Faith and Intuition. What do they even mean? The literal meaning of faith is when we have faith in someone, that is when we put our complete trust or confidence in someone or something. This is most commonly seen in religion, where one views things based on spiritual conviction rather than hardcore evidence. But it does not have to be limited to religion itself and can be applied in different sectors, for example politics, where one has a biased view on the world and is inclined to support one particular side of the political spectrum without compromising or being accepting of the other. As for intuition, it is associated with instinct, where we understand something without taking into account the need for conscious reasoning. It is the gut feeling or as the second Nanny McPhee film pointed out in one of the scenes where the character knew that their father did not die in the war, “I feel it in my bones”.
But sadly, as we all know, the world that we live in today was not designed to be 100% perfect. If it was, we wouldn’t have all these problems of religious and ideological extremism , bigotry, fake news, lies etc etc. But that’s a whole other story that is not TOK thinking (as it’s my own personal belief). The basic problem from both faith and intuition as a WOK is almost everything, from unproven scientific claims to outrageous conspiracy theories about the JFK assassination which is basically what I said would not talk about, but now I will talk about. As mentioned, our beliefs aren’t always true, but we feel with great certainty that it is true. But knowing does not make anything necessarily true, because our mental state only represents the way we see things, not controlling it. Beliefs that are strongly felt can be false. For example, I was inclined to believe that Reaganomics actually worked for America and stimulated the economy, but after reading articles about it, it seems that my belief is false and it actually contributed to income inequality in the US and the increase in debt (my political views have changed drastically from capitalist in G7 to socialist in G10-11 and infinity and beyond). But obviously how we feel is real, because if they weren’t, then we would be living in this dystopian world where there is no such things as emotion.
There are many valid reasons as to why we might question faith as a way of knowing knowledge. We want to believe things that we want to be true, and thus, as studies show, we interpret ambiguous knowledge that benefits our own interests (eerily similar to corporate greed). That’s perfectly fine as it is a common human trait. Also, it fits perfectly well with my one-sided political views, where capitalism is bad and needs changing, conservatives are stupid and lunatics, you get the point. As humans, we think that our abilities are above our own peers, because they can’t all be right (again, perfectly normal way of thought). We can test our abilities, we can trounce a person in an issues based debate by manipulating a lie into a way the audience buys into it. But we cannot test beliefs we have on faith. We have such beliefs because we want to hold them in our hearts forever, so that we will be ready to question them. Our beliefs are strongly influenced by our education, our living environment and our families. For example, because we stay with our parents most of the time, we intend to acquire their beliefs, attitudes, behaviours, habits. Most commonly is political leanings. If your parents are conservative and are traditionalists, you will vote for a conservative party in elections and have a traditional view on the world and vice versa. Faith-based beliefs are like all beliefs, influenced by the way we were raised. We might think that it is a result of our understanding of how the universe works, but let’s come clear to the fact that we believe in ones that we grew up with.
But even worse is the fact that our faith-beliefs cannot be changed. How do I know whether my present faith beliefs are better than the ones that I might have had when growing up? There is no correct or good way to choose between them, and thus, any belief we have can be wrong. Only non faith-based beliefs can be changed through thought and experience. Thought and experience is the best to let us know at least the truth, but not all truth, but faith doesn’t bring anything to the table.
So yes, faith is a bad way of knowing. Faith-based beliefs can be mistaken, as we hold them because we either have biases or because of family influences. Furthermore, they can’t be changed through thought and experience. Thus we will be stuck with an unorthodox view for the rest of our lives which we will be inclined to continue believing even if it already has been unproven.
But is it completely bad? Not necessarily, but they can be useful, because it can increase happiness. If I want something to be true and I believe that it is true, it can make me a happier person, even if other evidence disproves it. When we get what our heart contents, we are happier. Look at Denmark for example. Their GDP per capita is in the top 10, minimum wages are high and Danish trade unions mean strong workers right, there is strong social support, people can turn to a friend in times of troubles, life expectancy is high, they are generous, they are the less corrupt. And this is all because of the faith that the Danish people have towards social democracy and a welfare state.
As for intuitions, there are limitations again to every sector. Intuition, as mentioned previously is the ability to acquire knowledge without inference or reason. They mirror the advantages of logic based systems. As we don’t infer or read before knowing something, we cannot do long term predictions. For example, people always say that the world is going to end in a year or two. That’s because they are influenced by certain beliefs on the web (any kind of theory, no matter outrageous or not can be put on now), which leads them to have confirmation bias and then they start to feel for that theory because of something horrific they’ve seen on the news or in society. Leading back to the discussion, as intuition cannot do high precision predictions, they are not productive. They cannot generate any knowledge by manipulation of an existing theory that has already been confirmed (climate deniers….). Also, intuition requires experience. We acquire intuition through learning and the benefit of learning something in a certain situation is possible if we encounter it over and over again. If we don’t have experience with the situation, one has to make a guess or generalisation of a previous experience to guess what might occur. This fits right into the theories that the world will end suddenly. Because they don’t have experience of doomsday, they make a guess from a previous event that nearly caused global destruction to guess what might occur in the future. Finally, we as humans tend to have this funny trait where we overestimate the accuracy of what they know. There are recent surveys where managers overestimate the percentage of their organisation treating employees well, when employees had a significantly lower percentage who thought they were treated well by their bosses.
But the benefits of intuition is that it allows us to think before we act. For example, if we receive a curt email from a peer, we might have a small voice in our head that tells us to take a deep breath before responding so as to not escalate the curtness further. Furthermore, all humans are different, so when we meet different people for the first time, we need to pay attention to first impressions, as they are often the most accurate in telling you whether this person is someone to be trusted. Think of it this way. Rarely will your potential boyfriend tell you that he cheated on his last girlfriend, or the fact that he is looking for someone to cuddle up with when his girlfriend is out of town. Intuition can also help if we have concerns for others. We might have this feeling in our gut that because of something that occurred to a friend, we will be inclined to go and check to see if they’re OK. Also, intuition can allow humans to think of which route to take when driving. Do you want to take the fastest or slowest route if you are late for work? Do you want to take shortcut to the supermarket? Finally, intuition can help us if we have a health concern. If you start trembling uncontrollably and can’t hold a fork stably, you might want to consult with your doctor whether you have Alzheimer’s. Although Alzheimer’s is incurable, it will leave you a better person if you reveal it early to friends and family so that they won’t have to worry so much about whether you will completely deteriorate. Thus, intuition can be helpful if we feel uncomfortable about a particular feeling or when we need to make a quick decision when travelling.