Aristotle on Intuition

In the sixth section of the sixth book of The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle covers the fourth of five capacities people have for attaining true knowledge: Intuition.

When we discussed Science in section three, Aristotle said that science was the ability to get at the truth about invariable/eternal things by using demonstrable logical processes like induction and syllogism, starting with things you already know.

In order to bootstrap this process, you must already know something invariable and eternal — something that you couldn’t have acquired by Science. Aristotle says that Intuition is how we get our original “first principles” from which we can begin using Science to derive the rest of our knowledge about invariable/eternal facts.

This is what Descartes was after when he got down to brass tacks: he used Intuition to come up with cogito ergo sum, and hoped to use Science to fill in everything else from there.

Your take-away from this is that intuition is the ability to discover true first principles about invariable/eternal things.

Index to the Nicomachean Ethics series

Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics