sciences, and even in the sciences. Thinking in Time offers the only reader's guide I know in English to Bergson's two key texts, books that should be placed at the center of a young person's university education and form a key part of the scholar's learning and education. Suzanne Guerlac's style of writing is admirably lucid and succeeds in genuinely instructing the reader in the key ideas and movements of thought at work in Bergson's texts." Keith Ansell Pearson, University of Warwick, author of Philosophy and the Adventure of the Virtual: Bergson and the Time of Life"

"Thinking in Time is not only a 'reader's guide' or introduction to Bergson's first major books; it also puts the general philosophy of Bergson in a double historical perspective the historical context of its writing (then) and the present context of its rediscovery (now). Suzanne Guerlac displays two very different sets of qualities: a minute attention to the texts and a broader capacity to set the frames of a general history of ideas between the turn of the century and the most contemporary poststructural or 'postcontinental' philosophy." Frederic Worms, Universite Charles-de-Gaulle-Lille 3, author of Bergson ou les deux sens de la vie"

"Thinking in Time may well become the most widely read book in film studies. Although it was not written specifically for the field, it provides a crucial background for film theory, particularly for the work of Gilles Deleuze. But perhaps more importantly, it elucidates to a remarkable degree the qualities of the medium that fascinate scholars and students of modernism and postmodernism. Suzanne Guerlac's book greatly enriches the context in which the cinema arose by elucidating the complex currents of thought at the turn of the century that gave rise to both Henri Bergson's ideas and the new art form. The correlations between the challenges facing Bergson, due to his rejection of orderly spatial metaphors in favor of a radical concept of time, and those confronting the new time-based medium provide a new context for the consideration of early film history. In a book that will appeal particularly to students of film theory, experimental or modernist film, and the especially cinematic genres of the musical or science fiction, Guerlac conveys her crystal-clear grasp of Bergson's thought with unsurpassed wisdom and passion." Robin Blaetz, Mount Holyoke College"

"'To think duration, the irreversible time of becoming, ' Bergson wrote, 'requires the breaking of many frames. This remains the difficult task of philosophy today.' In this lucid study of Bergson in his time and ours Suzanne Guerlac performs that very task. Under the aegis of time she displaces matter, intuition, memory, and vitalism of the early twentieth century into the wake of poststructuralism and the dilemmas of nature and culture here and now. This book is a landmark for anyone working in the currents of philosophy, science, and literature. The force and vision of the work will enthuse and inspire every one of its readers." Tom Conley, Harvard University"

"Written in a highly readable and lucid style, reminiscent of Bergson himself, Thinking in Time presents a study, both thematic and comprehensive, of Bergson's Time and Free Will and Matter and Memory. Suzanne Guerlac deftly draws out the significance of Bergsonian concepts and examples, weaving her reading through challenging and memorable passages of Bergson's texts. Most important, Guerlac shows not only what was at stake for Bergson in these texts, but also what is at stake for us today in reading Bergson. To read Bergson with Guerlac as one's guide is to be awakened to the dynamic movement of Bergson's thinking of time. Thinking in Time is not only an introduction, it is also an exploration of a different way of doing philosophy." Alia Al-Saji, McGill University"


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This is an excellent review of Bergson's first two major works: "Time and Free Will" and "Matter and Memory". Guerlac almost works through the major aspects chapter by chapter in each book. She discusses all of the important ideas of Bergson, especially duration and the virtual. Reading Bergson is no ordinary journey, it's philosophy without the abstract constructs which always seem so artificial and far removed from real experience. Bergson's task was to experience real life as it truly is and write about it without getting bogged down in rigid concepts which remain fixed. This is a very dificult task indeed but somehow he does it. Like others have said once you have read Bergson then nothing remains the same. It is his ability to differentiate between space and time as duration which makes his work something special. Guerlac explores these aspects deeply and, amazingly, without losing the reader on the way; quite unlike Pearson or even Deleuze whose attempt at clarity lead back to abstraction to some degree. In fact, it is possible to read Guerlac's book without having read Bergson and then read his books afterwards, this is just about impossible with either Deleuze's "Bergsonism" or Pearson's "Philosophy and the Adventure of the Virtual". Probably the best introduction to Bergson's work I have read even including Herbert Carr's enjoyable books.
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Format: Paperback
I purchased this text to assist me when completing my masters. Guerlac explores the first two of Bergson's texts in which he examines human perception of time and memory.

Guerlac translates many sections of Bergson's works directly from the original French texts and this was a particularly helpful aspect of her work. The common translations of Bergson's works were written in 1912/1913 and so Guerlac's translations into 'modern' English make Bergson's texts far more accessible. Guerlac's exposition and interpretation of Bergson's philosophy is erudite and includes a discussion both of the reception/publishing history of his work, as well the implications it still has in the modern world. My only wish would be for Guerlac to provide a complete translation of Bergson's works.

I would thoroughly recommend this text to anyone interested in Bergson's philosophy or who is studying it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars 6 reviews
30 of 37 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Read the original(s) 23 Sept. 2006
By Anon. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
A introductory book on the philosophy of Bergson, which ends with two (short) chapters discussing the recent "return to Bergson." Guerlac's monograph reads as though it were rather hastily put together, as though she ran out of time to properly develop the material.

An example: chapter 5 (Channels of Contemporary Reception) is a particularly useful subject and the chapter begins well, but it swiftly descends to uselessness, stitched together by a series of quotes and paraphrases from various theorists, as well as endless footnotes which include further quotes and paraphrases (there are 97 footnotes for a chapter 23 pages long). (It doesn't help either that Guerlac moves much too quickly through the Bergsonian influence on Deleuze's Cinema books - relying, it seems to me, too heavily on Mark Hansen's commentary - as well as Deleuze and Guattari's concept of "the machinic.")

Worse is the treatment of Bergson's texts, but for a different reason. The majority of Guerlac's book is an explication of two Bergson works: Time and Free Will and Matter and Memory. (Why Creative Evolution is not given the same treatment is a mystery to me.) Having just re-read Matter and Memory, I have to say that I found Guerlac's chapter on this great work completely without point: she simply repeats his argument but in her own words (except when she is directly quoting the original). Why not read the original instead, which is exquisitely written and endlessly fascinating?

The purpose of such an introductory work should be to clarify and contextualize; to give a student some footholds as they explore the difficult (but richly rewarding) original texts. What is the purpose of a 67-page paraphrase of Matter and Memory except to discourage the student from reading the original (by having the student believe they have somehow already done so - and not by reading the 200 page original but the 67 page copy)?

The book is not without some merit, but it needed several more rewrites and some judicious pruning. (And instead of 2 LONG chapters on Bergson's first two philosophical texts, it should have had 4 shorter chapters on ALL of his major philosophical works: Time and Free Will, Matter and Memory, Creative Evolution, and Two Sources of Morality and Religion.)

I'd give the book 2 1/2 stars, if it were possible, but since it is not I will go for the lower rating, because it is closer to 2 stars than 3.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Early Time 21 Aug. 2012
By toronto - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As another reviewer notes, this is an oddly put together book, without a chapter on Creative Evolution. It should have been called an Introduction to early Bergson. Nevertheless, I found it very helpful. It takes a while to "get" Bergson, and this book is very good on the straightforward elucidation of his world view (straightforward elucidation is not all that common in Bergson studies these days). I also agree that the last chapter is too short and sketchy. Still, I would recommend it to someone just starting out in Bergson.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars very helpful 15 Jan. 2012
By Thomas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I read this book along with the new French critical edition of "Time and free will" (Essais sur les données immédiates de la conscience) edited with notes by Arnaud Bouaniche. I found Suzanne Guerlac's commentary to be of great help, clarifying the text when it is very dense and difficult, such as in the section on Spinoza. Yet perhaps Ms. Guerlac is too certain about the way Bergson asserts the concept of duration as a form of energy, a force, that is independent from the principle of conservation of energy of physics. (p. 77) It seems to me that Bergson only puts this forward as a hypothesis.
5.0 out of 5 stars Thanks very much for this book, Dr. Guerlac! 8 Sept. 2014
By Carl Strasen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've found this book to be a huge help. I'm studying Bergson solo. I was lucky enough to find this title at Dominican University, I checked it out so many times that I had to buy it. Many of Bergson's ideas are radically divergent from what I'm accustomed to (My perception is outside my body for example) so I found Bergson's first two books very difficult, very easy to get lost in.
Yes, although Matter and Memory and Time and Free Will as other reviewers have noted are brilliant, I find reading them pretty difficult. My weary eyes scan the pages hour after hour, and I do extract gems, but it is a difficult read for me.

I particularly appreciate that Dr. Guerlac has translated key sections herself, I found her translations clear and compelling, the same sections of the official translations are passive, and seem blunt somehow, when compared side by side. It would have been nice to see of Bergson's works covered, but I am very grateful and appreciate of the work that she has provided. I'm surprised that some of the other reviewers are so harsh. Her insightful conclusion is worth the book's price alone!
5.0 out of 5 stars My compliments to the author for a very fine introduction, or perhaps reintroduction 1 Jun. 2016
By Mark D. Kindt - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
My compliments to the author for a very fine introduction, or perhaps reintroduction, to the work of Henri Bergson. I slowly took my time with this book reading only a few pages at a sitting. Frequently, I returned to earlier passages to gain further clarity. This is likely to be a challenging work for most non-specialist readers, but it is a rewarding one. I thought her presentations in Chapters 1 through 4 were superb. Clearly, Chapter 5 could have been developed into a book on its own, but it achieved its purposes in providing an overview of the recent range of interpretations. I hope that Ms. Guerlac will continue to write on Bergson. How often does one recommend a book like this to one's friends, but that is how it came to me and I hope to pass the title on as a recommendation to other intellectually-minded readers.
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