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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Saturday, February 15, 2014


1. knowledge or belief obtained neither by reason nor by perception 2. instinctive knowledge or belief 3. a hunch or unjustified belief 4. (Philosophy) philosophy immediate knowledge of a proposition or object such as Kant's account of our knowledge of sensible objects 5. the supposed faculty or process by which we obtain any of these--Definitions from the online "Free Dictionary"

In PART 1 I reiterated the difference between Hegel's proposed categories of "speculative philosophy" and "reflective philosophy:"

the speculative mode is an active one, imagining the interaction of an "intellectual intuition" with the world even as we apprehend it, while the reflective mode is passive, the same way that the mirror is passive in its reflection of appearances. 

Prior to this section I provided a link to an earlier essay in which the phrase "intellectual intuition" appeared.  A casual reader could be forgiven for not noting the phrase's appearance in that essay, courtesy of Walter Cerf's meditations on the two philosophies:

It was Schelling who tried to articulate this vision of the true nature of the relation of God, nature, and self-consciousness in his Philosophy of Identity-- so called because the relation was to be one of identity...The vision was of course not a sensuous intuition, but an intellectual intuition.

The question of what "intellectual intuition" means in a philosophical context-- referenced in the #4 definition from my chosen dictionary-- is an involved one that has only tangential relevance to the issues I wish to raise in relation to the two philosophical categories and their relevance to literary criticism. Anyone interested in the specific philosophical contexts-- and how it takes on different philosophical contexts, as in the works of Kant and of Fichte-- may care to read this academic essay on the subject.

But again, my focus is the domain of literature. When I read Edward Skidelsky's book on Cassirer, I'm only secondarily concerned with what the book tells me about the history of philosophical schools in the 19th and 20th centuries.  Cassirer is important to me less for his place in philosophical circles than for the application of his "symbolic forms" theory to the analysis of literature, religion, and myth.

So, given that I'm claiming that my critical orientation is one allied to that of speculative rather than reflective philosophy, what relevance is a phrase like "intellectual intuition" to literature, when one chooses to ignore its specific application to literature.

The Free Dictionary's first definition of "intuition" is the most relevant here: "knowledge or belief obtained neither by reason nor by perception."
Literature, as I noted here, is not dominated by the process of plain speech, but by indirect metaphor.

Gerard Manley Hopkins draws a distinction between the poet’s “overthought” or explicit meaning, and his “underthought,” or the meaning given by the progression of images and metaphors. But it is the “underthought” that is the real poetic meaning, and the explicit meaning must conform to it ...-- Northrop Frye (fuller context here).
How does one arrive at this "underthought?" It cannot be one overtly stated, for that would be "explicit meaning," which translates to knowledge "obtained by reason, by perception, or both." I would venture, then, that the only way to reach the underthought is through a process of intuitive reckoning.  Frye calls this "the progression of images and metaphors" in an attempt to intellectualize this intuitive process, but there can be little doubt that the process depends on a given subject's sensitivity to the plurisignative connotations of those images and metaphors.  However, the organization of the subject's interpretations must be organized in an intellectual fashion.

In literary terms, then, an "intellectual intuition" must be one in which a subject seeks to justify an intuition about a given work-- an intuition that cannot be proved in terms of "explicit meaning"-- in intellectual terms.  This relates fairly well to my frequent citations about intersubjectivity.  Whereas it is impossible to prove empirically that any single subject's subjective states relate meaningfully to any other subject's, we know that subjective interpretations have a degree of objectivity in that they are repeated between various subjects, albeit not universally.

In literary terms, it's virtually impossible to prove that anyone's subjective evaluation is wrong, as I argued in STALKING THE SYMBOLIC SNIPE:

Because so much symbolism is covert—sometimes hidden even from the author—the propositions of a symbol-hunter are not so much “X symbolism is there” but rather “X symbolism could be there, if it can be justified by some chain of associations.” 

This "chain of associations" is isomorphic with Frye's "progression of images and metaphors," but as I noted in SNIPE, it's possible to twist that chain to reflect one's own prejudices.  In that essay I demonstrated some ways in which Alan Moore had put forth a false "intellectual intuiton" of the James Bond character.  But Moore is not a literary critic, not even a bad one.  So for Part 3 I'll pick a "bad intellectual intuition" from a particular comics-critic to contrast with a good version of same.

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