Monday, April 5, 2010


Dean's instructions for creating a stand-up routine provide our "tale," showing us how to style the blog invention of a concept for conducting theory online.  The blog is not a finished routine, but a "rehearsal," the backstage planning and preparations.  For mnemonic purposes, Dean's advice is to locate our bits within a fully imagined situation.  The principle is that a bit is a particular situation and our response to it, dramatized as our own experience.  The heuretic rule is to substitute our own policy problem for the joke situation.  The joke mechanism, and the mining procedures for filling the slots of the mechanism, constitute inferential steps for thinking the unthought.

The joke mechanism consists of two stories, two interpretations of one situation.  To use a Margaret Smith version of one of Dean's examples, take the situation of Smith visiting her parents.  The parents wonder why she doesn't visit more often.  The cultural expectation guiding the first story concerns what is appropriate according to norms, etiquette, values:  families should respect and care for and about one another.  The connector (pivot, switch, hinge) prompting this norm (expectation) is "visit."  Dean's advice is to locate a connector open to a second interpretation, a different assumption.  This second assumption is Smith's ATTITUDE, the assumption of her persona, which is hostile to her family.  She tells a second story expressing this assumption:  "I would visit more often, but I can't get Delta to have its plane wait in my yard while I run in."  The mechanism as a whole is this conjunction of two stories around a shared term.  The instruction is to translate the family visit situation into the situation of our policy problem, in which we imagine ourselves as a participant with an attitude.

Here is where we modify Dean, to fit his advice into our CATTt.  A context is Virno, in that Dean's first story exemplifies practical reason, the application of rules to cases to guide judgment.  In fact the joke takes a Machiavellian approach to the cultural rules/expectations, one that is more cynical.  The second assumption in Smith's bit is that most families do not get along.  This assumption is just as familiar as the normative behavior, but violates decorum.  Freud might say this violation releases the energy used to repress this attitude, and so we laugh.  Zupancic noted that the unofficial attitude is familiar, and yet suprising when it appears.  The comedic stand, she says, is that when a husband returns home unexpectedly, one may assume that there is a lover hiding in the wife's closet.  In tragedy the husband (Othello) assumes this as well, but is wrong. 

The relevant point for our concept concerns its purpose of an inference leading to the unthought.  The unthought here must include the unofficial as well as the official expectations; that is, the attitude of our persona must itself be surprised.  The contribution of Analogy (Appropriation art) is responsible for producing this effect.  We learn about "appropriate" (noun) by appropriate (verb).  The potential addition to the mechanism is already sited when we note that Dean's mechanism relies primarily on fallacies of ambiguity (the connector is open to multiple interpretations).  The other major class of fallacy is that of relevance (red herring, ad hominem and the like).  The key point to note for now in documenting the rehearsal is this instruction to apply the generative mechanism not only to the expectations or assumptions of the policy debate, but also to the assumptions motivating your attitude to the debate.

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