In this book, Henri Bergson examines human consciousness and proposes that evolution is motivated by an élan vital—a vital impetus—that can also be understood as humanity's natural creative impulse.
“All the living hold together, and all yield to the same tremendous push. The animal takes its stand on the plant, man bestrides animality, and the whole of humanity, in space and in time, is one immense army galloping beside and before and behind each of us in an overwhelming charge able to beat down every resistance and clear the most formidable obstacles, perhaps even death.” (page 158)
The book also considers perception of time. Bergson thought of time as a more individual subjective experience, as opposed to the familiar empirical concept. Bergson’s philosophy went on to influence modernist writers such as Marcel Proust.
Bergson’s text was also added to the Catholic Church’s list of banned books:
“In the presence of the false theories of this new Bergsonian philosophy, which seeks to shatter grand fundamental principles and truths, it is necessary to unmask the poisonous error of philosophic modernism. It is the more destructive because it is sugar-coated, subtle, and seductive in nature.” (Pope Saint Pius X in 1913)
Although, later, the Vatican appears to have had a change of mind:
“A great 19th-century French philosopher … .” (Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, writing on www.vatican.va in 2013)
Paperback, 9.2 inches × 6.1 inches; 234mm × 156mm; 226 pages
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