A couple of posts yesterday got me thinking about this whole “gut feelings” or “intuition” thing. First off, on the Petri Project, “No guts, No glory”, discusses the work of Gerd Girenzer, who has just published “Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious”. Apparently, Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink” was based on Girenzer’s ideas. He’s shown that the apparently “rational” approach of making big lists of pros and cons before making a decision can lead to worse decisions than following your gut instincts. I particularly liked this quote -
One should also not overlook that in science itself, you need intuitions. All successful research scientists function, to a degree, on gut instincts. They must make leaps, whether they have all the data or not. And at a certain moment, having the data doesn’t help them, but they still must know what to do. That’s when instinct comes in.
Then on Christopher Richard’s wonderful SlowDownNow site he’s written “Creativity, the slow way where he writes about Guy Claxton’s “Hare Brain Tortoise Mind”. Apparently, Guy Claxton has coined the term the “undermind” for that mental function of slow knowing, or intuition. Christopher is so right when he says -
I appreciate science. I don’t want to give the wrong impression. But the scientific way of thinking now dominates how we think about everything. We have become myopic. Mathematics and science are the most valued subjects, but the arts are now second-class.
There are many ways to know something. Rationalism is good and has its place but there’s a kind of approach to science these days that seems to say that all that matters is what can be measured. Well, love, passion, well-being, health, meaning, purpose, beauty, aesthetics…….I could go on…..are not quantifiable. Yet they matter to us. We make our choices using more than rational thinking (and, don’t make the mistake of saying the alternative is “irrational” thinking). Intuition, aesthetics, and emotions all come into play, along with logic, in trying to lead an examined, worthwhile life.
Science, however, shouldn’t be limited to what can be measured. I think Deleuze had it right – science is a way of thinking – a way of thinking about function. Science helps us to understand how things work. But we also need to think about concepts, percepts and affects. It’s not “anti-science” to be clear about the limits of science.