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Note sur l'anormalité de la philosophie (à partir d'un cours de Bergson)

Élie During

The recently published transcripts of Bergson’s 1903-1904 course on the history of memory theories, held at the Collège de France, shed new light on one of the philosopher’s basic claims: philosophy requires an effort of a particular kind. What kind, exactly? The truth of the matter is that there are really two simultaneous efforts involved: that of science, and that of philosophy. Bergson often argues that the two run in opposite directions, philosophy’s proper task being to reverse the natural direction set by intellectual habits. However, a closer reading of the image of contrary motions suggests a more complex and indeed twisted connection. This is confirmed by two passages in the opening chapter of the course. First, Bergson strongly reminds us that the job of philosophical intuition is by no means to provide insights into singular individual beings. Philosophy deals with generalities of a particular kind on its own terms, at a conceptual level. Second, the relation of intuition with analysis (and more generally, of philosophy with scientific knowledge) appears complex and nuanced. It brings us to re-evaluate the importance of ‘facts’, and finally to consider a more appropriate image whereby the mind is described as ‘twisting about on itself’. Thus, what philosophical intuition achieves is the folding upon itself of intellectual thought.

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