Bergson and the Fringes of the Psyche

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Abstract

While many Bergson scholars acknowledge the fact that the French philosopher was interested in psychical research and often take note of his presidency of the British Society for Psychical Research, his conceptualizations of psychical phenomena, such as hypnosis and telepathy, are usually taken to be of little importance for a systematic explication of his philosophy. In this paper, I will maintain that Bergson’s involvement in psychical research was not merely a contingent and personal interest, instead, I argue that his considerations of psychical phenomena developed in unison with the core tenets of his philosophy. Outlining the interrelations between spiritualism and spiritism in late nineteenth-century France, I will first examine and contextualize Bergson’s early work on hypnosis, then discuss his attendance of Eusapia Palladino’s séances at the Institut Général Psychologique, and end with a close-reading of his presidential address at the British Society for Psychical Research. Together, these explorations will lead me to claim that within Bergson’s philosophical trajectory, there is an intricate, dialectical interplay between his commitment to the ideals of French spiritualist philosophy and his assessment of the results of the empirical psychology of his day.
Original languageEnglish
JournalParrhesia
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • Bergson
  • Spiritualism
  • Psychical Research

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