I read in a text that when Henri Bergson was confronted about his arguments against abstract rationalism by pointing out that "he used reason to argue against rationalism" he replied "Hence, the final and most significant activity of the mind is to destroy itself with its own methods."

Is there really such a quote by Bergson?

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    Hi. What was the text in which you read this? – Ram Tobolski Jan 13 '17 at 22:29
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    I'm curious too; I tried a google search on the key words of the quote; the first result it returned was this question - so perhaps a self-referential loop; there was nothing else for the next ten pages; could you provide the title, page and an actual extract? – Mozibur Ullah Jan 14 '17 at 11:41

I have seen this quote in multiple books by the Turkish poet, Ahmet Necip Fazıl Kısakürek, who actually was a student of Henri Bergson.

However, I am not aware if this quote appears in one of Bergson's works.

The book, Mümin - Kâfir (The Believer and Disbeliever) has following dialogue:

Believer - As a matter of fact, a Western philosopher who has destroyed the rationalist system before him, to his opponents saying “you might have destroyed the rationalist system, but your methods used reason. What can you say about that?” replied by saying “Therefore, the supreme and ultimate activity of the mind is destroying itself with its own methods…” Do you know this philosopher?

Disbeliever – Yes… The famous Bergson… One of the poet philosophers…

The original text [in Turkish] can be found here.

If anyone can point out any works this quote has been featured in, it would be great.

  • He was in Paris for one year for a scholarship, this is a short time-period for anyone to become the student of anyone, especially for a celebrated philosopher as Bergson... – Mozibur Ullah Jan 15 '17 at 4:50
  • @MoziburUllah I have added an extract along with the the source above. – KaanTheGuru Jan 15 '17 at 13:45
  • I had a look at the extract with google translate; and they give "Believers - Yes, I say mind! As an ultimate move and gain, the mind has no other means than to destroy itself, in the sense of its own inadequacies. As a matter of fact, a naive philosopher who has destroyed the system of wisdom before him, his opponents say, 'You destroy the rationalism, but the method is intelligent; What is this?' – Mozibur Ullah Jan 23 '17 at 22:00
  • Infidels - Yes ... Famous (Bergson) ... one of the poet philosophers – Mozibur Ullah Jan 23 '17 at 22:00
  • This is interestingly different from the translation you gave (was this your own translation?); translation is actually a difficult business, words can easily change their meaning; for example, perhaps Kisakurek meant supersede, transcend rather than destroy? – Mozibur Ullah Jan 23 '17 at 22:07

I cannot find any such quote from Bergson.

However, considering Bergson's critical view of reason and its limitations -- his epistemology being irrationalist, that is, that reason cannot adequately provide us an accurate view of reality, stressing rather that the dimensions of instinct, feeling, and will are superior over and against reason -- it's wholly possible that such a quote was made by Bergson. Certainly other thinkers have made similar claims. In Hegel's writings on logic there is mentioned the law of reflexion, from which the quote “everything destroys itself” appears. Hope that helps.

  • @MoziburUllah - I respectfully disagree. My answer in short is 'No, this is not a quote by Bergson so far as I know. However, it may be a quote from or related to Hegel". – tale852150 Jan 15 '17 at 16:01
  • I don't think 'destroy' is a good translation of Aufheben "is a German word with several seemingly contradictory meanings, including 'to lift up', 'to abolish', 'cancel' or 'suspend', or 'to sublate'. The term has also been defined as 'abolish', 'preserve', and 'transcend'. In philosophy, aufheben is used by Hegel to explain what happens when a thesis and antithesis interact, and in this sense is translated mainly as 'sublate'. – Mozibur Ullah Jan 23 '17 at 22:30
  • @Mozibur Ullah - With all due respect, the length of an answer has no correlation to it's value. The OP's question is a 'yes/no – tale852150 Jan 23 '17 at 23:12
  • @MoziburUllah -- (cont.) (I got timed out on the edit so here's the rest) ...'yes/no' answer. As for the translation, I did not translate from the German sources but from an English text (which may have been mistranslated). Either way, I cannot find such a quote by Bergson and only mention Hegel as a possible source of the quote. The OP never asks where the quote is from, only is it from Bergson or not. – tale852150 Jan 23 '17 at 23:20
  • @MoziburUllah - I have edited my response to provide more content and detail as you suggested. Thank you. – tale852150 Jan 25 '17 at 19:19

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