The Art of Character : Between Repetition and Creation in Bergson and Merleau-Ponty
Upcoming talk at Stony Brook University, March 28th 2018
Throughout his work, Henri Bergson returns to the image of character and personality in an effort to provide an image of duration, that heterogeneous and continuous flow of becoming, that trajectory of self-creation or ongoing individuation that he identifies as the essence of consciousness and perhaps beyond. His intuitive method thereby reorients philosophy to trajectories of expressive being in and of the world. Yet this illustration via character reflects the light of Bergson’s philosophy back upon character itself, providing us with a nascent reflection on individuation (instead of subjectivity) and an emerging thought of intersubjectivity (instead of co-existence). In this presentation, I take up Bergson’s understanding of character as reorienting philosophical reflection toward fleeting ontological objects that I collect under the term trajectories, that paradoxical movement of expression that is, as Merleau-Ponty puts it, “ever new and always the same.” If, I argue, character is an open movement of self-cultivation, then ethics needs to focus on the virtuous practice of taking up and transgressing boundaries in and through the trajectories of intersubjective expression.