Thursday, July 9, 2009

Intuition Vs. "Acquisition" of Knowledge

The question was recently posed: Does Metaphysical Naturalism accept the epistemological premises of Plato's intuition of knowledge, or those of Aristotle's acquisition of knowledge?
The fact is that man acquires his knowledge from the time of birth, filling his tabula rasa from sensory experiences. This is an Aristotilean concept. Plato, on the other hand, believed there were "permanent objects of knowledge [Forms or Ideas] directly apprehended by intuition (Gk. nohsiV [nóêsis]), the fundamental capacity of human reason to comprehend the true nature of reality."
Plato held intuition to be the highest form of "knowing" because it demonstrated reason's ability to comprehend these Forms, which he defined as universals. The question then becomes, where does one acquire the concepts by which intuition is revealed?
They are acquired initially as simple sensory experiences, placed upon the tabula rasa where the faculty of reason then applies the hard-wired faculty of epistemological identification. Just as the faculty of sight and the other senses are hard wired and begin working immediately, so is the mind's faculty of epistemological operations.
Nothing is in the mind which was not first in the senses--"'Nihil est in intellectu quod non prius fuerit in sensu.' All the materials, or content, of higher, intellectual cognition are derived from the activity of lower, sense cognition."
But intuition is not moot to the subject of epistemology. It merely does not work until there is sufficient material in the mind from which the subconscious can extract such "intuitions."
Plato believed intuitions to be direct, non-inferential awareness of abstractions or of concrete truths. Metaphysical Naturalism defines them as direct inferences, "that a subconscious entity of knowledge or of speculation integrates with conscious material to present to the consciousness both a comprehensive and immediate metaphysical analysis of the integration." Metaphysical Naturalist Glossary
In plain English, the subconscious is always on, always working, always analyzing. When a "light bulb comes on over your head" it is an intuition presented to your consciousness through its connection to the subconsious, which was working on the problem all the time.
If "something is on the end of your tongue" but you can't find the word that on the tip, it is because the word has not been culled from the subconscious. The conscious mind cannot be conscious at all times of all the things of which it was at one time previously conscious. We would be overwhelmed with images and words and music playing in our minds. What is not necessary to have in the "forward" consciousness is stored in the subconsciousness.
Aristotle is thus correct about the acquisition of knowledge. Plato is incorrect both about the nature of "intuition" and about the metaphysical nature of that which can be known.
But Aristotle thought knowledge of the essences and natural laws were objects of cognition which no intuition can reveal, but which science can prove to exist. When defined as in the Metaphysical Naturalist Glossary, intuition does not contradict the acquisition of knowledge through the senses, nor does it contradict abstract knowledge which necessarily is abstracted from sensory knowledge and only sensory knowledge; or from concepts, which are formulations made from previous abstractions.
Recommended reading about Knowledge ; Aristotle and Knowledge

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