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Time and Free Will

Henri Bergson

ISBN: 978-1-5154-2387-4

174 pages, $19.99 (case laminate hardcover)

       

ISBN: 978-1-5154-2388-3

174 pages, $11.99 (trade paperback)

       

   

Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness is Henri Bergson's doctoral thesis, first published in 1889. In it, he tries to dispel the arguments against free will. These arguments, he says, come from a confusion of different ideas of time. Physicists and mathematicians conceive of time as a measurable construct, much like the spatial dimensions. But in human experience, life is perceived as a continuous and unmeasurable flow, rather than as a succession of marked-off states of consciousness—something that can be measured only qualitatively, not quantitatively. And because human personalities express themselves in acts that cannot be predicted, Bergson declares free will to be an observable fact.

French philosopher Henri-Louis Bergson (1859-1941) was influential in the tradition of continental philosophy, especially during the first half of the 20th century until the Second World War. Bergson is known for his arguments that processes of immediate experience and intuition are more significant than abstract rationalism and science for understanding reality.

He was awarded the 1927 Nobel Prize of Literature "in recognition of his rich and vitalizing ideas and the brilliant skill with which they have been presented." In 1930, France awarded him the Grand-Croix de la Legion d'honneur.