Intuition is often lumped into the various piles of nonsense that critical thinkers build when examining categories of spurious claims. However, if we examine it through the filter of philosophy, discarding intuition as so much bunk may simply be due to how it is defined.
The dictionary tells us that intuition is the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning. This type of intuition, like mother’s intuition (or woman’s inuition), would seem to be an ability that includes “just knowing” something, or “just feeling that something is so”. And the good critical thinker would not rest on that as an explanation for knowing anything.
Philosophers, however, point out that this definition of intuition is incorrect; or that it is incomplete at the very least. The contention is, we simply think unconsciously much faster than when we consciously use symbolic language to examine the results. And so it only appears as though we “just know” something, or that we “just feel that something is so”.
A yet unpublished (but available with academic library access if you don’t want to purchase) paper by J.R. and J.R.C. Kuntz, to appear in the Review of Philosophical Psychology discusses seven accounts of intuitions that were provided to them by the researchers. He are the Kuntz’s seven conceptions of intuitions:
1) Judgment that is not made on the basis of some kind of observable and explicit reasoning process.
2) An intellectual happening whereby it seems that something is the case without arising from reasoning, or sensorial perceiving, or remembering.
3) A propositional attitude that is held with some degree of conviction, and solely on the basis of one’s understanding of the proposition in question, not on the basis of some belief.
4) An intellectual act whereby one is thinking occurrently [sic] of the abstract proposition that p and, merely on the basis of understanding it, believes that p.
5) An intellectual state made up of (1) the consideration whether p and (2) positive phenomenological qualities that count as evidence for p; together constituting prima facie reason to believe that p.
6) The formation of a belief by unclouded mental attention to its contents, in a way that is so easy and yielding a belief that is so definite as to leave no room for doubt regarding its veracity.
7) An intellectual happening that serves as evidence for the situation at hand’s instantiation of some concept.
But if we grant these definitions, and allow for intuition, can we use intuition to explain how we know something? How confident can we be of the conclusions that result from it? Can we be confident at all? What else must we take into account if we are to trust intuition? Anything? Any other thoughts?
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