Bergson and the Time of History

    Activiteit: Academic presentationAcademic


    According to the French historian François Hartog, the modern ‘regime of historicity’ is currently in crisis. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Hartog argues, we seem to have lost our future and find ourselves trapped in a présent perpétuel that has rendered the past unpredictable. This ‘presentism’ expresses itself in present-oriented topics of historical research (memory, trauma, heritage, monuments, etc) which challenge the modern notion of the past as an absence. In my paper I intend to explore whether Bergsonism can contribute to the formation of a new, presentistic regime of historicity which can account for this development.
    Contrary to what some commentators (like Max Horkheimer) contend, Bergson does have a contribution to make to the philosophy of history. Immanent Bergsonian notions such as duration, the virtual, memory, perception and the unconscious point out to us that time is more than merely a taxonomical instrument. As a.o. Gilles Deleuze has emphasized, in duration past and present coexist, which implies an important challenge to the absolute dichotomy of present (as ‘presence’) and past (as ‘absence’) which underlies modern historiography. Bergsonism thus links up with several philosophers of history who have thematized the ontological status of the past in recent years and who have, each in their own way, explored the counter-intuitive idea that time is not self-evidently linear, that past and present cannot be clearly distinguished, and that the past can even be ‘operative’ in the here and now.
    EvenementstitelBergson and His Postmodern and Immanent Legacies
    LocatieLondon, United Kingdom