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U. U.-L. A.

EDUC. DEPT,




THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY
OF CALIFORNIA

LOS ANGELES



PUBLICATIONS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER
EDUCATIONAL SERIES, No. X

BERGSON AND EDUCATION



Published by the University of Manchester at

THE UNIVERSITY PRESS (H. M. MCKECHNIE, M.A., Secretary)
12 LIME GROVE, OXFORD ROAD, MANCHESTER

LONGMANS, GREEN & CO.

LONDON : 39 Paternoster Row, E.C.4

NEW YORK : 55 Fifth Avenue

BOMBAY : Hornby Road

CALCUTTA : 6 Old Court House Street

MADRAS : 167 Mount Road



BERGSON & EDUCATION



By
OLIVE A. WHEELER, D.Sc.

Formerly Fellow of the University of Wales ; Lecturer
in Education in the University of Manchester

WITH A FOREWORD BY

J. L. PATON, M.A.

High Master of the
Manchester Grammar School



1922

Manchester ' * ' At The University Press
London, New York, &c. : Longmans, Green & Co.



U. C. L A.
EDUC. DEPT,



PUBLICATIONS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER
No. CL



(All rights reserved)



Made in Great Britain



Education

Tf '! r FPlPPl^ORD Library

tilt. BenK

THE educational world is teeming with new ex- ^^f^
periments. No subject method, no tradition or
department of it is so firmly established by tradition
as to be immune. The principle which actuates our ex-
perimenters, if there be one, is rather dissatisfaction with
the heretofore than any clear conception of the whither or
the way that leads to it. It has been rather a blind groping
than a clear-eyed search.

I attended some of the lectures contained in this book.
They made clear and articulate to me what had hitherto
been vague. I began to see the central increasing purpose
which was expressing itself through our upward strivings.
I found a reason for the dissatisfaction, and also for the
faith that was in me. Many shared this feeling and have
pressed for the lectures to be published. And we are glad
that Dr. Wheeler has found time to prepare them for the
press, so that others not only teachers, but others who
care about the progress of the race may find them as
stimulating to thought and helpful in practice as we have
done ourselves.

J. L. PATON



S2S3S5



ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

THIS book is an expansion of a course of public
lectures which were delivered in the University
of Manchester during the Session 1919-20, and
which aimed at relating the various principles involved in
current educational experiments.

It is obvious that throughout I am deeply indebted to
M. Henri Bergson, whose philosophy provides me with a
means of relating the different educational movements,
and thus of appreciating their general trend. My thanks
are also due to Professor Bompas Smith, who read the
book in manuscript and made many valuable suggestions ;
and to Miss E. J. Sanders and Mr. McKechnie for their
aid in proof-correcting.

OLIVE A. WHEELER

The University of Manchester
April 1922.



CONTENTS

PAGE

Foreword by J. L. Paton, M.A. v

Acknowledgements vii

Introduction I

PART i. BERGSON'S PHILOSOPHY

Chap. I. Intuition : A New Philosophic Method 9

II. Duration 21

III. Consciousness 26

IV. Creative Evolution 33
V. Man's Place in Nature 42

VI. Bergsonianism, the Complement of

Modern Science 49

PART n. BERGSON'S PHILOSOPHY

AND NEW IDEALS IN EDUCATION

Chap. VII. The Revolt Against Intellectualism 59
VIII. The Development of the Individual
and the Problem of School Govern-
ment 69
IX. The Growth of a Philosophy of Life
and the Problem of the School Curri-
culum 82
X. New Methods in Teaching. Creation 94
XL New Methods in Teaching. Co-
operation 1 06
XII. New Methods in Teaching. Intuition 113
Index 1 29



BERGSON AND EDUCATION



INTRODUCTION

IT has often been said of Professor Henri Bergson that
there is nothing which he could not have been or done
had he chosen. He might have been an artist, a musi-
cian or a novelist, a mathematician or a scientist, or even
a politician, and in whatever direction his energies had
been thrown, he would have stood out above his fellows.
He has certainly succeeded in an almost impossible task
that of making himself one of the most talked-of men in
Europe after having thrown in his lot with philosophers.
If one is a politician, the chances are that one will get a
few turns in the limelight ; and the scientist, too, may
hope to get an occasional column in a newspaper, provided
that his discoveries have practical bearings ; but the ut-
most that the philosopher can expect is a professorial chair
in a university, and a quiet study in which to think his own
thoughts and find in them what satisfaction he may.
Perhaps after his death the general public will learn that a
controversy had at one time raged round his thought
a controversy none the less real because the opponents
never met in person. But while he is with them he is
merely a voice crying in the wilderness, a voice which
they do not hear. Bergson, however, is an exception to
this general rule. During his lifetime he has been lionized
and hero-worshipped. " Old-fashioned professors," says
William James, " whom his ideas quite fail to satisfy,
nevertheless speak of his talent almost with bated breath,
while the youngsters flock to him as to a master."

It is not only the philosophical world that has been
stirred into activity by Bergson's work. The general
public has likewise shown a deep and continued interest
in the development of his thought. When he came to

I A



BERGSON AND EDUCATION

London in 1911, his lectures at University College were
fully reported in The Times. For the first time in the
history of English journalism, the interest shown in philo-
sophical discourses was such as to justify verbatim re-
ports. Both in London and Edinburgh (which he visited
later) he left behind him groups of people of all types
systematically studying his philosophy. His tour in
America and Canada in 1913 was something of the nature
of a triumphal procession, leaving in its wake disciples in
all classes of society. In pre-war days, when man had
time for disinterested speculation, he was the most hero-
worshipped man in France. His lectures at the College de
France were crowded with people of all nationalities,
who came from far and near to gain a first-hand acquaint-
ance with his philosophy. In 1914 the hall in which he
was announced to lecture at five o'clock was usually
crowded at two o'clock. His students were prepared to wait
for hours in a close atmosphere, to endure considerable
physical discomfort, and to attend another lecture in which
they had no interest, in order that they might be sure of
hearing him. Some who failed to gain entrance did not
hesitate to stand in the pouring rain outside the windows of
the hall, in the hope that they might catch some words that
fell from his lips. He was in very truth the man of the hour.

What, then, is the secret of Bergson's marvellous
popularity ? It is certainly not to be explained by his career,
which has been almost commonplace. He was born in
Paris in 1 859. His father was a Polish Jew and his mother
of Irish extraction. He was a student of the University
of Paris, where he specialized in mathematics, and he
spent the next seventeen years of his life teaching in
various places. At the age of thirty he gained a doctorate
of the University of Paris for his philosophical thesis
entitled Essai sur les Donnees Immediate! de la Conscience*

1 The English translation is entitled Time and Free Will.
2



INTRODUCTION

Since 1900 he has been a professor at the College de
France, and in 1914 he received the honour of being
elected a member of the French Academy. In comparing
his career with that of Rousseau, Burns, or Shelley, the
first thing that strikes one is the conspicuous absence
of sudden fluctuations and glorious failures. He has been
eminently successful, even in the routine work that has
fallen to his lot. The change from mathematics to
philosophy is, perhaps, the one unorthodox development
in his career. It certainly dismayed his mathematical
tutors ; but his choice was justified, not only by the pro-
duction of his doctorate thesis, but also by the subsequent
publication of his other great works : Matiere et Memoire l
and U Evolution Creatrice.*

Is the secret of his popularity, then, to be found in his
personality ? It is true that as a lecturer he possesses an
incommunicable charm. He has the magical gift of
personality, and handles an audience with ease. He is able
to unfold a train of thought, no matter how intricate it
may be, with the utmost precision. Indeed, his lucidity
both in speech and writing and his resources in the way of
expression are simply phenomenal. His picturesque literary
style, his poetry, and his use and mastery of illustration
and metaphor are so impressive, that it is easy at first to
under-estimate the originality and the value of his con-
tribution to philosophy. He is, indeed, a poet-philosopher,
as was Plato. And his sincerity is contagious. There is
not, there never has been, a more single-hearted seeker
after truth. Philosophy is not a game to be cleverly played
before spectators in love with cleverness. He puts the
whole of himself, all that he is and has been, into his task
of interpretation.

But neither his lucidity, his literary style, nor his
1 English translation, Matter and Memory.
* English translation, Creative Evolution.

3



BERGSON AND EDUCATION

sincerity will entirely account for the interest shown in
Bergson's thought. His philosophy appeals, because it is
concerned with Life and not with thin abstractions. It
asks questions which are vital to every man, be he philo-
sopher, artist, or craftsman. What are we ? What are we
doing here ? Whence do we come, and whither do we
go ? These are the questions which he boldly asks ; and
he points the way to their solution. His philosophy is not,
and it does not claim to be, a closed system. It is rather a
method of seeking truth, which results in a direct, though
incomplete, vision of the nature of reality. Professor
William James, who towards the end of his life relentlessly
scrapped his own philosophy and openly declared himself a
disciple of Bergson, says of it, that compared with most
modern philosophical literature, which seems to be con-
cerned with the turning over of the same few threadbare
categories, " it is like the breath of the morning and the
song of birds. It tells of reality itself, instead of reiterating
what dusty-minded professors have written about what
other previous professors have thought."

This philosophy, which is like the breath of the morn-
ing and the song of birds, and which deals with life itself,
naturally appeals to all save the dusty-minded. And it
stands in a peculiar and intimate relationship to the pro-
gressive educational movements of this age. Of course, it
does not originate them : but it is the one philosophy that
most adequately reflects the spirit of the age ; and since
it deals with human personality, with life, it is the one
philosophy that is best able to render explicit what educa-
tionists, who are also concerned with the living, are dimly
groping after.

In the educational world to-day there are widespread
signs of dissatisfaction with the old order of things. New
views of human personality are influencing educational
theory ; new ideas are being discussed ; and consequently

4



INTRODUCTION

new methods of teaching and new forms of school govern-
ment are being tried on every hand. There are certainly
signs of life in education, but there is also temporary con-
fusion. Fortunately, these progressive movements have a
philosophy ready to hand, by means of which they may be
related and unified. And it is the definite aim of this book
to use Bergson's philosophy in order to render explicit the
various principles, which appear to underlie these move-
ments.

In the first part of the book an attempt will be made
to lead the reader to the centre of Bergson's position. The
philosophy will not be examined critically, nor in great
detail j for what is necessary for our purpose is an under-
standing of the whole view, comparable to an appreciation
of a work of art. In the second section, the philosophical
position outlined will be used to make explicit, and to
criticize, the principles involved in recent educational
developments. And some unsolved educational problems
will be examined in the light of these principles, with the
hope that the direction in which their solution is to be
expected will be indicated.



PART I: BERGS ON'S PHILOSOPHT



CHAPTER I

Intuition : A New Philosophic Method



M



ODERN philosophers have to face two pro-
foundly disquieting considerations : first, a far-
reaching doubt concerning the validity of know-
ledge, and secondly, the apparent failure of philosophy in
the past to make any progress.

One has only to pause for a moment to realize that the
nature of man's sense experience depends on his body,
and especially on his sense organs. If he is suffering from
jaundice, he sees everything yellow. If any one of his
sense organs does not function, the world is a different
place to him. And if nature had only given him different
organs, if the range of vibrations for which he is adapted
were more extended, or if there were no gaps in that range,
how different would be his experience ! His perceptual
knowledge seems to be entirely relative to his bodily
endowments.

Kant has gone further, and has tried to show that all
our knowledge is relative relative to the forms of thought
supplied by our own minds. We can never know things
as they actually are. We can only know them under the
categories supplied by our own minds. All knowledge is,
as it were, composed of matter contributed by the things-
in-themselves and forms contributed by the human mind.
" All objects of an experience to us are only phenomena,"
says Kant, " that is, mere ideas which, as represented, have
no existence in themselves outside our thought."

If Kant's view be true, does it mean that man is fore-
doomed to failure in his speculations concerning the mean-
ing of the universe ? The history of philosophy in the
past certainly lends force to this suggestion, for it is a
history of failures. It presents a striking contrast to the
history of modern science, where progress has been steady
and continuous, each worker profiting by the labours of

9



BERGSON AND EDUCATION

his predecessors. But each philosopher has to go back to
foundations, and there are almost as many rival systems of
philosophy as there are philosophers. Is this impasse due
to the utter inability of the human mind to find truth ?
Is Kant's criticism of human knowledge final ?

Any serious thinker to-day has to take account of these
questions, and it is one of Bergson's merits that he faces
them with incomparable boldness. He replies that Kant's
criticism of human knowledge must be regarded as final,
unless there is some other way of knowing reality than
through the intellect. He points out that Kant's position
* rests on the assumption that the mind is incapable of any-
thing but " Platonizing " : that is, receiving impressions
in pre-existing moulds. And he claims that there is another
method of knowing reality the method of intuition. In-
stead of trying to grasp reality by subsuming it under con-
cepts, by taking views of it from without, as the intellect
does, it is possible to enter into it by intuition, to see it
from within as it really is, and to possess it. The know-
ledge of the intellect depends on the point of view at which
we are placed, and on the symbols by which we express
ourselves, and is therefore relative. But intuitive know-
ledge neither depends on a point of view nor relies on
ready-made symbols, and in those cases where it is possible
it attains the absolute.

Bergson illustrates these two kinds of knowing by
reference to the motion of an object in space. He says :

My perception of the motion will vary with the point of view,
moving and stationary, from which I observe it. My expression
of it will vary with the systems of axes, or the points of reference,
to which I relate it : that is, with the symbols by which I trans-
late it. For this double reason I call such motion relative : in the
one case, as in the other, I am placed outside the object itself.
But when I speak of an absolute movement I am attributing to
the moving object an interior and, so to speak, states of mind ;

10



A NEW PHILOSOPHIC METHOD

I also imply that I am in sympathy with those states, and that I in-
sert myself in them by an effort of imagination. Then, according
as the object is moving or stationary, according as it adopts one
movement or another, what I experience will vary. And what I
experience will depend neither on the point of view I may take
up in regard to the object, since I am inside the object itself, nor
on the symbols by which I may translate the motion, since I have
rejected all translations in order to possess the original. In short,
I shall no longer grasp the movement from without, remaining
where I am, but from where it is, from within, as it is in itself.
I shall possess an absolute. 1

The power of intuition which Bergson supposes that
man possesses is neither occult nor mysterious. Everyone
who has had experience of literary work knows that after
the material has been collected, and notes and sketches
made, it is necessary to make an effort, perhaps even a
painful effort, to place oneself at the heart of the subject.
When this has been done, and one is, as it were, within the
subject, the material arranges itself as one goes along.
The preliminary analyses and note-takings are the work
of the intellect, and are, of course, necessary, but the find-
ing of the movement, of the heart of the subject, is some-
thing different from the sum of the preliminary analyses.
It is the work of intuition.

By intuition, then, is meant Intellectual sympathy : the N
process of knowing an object by becoming it, and thus co- '
inciding with what is most unique in it. And according to
Bergson it is intuition alone that will conduct us to the
inside of life. The mistake of man in the past has been to
sacrifice intuition to intelligence, so that at present intui-
tion is but vague and discontinuous.

It is a lamp nearly extinguished, which only burns brightly at
long intervals and for scarcely a few seconds . . . On our person-

1 English translation, An Introduction to Metaphysics, pp. 12.
II



BERGSON AND EDUCATION

ality, on our liberty, on the place which we occupy in Nature,
on our origin, and perhaps also on our destiny, it throws a vacil-
lating and feeble light, but one which none the less pierces the
gloom of night in which intelligence leaves us. 1

But surely mystics and saints and poets of all ages have
said this. They have realized that something more than
intellectual analysis is necessary in order to apprehend
reality. ** After long intercourse with the thing itself,"
says Plato, "and after it has been lived with, suddenly,
as when the fire leaps up and the light kindles, it is found
in the soul and feeds itself there." 2 They have experienced,
and consequently been able to describe, the process of
intuition :

That blessed mood,

In which the burthen of the mystery,

In which the heavy and the weary weight

Of all this unintelligible world,

Is lightened : that serene and blessed mood,

In which the affections gently lead us on

Until, the breath of this corporeal frame,

And even the motion of our human blood

Almost suspended, we are laid asleep

In body, and become a living soul :

While with an eye made quiet by the power

Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,

We see into the life of things. 8

Poets have realized, too, that one moment of intuition
may discount many intellectual arguments. Just when a
human mind has most cogently proved that the world is
nothing but matter and force, and human beings are no-
thing but marionettes, there may come a sudden intuitive
realization of the spiritual nature of the whole.

1 L* Evolution CrSatrice, p. 290.

2 Epistles, vii, 341. 8 Wordsworth: T intern Abbey.

12



A NEW PHILOSOPHIC METHOD

Just when we are safest, there's a sunset-touch,
A fancy from a flower-bell, some one's death,
A chorus-ending from Euripides
And that's enough for fifty hopes and fears
As old and new at once as Nature's self,
To rap and knock and enter in our soul,
Take hands and dance there, a fantastic ring,
Round the ancient idol, on his base again
The grand Perhaps ! x

If mystics and poets have previously realized the im-
portance of intuition, it might well be asked wherein lies
the special value of Bergson's contribution to the subject
The answer is not far to seek. He, and he alone, has
shown just why and where the intellect fails, and what
is the exact province of intuition. He affirms that our
intelligence is specially adapted for action^ and, consequently,
is not disinterested. In order to live we have to act, and
our first need is, therefore, for a simplification of reality
to enable us to respond quickly and appropriately to our
environment. And our intelligence makes this simpli-
fication by attending only to the utilitarian side of things.

I look and I think I see [says Bergson], I listen and I think I
hear, I examine myself and I think I am reading the very depths
of my heart. But what I see and hear of the outer world is purely
and simply a selection made by my senses to serve as a light to my
conduct ; what I know of myself is what comes to the surface,
what participates in my actions. My senses and my consciousness,
therefore, give me no more than a practical simplification of
reality. In the vision they furnish me of myself and of things, the
differences that are useless to man are obliterated, the resemblances
that are useful to him are emphasized ; ways are traced out for
me in advance along which my activity is to travel. These
ways are the ways which all mankind has trod before me.

1 Browning : Bishop Blougram's Apology.
'3



BERGSON AND EDUCATION

Things have been classified with a view to the use I can derive
from them. 1

In order to reach the necessary artificial simplification,
the intelligence, then, ignores the rich individuality of
things, and attends, so to speak, only to their labels. How
many of us can distinguish one sheep from another ? All
that we know is that they are sheep. In other words, we
confine ourselves to reading the labels affixed to them, and
fail to perceive those characteristics which differentiate the
sheep from one another and which are easily discernible
to the shepherd. We do not perceive the distinguishing
marks, because to do so would be of no use to us in our
actions : and it is the same pressure of utility that forces
the shepherd to attend to them, for they are of use to him,
although not to us. The reason, then, why our intelligence
fails to take a disinterested view of the nature or reality is
because it is cast in the mould of action.

Bergson, however, does not leave us here. He not only
shows why, but also where, the intellect fails. It fails
whenever it attempts to deal with change or becoming.
One of its devices for purposes of action is to treat what is
really moving by fixing it, and consequently it is charac-
terized by a natural incomprehension of change in all its
forms. The classical paradoxes of motion associated with
the name of Zeno are but examples of this failure to deal
with one form of change, and their detailed consideration
may therefore help us to see the full force of Bergson's
criticism of the intellect.

The simplest of these paradoxes is that of the arrow in
flight. Zeno argues that at any single instant of time the
arrow in flight occupies a certain position, and is therefore
at rest at a given point. Obviously, it would take at least
two instants for it to occupy two successive positions.

1 Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic. English
translation, 1913, pp. 1512.

4



A NEW PHILOSOPHIC METHOD

Therefore at any single instant of time it is at rest. And
this is equivalent to saying that at every instant, at every
point in its passage, it is at rest. Therefore motion is im-
possible.

" How absurd ! " says the archer. " Did not the arrow
leave my bow a moment since, and is it not now transfixed
in the mark at which I aimed ? Motion impossible, in-
deed ! I know from experience that the arrow moves."
The full force of the paradox is to be seen just here.
Direct experience affirms that the arrow moves, but the
arguments of the intellect prove that it cannot move.


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