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Conference Abstracts

Introductory address

Keith Ansell-Pearson

University of Warwick

Keith ANSELL-PEARSON, Professor in Philosophy at the University of Warwick. Author of, among others, Germinal Life: The difference and repetition of Deleuze and Philosophy and the Adventure of the Virtual: Bergson and the Time of Life. He is currently working on a book titled Vital Naturalism: Nietzsche and Bergson.

 

SESSION I: BIOLOGY

 

A Great Deal of Slop Along the Way: The Problem of Natural Selection

Paul-Antoine Miquel

University of Nice

Paul-Antoine MIQUEL, Maître de Conférence at the University of Nice and member of Centre Cavaillès (ENS), author of, among others, Comment penser le dèsordre?, Bergson et l’imagination métaphysique and Qu’est-ce que la vie? Miquel is the leading expert in France on the relation of Bergson to evolutionary thought.

 

In this paper, Miquel looks back at the relation between Bergson and Darwin, questioning the way in which it has been construed too simply as an opposition. Miquel sugggests that Darwin was not a mechanist for whom the future of evolution was ‘given’ in advance as a set of possibilities, but rather described an emergent process which left room for the kind of essential creativity that Bergson describes. Hence Bergson’s criticism of a neo-Darwinist like Spencer, who ‘reconstructs evolution from fragments of the evolved’ does not apply to Darwin himself, for whom the parts of evolution are produced by the evolutionary process itself. For Darwin and Bergson, evolution is the production of emergent properties.

 

 

SESSION II: ECOLOGY

 

Bergson and the Environment

Pete Gunter

University of North Texas

PETE GUNTER has been a leading Bergson scholar since the 1960’s, publishing countless articles on Bergson and also doing important editorial work including Bergson and Modern Science (1969), the Bergson Bibliography (1974, 1986) and Bergson and Modern Thought (1987). In addition to his work in philosophy Gunter takes an active stance in environmental issues.

 

In this paper Gunter demonstrates that Bergson is not only the thinker of what he terms ‘macroevolution’ but equally one that can critique the ongoing destruction of ecological diversity as a geometricization of the living environment. He then goes on to show that Bergson, together with near contemporary A.N. Whitehead were the only two important philosophers at the time to be seriously concerned with environmental issues. Both rejected mechanism and materialism and understood nature as complex of associated and interdependent organisms. In the final part of the paper this view on nature is applied to critique the conversion of the Big Thicket – an extremely diverse and biologically rich area in America - into a homogenous pine forest. In this Gunter sees man’s tendency to spatialize its environment brought to near final conclusion.

 

 

Bergson, Whitehead and Environmentalism

John Pickering

University of Warwick

JOHN PICKERING works in Ecopsychology and Cognitive Science and has published on Bergson, on Whitehead and on Pierce. Other interests include Buddhism, Education and Biosemiotics.

 

 

Although Bergson and Whitehead share a concern with the creative advance of nature, Bergson is frankly dualistic, while Whitehead offers an organic species of Monism. Hence Whitehead rather than Bergson is the philosopher of choice on which environmentalists may base their case and their recommendations for action. The paper will briefly explore this claim by comparing the later Merleau-Ponty with Deleuze's Bergsonism.

Taken together, Bergson and Whitehead provide a more humane worldview without compromising scientific rigour. They provide a framework that has anticipated contemporary developments in psychology and in science more broadly. These developments make a fundamental contribution to environmental issues, as illustrated by the work of Michel Serres

 

 

SESSION III: COMPLEXITY

 

Title to be announced

Robin Durie

University of Exeter

ROBIN DURIE has written on Bergson and Deleuze and has a strong commitment to the interdisciplinary approach to evolution and questions of sustainability. He has edited and wrote an introduction to Bergson’s Duration and Simultaneity.He has collaborated with theoretical physicists for the collection Time and the Instant, and with theoretical biologists for the forthcoming collection On Life: Essays in Philosophy and Biology.