We seek breakthroughs of insight to solve problems. We can use reason and logic to find the answer, but sometimes the answers appear because of an intuitive leap. Does intuition complement, or is it a substitute for common sense?
Many people believe there is a battle going on inside their heads between reason and intuition.
Rational thinking and intuitive insight aren’t opposites. Analytical thinking can confirm the ideas we get through intuition.
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” — Albert Einstein
Let’s look at the relationship between these two processes. Then first, we’ll define and compare.
Common Sense Versus Intuition
Logic is the capacity for making sense of things through a precise method of checks and balances. Logical thinking applies the scientific process to an argument. Logic and the scientific process go well together.
Putting these two together results in what people call wisdom. This ability has its foundation in logic. Logic uses the principles of reasoning, which we find in the scientific process.
Logical reasoning is a toolbox that shows us the correct way to use arguments. There are also two other parts of this mental toolset that help us identify the misuse of logic, the truth-seekers axioms and spotting logical fallacy. Using all three of these tools will enable you to sort the facts from the fiction.
Logical reasoning is one way we can achieve breakthroughs of insight. You may have experienced that Eureka moment when you find a solution. It is that moment when you grasp the understanding of mathematics, algebra, and statistics. When you finally “get it,” that’s what you’ve been trying to figure out. That’s the Eureka moment.
Here’s another observation about substitutes for analytical thinking. The mythology and superstition encoded in organized religion are not a substitute for common sense and logic. Religious ideology is the polar opposite of rational thought.
The scientific process is responsible for all the advances in science, so let’s inspect this process, which touches everyone’s life.
What is the Scientific Process?
The scientific method (1) is a systematic approach to investigate phenomena using evidence. This process follows the following steps:
1) Systematic Observation
4) Formulation of Hypotheses
6) Modification of Hypotheses
This process involves deriving predictions from data to form a hypothesis. Those seeking the truth develop conclusions and predictions using this process. It’s a never-ending process. They continue to carry out experiments based on those predictions to see if the results are repeatable. They expand their knowledge and revise conclusions when they find new data.
A hypothesis is a prediction about how something will act. It can be narrow or broad. Scientists test theories by conducting experiments. Under modern interpretations, a scientific theory must be falsifiable. In other words, the hypothesis must be something others can replicate. This process helps us learn how to reject those preaching fiction as truth. If there is no proof, the conclusions are invalid.
Common sense and logic are keys to the mind’s analytical powers, but this is only half of the story. There is another way of gaining knowledge that is just as powerful. This other tool for obtaining insight is intuition.
Intuitive Breakthroughs of Insight
Mistranslating the word intuition is common. It is easy to confuse it with instinct, truth, and even belief. The word comes from the Latin verb intueri, which means to contemplate, so intuition and reason might seem to be two different roads? But perhaps not.
Intuition is the ability to gain knowledge without proof, evidence, or conscious reasoning. It is a leap of understanding we call a eureka moment. When you find an answer or develop some new insight into a problem without knowing where it came from, this is your intuition at work.
Intuition has a range of different meanings, from mystical insight to unconscious pattern recognition. Immediate breakthroughs of wisdom, the Eureka moments of understanding can simultaneously come from intuition, analytical thought, or both.
A Substitute for Common Sense and Logic?
Intuitive thinking and logic are not opposites but complementary ways of finding the answer. Some Eastern traditions regard intuitive thinking as a spiritual connection with our soul or source. It’s a level of thinking using contemplative thought instead of analytical thought. The intellect cannot access subconscious information directly. So, we access intuitive thinking through meditative awareness.
Albert Einstein (2) talked about his process and coined the term “intuitive thought.” While at a physics conference in Kyoto in 1922, he explained how he used contemplation, images, and music to solve problems.
Einstein’s insightful leap forward in physics did not come from analytical reasoning or mathematics. Intuitive insight gave him the quantum leaps of discovery. These tools became the medium for the communication of these concepts. The actual formula concept appeared out of nowhere. The analytical mind then found out how to explain these quantum leaps of insight.
Einstein says, “When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come close to the conclusion that the gift of imagination has meant more to me than any talent for absorbing absolute knowledge.” He did not see it as common sense versus intuition. Instead, it was a matter of using analytical thinking to understand his intuitive insight.
The art is learning how to use the analytical mind in an intuitive way to get answers. The only way to do this is by trial and error. Above all, find those eureka moments, the sweet spot, between intuition and logic.
What’s your experience? What techniques have you used that enabled you to blend logic and intuition?
Many people realize that intuition complements but does not substitute for common sense. Instead, it’s a matter of learning that these two aspects of the mind work together. When you use both together, they are synergistic and powerful.
We don’t care how we get the answer to the solution. Enhancing your critical thinking and intuitive insight will result in the best results.
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(1) The Scientific Method, The Oxford English Dictionary
(2) Albert Einstein, Wikipedia
(3) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia