Absolute Knowledge: Analysis vs Intuition

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Absolute Knowledge: Analysis vs Intuition

Is absolute knowledge gained through the process of analysis or intuition? In “Introduction to Metaphysics” of The Creative Mind, Henri Bergson makes a thorough distinction between analysis and his idea of intuition. As the basis of immediate, metaphysical knowledge, intuition applies to the interior experience of an object. Such experience entails true empiricism. Bergson explains his method of intuition and absolute knowledge through various terms, including duration, traditional rationalism and empiricism, and time. These terms shall be evaluated as they reveal the pertinence between true empiricism and true metaphysics.

As a philosopher of immediacy, Bergson favors intuition over analysis as a mode to knowledge. Relative, mediate, and incomplete knowledge is the result of analysis. It involves viewpoints of an entire object which require a division of it into parts. These parts must then be labeled with symbols and then synthesized, mediated or recomposed into an inaccurate whole in an attempt to gain a complete, perfect understanding of the thing. The experience one has during analysis is thus, an exterior one which leads only to a partial grasp of the object. This grasp is relative as it depends upon the individual’s viewpoints.

On the other hand, Bergson’s idea of intuition is a means to immediate, absolute knowledge. This knowledge is perfect, without limits, and inexpressible through symbols, or even language. It is a result of an interior experience, which Bergson claims, involves “sympathy” towards the object. As intuition entails “sympathy,” analysis entails a “desire to embrace the object” (161 The Creative Mind). In an attempt to illustrate the distinction between intuition and analysis, let us propose that the object is a choreographed dance. If I analyze it, I may observe the dancers or make a chart of the dance steps, and memorize the rhythm. I may compare various dancers or relate some steps to other steps in a series. In general, I understand the structure of the dance, but nothing more; my analysis does not lead me to coincide with the act itself, and it results in an eventual limit to my knowledge of the dance, which cannot be expanded. However, when I become a dancer, I coincide with the act. I utilize introspection and experience its entirety.
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