Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 16, No 2 (2020)

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Back to Bergson: The Continuing Importance of Bergson for Process Philosophy and Theology

Brian Macallan


Henri Bergson has been seen as one of the forerunners of both process philosophy and theology. Whitehead has noted Bergson's influence directly on the formation of his ideas. In recent times there has been a revival in both Whitehead and Bergson studies around the world. As process philosophers and theologians engage with the burgeoning interest in Whitehead, Bergson must remain central to both philosophical and theological engagements. Three key areas are discussed which demonstrate the benefits of going "back to Bergson" and how this will supplement and enliven Whitehead studies. Bergson's philosophy is inherently suited to describing the nature of process, while Whitehead's metaphysics and concepts often make this difficult to understand. This general benefit of returning to Bergson's philosophy is demonstrated specifically in examining Whitehead's extensive continuum. Bergson's image of “two trains” is offered as an image to help us grasp both the nature and importance of Whitehead's continuum. Lastly, by going back to Bergson in the area of religion, we find a more mystic-emotive approach to supplement Whitehead's overly rationalistic conception of religion.

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