“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Saturday, March 5, 2011

How to Plan a Ph.D 7: Methods

So, you have your archives figured out, right? (See the previous posts.) And you have 2-3 hypotheses per archive, yes?

Now you can build some methods. ONLY now: for various pedagogical and philosophically sound reasons DO NOT attempt this first or you will be blocked a year or two in, I guarantee.

Methods are machines that help you test hypotheses. Imagine you have a hypothesis about a certain philosopher's belief. You will need some biographical research, you will need critical readings of ALL her texts: books, essays, letters. At this point why narrow it down?

Now the more methods you have, the more expertise you build. So if you are doing lit crit, try some history and philosophy and software coding. Why not? And so on.

After some time you'll see how your methods map quite nicely onto your hypotheses and so provide different ways of "mining" your archives.

Have some fun with this stage. The idea is to slightly stretch yourself, to give yourself at least one more skill to learn so that you end the process with more expertise in techniques than you started with.

Many people have trouble distinguishing between a method and an archive in our "meta" style epistemological age. You think you want to study deconstruction but actually you want to DO deconstruction. In this case it's best to have at least one more method to analyze the deconstruction. Don't just paint to study painting. You need to do history, too, right? It's confusing and it can be circular if you only use the methods supplied by your archive.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Long version: I just wanted to voice my appreciation for your blog. I'm still trying to get my head around what OOO is all about, and following what you write is really wortwhile and good, keep it up!

Also, I want to especially thank you for the "how to plan your ph. d."-guide. As I became a ph d-student in philosophy, at a big tech. university with a small philosophy dept in Sweden, most of my colleagues are all into analytical philosophy, whereas my training was in the likes of phenomenology, post-structuralism, hermeneutics and the likes. I don't use your guide as my main searchlight in this crazy world of academia, but it is certainly funny, enlightening, and interesting to get tips from all others who have been into this, and with interests similar to my own (not implying that your into phenomenology know, but hope you get what I mean).

Short version: GREAT BLOG!