The Bio-Philosophical “Insufficiency” of Darwinism for Henri Bergson’s Metaphysical Evolutionism

Process Studies 41 (1):133-149 (2012)
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Abstract

The main goal of Henri Bergson’s philosophy of nature is to offer a dynamic understanding of living phenomena. It is in this context that we main­tain that the author left us a “bio-philosophy,” that is, an interpretation which, by adopting a positive model of biology as a cognitive paradigm, describes the essential character of living activity as time or duration (durée). Bergson’s posi­tive metaphysics, which brings science to the metaphysical field and provides an inner perspective of the vital principle, consolidated itself in the study of evolutionary theories like Darwinism. However, the specificity of the perspective Bergson presents to us lies in the fact that he positions himself as a philosopher and not as a scientist: he does not seek a merely scientific explanation of reality, but an integral vision that allows us to give scientific evolution a metaphysical reading. Thus, when Bergson upholds the insufficiency of pure Darwinism, and proposes a true evolutionism, it is because he thinks that the only way to understand the evolutionary nature of life is by overcoming a strictly mechanistic perspective. For Bergson, such an interpretation results from the artificial way in which our intellectual functions deconstruct reality and lead to an incomplete and fragmented reading of the evolution of organisms. As a philosopher he seeks an explanatory level which, being scientifically based, is not restricted to the physico-chemical limits of reality. For that reason, Bergson claims that the inner cause of evolution is an activity where growth and division occur as a natural result of the divergence of life’s tendencies.

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Magda Costa Carvalho
Universidade dos Açores

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