Philosophy, Religion, Catholic Studies, and Peace & Conflict Studies Librarian at the University of Manitoba
Philosophy and Religion Librarian
University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada
INTRODUCTION TO THE TENSION
LATERAL + VERTICAL INTERPRETATION
EXAMPLES FROM CLASS
constructionist vs. anti-constructionist stances on
the ACRL Framework
proliferation of information?
context and construction as essential tools stabilizing meaning and evaluating information
malapropisms as an entry point for lateral interpretation
citation as relationality, respect, and reciprocity
WAYS OF USING TRUTH
essential linguistic tool + guiding norm for information evaluation
AUTHORITY IS CONSTRUCTED AND CONTEXTUAL
Credibility is partially determined by the needs of the information user and the information creator’s standing within a context (ACRL, 2016).
- Construction undermines the ability to determine authority and/or accuracy
- Affirms the FRAMEWORK (with qualifications)
- There are important ways in which things are correct or incorrect
- Construction = post-truth
- Questions and/or denies the legitimacy of stable 'correct' or 'incorrect' concepts and categories (e.g., LCC and LCSH)
- Concepts and categories seem real because they are entrenched, often through the use of power
LANGUAGE AND CONCEPTS
- In order to generate and apply concepts, one must know the conditions under which a concept may be misapplied.
CONDITIONED BY CONSTRUCTION
Context, contingency, historicity, and construction. It is unnecessary to see concepts as given in an ahistorical sense.
SOCIAL CONTEXT AND WORLD
- We need to "triangulate" our perceptions and responses with our community and the share external world (Davidson, 1990/2001b).
HARMONIZATION OF SHARED
Assertions, in this context, are semiotic declarations, often expressed in the form of linguistic statements. Assertions are actions. We do things with assertions (e.g., we claim).
Assertions are evaluable using truth-related concepts (e.g., accuracy). They can be true or false, in some sense.
When one asserts, one commits to a position, sincerely or insincerely, even if that position is modified and/or negotiated.
Implicit or explicit rules, guidelines, and/or responsibilities that are internal to and govern what counts as a warranted assertion. (Brandom, 1989; Lackey, 2007; McKinnon, 2015)
EXAMPLES OF PROPOSED NORMS
- One must know something in order to assert it. (Williamson, 2000).
- One must reasonably believe something in order to assert it. (Lackey, 2007).
- One must have supportive reasons for something in order to assert it. These supportive reasons vary depending on context. (McKinnon, 2015).
(Brandom, 1989, p. 641)
- One "commits oneself to justifying" the assertion one has made (Brandom, 1989, p. 641)
- One "licenses" others to make further assertions based on one's original assertion (Brandom, 1989, p. 641)
- "Commitment": putting an assertion within a context of prior assertions and licensing it for use in future assertions (Brandom, 2001, p.190)
- "Entitlement" : Using one's commitments to provide justifications in a manner that fits social practices, including triangulation (Brandom, 2001, p.190)
ASSERTION AVOIDS THE METAPHYSICAL BAGGAGE OF TRUTH
Assertion allows one to focus on if and how claims are warranted according to norms (McKinnon, 2015).
This is important in contexts where one can only indirectly evaluate information.
There is no pressing need to become entangled with the metaphysical truth, which is the target of constructionists critique and the source of anti-constructionist anxiety.
Since truth is often a lofty and/or ambiguous target, the goal of information evaluation is to identify warranted assertions/ claims that are "true enough" for a given context (Elgin, 2017).
DETERMINING WARRANTED ASSERTIONS
A good starting point is situating assertions within the context of giving/asking for justifications. Does the assertion provide adequate and contextually relevant supportive reasons?
RELATING ASSERTIONS TO PLANS
INFO EVALUATION HINGES ON PLANS
- Plans, as "intentions writ large," help one coordinate future actions and/or make determinations about one's own conduct and the conduct/intentions of others (Bratman, 1999, p.8).
- Assertions provide clues regarding others' plans
- Information evaluation is a plan with the goal of determining whether specific assertions are warranted.
REQUIRES THAT ONE ADOPT THE RIGHT PLAN AND ASSOCIATED NORM(S)
REQUIRES THAT ONE ASSESS THE PLAN AND NORMS OF THE INFORMATION SOURCE, TO THE BEST DEGREE POSSIBLE
REQUIRES THAT ONE DETERMINE THE CONTEXTUAL AND SOCIAL FACTORS THAT IMPACT NORM(S)
One has to gauge to what degree the author has fulfilled their justificatory responsibility. Using contextual information and background knowledge (e.g., determining sincerity)
Your plan may be different if you are copyediting than if you are content editing.
Social practices may affect a norm so that an assertion counts as warranted in one context, but not another.
"There is pizza in the fridge."
"Is there pizza in the fridge?"
CONTEXTUAL TARGET OF PLANS
EVALUATION + USE OF PLANS, ASSERTIONS, AND CONTEXT (E.G., SINCERITY OR PLAUSIBILITY)
COORDINATION OF ACTIONS REGARDING PIZZA
Post-truth and/or post-truth-like ideas are raised by both constructionism and anti-constructionism.
- Constructionism: one cannot justifiably apply concepts related to true/false and correct/incorrect. This is a post-truth realization.
- Anti-constructionism: Ideas related to constructionism and contextualism entail post-truth thinking.
Doesn't post-truth present a challenge to your notion of warrant? Isn't post-truth an example of assertions made without concern for warrant or the norms that determine warrant?
OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY
"Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping political debate or public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief" ("post-truth," 2018).
(i)The proliferation of false information
(ii) The attitude that truth is, at best, a convenient coincidence that can be superseded by ideological, instrumental, and/or emotional concerns
(iii) The attitude that acting on certain beliefs, specifically false ones, can be a good in and of itself.
APPARENT CONDITIONS OF
(i)The proliferation of false information:
Misleading and inaccurate tweets of videos
LOW HANGING FRUIT: TRUMP
(ii) The attitude that truth is, at best, a convenient coincidence that can be superseded by ideological, instrumental, and/or emotional concerns:
Inaccuracy was deemed less important than 'imminent threat.'
(iii) The attitude that acting on certain beliefs, specifically false ones, can be a good in and of itself:
There was something good about these misleading tweets--it was apparently a matter of national significance.
(i) The example shows a concern for truthfulness. Trump was challenged and, in his own way, attempted to justify his views.
(ii) Instrumental falsehoods are usually put forward and/or believed for a reason (e.g., another perceived justification or truth)
(iii) Assertions made for convenience or comfort are still conditioned by an interest in 'getting things right.'
(iv) Assertions made "by virtue of the absurd" seem, in most cases, to be less valuable than warranted assertions (Kierkegaard, 1843/2006, p.60). All things being equal, having warrant is a type of good in making assertions that nullifies the value of absurd.
IS, AT MOST, A RHETORICAL STRATEGY
It is difficult to figure out how one can be sincerely post-truth. Given the conceptual/linguistic value of truth + value of warranted assertions over falsehoods.
LACKS COHERENCE + PLAUSIBILITY
MISTAKES TRUTH WITH PASSING AS TRUTH
Saying that there is "no truth," "too many truths," or that interpreters don't care about truth, confuses the endorsement of cognitively primed assertions with warranted assertions.
Viciously circular. It implies that there is no concern for truth by being concerned with truth. There is still a widespread concern with getting things right.
POSSIBLE ALTERNATIVE CONCEPT: PROLIFERATION OF COGNITIVELY PRIMED INFORMATION
VERTICAL (e.g.,close reading)
Determining the warrant and meaning of assertions more or less on its own terms.
For textual documents, this includes:
- Looking up definitions of complex terms, jargon, and non-English words (e.g., Latin)
- Assessing the internal consistency and coherence of the text. Are there contradictory facts or arguments? Are there leaps in the logic of the text (e.g., non sequitur)?
- Identifying clear indications of meaning (e.g., a thesis statement, arguments, or beliefs)
- Working out the structure of the text
Source: Wineburg, S., & McGrew, S. (2017). Lateral Reading: Reading Less and Learning More When Evaluating Digital Information (SSRN Scholarly Paper No. ID 3048994). Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network.
LATERAL (e.g., taking bearings)
Determining the warrant and meaning of an assertion through its context. For textual documents, this includes:
- Reviewing secondary sources cited/footnoted in the original text. Is the original source's interpretation accurate ? Do the secondary sources provide more meaning?
- Reading commentary, analysis, and criticism of the original text
- Evaluating the historico-political context of the original text and its author(s).
MALAPROPISMS + COMMUNICATION
At a BBQ, a friend tells you, "I'm going to get a hutdog ."
"hut" + "dog"
WE NEED TO APPEAL TO SALIENT CONTEXTUAL INGREDIENTS TO MAKE SENSE OF THIS STATEMENT
INDIGENOUS RESEARCH METHODOLOGIES + CITATION
- In general, students were not citing sources, let alone citing according to a given style.
- I consulted with students, elders, and Indigenous professors, and relevant literature to emphasize the relational nature of citation, rather than focusing primarily on academic integrity.
- As a result, we framed citation in terms of Indigenous scholar and educator Evelyn Steinhauer's criteria for research: "Respect, Reciprocity and Relationality (as cited in Wilson, 2008, p.58).
- Result: instructors said citation was more prevalent as a practice among students. This did not markedly improve the alignment with citation style standards.
TRUTH, CONTEXT + CONSTRUCTION ARE MUTUALLY SUPPORTIVE.
TRUTH/WARRANT ARE THE BASIS FOR SOCIAL PRACTICES, INCLUDING INFORMATION EVALUATION
con/anti-con debate leads to theoretical paralysis. I have proposed an adjustment to remedy this.
IT SEEMS TO BE THE CASE THAT MOST PEOPLE FEEL COMFORTABLE MAKING USE OF WARRANT AND FRAMING THEIR VIEWS IN TERMS OF JUSTIFICATION
even making the case for post-truth or loosely constructionist ideas, one makes a case within a context that follows norms
WE NEED TO MAKE EFFORTS TO MAKE OUR NORMS OF ASSERTION EXPLICIT THROUGH CRITICAL EXAMINATION OF OUR SOCIAL PRACTICES AND PEDAGOGY.
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Teaching the tension
By Dom Taylor