Southern Journal of Philosophy 53 (1):54-73 (2015)

The received view of Bergson's philosophy of life is that it advances some form of vitalism under the heading of an “élan vital.” This paper argues against the vitalistic interpretation of Bergson's élan vital as it appears in Creative Evolution in favor of an interpretation based on his overlooked reflections on entropy and energetics. Within the interpretation developed here, the élan vital is characterized not as a spiritualistic “vital force” but as a tendency of organization opposed to the tendency of entropic degradation. It is then shown how Bergson's view of evolution and living organization resonates with more contemporary scientific approaches belonging to a “thermodynamic paradigm” in theoretical biology in different respects, including the critique of neo-Darwinism and the positing of a driving force behind evolution. Finally, the special interest that Bergson's philosophical biology bears today is considered in terms of the connection between the concepts of élan vital and duration
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/sjp.12096
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 71,379
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Investigations.Stuart A. Kauffman - 2000 - Oxford University Press.
Creative Evolution.Henri Bergson (ed.) - 1911 - New York: the Modern Library.

View all 28 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Spirit.Eric Steinhart - 2017 - Sophia 56 (4):557-571.
Spirit.[author unknown] - forthcoming - Latest Results.
Georges Sorel’s Political Energy.Luke Collison - 2021 - History of European Ideas 47 (8):1348-1361.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
31 ( #370,879 of 2,519,663 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #406,756 of 2,519,663 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes