Thursday, 24 September 2015

What is Intuition? Excerpt from The Genius Famine (my forthcoming book)

From Edward Dutton & Bruce G Charlton. The Genius Famine - why we need geniuses, why they're dying out, and why we must rescue them. University of Buckingham Press - in the press.

From the Chapter - The Creative Triad

What is intuition?

We could approach intuition by stating that intuition is the mode of thought of the private soul/ the real self/ inner consciousness - that is to say the most profound, the most secret, fundamental mode of thought. Intuition can be contrasted with two (lower, subordinated) modes of thinking: passions versus reason; the body v the brain; gut-feelings v head-knowledge; instinct v logic. These two modes are not absolutely distinct, but we think they can usefully be distinguished.

So, what is the thought mode of intuition? It is not by instinct nor by logic - but by something of both, and more. Therefore, intuition is a mode of thinking which simultaneously uses emotion and logic but operating in a context of (for example) motivation, purpose, meaning and relationships. In a nutshell, intuition uses all possible modes of thinking; and this is why it intuition leads to a greater feeling of sureness, of certainty, than other and more partial forms of thought.

The result of intuition is therefore an evaluation which is uniquely convincing because it is validated by the full range of positive responses. It is an insight that satisfies both logic and reason, and also ‘feels’ right. By contrast, if we use only (for example) logic, or only emotions, to evaluate something; then the evaluation will be incomplete, and evaluation in one sub-mode may be contradicted by evaluation in another sub-mode - as when logic and emotions reach different conclusions, point in different directions, contradict one-another – and we feel confused or torn because our head and our heart are in conflict.

Only the evaluations of intuition are fully satisfying, fully convincing, and harmonious. Only the evaluations of intuition mobilize the whole range of thought modes. Thus intuition is the most powerful mode of thought, and the only mode of thought capable of mobilizing the fullest degree of motivation. Intuition is what makes us care most about ideas: it is what engages us with creativity. This is why intuition is necessary to the highest levels of creativity, to the greatest attainments of genius.


  1. Is this the same thing as what’s measured by the “sensing-intuitive” spectrum in the Myers-Briggs test? My measurement was pegged all the way to the sensing end of the spectrum – not at all intuitive – and I am not at all creative.

  2. @BB- Not really. We are trying to get away from the idea of measuring personality by adding up clusters of self-evaluated behaviours. The idea is that personality is a basic set up of the mind, (in cognitive terms) the way the mind is qualitatively 'hard wired'.

    The most basic single variable is between pro-social and asocial - between people (the majority) who are Exogenous (externally, especially socially, orientated - and those who are Endogenous (internally orientated). Such differences would be innate, become apparent in childhood and persist through life.

    By contrast, actual behaviours vary according to specific circumstances, social pressures, upbringing etc.

    By this account; strongly Intuitive people are internally driven - pay attention to internal signals, are mostly rewarded by their own thinking, and re-deploy for internal purposes some of the specialized brain areas typically used for social and sexual behaviours.

  3. Sold. Looking forward to it.

  4. @Anon - Thank you for your confidence! BTW could you use a pseudonym in future - I generally don't post anonymous comments.

  5. Looking forward to it! Based on your outstanding recent post on the media as an "evil eye," I read "Addicted to Distraction" and enjoyed it very much, especially your list of the four forms that messages take. As someone whose work involves the crafting of messages, this is of great interest to me. I'm also glad you referenced Neil Postman. "Amusing Ourselves to Death" changed my life when I read it 20 or so years ago.