International congress « Tracing Bergson. Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Life and the Sciences », Lüneburg, 22 June 2016

Tracing Bergson. Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Life and the Sciences

Digital Cultures Research Lab, Leuphana Univesität Lüneburg

Wasserturm, Bei der Ratsmühle, 21335 Lüneburg


Despite his indubitable impact on twentieth-century intellectual life beyond the borders of nations and disciplines, it seems that today, and across the sciences and the humanities, the French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941) is reviled much more frequently than read.

To counter this tendency and to continue the work of critically reintroducing Bergson’s work in Germany, the workshop will explore, from a transdisciplinary perspective, some of the possibilities of working with and through Bergsonian philosophy today. Focussing on topics around the questions of life, pysicality and sociality, the workshop aims to connect these philosophical notions to debates in the fields of the history of science, sociology and media theory. After all, considering Bergson’s various close engagements with different disciplines (psychology, physics, mathematics, biology, sociology), we can understand his attempts to renew philosophy as located at the crossroads of various academic fields – and precisely this location at the crossroads might become a marker of its current relevance.

To take one well-known example, Creative Evolution (1907), Bergson’s philosophical reflection on the concepts of evolution and the living produces, in one of its most famous passages, a media theory and a critique of the technologies of illusion, most importantly cinematography, conceived as an epistemological as well as ontological paradigm. But life according to Bergson is a complex phenomenon that cannot be addressed via a single scientific or epistemic approach. Traditional concepts such as disorder, negation, difference, or redundancy come to be confronted with movement and duration as well as a new understanding of the notion of order. For Bergson, they must lose their air of unlimited and eternal validity under the radical temporal and extended conditions associated with life. These concepts are not abandoned, but instead reconfigured within the realms of communication and social ensembles. Bergson unites various perspectives and attitudes, and it is only by reading him across the viewpoints of different disciplines that we can begin to once again recognise his significance.

Accordingly, the workshop will follow the contemporary traces and implications of Bergsonian thought in philosophy, sociology, history of science and media theory. Some of the possible questions could be: What are the ethical implications of the conceptualisation of life in terms of a critical vitalism? Can Bergson’s critique of scientific reasoning be productive within dynamic models of materiality that are discussed today? How can his concepts of living and lived time be understood in relation to conceptions of relative time and biophysical orders in the history of physics? Does his distinction between open and closed societies remain productive for sociology?


10:15 – 11:45 The Physical

Elie During (Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense)
Christina Vagt (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)

Chair: Yuk Hui (Leuphana Universität Lüneburg)

12:00 – 13:30 The Living

Frédéric Worms (École Normale Supérieure, Paris)
Tina Röck (University of Dundee)

Chair: Petra Gehring (Technische Universität Darmstadt)

14:30 – 16:00 The Social

Heike Delitz (Bergische Universität Wuppertal)
Giuseppe Bianco (Université Lyon3 Jean Moulin)

Chair: Danilo Scholz (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris)


Paul Feigelfeld

Leuphana Universität Lüneburg

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