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3 Invention as a Social Act So FAR I HAVE DESCRIBED A PLATONIC VIEW OF RHETORICAL INvention , given examples of its use in composition theory, said why such a view has predominated, and explored its strengths and limitations . I have, in effect, shown what a social perspective on invention is not. Now let's see what it is. Invention, conceived broadly as the process ofactively creating as well as finding what comes to be known and said in the discourse of any discipline, is, I think, best understood as occurring when individuals interact dialectically with socioculture in a distinctive way to generate something. In this chapter I will describe what I mean by vie>ving invention as social, as dialectical, and as an act. To place this view in a context, I will briefly consider both contemporary and classical theoretical approaches with which it is compatible. Social Aspects of Invention Taking as a starting point Max Weber's definition of"social" as that which is oriented to take into account the behavior of others,1 one can regard invention as social in various ways. The following summary highlights several significant social aspects of invention, each of which is explored in greater detail elsewhere in this study. 1. The inventing "self" is socially influenced, even socially constituted , according to a variety of theorists such as George Herbert Mead, Martin Buber, Clifford Geertz, and Wayne Booth. With this 34 Invention as a Social Act perspective, invention may be seen as social even when its agent is a single individual. 2. One invents \\rith language or with other symbol systems, which are socially created and shared by members ofdiscourse communities . The important role that language in particular plays in invention provides another rationale for regarding invention as social even when its agent is an individual, a point to be explored more fully in chapter 5. 3. Invention builds on a foundation of knowledge accumulated from previous generations, knowledge that constitutes a social legacy of ideas, forms, and ways of thinking. "Contrary to Sisyphus," Silvano Arieti points out, "the creative man does not start from the foot of the mountain again, but from where other people have left off." 2 Each creative act is given to another generation of thinkers who may dismiss, eonfirm, or build on it. 4. Invention may be enabled by an internal dialogue with an imagined other or a construct of audience that supplies premises or structures of belief guiding the inventor. Writing about various perceptions of audience in composition theory and pedagogy, Lisa Ede and Andrea Lunsford stress the importance ofrecognizing an "internal dialogue, through which writers analyze inventional problems and conceptualize patterns of discourse."3 This inner dialogue, the existence of which is generally assumed by researchers who rely on think-aloud protocols, is thought by Vygotsky and others to be a process one learns through social interactions that subsequently become internalized. 5. Writers often invent by involving other people: as editors and evaluators whose comments aid further invention; as "resonators" who nourish and sustain the inventor as well as the invention; as collaborators who interact to create new ideas; and as opponents or devil's advocates who provide challenges and alternate perspectives to work against. To create certain kinds of discourses such as contracts or treaties, two or more rhetors (often in adversarial positions) must collaborate in order to invent. 6. Invention is powerfully influenced by social collectives, such as institutions, bureaucracies, governments, and "invisible colleges" of academic disciplinary communities. These collectives, to be discussed more fully in the next chapter, serve to transmit expectations and prohibitions, encouraging or discouraging certain ideas, areas of Invention as a Social Act 35 investigation, methods of inquiry, types of evidence, and rhetorical forms. 7. The reception, evaluation, and use of what is invented depend to a great extent on social context. Writing in the 1930s about the discovery process in science, Ludwik Fleck noted that it is essential to consider the influence of social conditions and community, even in the case of apparently independent, or personal, exploits. "Such scientific exploits," Fleck explains, "can prevail only if they have a seminal e:ffect by being performed at a time when the social conditions are right."4 Invention as a Dialectical Process Invention is a dialectical process in that the inventing individual (s) and the socioculture are co-existing and mutually defining. Their relationship is analogous to the relationship between Martin Buber's I and Thou (You): "I require a You to...


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