Saturday, 3 January 2009

Decisions, Decisions

It's astounding, how much information a person can Dogbertamass in a reasonably short period of time. It reminds me of what my father once said about his days as a university lecturer: that it positively shocked him, how completely unknowledgeable people were turned around into experts in their field within a few years.

But then again sometimes knowledge needs to be contextualised to be valid. It is then absolutely vital to collect information, to deeply inhale its subjective meaning for oneself. True: one may have an initial gut feeling about something, an instinct that triggers some primeval response that henceforth impresses itself on one's perception of the situation, but when does this initial hint of the (para)normal weigh heavier than rational analysis?

What I do not mean here, quite obviously, is the biased interpretation of an instinct as something atavistic or animalistic. The "gut instinct" I speak about here is all about this strange "prompter" that might or might not be an anathema to rationality, but is implicitly constructive as a starting point for a logical response to a posed problem. However, the logic resulting from instinct might sometimes not be immediately obvious and is most likely not subject to the laws to rational, linear, cartesian thinking, but only discloses itself in hindsight. For logic is always a bound phenomenon. Much like there is "bounded rationality", there must be such a thing as "bound logic".

Unlike a fully rational, methodological approach to analysis, which ignores instinct and because of this limitation has to reflect a certain coherence from start to finish in its logical foundations, instinct does not obey the same need. This is because instinct does not share with logic the latter's application as a tool to ultimately arrive at a complete explanation, but only serves to narrow down the initial scope of what is to be understood and how. Instinct, therefore, provides a starting point - it sets the direction of view, while rational analysis narrows the horizon to the final point of interest.

It is because of the lack of inner coherence that instinct has the enormous advantage over logic of not having an inbuilt frontier in paradoxes. Paradoxes are fully permissible as objects worthy of study, if instinct is given its right to roam.
Then these paradox solutions can be taken into account, when viewed through the lens of instinct. However, the same paradox brings logical analysis to a complete dead stop, as it immediately begins to rip apart the inner sanctum of logical coherence.

So much for the advantage of saving instinct an important and rightful place in problem analysis. Now back to how one should deal with instinct.

When you encounter something new, isn't it true that you only really have a handful of options:

- keep digging to verify, whether your instincts are not betraying you and let your rationality form an objective picture of reality,
- trust your gut feeling and go for it,
- trust your gut feeling and run for it.

Up until now, I have found this process of predominantly counter-instinctive, rational "living through it" to be absolutely key in gaining experience. I have thought that it more important to let your rationality take the steering wheel and cross-examine your instincts. For it isn't logical to assume that I can rely on my instincts, if they are not tried and tested in reality. Or is it?

I have done this for so long that I sometimes doubt that I have an identity, with which I'd be at ease. For what does one do, if one decides to perpetually go counter own intuition, but to deny one's own individuality? Logic is common, all-encompassing and equally binding for everyone. My instincts are, what makes me "me" and ads my distinctiveness into the global consciousness.

I have an inner voice. I seem to have just chosen to disregard it for the benefit of finding experience. I might have lost myself in the process.

What if, therefore, the moment arrives, when a novel problem presents itself, where to initially go by instinct is the right decision and one's homegrown habit of verifying instinct against reality is a process entirely too long and too painful? What, if in addition it is also WRONG?

Is there a moment, where perception is a poor and costly replacement for pre-ception (ie the ability to instinctively pretell the true nature of something)? Consequently, shouldn't preception also be subject to the same laws - in short: shouldn't one test one's instinct every once in a while, too, simply by giving into it and waiting what happens? Especially, when one has already amassed enough experience to last two lifetimes?