Atelier Bergson – Machine and Organism – March 18, 2022

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The next session of the Atelier Bergson will take place on Zoom on March 18 2022, from 2pm to 4:30 pm (Paris time).

Zoom link:

Meeting ID: 950 9606 0568
Passcode: hqxn04



Bruno Rates (Universidade de São Paulo) – Bergson and the Birth of « machinisme »: The Law of Double Frenzy and the Debate with Edouard Dolléans, Gina Lombroso, Paul Mantoux et Louis Weber

Abstract: Despite being often considered as the philosopher of the “vital” (in opposition to the “mechanical”), Bergson dedicated several passages of his work to the notion of machine. One of the main episodes of these considerations can be found in the last chapter of the book of 1932, Two sources of morality and religion, where our philosopher uses the term “machinisme” to refer to a moment in history where industry and technology took over, in a complete new fashion, almost all dimensions of human life. In my presentation I will analyze the occasions that this term appears in Bergson’s texts as well as the intellectual context under which they were pronounced, concentrating myself in four obscure thinkers that seem to have shaped Bergson’s opinion on the topic: Édouard Dolléans (1877-1954), Paul Mantoux (1877-1956), Gina Lombroso (1872-1944) and Louis Weber (1866-1949). I will conclude that it is only through these debates that we can fully grasp the meaning of the “law of double frenzy”, concept that represents one of the most important views of Bergson on history and the destinies of mankind. 

Timothy Deane-Freeman (Deakin University) – Inside Out: Germinal Organization in Bergson and Simondon


In Creative Evolution, Henri Bergson will establish his metaphysics as an attempt to trace a “third way” between mechanist and finalist accounts of the unfurling universe. Pursuant to this task, Bergson advances an idiosyncratic account of biological organisation, according to which organic individuals “work from the centre to the periphery,” in a concentric development which “has something explosive about it.” And while the human intellect -dedicated as it is to questions of utility- is well disposed to analyse the actualised dimensions of these organisations, more difficult is the task of conceiving of the reservoir of virtual singularities which participate in this becoming. Indeed, for Bergson, the actualised bodies to which our perception and analysis are habitually oriented “[do not] represent a sum of means employed, but a sum of obstacles avoided…” -the residue of processes at the level of an autopoietic and experimental structuration deploying both virtual and actual forces.

In this paper, I will argue against a strictly vitalist conception of this model, such as has been criticised by the likes of Julian Huxley. Rather, I will draw on the work of Gilbert Simondon, who elaborates upon, and extends this Bergsonian model into the domain of inorganic individuation more generally. Simondon’s well-known example, of the crystal which coalesces around a “seed” and expands in all directions through a “supersaturated mother liquid,” constitutes an inorganic occasion of the experimental and autopoietic processes which Bergson had identified in response to the limitations of mechanism and finalism. The fact that this model can be used in the context of individuation conceived in the broadest possible sense -Simondon will trace similar “transductive” operations from inorganic, mineraloid individuation through complex organic, psychological and social individuations- suggests the profound efficacy of Bergson’s theory of organisation, provided we are prepared to extend it beyond the purely biological domain to which Bergson’s oft-stated philosophical “modesty” had relegated it. In this context, my paper also prosecutes a meta-philosophical argument, that Bergson’s philosophy itself constitutes the germ for an “organization” of this kind, drawing in other thinkers in a concentric territorialisation which will subsequently implicate the likes of Simondon, Raymond Ruyer and Gilles Deleuze.

Chair: Emanuele Clarizio (Université Catholique de Lille),  author of La vie technique. Une philosophie biologique de la technique (Hermann 2021).

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