Bergson, Complexity and Creative Emergence

New York: Palgrave-Macmillan (2014)
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This is a book about evolution from a post-Darwinian perspective. It recounts the core ideas of French philosopher Henri Bergson and his rediscovery and legacy in the poststructuralist critical philosophies of the 1960s, and explores the confluences of these ideas with those of complexity theory in environmental biology. The failings in the development of systems theory, many of which complex systems theory overcomes, are retold; with Bergson, this book proposes, some of the rest may be overcome too. It asserts that Bergson’s ideas can further our understanding of evolution, and of complex systems, and aid the work of scientists working in the field of ecological complexity. See for more detail and sample chapter. "The claim is that Bergson's notions of duration and élan vital resonate with and provide interesting metaphysical speculations complementing a process structuralist biology of the Goodwin and Kauffman stripe. This is certainly provocative and worth further thought. The key claim is that the openness and unpredictability of systems "at the edge of chaos" (where a system can be said to "choose" at bifurcation points in its state space) meets the Bergsonian desideratum of an open universe that takes irreversible time and evolutionary difference seriously. In particular, Kreps stresses the way Bergson's insistence on the differentiating force of élan vital (which Kreps successfully defends from the charge of a substantialist vitalism along the lines of Hans Dreisch) puts him in line with those who see natural selection as a secondary pruning of a primary differentiation." -John Protevi, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2016.01.20 'This is no ordinary introduction to Henri Bergson. What David Kreps' excellent study gives us is Bergson, complexe: first, because there is no simple way to take (or leave) Bergson's ideas - his thought of durée, élan, and 'multiplicity' demands the most subtle and nuanced reading to give them their full justice; and second, because only by intertwining his ideas with the most up-to-date research in systems thinking, complexity theory, and poststructuralism can we begin to understand their absolute contemporaneity. Kreps' work does all this and more: it gives us the Bergson we need for today.' -John Mullarkey, author of Bergson and Philosophy 'Kreps' book is a thoroughly researched and well-written work that shows how Bergson's philosophy of evolution and time can also reinvigorate our ideas about complexity and organization in the natural and physical sciences.' -Stephen Crocker, author of Bergson and the Metaphysics of Media

Author's Profile

David Kreps
National University of Ireland, Galway


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