"A telling but little remarked fact about the provenance of Jean-Françis Lyotard's coinage of 'postmodernism' is that it occurred in a 1979 'report on the state of knowledge' to the higher education council of Quebec. Lyotard dedicated his report to the 'institute,' or department, where he held a chair in one of the new universities of Paris, wishing that it may flourish while the university itself withered away. This sentiment neatly captures the postmodern normative posture — one that celebrates the endless proliferation of inquiries and condemns the submission of this 'information explosion' to the institutional containment of the university, which, after all, presupposes a clearly bounded 'universe of discourse' that is traversed in a 'curriculum.' Put in historical perspective, Lyotard challenged the last bastion of medievalism in the modern university, namely, the idea that everything worth saying can be confined in its walls …" (Steve Fuller, 1999)
Jean-Françis Lyotard's white paper, the The Postmodern Condition, stands as the most remembered, if not most prominent, report of the state of inquiry in the contemporary university. Similar analyses in books such as Daniel Bell's The Coming of Post-Industrial Society (1973) and Alvin Gouldner's The Future of the Intellectuals and the Rise of the New Class (1979) have not fared as well historically. Lyotard's work, then, continues to influence (in rather contested ways) academic policy. As Steve Fuller describes above, postmodern normative sentiment "… celebrates the endless proliferation of inquiries …" while keeping academic research captive to the "cult of priority." The "proliferation of inquiries" continues unabated in the contemporary academy. The "cult of priority" in research has social scientists and humanists scrambling to make their research all the more empirically"hard." In 1990, the Boyer Commission's report, Scholarship Reconsidered, suggested a more dynamic approach to research, scholarship and knowledge. However the conventional wisdom that academic research, by the very nature of its labor, should have priority in the university goes unquestioned. Since the virtues of academic research remain unassailable and, so, unarticulated, its practice is seen as necessary for faculty and students alike. In this environment, we fail to take up the challenges at the heart intellectual inquiry — reconsidering and re-imagining our bedrock assumptions regarding the nature and purpose of academic work.
This assignment has five related elements due on the following dates.
Proposal: Due the week of 18 September during my scheduled meetings with groups.
Idea Forum: Due 18 October.
Philosophy of Inquiry: Due 18 October.
Debates: Due as scheduled on November 6, 8, 13 and 15.
Central Question Analysis: Due 8 December by 3:05.
As of this writing, fourteen students are enrolled in the course. By the end of the first week of the course, I would like you to form into four groups of three or four (I can form the groups if you wish and reform them if enrollment changes). As a group, I would like you to write a philosophy of inquiry.
Broadly defined, and subject to your redefinition, I understand a philosophy of inquiry to be an analytical "statement" — the content of which is negotiated among group members — regarding how you (collectively) understand the ways in which we — as students, scholars, researchers, teachers and intellectuals — seek truth, knowledge or information. The statement will be both descriptive and normative. That is, I would like you to critically describe academic and intellectual inquiry as you, and others, understand and experience it and, perhaps more importantly, offer normative conceptions of how inquiry ought to be pursued in the academy and in society. An important note: I do not view the philosophy of inquiry as either a personal statement, rant or manifesto. Rather, in developing the philosophy of inquiry, I want groups to model a larger process by which we question the presuppositions supporting our inquiry. From these questions we will seek new ways to form problems and to develop criteria by which we can make critical judgments about how we and our colleagues — as academics, scholars and intellectuals — should pursue inquiry.
This assignment has five parts:
A proposal due during the week of 18 September. At that time I will meet with groups to discuss their philosophy of inquiry. Our discussion will be based on your proposal;
An idea forum due 18 October. The forum will provide an account of the group's negotiations regarding the ideas to be included in the philosophy of inquiry;
A philosophy of inquiry due 18 October.
A debate due as scheduled on November 6, 8, 13 or 15.
A central question analysis due at the time of the exam 8 December by 3:05.
Descriptions of each part of the assignment follow.
Due as scheduled during the week of 18 September.
The proposal will be no longer than 750 words. The proposal will contain the following categories. You may add other categories and considerations as you see fit.
Central Question: As simply and directly possible, please provide the central question (please pose it as a question) your philosophy of inquiry poses;
Problem Formation: As simply and directly as possible, please formulate and articulate the problem that your philosophy of inquiry addresses;
Description: Please describe the philosophy of inquiry considering the following:
Form and Audience: What form will the philosophy of inquiry take? Beyond members of the course, who might be impacted by your work? A difficulty you will face in this assignment is determining its appropriate form. I am not asking for a traditional academic research paper as you know and have practiced it. Rather, I am asking that you begin to think about alternative written forms that might convey your ideas and the evidence supporting your claims. Some ideas regarding form and media follow, but you are free to consider and synthesize other written forms:
Structure: Given the form that you propose to use, how will the project be structured and presented? Accordingly, how might the group work be organized?
Methods: What might be your methodological approach to providing evidence for the claims and recommendations in the philosophy of inquiry? Will you perform original research that reflects your philosophy? How might the use of secondary resources reflect your philosophy? Examples follow:
Evidence: Given the method(s) you employ, how does the evidence you will produce speak to the problem you have formed and answer the central question that you have asked?
Division of Labor: Given the assignment, how will the work be divided among the group members?
Collier's role: I stand as a resource. How might the group wish to use me?
Due 18 October.
As a collaborative project, I ask that the group members meet to work on the elements of their philosophy of inquiry. The length and frequency of meetings is up to groups. While I assume that having group members in the same physical space may be the most effective way to work on certain aspects of the project, I encourage virtual meetings as well. Consequently, I will set up the group functions on Blackboard. You may also consider meeting by other digital means such as IM, e-mail or wiki.
The goal of the forum is to encourage collectives to construct spaces where deliberate negotiation about ideas is encouraged. However, please be aware that negotiation may not result in agreement or consensus. The trick of this project is to present a coherent philosophy of inquiry as the result of healthy debate and working dissensus. The broad model I have in mind — on, certainly, a much less grand scale — is the Constitutional Convention of the United States.
When the group meets — either in person or virtually — I would like you to record the group discussions of ideas pertaining to the philosophy of inquiry. The forum for discussion and the form of the record is up to the group — a blog, wiki, group discussion on Blackboard, formal written minutes, a notebook, chat transcripts, e-mail, digital audio recordings or a combination of these forms. Still, the record's focus is to archive, for reference, the negotiations among the group members regarding the content of the philosophy of inquiry. I do not wish the record to simply be a narrative gloss of the meetings (times, dates and the like), rather I want to get a clear sense of how the group talks about ideas. Again, the aim of the meetings and of the record is not, necessarily, to reach consensus (although one may be readily achieved) but to pursue a fruitful way of modeling inquiry. The record provides evidence as to how the group is debating and working out ideas.
The idea forum should demonstrate a collective, explicit, good faith effort to work through the ideas presented in the philosophy of inquiry. Record keeping should reflect an equal effort among group members.
Due 18 October.
The structure, form and content of the philosophy of inquiry is described in the proposal. The length of the piece should be between 1,250 and 1,700 words.
Again, please note: I view this piece as a step in an intellectual process extending well beyond my class. The work will demonstrate integrity through an honest reckoning of the difficulties of conducting contemporary inquiry. While critical, the philosophy of inquiry is not a record of personal dissatisfaction or a rant formatted as a manifesto. The philosophy of inquiry is an initial articulation of principles grounded in the evidence you have gathered and negotiations you have conducted.
Due as scheduled on November 6, 8, 13 and 15.
Each group will hold a debate regarding their philosophy of inquiry. Through the dialectical process of debate, I would like the group to address what they understand as the strengths and weaknesses of the positions and principles forwarded in their philosophy of inquiry. For the debate to be valuable, the group will need to cooperate and plan the presentation. The debate is not about winners and losers. Rather, the debate is a dialectical process to help you question the presuppositions supporting your philosophy of inquiry and to help you refine your views. The debate process is as follows:
At least two days before the debate, I would like you to make your philosophy of inquiry available to the class by posting it to Blackboard
(we can talk about the process) or distributing it using whatever means work best for the group. The obligation of the class members is to read the philosophies of inquiry and form questions (as with class readings) to ask respective groups;
As a group, I would like you to determine and to pose the central question to which your philosophy of inquiry responds;
Individually, I would like you to take positions on the central question in arguing for or against the philosophy of inquiry. You may have to take a position contrary to the one you actually hold. You may want to refresh your memories of group discussions about the philosophy of inquiry by referring to the group's idea forum;
Assuming a group of 4 (the debate can be modified for groups of different sizes), 2 people will argue for the philosophy of inquiry in addressing the central question, and 2 people will argue against the philosophy of inquiry in addressing the central question. You may be asked to take a position in the debate you do not necessarily endorse regarding the philosophy of inquiry.
Groups have 40 minutes to pose their debate. Group members must participate equally and use time equally. Groups may use any media they wish (please give Collier a heads up if help is needed);
After the debate, the class members will ask questions of the presenters.
Due no later than 3:05 on 8 December.
Much of this course deals with how academic and intellectual inquirers pose questions and form problems. The way we pose questions and form problems reveals the presuppositions we hold regarding the possibilities for knowledge and expression. With greater or lesser degrees of reflective awareness we pick and choose forms, methods and discourses to perform inquiry. Consequently, our inquiry is often eclectic (for the sake of eclecticism), aimless or increasingly precious. In our pluralistic generosity and the assumed spirit of open, humanistic inquiry we fail to make judgments about how to pursue and, sometimes, how to end, a line of research. Such is the so-called "crisis" of the humanities. You have thought and debated about how academic and intellectual inquiry is, and should, be conducted.
For this assignment, I would like you to work individually. I would like you to pose a central question regarding the conduct of academic or intellectual inquiry. The question may come in response to any aspect, or related aspect, of the class. Considering what was included, and perhaps excluded, in the process of negotiation over the philosophy of inquiry, I want you to use the central question as a prompt that allows you to demonstrate the way in which academic or intellectual inquiry should be conducted. The style, form, audience, structure, method and evidence you provide in your analysis will be determined in response to the philosophy of inquiry developed by your group.
I would like the analysis to be written and roughly 1,200- 1,700 words in length. Attached to your analysis will be the philosophy of inquiry. If necessary, please revise the philosophy of inquiry to more accurately reflect your arguments and the evidence supporting them. Please highlight the revisions you have made.