Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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April 07, 2004
In a (fox)hole but can't stop digging

[S]trong theory tends to be preemptive, organized by the demands of prevention rather than facilitation.

The connection of these features to strong theory rests on their responsiveness to feedback: a strategy of pain avoidance, in contrast to pleasure seeking, grows stronger when it fails.

In the wake of a failure to ward off pain, the response is to produce a more general theory of wider scope to avoid a repetition of the failure. So failure enhances theory; strong theory grows out of failure.
(emphasis supplied)

from "Irony and Clerisy," by Linda Brigham, part of the astoundingly cool Romantic Circles Praxis Series.

Here's what else Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick has to say about this phenomenon:

If the individual cannot find the rules whereby he can cross the street without feeling anxious [because of a series of unfortunate accidents, say], then his avoidance strategies will necessarily become more and more diffuse.

Under these conditions the individual might be forced, first, to avoid all busy streets and then to go out only late at night when traffic was light; finally, he would remain inside, and if his house were to be hit by a car, he would have to seek refuge in a deeper shelter. . . .

Both the cognitive antennae of the theory and the preventive strategies have changed.

This individual has learned to count many more things as a street: this strong fear theorist is always ready to draw the line that expands his theory's domain.