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Introduction: Nothingness and Intuition. Bergsonism in East-Asia

Yasushi Hirai

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1This volume is based on the second annual conference of the Global Bergsonism Research Project, held online on November 12th, 18th, and 19th 2021, with the support of Fukuoka University in Japan. In addition to eight engaging papers from this conference, this volume also includes a transcription of a discussion by Elie During and Sebastien Miravete about planes of memory from an international workshop “Bergsonian ‘duration’ and its mathematical ranges” held in Tokyo on September 29, 2019, organised by Takuya Nagano.

2The primary objective of the Global Bergsonism conference was to elucidate the unique significance of Bergson's reception in Asia amidst the diversity of his global influence. The first three essays, written by the keynote speakers, deliver a detailed description of it. All three countries, China, Korea, and Japan had their first major exposure to Bergson's philosophy between the 1910s and 1920s. However, the reception of Bergsonism thereafter profoundly varied due to cultural, social, and even political factors, diversifying over time and in direction.

3As Sugimura points out in his paper, this phenomenon cannot be reduced to a mere case of cultural relativism. It is deeply intertwined with the redefinition of philosophy itself. In this Global Bergsonism Research Project, dealing with Asia does not mean provoking Orientalism nor being trapped in the binary opposition of Eastern vs Western. Each essay in this volume explores the tension between the universality and particularity surrounding the philosopher Bergson, tracing theoretical tectonic shifts within these distortions.

4Translocating the philosopher criticising the concept of “nothingness” into a place of absolute nothingness; reweaving the “intuition,” refined throughout the philosopher's lifetime, within a different, multi-layered context. Do these constitute misunderstandings? Indeed, these interpretations challenge what might be considered “orthodox” readings of Bergson’s philosophy. But, what if the capacity to transcend closed doctrines were itself inherently derived from his philosophy? As Maurice Merleau-Ponty suggests, to read philosophy is to extract the “unthought” from the text, or in more Bergsonian terms, to allow the same philosophical intuition to swirl up different facts and conditions. This whirlwind, though the same, is inevitably transformed as it swallows up the soils and seeds of different lands. This is nothing like moving an object from one box to another. Bergson's thought is an appel, reverberating across the world and unceasingly changing its own shape.

5We invite readers to explore how different trajectories embedded in Bergson's core concepts of pure duration, intuition, and memory have been creatively prolonged by Asian philosophers. This interaction will undoubtedly induce feedback. Indeed, the Asian philosophers who read Bergson are now read worldwide. The inexhaustible reciprocation across time and place showcases the richness of future Bergsonian philosophy, a momentum that shows no signs of slowing down.

6The Berutetsuken (Bergson Philosophy Research Society) in Japan, established over a quarter-century ago, now boasts over 60 members and conducts regular research meetings twice a year. Since its establishment in 2007, PBJ (Project Bergson in Japan) has organised novel international interdisciplinary research. Nearly 1,000 academic publications have been released in this region since the beginning of the 21st century. It is highly anticipated that the collaborative spirit of these different societies will continue to drive new research and exploration in the field of Bergsonian studies.

7I'd like to thank M. Sait Özervarlı and Caterina Zanfi for initiating this wonderful project. It is an honour to be a part of it. My thanks also go to Hisashi Fujita and Tatsuya Murayama from the PBJ for their continuous support of the project administration.

8I would also like to thank Emily Herring, who generously contributed her time and effort to edit and produce this volume of Bergsoniana.

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Yasushi Hirai, « Introduction: Nothingness and Intuition. Bergsonism in East-Asia »Bergsoniana [En ligne], 3 | 2023, mis en ligne le 01 juillet 2023, consulté le 23 mai 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Yasushi Hirai

Yasushi Hirai is a professor at the Faculty of Letters, Keio University. He is currently the chief director of PBJ (Project Bergson in Japan) and a board member of the Société des amis de Bergson and the Franco-Japanese Philosophical Society. He is the author of Made Out of Time: An Invitation to Bergson's Philosophy of Time, Seidosha, 2022. He has edited Bergson's Scientific Metaphysics: Matter and Memory Today, Bloomsbury (2023), and co-edited The Anatomy of Bergson's Matter and Memory, Diagnoses of Bergson's Matter and Memory, and Rebooting Bergson's Matter and Memory (Shoshi Shinsui, 2016, 2017, 2018). His co-translations include Bergson, Time and Free Will (Chikuma Gakugei Bunko, 2002) and History of the Idea of Time: The Collège de France Lectures 1902-1903 (Shoshi Shinsui, 2019).

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