“It is by logic that we prove, but by intuition that we discover” (Henri Poincaré).
INTUITION CAN BE A MARVELOUS THING. As long as we understand its limitations, it can be the doorway to a realm of rich experience.
We all know what it is like to sense that something is true even though it is not outwardly evident or logically explainable at the moment the insight first occurs to us. For example, consider this illustrative sentence from the American Heritage Dictionary: “Mathematicians sometimes intuit the truth of a theorem long before they are able to prove it.” That’s precisely what an intuition is. It’s the strong impression that something is true when we can’t (yet) explain the basis for it.
The fact is, our minds often pick up on truths in advance of our reasoning processes. And that’s a good thing because our logic is a train that is often slow to leave the station. If your brain works anything like mine, you’ll agree with Vauvenargues’ old adage that the human mind often “comprehends more than it can coordinate.”
But here is the critical caution that needs to be kept in mind: while our intuitions often turn out to be true, it is foolish to act on them without validating them — and the more important the question, the more essential this advice is. Our intuitions may be exciting, but they may also be wrong. In all the more consequential areas of life, to take intuition as our only guide is to court disaster. By intuition, for example, you may leap to the conclusion that a certain doctor is a competent heart surgeon. But before you allow him to cut into your chest, you would do well to see if your intuition is borne out by a rational investigation of the facts. A good hunch is probably not enough.
There is another way to look at intuition, however, and that is what I want to conclude with. While intuition sometimes comes first, as we have suggested, there is a deeper sense in which it comes last. Intuition and reason are not opposed. Properly understood, they are allies in our quest for truth. And in regard to the more important truths, intuition is the sensitivity that a person acquires after training his or her mind first to think carefully, to believe, and to trust.
One in whom persuasion and belief
Had ripened into faith, and faith become
A passionate intuition.