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Discussion Forum

Why Bergson now?

Started by Nik Wakefield. Last reply by Laura Cull Dec 4, 2012. 3 Replies

Although the call for papers deadline for PSi 19 passed, there are still two weeks before the deadline for the performance philosophy conference.With 23 members currently joined up to this group, I…Continue

PSi 19 Stanford

Started by Nik Wakefield. Last reply by Nik Wakefield Nov 9, 2012. 3 Replies

Hello BergsonistsAs the cfp quickly approaches for PSi 19 on temporality and performance, its still not too late to put together a performance philosophy contribution.If there is interest, we might…Continue

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Although the call for papers deadline for PSi 19 passed, there are still two weeks before the deadline for the performance philosophy conference.

With 23 members currently joined up to this group, I find myself wondering why that is. What is it that makes Bergson relevant now?

Henri Bergson was a philosopher who was both was versed in history and in touch with the latest research of his time. So while he made use of the most recent advancements in not only philosophy but also psychology, physics and biology, etc., he also repeatedly returned to classical ideas such as Zeno's paradoxes. The philosopher he most often critiqued was Immanuel Kant, separated from Bergson by a span of years similar to those that distance us from Bergson. Since his death much philosophy has been written and continues to be written by researchers arguably more in touch with a world like our own. 

With all that in mind questions come up, asked not in incredulity but out of curiosity, which is what made you join this group? How is your work influenced by Bergson? What areas of his broad research still matter today?

I'm sending this out intending for informal responses to the group in a discussion here.

I also hope though that it might drum up interest enough to get some kind of proposal together for the performance philosophy conference, whether that is a panel, a performance, round table or anything else we might find is a useful way to engage with Bergson's work.

So if you have a chance over the next few days it would be great to hear from everyone is as much detail as you'd like about how you're engaged with his philosophy.

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Replies to This Discussion

You know of my interest already Nik (I'm up for a panel, BTW). For me, apart from his concept of duration being so important to performance, it is the performative aspect of his work that makes it interesting: the metaphysical in Bergson is immanent within the performative expression of his philosophy, especially with regards to its constant renewal of metaphysical terms in order to resist – by movement – any conceptual hypostatisation. This movement is named by him ‘thinking in duration’, which is explained as the inevitability that any philosophical terminology – including his own jargon of ‘durée’, ‘multiplicity’ and so on – will lose its force and have to be replaced with a new language if that philosophy is to remain vital....


I'm also interested in Bergson for 'thinking in duration,' as well for his concept of fabulation (for which John's recent article has been helpful in further elucidating). Coming from cultural history and memory studies, rather than philosophy proper, I will further say that Bergson is helpful for thinking past the limits of traditional historical methods, which tend to falter at the point where fact and fiction threaten to converge. Bergson isn't the only philosopher who could be of help in this respect, but I do find the resurgence of interest in him helpful for those of us thinking about the intersection between aesthetics/fiction/storytelling and memory.

Hi Nik, hi all,

My current engagement with Bergson concerns the notion of an 'education of attention' - a phrase that Bergson uses in The Creative Mind to describe the task of philosophy, although he also points to the way that art can serve a similar function: extending the faculties of perception to include what tends to be excluded by the utilitarian nature of ordinary perception. I'm interested in how this definition of philosophy emphasises philosophy as a practice as well as allowing us to think of forms of performance as enactments of intuition. But I've also been reading Bergson alongside other accounts of attention - such as Jonathan Crary and more recent stuff on 'attention economy'. 


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