Intuition (Bergson) - Intuition and The Absolute

Intuition and The Absolute

Henri Bergson defined metaphysics as the science that dispenses with symbols to grasp the absolute. Hence metaphysics involves an inversion of the habitual modes of thought and is in need of its own method, which he identified as intuition.

Henri Bergson defined intuition as a simple, indivisible experience of sympathy through which one is moved into the inner being of an object to grasp what is unique and ineffable within it. The absolute that is grasped is always perfect in the sense that it is perfectly what it is, and infinite in the sense that it can be grasped as a whole through a simple, indivisible act of intuition, yet lends itself to boundless enumeration when analysed.

Two images Henri Bergson gave in his essay An Introduction to Metaphysics may aid us in comprehending the ideas of intuition, analyses, the absolute and the relative. The first image is a city reconstructed with juxtaposed photographs taken from every viewpoint and angle. The reconstruction can never give us the dimensional value of walking through the actual city. This can only ever be grasped through a simple intuition. The same goes for the experience of reading a single line of Homer. If you wish to explain this experience to someone who cannot speak ancient Greek, you may translate the line and lay commentary upon commentary, but this commentary shall never grasp the dimensional value of experiencing the poem in its original language.

It can be seen then that intuition is a method that aims at getting back to and knowing the things themselves, in all their uniqueness and ineffable originality. The one thing it is certain one can grasp from within through sympathy is the self. Intuition therefore begins with placing oneself within the Duration.

From within the Duration, one may augment it to contain other Durations one can enter into. Like an infinite spectrum of shades gradually running into one another, one finds themselves within orange, stuck between its darkest and lightest shades. One may move up to yellow or down to red, just as one may move up to spirit or down to matter.

The method then consists in placing oneself within the Duration, which always contains a sense of all the other Durations within the absolute Duration. From here, one should expand their Duration into a continuous heterogeneity. Once this is done, one differentiates two extremities within the Duration to create a dualism, just as one differentiates between red and yellow within the colour spectrum, before showing they are in fact one.

It may now be understood that Henri Bergson was dissatisfied with Kantianism, which limited the bounds of reason to such an extent that it deemed knowledge of the absolute an impossibility. His method of intuition can in fact be seen as a response to Immanuel Kant, who believed that we can only know the world as it appears to us, not as it is in itself. He maintained that the attempt to know the absolute always resulted in antinomies, a kind of philosophical paradox caused by the limits of reason.

Bergson responds by saying that the antinomies are the result of analysis, not intuition. An example of this is Duration itself, which Bergson maintains isn’t a multiplicity or a unity. Depending on the viewpoint from which one begins, he will either reconstruct the absolute Duration as a unity or a multiplicity. Hence the antinomy of substance pluralism and substance monism, which can only be resolved through showing they are two representations of the same thing via a simple act of intuition. Thus real philosophy consists in placing oneself above the fray of oppositional schools of thought.

Read more about this topic:  Intuition (Bergson)

Famous quotes containing the words absolute and/or intuition:

    ... a supportive husband is an absolute requirement for professional women.... He is something she looks for, and when she finds him, she marries him.
    Alice S. Rossi (b. 1922)

    All appeared new, and strange at first, inexpressibly rare and delightful and beautiful. I was a little stranger, which at my entrance into the world was saluted and surrounded with innumerable joys. My knowledge was divine. I knew by intuition those things which since my Apostasy, I collected again by the highest reason.
    Thomas Traherne (1636–1674)