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Title: Creative revolution : Bergson's social thought
Author: Vaughan, Michael
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2010
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I have three main aims in writing this thesis on the social thought of Henri Bergson: to establish what society is in his view, to work out the implications of this for individuality, and to demonstrate the contemporary value of his philosophy as a whole, thus construed. It will be the task of the first two chapters to establish that society is a biological and cultural reality for Bergson. This will involve the demonstration that Bergson’s understanding of living systems can be applied to groups as well as to single organisms, and that while the biological evolution of society underlies both individual actions and cultural evolution they nevertheless remain irreducible to it. In chapter three, I will consider the implications of his account of society for our understanding of the individual. These implications will be quite serious, as Bergson attributes an irreducible agency to society that immediately demands a re-assessment of the agency of the individual in terms of a participation in wider natural and cultural processes, and specifically a re-assessment of the central Bergsonian notion of individual freedom in the context of this natural and cultural evolution. In the conclusion, I will make a case that the value of Bergson’s philosophy today is that it can help us to move beyond the mechanistic paradigm that has dominated western thought since the scientific revolution by providing a powerful image of our relation to each other and to nature that is based on participation rather than control. In addition, there are two themes running through the thesis. One concerns Bergson’s critique of dogmatism both in philosophy and in the sciences, and his insistence that new ways of thinking be developed in response to new experience that cannot be integrated into existing interpretive models. In order to remain true to the spirit of his thought it has in many places been necessary to re-think his conclusions in relation to a new scientific context, rather than merely repeat what he says. The other concerns Bergson’s strong commitment to the role that philosophy can play in overcoming the natural tendency to control our environment, a tendency that he saw gaining a dangerous hold over the human spirit in the age of industrial capitalism. The essence of philosophy in this context is revealed to be a shift in attitude from control to participation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: B Philosophy (General) ; HM Sociology