The Integral Theory of Truth and Reality

(Excerpted from Pitirim A. Sorokin,
The Crisis of Our Age.) 

In regard to scientific and philosophical systems of truth -- the truth of the senses and of reason -- this is hardly questioned nowadays. The systems are admitted with their sources of truth: the dialectic of human reason and the testimony of the organs of the senses. Mathematics and logic are mainly the system of truth of human reason; and the natural sciences are mainly the depository of the truth of senses.[1] More questionable nowadays is the truth of faith derived from such a source, which is called by diverse names as: "intuition," "inspiration," "revelation," "extra-sensory perception," "mystic experience," and so on. Does such a source, as distinct from discursive dialectics, or testimony of the organs of senses, exist?

The answer has to be positive. We may not know exactly the nature of this source of truth. We must also admit that, like observation in all its forms (experimental, statistical, clinical) and reasoning, it does not always guarantee the truth.[2] But any careful investigator of the history of human experience, science, philosophy, religion and truly creative cultural value, can hardly deny the existence of such a source of truth and its great and positive contributions to the history of human thought, science, art, philosophy, religion, ethics, technology, and even to economic and practical creative values.

First of all, for the reason that some kind of intuition is at the very basis of the validity of the systems of truth of reason and of the senses. Second, because intuition, as distinct from discursive dialectic and sensory experience, has been one of the most important and fruitful "starters" of an enormous number of the most important scientific, mathematical and philosophical discoveries and technological inventions. Third, because a variety of the religious and mystic intuition has been the main source and the main force for the creation of the greatest artistic, religious and ethical systems of culture. Fourth, because there is a sufficiently large body of the testimonies of the great thinkers, creators of religion, of art values, of science, demonstrating the reality, the functioning and the power of this source of truth. Let us elucidate these points briefly.[3]

A. That an intuition, a direct, self-evident, axiomatic, and often momentary experience different from either perception or sensation, or still more from imagination, memory, discursive thought and ordinary observation in all its forms, lies at the foundation of the validity of the basic propositions not only of religious and philosophical, but also of mathematico-logical[4] and empirical sciences and their truths, is nowadays well recognized by many a philosopher, scientist, thinker and generally, investigator of this problem. Why do the basic postulates of any science, from mathematics to physics, appear to be unquestionably valid and their axioms axiomatic? Since, by definition they are ultimate postulates and axioms, they cannot be based upon either logic or empirical experience; on the contrary all the subsequent logical propositions and empirical theories are based upon the postulates and axioms. The only source of the self-evident character of such postulates and axioms is intuition.[5] In this sense, it is not a derivative of, but the condition and basis of the truth of reason and of sensory experience.[6]

The same conclusion is reached through consideration of the fact that language, as the indispensable condition of any thought, is not created through dialectic of human reason, but represents a product of intuition.[7] Some thinkers even go so far as to put intuition at the basis of our perception as a judge who decides whether the perception is real or illusory.[8]
The intuition seems to be also the ultimate foundation of the beautiful,[9] and of the ethical or moral,[10] not to mention the religious -- the sphere particularly dominated by the intuition and especially by the mystic intuition.

B. Still less questionable is the fact that intuition has been the starter of an enormous number of sensory and dialectic discoveries and inventions in all the creative fields of culture, beginning with science, from mathematics, technology and biology, to social and humanistic disciplines and philosophy, and ending with art, religion, ethics, and other cultural systems. That intuition plays an important part in mathematics and lies as the basis of the mathematical deductions, of its most prominent representatives, G. Birkhoff, has already stated, as quoted above.[11]

That a large number of mathematical discoveries have been made by intuition -- and not by following F. Bacon's or the Logistics' rules -- is well demonstrated by the history of mathematics. H. Poincare's personal experiences are typical in this respect.

During fifteen days I have tried to demonstrate that no function analogous to what later on I called les fonctions fuchsiennes could exist. All these days I sat down at my working table, and attempted a great number of combinations and arrived at no result. One evening, contrary to my habit, I took black coffee and could not fall asleep; ideas appeared in crowds; I felt as thought they were pushing one another [se heurter] until two of them hooked, so to speak, one another, [s'accrochassent] and made a stable combination. In the morning I established the existence of the class of the fonctions fuchsiennes. All that I had to do was to repeat the results, which took only a few hours from me.

Another time he tells that the solution of another mathematical problem came to him instantaneously as he was stepping into a bus. Having arrived at Caen, her verified it and found it correct. He cites several other instances of this kind and stresses that in all of them the solution came always "with the same character of brevity, suddenness and immediate certitude" [avec les memes caracteres de brievite, de soudainete et de certitude immediate].[12]

Hardly different from this intuitional experience was Sir Isaac Newton's discovery of gravitation. "On one memorable day, an apple falls with a slight thud at his feet. It was a trifling incident which has been idly noticed thousands of times; but now like the click of some small switch which starts a great machine in operation, it proved to be the jog which awoke his mind to action. As in a vision, he saw that if the mysterious pull of the earth can act through space as far as the top of a it might even reach so far as the moon."[13]

Not different is the case of Archimedes, with his famous "eureka" suddenly coming to him while he was stepping into a bath and making him forget to put on his clothes in his excitement; of Galileo watching a swinging lamp in a church and by "short circuit" formulating the law of oscillation of the pendulum; of Robert Meyer, who, from two chance occurrences during a voyage, "with a sudden leap of thought...derived the law of the mechanical equivalence of heat."[14] And a large number of great and small discoveries in mathematics and physiochemical sciences were started in a similar intuitive manner.

The same is still truer of technological inventions. "The activities of our minds concerned with innovation...are most closely associated with the emotions than with reason and ...are aesthetic and intuitive in character rather than rational." "Intuitive knowledge and the works of creative imagination are more or less directly associated with delvings into levels beyond the limits of our normally conscious life."[15] The statements of the inventors themselves make this quite clear. One says that when the need for a certain invention comes, "I immediately eject it from the objective side of my mind, that is to say, I cease to labor over it, and consign it to the 'subjective department' of my mind." There is spontaneously ripens until it "comes out."

Another says, "ideas come when I least expect them, often when I am half asleep, or day-dreaming." Others state that they either sometimes wake with a new idea, or it comes "in a flash," or it comes in "the period of relaxation," or "in the bathtub," or suddenly, when the inventor is engaged in a different kind of work, or "quite unexpectedly," and so on.[16]

No different is the situation in the other natural sciences.[17] Many of their greatest representatives testify, first, that hardly any important discovery has been made there by following the schema of F. Bacon;[18] second, the intuitive start or inspiration of many discoveries.

As to the discoveries in the field of philosophical, humanistic, and social science disciplines, there the role of intuition has indeed been preponderant. This is objectively testified o by the fact that almost all of the great discoveries -- the main philosophies, the main humanistic and social science theories -- were made a long time ago, when neither laboratories, nor statistics, nor systematic data of observation, nor any other material for an empirical or even rational generalization existed. The study of the relevant facts in these fields shows that many of these creations and theories were initiated by intuition.[19] It does not exclude the fact that in many cases the intuitional revelation comes after strenuous but fruitless work of the sensory or discursive mind. What is important is that the solution comes through intuition.

The process is well described in its extreme form, by one of the greatest philosopher-poets of the nineteenth century, F. Nietzsche. He thus describes the mental state in which he wrote Also Sprach Zarathustra:

Has anyone at the close of the nineteenth century any clear perception of what the poets of strong ages called inspiration? If not, I will describe it. Possessing only the smallest remnant of superstition one would hardly be able to reject the idea that one is nothing but a medium for super-mighty influences. That which happens can only be termed revelation, that is to say, that suddenly, with unutterable certainty and delicacy, something becomes visible and audible and shakes and rends one to the depths of one's being. One hears, one does not seek; one takes; one does not ask who it is that gives; like lightning a thought flashes out, out of necessity, complete in form -- I have never needed to choose. It is a rapture, the enormous excitement of which sometimes finds relief in a storm of tears; a state of being entirely outside oneself with the clearest consciousness of fine shivering and a rustling through one's being right down to the tips of one's toes; a depth of joy in which all that is most painful and gloomy does not act as a contrast but as a condition for it, as though demanded, as a necessary colour in such a flood of light....Everything happens in the highest degree involuntarily, as in a storm of feeling of freedom, of power, of divinity.[20]

Similarly, A. Strindberg says that poetical ecstasy was "a state of pure bliss while the writing continued."

As to arts, the creativeness there is mainly intuitional, whether it be poetry and literature, music or painting, sculpture or drama. The following self-description of the process of work by Mozart is typical. Answering the question, Mozart writes:

What, you ask, is my method in writing and elaborating my large and lumbering things? I can in fact say nothing more about it than this: I do not know myself and can never find out. When I am in particularly good condition, perhaps riding in a carriage, or on a walk after a good meal, and in a sleepless night, then the thoughts come in to me in a rush, and best of all. Whence and how -- that I do not know and cannot learn. Those which please me I retain in my head, and hum them perhaps also to myself -- at least others so told me....

Farther on, he describes how the "crumbs" spontaneously join one another into a whole, grow, and finally assume a finished form in his head.

All the finding and making only goes on in me as in a very vivid dream.

Finally, like Poincare in the case quoted above, he puts the work on paper, and since it is practically ready in his mind, "it gets pretty quickly on to paper."[21]

Similar is Schelling's dictum that "Just as the man of destiny does not execute what he wills or intends, but what he is obliged to execute through an incomprehensible fate under whose influence he stands, so the artist...seems to stand under the influence of a power which...compels him to declare or represent things which he himself does not completely see through, and whose import is infinite.[22]

Finally, so far as religious and moral creations are concerned, they are overwhelmingly intuitional. They profess the revealed truth of faith; they are based almost exclusively upon the super-rational, supersensory, superempirical, Absolute Truth and Reality-God. All great religions are founded by mystics endowed with the charismatic gift of the mystic experience. Such are Buddha, Zoroaster, Lao-Tze, the Hebrew prophets, Mahavira, Mohammed, Christ, St. Paul, St. Augustine, down to the more recent mystics of Christian and other great religions. When some pseudo religion is started "scientifically," "rationally," based upon "reasonable, empirically verified truths," such psuedo religion never gets anywhere and represents at the best a third-class, vulgarized social and humanitarian philosophy or pseudo science.

All great religions explicitly declare that they are the corpus of the revealed, super-rational, superempirical, supersensory truth granted by grace of the Absolute to charismatically gifted persons -- prophets, saints, mystics, oracles, and other instruments of the Absolute. The experience of these instruments is always super-rational or mystic. And mystic experience has little, if anything, to do with the ordinary cognition given through the organs of the senses or rational discourse. Without mystic intuition, mankind could hardly have any great religion. And any great religion means the creation of the truth of faith revealed through mystic experience.[23] Since religion generally (and the great world religions particularly has been one of the most important creations of human culture, this very importance testifies in favor of the most important role played by intuition generally, and mystic intuition particularly, in the history of human thought and culture. Religion, particularly, with its super-rational and supersensory intuition, puts us in touch with an aspect of the true and manifold reality which is inaccessible to us through the ordinary avenues of the truth of the senses and the truth of reason. The founders, prophets, apostles, and mystics of the great religious systems, together with the great artists, who also, are, in their own way, instruments of the mystic intuition, are the great instrumentalities of the truth of faith that puts us in touch with the superempirical and metalogical aspect of the Infinite Manifold, the coincidental oppositorum of Erigena and Nicolas of Cusa.[24]

If intuition thus plays a decisive role in any field of creativeness, it follows that it is the decisive factor in cognition, because any genuine creative is a real cognition as any real discovery is a creation. When Mozart or Beethoven, Phidias or Shakespeare, Buddha or St. Paul, Raphael or Durer, Plato or Kant created their artistic or religious or philosophical systems, they actualized the hidden potentiality existing in the reality; they discovered it and brought it from the hidden state of potentiality into the actual reality. They opened out what was concealed, and disclosed to us what we did not see and did not know. In this sense, any creation is a cognition and a discovery -- the discovery of a new combination of the sound values (as in great music), or of the new values of architectural forms disclosed to us by a new combination of stone-marble-wood and other elements of architecture; or of new aspects of the reality opened to us by painting, literature, religion and ethics. If, for a moment, one can imagine all artistic, religious, philosophical, ethical values eliminated, and all our knowledge reduced to strictly "scientific discoveries" formulated in dry propositions, how greatly our cognition of the world and reality would be impoverished and diminished! From millionaires we would be turned into beggars.[25]

On the other hand, any scientific discovery is also a creation, not necessarily in the sense of an imposition upon nature of what is manufactured by our mind, as Kantians and their followers say, but in the light of actualizing the hidden potentiality in nature, bringing it to light, and thus enriching our knowledge. In this sense, Newton created his law of gravitation, R. Meyer his law of preservation of energy, Lavoisier and Lomonosoff their law of conservation of matter, and so on.

Since intuition plays such a decisive role in any creativeness, it plays this role also in any cognition and discovery.

This cursory survey explains what the thinkers of the most divergent currents of thought recognize intuition -- and as its result the truth of faith --as the source and corpus of truth of sui generis, different from the source and corpus of knowledge given through the organs of the senses, and through dialectic of our mind. It is, likewise, the reason why they ascribe to intuition the most important role in the generation and starting of even sensory and rational cognition. After the above, the following statements of thinkers in different currents of thought will be comprehensible.

The Unconscious often guides men in their actions by hints and feelings, where they could not help themselves by conscious thought.

The Unconscious furthers the conscious process of thought by its inspiration in small as in great matters, and in mysticism guides mankind to the presentiment of higher supersensible unities.

It makes men happy through the feeling for the beautiful and artistic production.[26]

New directions of thought arise from the flashes of intuition.[27]

In mathematics, the positive integral numbers 1, 2, 3,...are found to be subject to certain simple arithmetic laws, and these laws are regarded as intuitively true....There are many other abstract mathematical structures besides those just alluded to. In all cases it is found that they are made up of certain accepted intuitions (or postulates) and their logical consequences....Now what I desire particularly to point out is that the mathematician goes far beyond such generally accepted clear-cut assumptions, in that he holds certain tacit beliefs and attitudes which scarcely ever find their way onto the printed page....For instance, he believes in the existence of various infinite classes such as that made up of all the integers....Such ideas...I call mathematical faith....Nearly all the greatest mathematicians have been led to take points of view in this broad category and have attached the deepest significance to them....The beliefs involved have been of the greatest heuristic importance as instruments of discovery.[28]

Still more emphatic in this respect are such scientists as Eddington, Jeans, Drisch, and others.

Human spirit as "something which knows" is not quite so narrow a description as "the observer." Consciousness has other functions besides those of a rather inefficient measuring machine; and knowledge may attain to other truths besides those which correlate sensory impressions....Deeper than any "form of thought" is a faith....In the age of reason, faith yet remains supreme; for reason is one of the articles of faith.[29]

Thus there is hardly any doubt that intuition is the real source of real knowledge, different from the role of the senses and reason. If so, then the truth of faith, derived from and based upon intuition, is the genuine truth as much as the truth of the senses and of reason. It is especially indispensable in the apprehension of those aspects of the true reality which are inaccessible to the senses and to reason. This explains why the truth of faith has been able to dominate for centuries, and why the super-rational religions have been eternal concomitants of the development of human culture. If the truth of faith (and intuition as its source) were entirely false, such a fact should not be. In the light of the above statement, the important and often indispensable role played by intuition in the cognition of true reality explains the perennial fact of the immortality of religion and arts, and the domination of the truth of faith over long periods; and this immortality of supersensory religion and super-rational arts and ethics and the domination of the truth of faith for long periods corroborates the important role of intuition as the source of truth, knowledge and creativeness.[30]

For the above reasons then, the integral truth is not identical with any of the three forms of truth, but embraces all of them. In this three-dimensional aspect of the truth of faith, of reason and of the senses, the integral truth is nearer to the absolute truth than any one-sided truth of one of these three forms. Likewise, the reality given by the integral three-dimensional truth, with its sources of intuition, reason and the senses, is a nearer approach to the infinite metalogical reality of the coincidentia oppositorum than the purely sensory, or purely rational, or purely intuitional reality, given by one of the systems of truth and reality. The empirico-sensory aspect of it is given by the truth of the senses; the rational aspect, by the truth of reason; the super-rational aspect by the truth of faith. The threefold integral system of truth gives us not only a more adequate knowledge of the reality, but a more valid and less erroneous experience, even within the specific field of each system of truth. Each of these systems of truth separated from the rest becomes less valid or more fallacious, even with the specific field of its own competence. the organs of the senses, not controlled by reason or intuition, can give us but a chaotic mass of impressions, perceptions, sensations, incapable of supplying any integrated knowledge, anything except disorderly bits of pseudo observation and pseudo impression. They can give at the best but a mass of meaningless "facts," without any coherence, relevance, and comprehension. Deprived of the co-operation of the truth of reason and of intuition, these organs of the senses are very limited instrumentalities, in the cognition of even a sensory aspect of the reality. In perception of sound, smell, sight, our organs of sense are poorer than the sense organs of a god, as I. Pavlov's experiments show. For thousands of years such energies as radio and electricity were lying "under their nose"; and yet they were unable o see, to hear, to smell, to touch these sensory forms of reality. For thousands of years, many empirical uniformities of natural phenomena were lying under "the eyes and ears" of the organs of the senses; and yet they were unable to grasp them. When they were "discovered," they were discovered only through the co-operation and other sources of cognition: logic and intuition. When these elementary verities are understood, it becomes clear how limited, poor, incoherent, and narrow would be our knowledge, if it were limited only to pure sensory cognition, and if it were dependent only upon our organs of sense in their ordinary functioning. Likewise, mere dialectic speculation cannot guarantee to us any valid knowledge of empirical phenomena. It can give us an unimpeachable syllogism or a mathematical deduction, but such a syllogism or deduction will be empirically valid only when its major and minor premises are empirically valid. And this empirical adequacy cannot be derived from and by the truth of reason. Finally, intuition uncontrolled by the truth of reason and of the senses goes very easily astray, and gives us an intuitive error instead of the intuitive truth. Each of these sources and systems of truth misleads us much more easily when it is isolated from, and unchecked by, the other sources and systems of truth than when it is united into one integral whole with the others.

Hence the greater adequacy of the integral system of truth and reality compared with partial or one-sided truth and reality of each of these systems. 


1. Contrary to the philistine conception of some pseudo empiricists, the proportion of the propositions derived from the dialectic of human reason in the natural sciences, like physics and chemistry, not to mention mathematics, is enormous. Their main referential principles and main generalizations are first of all and most of all results of the truth of reason in our sense. One is not obliged to go in this direction as far as some of the most distinguished mathematicians and physicists, like Jeans, Eddington, E. Meyerson, and many others go, declaring that the laws of the exact natural sciences are not derived from physical nature, but "manufactured by the human mind" and imposed upon nature as mind's a priori, subscribing thus to the Kantian epistemology (see the survey of such conceptions of many scientists in E. Meyerson's Identite et realite and Due cheminement de las pensee, quoted, and Sir Arthur Eddington's Philosophy of Physical Science, quoted); but without going so far, one cannot deny the enormous role played and space occupied by the truth of reason in the natural sciences. They are full of the "unobservables," as Eddington says; their laws are not observational at all, but at the best "hypothetico-observational"; their "facts" and "evidences" are conditioned by the conceptual schemes of human reason; their most certain conclusions and generalizations, like those of mathematics, represent mainly the product of the pure human dialectic and logic, and so on. See H. O. Taylor, Fact: The Romance of Mind (New York, 1932); E. Husserl, Logische Untersuchings, quoted; G. Birkhoff, "Intuition, Reason and Faith in Science," Science, December 30, 1938; H. Dingle, Through Science to Philosophy (Oxford Univ. Press, 1937).

In this respect the positions of the great scientists like Galileo and Newton are again typical. Like Galileo, Newton "said that he first proved his intentions by geometry and only made use of experiments to make them intelligible, and to convince the vulgar." L. T. More, Isaac Newton (New York, 1934), p. 610.

2. The history of experimental and observational sciences, as well as logico-mathematical and dialectic disciplines, is full of mistakes, and is a veritable graveyard of erroneous observations, experiments and misleading reasonings. These mistakes do not hinder, however, observation, experiment, and reasoning, when adequately done, from being the source of valid conclusions. The same is true of intuition. From the fact that sometimes it misleads and is inadequate, it does not follow that it never gives valid results and adequate knowledge.

3. It is out of place in this work to take up the problem exhaustively or in a detailed form. However, at my disposal there is a sufficient body of well-tested evidence for each of these points to make my statement not a conjecture, but as valid as any empirical hypothesis in the field can be. The works referred to give an amplification of my statements.

4. For instance, the notion of geometric space is based on intuition. See H. Poincare, Dernieres Pensees (Paris, 1913). See there his study, "L'espace et le temps."

5. K. W. Wild, after a survey of the meaning of intuition used by many thinkers, finds its common element in the form of the following definition of intuition: "An intuition is an immediate awareness by a subject of some particular entity, without such as from the senses or from reason as would account for that awareness." "There is undoubtedly an intuitive method and immediate intuitive awareness on which reason and all other forms of knowing are dependent. Intuition is not an alternative to reason [or to senses, P.S]; its minimum function is to form a basis for reason, and its wider functions (if any) to deal with what is inaccessible to reason....Intuition gives a peculiar feeling of unity between subject and object....The intuition gives us insight into reality as opposed to, or supplementing appearance....That [special forms of] intuition is an endowment of specially gifted people." See K. W. Wild, Intuition (Cambridge University Press, 1938), pp. 226 ff. These characteristics are indeed common to most of the thinkers who studied intuition, with a difference among these thinkers in a number of secondary points. H. Bergson, N. O. Lossky, A. H. Whitehead, J. S. Mill, C. Jung, and many others (see further) stress indeed most of these characteristics of intuition as a sui generis method of cognition of the true reality.

Plato calls it "divine madness" (in contrast to reason, the senses, and the madness of infirmity). (See his Phaedrus.) Mystics call it "mystic revelation." E. v. Hartmann calls it "the unconscious." Kant calls it a priori forms of our mind. Thinkers like Ibn Khaldun and Rousseau contrasted it with scientific (sensory and dialectical) methods of cognition and characterized it as "the sovereign intelligence which sees in a twinkle of an eye the truth of all things, in contradistinction to vain and deceptive knowledge" (J. J. Rousseau, OEuvres completes, Paris, 1873, Vol. V., p. 103), or as "the celestial inspiration" different from and superior to the observational and dialectic knowledge (Ibn-Khaldun, Prolegomenes historiques, Vol. XIX, pp. 227 ff., 294 ff.). N. Lossky calls this kind of cognition by "mystic intuition" a special form of intuitive knowledge (N. Lossky, Sensory, Intellectual and Mystical Intuition, Paris, 1938); and E. Husserl calls it by the term of "pure intuition" and "intuition" as the mode of cognition in which "essences are primordially given as objects, just as individual realities are given in empirical intuition." (E. Husserl, Ideas: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology, New York, 1931, pp. 80-96.) Mathematicians like G. Birkhoff call it "intuition" and "faith" in the sense of "certain elementary notions and concepts which come spontaneously" and "are generally accepted" and serve as "the foundation for the rational superstructure erected by means of deductive and inductive reasoning," and as "heuristically valuable, more general points of view, which are beyond reason" and "of supreme importance." (G. Birkhoff, "Intuition, Reason and Faith in Science," Science, December 30, 1938, p. 603.) Scholastics like St. Thomas Aquinas and Nicolas of Cusa call it "divine revelation" or "docta ignorantia," "the truth of faith" or "wise ignorance" that "goeth beyond all knowledge." See St. Thomas, Summa contra Gentiles (London, 1924) Bk. i, chaps. iii, v, vi; Summa theologica, II, ii, q. 9, a. 2, ad. i; Nicolas of Cusa, The Vision of God (London-New York, 1928), pp. 26 ff.; De la docte ignorance (Paris, 1930), pp. 210-17, et passim. Other definitions of intuition of A. H. Whitehead, B. Spinoza, B. Croce, C. Jung, H. Bergson, see in K. W. Wild's Intuition, quoted. For definition of mystic experience corresponding to intuition, see E. Underhill, Mysticism (London, 1931); W. James, Varieties of Religious Experience (New York, 1928); R. Mukerjee, Theory and Art of Mysticism (London-New York, 1927) and other works quoted in Dynamics, Vol. I, p. 131.

 In spite of the differences in secondary points among these and an enormous number of other thinkers and currents of thought, they all stress the peculiar nature of the intuitive method of cognition different from the truth of the senses and of reason, and characterize it as instantaneous, grasping the reality directly; in general form it is given to all of us; in special forms of mystic intuition it is granted only to the persons who have the charismatic gift or grace. Recent "extra-sensory perception" of J. B. Rhine and others is also a variety of the generic intuitive method of cognition. See J. B. Rhine, Extra-Sensory Perception (Boston, 1935) and New Frontiers of the Mind (New York, 1937).

 6. Already Hume has put the problem sharply in his famous, "What is the foundation of all conclusions from experience?" Of our conviction that nature is uniform and that by induction we can arrive at valid knowledge? As it is known, no satisfactory answer is given to the question, except intuition or its equivalents: "belief" (Whately and others); "instinctive law of belief" (Reid and others); "custom and habit" (Hume and others); "beliefs and intuition" (J. S. Mill). Or, what amounts to the same, "I am very decidedly of the opinion that the difficulty does not admit of any logical solution. It must be assumed as a postulate that the belief in the Uniformity of Nature exists." J. Venn, The Principles of Empirical or Inductive Logic (London, 1907), pp. 129-133. See there an analysis of the problem. See R. Carnapp, The Logical Syntax of Language (New York, 1937), pp. 98-99.

7. "As without language not only no philosophical, but no human consciousness at all is conceivable, the foundation of language could not have been consciously laid...Its invention far surpasses in profundity those of the highest conscious product." Thus E. Von Hartmann quotes Schelling's words, and proceeds to show that language, as the creation of the unconscious (Hartmann's "Unconscious" is very similar to the above definition of intuition) is the absolute condition of sensory and conceptual cognition. See E. von Hartmann, op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 293 ff.

 8. This role of intuition as the ultimate basis of any knowledge -- of the truth of the senses and of reason -- is recognized or clearly implied in the epistemology of the most different currents of philosophical and scientific thought. First, in Kantian and neo-Kantian philosophy and scientific knowledge: Kantian a priori categories of mind imposed by it upon anything we try to know is but another term for intuition as the ultimate basis of human knowledge in all its forms. It is the precondition of any perception and reasoning, and therefore of all the observational, experimental, and dialectic cognition. All the scientists who regard who regard the laws of the natural sciences as the a priori forms of mind manufactured and imposed by it upon the physiochemical and other phenomena, rather than derived and discovered in nature itself, recognize intuition as the basis and source of any knowledge under the name of the a priori forms of our mind. The number of such scientists is considerable, and many of them are great scientists. See the development of such a theory and interpretation of scientific laws, and the representatives of this current of thought in E. Meyerson's Identite et realite and Due cheminement de las pensee, 3 vols. (Paris, 1931). Also Sir Arthur Eddington, The Philosophy of Physical Science (New York, 1939); L. Silberstein, Causality (London, 1933); M. Karinsky, Self-Evident Verities (Ob istinakh samootchevidnyk, St. Petersburg, 1893); I. Lapshin, Laws of Thought and Forms of Cognition (in Russian) (St. Petersburg, 1906).

 Then thinkers of very different philosophical schools state this role of intuition explicitly, in spite of their differences in many other respects. It is the basic statement of the theory of H. Bergson, Spinoza, B. Croce, C. G. Jung, A. H. Whitehead. See a detailed analysis of their theories from this standpoint in K. W. Wild, Intuition (Cambridge University Press, 1938), part I. To these names one can add from the past thinkers almost all the great philosophers: Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, St. Augustine, all the Church Fathers, all the Scholastics from Erigena to St. Thomas and Nicolas of Cusa, Descartes, T. Hobbes; all the mystics, and so on. their names in the Appendix to Chapter One of Volume Two of Dynamics; all the names listed there under Mysticism, Criticism; and the greater part of the names under Rationalism, Fideism; and some of the names under Empiricism belong to the explicit partisans of intuition. Of the recent epistemological currents, besides those mentioned above, see the philosophies of the Unconscious represented by such thinkers as E. von Hartmann (see his Philosophy of the Unconscious, London, 1931, passim, and especially Vol. I, pp. 184-372, Vol. II, pp. 1-44); of the mystic intuitivism, represented by such thinkers as N. O. Lossky (see especially.........

 Even such pillars of the empirical method as J. S. Mill state that "The truths known by intuition are the original premises from which all others are inferred." A similar explicit statement is also given by A. Comte, not to mention his abundant use of the intuitive method throughout his work........

 In different forms and with divergent meanings, these and many other currents of the scientific, philosophical, and religious thought of the present time, all seem to be in agreement with the thesis that intuition lies at the foundation of either discursive or experimental and observational truths and validities. In this respect we observe a rather sharp change in comparison with the predominant beliefs of scientists and philosophers of the nineteenth century. So, contrary to poorly informed pseudo empiricists, the intuitive method of cognition, as different from the purely sensory of rational, is acknowledged by an enormous number of thinkers, and by most of the currents of scientific and philosophical thought.

9. "Aesthetic associations are intuitive in type....Aesthetic judgment acts intuitively and rapidly." G. Birkhoff Aesthetic Measure (Harvard University Press, 1933), pp. 6, 216 et passim. "Art is perfectly defined when simply defined as intuition," B. Croce, The Essence of the Aesthetic (London, 1921), pp. 33 et passim;...This does not hinder the concrete forms of the beautiful from being conditioned by custom, mores, by considerations of our reason, feelings of pleasure and the like. But all this is in a sense a "superstructure" upon intuition.

 10. Again not the concrete ethical and moral rules but the very fact of the apprehension that there is just and unjust, fair and unfair based on intuition. Likewise, on intuition also is based the apprehension of the essentials of what is called natural law as "aeternum quiddam, quod universum mumdum regeret imperandi prohibendique sapientia," and "quod natura omnia animalia docuit," as well as the categoric imperative, or the ultimate principle of ethics, which cannot be reduced to anything more ultimate. Almost all of the representatives of the ethics of Absolute Principles given in the Appendix to Chapter Thirteen, in Volume Two of Dynamics, belong to the supporters of this conception, in spite of the different terms they use. More recently, writers like Kant, Butler, Hutchinson, T. H. Green, A. H. Whitehead, N. Lossky, E. von Hartmann, P. Janet, and many others, admit intuition as the basis of ethics. The very fact that the moral commandments of all the great moral systems and great religions are practically identical, and that all the main crimes are also identical among the most different peoples and cultures, is one of the evidences of the existence of such a moral intuition of "the right and wrong." Relativity of ethics and morals among different peoples and cultures has been greatly exaggerated. See the date on "absolute" crimes in Dynamics, Vol. II...

 11. The intuitionist school in mathematics is becoming one of the most important at the present time, especially after the somewhat discouraging results of the anti-intuitional mathematicians and symbolic logicians to prove anything and everything in mathematics without recourse to intuition. Originated by Boole, and continued by many others -- in recent times through the works of Peano, Frege, Hilbert, B. Russell, Whitehead, and others -- the "demonstrated mathematics" aroused great confidence and still greater expectations of giving an irrefutable character to all its conclusions, and of delivering a super-new instrument (Organon) for scientific and valid discoveries. Subsequently its modern representatives themselves have undermined this confidence and expectation a great deal, by their mutual criticism, for instance, between Russell and Wittgenstein, and in a sense, have considerably demolished, as Brunschvicg says, their own constructions. On the other hand, the high hopes of giving a new instrumentality for discoveries have not been justified to any great degree. H. Poincare said already in 1908: "Comment, voila dix ans que vous [symbolic logicians or logistic mathematicians] avez des ailes, et vous n'avez pas encore vole." H. Poincare, Science et methode (Paris, 1908), p. 193; see also his L'invention mathematique (Paris, 1908). With still more reason, E. Meyerson adds: "More than twenty years elapsed since this diagnosis of Poincare, and the situation remains the same." E. Meyerson, Du cheminement de la pensee (Paris, 1931), Vol. I, p. 23. Where the problem could be demonstrated, the demonstration became exceedingly cumbersome. C. I. Lewis shows that in Whitehead-Russell's Principia Mathematica it requires some four hundred pages to demonstrate the properties of the cardinal numbers with the aid of very compact symbolic formulas. C. I. Lewis, A Survey of Symbolic Logic (Berkeley, 1918), p. 369. Farther on, Frege, Peano, Dedekind, Hilbert, Hardy, Cantor, Weierstrass, Fraenkel, and others, mutually find that the contended demonstrations are not satisfactory. The net result is that where the demonstration is impossible, or very cumbersome, the mathematical intuition does not find any embarrassment in solving instantaneously these enormous difficulties which discursive mathematical thought finds exceedingly difficult to overcome. As G. Hardy says, we know that two and two make four, not because we rely upon the Principia Mathematica of Whitehead and Russell. See G. Hardy, "Mathematical Proof" in Mind, Vol. XXXVIII, New Series, No. 149, p. 17. Even Hilbert had to admit, at least implicitly, intuition as the last foundation of mathematical verities. D. Hilbert and W. Ackermann, Grundzuge der theoretischen Logik (Berlin, 1928), p. 48. H. Poincare, I. Hadamard, Kronecker, A. Fraenkel, P. Boutroux, F. Gonseth, H. Weyl, Brouwer, and many others, simply state that the notion of number is an inherent property of our mind, without which no thought is possible, or, as Kronecker said: "Numbers have been bade by Good God; all the rest is the work of man."...Likewise the leading mathematical physicists, like N. Bohr, W. Heisenberg, L. de Broglie, F. Klein, and others, explicitly stress the intuitional foundation of their theories. See, for instance, W. Heisenberg's "Uber den anschaulichen Inhalt der quantentheoretischen Kinematik und Mechanik," Zeitschrift fur Physik (1927), XLIII, pp. 172-198.

12. See H. Poincare, Science et methode (Paris, 1908), pp. 52-55; ...

13. L. T. More, Isaac Newton (New York, 1934), p. 288. See further testimonies on pp. 44 ff. Generally, the biographers of Newton characterize as "nothing short of miraculous" the three discoveries (mathematical method of fluxion, the law of the composition of light, and the law of gravitation) Newton made in two years; being a youth who did not distinguish himself in his college, immediately after graduation he retired into a lonely village and worked unaided. See ibid., pp. 41 ff. "As a mathematician he...seemed to grasp the solution of a problem immediately. Ibid., p. 56.

14. See F. Kretschmer, The Psychology of Men of Genius (London, 1931), p. 141. See there other examples. It is not surprising therefore that a large number of the greatest scientists, like Pascal, Kepler, Sir Isaac Newton, and, partly, Galileo, not to mention many other names, were not only "intuitionists" but mystics in the narrow sense of the term. We all know of the mystic experience of Pascal after his vision of the blazing cross, exclaiming: "Not the God of philosophers and scholars! Joie, joie, pleurs do jois! Renunciation totale et douce!" Absolutely certain! It is enough to reach Sir Isaac Newton's Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John (London, 1733), chaps. i, ii, and to read some of his letters (one was quoted in Chapter Thirteen of this volume) to see the mysticism of Newton, and to understand why he himself regarded his theologico-mystical works as more important than his purely scientific works. It is also well known that among contemporary scientists a number of this are self-avowed mystics and intuitionists.

 15. A. P. Usher, A History of Mechanical Inventions (New York, 1929), pp. 28 ff.

 16. See the statements of the inventors in J. Rossman, The Psychology of the Inventor (Washington, 1931), pp. 101-116. This is practically unanimously testified to by all the serious investigators of the problem. See J. M. Montmasson, Invention and the Unconscious (London, 1932); W. Ostwald, Grosse Manner (Liepzig, 1909); H. S. Hatfield, The Inventor and His World (London-New York, 1931); F. W. Taussig, Inventors and Money-Makers (New York, 1915); S. C. Gilfillan, The Sociology of Invention (Chicago, 1935). See there other literature on this subject. One of the evidences of the intuitive character of inventions is that most of the important inventions seem to have been made by outsiders to the given field of the invention. See about that in S. C. Gilfillan's work, qyoted, pp. 88 ff., and in W. Kaempffert, Invention and Society (Chicago, 1930); "Systematic Invention," Forum, 1923, pp. 2010-18, 2116-22; J. Rossmann, op. cit., pp. 31 ff., J. H. Leuba, "Intuition," Forum, May, 1928.

 17. For any inductive discovery the first condition is "a stroke of insight or creative genius demanded in order to detect the property to be generalized....In really original inductions, this step may be one of the highest degree of difficulty." J. Venn, op. cit., p. 352.

 18. J. de Maistre has given a devastating criticism of the pseudoscientific character of Bacon's Novum Organum and his mechanical theory of science, scientific discoveries and method. See J. de Maistre, Examen de la philosophie de Bacon (Paris, 1836), 2 vols. He clearly formulated what the subsequent investigators of inventions and discoveries corroborated.

 "It is impossible to have the method of inventions (contrary to Bacon's claim). The most important inventions are due to accident, and many of these were made in the centuries and among peoples little advanced and by almost illiterate individuals: one can cite the cases of the invention of the compass, gunpowder, printing, and spy-glass....Mathematical problem, once set forth in equation, can be carried on by almost mechanical work, and requires only patience, exercise and ordinary mental power; but the instinct which leads it to the equation cannot be taught; it is a talent and not a science....The veritable man of genius is he who acts by impulse....And genius is a grace.?" Father on, he gives a series of great discoveries and inventions made by "impulse" or through "grace" or intuition: Galileo, Newton, Black, Haller, and others. None of them made their discoveries by following Bacon's method, and all were started by intuition and the genius of their mind. De Maistre, op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 67 ff. E. Mach and others confirm the important role of accident in discoveries and inventions, as well as the role of the outsiders to the field of invention. See E. Mach, Popular Science Lectures (Chicago, 1898); J. Rossmann, op. cit., chap. vii. E. Meyerson, D. Draghicesco, H. Bergson and others confirm the statement that discoveries and inventions are not made along the Baconian schema but represent the work of "mind and spirit." Berthelot, Liebig, Humphrey Davy and other great scientists explicitly denied that scientific discoveries are or ever have been the result of the mechanical induction of Bacon. ... Claud Bernard stressed the importance of "hunches" in scientific discovery. C. Bernard, Lecon d'ouverture du cours de M. Claud Bernard (Paris, 1857), pp. 7, 36, 82. "It is impossible to establish an experiment without a preconceived idea" and "the idea serving as a point of departure to the primum movens of any scientific reasoning is the goal of the mind's aspiration to the unknown"; and such ideas often come accidentally, by the way of intuition. Still more explicitly is this stressed by Henri Saint-Claire-Deville, Constantin, and others. Actual study of the psychology of discovery and invention shows that the starting ideas often come suddenly, while one is in a day-dream, in a night dream, in an unconscious or semi-conscious state, and so on.

 19. See a series of facts in N. Lossky, Sensory, Intellectual, and Mystic Intuition, quoted, pp. 156 ff., I. Lapshin, Philosophy of Invention and Invention in Philosophy (in Russian) (Prague, 1924).

 20. F. Nietzsche, Werke (Taschenausgabe), Vol. VII, pp. xxiv ff. J. Jorgensen and other investigators of mysticism rightly point out a similarity of this experience with mystic experience. See J. Jorgensen, Saint Catherine of Siena (London-New York, 1938), pp. 15-16.

 21. O. Jahn, W. A. Mozart (Liepzig, 1856-59), Vol. III, pp. 423-25; E. von Hartmann, op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 279-80. We have similar testimonies from many great poets and writers like A. Pushkin (his "Mozart and Salieri"), Schiller (his "Happiness"), Goethe (see his Autobiography and description of the process of creation of his Egmont, Iphigenia, Werther, amounting to mystic momentary vision); Wordsworth, Browning, Shelley, Spenser, and many other poets and artists....

 22. "The state of poetical enthusiasm is the state of dream....Something is being prepared in the soul of the artist -- he himself does not know what....Each aesthetic invention germinates in an unconscious excitation, mysterious, approaching to a dream." In such a day-dream, Wagner conceived his prelude to the Rhinegold...."Artistic inspiration is not devoid of any of the aspects of religious inspiration because it has the same psychological character....It is something that passes in ourselves, without us and sometimes against us." H. Delacroix, Psychologie de l'art: essai sur l'activite artistique (Paris, 1927), pp. 189-198 ff.

23. See a brief description of mystic experience and the works on mysticism in the preceding volumes of Dynamics, especially Vol. I, pp. 112-134.

 24. Besides the works on mysticism and the truth of faith quoted above, and in the preceding volumes of Dynamics, see, about intuition in religious and ethics, Wild's Intuition....J. Maritain, The Degrees of Knowledge (New York, 1938)....

25. F. Nietzsche was right in calling the find arts "the joyful science." In social science, one often learns more and better sociology from a great novel than from most of the texts of sociology, or economics, or psychology, or political science. One religious experience often gives a better cognition of religion that most of the books on psychology, history, and sociology of religion, and so on.

 26. E. von Hartmann, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 39.

 27. A. H. Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas (New York, 1933), p. 138.

28. G. D. Birkhoff, "Intuition, Reason and Faith in Science,"...Birkhoff points out further that the role of intuition in great discoveries made by Newton, Faraday, E. H. Moore, by himself, M. Planck, and others. He rightly indicates that "there has always been an abundance of faith among the physicists," and that such principles as time, space, conservation of forces, and so on, are, in fact "acts of faith."

29. Sir Arthur Eddington, op. cit., pp. 221-23.

 30. I foresee the vigorous clamor which will be raised by different Liliputian "free-thinkers" and pseudo scientists that such an admission of intuition and truth of faith leads to a justification and validization of all the prejudices, superstitions, and ignorance; and that we cannot rely at all upon intuition and should eliminate it entirely from the sources of truth and knowledge; and so on. My answer to all such -- too familiar -- clamor is simple. First, since intuition as a source of truth and cognition really exists and plays a most important role, any elimination of such a datum -- even empirically observable datum -- is but an anti-scientific negation of what is given. Therefore, it is but blind politics, having nothing in common with science. Second, yes, not every intuition is valid; most of them probably are misleading and produce error rather than truth. But not every sensory observation or discursive reasoning -- deductive or inductive -- is valid, either. As a matter of fact, most of these have been misleading and giving error rather than valid knowledge. Otherwise, the history of human thought would not have been in a large degree "history of human stupidity," and of innumerable errors of observation and dialectic conclusions. Otherwise, the history of philosophy and science would not have been an ever-expanding graveyard with progressively increasing corpses of sensory and dialectic constructions believed to be true for a moment and found to be inadequate by further experience. In other words, intuition, sensory experience, discursive reasoning, each may be true and false, and nobody has shown as yet that the proportion of the false intuitional propositions is larger than the false sensory and dialectic propositions.

 Sponsoring intuition and the truth of faith generally is not equivalent to sponsoring any intuition and any intuitional belief. The same is exactly true of the sensory and dialectic conclusions.

 Finally, if one some should say that the truths of the senses and of reason are testifiable and verifiable, while the truths of intuition and faith are not; such an objector again is wrong. Some simple elementary truths of the senses and reasoning are indeed verifiable by almost anyone. So also are the simple intuitions and the conclusions given by them -- beginning with their "Cogito, ergo sum," or simply with "I exist" and ending with most of the axioms and postulates of most of the sciences; most of the basic principles like time, space, connection of evens, and so on, not to mention the intuitions in the field of moral, aesthetic and other values. On the other hand, the most complex truths of the senses and of reason, like the principles of relativity, of quantum theory, of many other propositions of the natural and social sciences, can be verified and testified to only by a handful of competent specialists! The rank and file of the people can -- and do -- take it by faith in the authority of this handful of competent experts. Similarly, some of the supreme forms of intuition, like the mystic intuition, can be verified directly by only those few who have the adequate charismatic grace of such an experience. The mass of the people can verify it only indirectly, through a comparison of the testimonies of the mystics, and through the sensory-rational study of the results of such an intuition. so, in this respect, the intuitional truth is in no way less testifiable than the sensory and dialectic truths or propositions. Further, as to the concordance and agreement of the testimony of intuitional mystics of various periods and countries, they seem to be more in agreement than the complex sensory and rational truths or propositions of the great scientists and scholars. Finally, as to the results and products of the intuitional experience, like great religions, the sublimest creations of art and all the other values created by intuition, they are as perennial and as important values and as necessary for sociocultural life as science, mechanical technology, or business created mainly through sensory-rational methods. So, from whatever standpoint the correct comparison between the truths of the senses and reason and that of faith is made, the latter has as much validity and value as the former. Hence the position taken in this work. It is more adequate and more rigorous than the position of the one-sided partisans of only one variety of truth, be it sensory, or rational, or intuitional. 

Image:Back to the Top of PageTop of  this Web Page
Image:Back to the Top of Page  Intuition Network Home Page

Web Design and Administration by Lars Spivock 
Last updated 15 October 1998

intuition is the most intuitive thing intuitive intuitives can intuit
to have intuition, one must be intuitive about intuition and intuition related things