Philosophy Index

Henri Bergson

Henri Bergson (1859–1941) was a French philosopher.

Bergson expressed the importance of experience and intuition in thought and the search for truth, as companions no lesser than rational means of inquiry. He sought a union between the notions of free will and causality, rejecting the rigidity of scientific views on the matter, insisting that free will provokes a creative novelty that is not predetermined.


In order to articulate his view, Bergson presents a concept of Duration, a theory of time, free will and consciousness. He criticizes Immanuel Kant for the view that free will must exist outside of time and space in order to be possible. Instead, Bergson says that Kant treats time improperly. For Bergson, time is not an extended, ordered progression, but a fluid, dynamic medium that can be traversed by the will.

Because of the mobility of the Duration, it is not capable of being fully understood by the rigid concepts of space — such as reason and related inquiry. Instead, intuition plays a key role in the understanding that cannot be accomplished merely by reasoning from experiential data.

Bergson was also a friend of William James and is mentioned in some of James’ works.

Selected Works

  • Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness (1910)
  • Creative Evolution (1910)
  • Matter and Memory (1911)


Name: Henri-Louis Bergson
Born: October 18, 1859, Paris
Died: January 4, 1941