Jacques Maritain and the centrality of intuition

Thomas L Gwozdz, Fordham University


The dissertation entitled Jacques Maritain and the Centrality of Intuition is a study in the influence of Henri Bergson's notion of intuition in the thought of Jacques Maritain. It is argued that Maritain used tenets from Thomistic philosophy to transform Bergsonian intuition, first by putting intuition back into the intellect from which Bergson in fact severed it. It is also argued that, although Bergson in fact put a wedge between intellect and intuition, that was not his intention. Because Bergson in fact separated intuition from the intellect, however, Maritain accused him of being anti-intellectual. Contrary to Maritain's criticism, it is argued that Bergson was anti-intellectual only in the sense of criticizing a bad use of intelligence, but not in the sense of criticizing intelligence as such. Maritain then interprets Bergson's intuition as an immediate knowledge of reality in two ways: first, as the intellectual metaphysical intuition of being yielding a concept of being as being in its analogical amplitude and as not intrinsically linked to matter; second, as various and analogous modes of intuition by way of affective connaturality, i.e., an obscure, but deep and penetrating knowledge of the very subsistence of a thing by bypassing the concept. Various modes of affective connaturality are described, namely, the connatural knowledge of the virtuous person, of the prudent person, of the natural law itself, of the mystic, the lover, and the poet. In connatural knowledge, intuition is seen to be both intellectual and emotion-laden. Given the various modes of intuition explored by Maritain, it is argued that intuition is central to Maritain's thought. It is further argued that the content of one's experience of the self and being known in the various modes of connatural knowledge is stored in the depths of the spiritual preconscious of the soul and acts as an indirect cause that disposes one to have an intuition of being should one be so gifted. In addition, connatural knowledge of being is also an indirect cause of creative insights in science, mathematics, and in all other kinds of knowledge. A kind of poetic intuition is at work everywhere, even when subordinated to the ends of some other kind of knowledge. Consequently, it is necessary to be a contemplative, especially for the philosopher who needs to be attuned and receptive to the mystery of being if he/she is to be gifted with the metaphysical intuition, without which one cannot be an authentic metaphysician of existence. The thought of Henri Bergson, Pierre Rousselot and the Maritain Thomist, Joseph Sikora, S. J. is heavily relied on in the exposition of the thesis.

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Recommended Citation

Gwozdz, Thomas L, "Jacques Maritain and the centrality of intuition" (1996). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9628337.