Monday, March 7, 2011

Audience Entrepreneurial Discovery

Michael Richards took up the discussion we had here on his own blog Academy of Human Action on entrepreneurial analysis in literature." He correctly argues that "not only are readers entrepreneurs, but judge works of art based on their entrepreneurial nature." When the reader is reading, he is engaged in a discovery process. Part of the joy of reading is discovering what will happen. One kind of bad literature is that which is predictable. No discovery process takes place. Another kind of bad literature is that which is not post-dictable, meaning that when you look back on what you read, it doesn't make any sense how you got to where you are. Again, no discovery process takes place, because the world you just encountered does not hold together. It is pure chaos. Great literature is neither predictable nor chaotic -- it is unpredictable, yet post-dictable. You are surprised it turned out that way, but at the end of the work, you realize that it had to have turned out that way.

Now, one may object that this is not really an entrepreneurial discovery process, as what we are talking about here is discovering what was placed there by someone else, and not something unknown by others. Yet, truly great literature does allow you to discover such things within the works. It may be an insight into human nature, a realization about yourself, etc. Literature is both public,having a public meaning that can be understood by everyone, and private, having a personal meaning. Part of that first meaning involves how the work holds together, but it involves everyone discovering for themselves how it comes to mean for everyone. We all know of the existence of Mt. Everest, but climbing the mountain yourself -- or even just seeing it in person -- is another thing entirely. WIth art, the entrepreneurial discovery process is a personal one, one that affects us at our deepest levels. It is no objection that we are discovering what was placed there -- the discovery must be made by each individual, and thus remains a true discovery.

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