Programme: The revival of Bergson in the Twenty-First Century 26 November 2021 – Ateneum The Finnish National Gallery

Organised by the project ‘Science, Literature and Research’, funded by the Kone Foundation, at the University of Helsinki

What explains the renewed interest in Henri Bergson’s philosophy of time, memory and creative evolution at the start of the twenty-first century? Having been dismissed as a “serious philosopher” in the post-Second World war period – in no small part as a consequence of the celebrity status of this philosopher, who is said to have caused the first traffic jam on Broadway with his 1913 lecture at Columbia – the revival of Bergson in the anglophone world owed much to the English translation of Gilles Deleuze’ 1966 essay on Bergsonism in 1988. This event was soon accompanied by a resurgence of anti-Bergsonism in the context of science wars in the following decade, prompted by the alleged mistreatment of natural science by postmodern philosophers. The ‘Sokal affair’ and the book Intellectual Impostures (1998) by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont amounted to a warning that philosophers should not meddle in scientific affairs out of their reach – Bergson’s conversation with Einstein in 1922 was invoked as a warning example – or concern themselves too much with the implications of contemporary science for our worldview.



Today, these debates continue in both established and new directions. Contemporary ‘Bergsonism’ encompasses the return of critical analyses of the human intellect’s tendency towards mastery and control, especially with respect to ecological and postcolonial questions; a renewed attention to the links between philosophy and art, which in Bergson’s own time centred on the close affinity between his philosophy of duration and symbolist theories on the ‘unveiling’ role of art for mediating between the reality of movement and the abstract appearances of language; and novel perspectives on Bergson in relation to subjects such as evolutionary biology, human rights or Bergsonism as an unusually global intellectual movement. Against the backdrop of these ongoing reinterpretations, explorations and creative appropriations, the purpose of the workshop is to bring together literary scholars, philosophers, intellectual historians, artists and scholars of art in a broad conversation on the revival of the ‘Bergsonian moment’ in philosophy and cultural debate. While Bergson is our starting point, as the most illustrious representative of a wider philosophical landscape that in other settings branched out into movements such as Lebensphilosophie and pragmatism, we explore different strands of this philosophical moment and their potential for rethinking the relationship between science, literature and art, humans and their environment, analysis and synthesis.

The event is organised as a hybrid conference. The presentations marked (r) will be delivered remotely.

Program

9.15. Welcome and introduction by Sami Sjöberg and Stefan Nygård

9.30¬–12 Session 1

Bergson and the Lebensphilosophie. Then and Now (r)
Caterina Zanfi (CNRS, Paris)

Conceptual thought – differentiating a Bergsonian topic
Jan- Ivar Lindén (Heidelberg/Helsinki)

Short break

Bergson and political thought: some reflections from two European case studies
Tommaso Giordani, University of Tallinn

Henri Bergson and Surrealism: Art, the Vital Impetus, and the Persistence of Memory
Donna Roberts, University of Helsinki

12–13.15 Lunch break

13.15–14.45 Session 2
Camera Eyes and Convergence in Creative Evolution (r)
Tano Posteraro, Penn State
Science and the bergsonian method
Katariina Lipsanen, University of Jyväskylä

Avoid Cutting the Gordian Knot: Bergson’s Analysis of Four Theories of Heredity and Variation in the Early Twentieth Century
Lauri Myllymaa, University of Jyväskylä

14.45– 15.15 Coffee break

15.15–16.15 Session 3

Bergson and Technical Creativity
Julius Telivuo, University of Jyväskylä

Changing Past: Bergson and the Double Movement of Continuity and Change (r)
Juho Hotanen, University of Jyväskylä

16.15¬–18 Keynote and roundtable

Keynote lecture by Prof. Mark Antliff (Duke University): Anarchist Nominalism. Bergsonism, Art, and Ideology (r)

Roundtable: Bergson studies in the 21st century

 


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