‘Evolution’, wrote Henri Bergson in Creative Evolution (1907), ‘reveals to us how the intellect has been formed, by an uninterrupted progress, along a line which ascends through the vertebrate series up to man’. The intellect had evolved as a tool with which to ‘think matter’; that is, to secure the ‘perfect fitting of our body to its environment’ and to ‘represent the relations of external things among themselves’. Yet, this fortunate sense of ‘uninterrupted progress’ must be tempered, Bergson insists, by a recognition that something in the very nature of intellect as an evolved (rather than, for example, divinely ordained) entity places a necessary limitation on it. From this evolved condition,

(I)t must also follow that our thought, in its purely logical form, is incapable of presenting the true nature of life, the full meaning of the evolutionary movement. Created by life, in definite circumstances, to act on definite things, how can it embrace life, of which it is only an emanation or an aspect? Deposited by the evolutionary movement in the course of its way, how can it be applied to the evolutionary movement itself? As well contend that the part is equal to the whole, that the effect can reabsorb its cause, or that the pebble left on the beach displays the form of the wave that brought it there (CE ix–x).


Material World Frankfurt School Creative Evolution Cartesian Dualism Bourgeois Society 
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© Jeff Wallace 2005

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