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Habit as resistance: Bergson's philosophy of second nature

Abstract Henri Bergson is one of the few philosophers who both explicitly and extensively discusses the phenomenon of habit. In view of his engagement with habit, does Bergson develop a philosophically robust account of the phenomenon? Most commentary on his account of habit refers to his early work, Matter and Memory. In this paper, I begin by arguing that Bergson's treatment of habit in Matter and Memory is problematic because it does not adequately differentiate between habit and material nature. Despite its neglect in secondary literature, Bergson also discusses habit in the first part of his final book, The Two Sources of Morality and Religion. With respect to this book, I subsequently show how Bergson deploys Ravaisson's distinction between instinct and habit to reconceptualize habit as the second of our two natures, our social nature. Lastly, I reconstruct Bergson's late contribution to the philosophy of habit: rather than a tendency that is hard to resist, habit is a resistance to which we tend to submit. By shedding light on the effort that we expend to adhere to them, Bergson's resistance account of habit advances an original and productive perspective on our social habits.

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