“Thinking Life as an Elan Vital. Bergson on Science and Evolution”

The present paper will focus on explaining the philosophical meaning of life and evolution, based in Bergson’s theories of time and knowledge. By considering time as a creative continuity, that can be understood only from a philosophical/intuitive perspective, we will arrive to the bergsonian concept of “élan vital” or creative impulse, which will lead us to a particular interpretation of what is evolution.

When philosophy thinks immaterial realities, just as freedom, soul, movement or time, with spatial categories, it arrives to intractable paradoxes, just as Xeno’s aporiae. The same happens with the concept of life, which is basically a type of movement that utilises matter with a creative impulse, that Bergson calls “élan vital”. Evolutionary theories, at least at that time, lacked what Bergson called the “effective power of time”, meaning that they were not assigning time any function in their systems. But this time-aspect of life is what permits life to evolve, to search new paths of development, assembling the simplicity of a vital function (v.g. seeing) with the complexity of the developed organs (v.g. the eye). But, on the other hand, this is also what makes life incomprehensible or irreducible to the spatial categories of Physics or basic Biology.