Journeyism 4

How Does Intellectual Labour Proceed? (Part 2)

 

At the end of Journeyism 3, we selected and highlighted, in order of appearance, a number of expressions. We pointed out that these expressions somehow have a role to play in controlling the pathways by which we generate and reflect on data. For ease of reference, we reproduce them in Table 1 below.

Here in our fourth installment, we bring to light the rich potential embedded in clues discernible in these expressions. To discover the clues will involve a shift in our attention to how1Question types and expressions associated with them will be italicized for emphasis throughout this series. A handy way to think of the question, “HOW?”, would be as an acronym for Home Of Wonder. each of us intelligently perform a range of activities when generating and reflecting on data.

Table 12The tables function as convenient diagrams, arranged in such a way so as to ground a higher plausibility and acceptability for the results that suggest themselves.

ApproachesUnderstandingways of knowing and being
knowledge and beliefsapproachknowledge
comparative analysis“thinking like an anthropologist”Rethinking
experienceknowledgetheoretical
analytical thinkingcoreinquiry
critical orientationsHowResearch
ApproachesQuestionsMethods
Questionsprocessesevaluate
theoretical developmentsinterpretexplain
theoriesthoughthistorical
howprocesses of theorizingideas
theoriespracticetheorists
criticalunderstandhow theory
debatescurrent debatescritically informed questions
produced and circulatedhistorically significantfoundation
methodshowhistorical
theorycontemporary theoretical productionsthe kinds
examine a range of conceptsHowReconnect
it may be possible to imagineFoundationsTheory
theory with acts of change?
how theory

We have before us a series of linguistic signs we would be accustomed to seeing in any discussion, in any discipline, in any university syllabus, and as such, reflects activities and topics that, in the main, recur in the production of any type of intellectual labour.3We would suggest you likewise extract the data from your own syllabus into a diagram similar to Table 1.

After a bit of puzzling, what do we notice, so far?

We suspect it will be clear by now (a respectful way of saying “obvious”) that data can neither be denied nor debated out of existence. The expressions are concretely experienced by us. Without that prior experience, there would be nothing to deny or debate.4We use the term “data” based on its original meaning. “The Latin word data is the plural of datum, “(thing) given”…. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data.

In addition, we notice there are particular expressions repeated throughout. Note, for example, the word, “Theory” appears in some form eight times, “Questions”, “How”, “approach(es)” “Methods”, appear multiple times, etc. We can also say that they convey some sort of intended meaning. As it stands, however, the intended meaning is open-ended.

We should note further the expressions appear without any clear or systematic structure controlling their use or placement. And we have no way of discerning whether the intended meaning is either fixed or loose. A formal discernment of meaning (fixed or loose) seems to have been left to the discretion of the individual reader. Now one might complain we have taken the words out of context, and that that action has some way obscured the author’s “intended meaning”. This “appears” to be valid if one is merely reading for information where the language is treated as static and the goal is to read it so one can become clear on its content. But we are not reading for information; we are shifting our orientation to reading linguistic signs to discover their dynamic function. When approached this way, these signs point to data we conveniently identify in terms of human activities or human products.

And so with the aid of diagrams to reveal the underlying dynamic function of the linguistic signs, we are, in fact, beginning to make a fundamental shift in how to identify the activities that take place in any academic discipline. Again, the basis upon which that shift is undertaken is empirical. Moreover, we are pushing for not only data of recurrent patterns in the expressions, but also distinct classifications of expression that can be cut down to an essential group. In upcoming installments we will expand further on how their use and appearance is structured and how their meaning is controlled. But, we would caution, that effort would not make sense if we did not consciously take the time for a personal reorientation, to shift our approach to a distinct level of reflection that can discern these expressions as dynamic.

To nudge us closer, we modify our arrangement in Table 2, below.5Again, we suggest you modify the data from your Table 1 into a diagram similar to Table 2.

Table 2

Human Product (Static)Human Activity (Dynamic)
Approachesto approach
knowledge and beliefsto know, to believe
comparative analysisto compare, to analyze
experienceto experience
analytical thinkingto analyze, to think
critical orientationsto criticize, to orient
Approachesto approach, how theory
Questions,to question, to wonder
theoretical developmentsto theorize, to develop
methodshow-to-do
criticalto criticize
debatesto debate
produced and circulatedto produce, to circulate
examine a range of conceptsto examine
it may be possible to imagineto imagine
(theory with) acts of change?to evolve, to develop
Understandingto understand
knowledgeto know
processesto do, to make
interpretto interpret
thoughtto think
processes of theorizingto conceive
practiceto practice
understandto understand
current debatesto debate
historically significantto signify
contemporary theoretical productions
core, Foundations

We simply rearrange the expressions into two categories, static and dynamic: in the first column, as originally presented in the syllabus, human products, in the second column, human activities. The addition of human activities reveals so much more than meets the eye:6We hint at a process that lifts our seeing, by juxtaposing the noun, “eye”, with the first-person pronoun, “I”. We’ll be exploring the complexities relating to the meaning of “I” along the way. For now we refer to “I” as representing our actively engaged intellect. the possibility of two distinct approaches to reading.

There is the conventional way of reading that has been almost exclusively “educated” into us: reading to be informed, to absorb information. Then there is the dynamic reading that, regrettably, has been virtually “educated” out of us: reading controlled by wonder about the material we are experiencing.  When our wonder about the material is restored, we discover the potential embedded in the clues discernible in these expressions. That potential is revealed when we recast many of these words in their verbal root (infinitival) form to open us up to a rich panorama expressing how humans, how each of us, actively engage in our intellectual tasks.

Are you curious, puzzled by our pointing? If so, you might suspect your wonder is beginning to take control of your reading! How is this revealed by your experience of reading? In a “flash” you “make sense” of our pointing, where your “making sense” is not a matter of becoming clear on the data or linguistic signs given, but of creatively generating the additional act of understanding of the data or linguistic signs.

Again, you might recall the experience of not getting the punch line to a joke, of not “making sense” of the punch line. You wonder why your friends suddenly broke into laughter. You wonder what was so funny. You wonder how to make sense of the punch line. You saw or heard the punch line but that experience of the language, the words themselves and how they were arranged on their own was not enough to get the solution. Still, the others erupted into laughter, and of course, you wanted to laugh along, too. In the meantime, you continued to wonder and seconds later, or longer, perhaps when you were alone, you experienced a flash and the tension was released. Eureka, “I got it!” Simultaneously, you broke into laughter.

Again, a contrast between the two types of reading language is at play. You memorized the words to the punch line, but they were just an unknown pattern of sounds or linguistic signs until they provoked entry into the playground of your intelligence and you had wondered about them long enough  to be rewarded with a sudden, creative “flash” of understanding and a healthy laugh.7We are gradually drawing your attention to the dynamic relationship between human wonder and human language. There is the challenge to break through to its discovery, in contrast to conventional reading, the exercise of which, like blindly repeating the words to a punchline, allows us to repeat “an insightful world-view, but if it includes [me], does it include [me] that I am, that I might be [to] the exclusion of my curiosity…?” Philip McShane, Introducing the Thought of Bernard Lonergan, London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1973, p. 12

On that lighter note, we bring this segment to a close. In the meantime, to reinforce our point, we hope you will reflect on our example above, along with your experience of performing many of the human activities identified in the tables, so as to make some preliminary observations for yourself, as we slowly and patiently shift our orientation to how language works.

Again, at the risk of sounding repetitive, a brief word on maintaining an even keel to tackling the job before us. Remember our earlier pledge to observe a leisurely pace that respects your intelligence? We have not lost sight of that. On the contrary, we have been and will continue to be consistent in our urging to carry on in an elementary fashion, by slowing the pace and using images and accompanying examples to stir your wonder. We hope you are beginning to discover there is simply no substitute for shifting our focus in this way, to discover a startlingly symmetrical relationship between how your curiosity works and how language works.8This series is preliminary, empirical, and descriptive. “It would seem that this preliminary task would have to be conducted in literary language….” See Bernard Lonergan, “The Method of Metaphysics”, Insight, (CWL 3), University of Toronto Press, 1992, pp. 448-455. The literary language to which Lonergan refers is uncompromising in its reach, and sets the stage for a future language for philosophy called “linguistic feedback”. Our Journeyism series is a modest, initial undertaking in that regard – a sort of halfway house. Still, why is shifting to this approach difficult but necessary? We can touch on that by briefly surveying the landscape of, dare we say, common academic experiences that historically have misshaped our habit of thinking and speaking, as well as the way we approach, and reflect on, our subjects.9We slide past the important topic of how current academic practice evolved. For a brief historical context, see Chapter 7, “A Dialectic Analysis of the Investigation into Language Universals,” Shaping the Future of Language Studies, 82-100.

So, if your exposure to higher education is literary, then it will be difficult enough not only to see the need, but also to undertake the required shift to an empirical approach. After all, thinking empirically is an activity quite foreign to the traditional commonsense discourse of spontaneity, rhetoric, eloquence, erudition, feats of memory, humour, satire and wit that have inhabited the domain of Philosophy, the Arts and Humanities for centuries.10That having been said, we are certainly not diminishing its symbolic value insofar as it brilliantly reveals our humanity in all its foibles and aspirations and opens up further possibilities for an enriched human living.

On the other hand, if you are inclined toward the sciences, there is, historically, a mistaken tendency to restrict “science” or “scientific thinking” to the domain of Natural Sciences.11The philosophical tradition proposed “an analogy of science. Science properly so called is the conspicuously successful science….Other subjects are scientific in the measure they conform to its procedures and, in the measure they do not, they are something less than scientific….So today the English word, science, means natural science. One descends a rung or more in the ladder when one speaks of behavioral human sciences [that] often have to be content if their subject is included in a list not of sciences but of academic disciplines.” Bernard Lonergan, Method in Theology, 1972, 3. We will resume this particular topic in Journeyism 22. There is the further danger of filtering this view through a distorted lens that would deny, unequivocally, Philosophy, the Arts or Humanities admission to the academy of “science”.12The dye was cast by the Aristotelian tradition. Evidence of its origin appears, for example, in n82a Magna Moralia 1: “Neither was Socrates right in making the excellences sciences. For he used to think that nothing ought to be in vain, but from the excellences being sciences he met with the result that excellences were in vain. Why so?  Because in the case of the sciences, as soon as one knows what the science is, it results that one is scientific (for any one who knows medicine is forthwith a physician, and so with other sciences). But this result does not follow in the case of the excellences. For any one who knows what justice is not forthwith just, and similarly in the case of the rest. It follows then that the excellences are actually in vain and that they are not sciences.” Bernard Lonergan would write of Artistotle’s position in a 1935 letter, “I advance that Aristotle was a bourgeois, that he introduced the distinction between speculative and practical to put the ‘good’ as Socrates and Plato conceived it out of court.” Please see Journeyism 19, footnote 3.

And in both domains, there remains an underlying confusion that has festered into a range of biases and fragmented the overall academic enterprise through the centuries.

A critical resolution to disputes between these two solitudes in human inquiry remains unresolved in academic practice.13Our critical resolution to this issue will be addressed beginning at Journeyism 22, “Redefining Academic Discipline (Part 1)”. It is not our immediate task to resolve specific issues dividing individual communities. At this stage of our journey we wish only to draw your attention to the fact that when you begin any investigation with relevant data and questions, you are being both concrete and empirical.

In other words, whatever your academic pursuit, if your questions seek empirical verification, your approach will be on secure ground, immune to charges of merely guessing, or being fanciful or indeed, even being “unscientific” in your thinking. Furthermore, with these preliminary exercises, we are slowly but steadily drawing your attention to an empirical culture that will, in future, dissolve the current confusion. At the same time, we have added another layer to our claim that Philosophy will have a foundational role to play to see this through.

Finally, we are establishing a solid basis to support the view that “[t]he difference between natural and human science is that the data for the former are basically sensible, while the data for the latter add human meanings.”14Bernard Lonergan. Macroeconomic Dynamics: An Essay in Circulation Analysis (CWL 15), University of Toronto Press, 1999, p. 10.

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