Monday, July 29, 2013

The Future of Invention--of knowledge and learning

Learning is certainly a kind of "invention" or discovery, and Muckelbauer delves deeply into this topic in his chapter 5 "Itineration: What is a Sophist?" He continues his own inquiry into rhetoric's relation between the Model and the Copy, but as he says "on a different terrain" (79). I think this is a key quote: "Both the sophist's and the philosopher's knowledge are images insofar as they are derivative of the Original or the Model (what Plato elsewhere calls the Idea)" (88). Each one holds knowledge that is a pretender, but the Philosopher's is better because it a "true resemblance" rather than a "resemblance-effect." However, the key term in the above quote is "derivative." Muckelbauer uses the word "filiation," but something that is granted the status of "knowledge" must have some grounding, some backing, some warrant, some family resemblance or genes to confirm that it is "true." Today we attempt to construct this basis for knowledge from scientific research. In any case, what counts for knowledge is based upon some authority.

But as Muckelbauer states distinguishing between the "two pretenders to the Model's image" is difficult, and puts the entire enterprise of dialectical thought at stake (i.e. the search for truth). The two types of images, he labels,
Copies= true resemblences, products of Copies
Resemblance-effects= products of Simulacra-Phantasms
Simulacra appear proportional to the Model from the outside, but are not internally proportionate. As I wrote last time, M. says that something must be added to our vision to distinguish between these two images--the movement of differential repetition where the subject's beliefs must be at stake in the encounter (93).

Later in the chapter, M. discusses the metaphor of "itinerant travel" (as it relates to invention and learning). He says, "in order to hunt down the sophist, one must travel--but not because the sophist is located elsewhere, rather, because itinerant travel is the necessary condition for the act of locating" (94). I have already compared this itinerant travel to grounded theory's orientation toward theory creation and its methods of constant comparison and theoretical sampling (what could be more itinerant than theoretical sampling?). But this may just be me and not true to what M. is indicating. Although I can't say I fully understand M here, he equates the Simulacrum with the differential movement of the sophists: "the sophist is, quite, simply, the differential movement of the Simulacrum" (95). While this gets a bit confusing for me, the next chapter is very interesting. So let me move on.

In a section titled "Future Travels" I think M. gets at the heart of the meaning of "future" in his title. One might be mistaken in thinking of future as some new creation or iteration on the horizon--a new dawn of invention. But notice that he includes the word "travels" with future. Future travels might be an entirely different way of saying "invention" or "discovery" or "learning" for that matter. In this section he discusses the relation between the Model and the Copy and the idea of preexistance and knowledge. At this point, I think I am going to string together key quotes:

"The Copy recognizes quite clearly that, at the very least, the Model cannot be known in advance, that as we have seen, knowing true reality requires the repetition of differential encounters. In terms of lineage, the Copy insistently demonstrates that one cannot know the father except through the act of paying tribute.
"But further, if the Model cannot be known in advance, then neither can its existence be apprehended. There is no way to know, before the differential encounter, if the Model even exists at all--nor would their be any reason to suspect that it did. In fact, if the Model does preexist, and out guide repeatedly insists that it does, one can only know of this preexistence through traveling. In other words, the preexistence of the Model must come later, it must be an effect of sophistic travel. ... through the Copy the Model is simultaneously realized and posited as preexisting. More precisely, through the Copy, the Model is realized as preexisting: the future is differentially encountered as the past. In other words, the exterior movement of the Copy produces the very existence of the past in its gesture toward the Model. This is why Socrates' [sic] consistently articulates learning as recollection: within the dynamics of the Copy, the future-oriented movement of learning is necessarily linked to the simultaneous emergence of the past." (96-97)

He refers to this "temporal movement of the Copy" as "retroactive production" (97). It is a form of recognition. We don't know where we started from until we arrive, and we don't even know where we have arrived until we fully comprehend where we started from. This is learning. But notice that it has this recognition to it that seems to come only later after some reflection. I believe this quote captures in more Platonic terms why post-task retrospective reflection is so powerful. The future is differentially encountered as the past. In my beginning is my end; in my end is my beginning. The future of invention, as the future of learning, is only "known" or experienced through this retroactive production. 

What I think M. is getting at is a way in which knowledge and learning is constructed (or invented). This construction happens through this "itinerant travel" that is a style of dialectic that he calls differential movement. My last connection to M.'s ideas here is to Linda Flower's idea about how "task representation" is constructed with her model of Noticing and Evoking Within the Process of Task Representation. 

Interestingly, Flower has at the bottom "Updating the image." The image is the writer's understanding of the "model" within their understanding and in their text (i.e. "the copy). Flower recognized just what M. discusses in this chapter--the Model/image is not "known" in advance but is constructed through the learning process (the differential encounter). Noticing and evoking are here terms for the dialectic that goes on: the writer notices something in the draft and compares it to the mental image they have of the Model. Then adjust: plan, review, and update. Repeat.  Based upon this updated image,  then the "representation" (the text) is revised. 

Whereas M. seems to present this learning as retrospective recollection, Flower presents a model closer to my sense of rhetorical reflection that happens all along the way. It isn't just that we only understand where we have been once we arrive--we figure out where we have been, where we are, where we are going as we "travel." Perhaps the discovery that comes with this post-task recognition then is deeper when we have been uncovering, learning, bringing the image more and more into focus through the entire writing process.

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