A friend sent me an off-print of his which referred to Eugene Gendlin as someone who has explored implicit understanding a great deal. At the same time I was reading Alexis Shotwell’s intriguing Knowing Otherwise, which also explores how we have an implicit, bodily-based grasp of things that forms a great deal of our take on ourselves and others. Nearly the same day, Amazon.com was recommending that I pre-order Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, of which Publisher’s Weekly says:
“The mind is a hilariously muddled compromise between incompatible modes of thought in this fascinating treatise by a giant in the field of decision research. Nobel-winning psychologist Kahneman (Attention and Effort) posits a brain governed by two clashing decision-making processes. The largely unconscious System 1, he contends, makes intuitive snap judgments based on emotion, memory, and hard-wired rules of thumb; the painfully conscious System 2 laboriously checks the facts and does the math, but is so “lazy” and distractible that it usually defers to System 1.
Kahneman’s unconscious System 1 is at least aimed at implicit understanding. And then Read Montague’s work has recently turned to what seems to me to be a fascinating example of implicit bias, first described by Ann Harvey, who is in his lab.
So on reading Gendlin on accessing this level, I wondered what sort of role employing the unconscious/implicit understanding has for philosophers today. Here in fact is a description from Gendlin of what such accessing is like. I suspect that if it plays a significant role in your cognition as a philosopher, then you’ll recognize it, even if the description definitely does not come from an analytically trained philosopher:
You have a bodily orienting sense. You know who you are and how you come to be reading this page. To know this you don’t need to think. The knowing is physically sensed in your body and can easily be found. But this bodily knowing can extend much more deeply. You can learn how to let a deeper bodily felt sense come in relation to any problem or situation. Your body “knows” the whole of each context, vastly more aspects of it than you can enumerate separately.
You can sense your living body directly under your thoughts and memories and under your familiar feelings. Focusing happens at a deeper level than your feelings. Under them you can discover a physically sensed “murky zone” which is concretely there. This is a source from which new steps emerge.
At first, this murky “something” may seem opaque. Although concretely there, it may not seem promising. With certain teachable steps of bodily attention it opens. How you sense the situation shifts. New possibilities for fresh thinking and action arise beyond the already-given alternatives. The whole scene changes. An intricate territory of factors, events, conditions, and new questions emerges where there was only a slight bodily sense at the start.
If you’ve followed so far, and you work as a professional philosopher in the sense of producing work you have or would like to see published as academic philosophy, it would be wonderful if you would take the poll: