So I know relevance (as I think of it) is a subset of our lightcone (for lack of a better word/analogy our experience). I suspect intuition is some kind of subset of relevance and union of our biological system. What are the various viewpoints philosophers have?

Apologies for the physics terminology but I am happy to clarify and edit this question?

  • Are they just inverse functions? Mar 11 at 9:55
  • 2
    Unless you tell us what "relevance as you think of it" and "intuition as you think of it" are, we cannot say anything about either. Because it sure is not what those words are typically thought as meaning. You might be the only one who thinks of relevance as a subset and intuition as a union.
    – Conifold
    Mar 11 at 13:36
  • Biological underpinning of intuition can only mean: > Which biological function has the capability of intuition for the > organism? Intuition allows to make quick decisions without further checking and long weighing up alternative decisions. Intuition is not a safe guard, but it results from similar situations and former effective decisions.
    – Jo Wehler
    Mar 11 at 16:21
  • Lightcone hints perhaps in our world time could be said to be the most important thing underpinning everything else, including your relevance as a relation as usually construed and any biological underpinnings of intuitions whose adaption and evolution mechanisms need to be aware of time ultimately... Mar 11 at 19:05
  • Hebb's rule, which describes how we learn associations is likely to be a basis for intuition - we have connectionist storage of information by association, so intuition is when a stimulus causes us to (subconsciously) think of things that are associated with it from which we form a conscious idea. Mar 12 at 11:55

1 Answer 1


Has there been any biological underpinnings of intuition?

The obvious biological substrate which explains the existence of our intuitive capabilities is the brain.

We will have intuitions on nuclear physics if we develop an expertise in nuclear physics, which essentially requires that we learn stuff on the subject. Experts in cosmology have more intuitions on cosmology subjects than other people have.

Nothing terribly mysterious, even if the exact biological process may not be entirely scientifically described.

This also means that our intuitions may be misleading or even terribly wrong, for they will only be as good as whatever it is that we have learned. People who spend their time studying some religious book will have intuitions consistent with what this book says.

We also have intuitions without seemingly having to learn anything. For example, we will have the intuition that we should eat whenever we are hungry and that some stuff smells good enough to us. We also have logical intuitions, and intuitions which tell us the colours of the flowers we are looking at.

Our intuitions may also go wrong when we suffer from some mental condition. Fried chicken may suddenly smell like nothing you even knew could be a smell.

All this can presumably be entirely and relatively easy to explain in strictly biological terms, say, in terms of sense perception, neurons and neuronal networks etc. For the detail, though, I am not a specialists, so please refer not to Immanuel Kant or Martin Heidegger, but to cognitive sciences textbooks. I would be surprised if there is not yet any substantial science on the subject.

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