Functional Specialization Seminars | January 2011

Structure and Scheduling by Phil McShane

by phil.mcshane 28. January 2011 18:23

January 28th

The 25 Seminars: structure and scheduling

Questions have come up about the list I posted regarding a full series of 25 seminars. So I’ll give a further perspective on the task here, even at the risk of a little repetition.

First, then, the length of the seminars, and some comments on procedure: at the end I add datings of the seminars.

Think in units of eight: the first eight, on General Categories; the second eight, on Special Christian Categories; the third eight, on Global Revelationary Categories. The final seminar is just a pointer to eschatological categories.

The first seminar is slightly longer - a full three months - and seemingly more complex

than the others. All the other seminars involve three supporting FuSe essays and only one exercise/attempt, and they each run about ten weeks. This first seminar runs 13 weeks - three months - and has more exercises, and more FuSe essays connected with it. The supporting essays of this first seminar are FuSe zero, 1, 3, 4 , 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. [Fuse 2 belongs in the second and third seminars, on Interpretation and History].

This first seminar is, in a sense, the most difficult: a culture shock. The nature of this shock is in my previous posting that introduced FuSe 5. What is being revealed [I mean, if the exercise is digested, ingested!] is a massive shift of culture, eventually a global mind-life towards care of humanity’s future. "If men are to meet the challenge set by major decline and its longer cycle, it will be through their culture that they do so" (Insight, 261) and the result of the cultural shift is to be "too universal to be bribed, to impalpable to be forced, too effective to be ignored" (Ibid., 265).

What the 25 seminars aim at is the beginning of the climb to this new methodological culture. But it is not just a Tower culture, but a culture of the byways of ordinary living. [That fuller problem of culture is raised in the first section of Insight chapter 17]. So - and here we point to the enriching reach of our first seminar’s efforts - the mood and mode of common sense is to be allied and aligned with functional research. We, seven billion of us, are called to cultivate, culturate, ourselves and our perhaps endless (a goodly Godly question, this) descendants. Can one get this mood into one’s neurodynamics through this seminar? Only by prolonging it to a ten-year project [recall Camus:" it takes ten years to get an idea"; or recall the old Zen story about getting to enlightenment in a hurry!]

SO: this seminar gives any of us enough to ingest in this decade. And some of you may well call a halt in regard to the other seminars. You have the pointings already towards the foundation of the leaning Tower of Able.

There will be fresh e-faces in the next seminar and the next, and so on. The condition of doing the work of any of those other seminars is that the effort of the first seminar is somehow ingested. The FuSe series, starting with FuSe Zero, has to be brooded over freshly - recall Proust - in the first month, as we climb into Fuse 10, 13, ..... (10 + 3.n) .... 79. Then, as you see, all the other seminars have a simpler structure, to which I will return shortly.

However, you see now better, perhaps, the significance of this first seminar’s struggles? Especially the struggle towards the fantasy of a Tower Community of a quarter of a billion people in a later millennium.

But we began small, in our fantasy around "The Rolling Stone Gathers Nomos". We began with the problems of a family’s dysfunctional holidays of 20 years, but "for 20 years you may substitute 20 centuries, or 20 million years: Grandma Moses [in the story] is a bow both to remote Africa and to proximate Middle Eastern origins." (A Brief History of Tongue, 104; Economics for Everyone, 152). And all the seminars have to share that beginning.

What we pick up on, in each of the seminars, is the "Existential Gap" (See CWL 18), as it manifests itself in that zone, in the contrast between a muddle and a model, between the muddling along of present Lonergan studies, and the effort to generate a later sound global science "yielding cumulative and progressive results" (Method, 4), "yielding cumulative and progressive results"(Method, 5).

Obviously, I would like people to stay with me, with us, as identified observers and even commenting. New folks will sign in, burdened with ingesting (somewhat) this first seminar’s pointings. But, as well as this challenge, and the reduction of Attempts to one only, there is a further strategic element, necessary to effective progress. It is that the number of active contributors be reduced to 10. I think now of the single Attempt, an essay of perhaps 8 dense pages, to be made public in FuSes 11, 14, ... (11 + 3.n) .... 76. [That publicity itself may discourage some who may not want "to lay all his [her] cards on the table,"{Method, 193} since a doctorate or a job in enemy territory is at stake ; or whatever). So there is to be a process, largely self-selection, in each seminar, towards having the 10. The membership and the 10 will, of course, vary from seminar to seminar.

I would note that this is only one way to go, related to my leading the seminar with neither the time nor the energy to cope with a large full participation. I envisage another way: a multiplication of seminars and seminar leaders; a multiplication moreover that does not loose identity with the movement of fusing, since "they fuse into a single explanation" (Method, 610, line 9), the single explanation being a common standard heuristic. Feel free, then, potential leaders, to localize the common effort.

I had best halt, though there has come up the topic of one zone of difficulty that deserves some comment: about collaboration within such a common model and the flow of other models, muddles. People are puzzled by this "cumulative and progressive" idea when they view current debates and discussions of Lonergan studies. The sad fact is that many of these debates are pre-scientific, richly descriptive, comparative. We might think through the dynamics of pre-scientific physics or chemistry, but that would require too much elaboration. I will only suggest that we think broadly of a decently advance physics or cosmology for which the earth is not flat. Those doing this physics do not have discussions with the Flat Earth Society. Physics works on, within both its at-the-time standard model and its focus on the real situations discovered and improved: not, then, on the variety of unverified models or opinions, however sophisticated. But I sense as I write that what is needed here is not a paragraph but a book, or rather, here, the adventure of 25 seminars! Still, it is best not just to await the new data from this experimentation - "the process of experimentation yields new data" (Method, 5) - so I tackle, in the second part of FuSe10, a lengthier reflection on the anomalous phrase (as used of philosophy and theology), "cumulative and progressive results."

I turn finally to seminar schedules. The time-schedule for the first four seminars is

[1] Jan 15- April 15; [2] April 27th - July 5th [3] July 12th - Sep 18th [4] Oct 1st - Dec 15th.

The dates for the seminars to follow (2012 - 2018) are, in all the years:

[1] Jan 12th - Mar 24th; [2] Apr 6th - Jun 2oth; [3] Jul 1st - Sep 12th; [4] Sep 25th - Dec 10th .

There is nothing sacred about these dates, but the strategy manages to avoid overlapping with end-of-year events [ though not the Chinese New Year!].



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