Russell’s critique of Bergson and the divide between “Analytic” and “Continental” Philosophy

Balkan Journal of Philosophy 3 (1):123-134 (2011)
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In 1911, Bergson visited Britain for a number of lectures which led to his increasing popularity. Russell personally encountered Bergson during his lecture at University College London on the 28th of October, and on the 30th of October Bergson attended one of Russell’s lectures. Russell went on to write a number of critical articles on Bergson, contributing to the hundreds of publications on Bergson which ensued following these lectures. Russell’s critical writings have been seen as part of a history of controversies between so-called ‘Continental’ and ‘Analytic’ philosophers in the twentieth century. Yet Russell’s engagement with Bergson’s thought comes as a response to a particular British form of Bergsonism and is involved with the wider phenomenon of the British import of Bergsonism (by figures connected in different ways to Russell, such as Hulme, Wildon Carr or Eliot). Though this may challenge the view of Russell and Bergson as enacting an early version of the ‘Analytic’-‘Continental’ divide, there are however some particular characterisations of Bergson by Russell which contribute to the subsequent formation of the ‘rotten scene’ (Glendinning 2006: 69) of the divide in the second half of the twentieth century.

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Andreas Vrahimis
University of Cyprus


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