Monday, August 20, 2007

The Course of Events

"An event cannot be neatly isolated from previous and later events without losing its essential character as an event, a character of 'emerging from' and 'leading into' which accounts for the continuity of the process. An event is thus not the result of an abstraction out of the flow of time, but a constitutive dynamic element of the flow itself" (André De Tienne, Learning qua semiosis, SEED Journal 3(3), 2003). When I suggested that we could look at something like spacetime as a cosmic event, I basically meant that it has a beginning and an end. Whence it emerged and whither it leads to are a mystery to me. I'm baffled by the thought that there could be a course of events of which timespace is merely one event. Allow me to be baffled for now.

The events of our lives take place amidst a multitude of processes. An event can be seen to emerge from any number of prior events and lead to any number of subsequent events. What holds it together, what makes an event an event, is a narrative. Narratives are eminently contestable, a fact which may be obscured if we take a process for granted, just as it would be if we took events to exist in isolation. On what philosophical grounds can we decide that one process is material while others are immaterial? How do we evaluate narrative choices? By what criteria? For example, is a sophisticated narrative better than a simple narrative? I think what matters is what one can learn by it. One could retell a sophisticated narrative and learn nothing by it because it only touches on what one already knows. This is a question of the practice of narrative, and of the attitude one takes towards narratives, rather than a question of the intrinsic value of narratives. Yet if narratives have no intrinsic value, I'm hard pressed to say how exactly we can learn from them. Do we learn by placing values on processes and events, or by drawing values out? How can we say that we draw values out of our own narrations? There is a possibility that in narrating a course of events we might surprise ourselves. Learning from narration might then be about sustaining the ability to be surprised. Does evaulation have a beginning, a middle and an end?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 3:03 PM.


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