Discourse on Method Essay example

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Discourse on Method

Heuresis (or invention) comprises, as Richard Lanham notes, "the first of the five traditional parts of rhetorical theory, concerned with the finding and elaboration of arguments" (1991: 91). In Aristotle's Rhetoric the category of heuresis included the kinds of proof available to the rhetorician, lists of valid and invalid topoi, as well as the various commonplaces the rhetorician might touch upon - loci or stereotypical themes and observations ("time flies") appropriate to a given occasion
(Lanham 1991: 166-170). In a more contemporary sense heuretic is defined by the OED as "the branch of logic which treats of the art of discovery or invention." Both senses of this word, along with its more familiar cognate
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Ulmer's book presents itself, in part, as a heuristic device for enabling such new forms of research and text production from the inventio provided by Jacques Derrida. In The Other Heading, reflecting on contemporary Europe,
Derrida repeats a fundamental question posed by Paul Valery in 1939 in the wake of fascism: "What are you going to do?
What are you going to do today?" (1992: 18, cited in Ulmer 84). Ulmer sees his work as a response, in 1992, to this call for invention. Ulmer's text also presents itself as providing a method for "the contemporary paradigm" (12) of poststructuralism comparable to the method Descartes provided for an emergent scientific rationalism. He is quick, however, to qualify this project for "any attempt at a postmodernist 'method' is contradictory (an impossible possibility)" (25). In one of the most suggestive sections of work, the initial chapter contends that "all of the manifestos of the avant-garde, belong to the tradition of the discourse on method" (8), and provides an analysis of the common elements comprising such discourses. They are
"representable for mnemonic reference by the acronym CATTt" (8).

C = Contrast (opposition, inversion, differentiation) A = Analogy (figuration, displacement) T = Theory (repetition, literalization) T = Target (application, purpose) t = Tale (secondary elaboration, representability) (8)

Thus Descartes' discourse on method

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