Basic Heuristic Operations
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It is said that the mathematician Archimedes ran naked into the streets one day, joyfully crying "Eureka!" It means "I've found (it) out!" He had solved a problem.
There is a way to become better at finding out things than guessing and acting at random. It is called heuristics.
Heuristic is a method for solving problems in which one employs principles (rules of thumb) that usually lead to a solution. [Lte (dvs. Schunk 1996, 240, 443]
Heuristics is good in one of the phases in basic research, as shown on another page [Link]. Scientific inquiry starts with getting ideas. Some people get them from others, other people hatch them (bring out ideas) themselves, and in many cases we manage to borrow and hatch - do both. Regardless of their source, ideas mark where scientific inquiry starts - it is a procedure.
Learning to find out things on one's own may be helped somewhat. One way is becoming good at observing first-hand. It can be trained, and ideas may rise on top of observations.
Ideas then need to be sifted and arranged. Hermeneutics is for such work. But this page is devoted to heuristics, which could be called the art of finding out first-hand. This "finding-art" can be trained through steps, measurements, and routines. The acronyms IDEAL PUPILS sum up cores of the processes, and are explained further down.
Working Against Heuristics: Much Fear
Fear can make conform in unfulfilling, unrewarding ways; fear may not help you to progress in life, even though there are sane sides to fear, such as proper precautions. But fears may block insights, maybe insights that could help you on and up. In order to ease the way for such insights, relaxation is advocated. Probably Rogerian councelling helps too.
In psychoanalysis the client is to lie down and relax in order to find out things. Relaxing is good for coping and seeing. Sigmund Freund found out parts of that. In Zen training relaxing is an integral part of the training itself - not getting tense and upset is vital for practical benefit.
High-strung persons who have a hard time relaxing, may find that their coping efforts breed stress, and stress can breed neuroses and physical illness. In fact, it is widespread [Link].
It helps to go against stress. And to think well, it may help too, just as suggested above.
Many persons think they know when they believe they know. The author Frederick Nichols Kerlinger suggests that man employs four methods of "knowing" [see Keo or a later ed.]. However, what he calls "methods" intertwine and cannot be separated from one another full well, so let us adjust the terminology and call them three strands of a rope:
We insist that strands like these do not exclude one another mutually, nor are they independent of each other. For example, it is possible to hold religious beliefs which are tenacious (wilful), authoritative (having respect) and reasonable (due to id associations, in part).
Stuck With Infirm Teachings Or Better
If you are stuck with teachings that you and others are afraid to study in depth and understand, heuristics may not help very much at first, for example due to the dependency involved. You should find out how to become penetrating too. Freud did it, and it changed his life and the lives of very many.
However, your first need could be to reduce and hopefully overcome fear and anxiety and the like - not ignoring their causes. If you have done that, you may get skilled at finding out things, that is, in heuristics. It is much used in scientific study. What is more, it can help some to get a better life by living up to its stepwise methods, if the outer conditions are not all too bad. Much depends on them.
Let us say you want to get to grips with a few tenets that are help up by some authority figure. First, gauge your circumstances and try to assess how far the authority figure is presented as mighty, or revered in your circles, how far he or she is supposed be revered as an authority by "good (obedient) guys". They are the outwardly devoted, loyal members of a "clan".
In line with that you may realize that what you have to face, is not just a problem of assessing the VALIDITY OF TENETS by someone. An even better problem could be that of coping with a somewhat totem-like figure status in the "clan", so to speak, and how it may be linked to your sense of belonging, your sense of security in a stabilized universe, and so on.
Let us say you attack basic tenets of a big authority. Some evidently "buy" (accept) his tenets wholesale without inspecting anything, perhaps without understanding all he is into and seems to cover either. That could be quite a problem for common lay members of the community if his teachings work bad, for example because they are not fit, true or apt.
Your Tenet Investigations
To arrive at different conclusions than the big guy, you have to estimate yourself: One of the things you have to do is to judge (evaluate) the essence of his tenets one by one and come up with some pertinent and very unbiased conclusions. These findings need to be very well-founded under the circumstances - for in heuristic work there are dangers of not understanding full well, of going amiss, and much else. One has to take such things into account, and these matters can be helped by being careful. TENET 1: A cheval donné, ne lui regarde pas en la bouche. (Don't look a gift horse in the mouth) (French proverb) [Fp No. 184]
COMMENT: Just for fun, let us assume this proverb is regarded as the utmost authority today. Below are some points to align to it, if you care. Authoritative norms can be (1) normative or regulative on the one hand, and (2) assessing ones on the other. Here we deal with a value norm, and the citation may be used to exercise a sway or influence conduct. Maybe the tenet serves the imposing of SELF-CONTROL. But what sorts of self-control are asked for, and when, in what circumstances, and how far is that supposed to go (be valid) for anyone of us? That could be a problem to find out.
Note as well that pepping up a message by popularisation brings nothing to the VALIDITY of any unspecified norm.
The LOGIC of a tenet may not be water-tight, as much depends on interpretation, as Jesus says in the opening of the Gospel of Thomas: "he said, "Whoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death." [Link]. In this case too, "gift horse" may be understood figuratively. And by the way, it hardly seems sensible enough not to inspect a gift horse. The inhabitants of Troy, for example, come close to illustrating it. They took a wooden horse into town, and were killed because of it. Hence, find out what is good for you: Politeness and matters have their requirements, and precautions have theirs. In actual living one tries to strike some balance between many and in part opposing interests.
TENET 2: "I know from your eyes and I know from your smile that tonight will be fine, will be fine, will be fine, will be fine for a while." - Leonard Cohen.
COMMENT: You have to ask: Is it true (too?). How can you "make sure before you believe it?" There is a way, and it is not perfect, but it often helps: The use of statistics. It may not be easy to carry out, but simple roads can be mapped.
Making statements explicit (and nuanced enough) can help investigation. That is one of the foremost principles used in academic writing.
We should learn to inspect. It can be done, and there are levels of proficiency in it too. As for eyes and lips as message bringers and revealers of moods and intents and the like, some psychological studies exist, but they seem very crude. Therefore, consider [cf. Psr, Sop].
TENET 3: "The evidence today is that the full evolution of intelligence came as a result of bipedalism and tool using." - Jerome Bruner [Bign (Beyond the Information Given), p. 437]
COMMENT: Tenets may or may not be confirmed by other experts, or authorities, that may lend a ring of authority to what they "sanction", but intelligent animals such as dolphins might want him to reconsider. They don't walk on legs, for example, and might thus and otherwise suggest that Dr. Bruner's viewpoint here is too limited.
In some cases the thinking of TWO authorities may be set up against one another, - be it Dr. Bruner and a communicative porpoise - so that you may compare and contrast - it is one of the much used methods in discussing teachings. Keep your eyes open to such as consistency, that is, internally non-contradictive delivery, and study facts before you become a believer.
Many basic scientific ways of thinking and concomitant methods can assist coping in general.
If you now want to learn basic steps of investigation, two ways are shown in the following. First you have an IDEAL, and next you have the PUPIL(S) to serve you. Combine both acronyms to get IDEAL PUPILS, and try to learn what the letters serve as memory pegs for. Acronyms can make the steps much easier to learn and remember.
Bransford and Stein (1984) formulated a heuristic know as IDEAL:
I - Identify the problem.
D - Define and represent the problem.
E - Explore possible strategies.
A - Act on the strategies [when you are up to it, when conditions follow suit, etc.]
L - Look back and evaluate the effects of those activities. [see Schunk 1996, 240.]
George Pólya's list of mental operations involved in problem solving is included below as "upil" only. Two more mementos are added; they are 'P' and 'S':
P - Peruse well. (Polya's list of operations in problem solving is applied:
U - 1. Understand the problem.
P - 2-. Devise a Plan.
I - 3. Implement the plan, i.e., carry it out.
L - 4. Look back.
(S) - Solve things markedly better after listening and getting feedback [This item is added by us, and it is in line with general study and solution procedures, where you adjust or improve outputs on top of feedback etc.]. [see Schunk 1996, 240.]
On the one hand complete freedom can be very good help for discovering things first-hand. Some progress may be made below that level (of freedom), though. Here comes:
IF OTHERS have done similar things to what you need to do, and in fields that have transfer-value to yours, study their works and learn from them, for conducting research can be very time and energy consuming, and unless you're paid it may be much costy too. So it is wise to learn to learn from others, including interesting mistakes of others.
Have "practical" aims too. [see Schunk 1996, 240.]
The instructional advantage of heuristics lies in helping students become systematic problem solvers. [Schunk 1996, 240.]
A heuristic may be more systematic than our present problem-solving approaches, and can lead to better solutions. [Schunk 1996, 240.]
HEURISTICS should help somewhat when facing unfamiliar content, but heuristics is in part built on getting experience in watching other people solving problems as well. And there is flexibility in how steps are carried out. Allow for that. [see Schunk 1996, 240.]
HEURISTICS has been shown to help if you aim at general features in your study, too. [see Schunk 1996, 240.] (1.1 - T+)
Now you can go ahead and master more of it, as you like.
Bign: Bruner, Jerome: Beyond the information given: Studies in the psychology of knowing. Selected, edited, and introduced by Jeremey Anglin. Allen and Unwin, London, 1974.
Keo: Kerlinger, Fred: Foundations of Behavioral Research. 2nd ed. Holt, Rinehart and Winston. London, 1973.
Lte: Schunk, Dale: Learning theories. An educational perspective. 2nd ed. Merrill/Prentice-Hall. Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1996.
Proe: Bruner, Jerome: The Process of Education. Harvard University. Cambridge. 1966.
Psr: Feldman, Robert: Social Psychology: Theories, Research, and Applications. Int ed. McGraw-Hill. New York, 1985.
Sop: Smith, Eliot R. and Diane M. Mackie: Social Psychology. 2nd ed. Psychology Press. Hove, 2000.
Thd: Zukav, Gary: The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics. Rider. London, 1979.
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