|About the Book|
PREFACEIT has been thought worth including in the present series a sketch of the philosophy of a contemporary thinker, M. Bergson. The curiosity and admiration he has aroused in wide circles in this and other countries of Europe, and also in America, his reassertion—in a far more explicit form, it is true—of one of the imperishable ideas of antiquity, his bold arraignment which is at the same time in a way a justification of the whole course of philosophy from Socrates downwards, his conception, for the first time definite and duly limited, of evolution, and his great learning—all seem to justify his inclusion. Doubtless he has still much to give us in illustration and continuation of his views - but his work has now stood for twenty years the examination of its author - and the breadth, profundity and unity of his doctrine is such that an 5exposition of it at once elementary and interesting may even now be given—of course, with omission of all but the most essential parts.It is true we cannot observe and estimate these views as our posterity will. It is given to no philosopher—and on Bergsons principles we should not expect it to be given —to see the ultimate upshot of his work. A philosopher seems to himself and his contemporaries to have swept away all that his predecessors had constructed, and in the end he is found merely to have added an idea, needed indeed and valuable, but far short of the comprehensive system which he thought he had created. Never theless even in this obscurity he must work as we must all work. If he has effected something, however little, he is among the worlds leaders - and even contemporaries can know for certain that he has lifted them to a higher plane. Such a leader none who have studied him can doubt Bergson to be.LONDON,--CHAPTER ICHANGETHE world, whether as a whole or in its parts, is in constant change. Conscious beings feel the contents of their conscious ness to be ever changing - living things are ever growing or decaying or both at once- even the inanimate world is constantly undergoing alteration or at least movement. True, much of the inanimate world, to the civilized man the most of it, seems stable—the instruments, namely, that man has constructed to be the supporters or regulators of his activity. Made in order to serve as permanent tools for the satis faction of permanent wants, their whole value consists in their permanence- and by the town-dweller in particular it is much more the monotonous invariability of his 9surroundings—his buildings, streets, furni ture, railways, omnibuses, etc.—that is felt than their change. Yet it is obvious that these too perish and decay. A time comes when the most expensive watch will no longer perform its function - the house must be pulled down- the costly and elaborate machine or warship must be broken up and thrown on the scrap-heap. The rocks and mineral foundations of the earth, on the surface of which we exercise our ceaseless activity, are far more permanent than any product of human skill- yet we pay little attention to their permanence - we assidu ously study their changes, and whole sciences now exist merely to be the record of these.Change, we repeat, is constant and uni versal - it completely dominates, as Lotze says, the whole range of reality. Change gives all its interest to our exist ence - our practical activity, our theoretical activity, is wholly directed by the implicit or explicit thought of it.