Is Bergson a Charlatan?

PHILOSOPHERS, not a few, not as many as poets, but a godly number nevertheless, have been charged with insanity. That BERGSON should be so accused was inevitable. But he is accused of what is worse, because a lunatic is not responsible for his lunacy, whereas a charlatan is responsible for his charlatanry. Yet there may be unconscious charlatans, as there are unconscious hypocrites.

Anyhow BERGSON is considered by no less a man than GEORG BRANDES, the great Danish critic, who is as much at home in Paris as in Copenhagen, an intellectual imposter, who humbugs the intellectual world, and gets his enjoyment out of the undiscovered and only lately suspected bamboozlement.

Others are raising hue and cry. We may expect to hear much concerning BERGSON’s intellectual duplicity for a time. His philosophic system which so depreciates the reason so exalts intuition, which is popularizing mystisism postulating GOD as a verity and re-establishing the grounds of religion, was bound to excite first the scorn, and how the rage of the predominant materialism and skepticism which was so confident that never another champion could dispute with it the lists.

Tissues of words, subtle sophistics or even just phrases devoid of tangible significance that impress and obsess the untrained minds of fashionable women and the soulful yearning of aspiring youth, — that is about as BRANDES considers the works of BERGSON to be.

And just that is what they may appear to the unprejudiced perception of the coming generations. Poets have gotten drunk on words, and philosophers on metaphysics. The obscurer transendentalism of COLERIDGE and the more mystical effusions of HEGEL are pure intellectual intoxication, as we in this after-time clearly perceive. And BERGSON may have come to just that sort of thing. We are not saying that it is likely, we are merely noting that it may be.

But that BERGSON is a conscious imposter, bent on fooling the world and smiling in his sleeve at his success, is not a possiblility to our mind, even though so sound a judgment and just an intellect as BRANDES propounds the paradox to explain the Parisian mystic, and his astonishing vogue. We do not believe that any elaborate philosophical system was ever put forth to impose upon the intellectual credulity of the world. Sophists, conscious sophists, there have been since the pre-Socratic time. Sophists we have with us still, who delight in confusion, in false deduction, in specious argument and wrong conclusions. But such minds are piecemeal, wholly critical, intellectually egoistical.

Whereas he who creates is in his creation sincere — at least, as far as he is contained in his creation he is sincere. He may be wrong, but he is sincere. Creation predicates sincerity or it would not be creation — it would be a criticism, a destruction of some sort. The carpenter may be a bad man, may beat his children, starve his wife, but when he builds a contrivance of any sort, he must obey the laws of physics. The artist may be a BENVENUTO CELLINI privately, but when he creates a thing of beauty he must be loyal to the spirit of beauty. So your great philosopher must be loyal to the spirit of truth. He may not arrive at truth, but he is after truth.

No, BERGSON is not a mental Mephistopheles posing as spiritual teacher of the race. Were he insincere, as BRANDES suspects, he would be found juggling with the stock market or promoting get-rich-quick projects. For a charlatan there is too much labor and too little profit in BERGSON's work.