Morality and the philosophy of life in Guyau and Bergson

Keith Ansell-Pearson

pp. 59-85

In this essay I examine the contribution a philosophy of life is able to make to our understanding of morality, including our appreciation of its evolution or development and its future. I focus on two contributions, namely, those of Jean-Marie Guyau and Henri Bergson. In the case of Guyau I show that he pioneers the naturalistic study of morality through a conception of life; for him the moral progress of humanity is bound up with an increasing sociability, involving both the intensification of life and its expansion. In the case of Bergson I show that he also pioneers a novel naturalistic appreciation of morality, one that is keen to demonstrate morality's two sources and so as to give us a firm grasp of the chances of a moral progress on the part of humanity. I suggest that of the two appreciations of morality Bergson's is the richer since it contains a set of critical reflections on humanity's condition that is lacking in Guyau. I conclude by suggesting that Bergson's idea that modern humanity is confronted with the decision whether it wishes to continue living or not has lost none of its relevance today.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/s11007-014-9288-y

Full citation:

Ansell-Pearson, K. (2014). Morality and the philosophy of life in Guyau and Bergson. Continental Philosophy Review 47 (1), pp. 59-85.

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