Elizabeth Challiinor has introduced us to the work of Margaret Archer. Hoping to learn more about Archer, I turned to Questia and found Archer's Being Human: The Problem of Agency available there. In the introduction to Being Human, I learned that Archer associates herself with a philosophical movement called Critical Realism.

Critical Realism is said to have begun with the work of Indian-British philosopher Roy Bhaskar. The Wikipedia entry on Bhaskar describes his thinking as follows,

Bhaskar's consideration of the philosophies of science and social science resulted in the development of Critical Realism, a philosophical approach that defends the critical and emancipatory potential of rational (scientific and philosophical) enquiry against both positivist, broadly defined, and 'postmodern' challenges. Its approach emphasises the importance of distinguishing between epistemological and ontological questions and the significance of objectivity properly understood for a critical project. Its conception of philosophy and social science is a socially situated, but not socially determined one, which maintains the possibility for objective critique to motivate social change, with the ultimate end being a promotion of human freedom.

To me this sounds very similar to OAC founder Keith Hart's project in The Human Economy and his constant refrain, the need to return anthropology to its Enlightenment roots, especially Kant. 

Archer herself contrasts Critical Realism with three other major movements in social science, all of which, she says, conflate the agent and society, seen by critical realists as interacting but autonomous entities. Two are reductionist, reducing society to individuals, or seeing individuals as artifacts of society. The third, which she associates with Giddens and Bourdieu, attempts to subsume both in a comprehensive larger system. 

My own first encounter with Critical Realism was The SAGE Handbook of Case-Based Methods, whose contributors discuss various methods for addressing the at least partial autonomy of agents and structures, giving full credit to the reality of both and to that of the material world in which both are situated.

I wonder if anyone else here has encountered Critical Realism and, if so, what they think of it. Or, even if they are totally new to the subject, find the description above tempting enough to join me in looking a bit deeper into what this movement may offer to anthropologists.

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Replies to This Discussion

To me, CR makes the most sense in connection with science-informed anthropologists like Gregory Bateson and Bruno Latour and with recent systems and complexity theorists like Sylvia Walby (who builds on Latour, by the way). Yes, John - the question is and must always be "How?" and the answer is in the doing. You just have to try it out. No, you can't include the whole world in your analysis - that would be absurd. Which parts of it should be included really needs to be discussed and argued every time, is my stance. I don't know if my humble experimentations would be of much use for you, as it seems to me that our methodological tools are rather different. Let me know if you'd be interested to read whole texts all the same. And to your remarks about the interpretive turn taking things too far - yes, I absolutely agree. One of the reasons I was interested in CR in the first place was the claim that it aims to provide an alternative to postmodern interpretivism AND to modern positivism. I think Lopez and Potter's book is the most clear in this respect: Potter, Garry, and José López 2001 After postmodernism : an introduction to critical realism. London: Athlone. Frankly, I don't find Bhaskhar's own works very enlightening, maybe I'm just too plain stupid but I like my philosophy served with empirical examples...

Your text is really interesting, Keith. It reminds me of Øivind Fuglerud's argument that ideas about the body and ideas about the nation have developed in a close and interdynamic relationship (unfortunately I think this is only available in Norwegian). I wonder if and how CR would relate to this. Everything relates to everything else - ideas in one field inform and are informed by ideas in another field - yes, but that is too general, there must be something more systematic one could say in CR terms. Do you have any thoughts about that?

Marie Louise, I am sure those "humble experiments" are very interesting, indeed, and I will happily make time to read whole texts to keep the conversation going. Also, please don't mistake the intellectual genealogy in my previous message for anything resembling expertise. I fancy myself a pretty good reader of introductions and first chapters, but truly deep? I rarely get there. If I sound like a numbers geek, it is only because my current project is my first ever to make a serious attempt to cope with quantitative data and much of my interest in it derives from how to relate what the numbers reveal to what I think I have learned through long personal immersion in the Japanese advertising world, slogging through tons of historical data and checking my conclusions by interviewing key industry figures to see how they react to them. One conclusion I'm already confident of is that social network diagrams are wonderful stimulus material. Show someone a series of network diagrams that map their career, ask "What was it like...," and the floodgates open. I have never felt so in tune with ethnographic collaborators.

So, please don't be bashful. Attach a PDF to your next comment and I promise a generous reading of it.

by all means - this is in print, so please bear over with the annotations and corrections! Any comments more than welcome.

 

Seeberg, Marie Louise: 2012 (in press) Intersectionality, complexity, and forms of capital: the case of a Filipino nurse in Norway. In Transnational Rights,Gender and Migration. R. Sollund, ed. Advances in criminology: Emerald Group Publishing.

Marie Louise Seeberg said:

Your text is really interesting, Keith. It reminds me of Øivind Fuglerud's argument that ideas about the body and ideas about the nation have developed in a close and interdynamic relationship (unfortunately I think this is only available in Norwegian). I wonder if and how CR would relate to this. Everything relates to everything else - ideas in one field inform and are informed by ideas in another field - yes, but that is too general, there must be something more systematic one could say in CR terms. Do you have any thoughts about that?

I can't say how what I am searching for might be expressed in CR terms, Marie Louise. I am not a Critical Realist or indeed any -ist these days. I was a Marxist for about two decades, but no longer. I approach writers as so many sources for my own eclectic use. Roy Bhaskar interests me not only because he has attracted a huge personal following, but also because he became an adult like me in Britain during the 60s and 70s and it was hard not to be influenced by Marxism then. I notice that he uses phrases like "produced means of production" to articulate the social conditions of scientific work. I need to read his book properly before going any further.

In the article you refer to I draw more explicitly on Durkheim's early reductionist essay on classfication, but I am increasingly drawn to his last, neo-Kantian work, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. If society influences how we think and act, how does each of us internalize common ideas? We absorb society by living in it, but that experience is not readily accessible to us as self-consciousness. Religion exposes us to collective ideas through ritual and belief as shared moments of enhanced intellectual and emotional stimulation. It is the sociologist's or anthropologist's task to make this common infrastructure of social experience accessible. In this way we seek to connect something deep inside us, our subjectivity, to unknown forces outside, principally to society. For me, writing is a quasi-religious activity allowing me to excavate parts of a lifetime's experience of society in many places, some of it professional, but mostly just personal.

This is the context for my interest in what scientists do, how they express it and why. I am not interested even in all science, but in four critical moments: the 17th century revolution of Descartes, Gallileo and Newton; the rise of probability theory from the late 18th century, allowing us to monitor the behaviour of crowds; scientific modernism around 1900 (relativity and quantum mechanics); and the sciences of complexity from the 1970s. I think that these express something of the movement of society itself and that social "scientists" or anthropologists ought to pay more attention to the principles emergent in each. Of course this is a megalomaniac project far beyond my capacities, so I call it amateur and glean what I can from the specialists.

What bothers me about CR is that is an academic bandwagon and I have had my fill of those. I do believe that much of what is practised as social science is just ideology, especially economics, and this accounts for our relative failure to learn from scientific revolutions. If CR points more of us in that direction, it is a good thing.

Dear Marie Louise,

Thank you so much for sharing your paper. Reading and thinking about it has been enormously stimulating. 

First, I had to get over a hurdle. This was my first encounter with the concept of intersectionality,and my visceral reaction to the term was, “I hate it.” Fortunately, we live in the age of Google and a search brought me to Kimberlé Crenshaw's Stanford Law Review article. What I found there is fascinating. There I learned that “intersectionality” is a term originally coined to identify issues that result from black women being both black and women. Crenshaw observes that anti racist discourse highlights the problems of black men, obscuring problems encountered by black women as women. Feminist discourse highlights the problems of white women, obscuring problems compounded because black women are black. Worse still are social constructionist critiques that regard both race and gender as fictions, thus ruling out special consideration of the problems of anyone who is both black and female. Having once spent some time on a telephone counseling line whose training included how to handle domestic violence and rape, I found Crenshaw's examples compelling and, while still not liking the word, the concept of intersectionality as a call for attention to problems compounded by intersecting identities persuasive.

Then, returning to your paper, I realized that your case is a marvelous inversion of the compounded disadvantages that black women encounter in the USA. Bienvenido’s story is a tale of compounded advantages that lead to a male nurse from the Philippines successfully immigrating to Norway. 

Your suggestion that Bourdieu’s “capitals” provide a way to explain how the advantages compounded then fell very nicely into place. Here, too, however, I confonted a linguistic hurdle. I was, I must admit, bothered a bit by “capitals.” Personally, I would try working with “a personal portfolio of assets including the various forms of capital identified by Bourdieu: economic, social, cultural, and symbolic.” 
Anyway, what the story then becomes in my mind is a case study of successful portfolio management by a social entrepreneur. The four incidents trace his career, showing how, as a boy, he contributed economic capital and strengthened his social capital, then converted economic capital into cultural capital, his training as a nurse, which turned out to have added symbolic value, since as a nurse trained in the Phillipines, he benefited from an established brand that smoothed his entry into Norway and gave him a competitive edge over other male nurses trained in other countries. I also liked the way in which you allowed him to speak, demonstrating that he was far from being a passive victim, being instead an active agent pursuing the opportunities his multiple identities offered.

So, what has all this got to do with Critical Realism? There is, as I see it a very clear and logical connection. Here I refer back to the work of Margaret Archer referenced by Elizabeth Challinor in an earlier thread.

What is the relationship between self and society? On one reductionist account society is simply a function of selves interacting. On another reductionist account selves are simply what society makes them. Worse still, both self and society can be regarded as artifacts of discourse, with no inherent reality. In all these cases, the result is to ignore issues that arise because self and society are both real and and may then be compounded where they overlap.

I observe that the logic of this argument is precisely the same as that which Crenshawe makes for intersectionality. Consider two sets with members x and y respectively. Now consider four possible relations between them.

y=f(x) y is a function of x and needs no separate consideration

x=f(y) x is a function of y and needs no separate consideration

x union y x and y are trivially different. Both should be ignored.

x intersect y x and y are both real and the interactions where they intersect are serious problems for careful consideration. 

The fourth of these possible relations is Critical Realism.

That's the way it seems to me. What about you?


This is a bandwagon, of course. But I don't think one has to be a full member of the congregation to find CR useful as a perspective that goes really well with anthropological approaches of many kinds and provides a way of articulating the all too often implicit knowledge about why we do what we do in the ways that we do them, and what we find out by doing it. A "third way" (ugh) where positivism and postmodernism are ways one and two, both with serious shortcomings. One thing I do like about CR is the way it includes itself, or yourself as an anthropologist that chooses to use this perspective, in the analysis. Being critical about one's own approach is so hard and so important.

If I've got it right, Bhaskhar still calls himself a Marxist or a neo-marxist, I can't remember which - so you're right about that, Keith.

John, I'm impressed by the effort - going back to Crenshaw to find out what intersectionality is all about. She did some important work there, even if her choice of term was less than musical in my opinion... and you're right, of course, about the nurse entrepreneur inversing the whole thing - up to a point. He's still pretty far down on the social ladder within a Norwegian professional context.

I don't like the terms "intersectionality" or "capital" very much either, I think they are both ugly and frustratingly limiting in their links to traffic and markets, respectively. Still, the literature that has grown up around these terms is interesting and rather than inventing (yet more) new terms I feel that using these established ones makes it easier to trace the debates to which I want to contribute.

I'm not sure about your logical expressions - again, I like my philosophy served with empirical examples and I can't really figure these out in the abstract. If pressed, I think I would say that the fourth of the possible relations may be CR, but it may really be any form of "good anthropology", so I'm not sure if we're getting any closer to the core of the matter. If you'd like to exemplify and explain ("logic for dummies") I might be able see your point more clearly.

This is fun, isn't it! I'm so glad you didn't shut the group down - I just discovered the thread where you discussed just that. The thing is, most people are running around all the time busy meeting deadlines and only once in a while does one have the time for this kind of thing. Which I, for one, wouldn't be without!

Here are a few more points that came up for me that didn't make it into what I wrote in the last message. 

  1. Crenshaw's analysis appears in the Stanford Law Review. Intersectionality is, therefore, a term developed in a legal  context to support a lawyerly argument. I find myself wondering about what happens intellectually when a lawyerly argument is adopted as a scientific one. As Crenshaw develops her argument, it is clear that her primary concern is not that existing anti-racist and feminist theories fail intellectually to account for both sides of what it means to be black and a woman. It is, instead, the policy implications of their failure and what that means for legal and social services provided for black and other minority women, so that black women's problems with abusive black husbands or racists are downplayed for political reasons—the danger of evoking a stereotype of black men as sexual predators that has, within historical memory, led to lynchings and worse—or, conversely, results in services for victims of domestic violence or rape that assume the same access to resources of women who are white. This perspective makes it easy to see why
  2. She is particularly critical of postmodern, social constructionist notions that gender and race can, in effect, be argued out of existence by demonstrating that they are, after all, only fictions. Thus, once smart people are freed from the illusions they represent, all will be well. This points to what may be a main thrust of Critical Realism, i.e., Bhaskar's insistence that while the "transitive objects" of scientific theory are, indeed, socially constructed and liable to change, they are, at the end of the day, only useful for what they help us to learn about the "intransitive objects," the realities that won't go away whether we recognize them or not. This is an argument directed, very much in the spirit of Hegel and Marx, against Kant's proposition that the ding-an-sich, the things in themselves, are unknowable, all knowledge consisting of sensory input and what the invariant structures of mind (the transcendental this's and that's) make of that input. However,
  3. The argument remains lawyerly, more moral than epistemological; ignoring knowable realities leads to flawed policies and unfair mistreatment of those who require special consideration because their lives lie at intersections where realities overlap. To be a black woman victimized by domestic violence or rape is not to be a cartoon in some coldly self-reflective Kantian observer's brain. The woman in question has real problems because she is both black and a woman. This is not so much an epistemological claim as a powerful moral indictment of theories that treat people with real lives and real problems as if their lives were nothing more than cartoons. This conclusion seems very much in tune with the current zeitgeist of anthropology.

Now, if you will, allow me to put on another hat, professional wordsmith instead of independent scholar, philosopher manqué.

It seemed to me that the rather arid summary with which the paper begins does not do justice to the potential of the material with which the ethnography engages. It isn't simply that "intersectionality" is an ugly, ugly word. It is introduced as a term of art with which, it appears, readers of this journal are supposed to be already familiar. But to those outside what I suspect is a fairly narrow clique, it blocks instead of facilitating access to what turns out to be some extremely interesting material. This error is compounded by the cursory assertion that it will be developed theoretically by using Bourdieu's ideas about different forms of capital. To me, not being part of the intended audience, this comes off as purely conventional academic blah-blah, making a promise that is, at the end of the day, never followed up. We aren't told at the end of the paper why this particular combination of ideas was a particularly illuminating way to approach Benvenido's life. That disappoints me, since, as briefly outlined in the previous message, I see the potential for a much larger and more widely read contribution, which highlights a number of important threads.

  1. The transformation of a lawyerly "j'accuse!" designed to draw attention to the plight of black women portrayed as passive victims of rape and domestic abuse into a framework that applies with equal or greater force to immigrant success stories. 
  2. Introducing Bourdieu's various forms of capital is a brilliant stroke in this transformation. It converts intersectionality from a way to describe a space in which black women, portrayed as victims, are trapped into a space of possibilities in which an immigrant with resources (economic, social, cultural, symbolic) is able to cross the boundary from South to North and, with his wife and children, find a stable beginning to a new life. The woman stuck in a trap pre-defined by others becomes a man with assets through which he is able to take large steps toward achieving his goals.
  3. Benvenido is a man, and that heightens the drama of the transformation. But, this is crucial, the story need not end there. This brings me to the ethnography.

We need to know a lot more about the sister who was the first to emigrate to Norway. What's her story? Did she, too, emigrate as a nurse or as someone with other technical skills? Or was she, like many of the women from the Philippines who come to Japan, employed as domestic help or a sex worker? Our experience here in Japan suggests a whole series of possibilities, from prostitute to C-suite banker. 

Personally, I would also like to know more about how Benvenido's story began. When he was "cutely" taking on a woman's job selling vegetables in the market, what were other boys of similar age up to?  What were his relationships with his father and mother like? Here my curiosity is driven in part by personal experience. I was my mother's first and favorite son, a real Mama's boy. My brother went in totally the other direction. But that is just motivation. Was Benvenido's interest in female-gendered occupations an emotional choice, an expression of emotional issues or—totally different theory—was it a calculated choice based on recognition that women doing female-gendered jobs find it easier to leave the Philippines and make their lives or, at least, achieve better incomes in other countries? A man entering and staking out a place for himself in an out-migration pattern largely pioneered by women could be seen as making a very smart move. 

Anyway, there is so much more to be done with material of this richness. I could see this becoming a book or a series of papers that would bring together a fascinating intellectual genealogy with rich ethnographic observation and become something quite wonderful. 

Let me pause here and get some feedback. There is so much here to talk about.

I’ll have to be brief – deadline’s creeping up on me again.

So: first, to intersectionality. There has been a huge discussion about this concept and the discussion is ongoing. I suggest you look up a few of the references in my paper if you really want to go into it – there are so many aspects in addition to the ones that you very rightly point out. In addition to these, you might find some or all of the following interesting (but then again you might not)

  • Choo, H.Y., and M.M. Ferree 2010 Practicing intersectionality in sociological research: A critical analysis of inclusions, interactions, and institutions in the study of inequalities. Sociological Theory 28(2):129-149.

  • Davis, Kathy 2008 Intersectionality as buzzword: A sociology of science perspective on what makes a feminist theory successful. Feminist Theory 9(1):67-85.

  • Lewis, Gail 2009 Celebrating Intersectionality? Debates on a Multi-faceted Concept in Gender Studies: Themes from a Conference. European Journal of Women's Studies 16(3):203-210.

  • McCall, L. 2005 The complexity of intersectionality. Signs 30(3):1771-1800.

  • Phoenix, A, and P Pattynama 2006 Intersectionality (Special Issue). European Journal of Women's Studies 13(3)

I don’t know any more about the sister and her story. I wish I did, but there isn’t much I can do about it. As for Bienvenido’s childhood, I don’t know much more about that. The way he told me about his "entrepreneurship" really made it come across as something that had developed from "likes" to a full-blown "strategy". But who am I to say it was really like that all along? It’s just as likely that this is the way his life story sits the most comfortably with him – especially when interviewed by me, whom he fully well knew as a researcher keenly interested in the options and obstacles facing migrant workers. The research was done in his workplace and limited to that, so although I do have rich ethnographic data from within this institution, that’s as far as it goes.

Where does all this leave us when it comes to CR, I wonder?



John McCreery said:

Here are a few more points that came up for me that didn't make it into what I wrote in the last message. 

  1. Crenshaw's analysis appears in the Stanford Law Review. Intersectionality is, therefore, a term developed in a legal  context to support a lawyerly argument. I find myself wondering about what happens intellectually when a lawyerly argument is adopted as a scientific one. As Crenshaw develops her argument, it is clear that her primary concern is not that existing anti-racist and feminist theories fail intellectually to account for both sides of what it means to be black and a woman. It is, instead, the policy implications of their failure and what that means for legal and social services provided for black and other minority women, so that black women's problems with abusive black husbands or racists are downplayed for political reasons—the danger of evoking a stereotype of black men as sexual predators that has, within historical memory, led to lynchings and worse—or, conversely, results in services for victims of domestic violence or rape that assume the same access to resources of women who are white. This perspective makes it easy to see why
  2. She is particularly critical of postmodern, social constructionist notions that gender and race can, in effect, be argued out of existence by demonstrating that they are, after all, only fictions. Thus, once smart people are freed from the illusions they represent, all will be well. This points to what may be a main thrust of Critical Realism, i.e., Bhaskar's insistence that while the "transitive objects" of scientific theory are, indeed, socially constructed and liable to change, they are, at the end of the day, only useful for what they help us to learn about the "intransitive objects," the realities that won't go away whether we recognize them or not. This is an argument directed, very much in the spirit of Hegel and Marx, against Kant's proposition that the ding-an-sich, the things in themselves, are unknowable, all knowledge consisting of sensory input and what the invariant structures of mind (the transcendental this's and that's) make of that input. However,
  3. The argument remains lawyerly, more moral than epistemological; ignoring knowable realities leads to flawed policies and unfair mistreatment of those who require special consideration because their lives lie at intersections where realities overlap. To be a black woman victimized by domestic violence or rape is not to be a cartoon in some coldly self-reflective Kantian observer's brain. The woman in question has real problems because she is both black and a woman. This is not so much an epistemological claim as a powerful moral indictment of theories that treat people with real lives and real problems as if their lives were nothing more than cartoons. This conclusion seems very much in tune with the current zeitgeist of anthropology.

Now, if you will, allow me to put on another hat, professional wordsmith instead of independent scholar, philosopher manqué.

It seemed to me that the rather arid summary with which the paper begins does not do justice to the potential of the material with which the ethnography engages. It isn't simply that "intersectionality" is an ugly, ugly word. It is introduced as a term of art with which, it appears, readers of this journal are supposed to be already familiar. But to those outside what I suspect is a fairly narrow clique, it blocks instead of facilitating access to what turns out to be some extremely interesting material. This error is compounded by the cursory assertion that it will be developed theoretically by using Bourdieu's ideas about different forms of capital. To me, not being part of the intended audience, this comes off as purely conventional academic blah-blah, making a promise that is, at the end of the day, never followed up. We aren't told at the end of the paper why this particular combination of ideas was a particularly illuminating way to approach Benvenido's life. That disappoints me, since, as briefly outlined in the previous message, I see the potential for a much larger and more widely read contribution, which highlights a number of important threads.

  1. The transformation of a lawyerly "j'accuse!" designed to draw attention to the plight of black women portrayed as passive victims of rape and domestic abuse into a framework that applies with equal or greater force to immigrant success stories. 
  2. Introducing Bourdieu's various forms of capital is a brilliant stroke in this transformation. It converts intersectionality from a way to describe a space in which black women, portrayed as victims, are trapped into a space of possibilities in which an immigrant with resources (economic, social, cultural, symbolic) is able to cross the boundary from South to North and, with his wife and children, find a stable beginning to a new life. The woman stuck in a trap pre-defined by others becomes a man with assets through which he is able to take large steps toward achieving his goals.
  3. Benvenido is a man, and that heightens the drama of the transformation. But, this is crucial, the story need not end there. This brings me to the ethnography.

We need to know a lot more about the sister who was the first to emigrate to Norway. What's her story? Did she, too, emigrate as a nurse or as someone with other technical skills? Or was she, like many of the women from the Philippines who come to Japan, employed as domestic help or a sex worker? Our experience here in Japan suggests a whole series of possibilities, from prostitute to C-suite banker. 

Personally, I would also like to know more about how Benvenido's story began. When he was "cutely" taking on a woman's job selling vegetables in the market, what were other boys of similar age up to?  What were his relationships with his father and mother like? Here my curiosity is driven in part by personal experience. I was my mother's first and favorite son, a real Mama's boy. My brother went in totally the other direction. But that is just motivation. Was Benvenido's interest in female-gendered occupations an emotional choice, an expression of emotional issues or—totally different theory—was it a calculated choice based on recognition that women doing female-gendered jobs find it easier to leave the Philippines and make their lives or, at least, achieve better incomes in other countries? A man entering and staking out a place for himself in an out-migration pattern largely pioneered by women could be seen as making a very smart move. 

Anyway, there is so much more to be done with material of this richness. I could see this becoming a book or a series of papers that would bring together a fascinating intellectual genealogy with rich ethnographic observation and become something quite wonderful. 

Let me pause here and get some feedback. There is so much here to talk about.

As for me, I think I now have a better understanding of CR's appeal to people doing work with policy or therapeutic implications. Coming in through case-based methods from an interest in philosophy of science, I was missing the moral and practical implications. Thanks to our conversation, I have definitely learned a lot. So, how to proceed?

Just now I am almost over a bad cold. Tonight I will be kilted up for a Burns Supper--haggis, pipes, broad humor, Scottish country dancing. Tomorrow we will be packing, for on Monday morning it is once again off to the States to lend a hand with the grandkids, whose mom, our daughter, is doing the overloaded single mother, career woman thing while her husband, a US Marine Corps pilot is deployed for three months in the Middle East. Things are going to be pretty chaotic this coming week.

I am also keenly aware that I have been neglecting my current project and that charging off to pursue other topics in any serious way is no way to get back on track.

So, that's where I am. How about you? You mention a deadline. How would it be if we took a breather and planned to reconnect, say a week from now, to see what we're thinking then?

Yes, let's - I'll finish my report by mid next week, so will hopefully have a little more time on my hands to spend on truly productive activities like thinking and discussing...



John McCreery said:

As for me, I think I now have a better understanding of CR's appeal to people doing work with policy or therapeutic implications. Coming in through case-based methods from an interest in philosophy of science, I was missing the moral and practical implications. Thanks to our conversation, I have definitely learned a lot. So, how to proceed?

Just now I am almost over a bad cold. Tonight I will be kilted up for a Burns Supper--haggis, pipes, broad humor, Scottish country dancing. Tomorrow we will be packing, for on Monday morning it is once again off to the States to lend a hand with the grandkids, whose mom, our daughter, is doing the overloaded single mother, career woman thing while her husband, a US Marine Corps pilot is deployed for three months in the Middle East. Things are going to be pretty chaotic this coming week.

I am also keenly aware that I have been neglecting my current project and that charging off to pursue other topics in any serious way is no way to get back on track.

So, that's where I am. How about you? You mention a deadline. How would it be if we took a breather and planned to reconnect, say a week from now, to see what we're thinking then?

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