Henri Bergson Additional Biography


Ansell-Pearson, Keith. Philosophy and the Adventure of the Virtual: Bergson and the Time of Life. New York: Routledge, 2001. Explores Bergson’s explosive insights into the idea of time.

Gunter, P. A. Y. Henri Bergson: A Bibliography. 2d rev. ed. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Press, 1986. A useful resource.

Hanna, Thomas, ed. The Bergsonian Heritage. New York: Columbia University Press, 1962. The eleven essays in this collection, drawn from a convention held at Hollins College to commemorate the centennial of Bergson’s birth, present assessments of Bergson’s impact on theological thought and on literature. Also contains reminiscences by people who knew him at the Sorbonne and the Collège de France.

Herman, Daniel J. The Philosophy of Henri Bergson. Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1980. A book-length study of Bergson’s philosophy and life.

Kolakowski, Leszek. Bergson. South Bend, Ind.: St. Augustine’s Press, 2001. A concise overview of Bergson’s major ideas, written as an elementary introduction to his work for the general student.

Lacey, Alan R. Bergson. New York: Routledge, 1993. Surveys most of Bergson’s major writings with a focus on Bergson as a philosopher of process and change. Includes a bibliography and an index.

Maxwell, Donald R. The Abacus and the Rainbow: Bergson, Proust, and the Digital-Analogic Opposition. New York: Peter Lang, 1999. Provides insight into the similarities between Bergson’s philosophy and elements of the Proustian universe.

Moore, Francis C. T. Bergson: Thinking Backwards. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Brief and accessible exposition of the content and significance of Bergson’s most influential ideas.

Pilkington, Anthony Edward. Bergson and His Influence: A Reassessment. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1976. Presents an initial overview of Bergsonism, then devotes one chapter each to Bergson’s influence on Charles Péguy, Paul Valéry, Marcel Proust, and Julien Benda. The chapter on Benda contains interesting insights into Bergson’s theory of mobility.

Russell, Bertrand. The Philosophy of Bergson. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1914. Russell, more devoted to an undeviating scientific method than Bergson, looks with considerable skepticism on Bergson’s theories of knowledge and dependence on intuition in shaping arguments. He particularly questions Bergson’s Creative Evolution, in which the theory of the élan vital is fully expounded.


Henri Louis Bergson (behrg-sohn) was born in Paris in 1859 of Irish-Jewish parents. As a naturalized French citizen, he enrolled in the École Normale Supérieure in 1878. From 1881 to 1898, he taught at the lycées of Angers, Clermont, and Paris. In 1898, he received an appointment to the École Normale Supérieure and then, in 1900, moved to the Collège de France as professor of philosophy. He remained there officially until 1921 but served France on diplomatic missions to Spain and the United States during World War I. He also served as president of a League of Nations’ committee striving for intellectual cooperation. In 1928, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Poor health restricted his activities after World War I. Late in his life, Bergson became convinced of the essential truth of Roman Catholicism. However, this conviction coincided with the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe. Not wanting to appear to be abandoning his fellow Jews, he put off actual conversion until he was close to dying.

After the fall of France in 1940, the German-dominated Vichy government instituted anti-Semitic regulations in imitation of the Nazis, but it specifically exempted world-famous Bergson from the necessity of complying. Aged and infirm, Bergson spurned such hypocrisy. He resigned the honors bestowed upon him by the French government and, supported by friends because he was too ill to stand alone, took his turn in line before the offices which issued the Jews of Paris certain papers curtailing their liberties and privileges. On January 4, 1941, only a few days after this ordeal, Bergson died.

Bergson’s place as a leading...

(The entire section is 680 words.)


(Survey of World Philosophers)

Article abstract: By rejecting the mechanistic view of life held by the noted positivists of his day, Bergson focused renewed attention on the importance of the human spirit, its creative potential, and its inherent freedom, thereby opening new intellectual vistas to many creative artists.

Early Life

Henri Louis Bergson was born into a sophisticated, multinational family in the year that Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species (1859), a book that profoundly affected Bergson’s thinking and against whose dispassionate view of human existence he reacted significantly. Bergson’s father, Michel, studied piano under Frédéric Chopin before leaving his native Warsaw...

(The entire section is 1979 words.)


(Critical Survey of Ethics and Literature)

Author Profile

Throughout his professional life, Bergson maintained that ethical questions, which are affected by myriad external factors, were fundamentally personal issues. During the latter part of his life, Bergson became absorbed in mysticism and religious thought. In The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, Bergson argued that human progress—including the ethical dimension—would be advanced by those few who gained intuitive insight into the mind of God. These “enlightened” individuals would contribute to the continuing progressive evolution of humanity by providing direction and leadership. Thus, Bergson moved in the direction of the authoritarianism of the Christian tradition in which...

(The entire section is 541 words.)