What is intuition? Collected concepts

Since I am working on my doctoral thesis, I have put together a summary in a table format. There you can find some reference to who have thought and written about intuition before you and me. The list is long and I´ll be filling it more and more in the future. Please feel free to comment and share you insights, I am sure there are many links missing here…

Author Definition/Explanation
Plato (428–345 BC) ** There is four kinds of knowledge: imagination, persuasion, discursive knowledge and intuition. Through intuition, knowledge is completed and the individual gains insight into the world of ideas which Plato perceives as the supreme kind of knowledge.
Rene´ Descartes (1596–1650) ** Individual receives knowledge about simple, obvious truths through intuition. He considers intuition a spiritual insight.
Bauch de Spinoza’s (1632–1677) ** Knowledge moves from experience over to intuition. The intuition results in an insight that the world is rationally organized, that it consists of a systematic entirety. Intuition goes beyond the borders of discursive thinking since it with one single gaze understands what is essential. When the individual, by way of intuition, sees himself as necessary in this entirety, he is filled with intellectual love for God.
John Locke’s (1632–1704) ** We gain knowledge about the simplest relationships between simple ideas through intuition. Complex ideas, on the other hand, require discursive evidence and have to be connected to the intellect. Locke perceives intuition as knowledge about these simple relationships.
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716) ** Knowledge is reached if these simple concepts or truths are reached by way of intuition. Complex concepts and judgements can later be built on this basis.
Friedrich Wilhelm Josef Schelling’s (1775–1854) ** System of thoughts moves from a simple sensation to a high spiritual activity. According to Schelling, this supreme activity appears in the creative activities of the artistic genius. This artistic intuition is similar to the intuition a philosopher applies in his work. Intuition as a spiritual insight, a work of the soul.
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) ** There is a foundation of metaphysical knowledge when while watching we are able to gain knowledge about ‘the thing itself’ in a direct intuition. While experiencing our own body, we experience an object which also is a subject. As every other perception, the body is extended in time and place as a link in a chain of reason. We experience, however, that our bodily movements are expressions of our own will. According to Schopenhauer, we can understand that this will is our innermost essence in a direct intuition. Hence, we may conclude that other objects also are objectives of a fundamental will. Schopenhauer perceives intuitive knowledge as an experience of what can be sensed here and now (Schopenhauer, 1992). It concerns direct knowledge as opposed to reasonable knowledge which employs abstractions.
 Larsson (1892, 1909,1912) ** Intuition is characterized by synthesis and summarises manifoldness in oneness. Intuitive thinking follows the rules of logic and is opposite to discursive thinking
Edmund Husserl (1859–1938) ** The so-called intentionality is a fundamental feature of every conscious act. That means we can differentiate between the conscious act itself and what it is directed towards in every case. Husserl believes he has come to this conclusion by way of the so-called looking at the essence, with which he claims it is possible to exceed the actual existing acts, and by using our imagination we can vary these until we reach a point where variation no longer is possible. Husserl points out that there exists an insight into a necessity of essence at this very point. He claims that this knowledge of essence is intuitive in character. The task of phenomenology is to reach this intuitive security through a methodic and gradual reduction. According to Husserl, intuition results in a security we experience when knowing there is a total agreement between what we mean withsomething and the way in which the thing is given (Kitaro, 1986; Levinas, 1995). Intuition is a term for knowledge of the essence indicating an extended understanding of experience of the directly given.
Bertil Hammer (1877–1929) ** The first Swedish professor in pedagogy from 1910 to 1929 (Kroksmark, 1991), challenged the prevailing scientific methods (Hammer, 1909) and claimed that with intuition as method, reality is not exclusively quantitative. Instead Hammer argues for a more down-to-earth and intuitive pedagogy (Kroksmark, 1989) and wants to apply intuition with a methodic purpose.
Christian von Ehrenfels (1859–1932) ** An entirety of something takes shape as more than the mere sum of the individual components. All the characteristics of this entirety cannot therefore be reduced to the individual components. We gain access to this entirety by way of intuition. Ehrenfels understands intuition as experience of the objects in their entirety.
Henri Bergson (1859–1941)** Describes a methodic experience of the directly or immediately given in its entirety as opposed to abstract divided thinking. Intuition is a methodic experience of the directly given in its entirety.
Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) Intuition is for thinking what observation is for the percept. Intuition and observation are the sources of knowledge.
Jung (1933: 567–568)* Psychological function transmitting perceptions in an unconscious way
Wild (1938: 226) * An immediate awareness by the subject, of some particular entity, without such aid from the senses or from reason as would account for that awareness
Bruner (1962: 102) * The act of grasping the meaning, significance, or structure of a problem without explicit reliance on the analytic apparatus of one’s craft
Westcott & Ranzoni (1963: 595) * The process of reaching a conclusion on the basis of little information, normally reached on the basis of significantly more information
Rorty (1967: 204) * Immediate apprehension
Dewey (1958:266) Intuitive insight is the meeting of the old and the new in which the readjustment involved in every form of consciousness is effected suddenly by means of a quick and unexpected harmony which in its bright abruptness is like a flash of revelation. (Harlan 1986:1)
John Landquist (1881–1974) ** Intuition is an absolutely simple act (Landquist, 1971;Kroksmark, 1989). He who understands by way of compounding and synthesis, does not understand simple matters. The act that understands what is simple must be simple itself. Landquist’s opinion about this point is closely related to Bergson’s (Ahlberg, 1951).
Bruner (1977:13) Intuition is the intellectual technique of arriving at plausible but tentative formulations without going through the analytic steps by which such formulations would be found to be valid or invalid conclusions.(Harlan 1986:1)
Bowers, Regehr, Balthazard, & Parker (1990: 74) * A preliminary perception of coherence (pattern, meaning, structure) that is at first not consciously represented but that nevertheless guides thought and inquiry toward a hunch or hypothesis about the nature of the coherence in question
Shirley & Langan-Fox (1996: 564) * A feeling of knowing with certitude on the basis of inadequate information and without conscious awareness of rational thinking
Simon (1996: 89) * Acts of recognition
Hammond (1996:60) Intuition as a “cognitive process that somehow produces an answer, solution, or idea without the use of a conscious, logically defensible step-by-step process.“ (Epstein 2010:296)
Shapiro & Spence (1997: 64) * A nonconscious, holistic processing mode in which judgments are made with no awareness of the rules of knowledge used for inference and which can feel right, despite one’s inability to articulate the reason
Burke & Miller (1999: 92) * A cognitive conclusion based on a decision maker’s previous experiences and emotional inputs
Policastro (1999: 89) * A tacit form of knowledge that orients decision making in a promising direction
Lieberman (2000: 111) * The subjective experience of a mostly nonconscious process—fast, alogical, and inaccessible to consciousness—that, depending on exposure to the domain or problem space, is capable of accurately extracting probabilistic contingencies
Raidl & Lubart (2000-2001: 219) * A perceptual process, constructed through a mainly subconscious act of linking disparate elements of information
Hogarth (2001: 14) * Thoughts that are reached with little apparent effort, and typically without conscious awareness; they involve little or no conscious deliberation
Myers (2002: 128–129) * The capacity for direct, immediate knowledge prior to rational analysis
Kahneman (2003: 697) * Thoughts and preferences that come to mind quickly and without much reflection
Johansson, Kroksmark (2004) Teachers intuition-in-action is characterized by a certain kind of presence (intentional and situative), it is direct, immediately given and continuous activity to make sense of time sensitive complex dynamics of classroom experiences.
Sinclair (2005:1) Intuition is a non-sequential information processing mode, which comprises both cognitive and affective elements and results in direct knowing without any use of conscious reasoning.
Dane and Pratt (2007:33) Affectively charged judgments that arise through rapid, nonconscious, and holistic associations
Epstein (2010:304) Intuition is neither magical nor mystical. It is simply the recovery outside of awareness primarily of tacit information acquired from experience or, less often, responding to entirely new situations according to the principles and attributes of the experiential/intuitive system.
Betsch (2011:4) Intuition is a process of thinking. The input to this process is mostly provided by knowledge stored in long-term memory that has been primarily acquired via associative learning. The input is processed automatically and without conscious awareness. The output of the process is a feeling that can serve as a basis for judgments and decisions.

*  after Dane and Pratt 2007:35  ** after Johansson ja Kroksmark 2004

I have already found some new research materials that I am currently working on. If you have good links or hints, please leave a comment. I would be most grateful. I am especially interested in intuition in connection to education.

Some weeks ago I started a professional discussion group Intuition and Learning in the network called LinkedIn. Feel free to sign up if you would like to get involved. Within the first two days there were already 16 persons from different countries who have signed up. By now there are more than 40 persons. Some are scientist, some teachers, but all share interest in intuition and its connection to learning.

Ps. While referring to this table do not forget to mention the origial sources and this page.

Originally published at Intuitions in June 4th 2012.

Phenomenology of Intuition


One of my questions is how to study such a complex phenomenon like intuition. There are numerous definitions and theories. Some are philosophical and very hard to crasp, others are simpler and easy to follow, like in cognitive science or in management studies. You can take a look at the complex field of understandings from the list of concepts and descriptions about intuition I made a few days ago.

One of the possible paths taken by some educational researchers, like Johansson and Kroksmark (2004) as well as Ruth-Sahd and Tisdell (2007), is a phenomenological inquiry.

Max van Manen, a well known phenomenologist in education, has said that

phenomenologists are mainly interested in how people experience the world

This quotation is from an article he wrote in 2002 with the title “Researching the experience of Pedagogy“.

I think that this is only admirable when people share their articles and materials online. It is how I consider the Academia should be acting, instead of hiding the information and selling it to a high price, the research outcomes should be shared to people interesed  in learning and getting to know things. In that respect van Manen is a good example of how you can do it.

While searching for materials about phenomenology, I also came across an online database called Phenomenology onlineSeems that  van Manen and the online resource about phenomenology are connected, this is what I came about while reading the online biography of van Manen.

There has been a journal that is now online and open access Education and phenomenology journal also conneted to the two previous sources.

van Manen has also written about practice and its phenomenology:

Phenomenology of practice is formative of sensitive practice, issuing from the pathic power of phenomenological reflections. Pathic knowing inheres in the sense and sensuality of our practical actions, in encounters with others and in the ways that our bodies are responsive to the things of our world and to the situations and relations in which we find ourselves.

by Max von Manen (2007:11) in The Phenomenology of Practice

I should also mention that Phenomenology, as a methodological path, has deep roots in history of philosophical thought. There are names like Husserl, Heidegger, Levinas, Merleau Ponty and others. Thick books filled with difficult concepts and thoughts to grasp…

From this historical tradition of thought, I have just received two examples of readings, that are here in front of me at the moment. I would of course like to cover these sometimes in the nearest future. But it is summer, you know… so I make no final promises just yet.

Martin Heideggers Phenomenology of Intuition and Expression, English translation from 2010.

Phenomenology of Intuition and Expression is a crucial text for understanding the early development of Heidegger’s thought. This lecture course was presented in the summer semester of 1920 at the University of Freiburg. At the center of this course is Heidegger’s elaboration of the meaning and function of the phenomenological destruction. In no other work by Heidegger do we find as comprehensive a treatment of the theme of destruction as in this lecture course. Culminating in a destruction of contemporaneous philosophy in terms of its understanding of ‘life’ as a primal phenomenon, this lecture course can be seen to open the way towards a renewal of the meaning of philosophy as such. /short introduction from google.books.com/

Emmanuel Levinas The Theory of Intuition in Husserl´s Phenomenology. Second Ed. originally from 1930 and my version to English first in seventies.

Emmanuel Levinas discusses the aspects and functions of intuition in Husserl´s thought and its meaning for philosophical self-reflection. An essential and illuminating explication of central issues in Husserl`s phenomenology.
/short introduction from the back of the book/

That is just a starting point of my journey and you are welcome to join in reading my posts here and at “Intuitions“. You may also want to be involved in the discussions that are taking place in LinkedIn group called Intuition and learning or read about the not so theoretical at all Intuitive pedagogy course at Solvik Sweden that took place between the 30th of July and 5 of August.

All suggestions for further materials and readings are welcome as  comments or to my e-mail tammevelin@gmail.com.

IP. Past, present and future.

Intuitive pedagogy summer week at Solvik ended in the 5th of August. About 200 people from more than 13 countries took part in this beautiful week of exercising, singing, painting, talks and playing with Pär, Merete, Iris, Robert and many others. Thank you for the meetings and your participation! Thank you, Maarja, for the wonderful pictures! 

For some years there has been regular open meetings at Solvik, Järna Sweden, for teachers, parents and others interested under the title “Intuitive pedagogy course“. Last spring gave Pär Ahlbom an interview to the German Waldorf Journal “Erziehungskunst”. In the article “Learning like children” published in June he explains some of his ideas about this special approach to teacher and parent education. Today there are many people who like to talk about what intuitive pedagogy really means or what it is and some of these discussions took also place during our meetings in Solvik this summer.

I made a small collection of Maarja´s photos about Pär´s games that make it possible for us to learn to be as creative and free as children. You can take a look at it Intuitive Pedagogy Journal homepage.

In addition to Pär, Iris and Merete we had some new teachers in Solvik this time. Robert (living as an artist in Berlin) was doing an artistic mixture of exercises that I would call “A study of social and inner transitions”. I visited his group several times and found his work to be very inspiring indeed.

Mona was doing Werbeck song and primary music exercises. I wrote about it already in some of my earlier posts here and elsewhere.

Käty and Holger were experimenting with sand and kitchen tools. Regina painted and Elisabeth made handcrafts with children and their parents.

Even though there is more and more happening in the written world of pedagogy, most of what Pär, Merete, Sinikka and others related to IP do, can be grasped best by experiencing and exercising. This is probably why my notes here at this page are quite short.

Next meetings to play, sing and paint together are already taking place in Autumn. In Solvik the next course is between the 22 to 25 November. You can sign up or ask for more information by sending an e-mail toinfo@intu.se.

In addition to courses in Sweden there is also lot happening in other countries. Pär, Merete and Sinikka are doing their first joint course in Estonia, Tartu during the last week-end of September. I know there are still some space for those who are interested. For more info write to irene.sargla@gmail.com.

In Germany the new three years long IP course starts already in October. In 19th to 21st of October we will also have a painting class with Merete in Czech “Picking Apples meet precious Prague.

Pictures by Maarja Urb
From Intuitive Pedagogy Journal