Intuition in action over content in appearance

Rui Vale
3 min readMar 17, 2022
Sit.

On the ambiguity of taking intuition as one’s grasp of unmediated knowing, or of content just appearing, presenting itself to our consciousness already wrapped up as a belief.

Is it something we do, or it just happens to us?

Something must be happening. Irrespectively of external stimuli, such credence is born about the same time we realise we got it. An intuitive, non-inferential belief, an analytical philosopher would call it, rather stubbornly resistant to further inferential reflection — not the philosopher; one hard to explain or justify.

What is it then? An immediate, direct, and non-discursive apprehension of some idea about something. Unquestionable, simple, self-evident.

Seymour Papert[1] famously said you can’t think about thinking unless you think about thinking about something. So as far as intuition goes, such something just pops. Without even thinking about it, you end up thinking it’s true.

Einstein[2] said a new idea comes suddenly in a rather intuitive way, not by conscious logical conclusions, and that you’ll end up finding a logical way to justify it by thinking it through afterwards.

Of course, you have to know what you were thinking about, to begin with. There’s a required degree of accumulated experience for it to possibly coalesce and, above all, make sense.

So, you have to have it already, somewhere within you, so you can birth it, like a bubble in a lava lamp.

But such ambiguity looks like a scrambled egg, where yolk and white are rather hard to tell apart. I find it reminiscent of James-Lange theory on emotions: we meet an idea and tremble, and because we tremble we believe in it.

Maybe an analogous experiment to the one Carney Landis[3] did in the roaring twenties could be tried. His subjects swallowed a small balloon attached to a rubber tube, along with a similar device inserted into their rectums. Upon an electric shock as strong as they could bear, an array of measures were taken to isolate the physiological changes causing the ensuing emotions; incidentally, surprise was the only subjective state consistently caught.

Well, surprising is indeed what would qualify as a defining characteristic of intuition.

Now, if you happen to be a Jedi[4] you’re in a much better position to reach the truth solely from your own intuition — they call it the force there. You’ll just have to go beyond mechanistic facts and shades of meaning and you’ll be able to turn off the targeting computer on the Death Star run.

Bang!

[1] Papert, S. (2005). You can’t think about thinking without thinking about thinking about something. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 5(3/4), 366–367.

[2] Stachel, J. (1994). Scientific Discoveries as Historical Artifacts in Gavroglu, k., Christianidis J., Nicolaidis E. Trends in the Historiography of Science. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.

[3] Landis, C. (1926). Studies of emotional reactions. V. Severe emotional upset. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 6(3), 221–242 cited in Hunt, M. M. (2007). The story of psychology. New York: Anchor Books.

[4] Fader, S. (2005). “A Certain Point of View”: Lying Jedi, Honest Sith, and the Viewers Who Love Them in Decker, K. S., Eberl, J. T. (Eds.) Star Wars and Philosophy — More Powerful Than You Can Possibly Imagine. Chicago: Open Court.

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Rui Vale

Cherubinic debunker on business, life, and technology