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Changing the rhetoric

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  • #46
    Originally posted by Doc

    I guess the differences in the way you and I have been taught to understand these issues...
    My problem is that nobody taught me nothin'! Alas, I am untrainable. Several factors affected my development in these respects--growing up in a house full of books, liberal parents who encouraged me to find my own way, two "genius" uncles (one a Harvard-trained MD who did research, the other a Chicago-trained linguist and archaeologist (a Hittitetologist, by Jove!) who were both disdainful about academe and their colleagues (my father (a Sociologist and a bit less of a genius) was pretty disdainful along these lines too)--and then there was Jethro Tull and Michael Moorcock. Mix it all up and out pops an untrainable Carter. However, I had to teach (the university lecturn is in my blood) and I needed a field. So I entered English and invented my own--Critical Synoptics. He he. I was flying by the seat of my pants, and dispite myself I've created a "field" with some actual substance. Meantime, I have got to find a publisher for these novels....

    Bill: I agree. Learning about what's going on in the different fields is rewarding in all sorts of ways. Indeed, studying what's going on in the different fields is sort of a field itself, and as you are certainly aware many lawyers and physicians make pursuing this sort of broad inquiry their hobby.

    By the way, Matthew Stewart's The Truth about Everything is a must-see.

    Comment


    • #47
      Since we seem to be entertaining Bill... :D

      I made my last post much more difficult than it needed to be. The big distinction between positivist and nonpositivist approaches in my discipline is really a difference in thinking you are finding part of absolute truth and finding truth as we can know it.

      I know what you're saying about not finding a comfortable home for your own thought. I'm not like most people in my discipline either. I connected to sociology as an undergraduate because I liked its substance, and in my MA program because I loved the ideas. There was some kind of intuitive connection-- it was the first place that all of my world views kind of fit. I grew up as a smart kid in a rural area that didn't know what to do with smart kids. So my friends and I encouraged each other in all of the new things we thought were interesting, including our reading. Looking back, I realize how lucky I was to have parents who thought buying books that I liked was a good idea, even if they didn't care much for what I was reading. It was also really great to have a lot of friends around me who thought that reading wierd fiction and history at the same time was a good thing, not something that made me odd. I got to become a really independent thinker with a strong sense of the way the world is, and maybe a better sense of how I thought the world should be.

      When I started my doctoral program I began to figure out that a lot of what we do professionally isn't what drew me to the discipline, but I was hard headed enough to pursue the ideal version anyway, but it really cost me. The program was much harder for me than it could have been, simply because I wasn't content to do things the way everyone else had. Consequently, the things I like doing most with and in the discipline are at the fringes of it, especially methodologically and probably epistimologically and ontologically, as well.

      I was lucky enough to land in a department that enocourages me to do what I want. More importantly, they let me teach it, as well. I'm still feeling it out. One of these days I would like to be able to spell it all out and have a flashy title (like Critical Synoptics--it sounds so important!).

      For what it's worth, I like the way that you incorporate philosophy into your work as much as the language part of English. It's a different vantage point for understanding culture than I've seen from a lot of English scholars. But I'll bet using people like Wittgenstein in your work either pisses people off, or leaves them a little confused.

      Comment


      • #48
        Originally posted by Doc
        a flashy title (like Critical Synoptics--it sounds so important!).
        Well, it is important! :roll:

        The cover (Dore's engraving of David holding Goliath's head in the air) is better suited to a swords and sorcery novel--and maybe that's what I'd rather be writing.

        Originally posted by Doc
        For what it's worth, I like the way that you incorporate philosophy into your work as much as the language part of English. It's a different vantage point for understanding culture than I've seen from a lot of English scholars.
        A couple of journals address philosophy and literature directly: SubStance, Philosophy and Literature, and I am sure there are at least several more. And I suppose most academic journals, when you think about it, are inclined that way. I am sure the editors at Social Text think they are very philosophical....

        Many "scholars" of literature don't know philosophy (and don't know history), and there is a lot of philosophical credulousness and conceptual confusion in the output of the academic presses. Also, a lot of folks build their career on it--it's called obscurantism

        Originally posted by Doc
        But I'll bet using people like Wittgenstein in your work either pisses people off, or leaves them a little confused.
        I hope not! It's pretty straight forward, actually. Wittgenstein use story telling to examine propositions. Many authors, particulalry satirists, use story telling to do much the same thing. Critical Synoptics is the "field" which examins the way story telling is (and can be) used to analize intellectual, academic, scientific, sociological, theological, political and pyschological mythology. Again, despite myself, I evolved a truly new and distinct approach to literature. There is a lot of work that's been done explicating what (satirical, for instance) authors might be mocking, their biography, their prose style, their historical context and so on; and there has been much done on the phenomenon of narrative itself; but very little has been done explaining how the features of story telling--the construction of the "synoptic surview"--reveals the sense (or the nonsense) of scientific and pseudo-scientific propositions. I combined Wittgentisein and satire--and out popped critical synoptics. I am working on a sequel entitled Critical Origins: The Synoptic Analysis of Occasional Indeterminancy.

        As for confusion--my lectures/class discussions are models of clarity. What critical synoptics does is focus the teacher on clear explications of the text. I get up in front of them and rattle off episodes from Moby-Dick, for example, emphasize Melville's humor and genius (fallacy of authorial intent nothwithstanding) and they eat it up. If you are working with a Melville, a Hawthorne, a Nabokov, a Milton and so on you can't miss. These guys have a distinct "shamansitic humor" that can be evoked in the classroom--and even if the students don't particularly like the author, their heads are opend up to some wild vistas of speculation, and they learn the importance of precision and clarity. In this sense, I train explorers.

        Outside the apparatus of the Second Ether, which is my primary interest in MM's work, I am rather fond of the technique(s) whereby he swiftly and clearly expresses fantastic images and situations. My interest here goes beyond the simple appreciation of verismilitude and the suspension of dibelief. There is a lot in this to think about.

        Returning to the opening post in this thread, Professor Lakoff's "cognitive linguistics" is a subject I explore under what I believe to be the more appropriate* mantle of "literary shamanism."


        * And recall my reference to "appropriate response to phenomena" above.

        Comment


        • #49
          Sept. 14, 2004


          (The American Prospect) This column from The American Prospect was written by Michael Tomasky. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

          It's still possible that John Kerry could win -- although, of course, anytime a liberal columnist opens his column with a phrase like that, it's not a good sign.

          Yes, it's still possible. The Clinton bullpen squad could rally the candidate. (And don't forget: He's a great closer!!) But even if he does win, this campaign has already offered another object lesson in why Democrats tend to lose.

          The problem begins with the fact that majorities of the public tend to agree with Democrats on the issues. This isn't universally true, of course, but it's true with regard to more issues (perhaps many more issues) than not. On health care, the environment, investment, education, just about everything except national defense, majorities lean toward the Democratic position.

          This sounds like a good thing. But in fact, it's an incredibly bad thing, because it leads Democrats to believe that they can win on the issues. So a Democratic presidential candidate's pollster goes out into the field and comes back with data proving that 54 of percent of the people are with us on this issue, and 61 percent of them are with us on that one, and so on. And so the pollster tells the candidate, "Just talk about the issues, and everything will be ducky."

          Republican pollsters, meanwhile, conduct the same polls, and they study the same data. They tell their candidates, "Actually, boss, we can't really win on the issues, so we'd better come up with something else." Well, after the past six weeks, we all know what that something else is. It's character. That is, make the election about the other guy's character.

          I don't want to sound like a conspiracy monger, but all the evidence of how this campaign has played out so far suggests that something like the following happens. It seems that once the Democratic nominee is decided -- in the current case, that would have been early March -- the top Republican and conservative strategists start having conversations. They probably get together and say something like: "OK, John Kerry's the nominee. In one sentence or maybe two, what do we want the American voting public to be thinking about John Kerry by November 2? The neighbors discussing their votes on election eve -- what do we want them to be saying about Kerry?"

          The answer they settled on was clearly something to the effect that "he can't be trusted to fight the war on terror." Then, once they've agreed on that, they say: "Okay. How do we get there from here? What are the stages of the argument?" And then they lay it out, and the stages are exactly as we've seen:


          -First, label him a flip-flopper. Establish him as unreliable. When dealing with someone who's been in the Senate for 20 years, casting thousands of roll-call votes on everything under God's sun, that's child's play.


          -Second, go after his war record in Vietnam. It's the one obvious resume advantage Kerry has (had?) over Bush. Erase it with a bunch of old and not credible charges. Turn Kerry's advantage into a wash.


          -Third, bring in Kerry's 1971 testimony. That should have the effect of planting the seed: Gee, if he spoke out against America then, can we be sure he'll defend America now?


          -Fourth and last, once the historical groundwork is established, bring it up to the present. Tie it into terrorism and Iraq. Kerry -- the flip-flopper, the war-story embellisher, the critic of American military aims -- can't be trusted.

          I should note for disclosure purposes that I think they're a bunch of scurrilous liars. But what I think isn't the point of this column. The point is how organized and good they are at what they do. There are occasional departures from the script, like Dick Cheney's extemporaneous remark that a Kerry election would ensure another terrorist attack; everyone understands that that is certainly the implied message of Republican salvos, it's just not the kind of thing you're actually supposed to say. But 97 percent of the time, the Republicans stay completely on the message they decided on shortly after they knew who their competition was going to be. And sure enough, come November 2, a lot of American voters will be driving to their polling places, thinking to themselves, "Gosh, I just don't think John Kerry can be trusted to fight the war on terror."

          And the Democrats? Well, if they had such a strategy, they sure haven't offered any evidence that it was implemented. They don't appear to do any of this. And it's not that they don't do it because they're better people. It's a socio-psychological fact (if there is such a bird) that liberals tend to want to believe the best about the world, while conservatives see the world in darker, more Hobbesian hues. This, not the fact that they're better human beings, makes liberals less likely to play on voters' fears -- makes them want to believe that they actually can win a campaign on the issues.

          In a rational world (speaking of things liberals want to believe in!), they would win campaigns on the issues. And in fact they did win two, but that was only when they had an unusually articulate and charismatic candidate named Clinton (and when it was possible to win with 43 percent of the vote, as Clinton did in 1992, or when the Hobbesians nominate a septuagenarian hatchet man, as they did in 1996).

          But the world is the world. Republicans understand the world, and Democrats do not. Republicans know that voters will respond emotionally to character questions, and they know that the media will lap them up like a thirsty dog. Democrats keep thinking that voters will do something as improbably nutritional as study a health care plan (as, surely, a scattered few do), and that the media will show themselves eager to write articles and broadcast discussion segments about health care plans. Both assumptions are folly.

          George W. Bush has a record the Democrats should have made mincemeat of. Right about now, the media should be writing, and American voters should be thinking: Golly, a million jobs lost, millions more in poverty, manufacturing down; no WMD's, 1,000-plus dead, Iraq on the brink of civil war, al Qaeda larger than ever and still recruiting, acts of worldwide terrorism on the rise, North Korea and Iran responding to the cowboy routine by going nuclear. This should have been easy.

          Now, it's too late for the Democrats to create these narratives. The counter-narrative is too well established. Kerry could still win, but whatever his fate, Democratic political professionals need to think hard about this. They get paid millions of dollars (and here I am offering all this for free), and they dispense the same wrong advice over and over. And over. And over. And...

          Michael Tomasky is executive editor of The American Prospect.
          \"Bush\'s army of barmy bigots is the worst thing that\'s happened to the US in some years...\"
          Michael Moorcock - 3am Magazine Interview

          Comment


          • #50
            "Now, it's too late for the Democrats to create these narratives. The counter-narrative is too well established. Kerry could still win, but whatever his fate, Democratic political professionals need to think hard about this. They get paid millions of dollars (and here I am offering all this for free), and they dispense the same wrong advice over and over. And over. And over. And... "

            FINALLY. I have been delivering this same message - without the liberal asides - for several months, and have been labelled a crackpot.

            Hopefully people will listen to him more than they will listen to me.

            Comment


            • #51
              I have to disagree with the article. From what I've read the Democratic party is seen as disorganized. This reputation goes back a long way; Will Rogers once said "I don't belong to any organized political party, I'm a Democrat." Because of this impression, Democratic candidates have a harder time defining themsevles. In order to win, a Democrat has to either take strong moral stands on the issues and distinguish himself from the opponent, or come accross as a likable guy. Kerry really hasn't done either of these.

              Comment


              • #52
                Originally posted by Bill
                Hopefully people will listen to him more than they will listen to me.
                How much do you like lawyering, Bill? It's not too late to become an editorial columnist, you know! :P
                "Wounds are all I'm made of. Did I hear you say that this is victory?"
                --Michael Moorcock, Veteran of the Psychic Wars

                Comment


                • #53
                  Bill you are a lawyer? That was my second career choice. Lawyers have done a lot of good for the underprivileged in the US and I admire that.

                  Anyway, I believe that the republicans have the best angle on the rhetoric. They have two tactics that are clear to me. One is the personal responsibility fallacy. If you believe in it then they are right about most every social issue. The second is fed from the first, as the republicans employ the Nietzschian idea of a dominant superman that has made it on his own through wit and personal responsibility. This feeds in to the human/monkey tendency to fawn at the feet of the alpha male. He deserves the extra bananas because he is who he is. Also, they are good at using cultural heuristics to sell their image: the cowboy, the nice business suit, a certain kind of hair cut, etc. People seem to love this stuff.
                  Much like Nietzsche , the republicans promote a kind of aristocracy based on merit. Equally, like him they take a dim view of the “weaker� members of society. The thing that I object to is that, as I have said many times, all of us are riding a wave caused by previous generations, so we really can’t take too much credit for our positions in life. Really, the stoic Epictetus said something like that first. I don’t want to steal.

                  Comment


                  • #54
                    "How much do you like lawyering, Bill? It's not too late to become an editorial columnist, you know!"

                    I would in a HEARTBEAT. That to me would be a very rewarding career. Who knows?

                    "...as the republicans employ the Nietzschian idea of a dominant superman that has made it on his own through wit and personal responsibility. This feeds in to the human/monkey tendency to fawn at the feet of the alpha male."

                    Holy God. Do you actually believe this nonsense??? I mean, it isn't nonsense in the theoretical sense, but you can't be seriously applying this to the political and sociological situation today, can you?? Can you??

                    "Much like Nietzsche , the republicans promote a kind of aristocracy based on merit. Equally, like him they take a dim view of the “weaker� members of society. The thing that I object to is that, as I have said many times, all of us are riding a wave caused by previous generations,"

                    No, not all of us are. Why can't it be as simple as someone being proud of their achievements and wanting others to approach opportunity in a similar way? You make everything sound so freaking sinister and evil. Most alpha males I know are douchebags; they deserve a kick in the ass, not "more bananas" (By the way, for my own blood pressure, I am going to ignore the equation with monkeys, condescending and dismissive as it may be. Whose doing the namecalling again??)

                    You still don't get it: If you keep stereotyping and brown-bagging the issues in this manner, your theory that "there is no fix" is a self-actualizing prophesy. But, then again, I think you know that. :?

                    Comment


                    • #55
                      Originally posted by Bill
                      Originally posted by TheAdlerian
                      Much like Nietzsche , the republicans promote a kind of aristocracy based on merit. Equally, like him they take a dim view of the “weaker� members of society. The thing that I object to is that, as I have said many times, all of us are riding a wave caused by previous generations,
                      Why can't it be as simple as someone being proud of their achievements and wanting others to approach opportunity in a similar way? You make everything sound so freaking sinister and evil.
                      At the risk of losing your audience, Bill, I want to say that I get where TheAdlerian is coming from and I get where you're coming from. Obviously, they are two different places...

                      You do not, as far as I have gathered from our conversations, typify the current Republican type (called NeoCon). You do not base your politics on religion; you do not wish to employ Machiavellian tactics in your politics; you do not (for the most part) take a "let them eat cake" attitude.

                      The conservatives TheAdlerian is referring to do precisely these things. To wit, Bush and his rich-as-all-get-out administration don't seem to give one crap about the poor. Bush SO ISN'T about helping the poor in this country get ahead, mainly because he does seem to believe in elitism. And if he doesn't, he sure has a funny way of showing it. He is the textbook example of someone who thinks he is Nietzsche's "superman." (I personally doubt Dubya is intelligent enough to understand Nietzsche, but that doesn't mean he doesn't inherently possess the qualities the German philosopher spoke of.)

                      Because I disagree with Elric that "debate achieves nothing*," I'd implore you to take what TheAdlerian says with a grain of salt since he's not really talking to you or about you but rather at you. You're one of the few conservatives around here (and, really, the only one that speaks up with any regularity) so you get the beating, even if it has nothing to do with your personal belief system.

                      Not saying I'm okay with the little jabs, mind you. We could do without those...

                      *From Chapter 1 of The Vanishing Tower
                      "Wounds are all I'm made of. Did I hear you say that this is victory?"
                      --Michael Moorcock, Veteran of the Psychic Wars

                      Comment


                      • #56
                        "You do not, as far as I have gathered from our conversations, typify the current Republican type (called NeoCon). You do not base your politics on religion; you do not wish to employ Machiavellian tactics in your politics; you do not (for the most part) take a "let them eat cake" attitude."

                        I don't; and many of them (Tom DeLay springs to mind) sicken and scare me like they presumeably sicken and scare you. I resent how they have hijacked my party. So to speak (I am more Libertarian than Republican, truthfully)

                        "The conservatives TheAdlerian is referring to do precisely these things."

                        But he makes no distinction; he doesn't even pay lip service to the idea that there might be a disconnect. And, like you noted, he instigates to boot. LOok, I know I fall for it (remember Krunky? Remember Moody?) and to a degree I ask for it, but jeez, sometimes enough is enough.

                        I don't expect everyone to agree with me, but I do expect that someone can acknowledge my position as a valid point of view, and build that validity into their world view a little. Even Krunky did that. Once. I think. This guy just dismisses. How is that any better than Bush?

                        Comment


                        • #57
                          Well, while I'm hanging around waiting to leave -- good piece in a recent New Statesman which defined the difference between trad Republicans and current ones (who aren't really neocons -- the neocons are Bush's advisers and are lefties GONE right). The article pointed out that until now presidents and their cabinets have CONSIDERED all the information and sought to educate themselves when they didn't have the information.
                          This lot have fixed ideas and IGNORE the information (unlike Bush snr,
                          who after all had plenty of experience with the FBI and CIA in weighing up pros and cons). That's why they claim not to have seen reports (on Abu Graib for instance) and why they ignored intelligence. They believe they know everything when in fact they know virtually nothing. This was always regarded by commentators (on feel-good education methods for instance) as the worst possible recipe for a nation -- people who believe they know a great deal and actually don't know much at all. Witness the over-confidence of Americans in many areas (I'm thinking of an NPR
                          piece on an international math competition where the Americans were convinced they'd be first and the N. Koreans were convinced they'd be last -- you guessed it -- NKs first, Americans last). This reinforces traditionally held conservative views about education, of course, where too much attention is paid to 'self esteem' without any grounds for that person feeling self esteem.

                          Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
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                          Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


                          Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
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                          Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

                          Comment


                          • #58
                            In my post I was speaking generally about how the conservatives appeals to the masses. I think that they appeal to a primate kind of urge to worship the powerful. Look at how cool Donald Trump is lately. I think that many people would enjoy being fired by him. Its hard to argue that many don’t get a thrill out of the ruthless and the powerful. Tender people are frequently seen as being wimpy or not worth listening to. What I was talking about was a bit of evolutionary psychology.
                            I completed my reading of Nietzsche because I heard a variety of news commentators use some of his phrases. The Will to Power is one of his books that makes the conservation agenda pretty clear.
                            I love the fact that elitism appeals so strongly to the nonelite. Its almost funny.

                            Comment


                            • #59
                              You said it about the self-esteem issue!

                              Comment


                              • #60
                                "In my post I was speaking generally about how the conservatives appeals to the masses. I think that they appeal to a primate kind of urge to worship the powerful. Look at how cool Donald Trump is lately."

                                You are truly a one-note sonata. This is called a false correlation. I would venture to say that the $300+ million that the Terminator took in at the box office was not solely from conservatives. Nor were the 18 million who watched the last episode of "The Apprentice" all conservatives.

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