Journeyism 20

How does Intellectual Labour Proceed? (Part 4)

The need for, and pressure towards, [a] division of labour [has] become evident as we move forward in the new millennium…it requires only that one be trapped into respectable performance, much as chemists after the 1860s were trapped into the periodic table.1See the final paragraph of  Journeyism 1.

We would hope that the drive of our series so far would have aroused your curiosity about what “respectable performance” means. At all events, to help nudge us a little closer to its meaning, let’s briefly ponder the gradual emergence of “respectable performance” in the field of chemistry.

Until the late eighteenth century, the field had languished in the practice of alchemy: a hodgepodge of magic, myth and fanciful guesswork.2Herbert Butterfield traces criticism of backwardness in attempts at science to Sir Francis Bacon’s [1606-1626] “firm principle that if men wanted to achieve anything new in the world, it was of no use attempting to reach it on any ancient method – they must realize that new practices and policies would be necessary….It is quite clear that he realised how science could be brought to a higher power altogether by being transported away from that ordinary world of commonsense phenomena….The alchemists, he said, had theoretical preconceptions which hindered them from either carrying out their experiments along useful lines or extracting anything important from their results. Men in general glanced too hastily at the result of an experiment, and then imagined the rest could be done by sheer contemplation…” Butterfield, The Origins of Modern Science, Toronto: Clarke, Irwin and Company, 1968, 101. Between the discoveries of Robert Boyle [1627-1691]3“In this single field [Robert Boyle’s ] experiments did much to justify…the principle that the scientist should use the experimental method in order to collect concrete data….Boyle came near to laying the foundations of modern chemistry and made his significant contributions to science – contributions relating to the structure of matter…some historical explanation has to be provided for the fact that it took another century to place the science of chemistry really on its feet…” Ibid., 129-130. and the collaboration of Guiton de Morveau [1737-1816] and Antoine Lavoisier [1743-1794],4ibid. See Chapter 11 – “The Postponed Scientific Revolution in Chemistry,” pp. 191-209. “From 1782 Lavoisier worked in co-operation with [de Morveau], producing a new language of chemistry which is still the basis of the language used today…The chemical revolution which he had set out to achieve was incorporated in the new terminology as well as in a new treatise on chemistry which he wrote; and at the same time he was able to establish at last the ideas which Boyle had foreshadowed on the subject of a chemical element…Over a broad field, therefore, he made good his victory, so that he stands as the founder of the modern science. ibid., 208-9. it gradually became accepted by investigators in the field that empirical method was the only method that really works. However, it was not without various strands of resistance and confusion and even rejection along the way.5“For the chemist of this time there were all these counters, capable of being shifted and shuffled together, and nobody knew how to play with them. So many confusions existed that chemistry was building up strange mythical constitutions for its various substances. It is possible that so long as this anarchy existed any purely doctrinal statement of what a chemical element ought to be (such as that put forward by Boyle) was bound to be ineffective and beside the point.” ibid., 204. Eventually, this new standard of procedure was universally accepted by chemists and the autonomous science of chemistry was established, with its own language, and discovering its own laws.

Yet, before the periodic table was discovered by Dimitri Mendeleev [1834-1907] in 1869, 6“The Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev was the first scientist to make a periodic table similar to the one used today. Mendeleev arranged the elements by atomic mass, corresponding to relative molar mass.” https://www.lenntech.com/periodic/history/history-periodic-table.htm. (20/07/18) competent chemists were asking questions about, and making advances toward, correctly understanding various chemical elements and their relationships. However, their findings and advances were scattered and isolated. Part of the challenge, then, was to pull these fragments of chemical findings together.7In a secondary discovery, Mendeleev used the ordering of his table to go on to predict the existence of previously unknown elements.

Might there be a sense in which we face a similar dilemma encountered by Mendeleev et al with respect to putting our global minding in order?

The need of a fresh pragmatic principle has been forced on us by the specializations, fragmentations and discoveries of past centuries. Intellectual labour has been dividing and divided throughout the past five hundred years in a way that fosters isolated (and often irrelevant) specialization.8Taken from the opening page of www.philipmcshane.ca (20-07-18)

Can a parallel be drawn between the current crisis of specializations and fragmentations in the academy and the haphazard conditions leading up to the discovery of the periodic table in chemistry? How does “respectable performance” approximate “a fresh pragmatic principle” for investigators working in any modern zone of inquiry? How are we to manage efficiently the vast, complex spectrum of sensible data and data of human meanings past and future? How are we to account for, and overcome, the inevitable “strands of resistance and confusion and rejection” along the way?

Empirical Exercise 1

We take an initial shot in our quest of a coherent solution with a preliminary look at the list extracted from Years 3 and 4 of the sample syllabus. There are clues to be found in the expressions highlighted in bold and italics. We are pushing for not only data of recurrent patterns, but also distinct classifications of products of intellectual labour.9“A method is a normative pattern of recurrent and related operations yielding cumulative and progressive results.” Bernard Lonergan, Method in Theology, 4. Is there sufficient material there to give shape to a concrete heuristic10Our transformation of the philosophic tradition refreshes the meaning of the misused term, metaphysics. Metaphysics applies a logic to our investigation of any area that helps to keep the search open. It picks up on the spontaneity of our thinking and spells out anticipatorily what that spontaneity should be attending to. Instead of the clumsy word anticipatorily we normally use the word heuristically. Heuristic means ‘helping to discover;’ it is from the verb in Greek, heuriskein, to invent, to discover. Perhaps you have even used the related word, eureka (I’ve got it!)? Metaphysics is a logic of discovery that comes out of, and is improved continually, by our efforts to move forward in relevant discovery. that would transform established routines in the world’s academic communities?

  1. Research: how anthropologists design and conduct research in the context of contemporary issues and questions”
  2. Interpretation: Anthropological theories aim to interpret social action and explain social transformations”
  3. History: how modern anthropologies…were created, and out of what historical, social, political and cultural conditions, tensions, and ambiguities they were fashioned.”
  4. Debates: the contributions of these theorists and the ensuing debates…examine the current debates that have critically informed questions of ethnographic methods, writing, and representation.
  5. Foundation: the foundation of anthropological theory”
  6. Principles: range of concepts central to contemporary anthropology” How can thinking anthropologically reconnect social and cultural theory with acts of change?
  7. Further Possibilities: the kinds of anthropologies it may be possible to imagine, that can deal with the global conditions for public life in the world today.”
  8. Communication of ‘high points’: “understand the ‘high points’ of different theoretical schools and see how theory in anthropology is produced and circulated.”

What do we notice about the expressions? It’s evident (and this is where your homework would really come in handy) that they may be found in any university syllabus, discipline and discussion. They reflect activities and topics that surface in the production of any area of intellectual labour. We can also say that they convey some sort of intended meaning, although there is no indication that the meaning is fixed. We also note they appear without any systematic structure controlling their use or placement. Finally, there is no indication of a destination for all of this labour.

In brief, there is no evidence in its present form to show how this intellectual labour would be structured or how its meaning would be controlled or how its collective product would ultimately be directed.

Empirical Exercise 2

From our preliminary work, we now point to why these expressions have been highlighted and why they have been recast in the manner below. How might this group of products arranged in this way be relevant to putting our global minding in order in anthropology or in any field whatsoever?11We will be introducing this in our economics series under the mantle of getting our economic minding in order.

Recall how empirical method was revealed earlier in our series by asking: How does correct understanding work? How does responsible decision-making work? The result yielded a concrete heuristic for empirical method.12That heuristic is reflected in the images: dynamics of knowing and dynamics of doing. Yet, once again, we must emphasize that our illustrations and exercises for this heuristic have been drawn from elementary, descriptive illustrations and examples accessible to common sense. As far as it goes, these instances, while precise, empirically verifiable, and sufficient to our purpose, are incomplete. To appreciate the full control of data required for sensible and human meanings (Please see below, “Furthermore…”) we will need to draw on further elementary illustrations and examples from the world of theory. In our upcoming series on economics, the elementary examples there will serve to help you distinguish between descriptive (commonsense) reflection and explanatory (theoretical) reflection on data. This point is reinforced by Butterfield: “It will concern us particularly to take note of those cases in which men [and women] not only solved a problem but had to alter their mentality in the process, or at least discovered afterwards that the solution involved a change in their mental approach.” Butterfield, ibid. viii. Please note: the text in the quote has been highlighted in bold by us for the purpose of emphasis. Furthermore, to help you to begin thinking in terms of the range and totality of data to be investigated, we have referred to Lonergan’s distinction (bold text is ours): “The difference between natural and human science is that data for the former are basically sensible, while the data for the latter add human meanings.” op. cit., CWL 15, 10. We will be exploring this matter further beginning in Journeyism 22.

Now we ask: How does our heuristic for empirical method line up with these products? How would the products of each mode of thinking be expressed? How would the products themselves be structured?

We recast the group of eight products to form the image below.

Column 1Column 2Column 3

Deciding

Debates

Foundation

Judging

History

 

Principles

Understanding

Interpretation

 

Further Possibilities

Experiencing

Research

Communication

of ‘High Points’

Three columns display our two modes of thinking as well as its products. The first column densely expresses our heuristics for empirical method.13As we have seen, empirical method also reveals the structure and procedure of the human mind represented by the dynamics of knowing and the dynamics of doing. The second and third columns express the human mind’s various products, i.e. specialized products of intellectual labour.

Do you notice there is a symmetrical relationship between our thinking activities and the eight specialized products? This not only indicates the defacto relationship between our two modes of thinking and distinct intellectual products, but also the arrows indicate an interdependent relationship amongst the products themselves. In other words, there is a pattern of recurrent and related operations.14“There is a method, then, where there are distinct operations, where each operation is related to the others, where the set of relations forms a pattern, where the pattern is described as the right way of doing the job, where operations in accord with the pattern may be repeated indefinitely, and where the fruits of such repetition are, not repetitious, but cumulative and progressive. op. cit. Lonergan, 4. “…it illustrates a preliminary notion of method as a normative pattern of recurrent and related operations yielding cumulative and progressive results.” op. cit. Lonergan 5.

Does it not also seem evident to you that in any modern zone of inquiry the division of labour far exceeds the productive capacity of one person?15And yet even a casual browse through any book or journal article, in your zone of inquiry, in any modern zone of inquiry, will expose ample evidence in the labours of scientists and scholars. For a cross-section of examples in language studies, please see Chapter 9, “Towards Methodological Restructuring in Language Studies,” Shaping the Future of Language Studies, 116-130. Try to imagine the immensity of continuous activity flowing out of multiple ranges of sensible data and data of human meanings that make up these products. Would it not make sense that ongoing collaboration amongst professional colleagues would be needed to meet these heavy demands?16Again, given the plethora of data in any cultural endeavour, its diversity, and its relentless expansion, does it not strike you that adventurous “Lone Rangers” and “rugged individualists,” however gifted, who attempt to do every task that is required to promote progress in any field, relegate their efforts, at best, to the marginalized status of “gifted amateur,” and at worst, to the ever-increasing and immense manifold of random data destined for “who knows where”?

And here is what is most striking to us about the symmetry between our modes of thinking and the specialized products. We hope this will give you pause most of all. The symmetry shows that the division of labour is suggested, not by some arbitrarily imposed group of tasks, but in fact, by the fermentation of centuries of human thought.17“Note, too, that more than twenty years prior to Lonergan’s breakthrough, Welleck and Warren’s book on literature [Rene Welleck and Austin Warren, Theory of Literature. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1942/1970] practically lists the eight functional parts in the table of contents. And, philosophers of science may recall the foundational work of Arne Naess (1912-2009), father of the Deep Ecology movement. Naess independently identified four forward-looking groupings of tasks [Arne Naess, “Deep Ecology and Ultimate Premises,” The Ecologist, vol. 18, no. 4/5 (April/May 1988): 128-31.] that link closely with the four future-oriented [tasks] that link closely with the four future-oriented functional specializations, namely, functional foundations, policies, systematics and communications.” Terrance Quinn, Invitation to Generalizated Empirical Method, World Scientific, 2017, 182-3. In other words, the expressions structured in this way foreshadow the emergence of a concrete heuristic to put our global minding in order.

Before moving on to Journeyism 21, we urge you to take as long as you need to ponder the implications of our little empirical exercises in method. With sufficient reflection, we hope what we will have to say from that point forward will make increasingly good sense.

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