Reading Analyses


In addition to furthering our understanding of the importance of exigence, the reading analyses involved legere. The role of legere, or choosing, in reading and writing was a major focal point throughout the year. More than anything else, the reading analyses embodied the idea of having to choose when writing. As Casey Boyle writes in his “…something like a reading ethics…,” “one cannot respond to everything in a text but one chooses a point of entry, an item or two to leverage a response.” In the context of our reading analyses, I had to choose which aspects of the argument that the author made to present as evidence. In my last reading analysis, I wrote about the argument that Dr. Osterholm made in “Planes, Trains, or Automobiles.” I had many different aspects I could choose to include, but I decided to focus on the occurrence of “coronavirus anger.” The conscious choice of what to focus on in a piece of work creates the direction that the analysis goes in. 

In the essay, I had to choose which portions of Fish’s argument from Winning Arguments to include as support. The quotes I used in my essay were different than the ones used in my reading analysis. This difference was not due to a different interpretation of Fish’s argument, but due to a different selection. In the essay, I made a different response to the text than I did in the reading analysis. My essay responded to how Fish’s ideas of case law could be applied to science as well, while my reading analysis argued that Fish believes law has enabling fictions. In all cases of writing and especially in the reading analyses, choosing how to respond to the reading or readings is necessary.

Reading Analysis #6

Osterholm’s View on the Current State of Coronavirus Fatigue in the United States

During episode 26, “Planes, Trains, or Automobiles” of the Osterholm Update, Osterholm argues that the United States is transitioning into a new phase of Coronavirus fatigue, called Coronavirus anger. Coronavirus anger results in people flouting Coronavirus regulations and guidelines. The drastic changes in people’s lives, despite them not knowing anyone who has contracted the virus, are causing much of the anger. According to Osterholm, there is “roughly a third of the population, it’s been estimated, that believes that this is just a hoax” and that these people believe “it’s just a political issue” (Planes, Trains, or Automobiles). As a result, these people have become angry that they have lost their lives and their economic security over something that they believe is not real. 

Flaunting regulations expectedly comes with consequences. The recent disregard of Coronavirus restrictions has led to more cases. So many more cases that Osterholm says “if you look at across the country, this looks to me very much like what it looked like in early July” (Plains, Trains, or Automobiles). As a result of Coronavirus anger mixed with Coronavirus fatigue, the United States as a country has gone backward in its Coronavirus response. With the holidays coming closer, Osterholm warns of making plans early to accommodate for the Coronavirus to avoid contentious arguments because “some people will find any kind of restriction on what was normal holidays as being irresponsible and without a basis” (Plains, Trains, and Automobiles). Sadly, the risk of argument likely stems from the politician of science. According to Osterholm the Coronavirus situation is “not going to suddenly be magically different, if anything” (Plains, Trains, and Automobiles), meaning that the holidays are a prime time for Coronavirus anger and fatigue to have a great effect. Therefore, people should begin preparing themselves for a unique holiday season.

Works Cited

“Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.” Osterholm Update: COVID 19 from CIDRAP, 20 August 2020, 

Reading Analysis #5

Gloria Naylor’s “The Meaning of a Word”: Word Meanings Come From Context

In her “The Meanings of a Word,” Gloria Naylor argues that the meaning of a word, particularly the n-word, can change within different contexts, becoming something positive or negative, depending on the situation. As she puts it, “it is the consensus that gives [words] true power”. In each situation that a word is used in, there is a consensus of what the underlying meaning of the word is. For example, Naylor explains that in certain situations the n-word could be “applied to a man who had distinguished himself in some situation.” When the n-word is used in this context, there is an understanding that it is not a derogatory term, but a term that demonstrates pride in someone who has accomplished something significant. When used as a possessive adjective, the n-word can be viewed as a term of endearment between a woman and her man (Naylor). In each situation the same word is being used, but it carries a different significance. This context becomes very important for Naylor when she discusses the first time she heard the n-word used in a negative way. 

Every time before that Naylor had heard the n-word in her life, she had heard it being used in a way that “rendered it impotent.” Now, for the first time, the n-word was being used as a “way to humiliate” Naylor. This distinction between the effect that a word can have on a person highlights the importance of context when deciphering the meaning of a word. Who uses a word and when a word is said has as big of an importance as the sounds that come out of a person’s mouth. In sum, words do not receive their power from the actual sounds that are made to say them, but from the intention and feelings of the person from which they were spoken. 

Works Cited

Naylor, Gloria. “Meanings of a Word.” New York Times, 1986

Reading Analysis #4

Fish on Plagiarism: An Issue of Academic Rules, Not Morals

In his “Plagiarism Is Not a Big Moral Deal,” Stanley Fish attacks the notion that plagiarism is based on a moral philosophy of originality, and instead presents plagiarism as rules that must be professionally followed. For Fish, then, the philosophical arguments claiming that plagiarism can not be committed because there is no true originality fail because the idea of plagiarism is not based in philosophy. In fact, according to Fish, “the ground plagiarism stands on is more mundane and firm” and that it is in “the ground of disciplinary practices”. In other words, the basis for plagiarism is the discipline’s own rules. Plagiarism in politics and music has much different bars to meet than in academics. The differences in what constitutes plagiarism are due to that fact that each field (music, politics, academia, or any other field) creates its own rules. Therefore, no philosophical argument can affect plagiarism, because plagiarism is an everyday disciplinary practice, not a philosophical belief in originality, and “everyday disciplinary practices do not rest on a foundation of philosophy or theory; they rest on a foundation of themselves.”

Plagiarism exists as a practice because without it institutions would be hindered. Just as criminal law can only exist with the assumption of choice (“Political Arguments”), many institutions can only exist with the assumption of originality. The Grammy’s exist because of the belief that artists can create their own work. Plagiarism is a result of this assumption of originality, not the result of a moral belief. As long as people maintain this assumption of originality, plagiarism will continue to be something that is punished, because plagiarism must be punished. In conclusion, the basis of plagiarism and punishing plagiarism is not philosophical or moral; therefore, no moral or philosophical arguments against plagiarism stands any ground. 

Works Cited

Fish, Stanley. “Plagiarism Is Not a Big Moral Deal.” The New York Times, 9 Aug, 2010, Accessed 3 Oct, 2020.

—. “Political Arguments.” Winning Arguments: What Works and Doesn’t Work in Politics, the Bedroom, the Courtroom, and the Classroom, Harper, 2016.

An Analysis of Fish’s Views on Case Law

In his “Legal Arguments”, Stanley Fish argues that because there are almost an unlimited number of ways to form an argument and use pieces of evidence, case law has and needs specific rules on what is considered usable evidence, creating what he calls  “enabling fictions,” where lawyers then argue. For criminal case law to be impartial, Fish argues that a fiction has to be created that presents everyone as being equal (136). In addition, for criminal law to exist, there has to be a narrow time frame that is examined. According to Fish, if a wider time frame is examined, it can no longer be assumed that people “author their actions and are therefore responsible for them” (144). A broad time allows for the argument that the cause of a person’s actions were the experiences that they have had in life and not their personal decision, indicating that the person in question did not have the ability to act in free will. If a broad time frame is used, there is no point in criminal law because there is “no intentional act to fault or criminalize” (144). 

Fish expands on the idea that all legal arguments involve “some authorized institutional fiction” (137) when discussing First Amendment Law. Fish claims that there is a fictional distinction between speech and action, which without First Amendment Law would not exist (137-8). Further evidence of the fictional distinction between speech and action is provided by the fact that an action can be designated by law as speech and speech as action. Fish writes that the back and forth nature of judicial decisions “is evidence of the malleability of the speech/action distinction” (141). In other words, speech’s ability to be considered action and action as speech goes to show that the distinction between the two is subjective and is created by a judges interpretation of the arguments. The distinction between speech and action relies not on the speech or action that occurred, but on the lawyers arguing the case and the judges hearing it. As a result, the necessity of enabling fictions to limit the scope of argument in law is evident.

Works Cited

Fish, Stanley. “Political Arguments.” Winning Arguments: What Works and Doesn’t Work in Politics, the Bedroom, the Courtroom, and the Classroom, Harper, 2016.

Reading Analysis #3

The Uselessness of the Appearance-Reality Distinction According to Richard Rorty

In his “Getting Rid of the Appearance-Reality Distinction,” Richard Rorty argues that differentiating between Reality and Appearance in search of the really real is pointless because there is no true reality; instead, there is only the human imagination, which uses language to create the reality that we experience. The more imaginative that humans become with their explanations of the world, the larger the sphere of what we call our reality becomes.

Much of Rorty’s argument rests on the idea that the imagination is entirely what reality consists of. According to Rorty, “the heart of philosophy’s quarrel with poetry is the fear that the imagination goes all the way down” (69), meaning that philosophers fear there is no objective way to view reality. To view reality objectively, there would have to be an access to reality that does not involve language, as language is very subjective (Rorty 69). This inability to access reality without language has led Rorty to believe that reality is made by the Imagination. Rorty argues, “every human achieve-ment is simply a launching pad for a greater achievement” (71), suggesting that there is no barrier to human achievement. Human achievement will continue to the extent that imagination allows.

Rorty illustrates the continuous launchpad of human achievement with Emerson’s circle theory. Emerson’s circle theory describes reality as becoming an ever bigger circle, with the boundaries extending everytime there is a more imaginative way of viewing the world (Rorty 70-71). This rejects the Platonic idea that there is a Reality that can be accessed, because the Reality accessed from the Platonic point of view is an impassable circle of certainty. Rorty’s argument that it is human imagination, specifically human imagination as the result of language, that creates our reality, means that there is no unobjective reality to access. This is shown when Rorty writes, “you cannot have knowledge without identifiable things” (76) and to have an identifiable thing requires language to identify it with. Therefore, all knowledge that we have of reality and appearance, and anything in general, stems from language. There is no point in creating a distinction between Reality and Appearance, because they are essentially one in the same. Just as reality is formed by the imaginative words used to describe it, so is appearance.

Rorty’s argument of the uselessness of the Reality-Appearance distinction stems from the belief that there is no Reality that humans can access. Reality as humans know it stems from advances in human imagination. Because there cannot be imagination without language, there is no way to create a language free reality, resulting in an objective reality being an impossibility.

Works Cited

Rorty, Richard. “Getting Rid of the Appearance-Reality Distinction” New Literary History, Volume 47, Number 1, Winter 2016, pp. 67-81

Lewis Thomas and the Importance of Making Errors

In “The Wonderful Mistake,” Lewis Thomas presents the argument that it is the imperfections of life, specifically DNA and humans in general, that make improvement and progress possible. This attacks the notion that perfection is better than imperfection, because had DNA been created to be perfect, no progress in life would be possible. 

Thomas’s argument stems from the human tendency to avoid errors. Errors are thought of by most as something negative. Humans go so far as to attempt to remove any possibility of error in their lives. This is shown when Lewis Thomas writes that if humans were to have created life, they would have worked until DNA was able “to make flawless, exact copies.” If DNA were to be made perfect, without the ability to subtly change as it now does, life would have no ability to improve. Without error, life would still be restricted to only a single cell bacteria. It is through DNA’s important ability of not being perfect that DNA is able to transition into an almost more perfect being. It is the random mistakes that DNA has made that has lead the world into existence. 

Thomas’s discussion on DNA leads to a larger point. Humans should embrace their own ability to error because, as Thomas writes, “we are here by the purest chance, and by mistake at that.” In other words, it is through errors that we even exist. Thomas argues that the word error needs to lose its negative connotation, or be thought of in its “old root meaning to wander about, looking for something.” While errors might not be targeted to accomplish a certain goal, they do in a sense wonder about, and every so often run into a gold mine. We need to reject our “insuring ourselves against change” and instead embrace the changes that come with errors, because that is what leads to progress.

To error, as Lewis Thomas argues, is to allow the possibility of progress to happen. A pursuit of perfection prohibits change, restricting the world to the way it is. DNA’s ability to subtly error, opening a window of possibility for progress, has allowed the world to become the way it is. It is for this reason that having the ability to error, in both DNA and in humans, is as Thomas would put it, a wonderful mistake. 

Works Cited

Thomas, Lewis. “The Wonderful Mistake.” The Wonderful Mistake: Notes of a Biology Watcher Incorporating the Lives of a Cell and the Medusa and the Snail, edited by Troy Bramston, The Federation Press, 1988. 

Reading Analysis #2

Stanley Fish On The Cause of Fake News: Pushes for Transparency and Free Speech Have Caused the Recent Phenomena of Fake News

In his article “‘Transparency’ Is the Mother of Fake News,” Stanley Fish argues that it is not what most people believe, which is a lack of free speech and transparency that is the cause of fake news, but it is the effort to increase transparency and free speech that has caused the recent phenomena of fake news. In other words, the recent increase in free speech due to social media and the desire for “cold hard data” has led to data being unknowingly skewed into what we now call fake news, because there is no such thing as “cold hard data”. As Stanley Fish puts it, “Postmodernism sets itself against the notion of facts just lying there discrete and independent, and waiting to be described.” Fish is arguing that facts do not come from an independent source, but instead, “fact is the achievement of argument and debate.” There is no such thing as independent non-interpreted facts to base any decisions off of. This has created a culture full of fake news because now people are finding blogs and twitter pages to be more reputable and credible than classic news sources. We now live in a world where “an assertion of fact is more credible if it lacks an institutional source” (Fish). Because institutional sources are viewed as having an agenda or bias, the views they present are considered unobjective, while a person who is not existing in an institution but is an outsider is able to appear as if they are providing the cold hard uninterpreted facts. Instead of having reputable institutions being the source of fact, which have to be interpreted in some way, people are trusting outside sources to present their versions of the facts, working under the guise of free speech and transparency.

Works Cited

Fish, Stanely. “‘Transparency’ Is the Mother of Fake News.” New York Times, May 7. 2018, Accessed 11 October 2020.

Reading Analysis #1

An Analysis of “White Fragility”

In Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility,” DiAngelo argues that white people need to become educated in racial issues and develop a perspective that allows change to systematic racism to be made, instead of simply living sheltered lives, unwilling to have productive racial discourse. Essentially, DiAngelo believes that white privilege allows whites to live in a world without the problem of race, causing them to become uncomfortable and defensive whenever the topic comes up. This is shown when DiAngelo says that an “insulated environment of racial protection builds white expectations for racial comfort while at the same time lowering the  ability to tolerate racial stress” (54), creating an inability to effectively discuss race. In other words, because whites do not encounter racial issues in their everyday lives, they expect to not have to deal with racial issues and become uncomfortable when they do. This inability to experience racial stress is what DiAngelo describes as “White Fragility” (54). DiAngelo attributes much of the cause of White Fragility to the belief that white people are the “universal humans” and “represent all of human experience” (59). Whites view themselves as more valuable and repeatedly see themselves represented in the center of everything, whether it be television or religion (DiAngelo 63). This causes people to internalize “the message of white superiority” (DiAngelo 63), further obscuring the fact that white people experience privilege and play a large role in maintaining the current racial structure. In sum, white people grow up with the unconscious idea of being superior, leading them to not recognize any faults in their current society. 

Works Cited

DiAngelo, Robin. “White Fragility.” International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, Vol 3 (3) (2011) pp 54-70