Friday, September 18, 2009

Who let the doxa out?

I may have the beginnings of some empathy for Casie's irritation at the festering sore that is the negotiation of definition. As the NMAP has stated elsewhere, "The more you start digging, the harder it gets to answer questions with much cohesiveness".

The more I align my theoretical lens with sociocultural and activity theory à la Lantolf and Thorne, the harder I find it as a researcher to conceptualize Platonic epistemology or even Platonic nomenclature (although a conversation I had with Dr. Barb this week showed me that one can espouse a rabid relativism and still believe in the Allegory of the Cave…I hope to blog about this sometime soon). I've found it harder to just bracket the classical rhetoric lately since I'm expposed to it in a Cultural Studies course, so I actually had to squint a bit at Casie's post.

While the binaries seem reasonable to what's left of my understanding of classical rhetoric, my SCT and Foucauldian ids were unsettled…Thorne is constantly reminding us that EVERYTHING is culturally mediated, even our "invisible" doxa attached to some cultural artefacts, which resonates with Foucault's desire to resist the epistemes in covert loci of power…the fundamental and pervasive assumptions that are "invisible to people operating within" a given society.

Then it hit me…I had read (a loooong time ago) Bourdieu's Esquisse d'une théorie de la pratique, and it was there that I saw a "repurposing" of doxa to position it in relation to discourse. The figure from the English translation is below:

To Bourdieu, doxa connote a society's taken-for-granted, unquestioned "truths". It reminds me a bit of the Wells article...on p. 111, the Matusov observations that "without some disagreement there would be no need to communicate", and therefore no discourse. Bourdieu describes it as what “goes without saying because it comes without saying”. Once the doxa are questioned, you have an "orthodoxy" or "dogma" which is resisted by one or several "heterodoxies" or "iconoclasms", which enters the universe of discourse.

So, I would arrange the binaries like this (today at least):

doxa (episteme) :: discourse

orthodoxy (dogma) :: heterodoxy (iconoclasm) ...[but it's all discourse]

I would bracket unfounded/founded and fact as valuations.

I'm not sure what to do with techne. As techne has more to do classically with performance and production than knowledge per se (like episteme), I'm not sure doxa is a good fit, because while there are some pervasive assumptions that "go without saying" in any techne, at some point those assumptions were challenged and were part of discourse. Aristotle uses the term endoxa to describe a "more stable" doxa because it was at one point challenged and discussed in the polis. So I guess I'd go with that (appropriated into Bourdieu's taxonomy, of course).

Yes, you can have techne without the Platonic episteme (let us hearken back to the NMAP's mental furniture argument....there is no "there" there). Techne seems to me a social construct that is negotiated like anything else.

[side note to the NMAP: how you can espouse the "no mental furniture" argument and not take "The Matrix" leap into free-fall relativism is beyond are, IMHO, about as close to Sartre's "Roquentin" stance as you can get...let me know when the coffee starts discoursing with you...]

But I will admit to being troubled by episteme, because Foucault (being French, after all) seems to want the word to mean both doxa and what could perhaps be best expressed as "gestalt" or even "spiritus mundi". He seems to use the word to describe both a wider range of Discourse and the invisible assumptions held by the people within that wider range of Discourse.

I think my head is telling me it's time to stop blogging and start eating my lunch...