Please join us on campus for our next discussion group meeting Friday, April 3rd at 2:30pm in room E&T A420. We’ll be discussing an excerpted version of Henri Bergson’s An Introduction to Metaphysics. I’m confident that the piece will strike a chord with many of you (regulars), and look forward to another lively discussion. For those of you who are particularly ambitious, you can find the text in its entirety (it’s relatively short) here: books.google.com.
The excerpted version I have chosen as a reading includes five portions of the original text. In the pdf, I have marked them with letters A-E. Here are some “questions to ponder” from each of these sections:
A) In his introductory remarks, Bergson speaks of “two profoundly different ways of knowing a thing.” He says that one way leads us to knowledge of the relative while the other allows us to attain the absolute. He calls these two ways of knowing a thing, respectively, analysis and intuition. …What’s the difference? What’s this have to do with metaphysics?
B) Bergson wants to claim that knowledge based in analysis creates false problems for the metaphysician. This is the “danger” in abstract ideas. …Why are they dangerous, and should we be afraid of them?
C) A large chunk of Bergon’s argument rests on his assertion that we tend to think in terms of what is useful to us, and that metaphysicians, in order to practice their “science” correctly, need to cast off this habit. Analysis is useful to our daily lives; intuition is not (at least not directly so). …How do these patterns of habitual thought affect the problems we, as philosophers, tackle?
D) “The use of the word intuition causes me some degree of hesitation” (from Bergson, The Creative Mind). Bergson uses the term a bit differently than it is commonly used. His term depends upon the presupposition of what he calls duration. For him, “intuition” is a precise philosophical method – the necessary method which metaphysics must employ to become a productive science. …This idea of “duration” is key and deserves your most profound ponderings. What does Bergson mean by duration? What does it have to do with movement? What is the difference between movement in space and movement in duration (time)? Why does Bergson say to the metaphysician, “It is movement that we must accustom ourselves to look upon as simplest and clearest…” (373)? Is mobility really more “real” than immobility? Why or why not?
E) Bergson claims that “To philosophize is to invert the habitual direction of the work of thought” (375). In so saying, he’s arguing against analysis as philosophical method in favor of his specialized brand of intuition. …Does he have a point? Were we to invert our way of thinking (as metaphysicians), what would that “look like?”
As touched upon above, Bergson likens intuition to a philosophical method. This methodology is rather lucidly discussed by Gilles Deleuze in the first chapter of his book Bergsonism. If we have time to get to it, I’d like to discuss this methodology at the meeting. I’ll look forward to seeing you all there!