Home > Philosophy > 1997 After Postmodernism Conference > Shotter (specific)
ABSTRACT: The function of 'practical theory', I shall argue following Wittgenstein, is not so much "to hunt out new facts; it is rather,... to understand something that is already in plain view. For this is what we seem in some sense not to understand" (1953, no.89). Practical theory leads to the foregrounding of what is usually ignored in the background to all our daily affairs; it draws our attention to what we all 'see' but usually do not 'notice' as being of significance.
"Our mistake is to look for an explanation where wew ought to look at what happens as a 'proto-phenomenon'. That is, where we ought to have said: this language-game is being played" (No.654).
"The question is not one of explaining a language-game by means of our experiences, but of noting a language-game" (no.655).
What is important to us in our lives together then, are fleeting, one-off, unique, unrepeatable events, events that occur, as Garfinkel (1967) so wonderfully puts it, for yet "another first time" (p.9), only "once-occurrent events of Being," as Bakhtin (1993, p.2) calls them.
The tendency of 'aboutness' theory to eradicate the dialogical - Bernstein (1992) points out - in noting, as he calls it, the current "rage against reason" - it is precisely relationally responsive events of this kind that our current referential- representational forms of rationality render invisible, and exclude from both rational discussion and attention. - Bakhtin (1984) also notes how the "orientation toward unity" results in "a whole series of phenomena" remaining "almost entirely beyond the realm of consideration," especially those "that are determined by its dialogic orientation" (pp.274- 275).
- gather examples ("don't think, but look!" (Wittgenstein, 1953, no.66).
- deconstruction in practice: 'stop' 'look', 'listen to this', 'look at that' (pointing out features of the flow from within the flow) (1953, nos 132, 144).
- use new metaphors to reveal new possibilities in events hidden by the dead metaphors in routine forms of talk (1953, no.115).
- make comparisons using (sometimes invented) "objects of comparison" (1953, no.130) to establish an order... not the order in our knowledge.
Bakhtin, M.M. (1981) The Dialogical Imagination. Edited by M. Holquist, trans. by C. Emerson and M. Holquist. Austin, Tx: University of Texas Press.
Bakhtin, M.M. (1984) Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics. Edited and trans. by Caryl Emerson. Minnieapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Bakhtin, M.M. (1986) Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. Trans. by Vern W. McGee. Austin, Tx: University of Texas Press.
Bakhtin, M.M. (1993) Toward a Philosophy of the Act, with translation and notes by Vadim Lianpov, edited by M. Holquist. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
Bernstein, R.J. (1992) The New Constellation. Cambridge, MA.: MIT Press.
Garfinkel, H. (1967) Studies in Ethnomethodology. Engelwood-Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Katz, A.M. and Shotter, J. (1996) Hearing the patient's voice: toward a social poetics in diagnostic interviews. Social Science and Medicine, 46, pp.919-931.
Shotter, J. (1984) Social Accountability and Selfhood. Oxford: Blackwell.
Shotter, J. (1993a) Cultural Politics of Everyday Life: Social Constructionism, Rhetoric, and Knowing of the Third Kind. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.
Shotter, J. (1993b) Conversational Realities: Constructing Life through Language. London: Sage.
Wittgenstein, L. (1953) Philosophical Investigations. Oxford: Blackwell.
[After Post-Modernism Conference. Copyright 1997.]