Philosophical Survey: Philosophy in France

Philosophy 35 (134):265-271 (1960)
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Abstract

Only one volume has reached us to mark the centenary of Bergson's birth. Is this significant? If a writer lives to an advanced age his centenary usually falls at a time when fashion has turned against him, and the consequent attitudes are perhaps more interestingly gleaned from comparitively informal assessments than from carefully timed publications. In the Nouvelles Littéraires of October 22,1959, there appeared, almost a hundred years to the day after Bergson's birth, a reported discussion on his philosophy between Gaston Berger, Gabriel Marcel, Henri Gouhier, Jean Brun and a young “normalien” Dominique Janicaud.The talk, presumably more or less spontaneous, was naturally desultory. The older participants could always compensate for implicit misgivings by falling back on affectionate personal recollections, and the youngest would perhaps have preferred not to have to say anything at all. The most cogent general estimate was probably M. Jean Brun's, when he described Bergson as in effect making a stand against the danger of specialist appropriation of the dismembered fragments of philosophy by the various branches of science. We have seen this very nearly come about in England, where a fairly narrow linguistic and logical sector alone has been held with any feeling of conviction. What is here exemplified is the difference of outlook on any question that the English Channel makes. I once heard an English professor of English literature say that when reading Emile Legouis' History of English Literature he had some difficulty in persuading himself that his own professional speciality was being dealt with. It is not difficult to see how this comes about. What one nation takes for granted appears to another as excitingly significant.

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