It is rarely referred the Bergson and Einstein debate that took place on April, 6, 1922, at the venerable institution Société Française de Philosophie. For some, it was the great debate of 20th century, for others it passed unnoticed. Bergson was 63 years old, a famous philosophe with fame, prestige and influence; Einstein was 43 years old. For about an half-hour, Bergson spoke about his view on Relativity; Einstein spoke in less than one minute, including in his short answer the killing sentence: Il n’y a donc pas un temps des philosophes.”

Apparently, this was the date where Science separated from all the rest, from philosophy. Bergson, invigorated by this debate, wrote an important book “Duration and Simultaneity” [1] (which includes mathematical equations), and Einstein later told that Bergson hadn’t understood him. For Bergson, it was the concept of “duration” that was not properly represented in the Theory of Relativity, that anyway, according to Bergson, couldn’t be grasped quantitatively. It was shocking at the time the concept of “time dilation”. “Bergson became aware that the moment one attempted to measure a moment, it would be gone: one measures an immobile, complete line, whereas time is mobile and incomplete. For the individual, time may speed up or slow down, whereas, for science, it would remain the same.” (Ref.2-Wikipedia).

Probably, this debate needs further discussion by philosophers and physicists, but the fact is that the the president of the Nobel Committee explained that although “most discussion centers on his theory of relativity,” it did not merit, because “It will be no secret that the famous philosopher Bergson in Paris has challenged this theory.” And why this statement? Like a mystical revenge, because Bergson, “had shown that relativity “pertains to epistemology” rather than to physics—and so it “has therefore been the subject of lively debate in philosophical circles.”(See Ref[3]-Jimena Canales, Princeton University Press, 2015)…

«Bergson’s international reputation grew to be greater than ever by the time Germany occupied France at the beginning of World War II. He had won acclaim as a writer and philosopher, having been awarded the 1927 Nobel Prize in Literature and been the recipient of several honorary degrees. By this time he was quite old and infirm, but his symbolic potential as a French citizen, as an intellectual, and as someone with a Jewish background was immeasurable. No one seems to have understood this better than Bergson himself. Technically, he was required by the Nazi occupiers to register as a Je. He might have been then desired baptism into the Catholic Church. Instead, he opted to self-identify as a Jew, in this way using his celebrity to draw attention to the injustices visited upon French Jews by their Nazi occupiers. This act of solidarity with the most vulnerable segment of French society living under German occupation was the final service he performed for his country before he died, and it illustrates how thoroughly Bergson inhabited the role of a public intellectual.» – Jonathan Lavery, in Ideas Under Fire: Historical Studies of Philosophy and Science in Adversity (Ed Jonathan Allen Lavery, Louis Groarke, William Sweet.Ref[4]

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REFERENCES:

Ref.[1] – Henri Bergson, “Duration and Simultaneity”

Ref.[2] – Henri Bergson, Wikipedia

Ref.[3] – Jimena Canales, Princeton University Press, 2015), 2

Ref.[4] – Ideas Under Fire: Historical Studies of Philosophy and Science in Adversity (Ed Jonathan Allen Lavery, Louis Groarke, William Sweet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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