Monday, November 4, 2013

The Defense Rusts

This is about defense and its often dreadful side effect, defensiveness.

In some aspects of life, in particular those relating to science or academic rigor, a defense is valuable conversation; you could even call that defense intellectual currency.

In yet other, more social aspects, defense and defensiveness often become the metaphorical tail wagging the dog, with frequent, unfortunate results.

Some of these unfortunate results spill over into the worlds where men and women of good intent attempt to produce and present works of originality for which they believe a defense is required, whether the defense is required or not.

One notable defense is the trope:  But it really happened that way.  So what.  We should have already believed the events in the narrative happened.

Another gambit of defense:  I can't tell this story while some of the individuals are still alive.  Get real.  TFS.  Tell the freaking story.  Any n umber of writers have solved t problem, not the least of whom, Franz Kafka, had demonstrable issues with his father.  Did this stop him from or, perhaps, encourage him when the writing came to The Metamorphosis.

Most pernicious is the defense for overtelling the story and adding too many irrelevant details:  I wanted to make sure the reader "got" the implications.  Okay, so here's a little secret:  Start an examination of your favorite writers.  Look how eager they are to trust their readers.  Check out their use of ambiguity as a tool, noting how these published writers often present basic arguments, then allow their readers to fill in gaps.  Another way to discuss this major issue is to say "Stop being such a control freak.  Concentrate instead on telling a story."

Learn the difference between the concept, as it develops into story, and hypothesis, which is the basic "what if?" of logic

Story starts with, what if a character is placed in a position of having to make a decision, cope with a horrendous problem, or come to cope with some condition of status.  There is more psychology than logic in the progression of a story.  Don't believe that?  Start with the short stories of D.H. Lawrence.  Things happen.  Such logic as there is is subterranean.  Underground.  Below consciousness.

A hypothesis is a provisional explanation for some behavior, a starting point for testing, tweaking, and examination in the face of additional information.  A key word in a hypothesis is "if."  If we look at the pattern of narrative focus in novels written in the U.K. and America from the eighteenth century to the present, we will be able to see the gradual retreat of the authorial presence and an increasing transfer of dramatic information from the writer to the characters.

Such a statement could be a hypothetical base for a thesis in certain disciplines where American and British literature are investigated and, perhaps, compared.

You could bring considerable weight to this hypothesis by the mere mentioning of a number, say one hundred, of the bestselling novels of those years.  At this point, it would become a thesis, if not an exciting one.  But it will serve as an example of the hypothesis requiring substantial detail, variety, and focused attention before losing its larval stage on its way to becoming a thesis.

Whether the hypothesis is academic or scientific, some form of review and argumentation forge it into the more sturdy format of thesis on which intellectual and reliable outcomes are based.

A number of jurisprudential systems use a similar form of argumentation.  In criminal law, a challenge or defense is begun with a concept of probable cause, which could be compared with success to a hypothesis that X committed a particular crime.  The arguments of this hypothesis are argued in trial, the accused assumed to be innocent of the charges until a jury of peers is persuaded beyond a reasonable doubt of the allegations of the hypothesis.  At this point, the accused is found guilty.  The hypothesis has become transformed into a rendered verdict.

In such courtroom arguments of hypothesis, in criminal and civil law, the accused is entitled to a vigorous and determined defense, thus triangulating these disparate crucibles of argument to the point where they are congruent.  Our society thrives on these presentations of hypothesis, argumentation, and defense.

A number of your friends have in one way or another been involved in such crucibles of logic.  In more cases than you can recount at the moment, you've been an advocate or advisor to an individual presenting a thesis in satisfaction of one of the requirements for earning a Master's Degree.  In others, you've been a member of a jury of a peer review board before whom a master's or doctoral candidate appeared to argue the thesis.

You may well be tempted to defensiveness when you see the edits of your work, in particular if the work has been accepted and has been planned for publication.

Learn to say, "The defense rests."

Go ahead, try it out, get the hang of it.

What are you, a lawyer or something?


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