Truth in Society

February 16, 1995

Prompt #57

Further assessing feasibility . . .

In order to give every potential focus the very best shot, and in order to make sure everyone has a chance to think at some length about at least a second potential focus we think each one we decide is worth it ought to be re-examined and the original feasibility study expanded and further explored.

Each of the groups will have decided on a slightly smaller set of potential foci or topics. Everyone will have chosen one of those foci she would be interested in doing a further examination of.

Between now and Tuesday morning, each group of people is responsible for producing an expansion or elaboration of the original feasibility study. This will involve further library work, and further planning and reflection on how a study of that issue might help us understand how we and others come to believe things.

Exactly where the principal additions to the already existing study should come, of course, depends on the nature of that study, but in general these are the kinds of questions you should be addressing (no surprises: they're closely related to the five issues we've already specified as determining feasibility):

  1. Definability. If the previous report specified a particular instance example, or episode, two questions should be asked and explored: is that instance really particular and specific enough to sustain an investigation; and is it the best instance that could have been specified? Is there a better approach to the topic, one that would allow us to create a clear and useful image of the event or episode or debate? This will probably involve both thinking about the implications of the general topic and investigating the particular instance.
  2. Resources. This is a crucial one. If there was a bibliography, is it a usable one, and what should be added to it? Is it so big that there's no way effectively to narrow it down or focus it (in that case, you might want to think about the first issue, and find a way to rephrase the way the focus is defined, so as to narrow it down to something manageable). If there wasn't, can you generate one? Is there a sufficient range of resources -- for instance, periodical articles as well as books? resources that represent a range of disciplinary approaches and levels of sophistication (scholarly as well as popular)? Are the resources really available?
  3. Relevance. Is this really a focus that will help us understand what people think of as truth? How? Can it be stated differently, or more completely, than it was in the original feasibility study? Are there aspects the original writers didn't think of, or didn't say?
  4. Richness. Does the original study give enough examples of subquestions, specific areas for research, potential individual projects? Are there some that got missed or went unmentioned?
  5. Interest. Is the statement of why it should be interesting to people persuasive enough? Are there arguments, based on your further information, that should be added?

Bring your completed additional feasibility study to EC 120 next Tuesday morning at 8:30. It should be printed in photocopiable form. On Tuesday, based on consideration of both the original feasibility study and the additions, we'll make our decisions about what issues to pursue further, and set a timetable and a structure for conducting our investigations.

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