Ethical Man 02 – Henri Bergson

Rabbi Triebitz continues with a second introduction to the Emergence Of Ethical Man

One of the basic ideas of Henri Bergson‘s philosophy was that all matter has two components: mechanistic and creative.
He termed the creative component the elan vital. These two components, mechanistic and creative, allow for matter to both remain constant and static, yet evolve and grow.

In his later book Two Sources Of Morality And Religion
Bergson extends his philosophy, and these two concepts to ethics and religion.
In terms of ethics, these two concepts become closed morality versus open morality, and in religion they are called static and dynamic. To quote from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

There is the closed morality, whose religion is static, and there is the open morality, whose religion is dynamic. Closed morality and static religion are concerned with social cohesion. Nature has made certain species evolve in such a way that the individuals in these species cannot exist on their own. They are fragile and require the support of a community….But, there is another kind of morality and religion, according to Bergson. The open morality and dynamic religion are concerned with creativity and progress. They are not concerned with social cohesion, and thus Bergson calls this morality “open” because it includes everyone. The open morality is genuinely universal and it aims at peace. It aims at an “open society.”

Rav Soloveitchik quotes Bergson and includes these ideas as fundamentals of his Ethical Man. On p. 115 he discusses Bergson. (I don’t have a copy of the book. I have found a small extract on google books but not the relevant pages. If anyone can send me the actual quotes I will include them here).

Rav Triebitz then discusses the Rav’s view on tzimtzum. He shows that despite being a descendant of Nefesh HaChayim (Shaar Gimel begins here) the Rav clearly held like the Baal haTanya when it came to tzimtzum (Shaar Yichud ve-Emunah is here)

(For a discussion about the difference between the two views of tzimtzum listen to this shiur from Rabbi Triebitz, as well as the series on the Asarah Klalim.)

I apologise that the flv file is larger than it should be. I am trying to shrink it – if I succeed I’ll upload a smaller version. But at least the quality is good. And many thanks to Elijah for all his technical help.

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2 thoughts on “Ethical Man 02 – Henri Bergson

  1. Rafael Selsick


    Thanks a lot for your wonderfull shiurim which are really clear.
    Through them we can come to understand what the Gaon said that
    where philosophy ends Kabalah begins.

    I would like to ask if the elan vitale of Bergson could be equal to the
    Nefesh Hayah in the end of Shaar 1 chapter 4 of the Nefesh HaHayim?
    This would not only make the Rav follow his zeider exactly but would be
    a very strong mussar idea.

    Thanking you once again,


  2. Jonathan

    Would the nefesh hachayim cited shaar 2 perek 14 be able to agree to his decendents claim that man’s physicality is not sinful? in other words, Would the NHC be able to hold of the Ravs upholding of the Hallacha while still learning like the Baal HaTayna?
    ????? ???? ??? ????. ????? ????? ?? ?????? ?????? ????? ????? ???? ?????? ??????? ?????. ??? ???? ????? ????? ?? ????? ?????? ???? ????’. ????. ????? ????? ????? ???? ???? ?????? ????? ??????? ?? ?????? ???? ???????? ??? ??????. ?? ?????? ??????? ???? ???? ???? ???? ??? ??? ???. ??? ???? ???? ??? ?????? ?????. ?????? ?? ???? ???? ?? ???? ?????. ????? ?? ?????’ ??? ???? ?????? ?? ???? ??? ?????. ???????? ???? ?????? ?? ????? ????? ??????? ????? ?? ???? ???”? ????? ????? ????? ????”? ????? ?????’ ???????’ ????? ???’ ????? ?????’ ????? ????? ????? ????? ??? ???? ????? ???? ????? ??? ?????? ???????? ???? ?????? ??”?. ??? ???? ???? ??? ????? ??? ?????. ???? ???? ???? ?????. ?? ??? ??? ????? ???? ?? ??? ?????? ?????? ??????? ?? ?????. ???? ?????? ???? ???? ????’ ????? ????? ??? ????? ??????. ?????? ?????’ ???????? ???? ????’ ??? ??? ?? ??? ?????


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