Monday, July 2, 2007

Three Modes of Inquiry

[Dan Novak, September 2002; rev. 11/03]


INSPIRATION: the philosophy and culture of the Ancient Greeks as the foundation of Western Civilization (circa 500-300 B.C.)
GOAL: intellectual clarity and sound reasoning
HOW ATTAINED: clear exposition of ideas and supportive arguments; logical progression and consistency of thought; proper conceptual or thematic development
PRIMARY TOOL: logic! - knowing how to construct a sound argument; careful following of the canons of good reasoning; Aristotle’s syllogism as the paradigm
STANDARDS AND EVIDENCE: the development of an argument or presentation via “the 3 c’s”: clarity (clear statement of what one wishes to show), coherence (solid organization in terms of a beginning, middle and end), and cogency (coming to a convincing conclusion). Good thinking and logical reasoning marshals sources and evidence in a way that gets to the essence of the matter or issue at hand, illuminates the basic pattern at work, and provides a complete and/or satisfactory explanation of reasons or causes of the event or state of affairs that compels the reader’s belief.
TYPICALLY: talks about essential characteristics and the basic cause of something
REMEMBER! “the 3 c’s”!
GOOD AND HELPFUL REFERENCE: Mortimer Adler and Mark Van Doren’s classic guide to reading the great books: How To Read A Book


INSPIRATION: the great triumphs in mathematics, astronomy, and physics in early modern science (circa the 1600s A.D.) and the succeeding centuries of cumulative scientific experimentation and research
GOAL: to describe how something happens rather than why; to discover the dynamics and mechanics of behavior and events, and to formulate the (hopefully mathematical) laws that illustrate the functional relationships or correlations between events
HOW ATTAINED: the patient validation of a claim (an hypothesis) by evidence gleaned from the field (e.g., by experiment, statistical sampling, corroborated research, etc. – the opposite of unsubstantiated guesswork or unverified opinion)
PRIMARY TOOL: the rigorous pursuit and application of the scientific method: the canons and protocols of the scientific method (i.e., the cycle of hypothesizing, observation and experiment, tentative generalization, new hypothesis and research, etc.)
STANDARDS AND EVIDENCE: the scientific or research-based process of 1) finding reliable evidence (data, records, testimonies, etc.), 2) sifting through such sources along with a variety of interpretations, 3) critically evaluating them; and finally 4) making cautious and limited generalizations on the basis of such pains-taking research and comparisons
TYPICALLY: this approach tries to be mathematical and scientific, or at least field research based; it tries to isolate a number of relevant factors or variables at work in a situation and then tries to critically assign a weight to each factor, knowing that they all function in conjunction with each other as forces in a complex situation or event
REMEMBER! test your hypothesis! back up your claim!
GOOD AND HELPFUL REFERENCE: Booth, Colomb, & Williams, The Craft of Research


INSPIRATION: the “new age” life-affirming worldview coming out of the 1960s-70s that emphasizes personal awareness and global/planetary consciousness (and its many philosophical, political, social and religious experiments in community)
GOAL: to approach and enter into the heart of a phenomenon, text, event, or person and portray it, sympathetically and in depth
HOW ATTAINED: the journey of sympathetic understanding: direct contact; personal experience and/or in-depth encounter; passion, immersion, the risk-filled journey into the text, event, phenomenon or person, culminating in a richly resonant or illuminating experience; recreating or representing the phenomenon vividly enough to enable the reader to likewise join, understand and/or appreciate the inner life/soul/spirit of what is being approached
PRIMARY TOOL: sustained attention and care as in, for example, the discipline of meditation; the path of personally engaged commitment
STANDARDS / EVIDENCE: anything can be conceived as a clue in this kind of ‘physiognomic’ interpretation of a live subject with its bold expressions or delicate textures; the method or approach of drama – entering into the ‘inner situation’ of a person, text, event as alive and/or in the midst of a painful uncertainly or throes of a defining decision - patiently exploring its roots, distinctive flavor, and its ramifications – its “interbeing” with past and future (its significance)… a variety of outward revealing features and manifestations are sought on this journey that involves possible misunderstandings and dead-ends as well as dramatic breakthroughs
TYPICALLY: this approach looks for and highlights tones, qualities, and gestures, and seeks the living heart or soul of a phenomenon, typically through an existential zig-zag path of penetrating prejudices, misconceptions, images, and, frequently unnecessary resistances and barriers; one is frequently challenged to go beyond one’s own boundaries in this passionate quest and be open to a kind of mutual and often surprising discovery
REMEMBER! how does it feel! be alert to feeling-and-energy tone – within and without!
GOOD AND HELPFUL REFERENCE: Parker Palmer’s To Know As We Are Known (Education as a Spiritual Journey)