(b Paris, Oct 18, 1859; d Paris, Jan 3, 1941).
French philosopher. The son of a Polish Jewish musician, he took his baccalauréat at the Lycée Condorcet in Paris and entered the Ecole Normale Supérieure in 1878. He gained his Licencié ès Lettres in 1879 and during 1881–8 taught in secondary schools at Angers, Clermont Ferrand and Paris. The publication of one of his two doctoral theses, Essai sur les données immédiates de la conscience (Paris, 1889), brought him public recognition. It was followed in 1896 by Matière et mémoire.
Bergson was concerned with the problem of expression, and he attempted to resist the linguistic snares that he associated with conceptual thinking, arguing instead for an organic philosophy. He was aware of the inadequacies of the mechanistic determinism of 19th-century scientism, especially as presented in the English philosopher Herbert Spencer’s First Principles (London, 1862). Bergson saw reality as a constant state of dynamic flux in which past, present and future formed a single continuum. The question of time was all important to him, and he insisted that the time of consciousness existed on multiple interrelated levels. The fusion of these heterogeneous instants comprised a duration. This was not purely quantitative measurable time, but time as it is experienced by human consciousness. To Bergson, duration meant memory, and memory was synonymous with consciousness, an unending flow rather than a succession of discrete instants....