The Topoi
Contrast | Values | Cause/Effect | Change | Form/Structure

tension/opposition, contradictions, paradox

Look for aspects of our subject that differ either internally or with reference to other subjects.
Ex. Subject: UN Peace Keeping Forces. Contrast the mission of the UN to create political unity among nations with its ability to deploy military forces. Note the paradox of an army that attempts to establish peace by not directly intervening in on-going military disputes.


ethical/moral, practical, social, political, spiritual/metaphysical

Consider the value of a subject or object in various social realms.
Ex. Subject: a soldier: what is his practical value? How might our relationship to him be an ethical or unethical one? What political questions does the use of soldiers connect to--both now and historically? How has the use of professional soldiers affected social and societal arrangements in different eras? What spiritual lessons can we learn from our relationship to soldiers and the other important public servants?


[Relationship] cause/effect, means/ends, assumptions & antecedents, implications & consequences

Consider the causal relationship surrounding any subject.
Ex. Subject: Statue in a public park. What caused the statue to be erected? What is the effect on different audiences of the statue? What does the erection of the statue assume about the society for whom it was erected? What forerunners (or antecedents) to the statues can we identify? What are the implications (in social, practical, political, or spiritual terms) of the existence of this statue? What might be the consequences of its existence for different audiences?


evolutionary, revolutionary, growth/decay

Examine the circumstances of a subject, and how they have changed, are changing, and are likely to change.
Ex. Subject: Any social institution. (The office of the Presidency, or the art of political campaigning, or the techniques the police use to fight crime.) What kinds of changes have these institutions undergone? Are they evolutionary, revolutionary, or cyclical?


superficial vs. deep, form vs. function

Consider connections between form and function, or between superficial and deep structures.
Ex. Subject: Changing news industry. Which are the superficial problems for newspapers in the digital age, and which are the deep or fundamental ones?

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