Philosophies of Time: Bergson and Deleuze in the Labyrinth

Philosophies of Time: Bergson and Deleuze in the Labyrinth

Four Tuesdays, February 16-March 9, 2020, 6-8pm EST (US+Canada). Online via Zoom.

John Paetsch

I feel that I am Bergsonian—when Bergson says that modern science has not found its metaphysics, the metaphysics it needs. It is that metaphysics that interests me.

—Deleuze, “Responses to a Series of Questions”

Henri Bergson (1859–1941) was one of the most prominent philosophers of the early 20th-century. He debated Einstein about the philosophical consequences of Relativity Theory, tangled with Bertrand Russell, and inspired early modernist art. But it took Gilles Deleuze’s “introduction” to Bergson’s philosophy – Bergsonism (1966) – to illuminate the truly radical dimensions of Bergson’s philosophy of time.

Bergson diagnoses a subtle fallacy infecting all previous philosophies of time: whether they reduce time to motion, declare time an illusion, picture time as a line, or make time one dimension of a four-dimensional spacetime manifold, they spatialize time. Though subtle, this is no minor fallacy—one that could be corrected while leaving intact the core. No, this fallacy informs so many aspects of philosophical systems that correcting it requires transforming them radically or razing them outright.

Many called Bergson an “irrational mystic.” Why? His critique is so corrosive that it might end up dissolving all philosophical systems, if not the impetus animating philosophy outright! How could anyone philosophize by following his path? For Deleuze, Bergson’s singular ways of thinking not only renews philosophy for our time but opens up a path towards a sufficiently robust conception of Nature. The question becomes: How could anyone philosophize if not by following his path?

In this 4-week course, we’ll examine various conceptions of time, try to make explicit our own implicit conceptions of time, and assess them in the light of Bergson’s philosophy, as refracted by Gilles Deleuze and others.

What will be our “clue” into the structure of time? Is time homogeneous, flowing equably from moment to moment? Or is it everywhere heterogeneous, almost maximally turbulent? Is it an inert, ambient arena “containing” bodies and events? Is physics’ presentation of time authoritative? If philosophy approaches Nature not (like physics) with a quantitative lens but in a durative key, can it work with physics to illuminate Nature—all the while re-establishing its autonomy from physics?

If Deleuze is right, Bergson indicates not just how to renew metaphysics but how to open ourselves to a vitally indeterminate world, one soliciting everywhere novel improvisations.

Readings (PDFs will be provided prior to the seminar):

  • Henri Bergson, Time and Free Will (selections); Matter and Memory (selections); Creative Evolution (selections), The Creative Mind (selections)
  • Gilles Deleuze, Bergsonism (selections)
  • Elisabeth Grosz, “Deleuze, Bergson, and the Concept of Life” and The Nick of Time
  • Vladimir Jankélévitch, Henri Bergson (selections)
  • Carlo Rovelli, The Order of Time (selections)
  • Milič Čapek, Bergson and Modern Physics

Facilitator: John Paetsch received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Georgia. His dissertation—The Texture of Foliated Time—explores why Gilles Deleuze, Henri Bergson, and G.W. Leibniz all entwine “continuity” with “heterogeneity”—whether considering how a life dissipates time or a body diffuses force. Sad to say, it spares neither philosophy nor aesthetics nor physics nor mathematics—blame his confidante, O.B. Bassler! Portions of it have appeared in Deleuze and Guattari Studies. He is presently translating the rudely neglected essays of the philosopher-mathematician Gilles Châtelet for Urbanomic. He has published anomalous poetry with Hiding Press, Gauss PDF and Make Now Books. He teaches at Temple University.

Time: Four Tuesdays, February 16-March 9, 6-8pm. Online via Zoom.


  • $120 – Member Ticket for Incite Seminars Patreon Supports at any level
  • $180 – General Admission Ticket
  • $225 – Generous Supporter Ticket
  • $60 – Student/Contingent Scholar/Activist Ticket
  • Solidarity scholarships may be available for those who cannot afford any of the above tiers – please email us.


Please register by buying a ticket at our Eventbrite page. If you need assistance or have any questions about the seminar, please email