Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

PAGE 2

Presence Of Mind And Happy Guessing
by [?]

[Footnote 1: As I am now, to my sorrow and shame, too much of a mediate Grecian, I give a Balliol friend’s note on these two words:–“What you have called ‘presence of mind’ and ‘happy guessing’ may, I think, be identified respectively with Aristotle’s {anchinoia} and {eustochia}. The latter of these, {eustochia}, Aristotle mentions incidentally when treating of {euboulia}, or good deliberation. Eth. Nic. bk. vi. ch. 9. Good deliberation, he says, is not {eustochia}, for the former is a slow process, whereas the latter is not guided by reason, and is rapid. In the same passage he tells us that {anchinoia} is a sort of {eustochia}. But he speaks of {anchinoia} more fully in Ana. Post. i. 34:–‘{Anchinoia} is a sort of happy guessing at the intermediate, when there is not time for consideration: as when a man, seeing that the bright side of the moon is always turned towards the sun, comprehends that her light is borrowed from the sun; or concludes, from seeing one conversing with a capitalist that he wants to borrow money; or infers that people are friends from the fact of their having common enemies.'” And then he goes on to make these simple observations confused and perplexing by reducing them to his logical formula.

“The derivation of the words will confirm this view. {Eustochia} is a hitting the mark successfully, a reaching to the end, the rapid and, as it were, intuitive perception of the truth. This is what Whewell means by saying, ‘all induction is a happy conjecture.’ But when Aristotle says that this faculty is not guided by reason ({aneu te gar logou}), he does not mean to imply that it grows up altogether independent of reason, any more than Whewell means to say that all the discoveries in the inductive sciences have been made by men taking ‘shots’ at them, as boys at school do at hard passages in their Latin lessons. On the contrary, no faculty is so absolutely the child of reason as this faculty of happy guessing. It only attains to perfection after the reason has been long and painfully trained in the sphere in which the guesses are to be made. What Aristotle does mean is, that when it has attained perfection, we are not conscious of the share which reason has in its operation–it is so rapid that by no analysis can we detect the presence of reason in its action. Sir Isaac Newton seeing the apple fall, and thence ‘guessing’ at the law of gravitation, is a good instance of {eustochia}.

“{Anchinoia}, on the other hand, is a nearness of mind; not a reaching to the end, but an apprehension of the best means; not a perception of the truth, but a perception of how the truth is to be supported. It is sometimes translated ‘sagacity,’ but readiness or presence of mind is better, as sagacity rather involves the idea of consideration. In matters purely intellectual it is ready wit. It is a sort of shorter or more limited {eustochia}. It is more of a natural gift than {eustochia}, because the latter is a far higher and nobler faculty, and therefore more dependent for its perfection on cultivation, as all our highest faculties are. {Eustochia} is more akin to genius, {anchinoia} to practical common sense.”]

My object in what I have now written and am going to write, is to impress upon medical students the value of power and promptitude in combination, for their professional purposes; the uses to them of nearness of the {Nous}, and of happy guessing; and how you may see the sense, and neatness, and pith of that excellent thinker, as well as best of all story-tellers, Miss Austen, when she says in Emma, “Depend upon it, a lucky guess is never merely luck, there is always some talent in it.” Talent here denoting intelligence and will in action. In all sciences except those called exact, this happy guessing plays a large part, and in none more than in medicine, which is truly a tentative art, founded upon likelihood, and is therefore what we call contingent. Instead of this view of the healing art discouraging us from making our ultimate principles as precise, as we should make our observations, it should urge us the more to this; for, depend upon it, that guess as we may often have to do, he will guess best, most happily for himself and his patient, who has the greatest amount of true knowledge, and the most serviceable amount of what we may call mental cash, ready money, and ready weapons.