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Figuring out grammar : features and practices of explicating normative order Heap, James L.


This study reports on some of the features and practices of sense making involved in the work of explicating the normative order of language use. The normative order of interest is (what Wittgenstein would call) the grammar of the concept justification. The data consists in the author's mundane work of figuring out in what context some type of talk would count as "doing justifying." The warrant for this enterprise issues from ethnomethodology's concern with sense making, or practical reasoning. While ethnomethodologists have addressed accounting and interpretive practices, the phenomenon under investigation here is of a different, previously unexplored type: "figuring out." In order to prepare for the analysis consideration is given in Part One to three questions: What are the "features and practices of sense making?" What analytic status must such features and practices have in order to be of ethnomethodological interest? How can the features and practices of figuring out grammar be best studied? Ordinary language philosophy is drawn on to answer the first two questions. A distinction is made between natural and social science in terms of the source of, and constraints on their concept formation and use. This distinction provides for seeing why it is that natural science can have a technical language while social science only can make technical use of ordinary language. That technical use is argued to depend for its sensibility cm the indexical limits of ordinary use. Features and practices of sense making thus turn out to be whatever members sanctionably can call features and practices of sense making. Some claims in ethnomethodology are found not to meet this indexical criterion. The answer to the second question has been that invariant or formal properties are of interest. Different versions of invariance are located in the literature. Using Wittgenstein's argument against essentialism the search for universal invariance is rendered questionable. Instead, particular invariance and type-invariance are claimed to be discoverable and warrantable within the limits of ordinary language. In addition the argument is put forward that (repeatable) contingent practices deserve attention. The third question is answered by considering and comparing a third person and a first person approach to studying figuring out. In terms of contingent practices it is found that a third person approach faces a problem of indexicality, whereas a first person approach does not, or if it does, it can survive it. Methods of ethnomethodological reduction and eidetic variation are discussed. In Part Two the concepts of meaning, force and grammar are introduced and explicated. These concepts are then used in presenting the normative order that governs the use of the concept of justification. Consideration is then given to how the generation of that normative order (grammar) is to be viewed analytically. Using a first person approach in Part Three, the author's own work of figuring out the grammar of justification becomes the topic of study. That study is written and furnished as a "journey": the analysis of each practice is developed in response to the properties of the phenomena, and each analysis draws and builds on the prior one. Four contingent practices are analyzed: calling, filling, grounding, and answering-seeking. As well, three features are found to be essential to figuring out: pre-reflective knowing, pre-reflective awareness of possibly knowing and orienting-to-grammaticality. Together these seven properties reveal that figuring out has a structure fundamentally different from accounting and interpreting. Through a consideration of these seven properties and other features an argument is provided in Part Four against using the Weber-Schutz version of social action as a resource for defining ethnomethodology's domain. Instead, it is argued that ethnomethodology's domain and phenomena are coextensive: the social is sense making.

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