intuition

Intuition in the broadest of terms means “immediate apprehension.” “Apprehension” is issued to cover such disparate states as sensation, knowledge, and even mystical rapport, while “immediate” has as many senses as there are kinds of mediation. “Immediate” may also be used to signify the absence of interference, the absence of cause, the absence of justification, the absence of symbol, or the absence of thought. (This definition is summarized from the Second Edition of Encyclopedia of Philosophy.)

Intuition is used in theories of media to mean an apprehension in spite of absence of some forms of mediation. Therefore, we can understand “intuition” as a term used to define edges between what is mediated and what is not mediated. By following the discussion about intuition we will find that it is intuition that we aim to communicate through media.

Etymology of “intuition” (1):
(1) The first use of the word intuition was found in a text at the end of the 15th century. Until the 17th century intuition meant “mentally looking at”; “the act of regarding, examining, or inspecting”; “a view, regard, or consideration of something”, all of which are now obsolete meanings.

(2) In 17th century scholastic philosophers started to use the word in its modern meaning, as in the following context: “the spiritual perception or immediate knowledge, ascribed to angelic and spiritual beings, with whom vision and knowledge are identical.”

(3) More vernacular uses of “intuition” are:
(3a) Intuition as a peculiar property of genius.
(3b) Intuition is also sometimes popularly used to mean the mysterious “sixth sense” (1).
(3c) an unjustifiable belief or a hunch (as noted in second edition of EOP).

(4) In modern philosophy we find three different meanings of intuition:
(a) An immediate apprehension of an object by the mind without intervention of any reasoning.
(b) Immediate apprehension by intellect alone.
(c) Immediate apprehension by senses [1].

While these three meanings are in agreement that intuition is “an immediate apprehension,” the first and the third meaning assume the absence of reasoning, while the second meaning assumes the absence of senses. In other words, modern philosophy understands intuition as an apprehension that is not entirely immediate, but mediated either by senses or by intellect; a priori, but not by both.

In studies of media there are no a priori requirements placed on the practitioners and perceivers of media to explain their intuition; nevertheless, these explanations are often attempted.

In philosophy, unlike media theory, “intuitive knowledge” seems to require explanation because the paradigm of knowledge has, since Aristotle, frequently been taken to be inferential knowledge. The simplest, most familiar explanation of our possession of intuition is that we possess faculties that produce such knowledge. Accepting this explanation amounts to granting that the presence in our mind of the original starting points of knowledge is inexplicable and must be accepted as a basic fact. Aristotle was content with this solution [2], and so was Descartes. Kant, instead, sharply distinguished between mediation of concepts and mediation of senses. For Kant intuition is knowledge acquired through the senses and unmediated by concepts. But in order to express this intuitive knowledge, it needs to be mediated by concepts in order to form judgments. Sense perception was, for Kant, our ability to know facts without having the ability to express them [4]. For Wittgenstein, on the other hand, this claim reflects only a social convention. In Wittgenstein’s view, our possession of intuitive knowledge is a necessary truth, and it does not matter whether or not a given event was caused or uncaused. Therefore, we can conclude that for Wittgenstein our intuitive knowledge can be unmediated both by senses and by intellect or more precisely that our “non-inferential knowledge” (knowledge without our first-hand experience) is a matter of our disposition to make certain statements and is a sufficient ground for our beliefs that they are true; while “intuitive knowledge” (knowledge with our first-hand experience) is a matter of that disposition serving as the best possible evidence for their truth. For Wittgenstein, expressing and receiving knowledge are central to linguistic theory. Acquiring knowledge and acquiring the ability to express knowledge must not be confused as one. In terms of intuition, this means that we must sharply differentiate between intuition that is used in media production (by painters, film makers, dancers, etc.) and intuition that is used in media perception (of viewers, listeners, readers, etc.)

Kant discusses intuitions of universals, like “time and space” – and holds that such intuitions are necessary conditions of our intuitive knowledge of a prior truths (As noted in second edition of Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

McLuhan states that artists are people who understand the current time and space and are proposing a way out of it [4].

Wittgenstein holds that non-inferential knowledge is a sufficient ground for our beliefs. Wittgenstein’s position is that one’s disposition to make certain statements is determined by one’s training, circumstances and ability, together with the conventions in force. A good example of this explanation in media studies is McLuhan’s “disposition” to make prophetic statements that are determined by McLuhan’s training, circumstances, and abilities, together with the conventions in force.

Bergson argued that duration is a kind of knowledge that cannot be captured by concepts, because concepts are designed precisely to freeze and stabilize (and thus to distort) the flux of experience, the essence of duration. Thus, according to Bergson’s view our distorted judgment of the duration of media is central to both the representation and perception of time-based media. Bergson goes on to say: “Although I cannot, of course, express (or communicate or put into words) the experience that I had, and hence cannot supply you with reasons for believing what I have experienced, I am nevertheless entitled to believe in it solely on the strength of that experience.” Bergson here points to the central struggle in generating mediations of our experiences: we cannot to a satisfactory degree, either “express” or make others “believe” in our experience, but we can nevertheless maintain our belief that we had the experience.” This thought points to the border between intuition and media, Ithe place where the struggle to reproduce experiences in media is located. Artists, writers, musicians, video artists, and bloggers are using the media to communicate their intuition. From this perspective, we can understand that proliferation of media is part of the struggle (by extending and amputating ourselves) to communicate intuition.

Zoka Zola
Winter 2007

NOTES

1. “Intuitionism” is a term used in the philosophy of mathematics. As noted in article on “intuitionism” in the second edition of The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the term refers to an approach to mathematics wherein mathematics is not an analytic activity in which deep properties of existence are revealed and applied, but rather the application of internally consistent methods in order to realize more complex mental constructs.

2. “Intuitive” and “unconscious” substantially differ. While “intuitive” implies something known, “unconscious” means “not knowing within oneself” [5].

WORKS CITED

“Intuition” The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989. OED Online. Oxford University Press. 4 Apr. 2000 http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/00181778

Aristotle. Posterior Analytics I

Kant, Critique of Pure Reason A19-B34, A320-B377

McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1994

“Unconscious” The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989. OED Online. Oxford University Press. 4 Apr. 2000 http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/00181778