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However, Bergson's reading of The Origin of Species (published in the year of his birth) had a fundamental influence on his thinking. His major work Creative Evolution sets out a rejection of Darwin's account of evolution insofar as it was proposed in materialistic, mechanistic terms of random mutations being selected for their adaptive value. In contrast Bergson stressed that an animal or an organ is a whole whose parts coordinate to produce efficient functioning. If one of these parts comes to vary independently from the rest the functioning breaks down.

He shared this belief with other seventeenth century rationalists such as Spinoza (1637-1677) and Leibniz (1648-1716) who held the doctrine in a more mystical and, in a sense, more extreme form. Leibniz was able to argue that none of the ideas are literally produced in us by the external world affecting our sense organs, whereas Descartes only believed that some of them were strictly innate. He wrote in 1641 that the infant in the womb 'has in itself the ideas of God, itself, and all truths which are said to be self-evident; it has these ideas no less than adults have when they are not paying attention to them, and it does not acquire them afterwards when it grows up' (Adam and Tannery, III, p.

He postulated a vital impulse (elan vital) which 'insinuated itself' into early physicochemical systems and which was 38 THE ACQUISITION OF KNOWLEDGE the coordinating force, a 'current of consciousness' passed on from generation to generation. This found its highest expression in human intelligence; ending with the thesis that the 'appearance of man is the raison d'etre oflife on earth'. By and large, Bergson's questions have been more influential than his answers. The fourth and final direction was mainly American, with its European progenitor being Kant.

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