Book review: Dinçer Yıldız, Henri Bergson’un Felsefesi, Istanbul, 2006

Yusuf Çeribaş, Yıldız Technical University

Dinçer Yıldız, the author of The Philosophy of Henri Bergson, was born in Istanbul in 1937. He got his bachelor’s degree in Turkish Studies and developed a keen interest in philosophy and fine arts. He was educated in pedagogy in Germany and worked there in an educational institution to teach kids with special needs. He did not only enjoy a career as a pedagogy expert in Germany but also gave lectures on Heraclitus, Bruno, Goethe, Rudolf Steiner, Nietzsche and Bergson once a week in an institute for about ten years. Yıldız resettled in Turkey in 1999 and published articles in newspapers on music and philosophy in addition to publishing several books on those themes.

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Yıldız, in the foreword to The Philosophy of Henri Bergson, tries to synthesize the current state of global affairs and lists eight serious issues for which he blames Capitalism as the primary cause. He points to a wide range of matters such as pollution, overconsumption, global warming and gene modification. People are, according to him, being stripped of their feelings and turning into robotic beings. He also believes there is a loss of quality in the works of intellectuals because of disciplinary specialization and over-expertise. Current-day experts, he says, spend their energy on abstract subjects which have little or no contribution to life. Today’s philosopher is therefore alienated from life when the true value of philosophy is to comprehend the meaning of life. The only way out of this conundrum seems to be art. Humankind requires, he argues, a form of holistic thinking which can ensure that humans will be able to make peace with themselves and their environment by creating a harmonic unity. Yıldız believes the philosophy of Bergson holds the key to make that happen.

Yıldız dedicates the introduction of his book to providing a brief summary of Bergson’s life, his main works, and the foundations of his philosophy (e.g. monism, dualism and musical texture). The book has five chapters that focus respectively on Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness, Matter and Memory, Introduction to Metaphysics, Creative Evolution, Two Sources of Morality and Religion and an additional chapter on Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic. In these chapters, Yıldız uses a clear and relatively simple language to touch upon the main points in each work. He establishes connections between Bergson’s ideas and that of other philosophers by highlighting the differences and similarities between their respective philosophies. Just as Bergson does, Yıldız makes use of easy-to-understand analogies to explain concepts and in each chapter, he includes sample texts and citations from Bergson’s original works. In this way, readers are first provided with a toolkit to decode Bergson’s words and are then given a chance to put their understanding to the test by going through selected passages from original texts.

Yıldız sets out to show what the philosophy of Bergson is and why it is still relevant today. He seems to have accomplished this goal by building a framework through which people can understand Bergson’s works and situate his philosophy within social science. The interest in Bergson among Turkish intelligentsia dates back to the first years of the Turkish Republic; Bergson’s philosophy attracted significant interest especially due to ideas such as creative evolution and its equal emphasis on spirituality and science. Among these circles he was usually identified as the Other West, which meant he was not wholly materialistic and positivistic, and Bergson’s teachings could give hope to a new nation and help it progress without losing its spirit and values. Turkey did not have to erase its past and embrace something totally new, but instead it could preserve its identity and make a new story of progress. The book by Yıldız is a reminder of the ever-lasting interest in Bergson in Turkey and a notable contribution to Turkish literature on Bergson since the foundation of the country. Reading between the lines, it becomes apparent that Yıldız himself is a follower and admirer of Bergson’s philosophy. He values the marriage of positivism and spiritualism in Bergson’s works. The scope of analysis in his book can give any philosophy reader a concise overview of Bergson’s oeuvre. The book will be of great use in college and university curricula for comparative philosophy courses. It will give readers a solid foundation upon which to decide whether they wish to pursue their interest in Bergson’s philosophy and which primary sources to pursue. 


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