Friday, April 18, 2008

Response: Knapp & Michaels Against Theory

For our last blog, we were asked to respond to Against Theory by Knapps and Michael. The essay proposes that, "meaning is just another name for expressed intention, knowledge just another name for true belief, but theory is not just another name for practice. It is the name for all the ways people have tried to stand outside practice in order to govern practice from without. Our thesis has been that no one can reach a position outside practice, that theorists should stop trying, and that the theoretical enterprise should therefore come to an end."

For my part I do not recognize a problem with theory, and for the most part I believe that Knapps and Michael harm their claims by relying upon truth claims and value judgments. In fact, there is a fundamental element of discourse I believe may not have been covered in the section of the essay that we have read.

The way I understand it, all that is required for an assertion about a text in Critical Theory is that it needs to be grounded in the text. That is, for any assertion that one might make, one must first provide evidence present in the text to support such a claim. This is my grasp of the theoretical project. I do not understand critical theory to suppose value judgments or dismiss one interpretation of a text in favor of another, rather it is simply to propose a method of analyzing any given text which makes an interpretation possible. The goal of critical theory should never be to discourage or inhibit an interpretation, I should think, and no interpretation should be taken as definitive, including the author's: i.e. if the author reads a text in a certain way, while everyone else reads it to mean something else, then so long as these interpretations are grounded in the text, they are always valid. However more than anything else I believe the project of theory amounts to a demonstration of the subjectivity of meaning.

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