Phenomenology 2005

Volume 1, Issue Part 2, 2007

Selected Essays from Asia Part 2

Shoichi Matsuba
Pages 517-533

From Miscarried Phenomenology to Intuitive Ontology
Merleau-Ponty’s Reading of Bergson

It is clear that the philosophy of Bergson influenced Merleau-Ponty. In fact, Merleau-Ponty refers consistently to Bergson from his initial book review until the last drafts. Nevertheless, there are several aspects of the influence of Bergson’s philosophy: from which part, how much, and in which way was it carried out? We will examine the influence of Bergson’s philosophy on Merleau-Ponty, and affirm the following suggestions: First, Merleau-Ponty consistently took an ambivalent position towards Bergson. In other words, his evaluation did not change from positive to negative, or from negative to positive. Nevertheless, he changed the balance of evaluation in Bergson’s work. In his early period, a few comments on Bergson were critical. In contrast, after his middle period, the comments increased and he started to take a more positive position. The peak can be found in “Bergson in the Making,” though still there are some negative estimates. Second, there are surely consistent themes to be picked up: the theory of perception, that of duration, and that of intuition. But the way of picking them up differs in each period. In the early period, he mainly took the theory of perception and body. In the middle period, he considered the theory of history and language. In the latter period, again he took up the theory of intuition and deepened it. Finally, in the early period, the criterion depends on phenomenology whether the evaluation is positive or negative. The point of the critique is that Bergson took the naturalistic attitude, that he did not mention the intentionality, and that he confuses consciousness with the object of consciousness. The point of appreciation is that Bergson was no longer biased and intended the “immediately given things for consciousness,” that he tried to overcome the ready-made conflict between realism and idealism, and that he was meaning to go back to the “lived world.”