Intuition being itself an abstract concept, evaluating its role in the different areas of knowledge is a very challenging task. The very act of such evaluation implies the use of the faculty of reason, whfich as we shall see implied in the definition of intuition, is the anti-thesis of intuition. Intuition has been defined in philosophy as a way of knowing or cognition independent of experience or reason. It implies knowing something instinctively without actual evidence of it. Terms, such as perception, insight, sixth sense, awareness, clairvoyance, hunch, etc.
To be found in any thesaurus, attempt to indicate the various meanings of intuition. Among the ways of knowing, emotion and perception in relation to the knower appear to be relevant in respect of intuition. The concept of intuition appears to have originated from two sources; namely, the mathematical idea of an axiom, which is an area of knowledge in its own right, and the mystical idea of revelation. An axiom can be defined as a self-evident proposition that requires no proof, and revelation can be considered to be a truth that surpasses the power of the intellect.
The dilemma here is that this very intellect is attempting to evaluate the role of intuition in the areas of knowledge. In Greek philosophy, Pythagoras and his followers, who were trained in mathematics, attached considerable significance to intuition. Plato, who developed the philosophic concept of transcendence, also affirmed the existence of absolute goodness as something beyond description and as knowable ultimately through intuition. In this sense, intuition, and not reason, was regarded as the highest human faculty.
Philosophers like Baruch, Spinoza, Immanuel Kant and Henry Bergson extolled the idea of intuition. Ethical philosophers like Spinoza believed that a sense of moral values is intuitive and immediate, which is a stand point in direct contrast with that of the empiricists and the rationalists. The empiricists believe that moral values result from human experience, while the rationalists believe that moral values are determined by reason. Spinoza regarded intuition as the highest form of knowledge, transcending empirical knowledge derived from the senses and scientific knowledge derived from reasoning and experience.
Bergson’s view is that intuition is the purest form of knowledge in stark contrast with intelligence. Immanuel Kant, in his famous work, Critique of Pure Reason, asserted, “Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind….. The understanding can intuit nothing, the senses can think nothing. Only through their union can knowledge arise”. Friedrich Heinrich was a German philosopher who argued that intuition, perception and faith are superior to reason as a means of attaining truth.
When the issues as mentioned above are put into light, it really can be made evident that the source of knowledge behind every discovery or invention has to be an intuitive thought or feeling. From the model of an atom to gravity, whether one agrees or not, it has its source in intuitive revelations. An overt dependence on intuition as that expressed by some philosophers may not be in line with the concept of scientific investigation in the area of knowledge pertaining to the natural sciences as a truly rational activity. Nevertheless, it is an approach adopted by many research scientists.
A knowledge claim imagined to be based on emotion; intuition and vested interests may sometimes influence the course of science as much as logic and experimentation. Prior to the advent of radioactive dating techniques, there was a fierce debate amongst the geologists, biologists and the physicists regarding the age of the earth. Two earlier estimates regarding the age of the earth as just several million years were toppled when the descriptive sciences of biology and geology were compelled to defer to the more exact science of physics, when radioactive dating revealed the earth’s age to be a few billion years1.