Archaeologists deal with past human activities. There are plenty of assumptions concerning what these ancient people’s consciousnesses were like (there are evolutionary, “cultural” and geographical differences). The problem is complex to the extreme since we cannot even know how our own present consciousness works in all its aspects. In a late comment to my debate with Calleman, it was proposed that we should give up our mind and focus on intuition. We should feel instead of analyzing. This, it is argued, would be a new way of apprehending the world. No, it is not a new way of understanding the world, it has been with us for quite some time. You cannot accomplish much with only “feeling.” However, I am not against intuition as such. We tend to use it every time we encounter an artefact. In an instant we classify it as a certain kind. If our intuitive classification turns out to be wrong through more detailed analyzes we tend to have problems believing this analysis. First impression lasts. Let us take a look what Bergson had to say about consciousness in his books Creative Evolution and The Creative Mind.
Bergson does not reify the important role the nervous system is generally believed to have for the consciousness. For him, consciousness has to do with mobility. According to him, neither mobility nor consciousness needs a nerve system. Even the simplest animal is conscious in proportion to its mobility. The nervous system does not create this function but makes it more intense and precise (Ansell Pearson 1999:47-48).
For Bergson, consciousness consists of two tendencies; instinct and intelligence. Bergson argues that “the cardinal error which, from Aristotle onwards, has vitiated most of the philosophies of nature, is to see in vegetative, instinctive and rational life, three successive degrees of the development of one and the same tendency, whereas they are three divergent directions of an activity that has split up as it grew” (Bergson 1998:135, original emphasis). Bergson sees these forms of life as differences in kind and not of degree. The problem for us in understanding this is that we do not transcend our intellect since it is with the intellect we understand other forms of consciousness (ibid:xii).
Instinct and intelligence are not self-contained and mutually exclusive. Both intelligence and instinct were once interpenetrating and still retain parts of their common origin. They can never be found in a pure state since they are tendencies and not things (ibid:135). These tendencies are both rooted in duration that makes all life, all change and all becomings. Instinct and intelligence are two solutions to the same problem of confronting and manipulating matter. Knowledge exists in both instinct and intelligence. It is acted and is unconscious in instinct and thought, and it is conscious in intelligence. Intelligence reaches a true self-possession in human beings but it exists in other animals as well (ibid:142-145).
Our knowledge is dependent on the form and structure of intelligence. Intelligence has an analytic, external, practical and spatialized approach (ibid:189, 206). Bergson argues that “the human intellect feels at home among inanimate objects, more especially among solids, where our action finds its fulcrum and our industry its tools […] our concepts have been formed on the model of solids” (ibid:ix). The intellect concentrates on repetitions, linking the same to the same, and in this process it is distancing itself from duration. It dislikes what is fluid and solidifies it (ibid:46).
The relationship between consciousness and matter has been formed as instinct for most animals. Instinct does not represent its knowledge, it acts it. Its instruments are part of the body and are adapted to their objects since the instruments have evolved in conjunction with the objects. Therefore, the insect has a highly particular knowledge of a narrow category (Grosz 2004:226). Animals that possess tools have them as part of the body that uses it, such as a bee sucking nectar. There is an instinct that knows how to use this tool (Bergson 1998:139). Thus, instinct uses and constructs organized (internal) instruments (eye, nose, trunk, wing), and intelligence uses and constructs unorganized (external) instruments (artefacts, buildings, writing) (Grosz 2004:233). Instinct is specialized, and it is the utilisation of a particular instrument for a particular object. Intelligence is not specialized, and its instruments are imperfect and external to the body. However, since it has been made from unorganized matter, it can be made into any form there is. It can serve many purposes and free the living being from obstacles (Bergson 1998:140-141).
For Bergson, intelligence is pragmatic orientation. The analytic and quantitative orientation of intelligence makes it impossible to obtain immediate access to life. Humans have developed intelligence to survive, to be able to make external tools and language. Thus, the mechanical invention has been the most important feature of human intelligence. Inventions are not just the result of intelligence, they have also directed intelligence since the intelligence produces objects to make other objects (ibid:138-139).
Intelligence is the knowledge of a form and instinct is the knowledge of matter. For this reason, intelligence is unable to understand life, and it treats everything mechanically whereas instinct proceeds organically (ibid:149, 165). The intellect can only form a clear idea from the discontinuous and the static. It works from the immobile and tries to understand temporal movement by juxtaposing immobilities. It can decompose and recompose as it likes (ibid:154-157). The intelligence that always creates something new is unable to understand its own creative evolution. Since the intellect needs stable forms and objects that can be controlled, the unforeseen and new is resolved into the old and the same (Ansell Pearson 1999:53).
Our intellect has created signs that are static and stable, so we can communicate through symbols. For this reason, Bergson is suspicious of language. For him, language divides the continuity of duration and this leads us to illusions. Bergson claims that “language is not meant to convey all the delicate shades of inner states” (Bergson 2001:160). This is because we perceive words as external to one another (ibid:163). However, there is a difference between the signs used by intellect and by instinct. The specificity of human language is that it is mobile, meaning that it can be applied to anything in space. However, the instinctive sign is adherent and in duration (Ansell Pearson 1999:55).
Instinct and intuition are not exactly the same but they are related. Neither is intuition “feeling”. It is a mode of reflection that transcends both idealism and realism. Bergson sees intuition as a philosophical method and he develops this in The Creative Mind. Intuition is a way to think in duration, the continuous flow of reality. Science is intellectual but metaphysics is intuitive. Bergson strived to unify these divergent perceptions of reality. Therefore, anyone who claims we should drop either intuition or intellect in favour of the opposite tendency is heading in the wrong direction and fails to recognize how integrated our consciousness is and therefore should be treated as such.