Chapter 3

The Heuristic Approach and Why We Use It

Heuristic comes from the Greek’s word heurísko, which means discovering or finding. It is tightly coupled with experimental methods including what if scenarios as well as simple trial and error. Heuristics is commonly assigned to the science (and art) of discovery, a discipline based on the investigative process. The Greek word eureka, used by Archimedes when he found out how to measure the volume of an irregular object by using water, has the same etymology of heuristic (heurísko).

Heuristics is part of the scientific method that strives to achieve new developments or empirical discoveries. More formally, the heuristic procedure is an approximation method to develop ideal solutions when faced with different kind of problems. The heuristic method assumes a solution close to the ideal is possible and is functionally based on an assessment of the result. However, the solution from a heuristic method is not necessary the optimal one. In other words, finding a solution using heuristic methods is like exploring different paths and possibilities that are each evaluated based on a theory. That theory is known as a progressive theory, one that is capable of guaranteeing a particular empirical development, foreseeing new facts not previously observed at the moment of the heuristic theory’s construction.

For many centuries the heuristic method was misrepresented as a means to justify (or explain) the empirical discoveries. From the work ...

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