Philosophers throughout the history (most known to me are from the German Idealism school) have used the idea of an "intellectual intuition" - often (in German Idealism) the way that a certain "genius" is able to "connect" to the thing-in-itself/absolute self/etc. The idea used to rely on the fact that intuition always seemed to us as something quite mysterious - how can we do something without really thinking about it?

Recent biological/neurological studies have come to the conclusion they can explain intuition (I'd must admit I'm not exactly familiar with the research, so I'm not sure what the exact results were, I just heard about it) by means of sociological, biological, and neurological explanations.

My question is, does the fact that these intuitions can be explained scientifically should inherently reject the idea of such "intellectual intuition"? (and I know about the "science can't affect metaphysics" issue, but this seems deeper than that.)


In the second paragraph I've stated that recent studies have found such explanations. I must take my words back and ask instead - if such explanations will be found (of course it could he stated that such explanations simply can't possibly be found, but I hope to see answers that do go down that rabbit hole and assumes such explanations can actually be found), would that necessarily refute the "intellectual intuition" idea?

Edit (2):

I just want to emphasize the point of this question more to the German Idealism kind of intuition - the aesthetic one, the one related to the "genius" (often the example is of drawing "unconsciously", by the pure intellectual intuition).

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    Do you have any reference to such studies? I can't imagine any meaningful sense that it could be said that they explain intuition. They observe neuronal activity in various regions, but that seems pretty far removed from the subjective grasping of experience that we would normally associate with the idea of intuition.
    – user3017
    Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 12:52
  • @PédeLeão for example (not exactly a research, but an article that's talking about a research and cites it) - sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080701135820.htm Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 13:00
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    But this article doesn't say that they explain intuition. It says "Intuition, or tacit knowledge, is difficult to measure, so it is often denigrated. A new dissertation in education research shows that there is a neurobiological explanation for how experience-based knowledge is created."; so basically the research is supporting the idea of intuition against those who denigrate it because it can't be measured. And aren't you denigating it by writing we "should inherently reject the idea of such 'intellectual intuition'"? Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 13:13
  • Do you have any more 'studies' that you have looked at? As I see you have used the word study in the plural. How many studies have you looked at, we can at least measure that...;). Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 13:19
  • @MoziburUllah admittedly, (as I've written in the question,) I haven't exactly read studies on the subject, just heard of them. And the line you quoted from the article isn't exactly going against the view that denigrates intuition, but rather trying to refute the denigration by saying that intuition can indeed be measured (in means of neurobiological studies). But I'll take the criticism and edit the question to perhaps answer the comments. Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 13:51

2 Answers 2


It has been argued that most of our reasoning is based on intuiting conclusions, and only then using reason to back them up https://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2013/11/14/post-hoc-rationalisation-reasoning-our-intuition-and-changing-our-minds/ From this perspective intuition faces a range of problems, as being potentially irrational biased or partisan, and stopping us listening properly to the reasoning of others who's conclusions we may have already spontaneously decided to disagree with.

Another angle on intuition is to look at the psycological state of flow, which seems to be about mind and body working together, and skilled intuitive thought and action https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_(psychology) This suggests a more positive view of intuition, or at least the potential for it.

In the philosophical context you are talking about though, intuition is often used for justification where reasoning alone cannot be used. Hume concluded "Reason Is and Ought Only to Be the Slave of the Passions", because reason alone cannot motivate us, or give us the cornerstones for our morality, which must both be fundamentally intuitive.

I suggest intuition is a flawed tool we all rely on more than we realise, but which can be educated. Buddhist practices like generating bodhicitta, compassion for all beings, will shift intuitive patterns. Daoism seems to be aimed entirely at educating intuition. But these kind of lived practices seem more to the point than justifying assumption/conclusions or gaps in reasoning.


I find the question difficult because of the various assumptions. Transcendental or Absolute Idealism places the source of intuition beyond the intellect as does the Perennial philosophy as a whole so 'intellectual intuition' may not be the best phrase for what you're after.

Recent neurobiological studies have not explained intuition and I predict that such studies never will. It is possible that one day science may explain such things but this will require a major paradigm shift. While natural scientists cannot explain or even find consciousness it isn't going to happen.

I'm tempted to propose that there is no such thing as 'intellectual intuition' but it might depend what you mean by the words.

The final paragraph of CriglCragl's answer raises many of the underlying issues. To understand intuition we would need to find its source, and like everything else it would come down to understanding consciousness and its source. Or at least this is a widespread view.

  • I'd admit this definitely isn't one of my better questions, but I think you might've not addressed the "intellectual intuition" I'm talking about (the major issue with this question is the obscurity of my definition/usage of "intellectual intuition"). When Kant talks about a "Genius" that paints without acknowledging what he did physically, but rather explain it by some apparently mystical intuition, he calls it an "intellectual intuition" (the translation might be flawed from Hebrew) that comes from the thing-in-itself (/God), as the only connection we may have with It. Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 17:10
  • @YechiamWeiss - Apologies. My answer was pedantic and probably misses the point. The idea that intuitions may originate with the thing-in-itself and emerge into the intellect as a mysterious 'feeling' is fine by me. It just seems misleading to call this 'intellectual' intuition. I find some of Kant's terminology unhelpful at times. Your comment about Hebrew is interesting. Does Kant's terminology here come from a Hebrew phrase? .
    – user20253
    Commented Jun 29, 2018 at 10:17
  • well, I translated it to English from reading it in Hebrew, there's no special relation between the term and Hebrew (as far as I know). If you'd like to try to translate it to a better term maybe, the herbrew term is "אינטואיציה אינטליגנטית", but I'm quite sure the term I use is the correct one in English, as when I looked it up it did present results such as this PhilPaper. Commented Jun 29, 2018 at 11:21
  • @YechiamWeiss The article addresses my niggles. I dislike the phrase as it seems misleading but do see the point of it. It seems to suggest that intuitions are purely intellectual but this would not be the case when it is paired with the idea of a transcendental source. .
    – user20253
    Commented Jun 30, 2018 at 11:39
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    I've conducted a short tour of Schelling's thoughts and you're right, I love him. He seems to be well ahead of Kant and Hegel. I'd put him well ahead of Whitehead just on the basis of the quotations listed on Wiki. Thanks for the heads-up.
    – user20253
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 10:38

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