Intuition by Whom? Epistemic Responsibility and the Role of the Self

David L. Thompson

Outline by Section





A. Descartes

B. Husserl






Intuition n. The power of understanding situations or people's feelings immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning or study.

The Canadian Oxford Dictionary, 1998

Intuition. Originally an alleged direct relation, analogous to visual seeing, between the mind and something abstract and so not accessible to the senses. What are intuited (which can be derivatively called 'intuitions') may be abstract objects, like numbers or properties, or certain truths regarded as not accessible to investigation through the senses or calculation; the mere short-circuiting of such processes in 'bank managers intuition' would not count as intuition for philosophy. Kant talks of our intuiting space and time, in a way which is direct and entirely free from any mediation by the intellect - but this must be distinguished from an alleged pure reception of 'raw data' from the senses; the intuiting is presupposed by, and so cannot depend upon, sensory experience.


Intuitions or alleged intuitions have been important in logic, metaphysics, and ethics, as well as in epistemology. Recently, however, the term 'intuition' has been used for pre-philosophical thoughts or feelings, e.g., on morality, which emerge in thought experiments and are then used philosophical1y. A.R.L. (Allan Lacey, Kings College London.)

The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, OUP, 1995. p. 415.


     My aim in this paper is to try to make sense of one particular meaning of intuition. I show that, when examined closely, intuition needs to be understood as a way of integrating our experience into meaningful wholes. The first part of the paper is as purely expository as I manage - given that all exposition involves interpretation - and presents the Cartesian-Husserlian understanding of intuition as a kind of "seeing." In a transitional section, Part II, I argue, picking up on an indication from Descartes, that seeing cannot be self-supporting, but depends on "trusting," either trusting in God or trusting in ourselves. The final part defends "my own" claim that intuiting is integrating, though, - given that most of one's ideas are recycled from those of others - "my" ideas remain strongly influenced by various philosophers.

So: Part I: Seeing; Part II Trusting; and Part III: Integrating.


A. Descartes

      In everyday, pre-philosophical life, the word intuition is often used in the sense of a "hunch." Attributed to bank managers and, in more sexist and racist days, to women, to blacks, or to anyone considered beyond the pale of rationality, it is used to refer to beliefs for which we cannot offer reasons or evidence. It is purported knowledge "without the need for conscious reasoning," as the dictionary puts it. Some philosophers, pace the Oxford Companion, use the term is ways derivative from this everyday sense and contrast intuitive knowledge with logical, intellectual or conceptual knowledge. Others use the term to refer to the grasping of concrete individuals. Sometimes the term appears to be used to refer to artistic creativity. Neither of the latter two uses are supported by either the dictionary or the Oxford Companion.

      Since I don't believe that the meanings of words are given by God, I think all of these uses of the term are legitimate. In this paper, however, I'd like to make it clear that I'll be using the term in its more traditional philosophical use, a use based on the etymology of the term: in Latin tueri means to look at. My use is almost diametrically opposed to the everyday sense of a non-rational hunch. Following the Cartesian-Husserlian (and Platonic?) axis, I'll be using the term to refer to that kind of knowledge which is the most rational, the epitome of rationality. Descartes, for instance, defines it this way:

By intuition I mean, not the wavering assurance of the senses, or the deceitful judgment of a misconstructing imagination, but a conception, formed by unclouded mental attention, so easy and distinct as to leave no room for doubt in regard to the thing we are understanding. It comes to the same thing if we say: It is an indubitable conception formed by an unclouded and attentive mind; one that originates solely from the light of reason . . . Thus, anybody can see by mental intuition that he himself exists, that he thinks, that a triangle is bounded by just three lines, and a globe by a single surface, and so on; . . . (Rules, Rule 3, EA155)

Such intuition is the absolute basis for Descartes' rationalism. Rationalism, for Descartes, is the reliance on reason as opposed to authority, faith, imagination, the senses or any of the other purported sources of knowledge which fall before his method of doubt. Far from intuition being contrasted with intellection, cognition or reason, as it is in the everyday sense of a hunch, Descartes uses the term intuition to refer to the very paradigm of rational thought.

     In an early work, Rules (1627), Descartes also uses intuitive knowledge in a way that contrasts it with deductive knowledge, which although non-intuitive is still certain.

Hence we are distinguishing mental intuition from certain deduction on the grounds that we are aware of a movement or a sort of sequence in the latter but not in the former, and also because immediate self-evidence is not required for deduction, as it is for intuition; deduction in a sense gets its certainty from memory. (Rules, Rule 3, EA 156)

But this is problematic for him. The immediate self-evidence of intuition does not extend beyond the moment. Even the certainty of the cogito only occurs at the moment that I am actually thinking: my memory of having been thinking in the past, even the immediate past, is subject to doubt. So how can deduction be certain? In the Rules he attempts to solve the problem by pointing out that each individual step in the deduction can be intuitive and hence the whole deduction can be certain if there is

A continuous and uninterrupted movement of thought, with a clear intuition at each point. . . . Thus we distinguish at this point between intuition and certain deduction; because the latter, unlike the former, is conceived as involving a movement or succession; and is again unlike intuition in not requiring something evident at the moment, but rather, so to say, borrowing its certainty from memory. (Rules, Rule III, EA 156)

This is hardly satisfactory and Descartes worries at the problem for a number of Rules before trying once again in Rule XI:

As I said, when conclusions are too complex to be held in a single act of intuition, their certainty depends on memory; and since memory is perishable and weak, it must be revived and strengthened by this continuous and repeated movement of thought. For example, suppose I have learnt, in a number of successive mental acts, the relations between magnitudes 1 and 2, magnitudes 2 and 3, magnitudes 3 and 4, and, finally, magnitudes 4 and 5; this does not make me see the relation between magnitudes 1 and 5, nor can I deduce it from the ones I already know, unless I remember them all; accordingly, I must run over them in thought again and again, until I pass from the first to the last so quickly that I have hardly any parts to the care of memory, but seem to have a simultaneous intuition of the whole. (Rules, Rule XI, EA 164)

The notion that one can achieve certainty by seeming to have an intuition which one does not in fact have boggles the mind.

     To his credit, Descartes drops this line of thought entirely when he writes the Meditations 15 years later. By then the problem of time has become more acute for him and it must have become clear to him that fast-forwarding, even at top speed, cannot overcome the non-instantaneous, and hence non-intuitive, status of memory and so of logical deduction. Indeed, in the Meditations, the past not only has no power to guarantee my present memory, it cannot even guarantee the existence of the present. There is no natural causal relationship between the past and the present. Every instant requires a new creative act of God to bring it into existence. The substance of the world, and the substance of thought, are powerless ontologically as well as epistemologically.

     For the whole time of my life may be divided into an infinity of parts, each of which is in no way dependent on any other; and, accordingly, because I was in existence a short time ago, it does not follow that I must now exist, unless in this moment some cause create me anew as it were, that is, conserve me. In truth, it is perfectly clear and evident to all who will attentively consider the nature of duration, that the conservation of a substance, in each moment of its duration, requires the same power and act that would be necessary to create it, supposing it were not yet in existence; so that it is manifestly a dictate of the natural light that conservation and creation differ merely in respect of our mode of thinking [and not in reality]. (Meditations, Third Meditation, EA 88)

I will call this notion that time is made up of independent, isolated moments of duration "punctualism." As a punctualist, once the past moment has slipped away, Descartes must trust in God to use Her miraculous powers to recreate the present moment. Since any memory I currently have of the past is directly created by God, the certainty of deduction can only be solved by trusting in Her.

B. Husserl

     Descartes' solution is not available to Husserl 250 years later. By then, God is dead, or is at least, as Bernie Wills puts it, absconditus. I read Husserl's project as the attempt to see if humans can manage by themselves to find an absolute foundation for the sciences without having to rely on trust in God. Following Descartes, Husserl thinks that it is to intuition that we must appeal.

     To grasp Husserl's notion of intuition, we need to understand a fundamental difference between two kinds of consciousness or experience. For example, in our experience with language, we differentiate between merely saying something, and really meaning it. Husserl holds that a parallel distinction can be found in all experience: perception of physical objects; understanding of mathematical entities; the hearing of melodies; and so on. The crucial distinction is between "seeing" and not "seeing" the thing itself.

Something similar is obviously true of all types of intuitions and of all other processes of meaning an object even when they have the character of mere re-presentations that (like rememberings or pictorial intuitions or processes of meaning something symbolic) do not have the intrinsic character of being conscious of the intuited's being there "in person" but are conscious of it instead as recalled, as re-presented in the picture or by means of symbolic indications and the like. (Husserl, Freiberg lecture [7])

Thinking about the object through the mediation of images or signs counts as non-seeing, and so is uncertain. For instance, we can use words to talk about a table, or we can form an image of it, but these are different experiences than actually perceiving the table itself, "in person," as he puts it. We can perform a correct calculation by manipulating (maybe mentally) mathematical signs, but only when we actually see the numbers present before us can we achieve certainty. It is presence of the thing itself to us that Husserl calls intuition, and only in this case can we have rational certainty.

     When I actually see an object before me, a table for example, we have a presentive act of consciousness. When I only remember the table, the act is a re-presentive or unfulfilled one and the image or word I am experiencing has a sense [Sinn] only in so far as it refers back to the original act of seeing in which the table was present itself in person.

Thus a memorial [remembered] consciousness - for example, of a landscape - is not originarily presentive; the landscape is not perceived as it would be in case we actually saw it. . . . We can assert "blindly" that two plus one is equal to one plus two; but we can also make the judgment in the manner peculiar to intellectual seeing. When we do this, the synthetical objectivity corresponding to the judgment-synthesis is given originarily, seized upon in an originary manner. It is no longer given originarily after effecting the actual [lebendigen] intellectual seeing which becomes forthwith an obscured retentional modification. . . . (Husserl, Ideas 326-327)

At first sight, then, it seems as if Husserl follows Descartes in holding that intuition is punctual and so the certainty it delivers cannot extend to past experience. Only presence in the living now counts as intuition, and only that can fulfil the blind and empty promise of words or re-presentative images and so deliver rational certainty.

One mode of consciousness pertaining to the sense [Sinn] is the "intuitive" mode, which is such that the "meant object as meant" is intentively [intentionally] intuited; and an especially preeminent case here is the one in which the mode of intuition is precisely the originarily presentive mode. In the perception of the landscape the sense is fulfilled perceptually; in the mode of "itself in person" there is consciousness of the perceived object with its colors, forms, and other determinations. . . .

If the position is blind, if the verbal significations are effected on the basis of an obscure and confusedly intentive [intentional] act-substratum, then the rational character belonging to intellectual seeing is necessarily lacking; ... (Husserl, Ideas 327-328)

     Husserl's fundamental claim for intuition, that certainty is to be found only in experiences in which the object intended is present itself in person, is captured in his "Principle of all Principles":

Every originary presentive intuition is a legitimating source of cognition, everything originarily (so to speak, in its "personal" actuality) offered to us in 'intuition' is to be accepted simply as what it is presented as being . . . (Ideas 44)

    The target that Husserl is aiming at is symbolic consciousness, experiences in which we manipulate just the signs, words, or images without intuition of the objects they signify. Such techniques of sign manipulation may be pragmatically successful in science, engineering and everyday life, but without the foundation given by intuition we cannot reach the certainty that real science (episteme) requires.

     By insisting in this way on the intuitive presence of the object, Husserl, like Descartes, runs up against the problem of time. Intuitive presence is an analogical concept and Husserl applies it to many different regions of objects: physical things, mathematical objects, melodies, and so on. Some of these objects, melodies are the most obvious examples, are extended in time, yet Husserl insists that, if our words are to be meaningful, it must be possible for even temporal objects to be present in intuition. If the words "Beethoven's Fifth Symphony" are to be meaningful there must be an originary experience in which the symphony itself in person is present to intuition. This is possible only if intuition itself is extended over time, which appears incompatible with Cartesian punctualism. Exacerbating the problem is Husserl's claim that consciousness - unlike a Divine Intellect - is essentially temporal and so it is not only the intuition of melodies, but of any object, that is dispersed in time. Husserl is therefore led to renounce Cartesian punctualism: Intuitive presence cannot be limited to the present.

If one speaks of the self-evident givenness of an immanent content, it is obvious that this self-evidence cannot mean indubitable certainty with regard to the temporal existence of a sound at a point. Self-evidence so grasped (as, is admitted by Brentano, for example) I would hold to be a fiction. If to be extended in time belongs to the essence of a content given in perception, then the indubitableness of the perception can mean nothing other than indubitableness with reference to the temporally extended existent. . . . These are perceptions which in themselves contain nothing further that is questionable. We are led back to these perceptions in all questions regarding origins, but they themselves exclude any further question as to origin. It is clear that the much-talked-of certainty of internal perception, the evidence of the cogito, would lose all meaning and significance if we excluded temporal extension from the sphere of self-evidence and true givenness. (Husserl, ITC 111-112)

Husserl, then, solves Descartes' problem that, because the certainty of intuition is limited by the instant, we must trust in God's continuous miraculous interventions. Intuition is not punctual in the first place, but extends over time by its own nature, without divine help.

     So far I have focussed on the presence "in person" of the object in intuition. But intuition is bipolar; it is Janus-faced, looking in two directions. Not only must the object itself be there, but the subject must also. It takes two to tango. No one else can perform my intuitions for me; I must be there myself, in person. Intuition excludes hearsay, the intuition of others passed on to me through verbal signs. I must see for myself. I too, not just the object, must be present when fulfilled intuition takes place.

     In the literature, this feature of intuition is often referred to as "self-presence," (Derrida 35) but this can be misleading. It is not as if object and subject were equal partners who lie down side by side, each mutually present to the other in the bed of intuition. The ego is not like just one other object; it is not an object at all. It is more like the condition for there being any objects, or at least for the presence of any object. The subject of intuition is more like a form than an object; it is that which makes presence possible rather than being itself present.

     For Descartes, since certainty can be found only in the instant, it is crucial that the subject not have a history: one function of methodological doubt is to disengage the present point of intuition from any previous habits, beliefs, opinions or teachings so that no prejudices can distort the pure natural light of immediate presence. If now we accept that for Husserl intuition and intuited objects are dispersed in time, we cannot continue to cling to an instantaneous, punctual subject. How can the subject get beyond the instant? How can the subject doing the intuition be dispersed in time? This is the issue I now want to tackle.



     In bringing epistemology down to earth, Husserl, unlike Descartes, no longer trusts in God to guarantee intuitions of the past. But if I don't trust God, who can I trust? Myself!

     What is it to trust myself? In the moral sphere, I make decisions and count on my future self to carry them out. I take responsibility today for the promises and commitments I made yesterday. If, in Sartrian fashion, I had to remake every decision, recommit myself anew every moment, I would be as paralysed as Prufrock.

And indeed there will be time . . .

There will be time, there will be time . . .

Time for you and time for me,

And time yet for a hundred indecisions,

And for a hundred visions and revisions,

Before the taking of a toast and tea.

T.S. Elliot, Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Today I find myself responsible for yesterday's free decisions. If yesterday's decision were not free, I would not be bound today, but in so far as it was my free act, it binds me today. While the bonds of the past are not absolute, if my default position were not to remain bound I would not be the same person from day to day (Ricoeur 165). My being as a self is not like that of a bump on a log; I am not a self-contained substance, but a web of decisions in which my current being is structured by my history. In so far as actions take time, a being who could not bind herself in the future could not act (Merleau-Ponty 437). I must today trust in the validity of yesterday's decisions and I must trust that tomorrow I will continue to embrace the projects I launch today. Trust is constitutive of moral selfhood; I am now the kind of person I made myself into yesterday.

     Can we find a similar temporal structure in the epistemological sphere? I embark on a deduction, perhaps in geometry. I have intuitive certainty of the initial premises and of the first step of the proof, but these are past when I arrive at the conclusion. Initially, Doubting René tries to repeat the proof faster so that all the steps "seem" to be present to punctual intuition. However Trusting David doesn't need to depend on speed but trusts himself to have got it right in the first step. The intuition of the initial step would then be analogous to a kind of decision, an abiding commitment to treat the initial position adopted as true. When I reach the conclusion of the deduction, I remain bound by that commitment; I continue to take responsibility for my previous insight. Who I am now is the self I constructed earlier in the proof. The initial "intuition" is still there at the conclusion not as a dubitable memory but as an abiding structure of my selfhood. Yesterday I promised today's self that what I was seeing then is true. I certified its truth to my future self. Today I receive that certification and I trust the certifier, yesterday's self. I put my seal of approval today on the belief which yesterday I bequeathed to myself. I abide by the epistemic decision I made.

     Let me call this structure "epistemic responsibility": I take responsibility now for the commitment I made earlier. In a way, Descartes anticipates this notion when he claims equality to God with respect to what I call "epistemic freedom":

For . . . God's will . . . does not seem any greater than mine when considered as will in the essential and strict sense. . . .When something is put forward for our consideration by the intellect, we are moved to affirm or deny it, or pursue or avoid it, in such a way that we feel we are not determined by any external force. (Meditations, Fourth Meditation. EA 96)

I assume he is speaking here of intuition. His Promethean interpretation of it as an act of freedom equal to God's could have led him to my notion of epistemic responsibility as the upshot of epistemic freedom. He cannot take this step, however, because his punctualism blocks him from considering the temporal nature of the ego. Neither an eternal will, like God's, nor a punctual will, like Descartes, has to face the problem within time of binding oneself for the future, not the correlated problem of accepting responsibility for one's own decisions in the past. Descartes can depend on God to manage the link between yesterday and tomorrow; I claim that I must manage on my own. Prometheus has only himself to trust.



     Why am I trustworthy? Why should I today accept the certification of an intuition by yesterday's self? Does it even make sense to speak of yesterday's self and today's self? Parfit speaks of person-stages and investigates how different person-stages dispersed in time could still be the same person. I find this way of putting the question inadequate because Parfit remained mired in punctualism. It makes sense to trust another person, or to trust God, but to speak of "trusting oneself" seems to involve a conceptual splitting up of the self into semi-separate entities, an alienation of time-slices from one unified self. Once this gap has been created, reliance on trust of a former self seems no less problematic than reliance on memory in Descartes. We need a better way of linking my past intuition to my present.

     Part of the problem is that we think of intuition by means of the metaphor of vision. Vision is experienced as passive: a prefabricated seen object imposes itself on me. In reality, as both Merleau-Ponty and cognitive scientists have shown, perception is a very active process, but it appears to us as passive, and hence basing the metaphor of intuition on vision - on tueri - runs the risk of us interpreting intuition as a passive process.

     A better way is to conceptualize intuition as integration. Let me first explain what I mean in general by the term integration. When I see a face, I don't see an assortment of eyes, nose, mouth, etc. as isolated data which serve as rational clues for figuring out what is before me. Rather, each feature is experienced as having a sense: the eye is the eye of a face - how else could it be an "eye?" The parts fit together into a patterned whole and it is in function of this whole that the parts have their meaning. The meaning "face" integrates the elements into what they are for me, the eyes of this face. The immediate intuition of a face, the face present in person, is not simply a matter of passive reception; it is the giving of a meaning to the situation. (Husserl calls this synthesis or constitution, and the result of it intentionality.)

     Not all integration is synchronous, however. When I intuit a melody, the individual notes are integrated into the one melody which is the meaning of the experience, and each note is heard as the note of that melody. This is diachronic or temporal integration. It is temporal integration that Husserl is getting at when he claims, "the evidence of the cogito would lose all meaning and significance if we excluded temporal extension from the sphere of self-evidence and true givenness." (ITC 112) Only a non-punctual subject, an ego which is extended over time, could be capable of the intuition of a temporal object.

     It is not a matter of trusting a past self. Intuition is the process of making the past fit into a larger meaning which includes elements from the current moment. Or better, my current intuition is the integrating of a patterned temporal whole which incorporates past phases in so far as they contribute to the total pattern. In synchronous integration, it is not that my left eye trusts my right eye when I look at the landscape: it is that both perspectives are integrated into the experience of the one landscape. When I hear a melody, it is not that a present self trusts a past self to have heard the earlier note correctly: both the past notes and the current one are held together, integrated as the one melody which I, the intuiter, experience. The intuiter is not stuck punctually and passively in one instant of time: Intuition is the active process of integrating one meaning out of many moments. I don't just trust my past self to have seen the first step of the proof; when I reach the conclusion I don't simply experience the last step and trust my earlier self to have seen the initial premises. Rather, I give the last step the meaning "one step in the whole proof," thereby integrating not only this step, but also the earlier ones, into the one patterned whole, "the proof." Just as I am not conscious of an isolated note, but notes of the melody, so I experience each step as a step of this proof.

     This account may help us to understand what is intuited, but how does it help us interpret who is intuiting? Let me turn again to Husserl for help. He claims that it is not only the intuited object which is integrated over time; so is the subject.

The ego is . . . continuously constituting himself as existing . . . as the same I. This centering ego is not an empty pole of identity. . . . with every act emanating from him and having a new objective sense [meaning as an object], he acquires a new abiding property. For example: If, in an act of judgment, I decide for the first time in favor of a being and a being-thus, the fleeting act passes; but from now on I am abidingly the Ego who is thus and so decided, I am of this conviction. . . . [I] find myself as the Ego who is convinced, who, as the persisting Ego, is determined by this abiding habitus or state. . . . Since, by his own active generating, the Ego constitutes himself as identical substrate of Ego-properties, he constitutes himself also as a "fixed and abiding" personal Ego . . . (Husserl CM 66-67)

Translating this into my language of integration, I take Husserl to be saying that there is no pre-existing, pre-integrated self other than that which is integrated over time by means of its history. There is no abstract unity-in-principle, but only the particular integrative structure that has pulled itself together around its objects. The process which integrates a melody, for instance, includes the perspective from which the melody is perceived. My self is being integrated as much as the melody or the landscape. Who, then, intuits? From this perspective the subject of intuition is the framework itself, the pattern into which the elements fall. To integrate the object is to integrate the subject. What "I" am is the way my world is integrated. "Consequently the phenomenology of this self-constitution coincides with phenomenology as a whole." (Husserl, CM 68)

     Husserl is, of course, a transcendental idealist, but I think his insights can be carried over into naturalism, with which I am more comfortable. The integration of the eyes and nose into a face is done by facial recognition circuits in the brain. We know this since when tumours destroy these circuits, the patient cannot recognize faces. Similarly, the integration of data from the two eyes into the experience of a three-dimensional landscape and the integration of a series of notes into the recognition of one, unified melody are both carried out by the brain. On the subjective pole, it is the brain too which integrates the structure which we call a "self." Indeed, if we follow Husserl, the subject is not another structure created in addition to the object-structures; it is the same structure. The process that Husserl calls transcendental constitution is carried out by the brain, itself programmed by cultural memes in the way Dennett describes so well.

      So what happens, under this interpretation, to the privilege of intuition to deliver absolute certainty? I think it must be abandoned; there is no place for certainty in the ways our brains integrate experience. Nevertheless, there is clearly an experiential difference between speaking without thinking and speaking with sense, or between a rote repetition that 2 + 2 = 4 and actually "seeing" the relationship, what Husserl calls intuition. How can my integration account explain this difference?

     I think I can explain non-intuitive experience as that which occurs when our brains hive off an operation into an isolated mechanism, whereas in the case of intuitive experience, it integrates the object into the overall structure of our lives. For many practical purposes, however, such integration may be unnecessary or even disruptive. If I want to divide 3 into 402 (which goes in 134 times), along the way I may write (or think) the digits 1 followed by 3. If the sign "13" gets fully activated and integrated into my life, that is, if I intuit it, I may not only recognize that this is the 7th prime number, but I may be gripped by an attack of triskaidekaphobia. Much better to ignore what "13" means and just treat it as a sign to be manipulated. In the extreme case, the brains of savants must do something like this: some savants can figure out in seconds whether 37658431 is a prime number. They have no experience of the steps along the way. Their brains just act like calculating machines and deliver to consciousness the correct answer in the mode of a "hunch" without justification. This is the very opposite to what Descartes and Husserl are striving for when searching for certainty in science. It is this kind of pure "technique" of signs which Husserl (and Heidegger after him) inveighs against. But in everyday life, most of the time we rely upon non-intuitive brain mechanisms which avoid integrating into our lives the objects represented by the signs. So my integrative approach can still account for the experiential difference between "merely meant" signs and the fulfilled experience of intuiting the object itself there in person. What the account abandons is the claim that the later delivers certainty.



     The traditional (Cartesian-Husserlian) concept of intuition does not only etymologically originate in visual perception but is so saturated with the optical metaphor that it is hopelessly corrupted by its origin. "Intuition" relies on a notion of presence which is abstracted from time and so is available only to either a timeless God or an instantaneous ego stripped of all historicity. When it comes to real spatio-temporal knowers who live in the hic et nunc, we must substitute for absolute presence the embodied temporal process of making sense of the world. Absolute seeing is an illusionary product, a product generated by the processes of our bodies which structure our experience, integrating both objects and conscious selves over space and time.


David L. Thompson

Philosophy, Memorial University



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Derrida, Jacques, Speech and Phenomena, Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1973.

(Rules EA) Descartes, Renè, Rules for the Direction of the Mind.

(Meditations EA) Descartes, Renè, Meditations on First Philosophy.

Both cited from Descartes: Philosophical Writings. Elizabeth Anscombe and Peter Thomas Geach (translators). Don Mills, Ontario: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1970.

(CM) Husserl, Edmund, Cartesian Mediations, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. 1960.

Husserl, Edmund, Freiberg lecture [7])

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(ITC) Husserl, Edmund, The Phenomenology of Internal Time Consciousness. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 1964.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, The Phenomenology of Perception. New York: Humanities Press. 1962

Parfit, Derek, Reasons and Persons. Oxford University Press. 1986

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