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I have an idea. Visceral intellect, I call it. I’m sure it’s formulated somewhere out there in better terms, but I’m not interested in producing that kind of scholarship here. (My blog, as I announce somewhere, is an outlet for creative thinking and self-indulgence. Apologies in advance, if this is off-putting.)

The idea connects with the phenomenological tradition in philosophy that emphasizes the fundamental role experience plays in thinking, a peculiar kind of thinking, mind you. Moreover, it doesn’t simply connect with thinking as a base component superseded (“sublated”) by other operations of consciousness like understanding and judgment, where some might feel so-called real thinking takes place. Visceral intellect, as Robert C. Solomon (1988, 43) says about feeling in Kant’s third Critique, “has its own intelligence; it is akin to judgment, not just a biological reaction.” And so placing these two terms together, visceral and intellect, subverts your run-of-the-mill definition that opposes visceral, as instinct or “deep inward feeling”, to thinking. As a thinking, visceral intellect is a certain kind of feeling, one that orients and suffuses thought. It possesses—no: it is—thought but as rhythmically distinct from what usually passes as thought. The connecting insight here, which binds judgment to sensory experience, is far more artistic than intellectual or systematic in nature. The kick drum of this particular intelligence propels one in a different direction.

“Visceral” points to that element in consciousness that some describe as immediate and fluid, raw and vectorial. The imagery is fine as far as imagery goes but technically it is flawed, not only because what usually passes as thought possesses an immediacy of its own but also because immediacy, as Hegel and Wittgenstein later showed, is a term riddled with problems. We might want to qualify, then, this vectorial immediacy as mediate in so far as we recognize that visceral intellect is, as a hyper-transcendental, irreducible to either pole of the binary distinction: immediacy/mediacy. It occupies—yes, you guessed it, if you’ve been following this blog!—an interstice, one of functional consciousness. Traces of it are discovered, appropriated, in the mediate immediacy of one’s experience. A singularity is another way of putting it; that part of us, our individuality, that eludes because it grounds generalizations like immediacy and mediacy. The experience is one we conveniently like to think is pre- or non-conceptual. With all due deference to Jacques Derrida, this dimension to our singularity, among others, is formed in and by language, in and by concepts, even if it is “outside” language in the sense that it is irreducible to a specific language or language game, mine and even yours, a tradition’s, etc. It is a space I would insist that is unique to your person, which I can’t inhabit, even though my influence in pointing it out gives it form. Alas, the dangers of hegemony are inescapable in this or any other intellectual adventure. That is why I consider this particular jig a partnership, a give and take, on the road to self-discovery and critical reflexivity.

Visceral intellect, as I hinted at earlier, is artistic, always on the cusp of particular kind of discovery and design. To perform it requires the inculcation of certain habits, a skill, a thinking. It achieves new visions of the world, one’s own world, which involves subverting what Heidegger calls the present-at-hand (Vorhandenheit) and ready-to-hand (Zuhandenheit), the so-called ready-made world, the world of utility and meaning that constitutes our everyday life—put simply: the way we see and function in the world. If you happen to be a musician or artistically inclined, you know exactly what I mean. But when attaching visceral to intellect I mean to suggest a type of being-in-the-world that differs from, say, that of the abstract artist who seeks a spontaneity of creation through shapes and forms relatively independent of objects in the world. On the contrary, I mean a deliberate form of creativity, attentiveness, where the thinking involved is immersed in the vibrancy of the moment, as it were. It is the place between experience and objectification, calculation, where one negotiates a scalar world of meanings, not all of which require subversion but a lot of which requires personal reaction and cogitation. Because language binds description to object, mental and sensate, it is impossible to relate the experience as such. Further complicating matters is the fact that it is your experience, not mine or anyone else’s. And yet, like Derrida, I would insist, again, on the importance of thinking the possibility of this impossible event. Singularity also suggests that no one can do it for you. For this moment or period of time is your compact world of meaning in which you suspend, while working toward, self-objectification, and in which you negotiate the objectification of self by others.

Elsewhere I describe this as the enecstatic space of personal involvement (Kanaris 2013). It comprises standing (stasis) in (en) a world, your world, of meaning cognizant of the fact that this world transcends even you. And so we must simultaneously stand out (ek) of this world—in Heidegger’s sense of standing-in care in the openness of that which gives. We attend to that world as we negotiate all that comprises it: one’s intellectual, moral, religious, political, etc. foundations. To be a visceral intellect is to learn a peculiar dance, one that feels the thrust of thinking in one’s own time and space.

Works Cited

Kanaris, Jim. 2013. “Enecstasis: A Disposition for Our Times?” In Polyphonic Thinking and the Divine. Ed. Jim Kanaris. New York, NY: Rodopi, 97-104.

Solomon, Robert C. 1988. Continental Philosophy since 1750: The Rise and Fall of the Self. Oxford: Oxford University Press.