Bergsonism in the Philosophy of Music: Vladimir Jankélévitch’s “Negative Aesthetics”


In his concept of musical creativity, French philosopher Vladimir Jankélévitch (1903–1985) relied greatly upon the ideas of Henri Bergson, who believed that music expresses pure duration better than all other arts. Music in its essence is a temporal art, and this, according to Jankélévitch, is the cause of its inherent paradoxes: expressiveness and inexpressiveness, repetition and innovation, etc. Music and philosophy are similar: both, in their own ways, are trying to express the inexpressible, something that is rooted deep in the human experience, in existence itself. The theme of the ineffable, one of the most important in Jankélévitch’s work, goes back to mystical tradition. In his writings on music, this subject acquires a special form called negative aesthetics (on the analogy of negative theology). According to one of researchers, Jankélévitch “opposes the miracle of creativity to imperialism of knowledge”.