Towards a Genetic Structure for Method

The method of futurology is a cyclic collaboration of groups of people deeply interested in effectively restructuring humanity’s stumbling start.1op. cit. Introducing Critical Thinking, 196.

We now edge a little more closely towards a genetic structure2When we speak of “genetic structure”, the expression “structure” must not be construed as something rigid that is imposed. On the contrary, it is used here in tandem with the term “genetic” in the classic sense of genesis or openness to development. Footnote 11 is also relevant on this point. for method3Likewise, the term “method” is not to be construed as something rigid that is imposed. On the contrary, “[t]here 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. Method in Theology, 4. that will eventually be implemented in every modern field of inquiry.4As bold as this may sound, those who have worked their way through this series should know we are not making a fanciful statement. It is based on empirical evidence, centuries of intellectual fermentation that could be described as “the pressure of history.” See footnote 6. It comprises two distinct empirically-verified heuristics. The heuristic, empirical method, will operate continuously within, and enrich5An elementary description of “enrichment” will be forthcoming starting in Journeyism 22 with the introduction of the omnidisciplinary function of each task., each of the interdependent tasks that form a genetic heuristic6It is important to bear in mind the startling fact of historical foreshadowing with which we concluded Journeyism 20 that this “form” has its origin in the emergence of existing intellectual products. (represented in the modified diagram below).7To the preliminary diagram presented in Journeyism 20, we substitute Dialectic for “Debates,” Policies for “Principles” and Systematics for “Further Possibilities.” Again, with reference to footnotes 4 and 8, it should be noted the specific function of the eight tasks, and its intellectual fruit (product) will be lifted at each turn by empirical method.

We postpone, until Journeyism 22, introduction of the integral operation within empirical method, to focus on features of the genetic structure itself.8Our postponement does not preclude the fact, noted by us throughout, that the implementation of empirical method is virtually non-existent not only in how we approach our thinking selves, but also reciprocally, in the myriad products of intellectual labour across modern fields of inquiry. Furthermore, that absence, in great measure, accounts for the lack of precision in the control of meaning expressed in the descriptions gleaned from the sample syllabus. We seek to enrich those descriptions, in an introductory way, in the comparison below. In the meantime, we will resume our discussion of this issue in Journeyism 22.

Exercise 1

In order to reinforce the historical foreshadowing of the eight tasks in data from the sample syllabus, and for ease of reference, we have combined the descriptions from both the syllabus, and in bulleted points, our additional refinements. Do you notice how a comparison of the respective descriptions illustrates an approximate parallel between both the delineation and purpose of each task?

Take all the time you need not only to make the connections, but also to make sense of how our refinements add further precision and coherence, both within and between the tasks.

Looking to the Past

1. Research: “how anthropologists design and conduct research in the context of contemporary issues and questions”

  • Finding relevant data, written or otherwise

2. Interpretation: “Anthropological theories aim to interpret social action and explain social transformations”

  • Reaching the meaning of such data, the meaning of those that produced that data

3. History: “how modern anthropologies…were created, and out of what historical, social, political and cultural conditions, tensions, and ambiguities they were fashioned.”

  • Figuring out the story, connecting the meanings of the writings and the doings, etc.

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.

  • Dialectic: coming up with a best story and the best basic directions so far

Looking to the Future

5. Foundation: “the foundation of anthropological theory”

  • Expressing the best fundamental (in the sense that they are not tied to age, time, etc.) directions

6. Principles: range of concepts central to contemporary anthropology” How can thinking anthropologically reconnect social and cultural theory with acts of change

  • Policies: Reaching relevant pragmatic truths, somewhat like the core of national constitutions or of tribal legends

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.”

  • Systematics: Drawing correctly and contra-factually on the strategies and discoveries of the past to envisage ranges of time-ordered possibilities

8. Communication of ‘high points’: “understand the ‘high points’ of different theoretical schools and see how theory in anthropology is produced and circulated.”

  • Communications: local collaborative reflection that selects creatively from the ordered ranges of possibilities

Exercise 2

Now we urge you to imagine further how the eight tasks will work to “effectively restructure humanity’s stumbling start.”

First, we ask you to consider the presence of tasks 1 to 4, looking to the past, and of tasks 5 to 8, looking to the future.

The first four tasks could bring to mind, in a fresh way, George Santayana’s popular saying: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”9Variations of this famous quote by the Spanish philosopher, George Santayana [1863-1952] have become embedded in popular culture. 8/8/18. And, might we not also add the conspicuous absence of remembering the past critically? Would it not make sense that Santayana, (and perhaps some pioneers in your field of study, among others) having been prompted by a long line of historical disasters, was desperate to salvage data and/or clues for a solution from the past?10In this regard, we would suggest employing the term “anomaly,” the discovery of which might have had either a positive or negative effect on a concrete situation.

In equal measure, you might consider how “our stumbling start” has also deeply influenced the limited way in which we think about the future. Consider, for example, the ethos of technological advance for its own sake and its ambivalent impact on the quality of human life.11Does it not make sense that applied science is barely into its infancy? Is it also not puzzling, and tellingly ironic, that a culture can coin the expression  “A.I.” (“artificial intelligence”) at a time in history when there is widespread confusion about what human intelligence actually is? Does the globe’s current economic and environmental path not give us pause with respect to where it is leading us? Are we not “deeply interested,” perhaps even desperate, for applied solutions to our current situation? Indeed, how much of your post-secondary education has been devoted to thinking seriously, and critically, about the future and how your field of study contributes, positively and sustainably, to its shaping?

Now try to imagine the enormous flow of intellectual labour produced by a cyclic collaboration of groups operating in just one field of inquiry – in your field of study, perhaps? Can you imagine a logically12We don’t mean “logic” in the popular sense of static or rigid. The coherence of which we speak is dynamic and regards how structure accommodates openness to development. Please recall that heuristic means ‘helping to discover’. Metaphysics is a logic of discovery that comes out of, and is improved continually, by our efforts to move forward in relevant discovery. 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 heuristically what that spontaneity should be attending to. The collaborative implementation of this genetic heuristic will restore philosophy to its proper status and function in the academy and in doing so, refresh the meaning of metaphysics. For further discussion regarding the distinction “between a static and dynamic viewpoint,” please see Chapter 3 of Bernard Lonergan, Philosophy of God, and Theology, Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1973, 45-50. “In brief, like the mortician, the logician achieves a steady state only temporarily. The mortician prevents not the ultimate but only the immediate decomposition of the corpse. In similar fashion the logician brings about, not the clarity, the coherence and the rigor that will last forever, but only the clarity, the coherence, and the rigor that will bring to light the inadequacy of current views and thereby give rise to the discovery of a more adequate position.” (47) ordered rolling forward (vortex-wise) of creativity?

Or how the role of each task would distinguish and separate successive stages in the process from data to results?

Imagine how that ordered rolling forward would then generate a certain sifting, a survival of the fittest products of intellectual labour that would lead to progress in each field of inquiry.

Do you notice how the division of labour inherent in these distinctions would be necessary to manage this enormous flow effectively and efficiently? In fact, the collaborative effort in each task “is essentially not a distinction of specialists but a distinction of specialties. It arises, not to divide the same sort of task among many hands, but to distinguish different tasks and to prevent them from being confused.”13Op. cit. Method, 136. For an example, please refer to the Exercise at the conclusion of Journeyism 23. For additional examples of confusion in, and blurring of, the tasks as they are currently performed in the field of language studies see: Chapter 9, “Towards Methodological Restructuring in Language Studies,” op. cit. Shaping the Future of Language Studies, pp. 116-137. Likewise, in the field of physics, see Terrance J. Quinn, The (Pre)Dawning of Functional Specialization in Physics, World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd. 2017.

“We have to make a start.”14The opening line to Journeyism 2. Are you willing to refocus your reflections on how the structure of the future academy could make life more livable with its communal cycling through these eight tasks?

References   [ + ]

Leave a Comment