It occurred to me today that Dr. Vannevar Bush’s “As We May Think” article involves multiple theses, and simultaneously makes several interleaved arguments supporting those theses. It has several layers, brilliantly composed and interwoven, to effectively accomplish multiple purposes. Perception of the layers depends in part on each reader’s biases and motivations: particular readers will perceive one or more of the layers which particularly appeal to them, and ignore or overlook the others.
I was (an am!) reading the paper with respect to its description of what kind of tools are required to enable humans to capture, store, recall, and build upon our store of knowledge. Therefore I strongly perceived the sentences and ideas which pertained to that thread.
Another thread involves war and peace: given the end of World War II, and especially the horrific atomic blasts which helped end it, how can (and should) we build upon our new knowledge peacefully, and avoid or survive future conflicts?
Yet another thread involves hope, and a view that many fantastic things are possible. He describes certain aspects of technology, projects reasonable extensions which are potentially achievable, and then projects beyond that to indicate even better and more fantastic things may lie ahead.
I have a mental visualization of the paper in which different words and sentences appear in different layers (some in more than one layer at a time), where each layer describes one of the theses and its supporting statements. Each layer is not only at a different z-coordinate (depth), it is also rendered in a different color. Looking down through the layers, one can see how the entire paper is a brilliant interweaving of those different layers: they all fit together, and some words and sentences support several of the layers at once. I wish I had the graphic arts skill to actually draw this (or create it in a 3-D modeling program such as Google Sketchup). (Perhaps you do, dear reader?)
An alternative crude implementation is to use a word processor to highlight the words in different colors, depending on which layer they support.
Given that UNIV 200 is in part about “the Craft of Argument”, perhaps interested participants can together dig further into this, tease out the various threads and theses which Dr Bush incorporated into his paper, identify how each word and sentence supports one or more of those threads, and analyse how he interwove them so skillfully. The results of this analysis will then serve as an excellent example of a brilliantly crafted (set of!) argument(s)!