The effect of Bergson's thought on French Roman Catholic philosophy and literary theory up to 1939, with detailed reference to the work of Jacques Maritain, Maurice Blondel, Charles Peguy and Charles Du Bos
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Most research into Bergson's influence to date has failed to take enough account of the philosopher's interest in the spiritual of meta-physical dimension of life. In seeking to interpret Bergson's thought many have focused upon 'la durée réelle' or 'l'élan vital' as the key concepts in his whole philosophy. If, instead, one were to begin with Bergson's main continuing preoccupation at first inchoate and only later more fully developed with spiritual activity in life, then the whole philosophy hangs together as a tapestry of one harmonious piece. Not only can it be clearly seen why Bergson opposes Kant and the positivists so vehemently, but it can also be understood why he eventually set his sights upon The two sources of morality and religion. In the eyes of many critics this work, far from completing a natural progression of thought, stands outside the main body of work as something ill-fitting and almost cavalier. This thesis attempts to redress the balance by demonstrating how the spiritual and religious interpretation of life is central to Bergson's thought. Having established this, I have assumed it likely that a lively Catholic interest in Bergson is something quite logical and natural. This proved to be the case. After all, the Catholics in France stood to gain or lose most by the introduction in intellectural circles of a new philosophical 'spiritualism'. They would obviously themselves have a vested interest in the discrediting of materialist and positivist philosophies. However, scholars have not seen the connection between Bergson and Christian thought very clearly and no detailed research into this particular field has been undertaken. I have consequently attempted to review both the general field of Catholic reactions in a largely chronological way and also the detailed ways in which Bergson's thought had on impact upon Catholic writers. My main conclusion from this research is that Bergson's work lent itself to adaptation and alteration to something more orthodox in Catholic terms. However it was some time before it was viewed in a favourable enough light for anything like this to be attempted. Much prejudice and misinterpretation surrounded Bergson for some years. Eventually, however, his theories made deep inroads into the mainstream of Catholic thought. His theories of perception and intuition, of movement and change, of static and dynamic religion, helped bring about a significant change in the development of twentieth century religious thought.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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