Sunday, September 8, 2013

Intuition vs Intellect - Being clear is being right

Put that in your pipe and smoke it. 
Bertrand Russell is the ultimate badass.

Why? Because he's superiorly witty and he makes sense of things in a rational way.

He also put his money where his mouth is.

He was thrown in prison for his activism, and he stood up against church and state throughout his lengthy career. He was also a gifted writer, which make his books great reads.

Here are some excerpts from Russell's "Our Knowledge of the External World"

On Intuition vs Intellect:
"It is neither intellect nor intuition, but sensation, that supplies new data, but when the data are new in any remarkable manner, intellect is much more capable of dealing with them than intuition would be. The hen with a brood of ducklings no doubt has intuitions which seem to place her inside them, and not merely to know them analytically; but when the ducklings take to the water, the whole apparent intuition is seen to be illusory, and the hen is left helpless on the shore. Intuition, in fact, is an aspect and development of instinct, and, like all instinct, is admirable in those customary surroundings which have moulded the habits of the animal in question, but totally incompetent as soon as the surroundings are changed in a way which demands some non-habitual mode of action." 
"Intellect, in civilized man, like artistic capacity, has occasionally been developed beyond the point where it is useful to the individual; intuition, on the other hand, seems on the whole to diminish as civilization increases. Speaking broadly, it is greater in children than in adults, in the uneducated that in the educated. Probably in dogs it exceeds anything to be found in human beings. But those who find in these facts a recommendation of intuition ought to return to running wild in the woods, dyeing themselves with woad and living on hips and haws."
Why this is relevant:

Social and educational promotion of the intellect, and its application in problem-solving, critical thinking and logical reasoning leads to enlightenment-type ideas to arouse in people, leading to beliefs that establish that advances in the arts and sciences produce a better state of being for human beings (as promoted by theories like the Idea of Progress). In this regard, intellectual stimulation is good.

However, deviating from the rational application of the intellect, that is, falling prey to irrational thought or unclear thinking, even in the pursuit of developing the human condition through seemingly logical thinking, leads to unsatisfactory outcomes; manifesting in macro-settings as economic/social strife, decadent societies and scientific incompatibility with human advancement.

Practical Applications:

Individual intellectual advancement, in today's modern 21st century highly competitive environment, where the "Knowledge Worker" reigns, can lead to better decision making. Ethical implications become relevant as societies transcend and basic needs have been met. Relying on intuition is frankly, not enough.

On Rationalism and Science vs Intuition in understanding Reality:
"The philosophy, therefore, which is to be genuinely inspired by the scientific spirit, must deal with somewhat dry and abstract matters, and must not hope to find an answer to the practical problems of life. To those who wish to understand much of what has in the past been most difficult and obscure in the constitution of the universe, it has great rewards to offer - triumphs as noteworthy as those of Newton and Darwin, and as important, in the long run, for the moulding of our mental habits. And it brings with it - as a new and powerful method of investigation always does - a sense of power and a hope of progress more reliable and better grounded than any that rests on hasty and fallacious generalization as to the nature of the universe at large. Many hopes which inspired philosophers in the past it cannot claim to fulfill; but other hopes, more purely intellectual, it can satisfy more fully than former ages could have deemed possible for human minds."
There is something to be learned from a man that was so vehement about modernizing (at the time) philosophy through formal logic and analytic scrutiny.

Insofar as the improvement of the human condition is concerned, we should all, as the human race, be for it.

And clear thinking might be the first step: