Yet if we look more closely, we shall find Most have the seeds of judgment in their mind.
Alexander Pope; Essay on Criticism:
Intuition, plus defined, means subliminal intellectual thinking and thought. Building on balanced realism (as introduced in Chapter Four), plus root theory uses the term intuition to refer to intellectual aspects of human thinking in subliminal levels of awareness.
In intuitional thinking, we abstract concepts, form judgments, figure reasons, make deductions and carry on other intellectual activities without self conscious awareness or critical evaluation. Intuition is a name for intellectual thinking that is real but not clearly conscious.
Intuition is not instinct, conditioned reflex, or any other physiological activity. Intuition is intellectual. Instinct and other subliminal biological operations are physical. The difference is important in developing theories about human nature.
Although intuition operates subconsciously, intuition is an important aspect of our intellectual life.
Instinct and conditioned reflex are also consequential aspects of our mental process that also work subliminally underneath surface thinking.
Both rational and physiological mental activities occur in uncritical areas of awareness of our thinking but whereas intuition is intellectual, instinct, conditioned reflex and other biological activities are physical. Plus root theory emphasizes a distinction between intuition, as plus defined, and physical reflex, instinctual and conditioned..
In modern ways of speaking, the term intuition shoulders a variety of meanings. Often the plus definition compliments public usage. However in other cases, it does not. The plus definition differs from definitions of intuition by many philosophers, including Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, and Marx.
In reading philosophy we find many writers who equate intuition and instinct as if they were the same.
Contrariwise, the plus system posits and emphasizes a difference between the terms intuition and instinct. That is to say, the plus method chooses to use these terms in this way. For one thing, in discussing our knowledge processes we need a term to signify intellectual discernment that occurs in subliminal levels of thinking.
Plus root theory rejects the notion that rationality is always conscious. Instead, plus root theory maintains that we humans do a substantial amount of intellectual thinking, including reasoning, at subliminal levels of consciousness. Intuition is a good name for important aspects of subliminal intellectual thinking. It is an elegant use of the term intuition. This usage fits well with the way we actually utilize the word intuition. It is a waste of the term intuition to use it to mean instinct. We have the word instinct that means instinct.
Intuitional abilities, as plus defined, are intellectual gifts we enjoy in virtue of our human nature. Each human possesses intuitional talents which he or she develops in the process of maturing. Intuition, as defined, is an aspect of our nature. It is not a mysterious independent power outside our self that thinks for us and then inserts ideas in our mind, like sticking pins in a pin cushion.
It is a tenet of plus root theory that: we receive as part of our human nature our own rational capacities and we develop our own intuition. Using our intuitional intellectual talents, we begin the process of abstracting concepts from the physiological circuits inscribed within our brain tissue. Using intuition is the first step we take into the intellectual world.
Plus root theory, which builds on balanced realism [see Chapter 4], emphasizes that: human intellectual activity requires a healthy physiological brain and a well functioning nervous system as an operating mechanism to provide raw material before a person can begin normal intellectual abstraction. We physically perceive raw material as sensations, images, impulses, emotions, instincts, etc. Physiological actions and reactions occur according to physical laws of chemistry, physics and biology. Intellectual abstraction, however, is something we do intellectually.
As discussed in Chapter Four, it is our nature as humans to use both physiological and intellectual gifts in our thinking. We do both types of thinking simultaneously and synergistically. We think intellectually in varying levels of consciousness. In the plus system of definitions, intuition is intellectual thinking we do at subliminal levels of awareness.
It is a plus tenet that: we do much abstraction, judgment, and reasoning in subliminal areas of thinking, particularly concerning elemental matters. This means that each of us partakes in intellectual thinking we are not critically conscious of doing. In our deepest subliminal thinking we bring elemental assumptions into play without conscious awareness. We use elemental assumptions in monitoring our more conscious understanding, judgment, reasoning, and evaluation. We all do it, but it is difficult to discuss because it is subliminal.
When we think intuitionally we are not critically conscious of our thoughts and yet the process is not a total secret. We can, to some degree, access intuitional thinking through introspection and insight. Using our own insight and personal experience, we know we exercise intuition.
Intuition is a real human talent. We reason in subliminal thinking along with reasoning we do with conscious awareness. We develop much knowledge of elemental verities in our intuition. We also make mistakes in subliminal levels of awareness that can mask as if they were verities.
All normally functioning mature people intuit and develop knowledge of root verities in subliminal levels of awareness. These verities are intuited as true and employed as monitors in conscious rational thinking. When these intuited verities operate as a functional set, they are referred to herein as the basic criterion of commonsense or commonsense criterion.
At the same time, most of us (probably all of us) make some root errors in our subliminal thinking. We are not consciously aware of root errors in this level of thinking, but nonetheless they are there and they do damage.
Root verities are elemental guide lines of sound rational thinking. Once they become established in our subconscious, we access and use them intuitively. Root verities "fit" and "flow" with cybernetic circuits as water flows through a well designed irrigation system–metaphorically speaking. Root verities have a natural quality. Once we think them through, they strike us as virtually self evident. They fit so well with physiological thinking that it is natural to think of them as natural.
In contrast to verities, root errors are not naturally intuitive. They are acquired by a different route than we use to develop understanding of root verities. However, we can easily acquire root errors in our subliminal thought systems if we live in an environment where elemental mistakes are in style — which most of us do. Although root errors go against the grain of elemental insight, they often give intellectual sanction to instinctual urges. When this happens, intuition and instinct are at variance. We are not born this way. Each of us creates our own contradictions between instinct and intuition.
Please note: plus root theory does not maintain that instinct is bad. It advocates quite the opposite and holds that instincts are both necessary and good in their origins. However when we elevate our instincts to a dominating position and intellectually choose instinct as driving force of our life, we get into trouble because. When we choose instinct as primary, we tend to use our intellectual gifts in service of our instincts rather than use our instincts as aids to developing intellectual knowledge. When we subordinate our intellect to instinctual prompting, instinct can get out of control. Animals without intellectual talents do not have this problem.
Saying that intuition is intellectual, means that intuition is a mental talent distinct from physiological action and reaction. Recognizing this distinction does not deny the value of physiological instincts, reflexes, images, etc. Even though we can abuse our physiological talents, they are nonetheless wondrous gifts we should develop and cherish. The abuse comes from our intellectual misuse, not from the physiological talent itself. Ideally we aim to integrate our highest intellectual aspirations with our physiological energy and, in so doing, we become our best self.
We function at our best when we use intuitional talents in congruence with physiological skills. Both are important. Physiological skills are corporeal. Intuition is intellectual. Intuition, being intellectual, works in the realm of ideas, judgments, deductions, and free choice. Intellectual intuition and physiological cybernetic activity are not the same although they operate together as a team.
Root errors (elemental mistakes) are intellectual, not physiological.
Intuition is subliminal intellectual thinking that we do. Sometimes we experience intuition as a mental compunction. For example, we can intuit, as an inner nudge, that a conscious judgment is false or a choice is dangerous or a proposed action will harm someone we love. We intuit hints and inner suggestions. We experience intuition as an intellectual drive.
Intuition, as defined, is intellectual mental activity that is subliminal. That is to say, intuition is intellectual evaluation we individuals do below the level of workaday reasoning and studied analysis. Subliminal is a subconscious state of thinking but it is not absolutely buried out of reach. We can cultivate our ability to tune in to our intuitions.
According to plus root theory, more goes on in our minds, both physiologically and intellectually, than we consciously recognize. One of Freud's contributions to the world of knowledge was his work with the unconscious. Psychologists, following in his footsteps, have demonstrated that subconscious thinking and behavioral programming occurs in our mental life more than most scholars had previously acknowledged. However, learning to recognize the extent of subliminal thinking, does not mean that intuition is nothing but a physiologically determined instinct.
Instinct and intuition are both subliminal, but there are important difference between them.
Discoveries about the physiological operations of our brain, including more penetrating understanding of the logical circuits of our nervous system, do not invalidated the reality and power of our intellectual thinking and our free will. To appreciate this, the theory of balanced realism, a sub set of plus root theory, emphasizes the distinction between the physiological operations of our brain and intuitional thinking.
When we think intuitionally, we use intellectual bits of comprehension that we have abstracted from physiological proceedings. Balanced realism points out that both physiological and intellectual talents are good and operate hand in glove.
Our mind (plus definition) is the arena where we do our thinking. It is the place where physiological and intellectual thinking connect. Thinking is both a process that happens to us and mental activity we do.
Balanced realism emphasizes both passive and active components in developing our knowledge. That is to say, some thinking seems to happen to us while some thinking we do with deliberation. Some thinking is instinctual, some is programmed, some is generated by emotions, and some is intellectual.
Using our own introspection, we can learn to recognize distinctions between intellectual comprehension and physiological response in critical thinking. However, pinpointing the same distinction in subliminal thinking is a different matter. For one thing, when we concentrate on subliminal thinking and bring it into consciousness, it is no longer subliminal. Studying subliminal thinking is always a murky process.
When we study logic and other elemental subjects, we must deal with subliminal thinking because much elemental thinking proceeds by way of assumptions that are subliminal. A major purpose of elemental theory is to discover, study, and evaluate elemental assumptions we presuppose underneath our surface analysis and discourse.
Some subliminal mental activity is predetermined by our physiological make up. That which is predetermined by our physiological make up is inexorable. It is the way it is. We all have a deterministic aspect to our nature that we ignore at our own peril. This does not mean, however, that determinism rules as a totalitarian absolute. We also have an intellectual aspect to our nature that is equally as real as our physiological talents. In intellectual matters we have some freedom and the freedom we have is very precious.
Brains and Computers
It is safe to presume that our brains operate in ways analogous to computers. Our brain is a physiological organ and our brain's operations are physiological processes. The 100 billion neurons and the trillion support cells in gray matter function physiologically. Some say mental images and memory may have holographic qualities. A holographic image is more complex to understand than a pictorial image, but it is still a physiological image and it is a particular event.
Our present state of knowledge (2001) about how brains work is developing at a fast pace. What anyone says today about the physics and chemistry of brain activity could well be out of date tomorrow. The 20th century brought one starting breakthrough after another. We can expect discoveries to continue. Scientists will learn more and more about brains and our nervous systems. Better terminology will be devised to discuss issues. Correlation between animal and human behavior will be better understood. For more information on the physiological function of our brains, plus root theory turns to well researched, rationally sound, texts on the matter.
In plus definitions, instinct is defined as mental physiological activity that is hereditary. Instinct comes programmed into our make up as a given. Metaphorically, instinct is the hardware that comes with the package. Defined this way, instinct is both physiological and hereditary.
Animals have instincts. For a while I raised cockatiels. It amazed me to witness the process of mating, hatching eggs and raising their young. A pair knew exactly what to do at each stage of development. It was uncanny to watch them take turns sitting on the eggs, protecting their nest, feeding their babies, and keeping the chicks warm. They followed the manual as if they had written it and did what they did with an air of supreme confidence. The first pair we set up to raise chicks were not imitating other birds because we didn't have other birds. They learned some I suppose from their own chickhood, but most of their proficiency came from application of inherited instinct.
It is safe to assume, that humans, too, have instincts. Our instincts are subliminal promptings that arise involuntarily in response to a stimulus and are hereditary. A blink is an example. We blink instinctively at regular intervals and when something threatens our eye. We can voluntarily try to avoid blinking but when our attention goes elsewhere the blinks will come back. This is a trivial example, but it is something easy to notice. A wink, on the other hand is on purpose. The distinction between wink and blink shows the difference between a reflex and a free will action done on purpose.
In addition to instinct, which is hereditary, humans have many other physiological gifts. We can see, hear, smell, taste, feel, imitate, emote, imagine, and so on. All of these gifts are important. When they become damaged, we are handicapped.
A conditioned reflex is a learned physiological response. Pavlov's study on dogs provides the famous example. By ringing a bell every time he fed a dog, Pavlov noticed that the dog soon learned to drool when it heard the bell whether fed or not. Researchers now account for much learning, in humans as well as animals, as complex conditioned reflexes.
Plus root theory views the discovery of the conditioned reflex as an important breakthrough in understanding various steps in human learning processes. Conditioned reflex helps explains why drill is important in developing physical skills. We practice the piano to train our reflexes to respond instantly to the least command. Learning to drive a car demands we train our reflexes as well as understand the rules and regulations.
The triggering aspect of words also operates as a conditioned reflex. A word can trigger an image and/or emotion as well as symbolize an idea. By joining conditioned reflex with mathematical logic, we can develop understanding of numerous aspects of learning that used to be a mystery.
In humans, we often refer to learned conditioned reflexes as habits. From personal experience and intellectual figuring, most of us conclude that we have some control over which habits we choose to establish. However, once a habit is set, it operates with a force that can be as strong as instinct, even stronger. For example, it is easy to avoid acquiring the habit of smoking, but once the habit is established, most people have extreme difficulty quitting. Some habits, such as heroine addiction, become so powerful that a person trying to break the habit can die in the process, if mishandled. Other habits, such as rising at a certain time in the morning, are easy to change.
Although conditioned reflex is an important aspect of learning, it is not the whole. Humans have intellectual gifts in addition to physiological talents. Using our intellectual gifts, we can consciously choose which habits to cultivate and which to discourage.
Triggering Effect of Words
A word is a physical thing. When spoken, it is something we hear with our ears. When written, it is something we see with our eyes. In Braille, it is something we feel with our fingers. In our mind, a word is a physical ‘image' we imagine using our physical brain.
Words (which are physical) can be used as symbols of concepts. Generally speaking, it is when a word is used as a symbol that we call it a word.
Words, being physical, can trigger images and physical responses as well as symbolize concepts. Usually, when we use words, we use them in this double way both as symbols and as triggers.
A word can symbolize one concept or more. At the same time the same word can trigger one image or more and/or one feeling or more. We soon become very adept in using this complex process.
Learning to recognize the distinction between the triggering effect of words and the symbolic function of words is a major goal of semantics. A good education system will emphasize and keep clear the distinction between the triggering effect of words and symbolic functions. If students learn this distinction, it helps develop an understanding of our human nature.
One reason the distinction between the triggering effect of words and the symbolic function of words is of considerable consequence is because it is here we first see the difference between physiological thinking and intellectual comprehension. As we develop comprehension and acquire knowledge, we begin to have free choice and enter the world of responsibility.
Modern psychologists are right when they teach that words have a physiological deterministic aspect in the way they function. This aspect of our nature is important. To understand ourselves, we need knowledge about this facet of our nature. It helps to know how physiological responses affect communication.
But that is not all we do. It is a mistake to treat one aspect as if it were the whole. Words have an intellectual symbolic function as well as a physiological triggering effect. We make a grave error if we intellectually ignore the importance of out intellect and the complex function of words.
The physiological-intellectual dual operation of words is not the same as double speak in Aesopian language. Good logic teachers explain these distinctions and present examples until their students understand.
Recognizing the power of deterministic factors in subconscious thinking is not new. We are, to a significant extent, the product of our environment. This idea has been prominent in most philosophy in most eras of history. Freud did not invent a new idea. He gave new angles to an old idea that has been around for many centuries. Freud also made some serious mistakes that many older philosophers managed to avoid.
In human thinking we combine physiological perception, images, sensations, and emotions with intellectual comprehension, judgment, reason, and choice. Human thinking is a developing interaction of these talents and more. Attempts to deny either the physiological or intellectual aspect of human thinking leads to baffled ideology and incongruous metaphysics.
We intellectually abstract our concepts from physiological brain activity. We symbolize our concepts with physical symbols (usually words). We connect abstract understanding with physiological function by using a combination of comprehension, symbols, and brain circuits. A word is a physical thing. It has to be in a physical place.
Animals obviously have an ability to utilize physiological circuits in their brains. They learn, they remember, they overcome difficulties, they have an ability, in ascending scale according to biological complexity, to think physiologically. They communicate. More complex animals go through phases of consciousness and unconsciousness (awake and asleep) just as we human do. Many animals learn to employ the triggering effect of words with uncanny results.
Humans have the abilities of complex animals plus more. In addition to physiological thinking, we humans abstract concepts that display intellectual qualities over and above perceptual similarities. This intellectual process is so significant in human conduct, that to pretend it does not exists is a mistake of huge proportions. We engage in intellectual thinking in all levels of awareness and states of consciousness. Our intellect is not physical and has no need to sleep. However, our brain does need rest.
A notable portion of our intellectual thinking occurs in subliminal states of awareness. This is particularly true in logic and other elemental matters. As we mature, we fit out our intuition with a store of logical, epistemological and other elemental assumptions we use as a matter of course to gauge what we accept and do not accept as valid in our own thinking. It becomes our rational conscience.
In our personal knowledge we are immersed in an abundance of evidence that intuition exists. With so much evidence, it is illogical to pretend intuition is an illusion.
Intuition and rationality are not opposing functions that employ different logics as some say. To the contrary, logical intuition and conscious sound rational thinking follow the same essential elemental requirements. The difference between intuition and critical thinking is in the level of awareness not in type of logical forms. People who say intuition stands in opposition to logic misunderstand the situation.
Subliminal elemental assumptions are judgments about elemental thinking that we make without critical, conscious design. We store these judgments deep in our mind and assume them to be true. Insofar as we use our reason in forming intuitional judgments, they are rational. Insofar as they actually are true, they are sound rational judgments.
Sound rational elemental judgments are reliable guidelines for sound rational thinking. It is important to keep in mind that sound rational thinking and unsound rational thinking are not the same.
A significant proportion of subconscious mental activity is epistemological and logical in character. For example, if we program into our mind information such as: "When the burner on the electric stove is red, a touch with a persons hand will cause severe damage at the point of contact." This bit of information will operate as a major premise of the syllogism. It will also operate as a trigger in a conditioned reflex. From only one example, we can see how we generalize to a rule of behavior with intellectual and physiological content: Never touch burners on electric stoves when the burners glow red.
We think the thought in conjunction with a learned physiological response. They both go together. Animals can do the physiological part, but we humans can also intellectually communicate the idea to others and add another dimension to learning.
Unspoken generalization is common. Humans collect many unarticulated rules of behavior in this manner. We do it so fast, so frequently, and so routinely that, under normal circumstances, we don't consciously realize we do it. We process information and generalize to rules which we save in mental files in our mind where they can be accessed later by various commands. Much of our subconscious behaves as if it were a computer waiting to be programmed. In the process, we integrate physiological with intellectual so easily that sometimes we overlook the distinction between the two.
Subliminal implications are not always well connected. A set of implications we develop within our mind from one source may not hook up with another set developing from a different group of experiences. Because of unconnected sets, we can establish contradictions in our thought systems. These are not contradictions in the intrinsic nature of 'truth' but, rather, contradictions in our personal understanding or our own version of what is true.
The wording here sounds much more complicated than the idea intended. For a rough example, let's say a city-bred woman named Robin with a grandmother who had warned Robin, when she was a little girl, never to go into the forest because fearsome monsters lurk in the woods waiting to eat little girls. Later as Robin was growing up, she read some stories about the forest playground where happiness abounds. As she matured, she forgot in her conscious mind, both of these stories. In college, she is invited on a camping trip. Something in her triggers an eagerness to go (memories of the happy stories of the forest playground) and she says "sure". However, as she enters the woods and the loneliness of the forest engulfs her, she panics and wants out and doesn't know why.
This frivolous example shows how different attitudes toward the forest can be settled in one mind and the person be unaware of the contradiction. At our subliminal level of thinking, we make connections by way of implication from one thought to another. Robin connected the stories of the grandmother to actually entering a forest many years later.
While maturing we learn many separate lessons. We program the lesson into our brain where it is ready to operate physiologically as the activator of a conditioned reflex and intellectually as a major premise of a syllogism. Both happen simultaneously. Sometimes there is a contradiction between the conditioned reflex activated and assumed major premises we hold as true. This can be confusing and produce anxiety. The development of our thoughts by way of subliminal implication can lead to contradictions in our mind that we don't know are there.
There are many kinds of intuition. For our current discussion, two types are particularly significant. In plus definition set they are called rational intuition and logical intuition. Both are important in understanding how we develop knowledge.
Rational intuition, as here defined, is an inner intellectual talent to reason and to ask "why". Rational intuition is an aspect of our human nature. It is a subliminal urge to reason that comes with being human. It begins as a potential, but is easily activated. Wanting to know "why" is massive force in our lives. Rational intuition is the term in plus definition system that refers to this particular human propensity.
Rational intuition is a compunction to reason and includes those steps we must take to be able to reason. The term rational intuition refers to our intuitional need to abstract, to symbolize, to form judgments, to seek reasons, to make deductions. It is hard to find humans over the age of three who have not developed some basic rational intuition and consequently have some rational curiosity.
Logical intuition, as defined, is the next stage up from rational intuition. Logical intuition presupposes rational intuition.
With logical intuition, we not only seek a reason, we want a good reason. We not only abstract concepts and symbolize them with words, we also desire to avoid equivocation. We not only make judgments, but also recognize the difference between true and false and prefer true over false. In logical intuition, we have a hunger for knowledge and are repulsed by lies and illusions. What is more, in logical intuition we tune into the difference between valid and invalid deduction and we feel an inner desire for our reasoning to be valid. Bringing unbiased logical intuitions together, we become aware of consequences, we feel uncomfortable with contradictions, and we set priorities in our own system of values. Mature subliminal thinking is developed logical intuition.
All logical thinking is rational but not all rational thinking is logical.
It comes with our nature to possess a potential for both rational and logical intuitional. Both begin as potentials that must be stimulated in some manner to become active. Activation requires help from without and cooperation from within. Rational intuition (plus definition) obviously is prerequisite to logical intuition (plus definition).
In rational intuition we make judgments and seek reasons. In logical intuition, we seek true facts, sound principles and legitimate reasons that produce valid conclusions.
Logical intuition is more infrequent than rational intuition. For example, in our own society, almost everyone wants reasons. Ordinarily people display well activated rational intuition. Yet, rational intuition is not necessarily sound. In many cases we are satisfied with insufficient reasons. In this lax mood, we readily accept a poor excuse that functions as a reason. Although thinking of this quality is rationally active in that we desire reasons, it is not logically mature because in this type of reasoning we overlook the difference between sound and unsound.
To become logically skilled, for most of us, requires formal education and work on the part of the student. Well formed logical maturity is difficult to achieve.
Just because a thought or compunction is subliminal does not mean it is necessarily true. Not all elemental assumptions are true and not all subliminal reasoning is sound. Our intuition is not infallible and is not an absolute. We can make mistakes in subliminal thinking.
At this point, the subject of elemental theory shifts into another level of complexity. Because of root errors we inadvertently acquire as we learn, we can harbor contradictions in our subliminal thought systems. When this happens, what we think of as intuition can be misleading. Mistakes settled into our mind and out of sight cause trouble. If they are serious mistakes, they can cause serious trouble. If we think an elemental mistake is true, we will treat it as if it were a verity. The resulting confusion is disconcerting.
Even though logical intuition (plus definition) is more advanced than rational intuition (plus definition), we all have, at least potentially, an internal logical intuition that rings out a note of satisfaction when reasoning is sound. This same internal logical intuition sends out tiny jolts of apprehension when our reasoning is unsound. These warning signals are easily suppressed but they continue in the subconscious of every rationally functioning person to some extent. Logical intuition works metaphorically as a boat in a stream. Going downstream is easy when going with the natural flow, whereas rowing upstream takes noticeable effort. This is not a very good analogy but it seems probable that intellectual thinking that fits with cybernetic circuitry in our brain processes will feel right whereas that which goes upstream will give us pause and suggest something is wrong.
Our intuition is not absolute. The logical aspect of intuition can easily be suppressed and we can make mistakes in intuitional levels of consciousness. However, this does not mean that logical intuition is ever erased. Quite to the contrary. We must have some logical intuition to develop knowledge, to use knowledge and to keep going.
The more we can avoid injecting root errors into our thought systems and the more we encourage root verities in thinking at all levels of consciousness, the more reliable our intuition will be. A good, sound education prepares the soil for the development of well formed logical intuition.
As said, logical intuition is a natural propensity to use sound rational thinking. This natural propensity goes with our nature. It is an inclination, not an irresistible force. We can easily ignore logical intuition and fail to develop the promptings we feel from that source. Or we can develop these promptings until they become stronger and stronger. It’s up to us.
Root errors accepted as if they were true and adopted into our thought systems do not erase logical intuitions. Instead, adopted elemental mistakes, set up contradictions in our mind. These deep contradictions are root binds. Root binds cause hidden or floating anxiety. We know something is wrong, but can't put our finger on it. Elemental contradictions in our thought systems are not a good thing. We benefit as we get rid of them. Much rationalization people do is an attempt to fix worry caused by root binds.
By using well conducted critical thinking, by cultivating commonsense, and developing our unbiased logical intuition, we can repair many root errors, even those bedded deep in assumptions we have held for years. Removing a root error will strengthen logical intuition we already have. Sound rational thinking should be cultivated, not feared.
As said, habits are learned conditioned reflexes. Our control over our own habits is not absolute, as we all know from personal experience. However, we do have some control. That small amount of control which we do have is one of the area where we some choice over what kind of person we will come to be.
We cannot intellectually turn our habits off and on but we can intellectually design programs whereby we modify undesirable habits and strengthen desirable habits. We have an even stronger degree of control in deciding which habits to encourage in babies and young people. Learning to appreciate this facet of our nature is an important aspect of education.
We often call desirable habits, virtues and undesirable habits vices. But, there is a difficulty. Not all people agree on which habits are good and which habits are bad.
To get around this problem, plus root theory defines virtue as a habit, acquired through exercise, that facilitates progress toward a desired goal. According to this definition, what we consider to be a virtue will depend on what goals we set. For example, if parents believe the highest goal for their son is to be a great warrior, they will educate him differently than if they believe the highest goal for their son is to be a scientist seeking truth. The habits required to be a warrior are in many ways different from the habits required to be a scientist. What one set of parents considers to be a virtue, another set may see as a vice.
According to above definitions, that which is viewed as a virtue or vice will depend on two things: (1) what is chosen as a desired goal and (2) accuracy in discovering habits that actually achieve the goal in mind. If we make a poor evaluation in choosing goals or if we misunderstand how to achieve the goals we choose, we are apt to make mistakes in the habits we choose to cultivate.
It is the business of philosophers, especially religious leaders, to help us clarify the goals we seek and to help direct us to the virtues that will actually lead to the goals we adopt. When prominent academic thinkers do the opposite, society has a serious problem.
Stated this way, that which we designate as a virtue will be a function of what goals we aim to achieve. A country, such as the USA, that guarantees freedom of religion, in effect insures the right of citizens to set their own ultimate goals and decide for themselves what is or is not a virtue. At the same time, to enjoy a stable society and to support public education that yields citizens who can work and live together constructively, we need an educational system that inculcates in the children that go through the system virtues that encourage the development of sound rational thinking, a taste for decency, and a desire to advance our abilities to progress in peace. This need is at the heart of our present debate on educational quality.
In a free republic, when a large majority of people endorse a goal and a means to that goal, then the habits needed to promote the means and achieve the goals can be promoted in public schools without violating our freedom as long as we allow alternate education for those with views differing from the institutional agenda. Following this reasoning it is okay for public schools to teach the requirements of sound rational thinking as virtues to be cultivated.
Speaking of alternate education, a free republic has the right and the duty to hold some standards. For examples, in all schools it should remain illegal to teach and encourage criminal behavior. Because of this limitation, the people of a free republic should be on guard as to what is and is not designated as criminal behavior.
Plus root theory advocates that: advancing our abilities to progress in peace is a goal that a large majority of citizens of the USA can endorse. Plus philosophy aims to convince readers that promoting the basic requirements of sound rational thinking is a sufficient and perhaps only workable means of achieving that goal. It is not that hard. We are already doing it to a praiseworthy extent. We only need to improve our commitment to sound rational thinking a little bit to make a break through in our abilities to progress in peace. This is a project that religious people who seek peace can endorse with enthusiasm. History demonstrates that many religions have done and still do precisely this to a praiseworthy extent.
The long range goal of plus root theory is to advance our abilities to progress in peace. Those habits that actually help us achieve this goal are virtues. Those habits that hamper and degrade our abilities to progress in peace, from a plus point of view, are vices.
For the most part, the plus approach is normal, standard and commonplace. This chapter and the previous chapter are an exception. Although the theory of balanced realism expresses intuitions implied in sound rational thinking, it is difficult to find philosophers who emphasize the distinction between physiological and intellectual talents and who explain the role of subliminal intellectual thinking in the development of human knowledge.
In touching on this subject, most modern writers are slipshod in their presentations and fail to cultivate an understanding of the intellectual aspect of subliminal thinking. One reason this has happened is because psychologists of the past two centuries have been so busy with physiological discoveries that they failed to take time to examine the complex role of intellectual thinking in human mental life. They often take root verities for granted and fail to notice problems created by root errors.
As a result, our present understanding of how intellectual thinking relates to physiological thinking is in a rough, almost primitive, state. High quality research in this area is difficult to locate.
In a separate study, I have made some inroads into this area. However, going deeper into this subject, requires knowledge of valid logic and how to use sound rational thinking in conducting research. The following chapters hopefully can help in outlining a much needed method for conducting psychological research from an intellectual point of view.
In elemental studies, intuition, as stipulated in the plus definition set, is a very important idea. Much epistemological, logical and other elemental thinking occurs underneath conscious awareness. That which is implied is often more important than that which is said. [See Silent Essay]
To understand our own intuitional talents and subliminal habits, we need to understand to some extent the distinction between intuition, defined as an intellectual talent, and physiological processes. Intuition concerns ideas, judgments, reasoning, and so forth. Physiological processes concern instinct, conditioned reflex, sensations, images, triggering effect, etc.
We also need to appreciate to some measure how intuition works hand in glove with physiological processes. Plus root theory maintains that, if it is an epistemological, logical, or other elemental concern, then it is intellectual and not physiological. Sound or unsound, all elemental assumptions involve our reasoning processes in some manner.
The development of habits is one example of the interaction of physiological process and intellectual abstraction. By noting how habits relate to virtues, vices, goals, and education, we get a hint why developing authentic epistemology is important.
This chapter does little more than introduce terminology and suggest a few ideas. However, these building blocks are crucial. This will do for now.