MATTER AND MEMORY is Bergson’s second major work, falling between TIME AND FREE WILL, his doctoral thesis, and CREATIVE EVOLUTION, perhaps his best-known work. MATTER AND MEMORY has, however, been called Bergson’s most unjustly neglected volume by Maurice Merleau-Ponty, renowned contemporary existentialist. Like all of his work, it is a philosophical effort to transcend Cartesian dualism, and, without postulating a divinely created spirit in man, to bring back, nevertheless, a more complex and supple sense of the profundity of human nature than that afforded by mechanistic science and philosophy of the nineteenth century.
Bergson begins with a discussion of the brain, of how the science of his day says it works and how he thinks it works. Everywhere Bergson is concerned with the Cartesian problem: the world of spirit and the world of matter, and the Cartesian inability to resolve the distinction in any philosophically satisfactory manner. Bergson shows that, by postulating that all reality is outside the mind, in objects, we reduce the mind to a passive receiver shaped and determined by outer flow. Clearly, our rich inner life and its amazing variety of self-created choices negate these premises of realist philosophy. The opposing point of view—the idealist one as espoused by Bishop Berkeley, that the only reality is within the mind, and the world outside cannot exist, for only our senses can be said to exist—is...
(The entire section is 1237 words.)
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