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I’d like to thank Emily Herring for her assistance in producing this volume of Bergsoniana. I’d also like to thank Caterina Zanfi, Alia Al-Saji and M. Sait Özervarlı for their help in organizing the 2020 conference at Penn State University.

1The essays published in this second volume of Bergsoniana are revised versions of presentations originally made at the first annual meeting of the Global Bergsonism Research Project. The conference took place on November 6, 7 and 13, 2020. The conference was hosted by Penn State University (USA), but it took place over Zoom due to the covid 19 pandemic. The theme of the conference was Bergson’s influence in the Anglophone world. These essays therefore concern, for example, Bergson’s intersection with William James and his appropriation of Darwinism.

2The formation of the Global Bergsonism Research Project in autumn 2019 was inspired by the fact that Bergsonism as an intellectual and philosophical orientation reached well beyond France and Europe. The members of the International Research Network on Global Bergsonism aim to understand and explore this fact. While many works were written in many geographical centers on the reception, perception, interpretation, and reproduction of Bergsonian ideas, the fact of Bergsonism’s global influence nevertheless raises many questions. Most generally, we must ask why Bergson’s philosophy was able to reach so many corners of the globe? One might venture to say that it was his novel idea of qualitative multiplicity, first presented in the Essai (1889). Instead of a quantifiable multiplicity in which individuals can be enumerated because they exist outside of one another, a qualitative multiplicity contains individuals who are at once continuous with one another and heterogeneous to one another. No doubt, it is hard to combine these two characteristics, continuity and heterogeneity, it is hard to imagine them together. Regardless of this difficulty, this idea is a powerful one. Perhaps the idea of a qualitative multiplicity led peoples all over the planet to see themselves at once as an individual people different from one another and yet continuous with all the others. Perhaps, it led them to see themselves, as Bergson would say in his 1903 “Introduction à la métaphysique,” as one degree of durée, like one shade of the color orange. One might wonder whether when Bergson in the opening chapter of his 1932 Les Deux sources de la morale et de religion states that one reaches the love of all peoples through the love of the one God, led peoples to see his philosophy as a preeminent philosophy of love and peace. Or yet, on a darker side, why did people all over the planet overlook his ambiguous role in the politics around World War I, at once a nationalist for France and a peacemaker? Why did people overlook his rather racist comments about primitives (characterizing them as being “paresseux”), comments which appear as early as his 1892 speech on “La politesse”? And why did they overlook his valorization of Christianity over all other world religions (in Chapter Four of Les Deux sources)? Perhaps it was the more philosophical aspects of his thought that overshadowed this rather unseemly side of his thinking. Ideas like creative evolution perhaps allowed people to be optimistic, to see humanity as making continuous progress toward being gods. Or was it really his writing style? He did win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1927. Who could not be struck while reading Matière et mémoire and L’Évolution créatrice by the images he created? Who could forget the rotating and contracting cone of memory in Chapter Three of Matière et mémoire, or the image of “le tournant de l’expérience” in Chapter Four? Who could forget the image, in Chapter Three of L’Évolution créatrice (in the section called “la genèse idéale de la matière” [p. 248]), of the cracked steam engine shooting steam up into the air but whose droplets then slowly descend to the ground? In my opinion, the cracked steam engine is Bergson’s greatest image. If any image could do this, the image of the cracked steam engine leads us to an intuition. When I could visualize the cracked steam with the mist first ascending and then descending, I could see for the first time the relation of life and matter, life as an upward thrust dragged back to earth by material weight. I could see life and matter as continuous with one another and yet as heterogeneous to one another. To speak like Spinoza, this vision gave me profound joy. Perhaps, the way he created these images led to his global influence. Perhaps, it is still these images which will allow Bergsonism to continue to have global influence. At least, this continuous influence is the hope of the Global Bergsonism Research Project.

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Leonard Lawlor, « Introduction  »Bergsoniana [En ligne], 2 | 2022, mis en ligne le 01 juillet 2022, consulté le 26 septembre 2022. URL : ; DOI :

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Leonard Lawlor

Leonard Lawlor is Head of the Philosophy Department and Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Philosophy at Penn State University. He the author of eight books, most of which concern 20th century French philosophy. The most recent is From Violence to Speaking out (Edinburgh 2016). He is currently working on a book called The Disparate: Deleuze’s Ethics of the Univocity of Being, which will be published by Columbia University Press. In 2021, Indiana University Press published his English translation of Renaud Barbaras’s Introduction à la phénoménologie de la vie. Lawlor has also completed the English translation of Bergson’s 1904-1905 course on the evolution of the problem of freedom, which will be published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2023.

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