Counterintuitive Or Counter Logical?

Counterintuitive has become a popular term in the mass media and journalistic writing.  It is a term that is misused, either not clearly understood by its user, or used as a prop to give the writer (and reader) an illusory idea that they are intuitive to begin with and have suddenly stumbled upon some sort of understanding in a situation that seems to be revelatory.  In both instances a mistake in understanding and awareness has been made.  But, first, let’s examine a little more closely what is supposedly counterintuitive.

A student of my work noted to me a prime example of ‘counterintuitive’ that occurred to her.  She mentioned that in her experience, doors opened outwardly when pushed.  Her education, training and conditioning verified this conclusion suggested by countless instances corroborating this ‘truth’ for her.  She recently moved to a new location at some distance from her residence of many years.  There she came to a door and was about to push it open when she suddenly stopped mid-push and discovered that it opened in, that is, toward her.  She called this discovery “counterintuitive”, expecting one thing and finding something else unexpectedly.

At first I commented that thinking can only be logical or intuitive, and that the term “counterintuitive” didn’t really exist.  What she experienced was a “counter logical” event.  Her education, training and conditioning over a lifetime (she was 60 years old) enhanced her logic that said “this is how doors open.  It’s only logical they do so”.  When the door opened otherwise it went against her logic.  Intuition was not part of the equation.  It’s an entirely different function in which conventional logic does not play a role.  Somehow the media wants to confuse logic and intuition making it appear that one is the other; as though they are synonymous. To call a thing that is logical intuitive gives the user an air that his thinking is something special, when in reality the thinking is logical or hyper-logical.  Suddenly, logic doesn’t fit, the situation changes, a shock of confusion sets in, and an explanation is sought.  It is now “counter logical”.

  As far as intuition is concerned - knowing without knowing how you know - it just is, is a horse of a different color.  Such knowledge consists of the function of detached intellect, disinterested instinct, plus the  bridging  experience of imagination.   But, this is a story for a different occasion.  However, to call logic intuition trivializes, demeans and devalues the latter to make it some subordinate function of logic.  I think the misrepresentation, so rife in the media, is essentially a lack of understanding.

As a Ph.D in Rhetoric my student immediately understood the error.