Neither love nor liking is necessary for the sorts of critical discussions among different frameworks that might lead to shared journeys.  What is required is goodwill.  And goodwill requires, at a minimum, loyalty to what we earlier called the “interpretive principle”, the principle that says that no matter how cherished your belief is, it still needs interpretation, and interpretation is the product of frail human minds and histories, not prophets or gods.

Interpretation of frameworks—in and across science, politics, religion, society, institutions, and cultures—is a job for everyone of goodwill.  But is it is also, at a more formal level, the job of the academic field of discourse analysis.  Discourse analysis seeks to show how interpretations of frameworks are made, unmade, and transformed across history and in social interaction (which, alas, sometimes is warfare).  Discourse analysis, as I conceive it, is inherently an applied field, since it seeks to deal with problems the solution to which will make the world a better place.  We hope, as well, that discourse analysis can help make communication on the ground among frameworks better and shared journeys more common.

Discourse analysis uses the analysis of linguistic frameworks (the analysis of words and phrases in terms of exemplars and the application of the principle of sufficient reason) to uncover the workings of ontological models and frameworks in the world.  Today, this task, more and more, involves not just language, but digital and multimodal media and “texts”.  In this sense, we can talk about “semiotic frameworks”, a wider category that includes linguistic frameworks but also includes frameworks built around other sorts of symbols or signs.

In history, social identities (“kinds of people”), linguistic and ontological frameworks, situational applications of words to reality in specific situations (the application of the principle of sufficient reason), and different styles, varieties, registers, and dialects of a language (or mixtures of languages)—what I call “social languages—are inherently and inextricably linked.  Discourse analysis studies them together as an interacting system.  What I call Big “D” Discourses are historically shifting ways with words, deeds, values, feelings, beliefs, things, tools, situational meanings, social languages, and frameworks—combined in the “right” ways—that enact and communicate socially meaningful and recognizable identities (“kinds of people”).  Such identities are most often (but not always) negotiated, flexible across different contexts, and not so much boxes as waves with clear middles but fading borders or boundaries.

Each individual human is unique and at the same time each person “voices” a given Discourse whenever he or she acts, speaks, or writes.  Discourses use us to reproduce themselves through history.  Our individuality and our participation in multiple Discourses means we can “spin” the Discourse in certain ways and in the process, change it and adapt it across time and contexts.  Discourses cannot live without us and we cannot communicate and mean without them.

It is Discourses that go to war.  It is Discourses that can make peace.  It is Discourses that can, on shared paths, intermingle and even marry and give rise to new Discourses, perhaps better ones with better frameworks in which to make better sense of the world and of each other.  Our job, as discourse analysts, is not to judge (advocacy is a different thing) and not to reach definitive truths.  Our job is to deepen the conversations among frameworks.  This is the importance of discourse analysis.


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March 29th, 2018

The Interpreter System (7)

Let’s return to our diagram of a human being (or, “an enviro-human system”).  I want now to look just at […]

March 27th, 2018

Joint Actor Systems (6)

The diagram I used in the last post is misleading in that it makes things look more contained and bounded […]

March 26th, 2018

A Human Being (5)

Last time, we raised the question: “What is ‘Jim”?” (substitute your own name for “Jim” here).  We think of ourselves […]

March 25th, 2018

Jim and Identities/Discourses (4)

When we make a choice, who is making the choice?  We have already seen that there are lots of things […]

March 10th, 2018

Alternates (3)

When we make a choice about ourselves often that choice is vastly undetermined by the information we have available.  Say […]

March 7th, 2018

Flourishing (2)

It makes little sense to see a human being (or any other animal) as an individual making free choices.  In […]

February 25th, 2018

Free Will (1)

Note that the question of free will simply does not arise for animals.  We think that, even for intelligent species, […]

October 29th, 2017

The Principle of Charity

October 8th, 2017

Character Education

Recently, the College of Education at Arizona State University—where I work— received funding from the Kern Family Foundation to make […]

June 15th, 2017

Neoliberalism Part 6 (The End)

What killed people’s sense of mattering was the growth of very high levels of inequality.  What caused such high levels […]

June 14th, 2017

Neoliberalism Part 5

Many of us tend to think of history as a march forward and upward. So, we tend to interpret the […]

June 14th, 2017

Neoliberalism Part 4

The Catholic Church declined in three stages. The same was true for many other institutions.  “The Sixties” (roughly from 1963 […]

June 12th, 2017

Neoliberalism Part 3

Today, we have among the highest levels of inequality we have ever had.  Drug addiction, environmental degradation, flows of climate […]

June 11th, 2017

Neoliberalism Part 2

The British economist John Maynard Keynes and “Keynesian Economics” were foundational to the Bretton Woods Agreement and to the world […]

June 10th, 2017

Neoliberalism Part 1

Though neo-liberalism is the “usual suspect” for the miseries of our institutions and society, it is not nearly as relevant […]

May 30th, 2017

Main Points from My New Book

Teaching, Learning, Literary in our High-Risk, High-Tech World: A Framework for Becoming Human (Teachers College Press, 2017). Ignorance We humans […]

April 17th, 2017

The Importance of Discourse Analysis:
Step 10 The End

Neither love nor liking is necessary for the sorts of critical discussions among different frameworks that might lead to shared […]

April 15th, 2016

The Importance of Discourse Analysis:
Step 9 Interpretation

Goodwill.  What could possibly encourage people in a fractured and inequitable world to have goodwill?  I, for one, do not […]

April 14th, 2016

The Importance of Discourse Analysis:
Step 8 An Example

I want now to give an example of two different frameworks that certainly appear incommensurable.  My purpose here is make […]

April 12th, 2016

The Importance of Discourse Analysis:
Step 7 Discussion

We are at a critical juncture now in our attempt to understand why frameworks can cause us humans such grief.  […]