Philosophical Heuristics

Translated by Ben Koschalka

by Jan Hartman (Author)
©2015 Monographs 247 Pages


«Philosophical Heuristics» aims to translate philosophical issues into meta-philosophical issues examined from a unique perspective. The analytical and interpretive practice of heuristics seeks to grasp synchronously all the processes leading to the formation of philosophical discourse, its language, form and content. The book takes hermeneutics and pragmatism as a starting point for a multifaceted and systematic examination of philosophical heuresis and promotes a style of philosophising «in the suspense of heuristic reflection», something more than ordinary theoretical self-awareness.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Introduction to the Second Edition
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • 1. Philosophy’s Self-Image – Towards A Heuristics of Philosophical Life
  • 1.1 Introductory comments to some important concepts for heuristics
  • 1.2 The Novice’s Experiences
  • 1.3 Philosophy as Profession
  • 1.4 The General Point of View and The History of Philosophy
  • 1.5 Institutions of Philosophical Life
  • 1.6 Pathos and Nihilism in Talking about Philosophy
  • 1.7 The Possibility of a Heuristics of Philosophical Life
  • 2. Methodological Thinking
  • 2.1 The Idea of Logic
  • 2.2 Philosophical Logic
  • 2.3 The Heuristic Ideal of Method
  • 2.4 The Cartesian Spirit
  • 2.5 Heuristics and the Issue of Idealism
  • 3. Pragmatic Thinking
  • 3.1 Practice and Method
  • 3.2 Practical Legitimation and Reflexive Legitimisation
  • 3.2.1 Adorno – The Dialectical Path
  • 3.2.2 Apel – The Path of Transcendental Moralism
  • 3.2.3 Habermas – The Path of Entrusting Science
  • 3.2.4 Rorty – The Personal Path
  • 3.3 Between Scientific Solemnity and Scholarly Irony
  • 3.4 Foundations of the Pragmatistic approach to Heuristics
  • 3.5 Perspectives of Pragmatistic Heuristics
  • 3.5.1 Heuristics of Philosophical Communication
  • 3.5.2 The Ontology of Philosophy
  • 4. Rhetorical Thinking
  • 4.1 Cognition and Persuasion. The Duality of Rhetoric
  • 4.2 Aristotle: Rhetoric in the System of Logical Knowledge
  • 4.3 Argumentum Ad Hominem (Schopenhauer, Perelman, Heidegger)
  • 4.4 Rhetoric and Hermeneutics (Gadamer)
  • 4.5 The Significance of The Humanist Turn
  • 4.6 Another Possibility: Nietzsche and The Rhetorical Nature of Language. The Non-Identity of Rhetoric
  • 4.7 Plato and The Dialectic of Rhetoric
  • 4.8 The other Side of Rhetorical Heuresis
  • 4.9 What Rhetoric Teaches Heuristics
  • 4.10 Towards Rhetorical Heuristics
  • 5. Hermeneutic Thinking
  • 5.1 Problems with Talking about Hermeneutics
  • 5.2 Popular Hermeneutic Consciousness and its Limits
  • 5.3 The Abundance of Dilthey’s Heuresis
  • 5.3.1 The Concept of Life
  • 5.3.2 The Universality of Research – Tempering The Difficulties of Idealism
  • 5.3.3 Speculativeness and Respect for the Reality of Life
  • 5.4 Heidegger: The Existential and Ontological Orientation of Hermeneutics
  • 5.5 Gadamer’s Hermeneutic Synthesis
  • 5.5.1 The Hermeneutics of Prudence
  • 5.5.2 The Ideal of Participation (The Gadamerian Thing Itself)
  • 5.5.3 Metaphysical Inclinations and an Ambivalent Attitude to Transcendentalism
  • 5.6 Hermeneutics and The Power of Reason (In The Light of Gadamer’s Synthesis)
  • 5.7 A Critical Comment and Postulate for Heuristics
  • 5.8 On The Margins: The Hermeneutics of Suspicion
  • 6. Structuralist Thinking
  • 6.1 The Intellectual Mood
  • 6.2 The Integrating Power of Structure
  • 6.3 From Heuristics of Rejection to Heuristics of Doubling
  • 6.4 Two Series in Structuralism
  • 6.5 Mathematical Inspirations
  • 6.6 The Philosophy of Difference – Deleuze and Derrida
  • 6.7 The Nietzschean Calling
  • 6.8 Deconstruction
  • 7. Heuristics and Self-Knowledge
  • 7.1 Introduction to The Question of The Neutrum
  • 7.2 The Neutrum
  • 7.3 The Faces of Heuristics
  • 7.3.1 Heuristics as Optimal Philosophical Speech and Critique
  • 7.3.2 Heuristics as Knowledge
  • 7.3.3 Heuristics as a Mirror of Philosophy
  • Bibliography
  • Index of Names

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In this book I present the programme of metaphilosophical research which I have called “philosophical heuristics”. This derives from, and at the same time refers critically to many topics from philosophical tradition, which I discuss and comment upon synthetically. Methodological, pragmatic, rhetorical, hermeneutic and structuralist tradition are thus all covered.

Anything that benefits and advances cognition, especially discursive, can in the broadest sense of the word be called “heuristic”. All factors forming science, classified as intellectual means (questions, hypotheses, methods) and helping us to attain cognitive objectives, are part of so-called heuresis, and can be considered in terms of their heuristic value. By heuristics I am particularly thinking of its methodological meaning, in which cognition of heuresis serves as a means to refine subjective cognition (of some science). Yet heuristics, when it has followed the dream of the great art of inventionis, taking in hand the practical directives and methods of the elusive, the irrational moment of pure discovery, has conceived itself as something more than just methodology. The desire to exceed the framework of methodological thinking toward some greater generality was what (at least since the time of Bolzano) led to the use of the word “heuristics”, in order not to speak simply of methodology. This is also why I use the word “heuristics” in this book. With this meaning in mind, though, from the outset I would like to expand its scope considerably. I intend to go beyond the methodological perspective in a radical style, as I am not interested in efficiency and novelty of findings.

Heuristics, in the sense of the word adopted in this book, is not supposed to serve some other cognitive process or discourse, but rather to constitute unity with them: I do not wish to separate the result of the cognition from the discourse that leads to it. Every element of a discourse is a kind of result that is heuristically conditioned in some way, as well as a stage, and therefore a moment of heuresis advancing towards the next ideas and propositions. What is therefore important for us is not that a proposition or expression constitute the “official”, declared results of a discourse, but rather that they are the result of complex – theoretical and non-theoretical – conditions, a complex heuresis. As a result, a view seeing the heuristic process as “cognising something” or “solving a problem” would place too much emphasis on the relationship of goal and means; let us say, therefore, that heuristics will deal with thinking, especially philosophical, at the same time being a certain form of it. I conceive heuresis itself here in the broadest terms: as not just the intellectual factors forming the shape of philosophical ← 11 | 12 → ideas or expression (presuppositions, logical forms, linguistic determinants, methods), but rather all factors at play, including “naturalistic” (psychological and social) ones.

In philosophy, we contemplate various aspects and conditions of philosophising, pinning our hopes on this reflection broadening or correcting our views. Sometimes, as with Aristotelian logic or Cartesian considerations on method, this form of reflection takes the form of a philosophical programme based on the conviction that studying the subject should be complemented (or preceded) by knowledge of the formal conditions for doing so. This gives us the heuristic projects that grow out of some form of heuristic reflection. The kind of heuristics proposed here is supposed to deal with various such projects, i.e. every thinking that, in concerning thinking and all a philosopher’s actions, affects the course and results of this thinking and these actions. In this way, it itself becomes a certain heuristic project. Moreover, in testing various forms of heuresis – such as that based on the idea that first you have to create a method and then pursue philosophy, or that philosophy should be undogmatic and therefore start from a premiseless theory of cognition – the heuristics itself must become part of the relevant train of thought, in a sense accepting the conditions of these forms. As a result, it is not always able to have the coherence of science – with a clearly defined subject and method. The idea of such science is also a heuristic project based on the belief that unity of subject, method and criteria of acceptance of results will ensure concreteness, efficiency and scientific accuracy. Heuristics accepts this conviction and the resultant postulates when it comes to philosophy pursued in the style of science. Yet if it seeks to understand and enrich the type of heuresis used in the sciences that are formed, then it should yield to them to the appropriate extent. However, at the same time it must be ready to make contact with other forms of philosophical thought which require that discourse be carried out in a specific way (such as critique of reason or speculation), and which lay a claim to exclusivity, unwilling to be associated with anything else, for example with a programme assuming something like a methodical review of various forms of doing philosophy made with the intention of achieving a synthetic insight and comprehensive theoretical tools. This is not to say that heuristics should abandon such intentions, but rather that it must find a heuristic context for its theoretical goals – ascertain the extent of their validity and what they can achieve.

Heuristics, as one heuristic project, is based on heuristic directives that are variable and depend on the topic in question, in which certain heuristic directives will be of constitutive significance and may not be ignored by some “meta-objective” ← 12 | 13 → discourse guided by their own heuristic preferences. In a certain sense, then, heuristics must be placed “in between” – in a kind of suspension and dependent on diverse forms of heuristic reflection. In other words, heuristics must have various faces, none of which can lay claim to any special position – of “trueness”, “originality” etc.

To an extent, what has been said so far exposes the heuristic face of heuristics itself, making a general explanation of what heuristics actually is necessary.

In describing itself as a certain field, heuristics turns out not to be a uniform one. It therefore falls into a multilateral heuristic dependence on the form of philosophy that it is dealing with at a given time, to some degree growing to resemble it. This peculiar heuristic mimicry, so to speak, results from heuristics describing itself as one of many heuristic projects, which leads to the postulate that philosophical cognition is always “mediated” (or prepared) by the best knowledge of “how” – of all the circumstances on which its course and fate depends. But we cannot separate the contemplation of a philosophical question from the contemplation of its heuristic circumstances – this takes place within one discourse. For example, the critique of pure reason, based on testing all kinds of “how” thinking, also delivers a certain “what”, i.e. theses, solutions and beliefs concerning epistemological issues. Critique of pure reason is thus a certain heuristic project. We call the universal but at the same time individual heuristic form that identifies “something” as a heuristic project a “how/what” heuresis for short because of its dependence on the dialectic of the objective (contemplating “what is given” as the “object of study” or “problem to solve” etc.) and reflective position (consideration of the method, logical structure, forms of argumentation etc. – all the heuristic conditions of the dialectically opposed “objective side” of the same contemplation). Let us say, then, that in its self-knowledge as a “scientific field”, heuristics is the philosophical study of the formal circumstances of philosophical thinking – the conditions, determinants, forms, structures (i.e. all kinds of “how”) with the intention of exploiting the knowledge gained in this way for its “objective” issues (all kinds of “what”), with full awareness that the formal (how) cannot be extricated from the material (what) perspective. It is also conscious that philosophy, conducting various forms of such heuristic reflection, is the sole theoretical source of any possible progress in the kind of research foreseen by heuristics, and that as a result the identity of heuristics as something distinct from heuristic projects in philosophy will often prove impossible. Does this mean that the fate of heuristics to be a declaration of doing something which philosophy in fact does anyway, without a moment’s thought for “heuristics”? Is it ← 13 | 14 → doomed to be a kind of parasite? This is the question of the possible advantage of heuristics over other heuristic projects, and – despite everything – of its identity.

The first thing that we should note is that, interested as it is in all the conditions of philosophical thinking, heuristics is guided by a heuristic idea of universality – overcoming limitations and biases. This results in opposition to displays of naivety, intellectual insularity, dogmatism and illusion. There is nothing original in this, as the same “sensitivity” is shown by most heuristic projects, for example programmes aiming to make the concept of rationality broader and more flexible. Heuristics, however, although it is to be merged with already existing heuristic projects (as a critique, development or complement to them), must be interested above all in those determinants of the work of philosophy which are not sufficiently addressed in existing projects. It must raise to the rank of object of theoretical interests things which have previously not been perceived or have been deemed to belong to “another order”: that of psychology, sociology, literary studies etc. These subjects include practising the scientific life of philosophy (and the way in which it determines a philosophical result), questions related to the mental conditions and motivations for pursuing philosophy, matters of literary style, use of metaphors and the like, which are of some bearing to the material side of the discourse, and factors of writing work. In the various specific theories belonging to heuristics, such as the theory of philosophical discourse, theory of questions and argumentations or pragmatics of doing philosophy, we should develop a synthetic and critical conceptual scheme that is richer than the one used in studies of individual subjects in isolation. The fundamental objective of heuristics – to philosophise in the heuristically broadest terms – forms the heuristic basis of a comparative unity of research, which in philosophy – in spite of the obviously similar intentions – do not form such unity. The same effect should also be sought in studies on historical projects based on a group of historical ideas, like philosophical logic, general methodology, rhetoric, hermeneutics and many more. Each of these projects contains a certain illusion of universality (including utter theoretical self-knowledge), or at least self-sufficiency, which makes it hard to discern and take into account the claims of other, equally universalist propositions. But this is the intention of heuristics, which assumes that various discourses, like the pragmatics of pursuing science or rhetorical discourse analysis, fall under the same “how/what” model of heuresis, and are thus motivated by a similar drive to develop heuristic reflection on all sorts of determinants of doing philosophy, treating them as part of the task of philosophy itself and a heuristic means serving to develop its various questions. ← 14 | 15 →

Despite the shared intentions of the disparate heuristic projects, a number of factors inhibit the natural forging of links between them. The most important of these is the fact that almost all of them stake a claim for supremacy over the others. For instance, if somebody is carrying out a logical study of the arguments applied in philosophy, he or she prefers to ignore (despite the similarity of the heuristic motivation) the claims of the hermeneutic approach or perspective of the phenomenology of spirit. The reason for this is generally known, but this knowledge does not have an effect on results in philosophy. Worse still, a more profound understanding of these phenomena is hampered by the practices (or heuristic habits, as we call them here) which remove difficult questions from the field of view using intuitive phrases that are lacking an argument and often false, such as “the two approaches concern different orders, so they are autonomous of each other”. Research in mutual mediation aiming to combine various heuristic projects should be a problem area, the individual aspects of which can certainly be found in various segments of philosophical tradition and which has never been treated as a whole and in a heuristically (conceptually, terminologically) uniform manner.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (September)
metaphilosophy dialectics pragmatism rhetoric hermeneutics structuralism
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 247 pp.

Biographical notes

Jan Hartman (Author)

Jan Hartman is Professor at the Department of Philosophy and Bioethics at the Medical School of Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. He is interested in metaphilosophy, political philosophy, ethics and bioethics.


Title: Philosophical Heuristics
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