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Professor Henri Bergson, of the College de France, lectured in French on "La philosophic du changement" yesterday afternoon in Sanders Treatre.
Professor Bergson said that philosophy was born of the imperative need of man to react against the impression of universal death. It is a defensive reaction of the psychological organism which finds no satisfaction in considering events merely as a succession of sentiments, sensations, and ideas. Its problem is to determine in what the longed-for stability consists.
Greek philosophy from Plato to Plotinus tried to reach its solution through reason by the conception of general ideas of which reality is mere imperfect correspondence. Reality was thus considered inferior to the idea, action inferior to contemplation. But this did not rescue the individual soul from death, since the "idea" was general, not individual.
Modern philosophy from the Renaissance to Kant has tried to explain reality in terms of universal laws. But the difficulty remained. What became of the individual soul and of free will in the midst of this inexorable machinery of laws? Kant came to settle once for all the case of rationalistic metaphysics.
Is philosophy thus to give up its search for stability? The new "philosophy of change" does not think so. It solves the problem by eliminating it; stability is to be found in change itself. This means that we must reverse the current conception of what is stable and what is changing. We erroneously consider movement as more complicated than immobility. On the contrary every immobility is due to two simultaneous movements. The table appears motionless to one only because one moves with it. Movement, however, is indivisible. Movement, or change, then, is the sought for stability, and thus we reach the conception of the individual life as a stable reality. It is an indivisible movement of which our attention perceives certain stages. The brain is the organ through which this is done, but psychological life transcends the brain.
Professor Bergson concluded modestly in stating that whereas it remains to religion to speak authoritatively on the basis of a revelation of the origin and end of man, the philosophy of change conceiving life as a movement, a perpetual creation, evidently tends to reassure man as to his immortality.
At one point during his address, Professor Bergson paid eloquent tribute to William James as one of the pioneers of the new philosophy.
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