My Week In Thought and Hermeneutic Suspicion

My Week In Thought
This PBS essay neatly summarizes almost all the arguments I would ever make - or in some cases have made - in defense of video gaming.

OK, there may be a fine line between vanity and self-referentiality but here we go.

It struck me how powefully I was affected by this debunking of myths (Al Franken has a chapter in Truth with jokes appropriately titled 'A brief recuperative debunk'). There is something immensly satisfying and also seductive in the uncovering of myths, and in particular doomsday myths. Unfortunately, it is too seductive and we are all too prone to dismiss ideas simply because they are uncovered to be a part of a 'common wisdon'. However, it is important to realize that 'myth-busting' itself is a type of a narrative trope. The 'myth-busting' trope (which I'm sure is ancient and universal in some respects but probably has gained prominence - as so much in our lives - with the advent of enlightenment) has given rise to a whole genre (I would call 'genre' a body of work in which a particular trope is dominant - repeated and obligatory instantiations of a trope within or outside its genre I call topoi - I'm trying to make this clear to myself since I - and others - often us these terms interchangeably -- and of course, not all genres are built around a single trope, not all tropes are used as topoi and not all topoi are tropes - and not all bits of text that fit under either definition are worth describing as such - e.g. salutations in letters or book dedications - I need to figure out a way to put footnotes and term tags here.) Anyway, the 'myth-busting' genre as any 'genre' has its rules that we need to attend to before fully committing ourselves to the content of any particular mythbusting. One of its obligatory components is discovering a commonly held belief and contrasting it with research results. This immediately lends it a certain amount of legitimacy because this is construed as 'uncovering the truth'. Anything with this kind of borrowed legitimacy should make us wary (and remember, I actually agree with pretty much everything in this paper and due to its questioning component myth-busting is one of my favorite cognitive forms). The problem is, that just like its frequent counterpart and foil - the doom-prediction trope/genre - mythbusting, is often used either without a proper factual foundation or for dubious purposes. The anti-evolution movement uses the mythbusting trope with abandon and it is used prodigiously on both sides of the traditional/alternative medicine debate. A prototypical example of the 'mythusting' vs. 'doomsday' wars is, of course, the global warming arena.

In short, the conclusion might go, any genre needs to be taken "purely" on its merits of the intrinsic argument. This would be wonderful, if possible. However, the 'on its merit' schtick is nothing than a trope itself - frequently occuring in both the above mentioned genres - along with the 'truth-is-somewhere-in-between' trope. All of them try to impose a legitimacy on their audience that combines the strength of the form with its actual content. Awareness of this gave rise to another trope - the 'we-need-to-be-aware-of-how-discourse-works-so-that-we-can-use-it-more-responsibly' trope. Unfortunately, as Critical Discourse Analysis proves, this trope suffers from the same limitations as all the previous ones.

Now, can we ever say anything without this basic hermeneutic suspicion (look at me sounding like a bloody deconstructionist)? The answer is yes and no. :"(And I owe the following formulation to Ryan Mays)": It is counterproductive and self-defeating to be suspicious of every single statement. Not only that, it is impossible. However, we must always be willing to be asked the question. This is different from 'always asking ourselves the question' or 'always being able to answer the question' but the openness to the question and a patience with it goes a long way. Simply discovering somebody's (or even one's own) hermeneutic formula (see my soon-to-be-expanded manifesto) does not give us any special power over or priviliged access to what is being said. All it does is open another horizon (that Derrida again) to be looked toward and the chief benefit it offers is that of preventing the illusion of final determinacy (which is always an illusion) - in other words - it prevents any subject from being closed to discussion. This bears the reiteration of the word patience as a mate of willingness and openness. Much of this hermeneutic questioning is futile, distracting and not an insignificant portion is downright idiotic (BTW: I don't see anything peculiar about the hermeneutic-questioning trope-cum-topos or even the hermeneutic-questioning-is-a-trope trope-cum-topos).