How does Intellectual Labour Proceed? (Part 6)

The Need for a Division of Labour

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 section, “How does Futurology Work?” in  Journeyism 1.

We would hope your curiosity has been aroused regarding what “respectable performance” means. To nudge us a little closer, let’s briefly consider 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 works. However, its eventual acceptance was forced to endure 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, even 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.” (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.

A parallel can be drawn between the conditions prior to discovery of the periodic table, and the current conditions with respect to intellectual labour in post-secondary institutions.

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 (20-07-18)

We anticipate a “fresh pragmatic principle” will emerge from a transformed philosophic tradition.9Our transformation of the philosophic tradition refreshes the meaning of metaphysics. “The one important aspect of metaphysics that we would like you to think about, is that it is not remote: it is practical. Without it, and without [a luminous grasp of our knowing and doing] on which it is based, the present messes in our global lifestyles will continue… (ICT, 148.) 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 heuristicallyHeuristic 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. See ICT, 146-150.  What will that transformation look like? How will it efficiently manage the vast, complex spectrum of sensible data and data of human meanings past and future? How will it account for, and overcome, the inevitable “strands of resistance and confusion and rejection” along the way? 

Significant data extracted from the sample syllabus in Chapter 19 yields a preliminary glance at that transformation in two imagesImage 1 distinguishes eight classifications of intellectual labour in any field of human inquiry.10“A method is a normative pattern of recurrent and related operations yielding cumulative and progressive results.” Bernard LonerganMethod in Theology, 4. Image 2 reveals, within the classifications, a pattern of recurrent and related operations11“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. “[I]t illustrates a preliminary notion of method as a normative pattern of recurrent and related operations yielding cumulative and progressive results.” op. cit. Lonergan 5. concomitant12happening at the same time as something else, especially because one thing is related to or causes the other early 17th cent.: from late Latin concomitant- ‘accompanying’, from concomitari, from con- ‘together with’ + comitari, from Latin comes ‘companion’. to the Dynamics of Knowing and Doing.13The full control of data required for sensible and human meanings will be drawn from the world of theory with the move from description to explanation. Butterfield emphasizes the point: “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. See Journeyism 22Journeyism 24 and Journeyism 25.

Image 1 

  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.” 

Image 1 indicates: 

  • The division of labour required to perform these recurring tasks far exceeds the productive capacity of one individual.14Even a casual browse through any book or journal article, in any modern zone of inquiry, will expose ample evidence. For a cross-section of examples in language studies, see Chapter 9, “Towards Methodological Restructuring in Language Studies,” Shaping the Future of Language Studies, 116-130.
  • A clear need for global collaboration amongst professional scholars and scientists in all fields of human inquiry. 

Image 2 

Column 1 Column 2 Column 3











Further Possibilities




of ‘High Points’

Image 2 reveals that intellectual labour is a concomitance of our two modes of thinking and their products. The first column densely expresses our heuristics for empirical method. The second and third columns specify their end-products. Collectively, they indicate that these end-products: 

  • Are not an arbitrarily imposed group of tasks, but the fermentation of centuries of human thought.15”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. 
  • Foreshadow the emergence of a concrete heuristic for method to put our global minding in order. 

Before proceeding to Journeyism 21, we urge you to take as much time as you need to reflect on the two images and their implications. With sufficient reflection, we hope our forthcoming descriptions to put our global minding in order will begin to fall into place.

References   [ + ]

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