Immediacy

One of Brandom’s many contributions is a sharp critique of foundational uses of immediacy. He points out that this was a major theme in Hegel as well.

In my youth, I believed in a sort of rational intuition in which complex content would be presented originally as a simultaneous whole, and only later (somewhat artificially) analyzed into steps. I now think this is completely wrong.

We certainly can encounter complex content in an immediate way, but I would now argue that this is like knowing how to ride a bicycle, which means that the immediacy is never primitive. Rather, all immediacy is what Hegel called mediated immediacy, which is something that has come to be immediate but did not start out that way.

We apprehend immediacy through something like Kantian intuition. Kant famously said there is no “intellectual” intuition, and that intuition without concepts is blind. He also suggested that the mental correlate of physical sensation was a kind of intuition. I want to say that intuition is not a kind of knowledge at all, but more like a kind of feeling. Feeling is not knowledge either, but it is very important in life overall.

Immediacy as noninferential input does not positively give us any truth. Brandom points out, however, that it does have a very important role in exposing problems with our current syntheses. Such problems drive learning and progress. (See also Error.)