BERGSON'S NOTION OF INTUITION
Mrs Arifa Shameem
The basic theme of Reality for Bergson is Time. Reality is time continuous and living. It is different from spatialised time which is an artificial construction of stationary moments. For a meaningful grasp of time Bergson felt that none of the time-honoured epistemological theories are suitable. Empiricism and rationalism both render a partial picture of Reality. To grasp time one needs a living experience of Reality. This living experience in which time is given in its richness and fullness is intuition. Bergson's theory of intuition is a unique and lasting contribution to human thought. By giving an elaborate account of intuition in Introduction to Metaphysics and other works, Berg-son has made a definite advance in epistemology. He has brought to light one of the unexplored faculties of human knowledge. The great philosophical genius has been, for the last two thou-sand years, groping for truth in darkness with certain tools that might have been helpful, but were certainly not adequate. Bergson has called attention to a completely new way of looking at Reality, a way of knowing with which we are all familiar but to which we rarely pay attention. We are hardly aware that without any formal logical constructions, we have access to truth in a very natural experience called intuition.
In this study we shall try to explicate what is this primary experience intuition to which Bergson is calling attention, and in what way it is different from some other commonly held notions of intuition, especially that of the rationalists.
Intuition in ordinary discourse is often referred to as a mysterious experience through which some future events are sensed or predicted before they actually take a shape. Intuition is here very much like extra-sensory perception. This kind of experience is often described as something mysterious and uncommon. Such experiences cannot be related to other experiences. They are experienced abruptly without any effort of mind. Such experiences remain inexplicable, scientifically or otherwise.
Intuition of this kind was never recognised as a true experience by common sense, science or philosophy. People reporting such experiences are often looked at with mistrust. However, modern psychology is engaged in finding scientific basis for such abnormal experiences. These experiences may be of some interest to parapsychology, but are certainly not of any interest to established science or philosophy.
Philosophers often distinugish between non-sensory and sensory intuition. Our knowledge of red or blue colour, or of pleasure and pain are classed as sensory intuitions. They are simple, non-conceptual experiences which are accepted as true prima facie. G.E. Moore brings to notice that our apprehension of "good" is a non-sensory intuition. It is a simple unanalysable notion. Such simple notions as "good" and simple perceptual qualities such as "yellow," according to G.E. Moore, are apprehended by non-sensory and sensory intuitions, respectively. Intuition is here recognised as a faculty of apprehending simple qualities, sensory or non-sensory.
Kant ascribes a completely new meaning to intuition when in "Transcendental Aesthetic" he describes space and time as intuition. Space is the intuition of the outer sense. Time is the intuition of the inner sense. They are the formal conditions of sensory experience.
A more popular and commonly accepted notion of intuition is what is offered by the rationalists. The intellectual intuition of the rationalists can appropriately be described as "immediate apprehension," "intellectual vision," a "sudden light," or a "flash of light". It is a high intellectual activity in which things are "illuminated". Though intuition of this kind is sudden, it is certainly not abrupt. Normally, it follows after a laborious process of reasoning. Intuition of this kind is considered to be the highest intellectual apprehension which is recognised as superior to discursive or deductive reasoning. It normally comes as an aid to deduction. Sometimes it supplements deduction. Deductive and intuitive reasoning complement each other in most rationalistic systems. Some thinkers believe that deductive reasoning cannot proceed without being supplemented by intuitive insight at every step of deduction. Self-evident truths are normally said to be known intuitively. A priori truths is another name for intuitive knowledge. First-person statements about psychological states to which one has a privileged access are claimed to be known intuitively. Immediate inferences are examples of intuitive knowledge. But intuition is normally considered to be non-inferential know-ledge. Most of the indefinable notions are claimed to be known intuitively. In any process of reasoning, when discursive reasoning fails, intuition comes to its aid. Science and philosophy alike recognise the significance of intuition in the domain of know-ledge. In fact, scientific and philosophical progress owes much to intuition.
In contemporary phenomenology Husserl used the term "intuition" in a slightly different sense. When Reality is uncovered by analysis, intuition apprehends the essences. Analysis and intuition here are two aspects of the same experience. The former lays bare the thing-in-itself, the latter grasps it immediately. The former uncovers, the latter discovers.
However, intuition, as understood by phenomenologists, or the sense in which other rationalists understand it, is characteristically different from Berg on's notion of intuition. Perhaps all rationalists would agree that such intuition states are momentary. In these states of enlightenment bits of truth are grasped. The intuitive mind gets partial glimpses of truth. In such experiences, parts of Reality are exposed to light. These bits of truth are joined together by the synthetic activity of the mind and systems are built Mathematical systems are built very much in the same manner. It requires great mental effort and labour to construct systems on the basis of partially intuited truths. Most of the great rationalistic systems are semi-intuitive and semi-deductive constructions. Descartes and Spinoza graded intuition as the highest level of intellectual activity. However, it needs to he supplemented by the level of imagination and deduction. Bits of truth are seen in flashes of light only after discursive reason is tired. Intuition of this kind is like a key to some problems. It is like a turning point. When discursive reason cannot go further by itself, intuition suddenly comes to its aid and turns enquiry in a new direction not thought out before. Intuition of this kind, though not abrupt, is certainly unexpected.
Bergson's notion of intuition is fundamentally different from all the above notions of intuition. Sometimes, Bergson's language suggests that this experience is different in kind from intellect and has its roots perhaps in instinct. It is a cognitive tendency fit to grasp Reality as life and duration. Intellect works on matter, intuition works on life. Intellect grasps the immobility, intuition grasps the mobile.
"Our intelligence as it. leaves the hands of nature has for its chief object the unorganized solid."
"Of immobility alone the intellect forms a true idea." About intuition he writes:
"It is to the very inwardness of life that intuition leads us—by intuition I mean instinct that has become disinterested, self-conscious, capable of reflecting upon its object and of enlarging it indefinitely."
The above lines might suggest that intuition is different in kind from intellect. However, intuition is certainly not conceived by Bergson as anti-intellectual. Bergson looks at intuition as a superior kind of experience. It is a high cognitive activity which combines an affective state. In fact, the division of human mind in cognition, connection and affection is very artificial. It looses sight of certain experiences which are both cognitive and affective in character. Sensations of pleasure and pain, for instance, are not purely affective states. They are also awareness of a special kind and hence cognitive in character. Intuition is a higher experience than sensation. Intuition is a feeling intellect. Intuitive experience is a living experience of a living Reality. Bergson describes it as "intellectual sympathy".
Intuition functions in a very unique manner. It does not apprehend bits of truth. It perceives truth as a whole. Intuitive knowledge is not an artificial construction of bits of truth with the help of synthetic activity of the mind. Reality is not a synthetic unity for Bergson. It is not a sum total of parts. Truth is never given in units. It cannot be distributed in so many parts. There are no bits of truth. Reality is a whole. It is not one. It is not many. It is itself: living, enduring and becoming. Intuition grasps this living, enduring Reality, but not by a simple cognitive activity. It also feels Reality with its full life or vigour. To know is to feel and live. This is a unique experience which is not describable. Words can suitably describe thoughts or ideas, simple or complex. But thoughts and ideas are immobile unities. They are like snaps of a living Reality. Intellect functions analytically. It stabilises Reality, breaks it up into units, and tries to explain each unit with the help of concepts or symbols. It there-by misses the inherent pulsation of movement, How can movement, when stabilised, be known meaningfully? Zeno's paradoxes were the result of stabilised conception of movement and time, Time is not a sum total of spatialised moments or units. It endures and flows without ceasing and without any pauses.
Bergson feels that no language is fit or can be fit to explain this living, enduring Reality. Knowledge must resemble its object. There should be a real correlation between the subject and the object of knowledge. Besides, conceptual knowledge is symbolic. It consists of a series of ideas. Each idea is expressed through a word. Every word stands for some simple or complex idea or thought. But ideas are partial pictures of stabilised Reality. They cannot capture or preserve Reality that is living and enduring. Besides, Reality is a whole. This whole is not an artificial construction of parts. Nor is it a simple unity which can be grasped by a single unit of thought. Moreover, the whole is not stationary or immobile that can be comprehended in one unit of thought. The whole is never complete. It is all the time growing, enduring or changing. What words can be used to describe a whole that changes before it is grasped? Does it mean, therefore, that one cannot grasp the whole because the whole is changed before it is grasped? In other words, is Bergson suggesting that we should give up the hope of understanding this unique whole because the whole is changed before one attempts to understand it or because it is never fully given?
Bergson is not a sceptic. He has full confidence in human ability to grasp the Reality. But he is not satisfied with the time-honoured methods of realising knowledge. Perception and reason are adequate for scientific pursuits. But they are not appropriate to grasp Reality which is a living, enduring whole. This enduring whole is grasped in a unique way which is intuition. But the act of intuition is not a single or simple act of apprehension. Intuition is a living experience that is suitable for the apprehension of a living Reality. Reality has no leaps. It is continuous. Nor in intuitive activity do we jump from one concept to another. Reality is not given in bits. Nor are there any bits of intuitive vision. Reality is an evergrowing whole. In-tuition is a living experience which corresponds to, and embraces, its unique object. It truly captures Reality with its life and vigour. To be more precise, in Bergson, there is no dichotomy of subject and object. It is intellect that breaks Reality into subject and object and draws an artificial line between them. In the state of intuitive experience, the known and the knower are identical. The object is not outside them. It is lived in experience through intuition. In intuition we have the highest intimacy with Reality. It is an acquaintance of a very unique kind. With conscious efforts one can have greater acquaintance, greater familiarity, and greater intimacy with Reality. This experience captures Reality as a whole.
It will be helpful here to compare Bergson's view of intuiting "whole" with Gestalt theory of perception. Wertheimer, Kohler and Kaffka, the main representatives of Gestalt school, have propounded the theory that our perception is essentially a perception of a whole. But a whole is not simply a sum total of parts. A Gestalt is a whole whose parts unite in a unique way, such that the whole is always different from the sum total of its parts. To appreciate a melody, we need to be aware not simply of tones in isolation, but a succession of tones that combine in a unique way. A melody has a Gestalt quality independently of the separate parts. Kaffka deni s that there is an absolute correspondence between our perceiving and the stimuli. He draws a distinction between geographical environment and behavioural environment. We should not lose sight of the behavioural tendency of the mind always to perceive wholes. However, though the wholes are described by the Gestalt psychologist as more than the sum total of its parts, they are explicable in terms of certain laws. The law of proxity, for example, explains the geographical environments, i.e. that certain objects that are similar or proximate tend to be seen together. The law of simplicity explains the behavioural aspect, i.e. the internal forces that facilitate perception of Gestalt. One of the internal forces, for example, is that mind tends to see simple and good figur s. Mind has its own way of perceiving figures.
However, the experience of wholes described by the Gestalt psychologists is different from the experience of the whole as described by Bergson. The Gestalt, no doubt, changes with the change of background, but this is no inherent quality of the whole itself. A change of perspective determines the whole to change, and the whole assumes a new form for the perceiver. The Gestalt psychologists, however, admit that there are some constant qualities in the geographical environment. These qualities combine with the perceiver's behavioural environment, and the whole takes new forms. In other words, the whole changes with the change of subjective and objective background and assumes new forms with respect to them. The whole itself is nothing but a configuration of parts. The parts now take this shape, now the other, with the change of backgrounds.
The whole in Bergson is a completely different thing. The Gestalt psychologists have their emphasis on perception of segregated wholes, whereas in Bergson it is the whole Reality that is perceived in intuition. It is neither a sum total of parts, nor a mere configuration. The whole is something unique which is ever growing and changing. "We cannot step in the same river twice," is a popular way of expressing this thought. The river is totally changed before you step in it again. So is Reality for Bergson which is pure time or duration. It is never the same in quality and experience. Duration or time is a living whole which goes on taking ever new forms and shapes. It is a moving whole which is continuously in a state of change inherently. Intellect may try to immobilise it, but then it fails to and rstand it. A unique experience is required to grasp this whole. Intuition catches this whole in its full life and vigour.
We feel here some difficulty with Bergson's notion of the experience of the whole in an intuitive experience. Granted that intellect tends to immobilise the whole and, therefore, renders only a partial picture of the whole; is it not true that each individual who attempts to grasp this ever-changing reality has a limited access to it? Each individual has his own specific point of entry into the whole. Does it not follow that each individual's specific frame of reference or point of entry is going to determine how he is going to grasp and interpret the whole? In other words, each individual sees the whole with reference to his own mental horizon. By mental horizon or point of entry we mean his limits of experience. The mental horizon of each individual determines his understanding of the whole. Being limited by his mental horizon each individual can get only a partial view of Reality. It is not possible for any individual to transcend his mental horizon. To transcend his mental horizon is to go beyond the limits of his experience. But within the natural limits of his experience he can see only one phase of Reality as it appears to him. The whole with its richness and fulness still remains beyond his grasp. Only an absolute consciousness can grasp the whole in its wholeness. Such an absolute consciousness perhaps would be identical with the whole itself. A finite individual at the most can have some glimpses of the whole. But these glimpses are not the same as full experience of the whole in its wholeness. With the help of these glimpses a finite mind can reconstruct the whole through its synthetic activity, but that would be an artificial construction which will not be acceptable to Bergson as a true experience of the whole.
There is another difficulty. If each individual grasps through a unique experience, named intuition, a unique Reality, it would imply that we all have different views of Reality in our own ways. How can our experience of Reality be public? In other words, how can we talk about the same reality in a meaningful way? There seems to be no way of making these experiences public rather than personal and to talk about them meaningfully. Does, then, the whole remain unknowable in its wholeness? Bergson would not admit that. But it seems that Bergson's theory of intuition fails to establish the possibility of having the experience of the whole in its wholeness. Bergson rejects perceptual knowledge on the ground that it can give some images of the Reality but not the Reality itself. Concepts break Reality into parts and reconstruct an artificial whole which is far removed from Reality. But what about intuition? Does it not also render a partial experience of the whole ? In what way, then, intuition is superior to perceptual knowledge? Reality is known in intuition more intimately and more closely. Does it not follow that each knower has this intimacy only with a phase of the whole and not with the whole of Reality in its wholeness ? Walking in the downtown of Paris and familiarising oneself with a part of the city is not the same as knowing the whole city of Paris in its variety and fulness.
We would like to agree with Bergson as far as his criticism of perceptual and conceptual knowledge is concerned, namely, that such knowledge is partial and artificial. But we feel that Berg-son's own theory of intuition does not solve these difficulties. It is another substitute which might be helpful but which does not promise much.
However, Bergson feels that intuition is, in any way, superior to perceptual or conceptual knowledge, because it establishes a more intimate relation with Reality than the first two. But this intimate experience is said to be beyond description. It is in-expressible. Symbols cannot represent it. Ideas and representations tend to immobilise Reality. They miss its theme which is mobility. No thoughts can capture this mobility. No words can symbolise the flow of Reality. Reality which is pure duration or time can be grasped in a unique experience, but it cannot he represented in thought and expressed in words. It remains, there-fore, inexpressible and indescribable.
At this point Bergson has been much criticised. Most analytical thinkers are of opinion that what cannot be expressed is not knowledge. There is no thought that cannot be expressed, no experience that cannot be symbolised. Does it mean that all talk about Bergson's intuitive experience of time is absurd. Much depends on what you understand by expressibility. If expressibility or description is understood to mean representation and reproduction, then surely intuitive experience is inexpressible. But so is sensory experience. My experience of pleasure or pain or red or black colour is also inexpressible. By no effort of language can I reproduce or represent my experience of pleasure or pain or red or black colour; and by no effort of imagination can one who has not had similar experiences understand what I am referring to. Yet all sensory experiences which are prima facie incommunicable are expressed in language. But they are expressed in a different sense. By expressibility here we mean ability to provoke similar experiences in others, Sensory experiences are expressible in this sense. And so is Bergson's intuitive experience. Words cannot represent or reproduce pleasure or pain or intuitive experiences. But they can certainly provoke similar feelings in others. In this sense Bergson's intuitive experience is expressible. Bergson never falls short of vocabulary to express his experience of Reality, and he expresses it most fluently and lucidly.
The intuitive experience Bergson is talking about is no doubt a private experience. But he believes we all presumably share this experience. We can all have access to it in our private experiences. Intuitive experience, therefore, is public also. It is by empathy that such an experience becomes public. However, it may be argued against Bergson that sensory experiences and Bergson's intuition of time are not at par. The former has been commonly recognised as sensory intuition which is unquestionably shared in common by all of us. But that we all share a unique experience of time in intuition in a unique sense is open to question.
LETTERS OF IQBAL
Bashir Ahmad Dar
This collection of Iqbal's letters comprises only those written in English. The compiler has tried` to include in this volume as many English letters as were available. There are several letters so far not included in any collection of Iqbal's letters.
Mr Dar has provided Introductory Notes to almost all letters adding footnotes where necessary, to enable the readers to compre-lent the letters easily.
Pp. xii, 270. Rs 30.00
IQBAL ACADEMY PAKISTAN
 Henry Bergson, Introduction to Metaphysics (Tr. I.E. Hane), (New York : Bobb's, 1955).
 Idem, Creative Evolution (Tr. from French by A. Mitchell), (Macmillan). 79
 G E. Moore, Principle Ethica (Cambridge: University Press. 1960), pp. 1-36.
 Immanuel Kant, A Critique of Pure Reason (Tr. N.K. Smith), (New York: St. Martin Press), pp. 65-91.
 Rene Descartes, Meditation on First Philosophy, reprinted in Philosophical Works of Descartes, Ed, & Tr. by E .S. Haldane and G R. Ross (Cam-bridge: University Press, 1967), Vol. I.
 Phenomenology and Natural Sciences, Eassys and Translated edited by Joseph J. Kocklemans and Theodore J. Kissel (Notrthwestern University Press), pp. 83-117.
 Henry Bergson, Creative Evolution, p. 169.
 Ibid., p.194.
 Paul Edward, Ed., The Encyclopedia of Philosophy (New York: Macmillan Co. Inc. and The Free Press), III-IV, 318-22.