La philosophie animale de Bergson

Conscience du vivant, créativité instinctive et biologie contemporaine


  • Mathilde Tahar Université de Lille



Henri Bergson, Animal consciousness, animal creativity, ethology, theory of evolution


The non-human animal holds a significant position in Bergson’s work. However, because it often serves to illuminate other concepts – humanity, the élan vital – few studies have delved into Bergson’s animal philosophy. However, Bergson’s conception of the animal as an instinctive but conscious being, distinct from humans but partaking, like them, in the élan vital, provides valuable philosophical tools to address contemporary challenges in ethology and evolutionary theory. The aim of this article is to analyse the paradoxical instinctive consciousness that Bergson attributes to animals, and to explore the contemporary implications of such a conception. To do this, I first examine the singular place of animals in Bergsonian philosophy in relation to humans and the élan vital, highlighting how Bergson steers clear of an anthropocentric approach. I then investigate how, through their consciousness, animals uniquely contribute to the creativity of the élan vital. This leads me to distinguish between two forms of animal consciousness in Bergson, one of which makes room for genuine non-human inventiveness. Finally, I analyse the contemporary stakes of this animal philosophy, demonstrating how Bergson’s approach allows ethology to rethink its methods and encourages a fresh consideration of the role played by non-human organisms in evolution.