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Author Topic: Insight and Intuitive Inference  (Read 24828 times)

B. Tillman Russell

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Insight and Intuitive Inference
« on: August 30, 2012, 09:41:56 PM »
Much ink has been spilled recently attempting to explain how human beings make split second evaluations and then attempt to justify their implicit, automatic evaluations after the initial attitude has been formed. I am thinking of Gladwell's book Blink and also Haidt's recent book The Righteous Mind dealing with moral reasoning. A couple of questions have arisen while reading these books which have their origin in a close reading of Insight.

1.) Are some insights intuitive inferences? That is, do some insights emerge spontaneously from the subject in its concrete operation in the world? My answer based on my reading of Insight and Method would be that Lonergan would have no problem with the notion of intuitive inference.

2.) If some insights emerge spontaneously, then can one say strictly that insight  is a product of rational self consciousness? In other words, what exactly has insights? If the subject does not control the emergence of insights, then what does? The unconscious? If it is the unconscious, how exactly would Lonergan demarcate this domain? And further, what  exactly makes that which supplies insights "rational"?

I think these questions have a great deal of relevance both to Lonergan's work and recent work being done with the notion of the adaptive unconscious. An area particularly germane to my own research interests.

Any comments would be appreciated. Thanks!
« Last Edit: August 31, 2012, 08:07:53 AM by B. Tillman Russell »

Del Allan

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Re: Insight and Intuitive Inference
« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2012, 08:15:55 AM »
An interesting question.  I would suspect that the "rationality" of insights which emerge from the unconscious is related to the ability of the subject to process data, making the subject, not the data or initial insight, relevant. 
Be attentive, Be Intelligent, Be reasonable, and Be responsible.

B. Tillman Russell

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Re: Insight and Intuitive Inference
« Reply #2 on: September 01, 2012, 09:04:43 AM »
Thanks for the response. Ok, so if I understand you correctly, the initial insight emerges spontaneously from the unconscious, from there the subject acts upon this insight, processing it, relating it to other knowledge, and by doing so somehow produces a rational insight from an irrational one?

Del Allan

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Re: Insight and Intuitive Inference
« Reply #3 on: September 01, 2012, 09:27:50 AM »
Yes, that is what I mean.  Those initial split-second 'insights' are not necessarily accurate, rather based on sense perceptions and emotional responses.  It is the work of the intellect to bring meaning.  This is what I think anyway.  I was directed to this forum through an email I received yesterday.  This brief conversation with you has caused me to dig out my Insights, (which has very small print now and I don't believe the print was so small thirty years ago when I purchased it, for some strange reason!)  I am going to re-read it, but perhaps in an electronic Kindle version with enlargeable type. 
Be attentive, Be Intelligent, Be reasonable, and Be responsible.

B. Tillman Russell

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Re: Insight and Intuitive Inference
« Reply #4 on: September 01, 2012, 12:57:11 PM »
Excellent...I am glad to hear you are dusting off your copy of Insight! Hopefully this forum will provide impetus for us to continue our study, at least that is what I am hoping:)

Here are some further thoughts along the same lines. I remember Lonergan saying, if I remember correctly,  in some lectures that I was listening to a few years ago that insight structures the data of experience and consciousness. In other words, data is not fully form until it is structured by the act of insight.

But if insights can be intuitive inferences, albeit quick, associative, and often incorrect, then they are often formed without explicit formation of questions for intelligence. If that is the case then what forms them? In other words, even the utterances that are the cognitional correlate of the givenness of perceptual data and free images are in some sense formed through intuitive inference. Yes?

Lonergan seems to suggest so in a passage explicating cognitional process, placing the levels in the cells of a 3X3 matrix in  ch. 9 of Insight.

He states: "The second level presupposes and complements the first. The third level presupposes and complements the second. T]he exception lies in free images and utterances which commonly are under the influence of the higher levels before they provide the basis for inquiry and reflection."

He seems to appeal here again to the operation of the higher operation of the subject.

Del Allan

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Re: Insight and Intuitive Inference
« Reply #5 on: September 01, 2012, 04:45:05 PM »
Hello again:

You said, "In other words, even the utterances that are the cognitional correlate of the givenness of perceptual data and free images are in some sense formed through intuitive inference. Yes?"  I suppose that is correct; I doubt very much we could tease apart data from the subject.  As Kant asserts, we cannot know the world as it is, only as we perceive it to be.

Could you give a little more clarity to your notion of 'intuitive inferences' please.  Would these intuitive inferences be spontanious accuracies without a reference point in experience?

Be attentive, Be Intelligent, Be reasonable, and Be responsible.

TomHalloran

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Re: Insight and Intuitive Inference
« Reply #6 on: September 01, 2012, 09:01:03 PM »
Gentlemen
You might find it helpful to read the first of the three Donald Mathers lectures which is entitled Religious Experience. (It is published in A Third Collection but is also available in both text and audio format at the associated site: Lonergan Archive).  In particular, check out the section on The Ambiguity of Experience (or what is meant by experience).  And in any case remember that "insights are a dime a dozen" -- and more often than not, untrue. Intelligence is one element in the dynamic structure that is knowing; judgment/reasonableness/rationality is a further element.
Onwards

Romero D Souza

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Re: Insight and Intuitive Inference
« Reply #7 on: September 02, 2012, 03:17:30 AM »
Dear Readers of Lonergan,
Happy to reflect on the thought of Insight with intuitive Inference...The two questions raised by Till & then the response given by del as well as the dialogue which carries on...is itself a marvel to look at how one reflects and shares one thought...Its true that we are all subjects by which I mean individual rational subjects and we share a different world of contexts. The question which dawns and seeks to see the ray of light is...Can there be something called insight which is not from the rational and the emotional? Is there an intuitive inference in all that we do, say, think? Therefore, a reflective question: Can there be objectivity?

Del Allan

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Re: Insight and Intuitive Inference
« Reply #8 on: September 02, 2012, 06:44:27 AM »
Thank you, Romero.  Can there be objectivity?  We can never separate ourselves from any experience, we are always going to look at the world  and our experiences through our particular lens, we are always going to give meaning to something based upon our experiential base, so I rather doubt if 'true' objectivity is possible.  Such an interesting question.
Be attentive, Be Intelligent, Be reasonable, and Be responsible.

B. Tillman Russell

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Re: Insight and Intuitive Inference
« Reply #9 on: September 02, 2012, 11:45:30 AM »
Del Allan,

It would probably take more than a brief post to fully explain what I mean by "intuitive inference", but I will try to state in a few lines the properties that I think belong essentially to its concept.

Intuitive inferences are spontaneous correlations, impressions, and(or) evaluations concerning the attributes and relations of distinct units of data/experience without explicit awareness on the part of the subject that he/she is "doing" anything to the data. Where by "doing" anything I am referring to questions for intelligence and reflection for which the subject is aware of formulating.

I guess a couple of my questions are in this light, (a) what precisely is the "subject" if its activity most of the time is not transparent to itself? And (b) how can we speak of a "subject" whose operations are not "subject" to it.

TomHalloran,

Thanks so much for the Mathers suggestion. I will definitely read it and post my thoughts.

Romero,

Great question about "objectivity". I think Lonergan would argue that there are several senses of objectivity, namely experiential, normative, and absolute objectivity which correspond to the three cognitional levels of experience, intelligence, and judgment. It might be good for me to go back and look at this in Insight. It may throw some light on the topic. Thanks.
« Last Edit: September 02, 2012, 02:33:40 PM by B. Tillman Russell »

Phil McShane

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Re: Insight and Intuitive Inference
« Reply #10 on: September 12, 2012, 11:10:02 AM »
Hello all,
and a couple of suggestion from PhilMcS!
First, as someone suggested, we need to dig around in experience so as to get the shock  of how swift insights occur, especially routine. Think of  the return of a 100 m.p.h. tennis-serve ... the receiver goes speedily right through the levels be attentive, be intelligent, be reasonable, be adventurous, be responsible. It is useful, moreover, to focus on "be adventurous" : have or get a plan. Previous normal responses are called in pretty spontaneously, but think of those responses that surprise us: the player turns to handle the serve in some weird and novel way. Also note how hard it is to understand that process of the leap to plan. Thomas has fifty pages on it: Ia IIae: qq. 6-17. It is interesting to note the way one shifts through Thomas' 12 steps between receiving a menu and handing it back with an entree plan enjoyably selected. Also i would note, in response to one query, that a plan may need to be thematized either pre- or post-  the  execution of it, and the same holds for the formulation of insight at any level.
Secondly, the question of objectivity. Good players are brilliantly objective  in handling a play. An obvious exception is penalty-taking in soccer, the analysis of which is quite tricky. But the main point I would make is that understanding objectivity is the very tricky task of climbing through the book Insight to page 413, where Lonergan invites the reader to take a luminous stand for themselves.     .   

Richard Moodey

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Re: Insight and Intuitive Inference
« Reply #11 on: September 17, 2012, 08:55:23 AM »
I find it useful to keep in mind that whenever I use a word competently, or understand a word uttered or written by another, my using or understanding depends upon one or more insights.  I understand "insight" to refer to an act by which a person grasps relationships.  I often think of the account of Helen Keller's grasp of the relationship between her teacher's using her finger to write letters on Helen's hand, at the same time that she is feeling water with her other hand.  My understanding of the nature of insight is grounded in my understanding of a child's learning: (1) language, (2) the world to which language refers, and (3) the skills needed to be able to use both language and the world.  Much of this occurs before the self-conscious reflections that lead to critical judgments of the probable truth or falsity of propositions.  I strongly suspect that experiences of telling or being told lies are important to the development of the distinction between truth and falsity.   

An account of grasping the relation between an arbitrary sound and its referent is radically different from a behavioristic account of conditioning by positive and negative reinforcements, but does not necessarily rule out the possibility that operant conditioning can be a partial explanation of language learning.  We have very solid evidence that operant conditioning works.  It is especially effective in the training of animals.  Human learning adds some to the ways animals learn, rather than totally negating these processes.  Of course, there is also good evidence that animals solve problems by an internal act that is probably very much like a human insight.
“Think, live, be: next try to express scrupulously what you are thinking, what you are living, what you are.”
Henri de Lubac

B. Tillman Russell

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Re: Insight and Intuitive Inference
« Reply #12 on: September 22, 2012, 09:06:57 AM »
Thank you PhilMcS and Richard Moodey for the thoughtful and helpful replies.

It was said "Previous normal responses are called in pretty spontaneously, but think of those responses that surprise us: the player turns to handle the serve in some weird and novel way. Also note how hard it is to understand that process of the leap to plan." I love this concept of the "leap to plan". It emphasizes that the human being is always in some way oriented to experience and is not simply responding to it.

Would I be on the right track in thinking that the space between the givenness of experience and the response
is the leap to plan, which permits certain types of insights and discourages others? Further could the "leap to plan" be expanded through self-appropriation.? In other words, as I bring more of experience into the sphere of the "plan", I provide more psychological space to interpret, or bring perhaps moral and ethical evaluation to my concrete operations in my life-world.

If the "leap to plan" is needed for any intuitive inference then intuitive inference may be unaware but it is not purely unconscious. My subject is acting  to prepare itself to hit the 100 mph tennis ball but I might not be aware. There is inference happening, it is acting in a conscious way, but perhaps not in total awareness.

This also relates to the very interesting post on language and operant conditioning. I could not agree more that the grasping of relation between arbitrary sound and referent is radically different than stimulus-response conditioning. I really like the statement "Human learning adds some to the ways animals learn, rather than totally negating these processes." Fascinating, it seems like to me that intuitive inferences are truly insights that are not fully appropriated. They are a stance towards experience, requiring on same nascent level, perhaps, a leap to plan, which is a higher level of operation than operant conditioning. However, this does not mean that stimulus-response reactions do not hold in potential this act of insight or evaluation, that goes beyond simply grasping a base correspondence, say between sensations that bring pain and those that bring pleasure.

The further question at this point would is for me? What permits the transition from the spontaneity of the organism to stimuli to having the psychological space to "perform" a leap to plan leading to insight? Thanks again!

Richard Moodey

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Re: Insight and Intuitive Inference
« Reply #13 on: September 27, 2012, 08:10:39 PM »
I am not sure how well this post responds to specific issues that have been raised, but it is an important dimension of the way I think about insights.  I have been impressed with the work of Jean Piaget and Larry Kohlberg.  I think that their "stages" may not be as universal or as stable as they say, but their description of the learning process as having the two "moments" of assimilation and accommodation has been of great heuristic value for me.   I think of assimilation as very similar to Lonergan's "experiencing."  It is using existing cognitive schemata to cope with interactions with the environment.   I prefer to speak of cognitive schemata as sets of acquired dispositions, the residues of past experiences.  Accommodation is the modification of dispositions to bring them into better equillibrium with the structure of the environment, as experienced in repeated acts of assimilation.  Accommodation generally involves the integration of simpler sets of dispositions into more complex sets.  I have interpreted this as an act of insight, a grasp of relationships that had been present potentially, but now have become actual.  The relationships are not just among existing dispositions, but also among those dispositions and aspects of the environment that don't quite fit into the previous set of dispositions.  A practical insight might be described as a "leap to plan."
“Think, live, be: next try to express scrupulously what you are thinking, what you are living, what you are.”
Henri de Lubac

Romero D Souza

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Re: Insight and Intuitive Inference
« Reply #14 on: September 30, 2012, 04:24:36 AM »
yes...i think there is a way upward as well as a downward....U can have a look at the method Lonergan proposes...