Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

The art of guessing

with 4 comments

Jacob Bronowski

How does the outstanding scientist come to propose such a decisive axiom, while less imaginative minds go on tinkering with the old system? How did Gregor Mendel leap to conceive the statistical axioms of genetics? What moved Albert Einstein to make the constancy of the speed of light not a consequence but an axiom in the construction of relativity?

An obvious answer is that the great mind, like the small, experiments with different alternatives, works out their consequences for some distance, and thereupon guesses (much like a chess player) that one move will generate richer possibilities than the rest. But this answer only shifts the question from one foot to the other. It still remains to ask how the great mind comes to guess better than another, and to make leaps that turn out to lead further and deeper than yours or mine.

We do not know; and there is no logical way in which can know, or can formalize the pregnant decision. The step by which a new axiom is added cannot itself be mechanized. It is a free play of the mind, an invention outside the logical processes. This is the central act of imagination in science, and it is in all respects like any similar act in literature. In this respect, science and literature are alike: in both of them, the mind decides to enrich the system as it stands by an addition which is made by an unmechanical act of free choice.

Jacob Bronowski

Written by nevalalee

March 28, 2015 at 7:30 am

4 Responses

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  1. So, Mr. Bronowski is saying, that fundamentally humans can create innovation (and do) through shear will alone? Is this some form of admittance for divinity in man, or our true power as a natural force. When we are left to grow with proper resources, we will, but as a flower cannot be taught which direction but merely suggested by moving its orientation in regard the sun; so is man. Within the given paradigm of society, man can only move so much, so within the confines of the unhindered, un-walled mind we can find freedom and truly grow intellectually. That is what I gathered, here. Good post. Interesting.

    Kayla Lennert

    March 28, 2015 at 8:00 pm

  2. ” It still remains to ask how the great mind comes to guess better than another, and to make leaps that turn out to lead further and deeper than yours or mine.

    We do not know; and there is no logical way in which can know, or can formalize the pregnant decision. ”

    SO True! It is not logical! IT is with a hint of passion, the true stuff of mettle, of will, that the scientist (man) can find the real path. Ah my friend, Alec, if you look into Jung and the mind willing things, as well as Einstein’s application of physics o the mind as a form of energy frequency matching o your desired outcome. This is not fanciful rhetoric, but serious scientific basis of the power of human will as an agent of growth in positivity.

    Kayla Lennert

    March 28, 2015 at 8:04 pm

  3. @Kayla: I think it’s more a distinction between two kinds of thinking: the logical working out of an idea from a few core premises, and the creation of the initial premise—or axiom—itself. A lot of intelligent thinkers at any given point are capable of doing the first, but only a handful in any generation can do the second, and we still aren’t sure how.

    nevalalee

    April 2, 2015 at 8:29 pm

  4. It’s funny you should mention Jung—he’s been on my mind a lot these days.

    nevalalee

    April 2, 2015 at 8:30 pm


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