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(2010) Bergson and phenomenology, Dordrecht, Springer.

The psycho-physics of phenomenology

Bergson and Henry

John Mullarkey

pp. 201-220

For most, it is beyond question that Michel Henry is a philosopher of life. And in this he belongs to a peculiarly French philosophical tradition that mixes metaphysical, biological, psychological, and sometimes even theological elements of thought. Pierre Maine de Biran is clearly at the head of this vitalistic trend, with Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze being its most renowned recent incumbents. Of course, there remain sharp differences between these figures, but making a connection between any of these three and Henry is a respectable and rewarding prospect. But what of Bergson? What of the most important of the French philosophers of life — surely here we have another key thinker to compare with Henry? Indeed, a few have suggested such a rapprochement, yet it is equally beyond question that Henry himself would not have welcomed this possibility.1 In the construction of his own theory of life, it has always been against Bergson that he has pursued this enterprise, whether in his earliest works or his last ones. In Philosophy and Phenomenology of the Body (published in French in 1963), Henry writes that the interior life analyzed by him and Maine de Biran has nothing to do with Bergson.2 Likewise, the Bergsonian unconscious is a crude idea when compared to a proper Biranian understanding of memory as potential, "capable of being produced by a power that can produce them' (EM 62). Even further, claims Henry, if Maine de Biran must be separated from Bergson's vitalism, then he is best seen as a true founder of phenomenology, like Descartes and Husserl, rather than at the head of a French tradition leading to Bergson (EM 8–9).

Publication details

DOI: 10.1057/9780230282995_11

Full citation:

Mullarkey, J. (2010)., The psycho-physics of phenomenology: Bergson and Henry, in M. Kelly (ed.), Bergson and phenomenology, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 201-220.

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