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The Ever-New Flow of Time: Henri Bergson’s View of Consciousnes

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Henri Bergson created a rich and detailed theory of consciousness beginning with the publication of Time and Free Will in 1889 and continuing through the publication of The Two Sources of Morality and Religion in 1932. His theory had much in common with William James’s views in that both emphasized consciousness as a continuous process. James's famous ‘stream of consciousness’ is strikingly similar to Bergson's early notion of duration (duree), even if Bergson more strongly emphasized the temporal qualities of consciousness. Bergson later modified his understanding of consciousness, creating a metaphysical vision that he hoped might not only overcome determinism and materialism, but also offer a sophisticated way to understand parapsychological phenomena such as telepathy and clairvoyance (topics of concern to many major theorists of the time). During his life, Bergson’s ideas were widely celebrated in the United States and in Europe.

Keywords: Henri Bergson; consciousness; duration; freedom; memory; perception; time

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Religious Studies, Southern Methodist University, P.O. Box 750202, Dallas, TX 75275-0202, USA, Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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