The Intuitive Recommencement of Metaphysics

Camille Riquier


If we are to understand the complex relationship between Bergson and Kant, we must not approach the former’s philosophy as if it could only be either pre-critical or post-Kantian. Instead, the present essay seeks to shed light on this relationship by treating Kant (after Descartes and before Spencer) as another “missing precursor of Bergson.” In Bergson’s eyes, Kant, like Descartes, contains two possible paths for philosophy, which reflect the two fundamental tendencies that are mixed together in the élan vital and continued in humankind: intuition and intelligence. Bergson breaks with Kant from the interior of his philosophy, which he divides into two Kantianisms: the one, which he rejects as ancient, and the other, which he appropriates. What the analysis of this Bergsonian appropriation of Kant reveals, however, is not the existence of a latent Bergsonism in Kant, but rather the recovery of a Kantianism that is completed in Bergson—a Kantianism that embarked down a path that Kant himself, who held himself back from following it in order to dispense with all “intellectual” intuition, had only sketched. Thus, if Bergson is to be believed, an intuitive metaphysics, which installs itself in pure duration, is neither below nor beyond Kantian critique, but can pass through it, can traverse it in its entirety, since it proposes to surpass it, to prolong it following the path that Kant himself had cleared in order to fulfill its suppressed virtualities.


Bergson; Kant; intuition; critique; metaphysics

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