"And what is this paraskeue? It is, I believe, the form that must be taken by true discourse in order for it to be able to be the matrix of rational behavior. The paraskeue is the structure of the permanent transformation of true discourse, firmly fixed in the subject, into principles of morally acceptable behavior."
24th February, 1982
Work on a case of ethics begins with the experience of a situation as discordant. A range of affect such as breakdown, irritation, confusion, will indicate that rectification is needed. In order to proceed towards these experiences and affects as an ethical situation, experiences must be identified and ordered as things and elements.
Our form of inquiry is oriented to the near future. We seek to reformulate blockages and opportunities as problems. By so doing one might be able to move toward making available a range of possible solutions; or at least to provide insight into the current shape and specificity of the problems at hand.
In our experiment, the question of what is being problematized is approached by identifying the ways in which formerly stable figures and their elements are becoming recombined and reconfigured. These figures should not be approached as epochal; they are not simply replacing prior figures. Rather, they should be approached in light of the fact that they share elements of existing figures in the process of recombination and reconfiguration. Thus, a primary task of problematization is to identify the relations among and between figures and their elements, and to identify vectors through which transformations are taking place and distinctive forms might be taking shape.
Problematization is done best from a position of adjacency. Adjacent is defined as “situated near or close to something or each other, especially without touching.” As opposed to traditional observation or participation, adjacency is explicitly Janus-faced. It thereby provides the potential for moving both into and out of an experimental situation in question as well as moving between different sites and scales. Such positionality requires constant calibration; therefore tolerance for such frequent adjustment is an imperative for the conduct of this work.
Adjacency works best as a second-order practice. The term second-order denotes a mode observation-intervention (Betrachtungen) in which the task, to use Niklas Luhmann’s cryptic but incisive phrase, is to “observe observers observing.”
Second order practice proceeds through the vigilant assessment of events.
Second-order practices are disruptive in that (at a minimum) they make visible existing habits and dispositions; this visibility often leads to the recognition or demand that such dispositions and habits are insufficient and inadequate on one or another register. It frequently produces responses characterized by irritation, indifference, and the assertion of power to block or silence second-order observations.
As a defense and refusal, second-order practices are likely to provoke the demand for justification in the name of first-order stakes and deliverables. One must resist this demand. Inquiry conducted in a second-order mode is unlikely to produce outcomes that contribute directly to either the goals of prosperity or amelioration. This is a proverbial price worth paying.
By speaking the truth frankly the truth is made actual. Making truth claims in this mode allows for the possibility of unforeseen ramifications.
Such truth speaking is likely to provoke a reaction. This reaction at least initially, oscillates between the poles of indifference and violence. One must remain alert to the fact that frank speech entails real dangers. However, practicing frank speech in consequential situations actually makes one more capable of seeking the truth. This practice is thus scientifically and ethically worthwhile. This claim and its associated demands, taken up in an equipmental mode, is worth keeping ready-at-hand as one practices inquiry.
Parametric questions enable the process of form giving. However they do not determine it. Only attention to the specifics of the situation can satisfy that demand.
An ethical case requires a determined situation. A determined situation is formed through a relationship between parameters, experiences, objects and objectives.
In order to achieve this, specific parameters need to be brought into defined relations with the element of a situation which can now be determined as pertinent.