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Disciplining Physiological Psychology: Cinematographs as Epistemic Devices in the Work of Henri Bergson and Charles Scott Sherrington

  • Tom Quick (a1)

This paper arrives at a normative position regarding the relevance of Henri Bergson's philosophy to historical enquiry. It does so via experimental historical analysis of the adaptation of cinematographic devices to physiological investigation. Bergson's philosophy accorded well with a mode of physiological psychology in which claims relating to mental and physiological existence interacted. Notably however, cinematograph-centered experimentation by British physiologists including Charles Scott Sherrington, as well as German-trained psychologists such as Hugo Münsterberg and Max Wertheimer, contributed to a cordoning-off of psychological from physiological questioning during the early twentieth century. Bergson invested in a mode of intellectual practice in which psychological claims had direct relevance to the interpretation of physiological nature. The in-part cinematograph-inspired breakdown of this mode had significance for subsequent interpretations of his philosophy. It is suggested that this experimental particularization of Bergson's contentions indicates that any adaptation of his thought for historical enquiry must be disciplinarily specific.

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