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  Project-ivity
gary e. davis
April 21, 2017
 


Suppose a grand project: Write a book. First develop it. That’s the project-ivity of the project. But an authentic approach to a project (thus its project-ivity) is topic centered (or open-endedly process oriented), rather than monographically centered (i.e., presuming that a kind of product will result). An authentic approach to inquiry doesn’t know whether a book will come of it; or a set of papers that don’t make a monograph but may later become part of a collection; or several books might result from the inquiry. (It’s common for talents to recognize-in-process that intent to write an essay has become need to write a book; or one book has become prospectuses for several.) And time for inquiry belongs to the project, if original results are to gestate in their ownmost way, regardless of some deadline for results.

An inauthentic, monographically-centered approach (or deadline-oriented approach) might involve need to get published for the sake of one’s career. The professional calling may be authentic, but the product is instrumental to the professionality of the calling, so to speak. Without requirement to publish, authentic interests would go where they may. But for the sake of professional need, “you” hunt for a topic that seems promising for publication, demonstrate your research capability, derive something publishable, and meet a deadline for your professional contract review (or dissertation committee). It’s more about future employment than the appeal of the topic (though the topic also expresses one’s calling, in service to professional need). The topic has to be appealing enough to motivate your persistance, and that appeal derives from the intrinsic appeal of one’s calling that brought you into the profession. That’s an important part of settling on the topic: promise for “publish or perish” that is interesting enough to keep you going to completion. But authentic inquiry is a different kind of being.

In fact, “pure research,” based on intrinsic appeal of the topic (without presumptions about timeline for closure), requires independent means or an unusual source of income. Think of Charlie Darwin. Or you do the research in your spare time. Think of Bertie Einstein. The life that favors full-time pure research is an “exception that proves the rule,” thus being exceptional in at least that sense.

Unusual promise of original discovery is also exceptional. Then, scholarly researchers make careers of wondering about such exceptional intelligence, high creativity, conditions of major insightfulness, giftedness that emerges into high fruition, or that which becomes labeled “genius.” It doesn’t take a genius to be interested in genius. We marvel at the exceptionality.

Yet, if you want to understand the “nature” of “mind,” you would (should) want exemplars of the better angels—and should appreciate that the ‘of’, too, deserves quote marks, in seeking “the” (?) nature of mind: One won’t understand any better than one can understand.

However, persons who are later aptly labeled “genius” probably never gave the label any thought, because what matters is intrinsic interest, come what may (which may climb highly, due to intrinsic potentials for fulfillment that are native to exceptionality—I will argue—not because one may gain recognition). If you’re a future genius, you’re single-mindedly devoted to what’s intrinsically interesting.

Leonardo di Vinci wasn’t recognized in his lifetime for projects that weren’t products afforded by patronage. Emily Dickinson wasn’t recognized in her life for writings done for herself or friends. Many examples can be named of exceptional work done for its own sake. The calling of the inquiry, of the work itself—of working toward The Work—was what mattered.

Exceptional talent surely recognizes the uniqueness of their calling or the exceptionality of their interest; but whether or not they’re on the way to recognition for exceptional achievement is not especially important. Secondarily, such high talent realizes that exceptional achievement may bring recognition for originality; but, if not, so be it. Exploration can be its own reward, and fulfillment may authentically belong to the event of Findings. When a favored project comes to closure, the talent can’t wait to begin the next one, almost as if completing a hike is a disappointment because what’s fun in hiking. Part of the joy of an ending is a new chance for another beginning, another secretly grand peak gained, alive (though otherwise unrewarded).

“I’m happy to know—despite the going story—that the rainbow can indeed be reached.”

Authentic project-ivity evinces intrinsic appeal. The “nature” of that is likely determinable only in terms of the project itself, because authentic project-ivity with promise of original results defines its path in the ongoingness of its appeal and constellates its developing, evolving character through the constellating particulars that draw one into its pathmaking horizons.

Research into creativity seeks to capture general features of such processes, finding as much algorithmicity as practicable. But any researcher, any artist who’s drawn by intrinsic interest will agree that the process too is at stake; and what the process is to be reconstructed to have been could not have been foretold.

As I mentioned for the “conceptual inquiry” page of gedavis.com,“process as such is a genealogical reconstruction, dependent on that which is to be reconstructed.” Ultimately, project-ivity may be self-begetting, being (as I said there—to be explicated) a “self-mirroring of intelligibility venturing to advance its window—its generative mirrorwindowing—by way of the venturing.” Yet, a wholliness of flourishing there includes a fitness, a courage of persistence, that sustains difficult climbs, difficult climes. Inquiry into available conceptualities of project-ivity in general ultimately faces issues of its own inquiriality. A “whole-Project complex of prospecting, reflection, and reconstructive interest” that pertains to a given project-ivity “is integral to conceptual inquiry as such.”


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