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It is with great ease that most of us pass through
life without even imagining what human life is really about, let alone ponder
on its meaning and its predicament. In our not so disillusioned and quite
narcissistic (via post-modernity) times, Myers' book is indeed a valuable
contribution to the perseverance of the Socratic pursuit for an ongoing search
into oneself. In a balanced and thought provoking way, Myers investigates the
power and the perils of intuition in areas such as automatic thinking and
behavior, social interaction, art, business decision making, self-report and
self-awareness, sports, stock market, clinical and medical treatment of
patients or would-be patients, job related interviews, emotionally loaded
courtship behavior, risk management, gambling, the paranormal, and religion. He
applies the findings of recent psychological research in all these areas and he
makes recommendations, which are valuable for both the layman and the serious
and ardent student of psychology and psychiatry, philosophy and sociology,
political science and law, business management and stock market analysis,
religion and the paranormal.
The book contains helpful sketches and pictures, as
well as detailed analyses of interesting experiments and classroom based tests
which may not only intrigue anyone interested in psychology, but also may prove
helpful to academic teachers and educators who wish to engage their students
into thinking about their intuitions and how they affect their daily lives.
Through an abundant use of examples and citations from novels, poems and
religious texts (mainly the Bible and in particular the Psalms) Myers' exegesis
of the quite important social and psychological phenomenon of intuition is
enriched and avoids being pedantic. In addition, his many tables containing
summaries and parallel analyses of important characteristics of the various
forms of intuition, as well as his quite informative endnotes can guide the
reader quite efficiently through the abyss of the related material and studied
cases and experiments.
Even with its many virtues and its great value for
all students of the human mind and behavior (regardless their vocation or
training) the book falls short in its aspirations. By carefully avoiding
"politically incorrect" recommendations in some areas of high dispute
(such as the nature of self-consciousness and of the unconscious, gambling,
"scientifically" unacceptable forms of clinical and medical
applications of intuition -for example the ones used in non-traditional forms
of medicine- and the paranormal) Myers does not convince the careful reader
that his clear and determined dedication is "only to truth" (p.11).
His consistent and continuous criticism to all these areas of application of
intuition is that such applications cannot guarantee the two most beloved ways
of "scientific" proof: repetition and prediction. These applications
produce neither verifiable nor predictive results (their sole power rests on
post-hoc explanations) and according to Myers' most firm convictions they
should be avoided (see especially his discussion of "hot hand" and
"jinx" in sports in pp.133-149, and of the paranormal in pp.233-242).
Even though he attempts to adduce ample evidence in support of his claims his
analysis is far too biased and self-contradictory to be credible.
I shall offer here only two examples: in relation to
sports related intuition he calls the "hot hand" phenomenon "a
myth" (p.142), since statistical analysis indicates that streaks do occur
and can be explained statistically; the peculiar thing is however, that he is
forced to admit not more that two pages earlier that "one can't prove that
non-random streaks never occur" (p.140). Taking this into consideration,
how can he call the "hot hand" phenomenon "a myth" with
such a certainty? The second example comes from the world of the paranormal.
Here, he discusses in detail the views of disenchanted parapsychologists to conclude
(again with certainty) that, in their majority, the paranormal or ESP phenomena
are if not outright "scams" then just cheap tricks and illusory
cognition, misperceptions, misinterpretations and selective recall. Here, the
peculiar thing is that even though he condemns these "non-scientific"
endeavors to comprehend the world around and within us, he does not seem so
"scientifically" sensitive when he fully embraces religion and
religious (even mystical) intuition (pp.242-246). Of course his point is that
there are areas such as religion where rationality is and should be circumcised
by humility and spirituality "that nurtures purpose, love, and joy"
(p.246). My point however, is that his
compromise in religion contradicts his earlier ardent embrace of rationalism
and scientific verificationism. If one is certain and sure about his
methodology, he does not give up his method of truth on any account.
If Myers is to dedicate himself to truth he should
dedicate himself to truth in all areas of human behavior and on all accounts.
This means accepting religion (because indeed a human with no religious ideas
is no human at all), but also means accepting all other behavior, which may
seem to many "politically" or "scientifically incorrect".
This also means that he should accept both western and non-western forms of
healing and applications of intuition on an equal basis and merit. This also
means that the emphasis on verification, falsification and predictability
measured with western technology and instruments should be limited and applied
only in the investigation of western forms of medicine and western forms of
application of intuition (this is why Myers' book is at its best in the
chapters where the findings of western psychology are applied and analyzed, for
example in western psychiatry and clinical intuition, job interview, stock
market analysis and prediction etc.).
Myers' book is a masterpiece of psychological
science made plain for the public; even with all its virtues however, it cannot
escape the pitfalls that haunt psychological science from its birth: a far too
great optimism about the extremely limited explanatory and predictive powers of
statistics, and a hasty and imprecise way to deal with important philosophical
issues related to the nature of the human mind and its apprehension of self and
the world (note here Myers' confusion
of knowledge and memory in pp.54-55). May the virtues of Myers' book enlighten
our search within and its pitfalls ban the cross-eyed result of divorcing
psychology from philosophy.
© 2003 Constantinos Athanasopoulos
Athanasopoulos has a Ph.D. from the University of Glasgow (on the topic of
The Metaphysics of Intentionality in the Philosophy of Language and Mind of
Sartre and Wittgenstein). He has also studied philosophy, psychology and
religion at Brandon U., Canada, and Moral Philosophy at the University of St.
Andrews. His many research interests include metaphysics, philosophy of mind
and language, Continental and Analytic, and Medieval and Byzantine Philosophy,
moral psychology, ethics, environmental philosophy and ethics, political
philosophy, philosophy of education, philosophy of psychology and
psychiatry. Parallel to job-hunting his
other hobbies include Byzantine Music, Orthodox Theology and going to the