are as reasonable, or logical, as possible"?
My task in these notes, however, is not to traverse big questions in the
psychology or the logic of discovery, but to deal with matters of a perhaps
more preliminary nature. By way of informal analysis, I have thus tried
to make some useful suggestions about the identity and kinds of guesses,
and to help clarify the standard sense of a word that is, at least in the
literature of parapsychology, a very common noun.
Heywood, R. "Notes on Changing Mental Climates and Research into ESP". In
J. R. Smythies
(Ed.), Science and ESP. New York: Humanities Press, 1967, p. 56.
Roll, W. G., and
Burdick, D. S. "Statistical Models for the Assessment of Verbal and
Other ESP Responses". Journal A.S.P.R., Vol. 63, July, 1969, 287-302. Quotation from p.
I do not wish to imply that all scientific hypotheses are guesses. It has become commonplace to observe that a solution to a problem sometimes comes as an intuition, a vision, or a
revelation where from the first the problem-solver is sure that the answer he has thus "seen"
is right -- at least in outline -- even though it must yet be subjected to empirical test (when, of
course, it may prove to be wrong despite the certainty attending its conception). In such
cases, presumably, we are still dealing with hypotheses, but not with guesses.
The word utterance is ambiguous in that it refers both to a sentence that I wrote or
spoke at time t and to my writing or speaking it at t. It is the latter sense that is meant when I
say that an utterance may constitute a guess.
I note that the points of these last two sentences have also been made by Richard Taylor
in a context in which they are incidental to a most interesting discussion of deliberation. In Action and Purpose ( Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966), Taylor remarks that
"speculation, inference, and even guesswork . . . all presuppose ignorance, in the absence of
which they can only be shammed" (p. 174).
Although not that he disbelieved it, which he may very well have done. Consider a situation where as a guesser I am presented with five possibilities only one of which will prove to
be actual -- say the five represented by the symbols in a deck of Zener cards. In this situation,
in the absence of evidence that would indicate which one of the five is actual, it is surely
rational for me to disbelieve that the target is a star, for instance, even though I guess that it
Skinner, B. F. "Are Theories of Learning Necessary?" Psychological Review, Vol. 57, July, 1950, 193-216.
Eric Partridge, Origins: A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English ( New
York: Macmillan, 2nd ed., 1959) contains the following entry: "guess (v, hence n): M[iddle]
E[nglish] gessen: perh[aps] of Scan[dinavian] origin, but prob[ably] imm[ediately] from
M[edieval] D[utch] gessen, var[iant] gissen: akin, ult[imately], to O[ld] N[orse] geta, to
get . . ." (p. 270). And on p. 253 of this work, links are traced between get and the notions
of finding, taking, stealing, grasping, and holding.
Ryle, G. Dilemmas. London: Cambridge University Press, 1954, p. 18.
I believe this result is consistent, however, with Ryle's point that "[g]uessers are neither
reliable nor unreliable" ( 9, p. 18).
Hanson, N. R. Patterns of Discovery. London: Cambridge University Press, 1958,
Polya, G. Mathematical Discovery. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1965. (Vol. 2.), ch. 13.