Author Topic: Intuitive Knowledge & Cognitive Skills  (Read 13 times)

Offline S. M. Rezaul Karim

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 2
  • Test
    • View Profile
Intuitive Knowledge & Cognitive Skills
« on: May 18, 2017, 05:54:39 PM »
In I and Thou (1923), existentialist philosopher and scholar Martin Buber wrote, “It is simply not the case that the child first perceives an object, then, as it were, puts himself in relation to it. But the effort to establish relation comes first… In the beginning is relation – as category of being, readiness, grasping form, mould for the soul; it is the a priori of relation, the inborn Thou. The inborn Thou is realized in the lived relations with that which meets it” (p.27). This a priori (that is, existing prior to learnt experience) relation to the world forms the basis for the intuitive knowledge we have of the world. Intuitive thought then emerges from one’s total engagement with the world, through one’s whole being.

Children aren’t the only ones who have a total engagement with the world. Artists, for example, rely on the knowledge that originates from a total engagement and openness, to which they give expression through their art. But for many people, intuitive knowledge is gradually replaced by the structures of thinking we are taught. Logic then comes to replace immediate experience, although experience is infinitely more complex than reason can behold. And where reason fails us, many turn to religion.

We always have the capacity to retain some form of an intuitive understanding of the world, yet too often it is replaced by the cognitive skills we develop in school. As a result, our cognitive skills are often developed as it were in a vacuum, disassociated from our being. This disassociation creates a dependency on others with authority, or on status, or on following trends and fads. If we cannot self-regulate our thinking, we depend on others who will do it for us. This dependency robs people of their ability to enter into interdependent relationships, where their inborn relationship with the world and with themselves is intact. In his article, ‘The Impact of Philosophy for Children in a High School English Class’ (available at, Chad Miller says, “The continued irrelevance and disregard of the students’ experiences, questions and ideas by schools, has too often left them with the inability to think responsibly for themselves; the school has told them what to think and why to think it.” Philosophy for children on the contrary honors the inborn relationship children have with the world around them. It helps them to cultivate their inner authority, be self-critical, to self-regulate, and indeed truly be in charge of their own thinking and decisions.

Because young children have not yet developed the cognitive skills to express themselves, they use imagination, and they rely on it to convey their understanding of the world. Imagination is the language of intuitive knowledge, borne out of our unlearnt relationship with the world. If we rob children of their intuitive knowledge and imagination in order to develop their cognitive skills as rapidly as possible, we essentially rob them of this inborn relationship with the world. Thus we try to reestablish their relationship with the world and with themselves through developing their cognitive skills at the expense of that very relationship! We can train people to be very smart and knowledgeable, but at the expense of their inborn intelligence, which is rooted in a natural relationship with the world. They thus become disconnected from the world, from other people, and from themselves. And all the therapy in the world cannot make up for the inborn relationship we had at the beginning of life and have now lost. The loss also leads to dangerous consequences. Disassociated logic can allow us to do the most horrible things to the environment, other life forms, and other people, and provide justifications for it. Integrity and character may also become empty concepts, because, as Buber would say, we have replaced the ‘inborn Thou’ with the ‘It’. The I-It relationship is strictly instrumental in nature and serves the individual’s needs at the expense of the relationship they have with the world (I and Thou, p.23).

As an example, David Brooks says in his article ‘The Power of Altruism’, “When you introduce a financial incentive you prompt people to see their situation through an economic lens. Instead of following their natural bias toward reciprocity, service and cooperation, you encourage people to do a selfish cost-benefit calculation. They begin to ask, ‘What’s in it for me?’… the institutions that arouse the moral lens have withered away while the institutions that manipulate incentives – the market and the state – have expanded. Now economic, utilitarian thinking has become the normal way we do social analysis and see the world” (New York Times, July 8, 2016). And Chad Miller found that when he administered a survey on the first day of class to examine his students’ reasoning skills, they answered that they “believed school was boring, but necessary to go to college and ‘make a lot of money’” (p.2). Essentially, we have replaced a life rich in meaning for a meaningless life of riches. In the name of progress, we end up working against our own interests, increasing distrust and hostility. Buber describes the world as one in which there is a “constant swinging back and forth” of the I-It and I-Thou relationships. Yet if we are disconnected from our I-Thou relationship and only the I-It relationship determines our interactions and relations with the world and other people, no amount of ‘religion’ can make up for that loss.