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TOK Essay 2012 question 6


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TOK Essay 2012 question 6

  1. 1. MalhotraKanishk MalhotraTOK essay Reason in Conflict: When Rationality and Intuition MeetIntroduction In the wide arena of knowledge, truth remains an inherently subjective reality. On one level,what may be determined as known, or as established knowledge, has traditionally gone throughabrupt and sometimes extraordinary reversals, when new information compels a revision of thetruth. There are many examples of such changes, ranging from how biological knowledge hassubstituted reasons of earlier explanations of illness, and then about the understanding of changesin the makeup and nature of our planet. The subjectivity here arises, not from the knowledge asbeing asserted from limited and personal perspectives, but from the limitations of the processesof thinking and discovery. Essentially, knowledge may only go by what it has got on at anygiven time, and is therefore intrinsically suspect. Simply, the unequivocal truth enjoys thatstatus only until the new truth arrives. Then, there is the further and more complex issue of arriving at knowledge or truth.Information is a somewhat changeable thing. It is impossible to base the conclusions and ideasalways on factual and objective knowledge, since unfortunately everything we think is influencedby the intuitive processes. Therefore, conflict arises, and in virtually every arena in which humanthought seeks to establish truth. This conflict reaches its peak when we are faced with varietiesof knowledge that run contrary to our intuitive thinking. As will be examined, the ability todiscard these intuitively-based conclusions in favor of seemingly more rational or reasonableexplanations for a thing is an admittedly challenging kind of knowledge itself, and one neverachieved, ironically, without some measure of intuitive and logical thinking working in concert.The Components
  2. 2. Name 2 Human beings cling stubbornly to what they “just know”. In often doing so in they facechallenging, and more reasonable, information. We all develop our own, individual collectionsof practical knowledge. Our experience informs and we come to believe absolutely that even themost subjective paths to this knowledge are factually formed. We have seen this or done that,and we have witnessed patterns of consequences. For most of us, this becomes actual truth, orsubstantiated knowledge. Add to this formula the powerful attraction of the confidence a senseof knowledge imparts, and intuitive thinking becomes a strongly defended asset in our arsenal ofreasoning. Intuitive knowledge is, consequently, something of an oxymoron. More precisely, it is neverfree from questioning as to its validity because it largely rests on a foundation of feeling andperception. This aspect renders it highly attractive, and in the most visceral way; we assert athing to be true because, based on often indefinable impressions forged by equally remoteexperiences, it “feels right” (Stassen Berger 450). Then, the larger reality exists of how thevalidity of a truth itself functions in our lives. Subjective or misinformed, it is a truth because itis a truth that works for us, and that in itself is a reasonable definition of knowledge. It is when the other player in this arena, that of rational or logical thought, enters the scene,that problems arise. Interestingly, there is an intuitive attraction to rational thinking, even as itmay contrast with its own precepts; we value rational thought frequently because it may bringour own perceptions in accord with how the world at large thinks (Sternberg, Kaufman 814). Inbasic terms, if we can find logical and more universally accepted evidence for what we ourselvesintuitively hold to be true, out intuitive powers are highly elevated by the support of objectiveknowledge. This was the case with Edward Jenner who, in the 18th century, observed thatmilkmaids who had been ill with cowpox never contracted the far more deadly smallpox.Intuition, fueled by personal observation, led to analytic discovery (Plotkin 14).
  3. 3. Malhotra The dilemma within this happy scenario, unfortunately, is that we ourselves, again, may neverbe fully sure of how our intuitive thinking occurs. More exactly, logical thinking is not theprecise and removed methodology we would like to believe it is. If human beings are capable ofperforming rational thought in an objective manner, the ability is so influenced by individualpotentials as to render it subject to incalculable variables. It has certainly been documented thatpeople possessed of high cognitive abilities are better able to avoid bias in their thinking, but thereality is that the vast majority of people evince a “bounded rationality” (Eysenck 369). We canset aside personal inclinations, effects of personal experience, and the many biases affecting ourjudgment, but we cannot do this consistently at all. Moreover, no study can ever truly determineprecisely where individual perception, or intuition, ends and where clear, objective, rationalthinking begins. In a very real sense, logical thinking is an elusive and perpetually desired ideal.It is a goal only sometimes reached, and inherently suspect even then. Intuitive thinking is themeans very much at hand, available to all, and continually attempting to meet as closely aspossible a more clear rationality.The Conflict Given the inherently problematic issues within any approach to knowledge, the question thenbecomes: when and how should intuitive thinking give way to a contrasting logic? The answerlies in addressing how the enormous attraction of intuitive knowledge may actually help to makethe acquisition of the logical just as appealing. To arrive at a solution wherein these differentkinds of thinking may be reconciled, or wherein the more correct, logical explanation for a thingmay take precedence, it is not the thinking that must be considered, but the motives behind eachform. An intrinsic component of intuitive thinking is its ability to, in simple terms, save time. Itcreates for itself shortcuts in the thinking process, even as it seeks to arrive at a logical, or
  4. 4. Name 4sensible, conclusion (Hativa 168). Logical or analytic thinking, conversely, demands that eachstep be taken into consideration. This rigorous aspect to it typically renders logical thinkingextremely off-putting. This course may be highly successful, of course; famously, the Curieshad an intuitive sense that an element was unidentified, despite the “knowledge” of the dayaffirming that all elements were known. It was only Henri Becquerels recent discovery ofthorium in 1898 that gave Marie Curie the sense that another radioactive property was actingwithin pitchblend, and began the long, exhaustive months of analytical research that wouldisolate radium (Adloff 13). Here, intuition prompted logical thinking. Moreover, the intuitionrequired the logic be arrived at through long and intense work. For the rational explanation to be accepted, then, the entire process behind it must be viewedin a manner that both validates the intuitive and is willing to follow through. It may becommonly felt, despite evidence to the contrary, that logical and intuitive modes of thought aremutually exclusive. This is completely untrue. Each must rely upon the other; as the intuitivethinking gains substance by the analytical, so too does the latter have great need of the former.Intuitive thinking, by virtue of its failure to follow the proscribed forms of the analytic, famouslyuncovers avenues and possibilities the analytic cannot perceive (Bruner 58). Isaac Newton,perhaps the most brilliantly intuitive thinker in history, illustrates this: “For Newton, logic andproof were just a means of communicating and verifying what he knew already” (Parsons 52).He pursued logic because it would give a platform to his trusted, intuitive knowledge. Most importantly, the logical explanation accepted in place of the one arrived at intuitivelyfurthers the cause of intuitive thinking, even if the conclusions differ. The analytic explanation,basically, must be accepted when it provides more substantial reasoning, and addresses issues notattended to by the intuitive. However, it also adds weight to the intuitive processes yet to beundergone, for it supplies a further resource upon which intuition may draw. Intuitive thinking,
  5. 5. Malhotraas noted, is by no means a process wherein strictly personal impressions and views are given freerein to reach conclusions; on the contrary, it very much relies on substantive and empiricalinformation as collected by the thinker. The analytic explanation may be disagreeable to theintuitive holder of a contrasting view, but it may be taken in fully and willingly when thatindividual accepts the complex and evolving nature of the intuitive process itself. In otherwords, even when it contradicts, the logical explanation actually validates, for it must be mergedinto the greater whole of the intuitive thinking experience.Conclusion It is unfortunate that intuitive thinking suffers from so “biased” a reputation. It actually existsin a far more expansive capacity than analytic thinking, for the latter essentially only serves tofollow the intuitive lead. Moreover, no explanation is ever strictly the product of one kind ofthinking, so the intuitive one is never, in fact, fully discarded. It serves a purpose in the journeyto the accepted explanation, it very likely created the need for that explanation, and theexplanation itself will then become a further implement in intuitive processes to come.Abandoning an intuitive conclusion in favor of a logical one may be accomplished when thestronger force of the latter simply demands consideration, and this itself happens by means ofintuitive and logical thinking working in concert.
  6. 6. Name 6 Works CitedAdloff, J. P. One Hundred Years After the Discovery of Radioactivity. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2009. Print.Bruner, J. S. The Process of Education. New Haven: Harvard University Press, 1977. Print.Eysenck, M. W. Psychology: An International Perspective. New York: Psychology Press, 2004. Print.Hativa, N. Teaching for Effective Learning in Higher Education. New York: Springer, 2001. Print.Parsons, D. W. Keynes and the Quest for a Moral Science: A Study of Economics and Alchemy. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing, 1997. Print.Plotkin, S. A. History of Vaccine Development. New York: Springer, 2011. Print.Stassen Berger, K. The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence. New York: Worth Publishers, 2008. Print.Sternberg, R. J., & Kaufman, S. B. The Cambridge Handbook of Intelligence. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Print.