- Jun 5, 2014
A lecture was given by Professor Arnaud François of the University of Toulouse II at 18 :30 on Wednesday, 8 April, held in Collaboration Room 3, Bldg. 18 of the Komaba Campus, University of Tokyo. The title of the lecture was « Sensibilité et émotion chez Bergson et Hume (Sensibility and emotion in Bergson and Hume) ».
Professor François' aim in this presentation was to ultimately clarify the differences between the philosophy of Henri Bergson (1859-1941) and David Hume (1711-1776), having first acknowledged the common features they share in their statements on morality.
Bergson examines morals in the first half of his late work, Les deux sources de la morale et de la religion (The two sources of morality and religion ; 1932). Bergson did not attempt to apply reason to the foundations of morality, as seen in Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). This is because Bergson believed that although reason governs the rules and ideals of our actions, it is another force that guides our intent towards moral actions on a fundamental level. To explain this issue Bergson brings attention to concepts called « sensibilité (sensibility) » and « émotion (emotion) », and, in their relation to « intelligence », distinguishes between « émotion infra-intellectuelle (infra-intellectual emotion) » and « émotion supra-intellectuelle (supra-intellectual emotion) ». This was important for Bergson as it would lead to the main notion of his book, namely the differentiation between « morale close (closed morality) » and « morale ouverte (open morality) ». In other words, a society of « closed morality » means the existence of a formal and impersonal force working to maintain a community, whereas in « open morality » there is a force building morality by which morality is embodied in an individual of authority who lures others to expand the breadth of the community. The imitation of a certain individual in « open morality » is a transfer of « emotion », and is what Bergson called « appel (appeal)». The so-called emotion here is « supra-intellectual emotion », that can become the basis for intelligence, but cannot be defined in terms of intelligence distinguished by emotion. Emotion in this case, rather, could even be said to possess intelligence. In contrast, born simply from intelligence comes « infra-intellectual emotion », where intelligence has no obligation to emotion. According to Bergson, our consciousness is run relentlessly with such cause and effect, and every moment of consciousness belongs to either one type of emotion or the other. In this way, Bergson attempted to reconsider the relationship of reason and pathos that has featured in philosophy throughout history through the issue of morality.
In a previous era, Hume had used pathos in a positive way to talk about morality, and in his criticism of the traditional view of reason and pathos in opposition to one another, and of the supremacy of reason, he is similar to Bergson. Firstly, by distinguishing between « passions calmes (calm passions) » and « passions violentes (violent passion) » in his Treatise of Human Nature (1739-1740), Hume sought the basis for right and wrong that determines our actions, not through understanding of throughout the ages, but through this distinction made within pathos. It is also worth noting that in this work, Hume states that reason is « slave » to pathos. He develops this distinction further in An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (1751), referring to an altruistic « sympathy » that opposes the « selfish system of morals ». Hume believed that sympathy for another facilitates a transference of « sentiment » that, if of kind feelings, can be called « benevolence ». We can see, then, several similarities between Bergson and Hume in their discourse on morality.
Bergson, however, in his work mentioned above, criticises the « moral of sentiment » found in Hume's argument. That is, Bergson discusses pathos and sentiment as being in opposition to reason, dismissing theoreticians of intellectualism for whom supremacy wins. According to Bergson, because they interpret this pathos/sentiment-reason dichotomy as an obvious concept, they have not really grasped its causation. Put another way, they fail to base anything on actual experience, and end up with abstract speculation. In that sense, he is criticising Hume, who is, paradoxically, the leading philosopher of British empiricism. In this critique, « experience » suggests time : which Bergson terms « durée (duration) ». Bergson places importance on « la genèse de la morale (the origin of morality) » which he believes occurs within the duration that is our consciousness, rather than on any argument that pursues rationality and ventures away from reality. This means that morality is born, and expands, from the causation of reason and pathos occurring with the passing of time.
The lecture thus summarized, in a way extremely easy to understand, a theme that has drawn little attention to date, yet greatly aroused the interest of the audience gathered for the occasion.
- May 19, 2014
Professor Camille Riquier of the Institut catholique de Paris gave a series of six classes. The classes on this occasion introduced the thought of Charles Péguy (1873-1914). (For the published results of Professor Riquier's research on Péguy, see: « Métaphysique de l'événement. Péguy et le problème de l'insertion (Metaphysics of event. Péguy and the problem of insertion) », in Métaphysiques des possessions (Metaphysical possessions), D. Debaise (ed.), Paris, Presses du Réel, 2011).
Charles Péguy was born in Orléans, France, famous as the birthplace of Jeanne d'Arc (1412-1431). Today, Péguy is better known as a poet and socialist of the latter half of the 19th century than as a philosopher. In particular, however, during his student days in Paris, Péguy studied under Henri Bergson (1859-1941), praising the progress of technology and industry whilst making sharp criticism of modern era society in its single-minded pursuit of external wealth. His consciousness of issues was based on his witnessing of the plight of those suffering poverty or hard labour, and steered towards the internality of the masses which form society, rather than simply towards political theory or social structure. In other words, it was Péguy's vocation to call upon the internal spiritual lives of each and every person in revolutionizing the existing society that was hollow and debauched as a result of the pursuit of profit. It is here we can detect the decisive influence of Bergson. For example, in the work of his late years, Notre jeunesse (Our youth; 1910), we find « Tout commence en mystique et finit en politique (Everything begins in mysticism and ends in politics) ». Furthermore, the spiritual aspect emphasised by Péguy can be transformed by the principle that relieves individuals of the burden of suffering, and that ties to a Christian view of the world prior to its secularisation. Alongside Bergson, we must also recognise here the influence upon Péguy of Blaise Pascal (1623-1662). Pascal, born in France two centuries earlier than the era of Péguy, sought the road to salvation through the perspective of human spiritualism and morals - as a devout Christian himself - and having seen the anguish of people living in society. In reality, Péguy spent his life trying to grasp Pascal's ideology. For example, in Pensées (Thoughts; 1670), Pascal saw the world in Les trois ordres (three orders), which he identified as l'ordre du corps (the order of the flesh), above which came l'ordre de l'esprit (the order of the mind), and in the highest position, l'ordre de la charité (the order of charity). Similarly, Péguy believed that material well-being could not surpass the dimension of spirituality, and that in turn was inferior to the love needed to bring about the salvation of others as carried out by Jesus Christ; without this order all social behaviour was meaningless. These two individuals thus sought the true meaning of life, yet Pascal passed away at the age of 39, and Péguy at 41 - Péguy, in action during the First World War. I was surprised at what had been achieved in their short lives.