A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Intuition is more often than not taken to be a reliable cue for many religious liberals, in determining the right course of conduct, but I thought I'd offer a different perspective on this.

I'm apt to think that intuition is the embedded habitual practices, beliefs, attitudes that were likely at one stage a product of reflective thought. Many of them serve us well. One can't be reasoning, deliberating all the time or we'd be paralyzed. We need actions and thought to just flow so that a piano player, ice skater, etc. just does what they do without thinking about keys or movements even if at one stage in the game they had to do this.

On the other hand, there's nothing pure and right inherently about intuition. It's as good as the habits we've acquired whether by accident or design over the years that have shaped us to be who we are. But certainly along the way, some of these have not been good. I think the reformed tradition, is helpful in bringing out the issue of of how many destructive propensities have become embedded in us.

In such a case, intuition can become a poor guide. So that reasoning is needed, bringing whatever it is, (attitudes, habits, etc) to light, to examine it, to see if it ought to be met with approval or disapproval and if the latter to seek to change it. Various religious traditions have resources in terms of helping us with this. Trusting intuition many times works, but it's only as wise as we are, and well...there are plenty of times when none of us are that wise.


At 7:45 AM , Anonymous J-Tron said...

How do you see the Reformed tradition acting to bring this to light?

At 8:10 AM , Blogger Jeff said...

Interesting. I think we do sometimes romanticize intuition. Although, at least in my discussion with atheist colleagues, it ends up being the only rock on which I end up standing.

Re: the Reformed tradition, I think it brings it to light intuition's shortfall by pointing out that we are so colored by our surroundings that what I call intuitive and Spirit-inspired might just be my seeing things through my own cultural lenses and might ultimately be better served seeking 'outside' sources of revelation such as scripture (never mind that scripture is as much colored by culture as anything else).

At 3:50 PM , Anonymous The Empirical Friend said...

George Fox and the early Friends were clear that the Light they spoke of was something IN the conscience but not conscience itself. It reproved, enlightened, and provided discerning power.

While the first Quakers called it merely the Light or Seed of Christ within, they did not (or perhaps were not able to)distinguish its components.

With advances in psychological understanding since the 17th-century, I think it now possible to conjecture that the Light in the conscience is a unified constellation of components(Dwight's "embedded habitual practices,beliefs, & attitudes among others)
purified by reason and transformed by the "Creative Event" (Wieman).

At 3:13 PM , Blogger greg said...

Well, there's intuition and intuition, isn't there? At the level that intuition is knee-jerk reaction, I think I agree with you. But at it's deeper levels, I believe that we interact most directly with God through intuition, not reason. I am thinking here of Descartes "divine intuition." I know plenty of behavioralists who will tell you that even that is just conditioned response, but I don't buy it.

Belief is required where reason breaks down or can't be used, and it is there that we rely on intuition. And of course, as some science fiction writer once said, "man is a rationalizing creature, not a rational one." I think that reason is even more prone to misuse than intuition. Slaveholders in the antebellum south worked mightly to rationalize slavery precisely because their intuition was telling them that it was wrong.

At 8:18 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really like the phrasing of your original post, and I agree with Greg's sense that it is in our our attempts to be open to intuitive (non-rational selves) that we often can hear God's intentions.

I appreciate the quote regarding our "rationalising nature". I believe that God is beyond our comprehension, but that if we stay open minded and strive to study the universe we can always learn more.


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