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Intuition. Knowledge is also acquired through intuition. By intution we mean sudden insight, that clarifying idea which springs into consciousness all at once as a whole. It is not arrived at without reason. On the contrary, the idea often seems ot occur after conscious reasoning has failed. In The Art Of Scientific Investigation, W. I. B. Beveridge gives numerous occurrences taken from prominent individuals. Here is an interesting quote:

Here is Metchnikoff’s own account of the origin of the idea of phagocytosis: “One day when the whole family had gone to the circus to see some extraordinary performing apes, I remained alone with my microscope, observing the life in the mobile cells of a transparent starfish larva, when a new thought suddenly flashed across my brain. It struck me that similar cells might serve in the defense of the organism against intruders. Feeling that there was in this something of surpassing interest, I felt so excited that I began striding up and down the room and even went to the seashore to collect my thoughts.”

Hadamand cites an experience of the mathematician Gauss, who wrote concerning a problem he had tried unsuccessfully to prove for years: “Finally two days ago I succeeded… like a sudden flash of lightning the riddle happened to be solved. I cannot myself say what was the conducting thread which connected what I previously knew with what made my success possible.”

It is interesting to note that the intuitive idea often occurs after conscious reasoning has failed and the individual has put the problem aside for a while. More Beveridge:

“Freeing my mind of all thoughts of the problem I walked briskly down the street, when suddenly at a definite spot which I could locate today–as if from the clear sky above me–an idea popped into my head as emphatically as if a voice had shouted it.”

“I decided to abandon the work and all thoughts relative to it, and then, on the following day, when occupied in work of an entirely different type, an idea came to my mind as suddenly as a flash of lightning and it was the solution… the utter simplicity made me wonder why I hadn’t thought of it before.”

Despite the fact that intuition has probably been used as a source of knowledge for as along as a man has existed, it is still very mysterious process about which we only have a rudimentary understanding.

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