Indeterminate and Inconclusive: Satisfied?

Does any profession, academic or otherwise, require its practitioners to give decisive, categorical answers to questions? Should it?

My background in the humanities and social sciences, and my own propensity for equivocating, waffling, and generally mincing words (what a wonderfully evocative phrase: words minced like meat), tells me the answer should be No! Not a precise, clear-cut No but more of a wishy-washy Nah.

If I had not written a similar phrase, and thought it innumerable times, the following might jar me more than it does: “In this chapter I will not deliver any definite answers” (not citing). I will not cite this line in deference to the actual author and to my inner author that so often thinks/wants to write/does write such a phrase. My dissertation committee had no problem objecting to my lack of commitment as they appraised my final work. They exhorted me to take a position and defend it. I failed to adequately do so then. I still fail to do so. You should find no blustering, crowing, or gloating in that admission. If I were more sure of my ideas, I hope I would defend them better. A significant problem, then, amounts to a lack of confidence. It is a symptom which many others, particular in my branches of academia, appear to share. We hedge. Often. Wittingly.

An imaginative tale would recount a time when I gushed certainty and was rebuffed. Or when I lacked conviction only to later discover I had the right idea all along. Or recount someone I knew/know who experienced one or the other. I could go religious and try one of those stories. Or fairy-tale. Each appears ready to adjudicate the timid.

I have often been quick to pounce on texts in Science and Technology Studies as mere descriptions. Prescription should be the goal; description marks one as little more than an observer, a passenger. I did not want to go along for the ride. I wanted to drive. My infatuation with automated vehicles, and my exasperation with commuting by car (that I drive) reminds me that such a metaphor was as foolish then as it is now.


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