Henri Bergson

Henri Bergson

Book Pages: 352 Illustrations: Published: August 2015

Politics > Political Theory, Sociology > Social Theory, Theory and Philosophy > Critical Theory

Appearing here in English for the first time, Vladimir Jankélévitch's Henri Bergson is one of the two great commentaries written on Henri Bergson. Gilles Deleuze's Bergsonism renewed interest in the great French philosopher but failed to consider Bergson's experiential and religious perspectives. Here Jankélévitch covers all aspects of Bergson's thought, emphasizing the concepts of time and duration, memory, evolution, simplicity, love, and joy. A friend of Bergson's, Jankélévitch first published this book in 1931 and revised it in 1959 to treat Bergson's later works. This unabridged translation of the 1959 edition includes an editor's introduction, which contextualizes and outlines Jankélévitch's reading of Bergson, additional essays on Bergson by Jankélévitch, and Bergson's letters to Jankélévitch.


"Jankélévitch’s intransigent 'Bergsonism'– his faith in intuition and his distrust in contextualization – produced his marvelous Henri Bergson." — Giuseppe Bianco, H-France, H-Net Reviews

"Jankélévitch's Henri Bergson is richly textured with reflections and digressions which sketch in embryonic form conceptual figures that would gain prominence in his later ethical writings. Jankélévitch's book is thus not so much about Bergson, as it is a book through Bergson, and its two-stroke motion of understanding Bergson and of Jankélévitch understanding himself is animated by a joy that gives Jankélévitch's philosophical prose (finely translated by Nils F. Schott) an almost breathless quality." — Nicolas de Warren, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"Vladimir Jankélévitch's reading of Henri Bergson remains fresh and vital, it is written with tremendous erudition and diligence, and it provides a 'Bergson regained' for a whole new generation of readers of a truly great philosopher. Jankélévitch gives us Bergson as a philosopher of life and also a figure for whom philosophy should be a way of life."
— Keith Ansell-Pearson, author of Philosophy and the Adventure of the Virtual: Bergson and the Time of Life

"There is no question that Vladimir Jankélévitch’s Henri Bergson is one of the most important books written on Bergson. Equally, there is no question that Deleuze’s book on Bergson is one of most important. However, what distinguishes the two, and what makes Jankélévitch’s book really valuable are the three chapters he added in 1959. These three chapters tell us precisely how to understand Bergson’s ethics (especially the chapter on Bergson and Judaism), and they contain the seeds of Jankélévitch’s own later work. Having such an accurate and scholarly English translation is great. The Introduction, by Alexandre Lefebvre, who is one of our most important Anglophone commentators on Bergson, is illuminating."
— Leonard Lawlor, Penn State University


Availability: In stock
Price: $28.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Vladimir Jankélévitch (1903-1985) held the chair in moral philosophy at the University of Paris-Sorbonne from 1951 to 1978, and was the author of more than twenty books on philosophy and music.

Alexandre Lefebvre is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Government and International Relations and the Department of Philosophy at the University of Sydney. He is the coeditor of Bergson, Politics, and Religion, also published by Duke University Press.

Nils F. Schott is James M. Motley Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University and the translator of several books, including The Helmholtz Curves: Tracing Lost Time, by Henning Schmidgen.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Editors' Preface  vii

Acknowledgments  ix

Introduction. Jankélévitch on Bergson: Living in Time / Alexandre Lefebvre  xi

Introduction  1

1. Organic Totalities  3
I. The Whole and Its Elements  4
II. The Retrospective View and the Illusion of the Future Perfect  11

2. Freedom  23
I. Actor and Spectator  24
II. Becoming  30
III. The Free Act  49

3. Soul and Body  66
I. Thought and Brain  66
II. Recollection and Perception  79
III. Intellection  89
IV. Memory and Matter  94

4. Life  109
I. Finality  109
II. Instinct and Intellect  119
III. Matter and Life  137

5. Heroism and Saintliness  151
I. Suddenness  152
II. The Open and the Closed  156
III. Bergson's Maximalism  159

6. The Nothingness of Concepts and the Plentitude of Spirit  167
I. Fabrication and Organization: The Demiurgic Prejudice  167
II. On the Possible  179

7. Simplicity . . . and Joy  191
I. On Simplicity  191
II. Bergson's Optimism  203

Appendices   211

Supplementary Pieces  247
Preface to the First Edition of Henri Bergson (1930)  247
Letters to Vladimir Jankélévitch by Henri Bergson  248
Letter to Louis Beauduc on First Meeting Bergson (1923)  250
What Is the Value of Bergson's Thought? Interview with Françoise Reiss (1959)  251
Solemn Homage to Henri Bergson (1959)  253

Notes  261

Bibliography  299

Index  315
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5935-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5916-6
Publicity material