Curatorial Intuition

George Socka, Clarkson Suncor Refinery, October 2012

Paper Presented at the College Arts Association Annual Conference 2022, Chicago, 18 February 2022

In this short paper, I would like to address the topic of a particular kind of curatorial intuition and to show that intuition is often at the heart of many curatorial endeavours today.[1] In order to do so, I will focus on a specific exhibition, The Work of Wind: Air, Land, Sea. It was curated by Christine Shaw in September 2018. It consisted of 13 site-specific artist projects across the Southdown industrial area of Mississauga, in Ontario, Canada.[2] Each project took as an organizing device the Beaufort Scale of Wind Forces[3] that goes from 0 (Calm) to 12 (Hurricane). The aim of the overall exhibition was to show that despite our insight into human being’s destructive impact on the Earth, they seem unable to act in accordance with this knowledge. Confronted with ecosystem collapse, humans are indeed at “an impasse between the impossible and the inevitable,”[4] resulting in a sense of powerlessness. So, the exhibition asked: “How are we affected by this cancellation of the future? Can artists facilitate observation of the human impact on the Earth? How can observation lead to action?”[5]

While the title of the exhibition might suggest a weather project, it was not “about wind but of wind,” of the forces of decomposition predicated on the complex entanglements of ecologies of excess, environmental legacies of colonialism, the financialization of the weather, politics of sustainability, climate justice, and resilience. Although not all the artists exhibited focused on the certainty of an ecological disaster in the future, the exhibition nonetheless intimated that our planet was soon facing if not utter extinction, at least of a full ecosystem collapse. I will argue that this idea was not a curatorial statement of fact, but an intuition in as much as it was arrived at, as I will show, in a conclusive manner, the result of a vast array of independently verifiable scientific analyses as well as a whole range of affects about life on earth and its imminent end.

To make sense of this shift from a conventional curatorial statement to a conclusive intuition, I feel I ought to explore what I mean by intuition and how this often constitutes a curatorial strategy. My argument will be that curatorial practices often lend themselves to this kind of intuition because exhibitions are usually aggregative projects that use a variety of tools, from the most precise forms of knowledge (episteme) to the least precise of all techniques (doxa) in order to articulate and emote complex or difficult to resolve issues that a single discipline (such as philosophy, for example) would be incapable of achieving on its own. How can I make sense of this with this example?

Let me begin by clarifying a little the curatorial intuition at stake in The Work of Wind: the exhibition intuited the inevitability of our planetary extinction. Intuitive knowing is probably one of the most misunderstood forms of knowledge. It is often thought as a hunch, a gut feeling, a psychic perception, a subjective knowing, a sensitivity to possibilities, a holistic knowing, a non-cognitive experience, a kinaesthetic intelligence, an unconscious awareness, or a cognitive event accessed through dreams, symbols, art, dance, meditation, contemplation, and immersion in nature. Unlike these common perceptions, I will define intuition in this way: it is a conclusive affective apprehension of a history and a time to-come. As this shows, this is a specific type of intuition. This affective apprehension—which is here embodied in the realisation of our imminent death—was unspoken, but nonetheless self-evident in both the installations and the weighty publication that followed.[6] I say self-evident but not in a way whereby there would be a direct apprehension of the object intuited thereby incurring a positive epistemic status.[7] In order to explain this, let me lay down some basic facts about this kind of intuition. In each case, I will try to relate these facts to Shaw’s project.

The term “intuition” derives from the Latin root intueri. It usually refers to a mode of cognition that differs from theory or rational thought because it conveys a certainty that other forms of knowledge do not.[8] Intuitions do not usually call for speculation or prevarication. Shaw’s curatorial statement is indeed unambiguous in the way it asserts that a world is ending. As she writes: “We live in a time of accelerated global warming, environmental degradation, and radical transformations in the Earth’s ecosystems to the extent that life for future generations is becoming increasingly difficult.”[9] The key feature of this type of intuition is obviously its immediacy. Contrary to what Kant says about empirical intuition, namely that it serves as a mediator between data and concepts,[10] the exhibition’s intuition—that ecological disaster is imminent—knows no mediation. It is immediate because it has already occurred, and nothing can be done to reverse it,[11] thus making its negation simply illogical.

Unmediated, the intuition is also immediate because it concerns a time that does not equate, that does not easily fit within the schemes of past, present, and future.[12] The past is unclear (was there ever a world free of pollution, for example?) and the apocalypse is indeed already here, not as a revelation, but in its intuited form.[13] Being immediate and untimely, the kind of intuition that this exhibition puts forward is therefore not a state, like a trance or a daydream that would perdure over time and would be determinable as such. It is on the contrary a shuddering of the senses when facing the “horror vacui” that is the imminence of death, the cancellation of the future of humanity.[14]

This disruptive shudder takes place at two crucial levels. Firstly, at the level of the individual who realises his or her own eventual demise. It is the sting of death that jolts us into apprehending our lives in relation to its inevitable end.[15] I call it a sting and not an anxiety because it occurs prior to speculation, that is, before conjectures take over and worry is let loose. As a sting it is necessarily short lived.[16] It is the temporary wound that life is being shortened too soon, that it has not been fully lived yet.[17] But this is not just down to the individual. It is also a collective activation.[18] The intuition of our imminent planetary extinction has the same jolting effect as the personal sting of death, albeit on a different register.[19] Witnessing the exhibition activates the realisation of the very real and tangent horror of the irreversibility of a long destructive history and the curtailing of a planetary existence still full of promises.

As such, and this is my main argument against conventional understandings of intuition, it is not a belief[20] or an inclination to believe[21] that something is true or real. To curatorially intuit that the world is at an end could indeed be construed as a belief, especially because scientific data demands it. However, I will argue that this type of intuition does not enter the domain of doxastic attitudes or their acquisitions because over and beyond scientific data, it touches upon a reality that exceeds any form of belief. If I think of my death, for example, I don’t believe in it as if it could or could not occur. The certainty of my death, but the uncertainty of its timing, prevents it from being understood as a belief or an inclination to believe. I intuit my death based on the unquestionable evidence that it will happen sooner or later.[22] The same goes with group intuitions of humanity’s demise, which is equally felt as self-evident and yet uncertain.

In the same way that the exhibition’s intuition was not a belief, it was also not an image and therefore an act of the imagination. One could indeed argue that the sting brought on by the realisation of the end of the world is just an image like the countless ones provided by many apocalyptic scenarios. However, my argument is that contrary to images, an intuition is simply empty of phenomenal attributes. An image is indeed rich in phenomenal details. Unlike an image, there is indeed no phenomenal detail to the type of intuition at stake in this exhibition. The reason is simple: the sting of an imminent death affecting everyone needs no image (and certainly no grim reaper) to be felt as happening now.

Such image-less curatorial intuition is what leads me to operate another reversal to what is usually understood by intuition in a general sense. Intuitions don’t come prior to a rational thought;[23] they always come after a rational deduction. The cliché is indeed that intuition is a condition of possibility of rationality, I first have an intuition and then proceed to demonstrate it. My argument, on the contrary, is that this type of intuition does not inaugurate thought. Reason ends up in intuition. Descartes already intimated this, when he said, that intuitions “originates solely from the light of reason.”[24] He takes the examples of a long chain of items that are related to each other. The intuition is to see “in a single glance (Intuitu) all the intermediate links on which the connexion depends,”[25] without having to retrace them all. However, it is Spinoza who makes this argument much more convincing.

With the help of a mathematical example which I can’t explore properly here for lack of space,[26] he argues that intuition is the outcome of reasoning processes, it comes after concepts have been exhausted.[27] In reverse, this means that reasoning processes are thus clearly condensed in intuition as it takes in all previous logical and conceptual demonstrations, without at the same time feeling like a summing-up or a final arrangement.[28] In this way, intuition brings the never-ending roll of rationality to a close, that is, it brings all rational deliberation to a self-evident conclusion that know no further rational representation.[29]

This is most evident in Shaw’s project. All the data accumulated by scientists, wind engineers, sociologists, anthropologists, racial theorists, historians, post- and decolonial theorists, ecologists, environmentalists, marine specialists, ethicists, economists, and of course, the artists, all come down to this intuition that the world is at an end. However, this intuition is not an epiphany at the end of a rational process. It is the active but vertiginous cognizance of all deductions and all causes and effects. Shaw’s list of topics explored exemplifies this:

“extreme weather events, energy battlefields, extraction zones, volatile oceanic experiences, radioactive clouds, plastic pollution, brownfields, water toxicity, landfill leachate, floods, tsunamis, ocean acidification, marginal ice zones, solar history, geological stratification, computational categorization, plastic consumption, the Anthropocene, migrant labor, industrialised food production, the resistance of micro-ecologies against the ecological destruction wrought by industry, decolonizing attempts in relation to climate change, environmental destruction, water rights and aquatic resources, colonization of ocean’s shores, environmental domination, the cost of mining of cryptocurrencies, ecological storms, melting sea ice, global capitalism, neoliberalism, infrastructural governance, environmental  racism,  migratory  routes,  land  pollution, etc.”[30]

This vertigo is arrived at by means of demonstration and proof. I call it a vertigo because that’s what the sting of death does, it jolts us into contemplating the surreal history—now named The Anthropocene—that led the world to this sad and fatal end. As Ursula LeGuin says about intuition, “it is the [destabilizing] power of seeing (if only for a flash) everything at once: seeing whole.”[31]

One could remark that if it marks the end of a rational deductive process, then an intuition is a judgement. But I will argue that facing a planetary extinction is not a judgement, because although all evidence points in that direction, the possibility that humanity might pull trough is nonetheless real.[32] The intuition brought on by the sting of death is marred by disbelief, that although it is inevitable, it might not happen, that we might be the exception. Even in the most cynical of apocalyptic films clearly showing end-times, like Don’t Look Up (dir. Adam McKay, 2021), the earth nonetheless survives on another planet (apologies for the spoiler). Such an odd “implausible certainty”—the perfect oxymoron for such an intuition—cancels the judgement altogether. A judge could not pass a sentence based on such evidence.

The crux of the matter when it comes to this kind of curatorial intuition is the fact that although it stems from rational deductions, it is not, in the end, a rational act. As I hinted at the start, the immediacy of the act renders them not irrational, but affective.[33] This type of intuition is necessarily bodily; it concerns the senses engaged in a deductive cognitive act.[34] In saying this, I do not mean to imply that an intuition “follows” a feeling.[35] There is not the feeling first and then an intuition. When I intuit my death or planetary extinction, I let myself be swayed by an emotion as the outcome of a rational deduction.[36] I realise that Descartes warned us of not thinking intuition as “the wavering assurances of the senses.”[37] However, what he was referring to was not intuitions but bodily instincts, like the instinct of the hunter, for example. The intuition of the end shakes our being without generating any form of reassurance, not even that we were sadly all too right about the destructive powers of our species.[38]

This unusual affective intuitive act also knows a strange tie: it accords with duty.[39] If the exhibition intuits that the world is at an end, then I am also triggered to a moral response.[40] It provokes, as Fichte rightly says, the ethical law within us, within the context of which, the “I” is challenged to act.[41] Stung by death, the “I” becomes characterised as something active that needs rescuing, just like the world.[42] The exhibition’s intuition enjoins us to this duty, even if everything is already lost. But this is not just a moral call. The intuition’s bodily demands are also political. The exhibition’s intuition indeed goes against perspectives who easily favour the “rational thinking mind” over the “intuiting feeling body” and that any attempt to think the latter is bound to failure because it fails to meet the phallocentric test.[43] By going against this, the exhibition’s intuition becomes not just ethical, but also political in as much as it fights against the rational subjugation and now murder of bodies and therefore of the earth.

Ignoring what the body can do, as Spinoza would say, deprives us of fully actualizing ourselves as human beings. When epistemologies are extended to include embodied knowing, and especially, affective intuitions, then the whole scope of bodily and mental cognitive capacities are used without one dominating over the other.[44] With affects, the earth might still be rescued. This is precisely what gives curating’s potential. Being an aggregative practice, curating always ends up in an affective bodily intuition about what has been exposed. On seeing and experiencing Shaw’s project, one cannot not be shaken by the tragedy that is unfolding. But this affective conclusive bodily act is not arrived at by a full comprehension of the tragedy. As I said, it is reached precisely because of the overwhelming dimensions of the world at an end and the impossibility of comprehending it, except as an intuitive conclusive act.

This is indeed what curating does best, at least when the exhibition is good: it triggers an intuition on the basis of an overwhelming aggregation of facts that cannot be made sense of singlehandedly by one rational disciplinary endeavour. Unlike the disciplines it scavenges, curating calls for a kind of intuitive conclusion because it is accustomed to address too many issues at the confluence of science and art, knowledge and affect. This is not a criticism. On the contrary, it is the realisation that no other type of cultural expression can indeed bridge together unscientific, imprecise, and affective human forms of knowledge with precise, rigorous, and systematic approaches. Intuition is the lynchpin, if you will, of the kind of curating about social or environmental issues we see today.


[1] Remit: I will base my approach to this specific type of intuition from a continental philosophy perspective. As such, I will not delve into the vast scholarship on intuition from the perspectives of analytic and experimental philosophies or cognitive psychology.

[2] This “1.5km2 area features an oil and lubricants refinery, a carbon dioxide production facility, a nursery, heritage sites, brownfields, commercial transport hubs, a wastewater treatment plant, a cement plant, a gypsum pier, a rail line, a hazardous waste management facility, fields of phragmites, a fruit distribution centre, an abandoned paint and resin plant, a working hay farm, a radio transmission field, among others.” Curatorial statement

[3] “In 1806, the British hydrographer and sea admiral Sir Francis Beaufort invented the Beaufort Scale of Wind Force, an index of thirteen levels measuring wind force first used for the practical navigation of 19th century ocean space… [It] offered sailors something by which they could gauge the force of wind… The Beaufort Scale of Wind Force became a method for seeing and understanding one’s surroundings, but it also became a tool to expedite colonial processes of extraction, accumulation, privatization, and land dispossession.” Curatorial statement:

[4] Curatorial statement

[5] Curatorial statement

[6] Christine Shaw and Etienne Turpin, Eds., The Work of Wind, Air, Sea, Vol. 1 (Berlin: K. Verlag, 2018). As of January 2022, Vol. 2, does not appear to have been published.

[7] Unlike other forms of intuitions, this one cannot have a positive epistemic status because, as I will argue, it is both affective and rationally conclusive. In this, I go against Husserl view that sees intuition as evidence, that is, a certain way of attentively apprehending an object in such a way that it confirms our non-evidenced sense of that object. The object is thus present to us in an “originary” way or “in person.” See Edmund Husserl, Ideas for a Pure Phenomenology and Phenomenological Philosophy. First Book: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology, translated by D. Dahlstrom (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2014), pp. 270 ff.

[8] It is an apprehension of the world that is always accompanied by the awareness of its certainty.

[9] Curatorial statement:

[10] Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, translated by J. M. D. Meiklejohn (London: Everyman, 1993).

[11] On this topic, see Déborah Danowski and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, The Ends of the World, translated by Rodrigo Nunes (London: Polity, 2017).

[12] This unusual temporality, one for which the future is already here, but invisible prevents it from being perceived as part of Kant’s intuitive apprehension of time. Kant indeed says that time is with space one of the forms of sensory intuition, upon which the propositions of geometry, arithmetic, and pure mechanics are based; they make possible a priori cognitions of objects only as they appear to us (Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, §10). Our current, unseeable, but clearly omnipresent cataclysmic future cannot fall within the sphere of Kant’s pure a priori intuition.

[13] This is precisely what is never addressed in accounts of the end of life or its aftermath. In most cases, the intuition of the end is presented in relation to a reductive view of time as a linear continuum in which death is a moment within it, with a before and an after, such as, for example, Thomas Nagel, “Death,” Noûs 4, no. 1 (February 1970): 73-80 or, closer to us, Samuel Scheffler, Death and the Afterlife (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016).

[14] This shuddering of the sense is, of course, impossible to rationalise if one considers that there is no such shuddering with regards to one’s non-existence prior to birth. Lucretius was probably the one who argued about this the most eloquently, when he stressed that death cannot harm the person who dies because their

future non-existence is no more harmful than their non-existence before birth. This means that if a person is therefore not harmed by lacking existence before birth, they cannot be harmed by lacking existence after dying. See, Lucretius, On the Nature of the Universe, translated by R. E. Latham (London: Penguin Books, 1951), p. 122.

[15] In ordinary language, the sting of death is often understood as the result of sin. This is the usual reading of Corinthians 15:54-56 (“Where, O death, is your sting?”). This attachment to sin is often perceived as an effort to show that death can lose its sting if death is perceived not as a punishment, but as a transition. Believers no longer need to feel the sting of death, for example, because Jesus has achieved everlasting life for believers. Although humanity’s guilt in destroying the planet could be perceived as a sin, I don’t believe that the exhibition or any other similar formulation necessarily carries or marshals this added moral dimension. The sing of death occurs irrespective of sin because it is always the realisation that our time is up too soon. The sting is felt precisely because of the unfair curtailing of a life never lived to the full.

[16] On the episodic nature of intuition, see John J. Drummond, “Intuition: Analytic, Phenomenological and Experimental Approaches,” Teorema: Revista Internacional de Filosofía 34, no. 3 (2015): 19-36.

[17] As is well known, this is Derrida’s remark that the sting of death is mostly due because it cuts short a life too soon. See, Jacques Derrida, H. C. for Life, That Is to Say…, translated by Laurent Milesi  and Stefan Herbrechter (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006), p. 36.

[18] This intuition of death has the same disorienting effect than that provoked by Nietzsche’s proclamation of the death of God: it brings us together. As Justin Remhof so beautifully says: “Unchaining the earth from the sun, moving away from all suns, falling without direction—all these express states of disorientation. Such disorientation is supposed to be terrifying. God’s death brings about the feeling of moving through an infinite nothingness, being consumed by empty space, adrift in cold darkness.” Justin Remhof (2019): Nietzsche’s intuitions, Inquiry, DOI: 10.1080/0020174X.2019.1667867

[19] As Blanchot himself noted, death is indeed the only radicality that truly brings a community together. He writes: “What, then, calls me into question most radically? Not my relation to myself as finite or as the consciousness of being before death or for death, but my presence for another who absents himself by dying. To remain present in the proximity of another who by dying removes himself definitely, to take upon myself another’s death as the only death that concerns me, this is what puts me beside myself, this is the only separation that can open me, in its very impossibility, to the Openness of a community.” Maurice Blanchot, The Unavowable Community, translated by Pierre Joris (New York: Station Hill Press, 1988), p. 9.

[20] Intuitions are indeed often thought to be beliefs, dispositions to believe, or sui generis propositional attitudes. A belief always happens prior to evidence is gathered. This cannot be the case with the end of the world because the certainty of its death prevents any doxastic attitude. I don’t believe that I will die. I can only intuit it because it has not happened yet. On the idea that intuitions are beliefs, see for example, David Lewis, Philosophical Papers: Volume I (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983). doi:10.1093/0195032047.001.0001 or Elijah Chudnoff, “What Intuitions Are Like,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 82 (2011): 625-54.

[21] If it were an inclination, it would posit itself prior to what is rationally determined as true or real. As such, an intuition would then only reveal itself in retrospection and not, as I argue here, in a conclusive manner at the end of a rational reflection. By emphasizing the temporal dimension of the occurrence of an intuition, I thereby go against the view that this kind of intuition is a “seeming” event, that is, it implies that this or that (the end of the world, for example) indeed “seems” to be the case. By turning this kind of intuition into a conclusive event, it cannot therefore be comprehensible with the use of cautionary or “hedging” terms, such as “it seems to be that way”—the certainty of death removes any cautionary belief. On intuition as an inclination to believe or as a “seeming event,” see George Bealer, “Intuition and the Autonomy of Philosophy”, in Michael Raymond DePaul and William M. Ramsey (eds.), 1998, Rethinking Intuition: The Psychology of Intuition and Its Role in Philosophical Inquiry (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1998), pp. 201–240.

[22] The certainty of my uncertain death is at the heart of the aporetic nature of death. Derrida encapsulates this aporia with the expression: “s’attendre l’un l’autre”—”to await one another.” See Jacques Derrida, Aporias Dying—Awaiting (One Another at) the “Limits of Truth,” trans. T. Dutoit (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993).

[23] The unshakeable logic behind the well-known cliché that intuition is a condition of possibility of rationality is the fact that whoever intuits is not self-caused. I am entirely the product of external causes. For example, my parents made me mortal, and this creative act leaves me always lagging behind that initial inception or conception. In other words, I always come late, after the insemination, gestation, and birth and therefore after the concept that is “the making of babies.” My lateness is what condemns me to always approach intuitively what comes before me. I can only intuit the birth of the concept that I am, how facticity came up with conception. This way of thinking not only makes me therefore always passive in relation to rationality (which I am always called upon to articulate), it also, above all, subordinates intuition; rendering it vague and wooly akin to a hunch or a gut feeling and elevates reason to heights it does not perhaps deserve. For example, it reduces myself and the world to the concepts I have of it. I am thus governed by rational concepts, my feelings and experiences relegated to the second order.

[24] René Descartes, Rules for the Direction of the Mind, trans. Harold H. Joachim (Bury St. Edmunds: St Augustine’s Press, 1997).

[25] Descartes, Rules for the Direction of the Mind.

[26] “Given the numbers 1, 2, 3, everybody can see that the fourth proportional is 6 and this is much clearer, because we conclude the fourth number from an intuitive grasping of the ratio, which the first bears to the second.” Benedict de Spinoza, Ethics, Part II, Proposition 40, Scholium 2.

[27] Henri Bergson gives the most precise description of Spinoza’s understanding of intuition, one which cannot unfortunately, be explored here in any detail. He writes: “For Spinoza, an intuition is the coincidence between the way thought knows truth and the way God puts it forward… or the way mankind leaves and enters the divine. In either case, it is a state whereby it is no longer possible to see two movements, one going and the other coming, but only one as it takes place—the ethical experience resolving here a contradictory logic thus making, by a suppression of Time, that all returns are departures.” Henri Bergson, “L’Intuition Philosophique,” in Atti del IV Congresso Internazionale di Filosofia 1 (1911):  174-192, my translation.

[28] Methodologically, reason deduces its conclusions from common notions, intuition grasps the truth in an immediate and direct manner, “in one glance.” Spinoza, Ethics, Part II, Proposition 40, Scholium 2.

[29] More specifically, reason deals with objects and concepts while intuitive knowledge descends to a level of particularity that reason cannot reach. In this way, intuitive knowledge, by definition, proceeds from an adequate knowledge of the eternal necessity of God’s nature to an adequate knowledge of the essence of things (EIIP40S2). Rational knowledge brings us to “the doorstep of intuitive knowledge.” But reason, which Spinoza describes as “universal knowledge” (EVP36S), cannot proceed further—namely, it cannot infer or derive from this knowledge adequate knowledge of the essences of things. The essence of a singular thing is its actual essence or conatus, which Spinoza identifies as the power “by which each thing strives to persevere in its being” (EIIIP7). And this power, in turn, is God’s very power manifested in a finite form (EIVP4D). In this way, we also comprehend God’s essence insofar as it is explained through the essence of the thing, such that the more we understand singular things in this way, the more we understand God (EVP24). Spinoza’s intuitive knowledge provides not adequate cognition of the durational existence of finite modes (which is dependent on the common order of nature), but rather adequate cognition of the essence of finite modes as they are conceived through God’s essence.

[30] Curatorial statement:

[31] Ursula LeGuin, The left Hand of Darkness (New York: Berkley, 1969), p. 204.

[32] It is also possible to interpret this intuition as humanity’s inability to think beyond planet earth. If this is the case, then the exhibition’s intuition would have simply been either that of realising the end of the world as a whole or as a picture or that of finally making sense of the sense of the world, how it can only make sense as the end of sense. I can only leave this enormous question for another time. For the way the world is no longer comprehensible as a whole, see Alexandre Koyré, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1957). For the way the world is no longer a picture, see, Martin Heidegger, ‘The Origin of the Work of Art,’ in Off the Beaten Tracks [Holzwege], trans. J. Young (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), p. 23. For the way the world at an end is the sense of the world, see, Jean-Luc Nancy, The Sense of the World, trans. J. S. Librett (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 1997).

[33] Once again, I here go against traditional doxa when it comes to intuition which always states that an intuition is a mental act, as Descartes, for example, says, intuitions are “conceptions formed by unclouded mental attention.” Descartes, Rules for the Direction of the Mind.

[34] I realise that Kant uses the German terms Anschauung and intellectuelle Anschauung instead of simply intuition and that the difference should be explored in depth in this context, something which I cannot do in such a limited remit. The crux of the matter is simply that, unlike Anschauung on its own, the term intellectuelle Anschauung refers to a mode of intuition of a nonsensible character. For example, intellectuelle Anschauung allows the “I” to apprehend its freedom before the concept freedom is put forward, something which is quasi-impossible to achieve because it would be akin to apprehending a noumenal reality beyond the sense attached to the thing in itself, i.e., freedom itself. The same can thus be said of space and time. No such apprehension is implied in the intuition explored here. For an interpretation of this term, I can only refer the reader to one of my previous texts. Jean-Paul Martinon, “Marx 1845 or the Fateful Rejection of Anschauung,” CR: The New Centennial Review, Vol. 18, No. 3, 2018, pp. 73–96. On Intellectuelle Anschauung, see Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, pp. 159–60, 163–4.

[35] As such, an intuition is a cognitive act of the senses that carries with it no content as such, something which, I am aware, goes against everything that is usually said about intuition since Kant who insisted that intuition is a representation (Vorstellung) that occurs prior to thought and concept.

[36] Because this type of intuition is based on the senses, it can never be proven. Intuitions are necessarily baseless. They provide an immediate and certain knowledge but without evidence. As such, the certainty is felt, but never corroborated. The exhibition’s intuited statement, our planetary extinction, is not provable in as much as it is in the future and therefore open to the radically unknowable.

[37] Descartes, Rules for the Direction of the Mind.

[38] Closer to us, Henri Bergson argued that the difference between intuition and instinct lies in the fact that instinct is guided by an interest while intuition is free from this attachment to an interest. Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution, trans. Arthur Mitchell (New York: Dover, 1998 [1911]), p. 194.

[39] Without at the same time, laying the rational foundation for morality. It is indeed common to test the plausibility of moral theories by appeal to intuition, and moral theories often gain justification by being intuitively plausible. As is well known, Nietzsche suggests that such appeals to intuition merely provide support for views philosophers already embrace, and therefore do no genuine justificatory work. See Fredrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), p. 186.

[40] On the idea that death triggers ethical responses, see Jean-Paul Martinon, After “Rwanda” (Rotterdam: Rodopi, 2013).

[41] J.G. Fichte, Introductions to the Wissenschaftslehre, trans. Daniel Breazeale (London: Hackett, 1994), 217-221, pp. 46-51.

[42] Fichte indeed insists that with intuition, it is impossible to distinguish between the acting agent (the “I”) and the activity of intuition itself. To intuit one’s death or to collectively intuit the end of the world is to be unable to separate oneself from the existential act intuited (as being or as world). As such, the type of intuition in question here is an activity that touches upon the very essence of the “I,” namely, its mortal destiny. Contrary to Fichte, I understand the kind of intuition at stake here—which is also a kind of apprehension of the self as it thinks itself—as only possible if there is also a sensory intuition and not just an intuition pure or intellectual (Intellectuelle Anschauung). As such, this type of intuition does not end up in a self-intuiting mode of subjectivation. See, Fichte, Introductions to the Wissenschaftslehre, 217-221, pp. 46-51.

[43] O this topic, see, see, for example, Margaret Blanchard, The Rest of the Deer (Portland, Astarte Shell Press, 1993); Fee Mozeleya and Kathleen McPhillips,” Knowing Otherwise: Restorying Intuitive Knowing as Feminist Resistance,” in Women’s Studies 48, no. 8 (2019): 844–861; Randee Lipson Lawrence, “Intuitive Knowing and Embodied Consciousness,” New Directions for Adult & Continuing Education 134, (Summer2012): 5-13.

[44] Another objection to the idea that intuitions are affective conclusive acts is to say that they are therefore nothing more than a form of mysticism. The fundamental difference between intuition and mysticism, clairvoyance, or psychic abilities is the fact that the latter are associated with what is considered “otherworldly,” while intuition is grounded in and of this world, as this exhibition clearly shows.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.