Intuition is a major driver of our lives. It is the gorilla in the room that philosophers have chosen to ignore since ancient times.

Human beings uniquely gather and share information via narrative. This is what makes our culture. The best stories are told by the ‘smartest’ story tellers. Top guns might even coin an -ism or two. However, I want to sound an alarm: the differences between the best and the brightest and the rest of us are not really that great – it may be more about superficialities or vanities. Some people do have amazing talents, but so do most of the rest. There are many thousands of fields of knowledge each with experts. Frequently there will be outright hostility to other ideas. The stage is often set for conflict rather than learning. A sorely needed new and improved understanding and appreciation of information exchange and learning now seems possible.

If we assume, as I think we should, that the observable universe is a vast interacting complex system of information exchange (when a photon strikes the retina, information is transmitted), then evolution can also be viewed as organisms’ attempts to control and exploit more of this fundamental resource*. The winners, all the ones left thriving today, are the ones able to most effectively use information in its particular niche. It also implies that learning does have a purpose, even as we are now not sure what that purpose is.

[Brute survival, for its own sake, obviously does not seem very interesting to most of us and that is clearly not what we seem to think we should be doing. Perhaps we survive because we are the most efficient at processing information and learning. We understand and control the most information resources. Any purpose to which we should apply ourselves has remained exceedingly contentious.]

This is what every human tries to do when faced with a serious problem and has the luxury of time: define the problem and identify its components; make a theory and gather more data; evaluate the severities, quantities and their interactions; consult with others; finally choose a course of action based on INTUITION. These processes are informal applications of what ‘experts’ classify as PHILOSOPHY, SCIENCE AND MATHEMATICS. This is the classic theory of decision making. While the intuition part is not paid much attention too, it actually appears to be the most fundamental part of the process. In urgent or emergency situations, intuition is in charge of almost the entire process.

If there is anything everyone can agree upon it’s that clear thinking is much better than muddled thinking. After a rare bout of clear thinking one can feel a sense of accomplishment. Something has been learned: a new perspective. Sometimes this new insight may be accompanied by a strong EMOTION: “It is beautiful, it is lovely.”

The ultimate question is “Which stories are true?” Until very recently, and especially since Descartes, it was generally accepted that clear and distinct thinking, careful and controlled observation, and rigorous logic (i.e. PHILOSOPHY, SCIENCE AND MATHEMATICS) would be a reliable strategy to acquire ‘justified true beliefs’. That initial hope has become frustrated. We are more dogged by uncertainty, incompleteness and disagreement than ever. Clear and distinct thinking turns out to be riven by illusions, as amply demonstrated by science – yes, contra Descartes, reality can be deceptive in every imaginable way. Voluminous new information now outstrip our abilities to understand, maths notwithstanding. Integrating it all is impossible. Vast numbers of people live frustrated or cynical lives, or with misdirected goals – at least that is how it seems to others.

PHILOSOPHY is a conversation about any and all important or major issues as they relate to human existence and understanding – subjective values such as meaning and purpose, morality, knowledge; essentially anything deemed worthwhile. Informal or conversational language is the medium in which philosophy operates almost entirely; sometimes professionals in the field will attempt to use more formal technical analysis and terminology, but their findings need to be transposed into common language in order to be evaluated and have societal relevance. The general goal is to understand oneself, others and aspects of reality, and how to deal with these factors in our lives. The style probably reflects the personality and interests of the thinker or talker. The more critically one thinks, the more detail can be brought to the conversation; more formal words are used to define imagined ‘truths’, ‘realities’, ‘structures’, ‘functions’ or ‘relations’ in consciousness and culture, thus increasing the potential for learning and understanding. Language is the mode and the means, the substrate is the subjective, more abstract thought content of consciousness. Cultural and psychological sciences certainly could inform philosophical analysis. The substrate is thus mostly internal and subjective; largely personal. Keywords: critical introspection, rational analysis, conceptualization and communication . Ultimate, largely unstated goal: Order society through persuasion, appealling to a superior formulation in the eyes of the participants through logic, allegory, metaphor, reason and emotion. Role in society: construct a platform of discussion and understanding that enables large groups to participate. There are endless cycles of agreement and disagreement; construction, deconstruction and reconstruction. Limitation: philosophy changes as language changes, and so an endpoint is impossible. Language is not a constant, rather it is the quicksand upon which our culture is built. Furthermore, one may master the rules but the content has grown beyond the abilities of anyone to master.

MATHEMATICS is touted as another subjective means by which some of us can come to a deep understanding of reality and phenomena. Unlike philosophy, it uses a formal, symbolic language of measurements, defined symbols and precise operations. Nothing is guessed at, except perhaps its axioms. It started out quite innocently from normal human activity: counting sheep perhaps, dividing the spoils of the day, or carefully measuring distances and angles. Even today there are apparently still isolated languages that do not count beyond two indicating that maths has been learned and developed through social and cultural interaction leading to the creation of a symbolic language. In fact, ‘primitive’ mathematical procedures are performed by other animals. Primates and infants use the same cortical areas for processing quantities intuitively. Advanced maths have apparently been built upon these ‘primitive’ biological bases over the past 5000 years by utilizing the unique human ability to communicate abstract concepts. Goal: On the one hand, maths is pursued by a small group who have a deep interest in all the quantitative relationships of various axioms because of the deep pleasure involved. Similarities to the appreciation of music has been noted. On the other hand, the virtual insights of pure maths find an almost miraculous application in the correlation and explication of natural phenomena and empirical data, sometimes with great predictive power. Limitation: advanced maths has only peripheral relevance to our quest of understanding the existential challenges that we face personally, with others and in our culture. Maths may have an uncanny ability to describe physical reality, but it has demonstrated no ability to clarify the content of human subjectivity.

SCIENCE has a focus that is fundamentally different from philosophy and maths: in science the problem or subject of interest, the substrate, can be directly or indirectly observed by the community – it is objective or independent of the observer. The source of a scientific problem exists independently of the researcher’s mind, it is a ‘real’ problem, rather than a problem of understanding or imagination per se. In all cases (some mathematicians and philosophers disagree), new observation under different conditions is the ultimate source of improved understanding. Goal: understand any and all parts of the world, including our fellow creatures. By extension this would assist in our understanding of our individual selves, a pursuit which should cross over in to all other human quests, including philosophy: first know thyself! Limitation: scientific knowledge is so spotty and incomplete that it is extremely difficult to apply to our existential issues. Furthermore, the fields of science far outstrip those of philosophy in complexity and number. A few scientists might be authoritative in one or two fields, but most can only master the area of their interest which may be extremely narrow and specialized. A coherent, inclusive overview of all scientific knowledge is not possible**. HOWEVER, science has been the most powerful instigator of change over the millennia, progress is just so frustratingly slow, and difficult. This might be the reason behind why some philosophers suggest that science is not very relevant to progress in human understanding!!

In summary, the major knowledge disciplines have systemic deficiencies that prevent them, even in combination, from being definitive in the answer of any of our difficult questions. It appears that a better understanding of our enormous decision making skills awaits an appreciation of the role of INTUITIONS and FEELINGS in our thinking. We have been aware of their role for millennia, but it has been assumed that our other faculties were so powerful that these ‘primitive’ animal systems could be ignored. Even more difficult are wholly unconscious INNATE processes that affect our thinking without us knowing about it.

*This is an area in which there is fundamental disagreement. Many (Wittgensteinians et al?) believe that only intact human beings are capable of ‘information processing’. Information must be intelligible by a human. The alternative view is that dogs, cats, earthworms, bacteria and viruses process information, even clouds and snowflakes – just at very different levels of complexity.

**I have, nevertheless, given a summary of my understanding at my other site with a Scientistic Perspective on Everything.