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What follows is the abstract structure of an analytical method of thinking. It is based on my personal experience with examining economic and political phenomena.
1 Let us name a true and actual state of affairs a case.
1.1 To analyse — to deconstruct and reconstruct in order to make sense of — a case implies that it has a certain constitution.
1.2 The act of analysis is the application of abstractive and constructive thought processes on the factors which, in their interoperation, constitute the case.
1.3 The abstractive process isolates the factors from the totality of the case, in an effort to identify their specifics, those properties germane to them regardless of the case. These are substantive properties.
1.4 The constructive process assembles the information gathered from the abstractive function in order to consider it in whole. The objective is to discern properties that are engendered by the interoperation of the factors; those contingent properties that are not discernible in prior.
1.5 Interoperability or, more generally, an intersubjective or interobjective relation that can affect all sides, those occasionally being situational agents and patients, may foster emergent states of affairs, conditions that can bestow new characteristics on the constituents, or emergent states of affairs whose parameters may be inherited by their factors as contingent properties.
1.6 The consideration of the information in its totality, apart from enabling the discernment of the contingent (even implicit) aspects of the case’s factors, also acts as a method of validation for any tentative conclusions of the abstractive process. In particular, it determines whether the properties of the factors are indeed substantive. This however is not reliable in itself, as specific factors need to be examined in cases of varying constitution, if they do indeed manifest in any other, so as to trace in them what is common in the multitude of their phenomenal presence. What persists can then indeed be qualified for consideration as ‘substantive’.
2 A case that is potentially variable in time, though not as a function of time, must be analysed in light of the alterability of its factors.
2.1 The robustness to change or lack thereof is understood by means of evaluating which of the case’s factors are the ones that remain constant or marginally variable and which are subject to significant fluctuations in their presence. The former can be regarded as given, while the latter are treated as variables, both in a narrow, context-specific sense.
2.2 To anticipate the change of the case a number of possible outcomes needs to be envisaged. A baseline scenario will be drawn only from projections that only account for the given factors. Then assumptions on the actuality of the variable factors will engender a set of alternate outcomes that go beyond the baseline scenario. These estimates can range from conservative to speculative, depending on how many of the case’s factors were incorporated in the baseline scenario as givens or, conversely, how many assumptions underpin the other scenarios. In this regard, the baseline projection is informed by little to no assumptions and may thus be treated as the least ambitious of all possible outcomes within the boundaries of what is known or expected to be known.
2.3 When it is necessary to act on — or react to — the case, possible courses of action must be founded on — and optimised around — the baseline scenario, with alternative plans for the rest of the estimated outcomes. This approach guarantees viability of action in the most risk-averse of outcomes and can potentially furnish increasing returns depending on the eventual state of the variable factors and the degree to which they may contribute to such a direction.
3 Under the scope of a rigorous epistemology the boundaries of a case are imprecise. The case is discerned from the totality of sense-impressions and has no ontic presence outside of all there is. To refer to a case is to have identified a set of interoperating factors that can be thought of as independent from all there is, whereby “all there is” is treated as irrelevant to the analysis at hand.
3.1 Imprecision is not tantamount to arbitrariness. Not any random set of factors constitutes a case and not all cases are equally truthful to the representation of reality. To admit the imperfection of the methodological apparatus is to recognise that improvements are still feasible to a system of doing research that is, in broad terms, effective though not final.
3.2 What separates an adequate from an inadequate (a “good” from a “bad”) analysis of the case is the relevance of the factors that were perceived as its constituents. If there indeed are contingent properties, predicated on the interoperability of the factors, then their inclusion/exclusion can impact the specifics of the case, to the point where they present different pictures of reality, even if all factors are regarded as truthful individually.
3.3 Knowledge about a factor in its isolation may not be sufficient to render it truthful in light of the case, for if there are contingent properties and if the abstractive function may not grasp them, then the previously perceived acquaintance is inadequate and unreliable. The factors may inherit properties from their interoperability or, more generally, partake of those characteristics that are unique to the case.
The aforementioned are but an enumeration of the principles that inform a certain mode of analysis. The gist is two-fold:
- when analysing a case, and for the sake of epistemic validity, it is of paramount importance to identify the factors that are genuinely and sufficiently constitutive of it;
- it is necessary to ensure that the applied method is holistic and all-encompassing, in examining both the case’s factors as such as well as the case’s factors in their interoperation.
Note that this is but a mere set of guidelines rather than a definitive, all-encompassing approach to thinking systematically about complex phenomena. They are in no way final as they can be revised for their improvement or rebuttal.
Caveats notwithstanding, what is presented in this article concerns one of the case’s facets — its constitution — the other being its form. The latter shall be considered in a future post on this website.
Thank you for reading.