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progress, incommensurability between what goes before and what
follows - in short, duration.]

[Footnote 12: Bütschli, _Untersuchungen über mikroskopische Schäume und
das Protoplasma_, Leipzig, 1892, First Part.]

[Footnote 13: Rhumbler, _Versuch einer mechanischen Erklärung der
indirekten Zell-und Kernteilung_ (_Roux's Archiv_, 1896).]

[Footnote 14: Berthold, _Studien über Protoplasmamechanik_, Leipzig,
1886, p. 102. Cf. the explanation proposed by Le Dantec, _Théorie
nouvelle de la vie_, Paris, 1896, p. 60.]

[Footnote 15: Cope, _The Primary Factors of Organic Evolution_, Chicago,
1896, pp. 475-484.]

[Footnote 16: Maupas, "Etude des infusoires ciliés" (_Arch. de zoologie
expérimentale_, 1883, pp. 47, 491, 518, 549, in particular). P. Vignon,
_Recherches de cytologie générale sur les épithéliums_, Paris, 1902, p.
655. A profound study of the motions of the Infusoria and a very
penetrating criticism of the idea of tropism have been made recently by
Jennings (_Contributions to the Study of the Behavior of Lower
Organisms_, Washington, 1904). The "type of behavior" of these lower
organisms, as Jennings defines it (pp. 237-252), is unquestionably of
the psychological order.]

[Footnote 17: E.B. Wilson, _The Cell in Development and Inheritance_,
New York, 1897, p. 330.]

[Footnote 18: Dastre, _La Vie et la mort_, p. 43.]

[Footnote 19: Laplace, _Introduction à la théorie analytique des
probabilités_ (_OEuvres complètes_, vol. vii., Paris, 1886, p. vi.).]

[Footnote 20: Du Bois-Reymond, _Über die Grenzen des Naturerkennens_,
Leipzig, 1892.]

[Footnote 21: There are really two lines to follow in contemporary
neo-vitalism: on the one hand, the assertion that pure mechanism is
insufficient, which assumes great authority when made by such scientists
as Driesch or Reinke, for example; and, on the other hand, the
hypotheses which this vitalism superposes on mechanism (the
"entelechies" of Driesch, and the "dominants" of Reinke, etc.). Of these
two parts, the former is perhaps the more interesting. See the admirable
studies of Driesch - _Die Lokalisation morphogenetischer Vorgänge_,
Leipzig, 1899; _Die organischen Regulationen_, Leipzig, 1901;
_Naturbegriffe und Natururteile_, Leipzig, 1904; _Der Vitalismus als
Geschichte und als Lehre_, Leipzig, 1905; and of Reinke - _Die Welt als
Tat_, Berlin, 1899; _Einleitung in die theoretische Biologie_, Berlin,
1901; _Philosophie der Botanik_, Leipzig, 1905.]

[Footnote 22: P. Guérin, _Les Connaissances actuelles sur la fécondation
chez les phanérogames_, Paris, 1904, pp. 144-148. Cf. Delage,
_L'Hérédité_, 2nd edition, 1903, pp. 140 ff.]

[Footnote 23: Möbius, _Beiträge zur Lehre von der Fortpflanzung der
Gewächse_, Jena, 1897, pp. 203-206 in particular. Cf. Hartog, "Sur les
phénomènes de reproduction" (_Année biologique_, 1895, pp. 707-709).]

[Footnote 24: Paul Janet, _Les Causes finales_, Paris, 1876, p. 83.]

[Footnote 25: _Ibid._ p. 80.]

[Footnote 26: Darwin, _Origin of Species_, chap. ii.]

[Footnote 27: Bateson, _Materials for the Study of Variation_, London,
1894, especially pp. 567 ff. Cf. Scott, "Variations and Mutations"
(_American Journal of Science_, Nov. 1894).]

[Footnote 28: De Vries, _Die Mutationstheorie_, Leipzig, 1901-1903. Cf.,
by the same author, _Species and Varieties_, Chicago, 1905.]

[Footnote 29: Darwin, _Origin of Species_, chap. vi.]

[Footnote 30: Darwin, _Origin of Species_, chap. i.]

[Footnote 31: On this homology of hair and teeth, see Brandt, "Über ...
eine mutmassliche Homologie der Haare und Zahne" (_Biol. Centralblatt_,
vol. xviii., 1898, especially pp. 262 ff.).]

[Footnote 32: It seems, from later observations, that the transformation
of Artemia is a more complex phenomenon than was first supposed. See on
this subject Samter and Heymons, "Die Variation bei Artemia Salina"
(_Anhang zu den Abhandlungen der k. preussischen Akad. der
Wissenschaften_, 1902).]

[Footnote 33: Eimer, _Orthogenesis der Schmetterlinge_, Leipzig, 1897,
p. 24. Cf. _Die Entstehung der Arten_, p. 53.]

[Footnote 34: Eimer, _Die Entstehung der Arten_, Jena, 1888, p. 25.]

[Footnote 35: _Ibid._ pp. 165 ff.]

[Footnote 36: Salensky, "Heteroblastie" (_Proc. of the Fourth
International Congress of Zoology_, London, 1899, pp. 111-118). Salensky
has coined this word to designate the cases in which organs that are
equivalent, but of different embryological origin, are formed at the
same points in animals related to each other.]

[Footnote 37: Wolff, "Die Regeneration der Urodelenlinse" (_Arch. f.
Entwicklungsmechanik_, i., 1895, pp. 380 ff.).]

[Footnote 38: Fischel, "Über die Regeneration der Linse" (_Anat.
Anzeiger_, xiv., 1898, pp. 373-380).]

[Footnote 39: Cope, _The Origin of the Fittest_, 1887; _The Primary
Factors of Organic Evolution_, 1896.]

[Footnote 40: Cuénot, "La Nouvelle Théorie transformiste" (_Revue
générale des sciences_, 1894). Cf. Morgan, _Evolution and Adaptation_,
London, 1903, p. 357.]

[Footnote 41: Brown-Séquard, "Nouvelles recherches sur l'épilepsie due à
certaines lésions de la moelle épiniéere et des nerfs rachidiens"
(_Arch. de physiologie_, vol. ii., 1866, pp. 211, 422, and 497).]

[Footnote 42: Weismann, _Aufsätze über Vererbung_, Jena, 1892, pp.
376-378, and also _Vorträge über Descendenztheorie_, Jena, 1902, vol.
ii., p. 76.]

[Footnote 43: Brown-Séquard, "Hérédité d'une affection due à une cause
accidentelle" (_Arch. de physiologie_, 1892, pp. 686 ff.).]

[Footnote 44: Voisin and Peron, "Recherches sur la toxicité urinaire
chez les épileptiques" (_Arch. de neurologie_, vol. xxiv., 1892, and
xxv., 1893. Cf. the work of Voisin, _L'Épilepsie_, Paris, 1897, pp.

[Footnote 45: Charrin, Delamare and Moussu, "Transmission expérimentale
aux descendants de lésions développées chez les ascendants" (_C.R. de
l'Acad. des sciences_, vol. cxxxv., 1902, p. 191). Cf. Morgan,
_Evolution and Adaptation_, p. 257, and Delage, _L'Hérédité_, 2nd
edition, p. 388.]

[Footnote 46: Charrin and Delamare, "Hérédité cellulaire" (_C.R. de
l'Acad. des sciences_, vol. cxxxiii., 1901, pp. 69-71).]

[Footnote 47: Charrin, "L'Hérédité pathologique" (_Revue générale des
sciences_, 15 janvier 1896).]

[Footnote 48: Giard, _Controverses transformistes_, Paris, 1904, p.

[Footnote 49: Some analogous facts, however, have been noted, all in the
vegetable world. See Blaringhem, "La Notion d'espèce et la théorie de la
mutation" (_Année psychologique_, vol. xii., 1906, pp. 95 ff.), and De
Vries, _Species and Varieties_, p. 655.]

[Footnote 50: See, on this subject, _Matière et mémoire_, chap. i.]



The evolution movement would be a simple one, and we should soon have
been able to determine its direction, if life had described a single
course, like that of a solid ball shot from a cannon. But it proceeds
rather like a shell, which suddenly bursts into fragments, which
fragments, being themselves shells, burst in their turn into fragments
destined to burst again, and so on for a time incommensurably long. We
perceive only what is nearest to us, namely, the scattered movements of
the pulverized explosions. From them we have to go back, stage by stage,
to the original movement.

When a shell bursts, the particular way it breaks is explained both by
the explosive force of the powder it contains and by the resistance of
the metal. So of the way life breaks into individuals and species. It
depends, we think, on two series of causes: the resistance life meets
from inert matter, and the explosive force - due to an unstable balance
of tendencies - which life bears within itself.

The resistance of inert matter was the obstacle that had first to be
overcome. Life seems to have succeeded in this by dint of humility, by
making itself very small and very insinuating, bending to physical and
chemical forces, consenting even to go a part of the way with them, like
the switch that adopts for a while the direction of the rail it is
endeavoring to leave. Of phenomena in the simplest forms of life, it is
hard to say whether they are still physical and chemical or whether they
are already vital. Life had to enter thus into the habits of inert
matter, in order to draw it little by little, magnetized, as it were, to
another track. The animate forms that first appeared were therefore of
extreme simplicity. They were probably tiny masses of scarcely
differentiated protoplasm, outwardly resembling the amoeba observable
to-day, but possessed of the tremendous internal push that was to raise
them even to the highest forms of life. That in virtue of this push the
first organisms sought to grow as much as possible, seems likely. But
organized matter has a limit of expansion that is very quickly reached;
beyond a certain point it divides instead of growing. Ages of effort and
prodigies of subtlety were probably necessary for life to get past this
new obstacle. It succeeded in inducing an increasing number of elements,
ready to divide, to remain united. By the division of labor it knotted
between them an indissoluble bond. The complex and quasi-discontinuous
organism is thus made to function as would a continuous living mass
which had simply grown bigger.

But the real and profound causes of division were those which life bore
within its bosom. For life is tendency, and the essence of a tendency is
to develop in the form of a sheaf, creating, by its very growth,
divergent directions among which its impetus is divided. This we observe
in ourselves, in the evolution of that special tendency which we call
our character. Each of us, glancing back over his history, will find
that his child-personality, though indivisible, united in itself divers
persons, which could remain blended just because they were in their
nascent state: this indecision, so charged with promise, is one of the
greatest charms of childhood. But these interwoven personalities become
incompatible in course of growth, and, as each of us can live but one
life, a choice must perforce be made. We choose in reality without
ceasing; without ceasing, also, we abandon many things. The route we
pursue in time is strewn with the remains of all that we began to be, of
all that we might have become. But nature, which has at command an
incalculable number of lives, is in no wise bound to make such
sacrifices. She preserves the different tendencies that have bifurcated
with their growth. She creates with them diverging series of species
that will evolve separately.

These series may, moreover, be of unequal importance. The author who
begins a novel puts into his hero many things which he is obliged to
discard as he goes on. Perhaps he will take them up later in other
books, and make new characters with them, who will seem like extracts
from, or rather like complements of, the first; but they will almost
always appear somewhat poor and limited in comparison with the original
character. So with regard to the evolution of life. The bifurcations on
the way have been numerous, but there have been many blind alleys beside
the two or three highways; and of these highways themselves, only one,
that which leads through the vertebrates up to man, has been wide enough
to allow free passage to the full breath of life. We get this impression
when we compare the societies of bees and ants, for instance, with human
societies. The former are admirably ordered and united, but stereotyped;
the latter are open to every sort of progress, but divided, and
incessantly at strife with themselves. The ideal would be a society
always in progress and always in equilibrium, but this ideal is perhaps
unrealizable: the two characteristics that would fain complete each
other, which do complete each other in their embryonic state, can no
longer abide together when they grow stronger. If one could speak,
otherwise than metaphorically, of an impulse toward social life, it
might be said that the brunt of the impulse was borne along the line of
evolution ending at man, and that the rest of it was collected on the
road leading to the hymenoptera: the societies of ants and bees would
thus present the aspect complementary to ours. But this would be only a
manner of expression. There has been no particular impulse towards
social life; there is simply the general movement of life, which on
divergent lines is creating forms ever new. If societies should appear
on two of these lines, they ought to show divergence of paths at the
same time as community of impetus. They will thus develop two classes of
characteristics which we shall find vaguely complementary of each other.

So our study of the evolution movement will have to unravel a certain
number of divergent directions, and to appreciate the importance of what
has happened along each of them - in a word, to determine the nature of
the dissociated tendencies and estimate their relative proportion.
Combining these tendencies, then, we shall get an approximation, or
rather an imitation, of the indivisible motor principle whence their
impetus proceeds. Evolution will thus prove to be something entirely
different from a series of adaptations to circumstances, as mechanism
claims; entirely different also from the realization of a plan of the
whole, as maintained by the doctrine of finality.

* * * * *

That adaptation to environment is the necessary condition of evolution
we do not question for a moment. It is quite evident that a species
would disappear, should it fail to bend to the conditions of existence
which are imposed on it. But it is one thing to recognize that outer
circumstances are forces evolution must reckon with, another to claim
that they are the directing causes of evolution. This latter theory is
that of mechanism. It excludes absolutely the hypothesis of an original
impetus, I mean an internal push that has carried life, by more and more
complex forms, to higher and higher destinies. Yet this impetus is
evident, and a mere glance at fossil species shows us that life need not
have evolved at all, or might have evolved only in very restricted
limits, if it had chosen the alternative, much more convenient to
itself, of becoming anchylosed in its primitive forms. Certain
Foraminifera have not varied since the Silurian epoch. Unmoved witnesses
of the innumerable revolutions that have upheaved our planet, the
Lingulae are to-day what they were at the remotest times of the
paleozoic era.

The truth is that adaptation explains the sinuosities of the movement of
evolution, but not its general directions, still less the movement
itself.[51] The road that leads to the town is obliged to follow the ups
and downs of the hills; it _adapts itself_ to the accidents of the
ground; but the accidents of the ground are not the cause of the road,
nor have they given it its direction. At every moment they furnish it
with what is indispensable, namely, the soil on which it lies; but if we
consider the whole of the road, instead of each of its parts, the
accidents of the ground appear only as impediments or causes of delay,
for the road aims simply at the town and would fain be a straight line.
Just so as regards the evolution of life and the circumstances through
which it passes - with this difference, that evolution does not mark out
a solitary route, that it takes directions without aiming at ends, and
that it remains inventive even in its adaptations.

But, if the evolution of life is something other than a series of
adaptations to accidental circumstances, so also it is not the
realization of a plan. A plan is given in advance. It is represented, or
at least representable, before its realization. The complete execution
of it may be put off to a distant future, or even indefinitely; but the
idea is none the less formulable at the present time, in terms actually
given. If, on the contrary, evolution is a creation unceasingly renewed,
it creates, as it goes on, not only the forms of life, but the ideas
that will enable the intellect to understand it, the terms which will
serve to express it. That is to say that its future overflows its
present, and can not be sketched out therein in an idea.

There is the first error of finalism. It involves another, yet more

If life realizes a plan, it ought to manifest a greater harmony the
further it advances, just as the house shows better and better the idea
of the architect as stone is set upon stone. If, on the contrary, the
unity of life is to be found solely in the impetus that pushes it along
the road of time, the harmony is not in front, but behind. The unity is
derived from a _vis a tergo_: it is given at the start as an impulsion,
not placed at the end as an attraction. In communicating itself, the
impetus splits up more and more. Life, in proportion to its progress, is
scattered in manifestations which undoubtedly owe to their common origin
the fact that they are complementary to each other in certain aspects,
but which are none the less mutually incompatible and antagonistic. So
the discord between species will go on increasing. Indeed, we have as
yet only indicated the essential cause of it. We have supposed, for the
sake of simplicity, that each species received the impulsion in order to
pass it on to others, and that, in every direction in which life
evolves, the propagation is in a straight line. But, as a matter of
fact, there are species which are arrested; there are some that
retrogress. Evolution is not only a movement forward; in many cases we
observe a marking-time, and still more often a deviation or turning
back. It must be so, as we shall show further on, and the same causes
that divide the evolution movement often cause life to be diverted from
itself, hypnotized by the form it has just brought forth. Thence results
an increasing disorder. No doubt there is progress, if progress mean a
continual advance in the general direction determined by a first
impulsion; but this progress is accomplished only on the two or three
great lines of evolution on which forms ever more and more complex, ever
more and more high, appear; between these lines run a crowd of minor
paths in which, on the contrary, deviations, arrests, and set-backs, are
multiplied. The philosopher, who begins by laying down as a principle
that each detail is connected with some general plan of the whole, goes
from one disappointment to another as soon as he comes to examine the
facts; and, as he had put everything in the same rank, he finds that, as
the result of not allowing for accident, he must regard everything as
accidental. For accident, then, an allowance must first be made, and a
very liberal allowance. We must recognize that all is not coherent in
nature. By so doing, we shall be led to ascertain the centres around
which the incoherence crystallizes. This crystallization itself will
clarify the rest; the main directions will appear, in which life is
moving whilst developing the original impulse. True, we shall not
witness the detailed accomplishment of a plan. Nature is more and better
than a plan in course of realization. A plan is a term assigned to a
labor: it closes the future whose form it indicates. Before the
evolution of life, on the contrary, the portals of the future remain
wide open. It is a creation that goes on for ever in virtue of an
initial movement. This movement constitutes the unity of the organized
world - a prolific unity, of an infinite richness, superior to any that
the intellect could dream of, for the intellect is only one of its
aspects or products.

But it is easier to define the method than to apply it. The complete
interpretation of the evolution movement in the past, as we conceive it,
would be possible only if the history of the development of the
organized world were entirely known. Such is far from being the case.
The genealogies proposed for the different species are generally
questionable. They vary with their authors, with the theoretic views
inspiring them, and raise discussions to which the present state of
science does not admit of a final settlement. But a comparison of the
different solutions shows that the controversy bears less on the main
lines of the movement than on matters of detail; and so, by following
the main lines as closely as possible, we shall be sure of not going
astray. Moreover, they alone are important to us; for we do not aim,
like the naturalist, at finding the order of succession of different
species, but only at defining the principal directions of their
evolution. And not all of these directions have the same interest for
us: what concerns us particularly is the path that leads to man. We
shall therefore not lose sight of the fact, in following one direction
and another, that our main business is to determine the relation of man
to the animal kingdom, and the place of the animal kingdom itself in the
organized world as a whole.

* * * * *

To begin with the second point, let us say that no definite
characteristic distinguishes the plant from the animal. Attempts to
define the two kingdoms strictly have always come to naught. There is
not a single property of vegetable life that is not found, in some
degree, in certain animals; not a single characteristic feature of the
animal that has not been seen in certain species or at certain moments
in the vegetable world. Naturally, therefore, biologists enamored of
clean-cut concepts have regarded the distinction between the two
kingdoms as artificial. They would be right, if definition in this case
must be made, as in the mathematical and physical sciences, according to
certain statical attributes which belong to the object defined and are
not found in any other. Very different, in our opinion, is the kind of
definition which befits the sciences of life. There is no manifestation
of life which does not contain, in a rudimentary state - either latent or
potential, - the essential characters of most other manifestations. The
difference is in the proportions. But this very difference of proportion
will suffice to define the group, if we can establish that it is not
accidental, and that the group as it evolves, tends more and more to
emphasize these particular characters. In a word, _the group must not be
defined by the possession of certain characters, but by its tendency to
emphasize them_. From this point of view, taking tendencies rather than
states into account, we find that vegetables and animals may be
precisely defined and distinguished, and that they correspond to two
divergent developments of life.

This divergence is shown, first, in the method of alimentation. We know
that the vegetable derives directly from the air and water and soil the
elements necessary to maintain life, especially carbon and nitrogen,
which it takes in mineral form. The animal, on the contrary, cannot
assimilate these elements unless they have already been fixed for it in
organic substances by plants, or by animals which directly or indirectly
owe them to plants; so that ultimately the vegetable nourishes the
animal. True, this law allows of many exceptions among vegetables. We do
not hesitate to class amongst vegetables the Drosera, the Dionaea, the
Pinguicula, which are insectivorous plants. On the other hand, the
fungi, which occupy so considerable a place in the vegetable world, feed
like animals: whether they are ferments, saprophytes or parasites, it is
to already formed organic substances that they owe their nourishment. It
is therefore impossible to draw from this difference any _static_
definition such as would automatically settle in any particular case the
question whether we are dealing with a plant or an animal. But the
difference may provide the beginning of a _dynamic_ definition of the
two kingdoms, in that it marks the two divergent directions in which
vegetables and animals have taken their course. It is a remarkable fact
that the fungi, which nature has spread all over the earth in such
extraordinary profusion, have not been able to evolve. Organically they
do not rise above tissues which, in the higher vegetables, are formed in
the embryonic sac of the ovary, and precede the germinative development
of the new individual.[52] They might be called the abortive children of
the vegetable world. Their different species are like so many blind
alleys, as if, by renouncing the mode of alimentation customary amongst
vegetables, they had been brought to a standstill on the highway of

Online LibraryHenri BergsonCreative evolution → online text (page 9 of 34)