Bergsonian Continuations: Commemorating 75 Years Since the Death of Henri Bergson

The newest issue of the Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy is out. I was the guest editor for this special issue, which is devoted to (extensions of) the thought of French philosopher Henri Bergson. It includes an essay by APS that I highly recommend. Also, it includes a translation by Len Lawlor of Bergson’s Politeness and a unique roundtable titled Bergson(ism) Remembered: A Roundtable (Curated by Mark William Westmoreland with Brien Karas (Villanova University, USA)) that features Jimena Canales (University of Illinois-UC, USA), Stephen Crocker (Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada), Charlotte De Mille (The Courtauld Gallery, UK), Souleymane Bachir Diagne (Columbia University, USA), Michael Foley (University of Westminster, UK), Hisashi Fujita (Kyushu Sangyo University, Japan), Suzanne Guerlac (University of California, Berkeley, USA), Melissa McMahon (Independent Scholar, Australia), Paulina Ochoa Espejo (Haverford College, USA), and Frédéric Worms (L’École Normale Supérieure, France).

Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy
Vol 24, No 2 (2016)
Table of Contents

Introduction: 75 Years Later (1-2)
Mark William Westmoreland
Politeness (3-9)
Henri Bergson
Mysticism and War: Reflections on Bergson and his Reception During World War I (10-20)
Donna V. Jones
Human Rights and the Leap of Love (21-40)
Alexandre Lefebvre
Bergson and the Morality of Uncertainty (41-61)
Adriana Alfaro Altamirano
The Intuitive Recommencement of Metaphysics (62-83)
Camille Riquier
On Bergson’s Reformation of Philosophy (84-105)
Keith Ansell-Pearson
Beyond Dualism and Monism: Bergson’s Slanted Being (106-130)
Messay Kebede
Darkened Counsel: The Problem of Evil in Bergson’s Metaphysics of Integral Experience (131-153)
Anthony Paul Smith
The Concept in Life and the Life of the Concept: Canguilhem’s Final Reckoning with Bergson (154-175)
Alex Feldman
Bergson before Bergsonism: Traversing “Bergson’s Failing” in Susanne K. Langer’s Philosophy of Art (176-202)
Iris van der Tuin
The Cinematic Bergson: From Virtual Image to Actual Gesture (203-220)
John Ó Maoilearca

Bergson(-ism) Remembered: A Roundtable (221-258)
Mark William Westmoreland and Brien Karas, eds.

Beauvoir’s Reading of Biology in The Second Sex (259-285)
David M. Peña-Guzmán
Solidarity and the Absurd in Kamel Daoud’s Meursault, contre-enquête (286-303)
Sarah Horton

Review Essays
Recent Work on Negritude (304-318)
Chike Jeffers

Audio from Apple 6: “Is the City a Machine for the Making of Gods?”

For those interested Kester Brewin has posted the audio as well as a pdf of the handout I refer to in my talk. I was really encouraged by the event (despite the World Cup induced low turn out), which sees people outside the walls of academy coming together to talk about ideas in a very serious manner. I think you’ll see from the Q&A that the audience was quite engaged and did not shy away from challenging me on a number of issues. I wish I could have spoken with more who attended the event and hope that these events continue and grow.

Custodians of a Machine for the Making of Gods: Thinking Ecological Restoration with Bergson and Deleuze/Guattari.

I’ve decided to post an edited version of my MA thesis here in the hopes that some may find it interesting. It’s my attempt to provide, or at least move towards providing, a metaphysics suitable to ecological restoration. I take metaphysics to mean a thinking that includes both ontology and ethics, which is admittedly my own idiosyncratic understanding. What I’ve done in the essay is threefold. First, I consider ecological restoration from its actual practice, largely suspending its own theoretical understanding of itself as the two are rarely commensurate except in rare cases, like that of William Jordan III. Second, I consider the philosophies of Bergson and Deleuze/Guattari in relation to the problematics in ecological restoration and against certain already existing prevalent forms of thinking ecological restortation. Third, I construct an ‘ecosystem of thought’ where all three elements are put into a system of exchange with one another in a final attempt to create a thinking of ecological restoration adequate to its practice.

I would appreciate thoughtful comments on the piece. I’ve attempted to get it published in the Journal of Environmental Philosophy as it is, to my knowledge, the only journal that would be friendly to such a piece. However, after mixed readers’ reports the editor decided not to publish it. I’ve considered pairing it down even more and cutting out the long exegetical aspect to just present the case as such without Bergson and Deleuze/Guattari, but at the moment the thought of doing so is a bit overwhelming. I will likely still do that and either submit that version to JEP or some other suitable journal, but think it may have some value in its current form. I consider that this potential value consists, in large part, of introducing Bergson and Deleuze/Guattari to ecologists. If any commenters can suggest another journal that may be interested please let me know.

Further Thoughts on Ontology

I have commented here before on what one might call my “methodological” objection to the Radical Orthodox ontology — namely, the fact that the Radox authors baldly assert their Neoplatonic ontology of hierarchical participation because of its supposedly benificent moral effects. I suggested that perhaps ontology, which at least etymologically is supposed to have some relation to how things “are,” should take science seriously. At the same time, I don’t think that ontology has to be the slave of science, which in practice would mean embracing the ontology of mechanical determinism.

I maintain that the trick the Radox authors attempt to pull would never have been able to succeed if the dominant strains of postwar philosophy had not fallen asleep at the ontological wheel. Analytic philosophy’s prohibition of ontological or metaphysical reflection system-building is well-known, and the dominance of Heidegger and his successors in continental philosophy (in its various institutional incarnations) led to a similar suspicion of metaphysical claims — most often quasi-moral objections to metaphysics as a “totalizing discourse” that is somehow directly oppressive (“Hegel caused the Holocaust,” etc.). Jean-Luc Nancy has undertaken to do a kind of post-Heideggerian ontology over the past couple decades, though I’m not sure he’s really “taking off” among Americans; there may also be someone in the analytic camp pursuing something along these lines, though I’ve not heard of it.

The shame here, though, is that during the prewar period, there was a real flowering of ontologies of the exact kind that I advocate — perhaps the biggest names there are Henri Bergson, Alfred North Whitehead, and William James. In each case, there is a recognition that the mechanical determinism (largely unconsciously) assumed by scientists is not adequately accounting to experience, and so the attempt is made to develop a more inclusive and realistic ontology.

Then in the postwar period, the whole thing apparently just shuts down in America, in both the analytic and continental traditions — the latter of which also spread to many other disciplines in the humanities where ontological reflection may have found a place. Certain contemporary developments — the rediscovery of Deleuze as a “real philospher,” the surprising prominence of Badiou in certain American circles, the aforementioned work of Nancy, Zizek’s more recent work — point toward the potential for a renewed interest in a truly contemporary ontology. The shame, however, is that in so many ways we in America at least have to reinvent the wheel because the prewar developments wound up getting prematurely cut off in our context.