What are human intuition and precognition (the correct foretelling of future events and their outcomes)? This is interesting for many reasons well beyond Dr. Daniel Kahneman and Psychology.
Artists and mystics have dealt with these capacities for as long as we have records. Intuition, ideas that come as though out of the blue, is the province of all people, but especially artists and mystics. We have also tried to predict the future by many means for all of human history, including reading animal entrails, interpreting star positions, using mind-altering drugs (Greece and the Middle East), and the western Bible — Solomon famously ordered all witches — -foretellers — -to be killed to prevent them from making predictions, that he said were always false and led men astray. Thus, it is dicey to talk about these capacities for several reasons. The first reason is that neither of these events are controllable. Further, these events happen at what appears to be random times and cannot in and of themselves be predicted, nor can their outcomes be understood until after the fact, sometimes well after the fact. However, humans like to control that which affects their survival. How this affects survival is described below, as is its pragmatic origin in human neurophysiology. I do argue that the origin of the desire to predict and control is pragmatic. What does that mean?
It means that humans are configured to survive and that, at its root, involves our motor system. We take one step after another. Our neurophysiology is organized and evolved to accomplish this task. We need to be able to do this task to eat and to find mates.
To move we have to know where the plane of gravity is and what the shape of the landscape through which we will walk is. We have to predict where each foot will fall and what it will encounter as we walk through all landscapes. This worked well for those who lived in the wild and navigated that landscape to hunt, gather, and have and raise children, in short, to survive. Living beings aim to do these things or they die. Dying is not okay even when it occurs due to unforeseeable injury or age. There are obvious reasons for this.
Today we navigate the landscape of human society which is our plane of gravity. As an Air Force brat who has traveled through many societal landscapes, each with their own webs of communication, relationships, and rules, I can say if you do not regard each social landscape as your plane of gravity, you will fail to navigate it securely. When you are a brat, this often means a society that does not even speak the language you speak, so you have to navigate without language, and inside how a person or persons act at any given moment. You have to pay constant conscious and unconscious attention. You have to use both.
For the living, intuition works in this realm: the landscape realm which is your symbolic plane of gravity or mine. To predict where my symbolic feet will land with each step I take is to survive in the present landscape that acts as the plane of gravity for me. You do too. We all do. Hence, we are a symbolic race. There are many planes of gravity for each of us and we had best learn to navigate, to walk through, all of those unique spaces.
This is eminently pragmatic.
Now, controlling this landscape so we can walk through it securely, so we can predict where our feet will land and what we have to do to stay alive etc., is not as easy as we’d like. We can get our hands on each other’s throats, but we can’t strangle Nature to have our way.
This can all seem mysterious if we forget that Nature is eminently pragmatic too. It is a whole, and not a bunch of parts. We walk through Nature, we are part of It, but we are not all of It. Do we want to control It for this reason?
What if this isn’t possible…what if control is the illusion and we are left with intuition, facts, and no wise way to use them. What if
the intuition and facts can become a symbolic surfer or dancer instead, always in motion
toward the needed place?
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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Photo credit: Arek Adeoye on Unspalsh