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All I want for New Year’s …

Lately it has become fashionable to disparage intuition in favor of careful statistical analysis.

Me, I’m still a fan of intuition. Intuition isn’t merely quick thinking. It’s an arrow to the heart of things. Sometimes, maybe often, it’s an arrow that misses, but when it doesn’t it’s the deepest form of perception. Once the arrow tells you where to look, slow thinking will help confirm or negate its mark. But without the arrow, there’s no target to think slowly about.

Dave Edwards recently wrote:

There are three ‘styles of knowing’:

1. Euclidean: Basic principles are clear and precise and consistent with one another; examples: Euclidean geometry, classical mechanics, von Neumann’s quantum mechanics.

2. Heuristic: Basic principles are clear and precise but inconsistent with one another; examples: chess strategies, legal systems, expert systems in A.I. using non-monotonic logic.

3. Intuitive: Basic principles don’t exist or are ineffable or tacit. Mastery usually involves apprenticeship, imitation, massive practice; examples: philosophy, mathematics, science, carpentry, language, chess-almost all human skills!

Similarly, Spinoza wrote that the highest endeavor of the mind, and the highest virtue, is to understand things by the intuitive kind of knowledge.

Therefore, I can’t get too excited about intuition’s flaws.

If you give me a choice, as a scientist or an artist, as to which kind of knowledge I’d like more of, I’ll have more intuition.

It’s all we’ve got, really.


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