Bergson’s Two Sources of Morality and Religion
At the beginning of the 20th century, Bergson’s concept of creative breakthrough (élan vital) breathed a new breath into the soul of the despaired European intellectual. Now, in the conversations of the thought and art circles, the words begin and end with the concept of “life move”. Interpretations and explanations of Bergsonian philosophy dominated a wide field. Many people believed that a new day in philosophy had dawned, and many other activities had thus become enlightened. William James was a passionate reader of Bergson’s work. Bergson’s profound influence has been observed in many literary works from Marcel Proust to Bernard Shaw, in George Sorel’s political views, in Claude Monet’s impressionist paintings, in Claude Debussy’s music and in clergymen seeking support for spiritual values.
In Bergson’s philosophy, it is not matter, an inanimate entity that flourishes; reality has been around, and only intuition can grasp it. Time is an accumulation. The future cannot be the same as the past at any time, because a new experience is revealed at every step. Bergson admits that for a conscious being to exist is to change, for change means maturity; to mature means self-creation endlessly. This is so not just for the conscious human being, but for the whole reality. Bergson says that we can make everything clear only if we understand development as duration.
Bergson’s basic approach in The Two Sources of Morality and Religion is the fundamental opposition he establishes between static and dynamic. One of these oppositions is rooted in the mind and reaches science, its static, mechanical ideals, the other is intuitive, finding its existence in the creative breakthrough (élan vital) of philosophers, artists, and great mystics.