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The nature of intuition?


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#1 Paul Mawdsley

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Posted 04 July 2008 - 10:15 PM

What is the nature of intuition or common sense or our implicit philosophy? These may be considered by some to be different things but I think each is a label for the same underlying psychological dynamic seen from slightly different points of view. It could be said that intuition is using one's implicit philosophy as an interpretive lens. This subject takes us into an area of the human psyche that could bare some deconstructing and insight.

What common language do we have to talk about the underlying nature of intuition? What are its basic elements? By what mechanism does it operate? How did it function in humans before the development of language and modern culture? What is it's function in today's world with our relative reliance on language and the systematic thinking methods of mathematics, science, philosophy, and higher learning in general? What type of relationship does it, or can it, have with these systematic methods of exploration and inquiry? How has it evolved, and co-evolved with culture,over time? What effect does it have on our lives? Can we know and affect the principles by which intuition operates in ourselves? What affect would it have on our lives and our thinking to be able to question and choose the principles by which our intuition operates?

Food for thought. This is what I find myself thinking about as I read a number of the posts here and wonder why people think what they think and say what they say. I'm curious to know what people think and say about intuition.

Paul

#2 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 04 July 2008 - 11:26 PM

Paul,

(Great to see you again! Sorry I have not been attentive. I have been buried up to my neck in a project. But I have seen you around and been enormously pleased.)

This subject is very important.

I have been studying psychological triggers for Internet marketing copywriting and there's a real there there. They work and I believe this is because they are innate and preverbal. They come from the part I believe you call intuition.

I will get into it when I get a few moments. For now, Robert Cialdini is one of the people I have been reading. Lots of big guns have been pouring money into this guy, too.

ALL millionaire Internet marketing gurus cite this guy.

Call it high-tech psychology. Not brain scans or anything hi-tech like that. Psychological principles that you can use to influence people in a hi-tech world without most of them even realizing it. (You appeal to their intuition.)

Michael

Know thyself...


#3 BaalChatzaf

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Posted 05 July 2008 - 05:16 AM

What is the nature of intuition or common sense or our implicit philosophy? These may be considered by some to be different things but I think each is a label for the same underlying psychological dynamic seen from slightly different points of view. It could be said that intuition is using one's implicit philosophy as an interpretive lens. This subject takes us into an area of the human psyche that could bare some deconstructing and insight.


Sometimes intuition is NOT common sense. For example the chemist Kelkule had a vision/dream/hallucination about six snakes swallowing each other's tails. The result was the hexagonal carbon ring. There was nothing common sense about this vision, but it was intuition at work. Intuition is often linked with visualization although not always. The great Russian topologist Leon Pontgriagin was blind from birth. So whatever he used was not visualization in the sense most of us mean it.

Ba'al Chatzaf
אויב מיין באָבע האט בייצים זי וואָלט זיין מיין זיידע

#4 Stephen Boydstun

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Posted 05 July 2008 - 06:14 AM

Good questions, Paul.
Contacting your interests are these:

“Intuition, the Subconscious, and the Acquisition of Knowledge”
Kathleen Touchstone
http://objectivity-a...umber6.html#107
Couple of notes:
http://www.objectivi...amp;#entry11257
http://www.objectivi...amp;#entry11266

“Mathematics and Intuition”
Kathleen Touchstone
http://objectivity-a...number4.html#93
Couple of notes:
http://www.solopassi...7#comment-22933
http://www.solopassi...7#comment-23769

The Good in the Right: A Theory of Intuition and Intrinsic Value
Robert Audi
http://www.amazon.co...952#reader-link

Ethical Intuitionism
Michael Huemer
http://rebirthofreas...Books/178.shtml

#5 BaalChatzaf

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Posted 05 July 2008 - 09:13 AM

Good questions, Paul.
Contacting your interests are these:

“Intuition, the Subconscious, and the Acquisition of Knowledge”
Kathleen Touchstone
http://objectivity-a...umber6.html#107
Couple of notes:
http://www.objectivi...amp;#entry11257
http://www.objectivi...amp;#entry11266

“Mathematics and Intuition”
Kathleen Touchstone
http://objectivity-a...number4.html#93
Couple of notes:
http://www.solopassi...7#comment-22933
http://www.solopassi...7#comment-23769

The Good in the Right: A Theory of Intuition and Intrinsic Value
Robert Audi
http://www.amazon.co...952#reader-link

Ethical Intuitionism
Michael Huemer
http://rebirthofreas...Books/178.shtml


If only Ayn Rand did philosophy this way! Objectivism would be a respectable and generally respected view. Pope Leonard would have to find honest employment. David Odden would have to get a life.

Ba'al Chatzaf
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#6 Paul Mawdsley

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Posted 05 July 2008 - 08:23 PM

Hey Michael, I'm happy to be back. Something had to give in life because I wanted to think, write and play on OL. I have spent a lot of time over the last year and a half exploring the world of business networking. What I discovered is how much I value being with my family, being alone, and being able to choose how I spend time with people. Basically, I reconfirmed that I'm a social misfit. I discovered earning a good reputation through what we do beats the hell out of spinning an image with a smile, bullshit and a handshake anytime...although the latter is an example of social influence acting at an intuitive level. In many ways I felt like I was learning the lessons from Atlas Shrugged all over again.

I read Robert Cialdini's Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion a couple of years ago because it seemed connected to my interest in intuition. It was quite enlightening. I have since met a local business coach who is truly gifted in the art of persuasive hypnosis. What I found most interesting is that when my intuitive understanding was able to grasp the buttons that were being pushed, and I was able to focus on what was right in front of me, the persuasive hypnotist lost his power to influence me. A raised awareness and an evolved intuitive perspective bring us greater control over our own behaviour.

Paul

#7 Paul Mawdsley

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Posted 05 July 2008 - 09:55 PM

What is the nature of intuition or common sense or our implicit philosophy? These may be considered by some to be different things but I think each is a label for the same underlying psychological dynamic seen from slightly different points of view. It could be said that intuition is using one's implicit philosophy as an interpretive lens. This subject takes us into an area of the human psyche that could bare some deconstructing and insight.


Sometimes intuition is NOT common sense. For example the chemist Kelkule had a vision/dream/hallucination about six snakes swallowing each other's tails. The result was the hexagonal carbon ring. There was nothing common sense about this vision, but it was intuition at work. Intuition is often linked with visualization although not always. The great Russian topologist Leon Pontgriagin was blind from birth. So whatever he used was not visualization in the sense most of us mean it.

Ba'al Chatzaf


I think you highlight an important aspect of intuition. There are different types of intuitive processing. For example, we can draw a general distinction between intuitive processes that operate on the principles of metaphor and those that operate on the more reality based principles of identity and causality, from which science and philosophy have grown. The vision of the six snakes was the result of metaphoric intuitive processing often associated with an unconscious dream state. Whereas the interpretation of the meaning of the metaphor required the intuitive visualization of the more reality based principles.

I agree that intuition is not always linked with visualization. It would be more precise to say intuition is an experiential mode of processing information acquired through the senses, and visual processing is the most prominent tool of intuition. Intuition processes experiential images as opposed to symbolic (linguistic or mathematical) images. Not that this is to say that intuition simply manipulates experiences. Experiential images can be broken down to more basic experiential elements (this may be where the idea of qualia arises) which can then be recombined according to specific principles of integration to produce all we can imagine and all we believe. Whether these principles are metaphoric or reality based, the interesting thing is that they can be identified, questioned and changed. They can come under our conscious influence and so can the intuitive products of our imagination. Thus, aesthetic intuition and culture evolves. And so does our understanding of the nature of identity and causality, our understanding of existence, and our view of our place in the world.

Paul

#8 Robert Campbell

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 02:10 PM

Paul,

It's great to see you back here.

I've been a fan of Gary Klein since he came and gave a talk at IBM in the late 1980s. This book is a classic:

http://www.amazon.co...e...3188&sr=1-1

Since then, he's put out a second book aimed at nonpsychologist readers, but this first one is quite accessible in its own right.

Robert Campbell

#9 Paul Mawdsley

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 10:35 PM

Robert and Stephen,
I just wanted to write a note of thanks for your input. I have been quietly reading Kathleen Touchstone's essays, and the other links provided, to try to get a sense of the common language and an idea of where the disagreements lie. I still haven't finished.


Part of my interest in intuition comes from my sense that I am somehow wired into my intuition more directly than many others who have negotiated their way beyond high school. I see education as training us to use various languages (linguistic, mathematical, scientific) as operating systems that overlay, control and shape our intuitive imagery. I have always fought this. My approach was to always generate my intuitive perspective by working directly with the imagery, then put words to it. I think this method, more often than not, tends to lead to such an adversarial relationship with the education system that being wired more directly through the intuition tends to lead to dropping out before post secondary is achieved. In my case, I got my degree but could not stomach the thought of more schooling distracting me from learning.

Another part of my interest in intuition comes from a sense that my intuitive processes are not below consciousness. Being more directly connected to my intuitive imagery, without the language overlay, may allow me closer access to the underlying mechanism. In fact, my continued interest in the nature of identity and causality may arise from my explorations of this mechanism. I have come to think of intuition as causal reasoning. We are able to create entities in our imagination, define their natures according to our intuitive principles of identity, and set them in motion according to our intuitive principles of causation. After establishing the parameters, we watch as the action unfolds or as the connections are made. The process is automatic. The mechanism is innate but the content is informed by experience, is built from the elements of experience, and can come within our reach to consciously question and control.

Paul

#10 Barbara Branden

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 05:14 AM

Paul, have you read a book entitled Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell?. I stayed up from early one evening until the next morning reading it, and I heartily recommend it. It's a discussion of why our intuitive decisions and conclusions -- the ones we make in the blink of an eye --are often better than those we arrive at after a long process of thought. In a word, (my word, not the writer's) our subconscious is smarter than our conscious mind, because it has more information, stored over our entire lifetimes,

I must stress that Gladwell does not recommend that we should always blindly trust our intuition. He explains why it may sometimes not guide us well, how we can recognize its limitations, and how we can improve it. A fascinating and valuable book.

Barbara

#11 Robert Campbell

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 03:08 PM

Paul,

I'm seconding Barbara's nomination of Blink. Malcolm Gladwell is an excellent writer. His is the best presentation I have seen of several important lines of research in today's psychology.

Robert Campbell

#12 Paul Mawdsley

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Posted 11 July 2008 - 11:37 PM

Thanks Barbara, and again Robert. I'm still slowly working my way through Stephen's links. I finally figured out a way to format the essays from his Objectivity archive so I can highlight and make notes on my screen (saves a lot of printed paper).

I haven't read Blink but it's now next on my list. I'm interested in "our intuitive decisions and conclusions -- the ones we make in the blink of an eye." What I am most interested in is the ability to hold the images of our intuition in the focus of our awareness, deciphering the principles by which these images are generated and by which the action of dreams, imagination, intuitive decision making and intuitive theorizing unfold, and bringing this powerful apparatus out of the dark and into conscious control.

In a way this has been an implicit quest for me since I was about fifteen. I remember my brother telling me about the subconscious, describing it in Freudian terms. The thought occurred to me that if the subconscious is made up from the repression of unwanted experiences, thoughts and emotions, then having a positive and accepting orientation to these things should dissolve the subconscious and make everything open to the conscious self.

Of course, I've since learned that the psyche is more complex than this--for example, much learning that becomes automated operates best without the interference of consciousness and usually occurs unconsciously-- but the basic quest has remained. The basic principle is one of integration. I wanted my experience, thoughts and emotions to flow freely through my awareness without resistance, without denying, without disowning, and to be integrated into a united self. I wanted to challenge the idea that we are, by nature, fragmented selves, whether it be divided into conscious and subconscious or divided into id, ego and superego, etc. I wanted to actively explore my psyche to discover and identify those parts of me that I did not yet know existed, but who's processes shaped my actions, so these too could come under the influence of conscious judgement and choice. (There is no doubt that NB's Six Pillars fit well with my views.)

Whatever label is given to it-- intuition, subconscious processes, implicit understanding, etc., the ability to think in images is at our centre. Shaping these images via a symbolic language that acts as an operating system for willed action has been profoundly important in human development. It seems to me that it has been the creation of this very operating system that has caused the psyche's fragmentation into a conscious and subconscious or into an ego and an id. It has also allowed for the birth of the superego. With the development of a symbolic language comes the opportunity to acquire knowledge of the world via the communication of concepts. We can learn through the absorbtion of another's conceptual perspective (a conceptual form of empathic learning) rather than through our own intuitive explorations and integrations. Our parents, teachers, etc. can get inside our heads. (Hey, that's what I always resisted growing up!)

If integration is the guiding principle of life, then it only seems right to integrate intuition with conscious awareness and with the judgement, choices and action of an informed will. It may lead to a more united psyche and to an ability to break out of the structures of our language that confine our thinking to the paradigms of our teachers.

Paul
I can't just read and not spend a little time putting some words to my images.

#13 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 12 July 2008 - 10:02 AM

Paul,

I would open one of your concepts up to include other sense organs. Instead of "think in images," I would use "think in awarenesses."

For example, I can definitely think about a strong odor without words. Or being burned. Or a thunder clap. Or the taste of unsweetened lime. And so on. Also, those blind from birth have their own intuition (and concepts) instructed by sense organs unrelated to sight. They only get sight second-hand after they develop language and people can tell them about it.

Michael

Know thyself...


#14 BaalChatzaf

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Posted 12 July 2008 - 12:03 PM

Paul,

I would open one of your concepts up to include other sense organs. Instead of "think in images," I would use "think in awarenesses."

For example, I can definitely think about a strong odor without words. Or being burned. Or a thunder clap. Or the taste of unsweetened lime. And so on. Also, those blind from birth have their own intuition (and concepts) instructed by sense organs unrelated to sight. They only get sight second-hand after they develop language and people can tell them about it.

Michael


Blind folk are not sense-deprived. They generally have hearing, touch, smell plus the internal feel of their bodies (just like most of the rest of us). Sight is often used as a blanket term for sense, since it is the chief sense for humans. Those of us who can hear, can auditorize in the same way most seeing people can visualize. We can also generate shape by waving our hands and arms. We can retain memories of all our perceptions although they are not as vivid as actual perception.

Ba'al Chatzaf
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#15 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 12 July 2008 - 05:12 PM

Blind folk are not sense-deprived. They generally have hearing, touch, smell plus the internal feel of their bodies (just like most of the rest of us).

Bob,

This is true, but I am confused why you said it. There's a level of obviousness that... er... let's say that I can't think of a single person, friend or foe, who believes that blind people are sense-deprived. It's like pointing out that the sun is not the moon or that trees have leaves.

Well, anyway...

Carry on...

Michael

Know thyself...


#16 Barbara Branden

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Posted 12 July 2008 - 09:14 PM

Michael: "I would open one of your concepts up to include other sense organs. Instead of 'think in images,' I would use \think in awarenesses.'

"For example, I can definitely think about a strong odor without words. Or being burned. Or a thunder clap. Or the taste of unsweetened lime."

Michael, this may see a small point, but it has important implications: we cannt think in images. We can recall images, we can mentally look at images, we can re-experience reality by calling up images, but we cannot think in them, Conceptual thinking requires words.

Barbara

#17 Paul Mawdsley

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Posted 12 July 2008 - 09:19 PM

I would open one of your concepts up to include other sense organs. Instead of "think in images," I would use "think in awarenesses."

For example, I can definitely think about a strong odor without words. Or being burned. Or a thunder clap. Or the taste of unsweetened lime. And so on. Also, those blind from birth have their own intuition (and concepts) instructed by sense organs unrelated to sight. They only get sight second-hand after they develop language and people can tell them about it.

Michael,
I was searching for a term that was as generic as possible. I was trying to capture the idea that the intuition processes experiential images in the broadest sense, without tying it strictly to visualization. "Think in images" is what I came up with. I guess my terminology still needs work.

Can it be said that I have an auditory image in mind, or a somatosensory image?

#18 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 12 July 2008 - 09:50 PM

Barbara,

I thought a word was a form of making a concept concrete, not a form of making it exist. From what I read (and observed), the integration exists before the word is attached. For instance, a baby starts discerning entities (perception) and classes of entities (concepts) and thinks about them on a very primary level without having words for them. The words come later.

If it exists in our minds, if we use it for knowledge, and if we act on that knowledge, we think it. That's my understanding. (I am talking about primary concepts, obviously. I understand you can make concepts from concepts and that part does need words.)

I do agree that a concept in a concrete form is vastly more useful and powerful than an unnamed integration, but I am not convinced that concepts do not exist without words.

In fact, one day I plan on writing a work about musical epistemology and providing the start of a dictionary for strictly nonverbal audio concepts. If you use the overtone series as the genus, for example, it is easy to arrive at a major chord or a tritone or a scale (or any number of other characteristics) as the differentia in defining a musical entity. I don't mean the verbalized form, either. This is something you can hear and identify qua sound.

You can do the same things with all musical parameters like rhythm, timbre, envelope, volume, etc.

This is a goal I envisioned while still in college. I think it will be an important work once I resume it and finish it.

Attempts at trying to arrive at the meaning of music often ignore the basis of the cognitive part, except for some very elementary comments chosen almost at random, and jump right in on the fundaments of the normative part (emotions). I have seen some elaborate mathematical constructs used to explain the cognitive part, but they collapse when you try to find the sound/mind connection. This is why aesthetic thinking on music seems so arbitrary.

Theoretical thinking about the cognitive aspect of music has usually been hampered by trying to translate music into equivalent words, but most authors I have read are perplexed at how sounds can form discernible entities (like scales, melodies, rhythmic patters, etc.) in such a learnable and pleasurable manner as they do. All they can say is that this happens, not why. Some go hog-wild on the "how part" once they latch on to a pet theory, too, but like I said, these pet theories are often arbitrary (and some are really boneheaded). The sound/mind connection is the key to understanding the rest with music and I believe the idea of nonverbal audio concepts is that key.

Interestingly enough, I think you get more conceptually from a good ear-training course than you do from almost any theoretical work I have read on music. (I admit, though, it has been a while since I have read anything, so there might be something out there on this.) But an ear-training course concentrates on the practice of forming musical concepts, not the theoretical underpinnings of why one system works better than another, i.e., why one is easier to learn and more universal than another.

Trying to impose verbal tags (words) on music without first grasping the musical concept per se is literally a case where words get in the way.

Michael

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#19 Barbara Branden

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Posted 12 July 2008 - 10:15 PM

Paul, you wrote: "I wanted my experience, thoughts and emotions to flow freely through my awareness without resistance, without denying, without disowning, and to be integrated into a united self. I wanted to challenge the idea that we are, by nature, fragmented selves, whether it be divided into conscious and subconscious or divided into id, ego and superego, etc. I wanted to actively explore my psyche to discover and identify those parts of me that I did not yet know existed, but who's processes shaped my actions, so these too could come under the influence of conscious judgement and choice."

All of us have probably at times experienced that uncensored free flow between our conscious minds and our subconscious -- perhaps sometimes as we sit alone thinking, sometimes when we have an experience that profoundly moves us emotionally, sometimes in ethusiastic discussion with others, We know what it's like to feel that integration, to have our thoughts, feelings, experiences, instantly and fully available to us.... for minutes at a time. But we don't know how to make it last. I experience this flow most intensely and most often when I'm writing and I'm totally absorbed in the process, such that nothing matters to me except saying exactly what I most deeply think and feel -- when my whole focus is on digging deeper and deeper into myself to find the truth about myself. That's when I find the parts of me I did not know existed, that's when I feel most integrated. In this altered state of consciousness I've sometimes found I've written something that, when I read it, I had no prior awareness that I knew -- but there it is on the page before me.

I have a hypothesis about why and how this free flow happens that I'd like to try out on you, Paul, and on any others reading this. Because clearly, if we are to exist more often in that state, we need to know how to achieve it at will.

My hypothesis is that it is, in effect, one version or another of original sin that freezes us, that blocks us from full, uncensored access to our subconscious. When talking about writing, I've often said that in the process of writing, those wonderful inspirational streaks, when one's subconscious is wide open -- only come when one feels that every word one writes is pure gold, that it is exactly, blazingly right and beyond any possibility of negative judgment. In the editing, one judges, but not before. What this suggests to me is that this kind of acess to the subconscious requires that we not fear that we'll find "evll thoughts," "irrational thoughts," or thoughts that contradict our conscious beliefs; it requires that we fully trust our subconscious -- not trust that it will be an infallible guide to truth about the world or an infallible guide to action, but that it will tell us something infinitely worth knowing: the truth about ourselves, the truth about what we have concluded about our experiences, the truth about what we feel and want, what we love and hate. It requires the conviction that nothing is more important than to access this information.

In a word, I suggest that it is fear that is responsible for the extent to which there is not a free flow between our conscious minds and our subconscious.

Barbara

#20 Paul Mawdsley

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Posted 12 July 2008 - 10:43 PM

Michael, this may see a small point, but it has important implications: we cannt think in images. We can recall images, we can mentally look at images, we can re-experience reality by calling up images, but we cannot think in them, Conceptual thinking requires words.

Barbara


Barbara,
I think this is the very point I am calling into question. Can we think in images? My own experience tells me I do. I have also read that some mathematicians and scientists including, Einstein and Penrose amongst others, claim that words play little or no role in the creative thinking process beyond the occasional comment like "this goes with that." It's more like guided day dreaming with specific goals and parameters. I'm not saying words don't play an important role. I am saying that there can be thinking without words, and this thinking can be very creative and productive.

Also we can do more than simply replay or recombine experiences from memory. The processes of abstraction, grouping and creative imagining seem to occur at the intuitive level of processing while, or even before, language is acquired. This suggests that we are able to use many epistemological tools to generate and manipulate concepts even without symbolic language to enhance the process. Using elements isolated and abstracted from experience, we can piece together and create the identity of an object in our imaginations, determine its properties, establish how it relates to other objects in an imagined context, set it in motion, and explore how its interactions evolve, all without language. This is essentially how the realms of mathematics and geometry are created. This is how a physicist can generate a mental picture of what events would be like when moving at the speed of light.

I also think this was the process harnessed by Rand through her fiction writing: she created imagined realms where characters were created and interacted according to the specific principles of identity and causality she had abstracted from her experience. The explicit verbal form of her philosophy followed in step with the evolution of her fictional images. There is definitely a reciprocal relationship between the development of her fictional images and the development of her verbal expression of her philosophy but much of the creative thought came from her "thinking" through her fictional images.

The way I see it, intuitive processing can be far more flexible and creative when released from the confining structures of symbolic language. Language is necessary for communication, for cataloging and recalling desired conceptual images, for critically analyzing and expanding an idea, for guiding one's focus through the details of a conceptual image, for comparing and establishing relationships between conceptual images, etc., but thinking in the language of intuition, thinking in created images according to principles of identity and causation, is a powerful epistemological tool in its own right. It is causal reasoning.

Paul
(I just noticed this post has crossed over with Barbara and Michael's.)




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