Sunday, January 28, 2007

Syllogistic Progressions

On the first day of one of my classes, we were discussing an article, which was a good article. It worked to connect the thinking of John D’Emilio and the emergence of queer identity with a broader understanding of how people in the United States and Western world come to understand themselves and their communities post-Enlightenment. It is a useful article and in a very important journal.

At the same time, while we were discussing it in class, it seemed to me that it is an article that relies on a syllogistic progression that leaves the reader at the end with few alternatives to move forward progressive or revolutionary thinking. There are a lot of these sorts of analyses in academic journals and in progressive/radical writing. They leave me, and other readers, in short, depressed.

In Katie King’s class, Katie insisted that we recoil from “debunking critiques.” At first, this was a paralyzing notion for me. What is there to do other than debunk and argument? Turns out, there is a lot to do. There is an entire new way to think about ideas and to discuss them. I can’t even being to articulate how appreciative I am to have had Katie’s insistence that we not embrace debunking critiques AND to have the other tools for thinking about intellectual work. It is from that class and Katie’s thinking, that I was able to think about this particular article and others that I have read and their syllogistic progressions.

In logic, a syllogism is a deductive argument. A syllogistic progression is a progression by wish syllogism are strung together and the final conclusion is reached. I reached this word to describe this phenomena, by way of reading the introduction to Sangeeta Ray’s book, En-Gendering India, in which she uses the term “aporia” which means, in rhetoric, the expression of a simulated or real doubt, as about where to begin or what to do or say. I’m not interested in introducing an aporia into the arguments made in this particular article or in any others. I don’t doubt them. I am convinced by them.

What I do question is the system of writing using these syllogistic progressions for exactly the place where it leaves the audience. I think that there is a particular academic style of interpreting history to describe our conditions today that vexes intervention or change. That is what I am interested in eschewing for my own writing. I want to find ways to structure arguments, analysis, and history, that doesn’t leave a space at the end where the reader feels sated, intellectually, but impotent politically. I think that the key in doing that is in resisting both debunking critiques and also syllogistic progressions.

Though, quite possibly, I have created one of my own, here, as I don’t have an example of the alternative. This may be my own syllogism.

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