Do we gain knowledge from intuition?

Intuition is defined as “The immediate knowledge of the truth of a proposition, where ‘immediate’ means ‘not preceded by inference.” Intuition is not governed by reason; Intuitive decisions don’t need to be justified because there has been no reasoning by steps to a conclusion. Intuition is something you know, without knowing why you know it.

Our intuition is informed by our past experience, once the neural pathways of specific events have been created in our mind, it is easy for the brain to quickly shortcut back to the outcome if a similar situation arises. This rapid reaction is what forms what we call our intuition – because of this you can argue that we don’t gain knowledge from intuition as it uses out previous knowledge and experience to make a snap decision.

On the other hand, intuition is not always right, therefore we learn from situations where our intuition was wrong, and so we gain knowledge. Intuition can also be seen as important for gaining knowledge because it cannot be justified or proved as no further analysis is possible. If it is always necessary to give a justification for everything we know then knowledge would be impossible because we could never answer an infinite series of questions.

A common example that shows intuition cannot be proved is the equation 2+2=4. As long as you know what the numbers and symbols mean, the truth of the equation seems obvious. However, if someone disagreed with you it would be very difficult to prove it to them. This shows that we think intuitively. Intuition can also be learned over time, using the same example – if someone was being taught 2+2=4 for the first time, while they practised completing the equation they would have to think each step in their working out over and over again, however, after remembering the answer to 2+2 is 4, the person will no longer need to work out the equation step-by-step because it is stored in the brain’s long-term memory, it just becomes something they know and can intuitively rely on in the future. Another example of knowledge gained by intuition is in a football game. If a player kicks the ball towards goal, a sports analyst or coach may ‘know’ whether the ball will go in the goal or not. They haven’t had to consciously calculate the likelihood of the ball entering the goal, but because of the amount of football they have been exposed to over an extended period of time, their intuition tells them whether the ball will go in or not based on if the ball has gone in the goal in past but very similar situations. this is an example of intuition used in everyday life, however, it doesn’t show that we gain knowledge from intuition.

Personally, I don’t believe we gain knowledge from intuition, more that intuition is a way of using our knowledge to be more efficient.


Emma Hitchcock